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SERM. do not prize it the less, as many I fear do, because it is com
mon; but we must rather praise God the more for it, and strive all we can to express our thankfulness for such an inestimable favour, in deed as well as word.
For that purpose, we must first observe what is there John 5. 39. commanded by Christ Himself; we must "search the Scrip
tures,” as the Bereans did, and are highly commended for it Acts 17. 11. by the same Spirit that wrote them, saying, “ These were
more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so." They did not search the poets or philosophers, nor consider what their forefathers had told them, nor what their own carnal reason suggested to them, but they searched the Scriptures ; taking it for granted, that what is written there is true, but not
knowing whether any thing else be so. So must we upon [Acts 7.38.) all occasions consult the Scriptures, as the lively oracles of
God, the only oracles that He hath given to the world ; and Ps. 119. 24. accordingly make them, as David did, " our delight and our
counsellors.” And whatsoever straits or difficulties we are in, if we do but always follow the advice and counsel which is there given us, we can never do amiss.
But then we must have a care that we be not in the num2 Pet. 3. 16. ber of those St. Peter speaks of,“ who wrest the Scriptures
to their own destruction.” There were such, it seems, in those days, and so there are in ours. To prevent which horrid abuse of God's holy Word, or at least that none of you may be guilty of it, whensoever ye take the Bible into your hands, remember whose word it is; it is the Word of
God Himself, and therefore beg of Him to open your eyes, Ps. 119. 18. that ye may see the wondrous things which are there
written. And then read it, not as ye do other books, but with that reverence and godly fear, as if ye heard what ye
read at that very moment uttered by a voice from Heaven, James 1.21. from whence it came at first. And “therefore laying apart
all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, receive with
meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your 1 Thess. 2. souls.” And whether you read or hear it read, “ receive it
not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.”
Upon those who do not believe, it hath no effect at all ; but it works effectually upon all that do. Which therefore that it may upon you, you must be sure to mix every thing you read with faith; with such a faith as is due to the Word of Heb. 4. 2. Him who cannot lie; and then ye cannot fail of profiting
For which purpose ye must fix this as an undoubted principle upon your hearts that, as our Saviour saith, “The John 10.35. Scripture cannot be broken." “ It is easier for Heaven and Luke 16.17. earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail;” that whatsoever is there said, is infallibly true; and whatsoever is foretold, threatened, or promised, hath, or shall most certainly be accomplished : it is impossible it should be otherwise, as impossible as it is for God to lie. Keep but this always fixed upon your minds, and you will think yourselves to live in another world ; nay, ye will really do so; for by this means, whilst other people are led only by their outward senses, minding little or nothing but what they see, or hear, or touch, or smell, or taste, you will have another kind of sense in your souls, a sense of those spiritual things that are revealed in God's holy Word, so as to be touched to the quick with them, and affected more sensibly than with any thing you meet with in this world. The Articles of the Christian faith will not seem strange to you, but as evident as any thing that is so of itself; your senses will be exercised Heb. 5. 14. to discern both good and evil. You will“ taste the good ch. 6. 5. Word of God, and the powers of the world to come.” Ye will “ look at those things which are not seen.” Ye will not 2 Cor. 4. 18. only know, but feel that God is always present with you; that His eye is upon you; that His hand upholds you ; that His only-begotten Son became man and died for you ; that “He was delivered for your offences, and raised again for (Rom. 4.
25.] your justification;" that He is now sitting at the right hand of the Father ; that He is your Advocate there, making intercession for you ; that “in Him ye have redemption (Eph. 1. 7.] through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins;" that in Him Almighty God is your Father and your God; that (Matt. 18. whensoever ye meet together in His Name, He is in the 20.] midst of you ; that whatsoever good thing you ask in His Name, shall be granted you ; that His Holy Spirit is alway
SERM. ready to direct, assist and comfort you ; that His Holy
LX. [Rom. 8.
Angels minister unto you ; that all things work together for 28.] your good. For these, and many such like things, ye have
the Word of God Himself in the Holy Scripture : and if ye
accordingly take His Word for them, ye will feel it to be, as Heb. 4. 12. the Apostle saith, “ quick and powerful, and sharper than
any two-edged sword;" imprinting these great truths so deep in your hearts, that your whole souls will be possessed with a sense and feeling of them, more than of any thing else; and then you will find by your own experience, that all Scripture is indeed given by inspiration of Almighty God; and will need no other arguments to convince you, that “it is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” for every thing that is necessary to your obtaining eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
THE PREFERENCE OF SPIRITUAL FOOD TO NATURAL.
John vi, 27.
Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat
which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of Man shall give unto you ; for Him hath God the Father sealed.
Although we live in a place where the Christian religion is professed, we see but few that do any more than profess it: some not so much; for there is one sort of people risen up among us, who have laid aside the public worship of God, both the Sacraments that Christ ordained, and every thing else that can shew them to be Christians. And of those who were once baptized into Christ, and so were made His Disciples or Christians, and still profess themselves to be so, some contradict their profession by their practice, in separating from the Church of Christ, and “causing divisions Rom. 16.17. contrary to the doctrine” that He taught. But the greatest part take up and content themselves with the bare profession of His religion, without ever concerning themselves about believing or doing what is required in it.
It is to such, I shall speak at this time; and yet not I, but Christ Jesus: for I come not in my own name, but His; and shall say nothing but what I shall have His Word and warrant for: and I hope you, who profess yourselves to be His scholars and disciples, will hearken very diligently to whatsoever He, your great Lord and Master, saith to you, and particularly to what He saith in the words I have now read.
It is true, these words were first spoken to the unbelieving Jews, who having seen our Lord feeding five thousand people
SERM. with five barley-loaves and two small fishes, and having
themselves been fed to the full with that miraculous food, they went about next day again to seek Him; and finding that He was gone to the other side of the Sea of Tiberias, they took shipping, and came to Him there also ; when our Lord saw them, He knew that they were of the number of those which He had fed with a miracle the day before, and that they now came after Him again, not because they had seen the miracle, and were convinced by it that He was indeed the Christ, the Son of God, so as to become His disciples;
but to get another meal's meat of His Divine dressing. John 6. 26. “ Verily, verily,” saith He, “I say unto you, ye seek Me,
not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled.” Wherefore, according to His usual custom of catching at all opportunities of doing good, He took occasion from their following Him after this manner, only for bodily food, to give them this wholesome and most necessary advice: " Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of Man shall give unto you.” And though He gave it at first to them, yet He caused it to be recorded among His Divine oracles, as a standing rule to be observed by all, especially those who shall follow Him, and profess themselves to be His disciples; as all here present do: and are therefore obliged in duty to Him, as well as for their own interest, to learn and practise the great lesson which He hath here set you. In which He teacheth you both what ye ought not, and what ye ought to labour after: both which parts of His Divine lesson, I shall endeavour to make so clear and plain, that ye may all learn and understand your Master's meaning and pleasure in them, and strive, for the future, to act accordingly.
First therefore, He saith, " Labour not for the meat which perisheth.” What He means by labouring, I need not tell you; that you all know is a word that signifies a man's taking care and pains about getting something which he wants, or keeping what he hath. In which sense our Lord here commands, that ye "labour not for the meat which perisheth,” that is, for the things of this life, and especially such as belong to the support of it, which He here calls by