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fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God: [which of all understand ing is infinitely the most excellent.

II. But this fenfe of the value of Divine Knowledge, and this defire to obtain it, must be understood in a connection with a fincere endeavour to live agreeably to it. For fhould a person, under the greatest advan→ tages of learning, and with the utmost affiduity ftudy the Scriptures, he will be, after all, but a poor proficient in Divine Knowledge, if he do not bring it home to his heart, and reduce it to practice. It is not fpeculation, but practice and experience, which renders a man truly skilful in any bufinefs. So in Religion, no man can be truly wife and knowing, but he who liveth wifely and virtuously. If ye continue in my word (faith our Lord, Joh. viii. 31.) then shall you know the truth, and the truth fball make you free [from the darkness of ignorance and error, and the fervitude of abfurd lufts and paffions.] Job. vii. 27. If any man will do his, God's, will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God. [He fhall fee it in its true light, and be convinced that it is perfectly divine.] For (Pfal. xxv. 14.) the fecret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will fhew them his covenant. But (Dan. xii. 10.) the wicked shall do wickedly, and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wife, [the pious and virtuous] shall understand.

This is to make you fenfible, that a fincere defire of true knowledge is a neceffary difpofition in entering upon the ftudy of the Scriptures; and the obedience to God's commands, in the course of a pious life, is neceffary to inlarge and establish the judgment in the knowledge of divine truths.

III. To the effectual study of Scripture, it is neceffary, that our minds and hearts be unbyaffed, unprejudiced, open to the truth, and always quite free to discern and receive it. If our fpirits are under the power of prepoffeffion and prejudice we cannot be well difpofed for fearching the Scriptures. For inftance, if a perfon, in matters of religion and confcience, is ambitious to gain reputation in the world, or folicitous only to please and recommend himself to a party, how should he ftudy the word of God with the fincere and fingle view of discovering and embracing the truth, when he is preingaged, and all his care is to find what will please his fellow-creatures, and fuit his own mean and selfish purposes? Joh. v. 44. How can ye believe, who receive honor one of another, whofe ruling principle is the defire of temporal honor, and the favor of men, and Jeek not the honor, which comes from God only, the honor of a good confcience, and of upright conduct? Or, if we refign our understandings and confciences to the authority of human decifions and decrees; or imbibe the bigotry of a party, which determines a perfon to retain pertinaciously a fett of religious notions, without confidering, or examining how far they are agreeable to the word of God, our understandings and judgments are locked up, and no longer at liberty to difcover the truth.

It is owing to this malignant caufe, that great numbers of learned men, who call themfelves Chriftians, will not allow themselves to make enquiry, whether the worship of faints, images, relicks, bread, and innumerable other abfurd doctrines, and fuperftitious practices, are agreeable to the truth and purity of the Chriftian Religion. The error and

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iniquity of this conduct in Papists we fee and deteft. But the fame moral caufe will in all cafes produce the fame effects. If we act upon the fame vicious principles; if we indulge the like prejudices, and in the fame manner wilfully fhut our eyes, we shall be more faulty than Papists, because it is contrary to our profeffion, as Proteftants; and fhall be equally incapable of feeing the truth and glory of our holy Religion. In studying the Scriptures we should always keep our minds open to evidence, and further discoveries of truth, which is the only way to be more and more folidly established in our religious principles; for in no other way can we grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jefus Christ, Moreover, this is the only poffible mean of reducing the Chriftian world to unity both of hearts and fentiments.

IV. Prayer to God, the Father of Lights, the Fountain of all Illumination, is neceffary to the fuccefsful ftudy of the Scriptures. Prov. ii. 6. The Lord alone gives wisdom; out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. Nor hath he appointed any means, how excellent foever in themselves, which exempt us from a dependence upon his bleffing. All our springs are in him; and his gracious influences render our endeavours, of any kind, fuccefsful. And therefore, when we addrefs ourselves to the study of the holy Scriptures, we should make our supplication to God, that he would open our eyes, that we may behold wonderous things out of his law. Or, in the Apoftle's words, (Ephef. i. 17, 18.) that the God of our Lord Jefus Chrift, the Father of Glory, would give unto us the spirit of wisdom, and revelation, in the knowledge of him; that eyes of our understanding being enlightened, we may have just apprehenfions of the riches of his wifdom and grace, and that our hearts may be duly impressed with a deep and lasting fenfe of them.




Of the Divine Difpenfations, in Scripture called the WAYS and WORKS

of GOD.

**HE Ways of God frequently fignify the Rules of T Life, which he hath given us to obferve. Pfal. cxix. 3. They Calfo do no iniquity; they walk in his ways, i. e. in the law of the Lord, ver. 1. And the Works of God may fignify the meer operation and productions of his power. But both these words have a more reftricted and emphatical fignification. a Way, fignifieth alfo a course of action, a custom, conftitution or inftitution, which any perfon, or number of perfons form to themselves. Prov. viii. 22. The Lord poffeffed me, Wisdom, in the begining of his Way, before his Works of old. Prov. xii. 26. The way of the wicked, their courfe of action, feduceth them. Hof. x. 13. Because thou dilst trust in thy way, the schemes and


methods, political or religious, of thy own devifing, and in the multitude of thy mighty men. Amos viii. 14. The manner, the way, i. e. the religious conftitution, of Beersheba liveth, fubfifts, flourisheth, notwithstanding the oppofition made to it. y fignifies to constitute, or

dain, appoint, difpofe. Num. xxviii. 6. 2 Chron. ii. 11. Pfal. civ. 19. Eccl. iii. II.

Hence Ways and Works fignify the appointments, conftitutions, or Difpenfations of God. By which are meant, "The fchemes or me"thods devised or contrived by the wisdom and goodness of God, to "discover, or fhew himself, his nature and will, his beneficence, holi"nefs and juftice to the minds of his rational creatures, for their in"ftruction, difcipline and reformation, in order to promote their hap"piness." These are the great ends of the Divine Dispensations; and these the principal points to be attended to, in the explications of them.

The great God, for ever to be adored, hath actually given existence to a world of moral agents, fuch as we are. He therefore is our Father, and we are his offspring, whom he hath created in love, that in a right and virtuous ufe of our rational powers, we may be qualified for honor and enjoyment in the heavenly world. This feems to be the highest defign the divine Goodness can form, and the highest excellency to which our nature can attain. And this may be confidered as the bafis of all the Divine Difpenfations from the begining of the world. For without pious and virtuous difpofitions we cannot be qualified for honor and enjoyment. But pious and virtuous difpofitions cannot be forced upon us, by any external power whatever; they muft, in fome degree, be the effect of our own attention and choice. It is, therefore, becoming the Father of our Spirits, and fuitable to beings of our capacities and circumftances, that proper means be provided for our inftruction and difcipline. For inftance, as God is not the object of any of our fenfes, and can be feen only by our understandings, it is proper that he should set before us in the frame and furniture of the world, fuch visible and various displays of his Being, Power, Wisdom, Juftice, and kind Regards, as may engage our attention, discover his eternal Godhead, and lead us to the acknowledgment, adoration, love, and dutiful obedience of our Creator, Father, and Benefactor. Thefe are the works, the difpenfations, or constitutions of Nature; whereby our Father, as in a glafs held before our eyes and thoughts, has fhewn himself to us for our inftruction in piety and virtue.

But befides the conftitution of univerfal Nature, there are a variety of difpenfations, which are more immediately relative to mankind. As the being born of parents, to fupply the feveral generations of the world, whence refult fundry relations and duties; the being fuftained by food, covered and sheltered by clothes and habitations, healed by phyficians, taught by the learned and fkilful; the infirmities, appetites, and paffions of our conftitution; the forming focieties for mutual help and commerce; the inftitution of government, or the subordination of fome to the authority of others, for preserving good order, for the protection of virtue, and the restraint and punishment of vice. Add to these, wars, pe


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ftilence, famine, earthquakes, and fuch like events; all these may be reckoned among the Divine Appointments, or Difpenfations; fome for the exercise of our rational powers in right action; fome for difcipline, correction, and reformation; but none merely for deftruction, except where reformation cannot be effected.

But those Ways, or Difpenfations, which in Scripture are confidered as the great hinges of Divine Providence, on which his dealings with mankind have turned ;' or as the principal events, by which the great purposes and councils of God's will have been executed, are chiefly to be attended unto. Because right conceptions of thefe, under their feveral views, circumftances, and connections, will greatly contribute to the explaining of Scripture-Theology, and alfo mark out the proper order and method, in which it may be ftudied. Let us therefore here, at first feting out, take a general furvey of them.

I. The Creation of the World, as above.

II. The Formation of Man after the Image of God.

III. Man being created capable of enjoying the honours and felicity of heaven, was to be difciplined and proved, in order to his being confirmed in the habits of virtue and holinefs; without which, neither man, other rational being, can be fit to fee, or enjoy, the Lord. Accordingly, the first most remarkable of God's works, in the newly created world, was to put the Man, whom he had formed, upon a trial fuitable to his circumstances.

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IV. Under which trial, man, yielding to temptation, finned, and fo became fubjected to the threatening of eternal death.

V. Which heavy doom, God, not willing to deftroy his creature, was pleafed in mercy, not only to mitigate, but also, man having altered his moral ftate, though fit to introduce a new difpenfation of grace, in the hands of a Mediator. At the fame time, fubjecting the human race to a laborious life, to diseases, and to death temporal. And this in much goodness, to fubdue the fleshly Principle, to give a tafte of the bitter fruits of fin, to prevent the opportunities and occafions of it; and, by increasing the vanity of the creature, to turn his regards more fteadily to the all-fufficient Creator.

VI. But men multiplying in the earth abused the grace of God, and in about 1656 years time became fo wicked, that all flesh had corrupted his way, and the earth was filled with violence. Then, to purge the world from iniquity, and to recover it to a state of righteoufnefs, God created a new thing in the earth, and, by a deluge of water, deftroyed that wicked generation, preferving the only Family, that remained uncorrupt in the old world, in order to propigate piéty and virtue in the new. At the fame time, and for the same good purposes, he reduced human life into much narrower bounds.

VII. Not long after the deluge, to prevent a second general corruption, God introduced another difpenfation, by confounding the language of mankind; which divided the world into feveral diftinct focieties, and, confequently, kept them under a ftriéter government, and better preferved their liberties, than if the world had been one great Empire.

VIII. Thus the outrage of violence and rapine was, in a good meafure, cured. But now mankind fall into a different iniquity, namely,


that of idolatry; whereby, within 400 years after the flood, the worship and knowledge of the one fupreme God was in danger of being utterly loft. To prevent this, the divine wisdom erected a new difpenfation by calling Abraham from among his idolatrous kindred, and conftituting his family the ftorehouse and standard of divine knowledge. To them he spake and reveled himself at fundry times, and in divers manners, and separated them from the reft of the world, by peculiar laws and religious ceremonies, to fecure them from the idolatrous practices of their neighbours. Thus they became God's peculiar people, distinguished above all other nations, but with a view to the future great benefit of all nations. And to this day, bleffed be God, we experience the happy effects of this noble scheme, and owe to it both our Bible, and the very being of the Gospel church.

IX. The family of Abraham, by the divine conduct, was led into Egypt. And when they had been there, under grievous oppreffion, 215 years, and were grown numerous enough to be a nation, God fet himself at the head of them, as their King. And, in a country much esteemed for learning and arts, whither men of genius and curiofity reforted from all other parts, upon this ftage, fo proper, because fo public, God, as the king of Ifrael, combated the king of Egypt and his fictitious gods, and displayed his infinitely fuperior power both to deftroy and to fave, by many plagues inflicted upon the land of Egypt, and by bringing out the Ifraelites in oppofition to all the forces of the king, and all the obftacles of nature, and fettling them, after they had been fufficiently difciplined in the wilderness, in the land of Canaan. Here God fet up his peculiar kingdom amongst them, and they alone of all the nations of the earth were the fubjects of it, and happy in its fingular privileges and bleffings; but, at the fame time, were exercised with various providential difpenfations. The general rule of which was this; while they adhered to the worship of the true God, they were always profperous, when they declined to idolatry, they were either oppreffed at home, or carried captive into other countries.

X. The long captivity in Babylon was not only a punishment to the Jews, but also a mean of publifhing the knowledge of the true God over all the Babylonifh Empire, as appears very evidently in the Book of Daniel. And the divifion of the Grecian empire, which put an end to the Perfian, after the death of Alexander, caufed a new difperfion of the Jews, efpecially into Afia minor, Syria, Egypt, Cyrene, and Lybia, where their fynagogues were very common. And lastly, when they were fubjected to the Roman power, their God and religion became more known over all the Roman empire. Thus the way for the kingdom of the Meffiah was gradually prepared. For though the knowledge of God, received from the Jews, made no public reformation of Pagan idolatry, yet it greatly difpofed men to receive the gofpel when it Thould be preached unto them. Some became Jews, many renounced idolatry, and worshipped no other but the living and true God, who, in the Acts of the apoftles, are called, devout Profelytes, Greeks, those that feared God.

XI. Thus we are brought to the coming of Christ, who came in the fulnefs of Time; for he came as foon as God, by the various methods of his


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