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Word of God came to be considered by too many in scarce any other Light than as furnithing Materials for Disputes : and so the following Generations began to grow weary of Them
and It together. Another Misfortune was, that I frequently Men, not the best qualified for in
terpreting even the plainer Parts of it, blinded ... with new Light, undertook without Fear the
most difficult; and fathered upon the Bible
ing of Scripture, which discreetly conducted would be unspeakably useful. And thus the People have been left sadly ignorant of a great Part of their Bibles. Now these Things, coinciding in our Days with a higher Degree, than ever the World knew before, of that Self-Opi. nion, which despises the Doctrines of Revelation as irrational, and that Rage for Self-Indul. gence of every Kind, which renders its Precepts and Threatenings insupportable, have produced an absolute Scorn of it in great Numbers, and a strange Indifference towards it in almost all. Ś So that now mere Custom and Fashion is thought sufficient to justify, and even require, if we are well bred, a total and avowed Neglect of this important Book ; without spending a Moment on the disagreeable Examination, what Pleas, it hath to urge for being studied as the Law of our Lives.
Yet visibly these Inducements for disregarding it, are, if possible, more groundless than the foregoing. Some have made wrong and absurd Uses of it. Why should that hinder Us from making the right and wise one ? Some are conceited, or vicious, or fond of Applause from the weakest of their Fellow Creatures. Why should not We, notwithstanding that, be hum
ble and virtuous, and seek the Approbation of our Creator ? Let us therefore determine, that neither bad Reasons nor bad Examples shall ever move us to flight the holy Scriptures: and carefully divesting ourselves of the Prejudices too commonly arising from them, let us proceed
2. To hear the divine Commands for readRecent ing and honouring it. UC Every Manifestation of God's Will implies het in its very Nature a Command to hearken to it - with our deepest Attention: and his Words
could be written down för no other End, than that all Persons concerned might peruse them frequently, and bear them always in Mind. But that none may pretend Ignorance of his Purpose, he hath declared it expressly. Moses charges the Ifraelites: Bebold I have taught you Statutes and Judgements, even as the Lord my God commanded me: take Heed to thyself, and keep thy Soul diligently, left thou forget them, and they depart from thy Heart : but teach them thy Sons and thy Sons Sons, that they may learn to fear him all the Days that they shall live upon the Earth, and that they may teach their Children”. God himself charges them : Lay up
a Deut. iv. 5, 9, 10.
these my Words in your Heart and in your Soul, and teach them your Children, that your Days may be multiplied, and the Days of your Children b. He charges Joshua in particular : This Book of the Law Mall not depart out of thy Mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein Day and Night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein : for then shalt thou make thy Way prosperous, and then Malt thou have good Success. The first Pfalm faith the very fame Thing of every pious Man: His Delight is in the Law of the Lord, and in bis Law will he exercise himself Day and Night: and whatsoever be doth, it shall prosperd, Nor are we to study the Precepts only, but the rest. Isaiab, speaking of the Completion of a Prophecy, directs the People : Seek ye out of the Book of the Lord, and read". When the rich Man in the Parable was desirous to prevent his Brethren from coming into the fame Place of Torment with himself, Abraham faid unto him, They have Mofes and the Prophets: let them bear Them. When the Jews were venting their Prejudices against our Saviour, he exhorts them: Search the Scriptures : for in Them ye think,
o Deut. xi. 18, 19, 21. Josh. i. 8. Pl. i. 2, 46' e If. xxxiv. 16. *Luke xvi. 29.
meaning, and rightly think, ye bave eternal Life ; and they are they, which testify of me %. St. Paul tells the Romans, that whatsoever Things were written aforetime were written for our Learning ". Now we cannot question surely, but the New Testament deserves equal Attention with the Old. The Proof, which you have had, of its Inspiration, proves that at the fame Time. The Gospels, written that Men might believe, and believing have Life', must be read to produce that Effect. Of the Epistles we may judge, by the Care which St. Paul took to have His communicated and spread. He inscribes his first to the Corinthians, not to Them only, but to all that in every Place call upon the Name of Jesus Christ our Lordk. He requires the Colossians, when that which he addressed to them is read amongst them, to cause that it be read also in the Church of the Laodiceans! He charges the Thessalonians by the Lord, in the first Epistle, which They had from him, that it be read unto all the holy Brethren'm Doubtless the other Churches too understood his Mind in this Matter. And St. John in the Beginning of the Revelation, a Book that seems
: John v. 39. A Rom. xv. 4. John xx. 31. siCor. i. 2. Col. iv. 16: ' i Theff. v. 27. Vol. VI.