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and when it is made effectual to salvation, the soul is induced, or, as it were, constrained hereby, to love him, and yield the obedience of faith unto him in all things.
5. The word is made of use by the Spirit, as a means to conform the soul to the image of God, and subdue it to his will. The image of God in man, is defaced by sin; so that he is not only rendered unlike, but averse to him, stripped of all his beauty, and become abominable and filthy in his sight; and, as long as he remains so, is unmeet for communion with, or obtaining salvation from him. Now, when the Spirit of God communicates special grace to sinners, he instamps this image afresh upon the soul, which he renews in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, sanctifies all the powers and faculties thereof, and subdues the will, so that it yields a cheerful obedience to the will of God, and delights in his law after the inward man; and its language is, Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth. This change the Spirit of God works in the heart, by his internal efficacious influence; as has been formerly observed, when we considered the work of conversion and sanctification, as brought about by him*. And this effect is also ascribed to the word as a moral instrument thereof; so that it is not attained without it, it being, indeed, the principal end of the preaching the gospel; as the apostle says, The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God, to the pulling down of strong holds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, 2 Cor. x. 4, 5. and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.
6. The word is farther said to be made effectual to salvation, as hereby we are strengthened against temptation, and corruption. By the former, those objects are presented to us that have a tendency to alienate our affections from God; by the latter, these temptations are complied with, and the affections entangled in the snare that is laid for them, Satan, or the world, present the bait, and corrupt nature is easily allured and taken by it. The tempter uses many wiles and stratagems to ensnare us, and our own hearts are deceitful above all things, and without much difficulty, turned aside thereby; and so led captive by Satan at his will. But when the Spirit of God makes the word effectual to salvation, he takes occasion hereby to detect the fallacy; lays open the design of our spiritual enemies, and the pernicious tendency thereof; and internally fortifies the soul against them, whereby it is kept from the paths of the destroyer, Psal. xvii. 4. and this he does by presenting other and better objects to engage our affections, and leading us into the knowledge of those glorious truths, that may prevent a sinfu See Quest. Ixvii, lxviii. Vol. III. p. 16.
compliance with the solicitations of the devil. And, according to the nature of the temptation that may occur, we are directed to the precepts or promises contained in the word of God; which, being duly improved by us, have a tendency to keep the heart steady, and fixed in the ways of God.
7. The word of God is made effectual by the Spirit, as he thereby builds the soul up in grace, and establishes it in holiness and comfort, through faith unto salvation. The work of grace is not immediately brought to perfection, but is, in a progressive way, making advances towards it; and therefore we are first made holy by the renovation of our hearts and lives, and made partakers of those spiritual consolations that accompany or flow from the work of sanctification; and then we are built up in holiness and comfort, whereby we go from strength to strength, and are more and more established in the ways of God; and this is done by the preaching of the word, whereby we are said to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, 2 Pet. iii. 18. so that every step we take in our way to heaven, from the time that our faces are first turned towards it, we are enabled hereby to go on safely and comfortably, till the work of grace is perfected in glory.
QUEST. CLVI. Is the word of God to be read by all?
ANSW. Although all are not to be permitted to read the word publicly to the congregation, yet all sorts of people are bound to read it apart by themselves, and with their families, to which end the holy scriptures are to be translated out of the original, into vulgar languages.
QUEST. CLVII. How is the word of God to be read?
ANSW. The holy scriptures are to be read, with an high and reverend esteem of them; with a firm persuasion that they are the very word of God, and that he only can enable us to understand them, with desire to know, believe, and obey the will of God revealed in them, with diligence and attention to the matter and scope of them; with meditation, application, self-denial, and prayer.
HE word's being made effectual to salvation, which was the subject last insisted on, not only supposes that we read it as translated into vulgar languages, but that we understand what we read, in order to our applying it to our particular case, and improving it for our spiritual advantage. These
things are next to be considered as contained in the answers we are now to explain. Accordingly,
I. We have an account, in the former of them, of the obligation that all persons are under to read, or at least, attend to the reading of the word of God; more particularly,
1. It is to be read publicly in the congregation, by those who are appointed for that purpose. This is evident, inasmuch as the church, and all the public worship that is performed therein, is founded on the doctrines contained in scripture; and every one who would be made wise to salvation, ought to be well acquainted with it; and the reading it publicly, as a part of that worship that is performed in the church, is not only a testimony of the high esteem that we have for it; but it will be of great use to those, who, through a sinful neglect to read it in families, and their not being disposed to do this in their private retirement; or, through the stupidity of their hearts, and the many incumbrances of worldly business, will not allow themselves time for this necessary duty, by reason whereof they remain strangers to those great and important truths contained therein.
That this is a duty appears from the charge that the apostle gives, that the epistle which he wrote to the church at Thessalonica, should be read unto all the holy brethren, 1 Thess. v. 27. And he gives the like charge to the church at Colosse, Col. iv. 16. And to this we may add, that the scripture is not only to be read, but explained; which is the principal design of the preaching thereof. This is no new practice; for the Old Testament was not only read, but explained in the synagogues every Sabbath-day; which is called, by a metonymy, a reading Moses, Acts xv. 21. viz. explaining the law that was given by him. Thus Ezra stood upon a pulpit of wood, opened the book in the sight of all the people; and he, with some other of his brethren that assisted him herein, read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading, that is, the meaning thereof, Neh. viii. 4,-8. In like manner our Saviour went into the synagogue on the Sabbath-day, and stood up and read, that part of the holy scriptures, taken from the prophecy of Isaiah; which, when he had done, he applied it to himself, and shewed them how it was fulfilled in their ears, Luke iv. 16,-24. So that it is supposed that the word is to be publicly read.
The only thing in this answer, that needs explaining is, what is meant by those words, all are not to be permitted to read the word publicly to the congregation. We are not to suppose that there is an order of men that Christ has appointed to be readers in the church, distinct from ministers; therefore the meaning of this expression may be, that all are not to read the
word of God together, in a public assembly, with a loud voice; for that would tend rather to confusion than edification. Nor ought any to be appointed to do it, but such as are grave, pious, and able to read it distinctly, for the edification of others. And who is so fit for this work, as the minister whose office is not only to read, but explain it in the ordinary course of his ministry?
2. The word of God is to be read in our families; which is absolutely necessary for the propagating religion therein. This, indeed, is shamefully neglected; which is one great reason of the ignorance and decay of piety in the rising genera tion; and the neglect hereof is contrary to God's command, Deut. vi. 6, 7. as well as the example of those who are highly commended for this practice; as Abraham was for commanding his children, and his household after him, that they should keep the way of the Lord, Gen. xviii. 19. Psal. lxxviii. 3, 4.
3. The word of God ought to be read by every one, in private; and that not only occasionally, but frequently as one of the great businesses of life. Thus God says to Joshua, Josh. i. 8. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, Psal. i. 2. And our Saviour commands the Jews to search the scriptures, John v. 39. and, in some of his discourses with them, though he was sensible that they were a degenerate people; yet he takes it for granted, that they had not altogether laid aside this duty, Matt. xii. 5. chap. xxi. 42. Luke vi. 3. This practice, especially where the word of God has not only been read, but the meaning thereof sought after, and attended to with great diligence, is commended as a peculiar excellency in Christians, who are, in this respect, styled more noble than others, who are defective in this duty, Acts xvii. 11.
Now it appears, that it is the duty of every one to read the word of God, inasmuch as it is given us with this design. If God is pleased, as it were, to send us an epistle from heaven, it is a very great instance of contempt cast on it, as well as on the divine condescension expressed therein, for us to neglect to read it. Does he impart his mind to us herein, and is it not our indispensable duty, to pay the utmost regard thereto ? Rev. i. 11. compared with chap. ii. 29. Moreover, our own advantage should be a farther inducement to us, to read the word of God; since his design in giving it, was, that we might believe, and that believing, we may attain life, through the name of Christ, John xx. 31. Rom. x. 17. chap. xv. 4. It is sometimes compared to a sword, for our defence, against our spiritual enemies, Eph. vi. 17. and is therefore designed for use; otherwise it is no advantage for us. It is elsewhere compared to a lamp to our feet, Psal. cxix. 105. which is not
designed for an ornament, but to guide us in the right way; therefore we must attend to its direction. It is also compared to food, whereby we are said to be nourished up in the words of faith and good doctrine, and as new-born babes we are exhorted, to desire the sincere milk of the word, that we may grow thereby, 1 Pet. ii. 2. but this end cannot be attained, unless it be read and applied by us to our own necessities.
This leads us to take notice of the opposition that the Papists make hereunto, inasmuch as they deny the common people the liberty of reading the scriptures in their own language, without leave given them from the bishop, or some other spiritual guides, who are authorized to allow or deny this privilege, as they think fit; but without this, the reading of it is strictly prohibited. And, as an instance of their opposition to it, they have sometimes burnt whole impressions of the Bible, in the open market-place; as well as expressed their contempt hereof, by burning particular copies of scripture, or dragging them through the streets, throwing them in the kennels, and stamping them under feet, or tearing them in pieces, as though it was the vilest book in the world; and some have been burned for reading it. And, that it may be brought into the utmost contempt, they have cast the most injurious reproaches upon it, by calling it a bending rule, a nose of wax, a dumb judge. And some have blasphemed it, by saying, that it has no more authority than Esop's fables; and have compared the psalms of David to profane ballads. And, they pretend, by all this, to consult the good of the people, that they may not be misled thereby.
That which they generally allege in vindication of this practice, is, that they do not so much oppose the reading the scripture, as the reading those translations of it, which have been made by Protestants; and that it is our Bible, not that which they allow to be the word of God, that they treat with such injurious contempt.
But to this it may be replied; that the objections they bring against scripture, are not taken so much from such passages thereof, which they pretend to be falsely translated; but their design is, plainly, to keep the people in ignorance, that they may not, as the consequence of their reading it, imbibe those doctrines, that will, as they pretend, turn them aside from the faith of the church; and therefore, they usually maintain, that the common people ought to be kept in ignorance, as an expedient to excite devotion; and that, by this means, they will be the more humble, and pay a greater deference to those unwritten traditions that are propagated by them, and pretended to be of equal authority with scripture, which the common people must take up with instead of it. And, indeed, the