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Beauties of Speech, profusely scattered throughout, like the Riches of Nature through the Globe; though, like them too, with a magnificent Negligence and Irregularity, which little Wits ridicule, and great ones admire; and pious Hearts very justly reverence, as the worthier of God, the remoter it is from the laboured Correctness of Man. But had the fewish Language (while they spoke Hebrew or Chaldee, or when afterwards many of them spoke Greek) been still more obscure and ambiguous than we must own it to be, and had that Defect been less compensated with the Advantages of Expressiveness and Grandeur than it is, yet this was not the Fault, either of the Prophets, or of the Apostles. They would of Course learn and use the Stile of their Countrymen; they wrote probably as well in it, as any other good Men of their Time: and God was not bound to teach them to write better. For how far he would extend his Aid, was entirely in his own Choice; and we owe him inexpressible Gratitude for the Things he hath communicated, how little foever he might interfere in directing the Words. But indeed had they been endued with ever so great Excellency of Speech, they could have applied to
their Hearers or Readers in no other Phrases, than such as they comprehended, were accustomed, and would hearken, to: and the Difficulties arising from hence in the sacred Writings were unavoidable.
But here a farther Complaint is made, that in several Places they are designedly guarded against being clearly understood. And we own they are: for the Subject required it, Predictions too plain might hinder their own Execution : as, in many common Cases, the previous Publication of a Thing, which else would certainly have been done, will prevent it most effectually. And therefore they ought to be formed in the Manner they are : so as not to betray the Intention to every one prematurely, nor yet leave Room to any one for doubting afterwards, to what Event the Prophecy related. Had all the Particulars of our Saviour's Life and Death, which are foretold, been too distinctly set forth to be mistaken or overlooked, the Jews would have taken Care they should not happen ; and have justified their Rejection of him by the Failure. Again : had the Kingdom of the Messiah been every where described by the Prophets as intirely a spiritual one, in which all Mankind were to have an equal
Share ; that perverse Nation, on hearing, that their civil Polity and ceremonial Worship was all to be abolished, would either, from Con. tempt, have grown negligent of it, and thrown it off too soon ; or else, from Fondness for it, would have suppressed or corrupted the Passages, declaring it should cease: which Providence defigned them to preserve, for an Evidence against themselves, as they have proved to be. And therefore the Gospel Days are prefigured by a Mixture of temporal Images with others, liable to be misunderstood before the Time of Explanation came, but soon apprehended then by every fair Mind; though still open to the Cavils of others, who, to use the Terms of St. Peter, stumble at the Word, being disobedient, whereunto also they were appointed". Not, appointed to be disobedient : but appointed, since they would be disobedient, to take their own Course and the Consequences of it: to fumble and fall at Difficulties, of which they would easily have seen the proper Solution, and so got over them unhurt, had they but modestly begged, and dutifully followed, the divine Illumination.
I cannot proceed now to the Objections, which have been raised against the Usefulness of the Books of the New Testament: and therefore contenting myself at present with recommending to your Consideration what
1 Pet. ii. 8.
have heard, shall conclude with the comfortable, yet awful Words of the Prophet: Who is wife, and he shall understand these Things ? prudent, and be Mall know them? For the Ways of the Lord are right, and the Just shall walk in them ; but the Transgresors shall fall therein.
¢ Hof. xiv. 9.
2 TIM. üi. 16, 17,
All Scripture is given by Inspiration of God:
and is profitable for Doctrine, for Reproof, for Correction, for Instruction in Righteousness : that the Man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good Works.
AVING undertaken to thew you
I. That Scripture is of Divine Au
thority; II. That it answers every Purpose of Religion;
III. That we ought to read and study it diligently;
IV. How we may do this to the best Effect:
I have finished the first Head, and made some Progress in the second, the complete Usefulness of holy Writ. The direct Evidence of this I laid before you, fully I hope, though