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they would at least have Cause given them to recollect with humble Thankfulness, not only that their Christian Brethren do* and are made wife unto Salvation p by these despised plain Passages, and by these only, but that from Them, above the rest, proceeded all that Knowledge of the Redemption of Man, and almost all that Knowledge of natural Religion also, which the most learned enjoy; and which hath made even the vulgar of the Gospel Dispensation superior to the ablest and best instructed amongst the Heathen: a Superiority, which will be lost again, in Proportion as Regard to the Word of God decays.
But though, in reading it, we must all begin with attending, and ever after attend chiefly, to the first Elements of Christian Instruction, or, to speak in St. Peter's Language, as new born Babes dejire the jincere Milk of the Word, that we may grow thereby q; and know it for a bad Sign, if we cannot relish the Food of simplest Taste, and easiest Digestion: yet keeping to this wholly is the Business of those alone, who, as the Epistle to the Hebrews expresses it, are unjkilful, or rather, unexperienced, in the Word of Righteousness <, which hath in it
f z Tim. iii. I;. i i pet. H. 2,
also also strong Meat, belonging to them that are os full Age, ivbo, by Reason of Use, have their Senses exercised to discern both Good and Evil'. We shall thrive best by the Use of lighter Noufistiment first: and mixing the more solid with it prematurely may both check our Growth, and hurt our Health. But when we have acquired a due Firrnnefe and Vigour, we ihall both preserve and increase it, by feeding ort other Things likewise, throughout the Scripture: the several Parts of which 1 shall briefly go over once again for your completer Direction.
The Historical Books of the Old Testament may be read carelessly with as little Improve* ment, as any other History. But therefore to prevent this, we are to reflect as we go along: and observe, according to the Nature of each Article, how it sets before us the.Sovereignty, the Superintendency, the Wisdom, the Justice, the Mercy of God; the Amiableness and Rewards of good Actions, the Deformity and Punishment of wicked ones; the Heights of Piety and Virtue, at which the Saints of old Time arrived, as We may by imitating them; the dreadful Sins into which they sometimes fell,
'Heb. v. i Ji 14.
Vol. VI. K as as we (hall, if we take not Warning. For all these Things happened to Them for Ensamples; and they are written for our Admonition\ As to the Danger, which may arise from the bad Deeds of good Persons, related without Cen.? sure, and Actions that seem unwarrantable, yet are told with Approbation, and were therefore either done by God's extraordinary Commission, or grounded on Circumstances, of which we are not well apprized: I have spoken of these; in a former Discourse; and shewn you, that, in such Circumstances, the Precepts, not the Histories of the Bible, must be our Rule.
In the Book of Job, some Parts are highly poetical, and proportionably dark: for which Reason our Attention must be chiefly paid to those others, which will amply recompense it, by exhibiting the noblest and most pleasing Views of the Majesty of the Almighty, of the patriarchal Religion, of the exquisite Beauties of Humanity and Charity, of the hard Struggle pf human Virtue with heavy Afflictions, and God's gracious Acceptance of imperfect Endeavours. Te have heard of the Patience of fob: and have seen the End of the Lord; that he is very pitiful, "and of tender Mercy«.
• i Cor, x. ii. « Jan»esv. it.
As to the Psalms: I have already explained to you the Nature of those, which contain Imprecations. Of repeating them all in the Church, I (hall, God willing, speak some other Time. Of reading them in private, I need only say, that with the Exercise of but a common Degree of Judgement, every pious Person will find it -equally improving and delightful.
The Proverbs have scarce any Obseurity, and much Use. Concerning Ecclefiastes and the Song 9/ Sohmon, you have had, I hope, sufficient Instructions for perusing them with Benefit.
The Prophetical Writings abound in difficult Passages; but still more in plain ones, expressing the fublimest Notions of Piety and Morals, the strongest Preference of inward Goodness to outward Observances, the awfullest Denunciations against Wickedness of every Kind, the most affectionate Expostulations, the most inviting Promises, the warmest and justest Concern for public Good: which the Prophets manifested with so fearless and impartial a Freedom, in telling both the Body of the People, and the highest in Authority, their Duty and their Sins< that the Descendants of those, who persecuted them when living, held their Memories, wheji dead, in eternal Honour; doubly
K 2 ccaconvinced of their Mission from Heaven, by the Accomplishment of their Predictions, and the singular Worthiness of their Conduct.. In reading them therefore we must diligently attend to these interesting points, each in its proper Place: observing also, along with them, the gradual Unfolding of the great Scheme of our Redemption; to which we Jhall do well, even in these Days of opener Vision \ to take Heed, as to a Light shining in a dark Place w; especially as it confirms to us, that known unto God are all his Works from the Beginning ". Such Passages in their Books, as relate to the Affairs jof distant heathen Countries in Ages long ago past, though of admirable Use then, and not a little still as Parallels, we are neither likely nor concerned to understand fully. And such as belong to Things yet future, especially to the Times and Circumstances of those Things, are few, if any, of them fit for the Unlearned to pry into particularly. 'Nay, the Learned themselves, if they are prudent also, will observe, what Answer the Angel gave to the Prophet Daniel. And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, 0 my Lord, what Jhall be the End of these Things f And he said, Go thy Way, Da8 i Sara. iii. I. "a Pet. i. 19. « Acts xv. 18.