« ZurückWeiter »
his observance of the proposed conditions. Men, as free agents, have it in their power to perform or not to perform these conditions: and God foresaw from eternity, who would and who would not perform them, that is, who will and who will not be saved at the day of judgment." If, therefore, the promises of God be not fulfilled towards us, we may rest assured that the fault does not rest with Him" who cannot lie," but with ourselves, who have failed in complying with the conditions either tacitly or expressly annexed to them. We may, then, apply general promises to ourselves, not doubting that if we perform the condition expressed or implied, we shall enjoy the mercy promised: for, as all particulars are included in universals, it follows that a general promise is made a particular one to him whose character corresponds with those to whom such general promise is made.
Matt. xi. 28. may be cited as an example: the promise here being made is the giving of rest: the characters of the persons to whom it is made are distinctly specified; they are the weary and heavy laden, whether with the distresses of life, or with the sense of guilt (see Psal. xxxii. 4. xxxviii. 4.), or with the load of ceremonial observances; the condition required, is to come unto Christ by faith; in other words, to believe in him and become his disciples: and the menace implied is, that if they do not thus come,2 they will not find rest. Similar promises occur in John iii. 17. and 1 Tim. ii. 4.
II. Promises made to particular persons may be applied to all believers.
It is in promises as in commands: they do not exclusively concern those to whom they were first made; but, being inserted in the Scriptures, they are made of public benefit for whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our use: that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope. (Rom. xv. 4.)
1 Bp. Tomline's Elements, vol. ii. p. 313. Similar to the above sentiments are those contained in the "Necessary Erudition of a Christian Man," (at the close of the introductory observations on "Faith,") a Manual of Christian Doctrine published in the year 1534; the value of which ought not to be lessened in our judgment by the circumstance of its not being purged of popish errors "Although God's promises made in Christ be immutable, yet He maketh them not to us, but with condition; so that, His promise standing, we may yet fail of the promise be cause we keep not our promise. And therefore, if we assuredly reckon upon the state of our felicity, as grounded upon God's promise, and do not therewith remember, that no man shall be crowned, unless he lawfully fight; we shall triumph before the victory, and so shall look in vain for that, which is not otherwise promised but under a condition." On the subject of conditional promises, see also Tillotson's Works, vol. v. pp. 185–193. 205, 206. vol. vi. p. 513. vol. ix. pp. 53, 54, and vol. x. p. 119.; and on the subject of conditional threatenings, see vol. vi. pp. 510, 511. (London, 1820.)
2 Bp. Horsley has the following animated and practical observations on this promise of our Saviour at the close of his 24th Sermon: (( Come, therefore, unto him, all ye that are heavy laden with your sins. By his own gracious voice he called you while on earth. By the voice of his ambassadors he continueth to call; he calleth you now by mine. Come unto him, and he shall give you rest-rest from the hard servitude of sin and appetite, and guilty fear. That yoke is heavy - that burthen is intolerable; His yoke is easy and his burthen light. But, come in sincerity; dare not to come in hypocrisy and dissimulation. Think not that it will avail you in the last day, to have called yourselves Christians, to have been born and educated under the Gospel light-to have lived in the external communion of the church on earth-if, all the while, your hearts have holden no communion with its head in heaven. If, instructed in Christianity, and professing to believe its doctrines, ye lead the lives of unbelievers, it will avail you nothing in the next, to have enjoyed in this world, like the Jews of old, advantages which ye despised to have had the custody of a holy doctrine which never touched your hearts of a pure commandment, by the light of which ye never walked. To those who disgrace the doctrine of their Saviour by the scandal of their lives, it will be of no avail to have vainly called him, 'Lord, Lord!' Sermons, p. 490 2d. edit. ̧
Thus, Saint Paul applies what was spoken to Joshua, (ch. i. 5.) to the believing Hebrews (Heb. xiii. 5.): Jesus Christ being the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, as it is added in the eighth verse of the same chapter; he has the same grace to pity, and the same power to help his sincere disciples now, as formerly, without respect of persons. A distinction, however, must be taken between such of the promises in the Old Testament, particularly in the book of Psalms, as are of universal application, and such as were made to those Israelites and Jews who obeyed the law of God, which were strictly temporal. Of this description are all those promises of peace and prosperity in this world, which were literally suitable to the Jewish dispensation, God having encouraged them to obey his laws, by promises of peculiar peace and prosperity in the land of Canaan. Whereas now, under the Gospel dispensation," godliness hath indeed the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come," (1 Tim. iv. 8.) but with an exception of the cross, when that may be best for us, in order to our future happiness in heaven. So that the promises in the Old Testament, of a general felicity in this life are not so literally to be applied to Christians as they were to the Jews.1
III. Such promises as were made in one case, may be applied in other cases of the same nature, consistently with the analogy of faith.
The instance, adduced under the preceding canon, will also illustrate the present. The promise there mentioned was made to Joshua, on his going up against the Canaanites, lest he should be discouraged in that enterprise; yet it is applied by the apostle as a remedy against covetousness or inordinate cares concerning the things of this life; it being a very comprehensive promise that God will never fail us nor forsake us. But if we were to apply the promises contained in Psal. xciv. 14. and Jer. xxxii. 40. and John x. 28. as promises of absolute and indefectible grace to believers, we should violate every rule of sober interpretation, as well as the analogy of faith.
IV. God has suited his promises to his precepts.
By his precepts we see what is our duty, and what should be the scope of our endeavours; and by his promises we see what is our inability, what should be the matter or object of our prayers, and where we may be supplied with that grace which will enable us to discharge our duty. Compare Deut. x. 16. with Deut. xxx. 6. Eccles. xii. 13. with Jer. xxxii. 40. Ezek. xviii. 31. with Ezek. xxxvi. 37. and Rom. vi. 12. with v. 14.
V. Where any thing is promised in case of obedience, the threatening of the contrary is implied in case of disobedience: and where there is a threatening of any thing in case of disobedience, a promise of the contrary is implied upon condition of obedience.2
In illustration of this remark, it will be sufficient to refer to, and compare, Exod. xx. 7. with Psal. xv. 1-4. and xxiv. 3, 4. and Exod. xx. 12. with Prov. xxx. 17.
VI. God promises that he may perform what he promises, but threatens that he may not fulfil his threatenings.
In other words, by his promises he encourages men to obedience, that they may receive the reward of it: but, by his threatenings, he warns men, and deters them from sin, that they may not feel its effects. For instance, in Rev. ii. 5. he threatens, as if he were unwilling to inflict the punishment, repeating the means by which it may be prevented. For the same purpose is the menace denounced in Rom.
1 Collyer's Sacred Interpreter, vol. i. p. 336.
2 Bp. Wilkins, in his admirable Discourse on the Gift of Preaching, has stated this rule in the following terms:- "Every Scripture does affirm, command. or threaten, not only that which is expressed in it, but likewise all that which is rightly deducible from it, though by mediate consequences." (Dr. Williams's Christian Preacher. p. 22.)
viii. 13. against professors of the Gospel, that they may beware of such things as have in themselves a tendency to eternal death.
There are, however, two important cautions to be attended to in the application of Scripture promises; viz. that we do not violate that connection or dependency which subsists between one promise and another; and that we do not invert that fixed order which is observable between them.
1. The mutual connection or dependency subsisting between promises, must not be broken
As the duties enjoined by the moral law are copulative, and may not be disjoined in the obedience yielded to them (James ii. 10.); so are the blessings of the promises; which may not be made use of as severed from each other, like unstringed pearls, but as collected into one entire chain. For instance, throughout the sacred volume, the promises of pardon and repentance are invariably connected together so that it would be presumptuous in any man to suppose that God will ever hearken to him who implores the one and neglects to seek the other. "He pardoneth and absolveth all them that truly repent and unfeignedly believe his holy word."
In like manner, in Psal. lxxxiv. 11. the promise of grace and glory is so insepa rably united, that no person can lay a just claim to the one, who is not previously made a partaker of the other. Bishop Horne's commentary on this verse is not more beautiful than just.1
2. In applying the promises, their order and method should not be inverted, but be carefully observed.
The promises, made by God in his word, have not inaptly been termed an ample storehouse of every kind of blessings, including both the mercies of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. There is, indeed, no good that can present itself as an object to our desires or thoughts, but the promises are a ground for faith to believe, and hope to expect the enjoyment of it: but then our use and application of them must be regular, and suitable both to the pattern and precept which Christ has given us. The Pattern or example referred to, we have in that most comprehensive prayer, emphatically termed the Lord's prayer (Matt. vi. 9-13.); in which he shows what is chiefly to be desired by us, viz. the sanctification of his name in our hearts, the coming of his kingdom in our souls, and the doing of his will in our lives; all which are to be implored, before and above our daily bread. We are not to be more anxious for food than for divine grace.
The Precept alluded to, we have in his sermon on the mount (Matt. vi. 33.); Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. The soul is of more worth than the body; as the body is more valuable than raiment: and therefore the principal care of every one should be, to secure his spiritual welfare, by interesting himself in the promises of life and eternal happiness. Here, however, a method must be observed, and the law of the Scripture must be exactly followed, which tells us, (Psal. lxxxiv. 11.) that God first gives grace and then glory. "As it is a sin to divide grace from glory, and to seek the one without the other; so it is also a sin to be preposterous in our seeking, to look first after happiness and then after holiness: no man can be rightly solicitous about the crown, but he must first be careful about the race; nor can any be truly thoughtful about his interest in the promises of glory that doth not first make good his title to the promises of grace."2
1 "Jesus Christ is our Lord' and our God:' he is a 'sun,' to enlighten and direct us in the way, and a 'shield' to protect us against the enemies of our salvation. He will give grace' to carry us on from strength to strength,' and 'glory' to crown us when we appear before him in Zion;' he will withhold' nothing that is 'good' and profitable for us in the course of our journey, and will himself be our reward, when we come to the end of it." Commentary on the Psalms, vol. ii. (Works, vol. iii. p. 81.)
2 Dr. Spurstowe's Treatise on the Promises, pp. 62. 65. The whole volume will abundantly repay the trouble of perusing it. There is also an admirable discourse on the Promises, in the Sermons published by the late Rev. Charles Buck: in which their divine origin, their suitability, number, clearness of expression, the freeness of their communication, and the certainty of their accomplishment, are stated and illustrated with equal ability and piety. Šee also Hoornbeck's Theologia Practica, pars I. lib. v. c. 2. pp. 468–477.
ON THE INFERENTIAL AND PRACTICAL READING OF SCRIPTURE.
ON THE INFERENTIAL READING OF THE BIBLE.
1. General Rules for the deduction of Inferences. II. Observations for ascertaining the Sources of Internal Inferences. III. And also of External Inferences.
1. THE sense of Scripture having been explained and ascertained, it only remains that we apply it to purposes of practical utility: which may be effected either by deducing inferences from texts, or by practically applying the Scriptures to our personal edification and salvation. By inferences, we mean certain corollaries or conclusions legitimately deduced from words rightly explained: so that they who either hear or read them, may form correct views of Christian doctrine and Christian duty. And in this deduction of inferences we are warranted both by the genius of language, which, when correctly implied, not only means what the words uttered in themselves obviously imply, but also what may be deduced from them by legitimate consequences; and likewise by the authority of Jesus Christ and his apostles, who have sanctioned this practice by their example.
To illustrate this remark by a single instance :- Our Lord (Matt. xxii. 23-32.), when disputing with the Sadducees, cited the declaration of Jehovah recorded in Exodus iii. 6. I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: and from thence he proved the resurrection of the dead inferentially, or by legitimate consequence. It should be observed, that Abraham had been dead upwards of three hundred years before these words were spoken to Moses, yet still Jehovah called himself the God of Abraham, &c. Jesus Christ properly remarked that God is not the God of the dead (that word being equivalent, in the sense of the Sadducees, to an eternal annihilation), but of the living whence it follows, that if he be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, they have not altogether perished, but their bodies will be raised again from the dead, while their spirits or souls are alive with God, notwithstanding they have ceased for many centuries to exist among mortals. In the same reply, our Saviour further confuted, inferentially, another tenet of the Sadducees, viz. that there is neither angel nor spirit, by showing that the soul is not only immortal, but lives with God even while the body is detained in the dust of the earth, which body will afterwards be raised to life, and be united to the soul by the miraculous power of God.
The foundation of inferential reading is the perpetual harmony of sacred things; so that any one who has thoroughly considered and rightly understood a single doctrine, may hence easily deduce many
1 Qui enim intelligit, quod loquitur, non modo vim, sed ambitum quoque verborun perspicit ; ideoque id omne, quod ex iis legitime colligi potest, adprobare etiam merito creditur. Buddei Elementa Philosophie Instrumentalis, part ii. cap. ii. §. xxx. p. 246.
others which depend upon it,, as they are linked together in one continued chain. But, in order to conduct this kind of reading with advantage, it is necessary that we bring to it a sober judgment, capable of penetrating deeply into sacred truths, and of eliciting with indefatigable attention and patience, and also of deducing one truth from another by strong reasoning; and further, that the mind possesses a sufficient knowledge of the form of sound words in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. (2 Tim. i. 13.) Without this knowledge, it will be impossible to make any beneficial progress in this branch of sacred literature, or to discover the exhaustless variety of important truths contained in the sacred writings. It will likewise be requisite to compare inferences when deduced, in order to ascertain whether they are correct, and are really worthy of that appellation. For this purpose the following rules may be advantageously consulted. 1. Obvious or too common inferences must not be deduced, nor should they be expressed in the very words of Scripture.
Thus, if from Matt. vi. 33. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you, the following inferences be deduced: 1. The Kingdom of God is to be sought in the first instance. 2. It is necessary that we seek the righteousness of God; and, 3. To him that thus seeks, all other things shall be added. Although these are in themselves weighty truths, yet they are expressed too plainly in the very words of Scripture, to be called inferences. They are, rather, truths seated in the text itself, than truths deduced from those words.
2. Inferences must be deduced from the true and genuine sense of the words, not from a spurious sense, whether literal or mystical.
We have a striking violation of this sober and almost self-evident canon, in the inference deduced by Cardinal Bellarmin, from a comparison of Acts x. 13. with John xxi. 16. From the Divine command, Rise, Peter! kill and eat, compared with our Lord's direction to the Apostle, Feed my sheep, he exhorts this consequence, viz. that the functions of the Roman pontiff, as the successor of Peter, are two-fold- to feed the church, and to put heretics to death! It is scarcely necessary to add, that this inference is derived from putting a false and spurious sense upon those passages.
3. Inferences are deduced more safely as well as more correctly from the originals, than from any version of the Scriptures.
It is not uncommon, even in the best versions, to find meanings put upon the sacred text, which are totally foreign to the intention of the inspired penmen. Thus, from Acts ii. 47. (the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved), the papists have absurdly pretended to deduce the perpetuity and visibility of the (Roman Catholic) church; and, from the same text compared with Acts xiii. 48. (as many as were ordained to eternal life believed), some have inferred that those whom God adds to the church shall necessarily and absolutely be eternally saved. The question relative to indefectibility from grace is foreign to a practical work like this: but, without throwing down the gauntlet of controversy,
1 "It may not be the most philosophical, but it is probably the wisest opinion which we can adopt, that the truth lies some where between the two rival systems of Calvin and Arminius; though I believe it to exceed the wit of man to point out the exact place where it does lie. We distinctly perceive the two extremities of the vast chain, which stretches across the whole expanse of the theological heavens; but its central links are enveloped in impenetrable clouds and thick darkness." (Mr. Faber's Discourses, vol. i. pp. 478, 479.) Archbishop Tillotson has a fine passage on this subject to the same effect, (which is too long to be extracted) at the close of his hundred and seventh sermon. See his works, vol. v. pp. 395, 396. Compare also vol. vii. pp. 99, 100. (London, 1820.) On this topic the author cannot withhold from his readers the following admirable observations of the late Bishop Horsley. Addressing the clergy of the diocese of Gloucester, he says, "I would entreat you of all things to avoid controversial arguments in the pulpit upon what are called the Calvinistic points; - the dark subject of predestination and