William Bradford Institute
for Study of the
Early Settlement of America

Home
Sermons
 
Back
 
Second Sermon on 2 Thessalonians Chapter Two


byThomas Manton
Sermons 1-3 together in Word format PDF format


That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by
word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. 2 Thes. 2:2.

We come now to the matter of the apostle's caution, which is in the second
verse: 'That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit,
nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.' In
which words take notice:

Of the error disproved: that the day of Christ is at hand.

The effect which this error might produce; trouble and unsettled ness of mind:
that ye be not soon shaken in mind or troubled.

A removal of all the supposed foundations of this error, or the means which
these impostors used to entice them to embrace it. Three are mentionedspirit,
word, and letter.

Nor by spirit; that is, pretence of spiritual revelation; be not soon shaken in
mind by it.

Nor by word; some word of the apostle, which they pretended to have heard and
that is another sleight of deceivers; some tradition or doctrine delivered by
the apostle by word of mouth.

Nor by letter as from us. This may be understood (1.) Either of some passage
in the former epistle; for the apostle saith there, I Thes. 4:17, 'Then we which
are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to
meet the Lord in the air;' and because he joins himself with them, they thought
he should survive until that day. Or else those warnings which the apostle gives
them: 1 Thes. 5:1-3, 'Of the times and seasons I need not write unto them, for
yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord cometh as a thief in the
night,' &c. Now these warnings they might abuse; and this is one way by which
men may be unsettled and unshaken, i.e., by false glosses and interpretations of
scripture. (2.) Or rather the sense may be, some spurious and counterfeit
writings, which was one means of deceit used in the primitive times;
supposititious or apocryphal legends, wherein the apostle might be said to write
something, as if Christ should come in that age wherein they lived. Now, to
obviate this, the apostle is supposed to insert that passage, chap. 3:17, 'The
salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I
write.'

First, From the error disproved, observe:

Doct. That the time of Christ's coming to judgment must be patiently expected,
not rashly defined or determined; for this is the error which the apostle with
such earnestness opposeth here.

But you will say, Is this such an error? Do not the holy apostles themselves
say, in effect, the same, as the apostle James, chap. 5:8, 'The coming of the
Lord draweth nigh;' and the apostle Peter, 1 Peter 4:7; 'The end of all things
is at hand.' Yea, Paul himself, 1 Cor. 10:11, 'These are written for our
admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come;' and Rom. 13:12, 'The
night is far spent, and the day is at hand;' where by night is meant the state
of Ignorance, sin, and paganism before conversion; and by the day is meant the
state of our full regeneration and illumination in eternal glory, when the
corrupt world shall come to an end, and all shadows shall fly away. As if he had
said, The morning of the resurrection is at hand, the night is far spent not
quite past and the day is at hand; the night is not thoroughly gone, nor the
day wholly come, yet, he saith, it is at hand. What evil was in this opinion,
that the apostle should with such vehemency argue and reason against it? Ans.
There is some difference in the words, for hggiken signifies, it draweth near;
enesthken it is begun already. But the sense is vastly different; for by these
and such like expressions the apostle only did intend that the last dispensation
was then on footno other change of dispensation or worship was to be expected
till the coming of Christ. But I shall more clearly and distinctly show --

What reason the apostle had to speak in this manner.

What little reason these seducers had to pervert this speech to countenance
their hypothesis or supposition.

1. For the first, the apostle had reason to say the day of the Lord was at hand.

With respect of faith; for faith gives a kind of presence to things: Heb. 11:1,
'Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not
seen;' that is, it gives a being, a kind of existence, to things future and afar
off, and sets them before the eyes of our mind, and gives us some sight of them,
as if they were already come. And therein it agrees with the light of prophecy.
Look, as by the light of prophecy John saith, Rev. 20:12, 'I saw the dead, small
and great, stand before God, and the books were opened,' &c., so faith doth in
effect see what it believes. Well, then, faith looking upon things distant and
absent as near at hand, the apostle had reason to use this language to
believers, as if the judge were at the door: Phil. 4:5, 'Let your moderation be
known unto all men; the Lord is at hand,' not only in regard of his present
providence, but also with respect to his second coming to judgment; it is as
certain to faith as if he were already come.

With respect of love: love will not account it long to endure the hardships of
this present world until Christ come to set all things at rights. Jacob served
seven years for Rachel 'for the love he bare to her, and it seemed to him but a
little while,' Gen. 29:20. If we had any love for Christ, we should be contented
to suffer a while for his sake. The time is coming when the wicked shall
persecute no more, when the mouth of iniquity shall be stopped, when the desire
and hope of all believers shall be satisfied, when the Redeemer's work shall be
consummated, when the kingdom shall be delivered up to the Father, when those
that made a jest of this day shall be fully confuted. Faith sees the certainty
of it, and love makes us hold out till the time come about.

The apostle might speak so, as comparing time with eternity: Ps. 90:4, 'A
thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday, when it is past, and as a
watch in the night;' 2 Peter 3:8, 'One day is with the Lord as a thousand years,
and a thousand years as one day.' The longest time to eternity is but as a drop
lost and spilt in the ocean; and all the tediousness of the present life is but
like one rainy day to an everlasting sunshine: 2 Cor. 4:17, 'Our light
affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and
eternal weight of glory.' Though troubles are lengthened as long as our lives
are, yet they are but a moment in respect of eternity; we reckon by time, and
not by eternity, and therefore these expressions may seem strange to us.
The apostle speaks this to particular men, whose abode in the world is not very
long. Eternity and the judgment is at hand, though Christ tarry long till the
church be completed, and the elect be gathered: 2 Peter 3:9, 'The Lord is not
slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness.' Now, what is long,
and what is afar off to the whole church, considered in several successions of
ages, it is short to particular persons. Death soon puts an end to their
conflict, and then their triumph ensues. And so Christ is ready to judge at all
times, though the world be not ready to be judged. The coming of Christ is
uncertain, and hidden for this very purpose, that men in all ages might be
quickened to faithfulness and watchfulness, and make that preparation which is
necessary. Now, therefore, it concerns the messengers of God to bind men's duty
upon them, by showing the nearness of it in all the fore-mentioned
considerations, that they might be always ready; for so we find our Lord himself
pressing it: Luke 12:40, 'Be ye therefore ready, for the Son cometh at an hour
when ye think not;' Mat. 24:42, 'Watch, therefore, for ye know not what hour
your Lord cometh.' He may come in a moment; our duty is unquestionable, but the
time of his coming is uncertain. And to please ourselves with the thoughts of a
delay, is a mighty deadening thing, and quencheth our duty; yea, it is an
enticement to all evil; Mat. 24:48, the wicked servant took liberty to beat his
fellow-servants because of his lord's delay. We are bid to be sober and
watchful, and always to be looking for the coming of the Lord.

2. The seducers had little reason to pervert this speech to the countenance of
their hypothesis or supposition, and therefore the apostle had very good reason
to be zealous in the confutation of this hypothesis of the seducers, who
maintained that Christ would come in that age.

To inquire after the time is curiosity: Acts 1:7, 'It is not for you to know the
times or the seasons, which the Father hath put into his own power.' Those
things which God hath reserved to himself, for us to inquire after is sinful. It
is a great evil to pry into our Master's secrets, when we have so many revealed
truths to busy our minds about. We take it to be a piece of ill-manners to pry
into that which is purposely concealed; as to break up a secret letter and the
like. The practising of known duties would prevent this curiosity. These things
tend not to our profit and edification.

Much more was it a sin to fix the time; it was an arrogant presumption: Mat.
24:36, 'For of that day and hour knoweth no man; no, not the angels of heaven,
but my Father only.' The peremptory time of the day of judgment God keeps to
himself, and it is arrogance for any to define it and set a time, when God has
resolved to keep it secret. The fixing of that time did a great deal of hurt.
For the present it drew away their minds from their calling, because they
expected a sudden coming of the Lord. Ill impressions either destroy or weaken
necessary duties. The least error doth gratify Satan and the interest of his
kingdom, for he is the father of lies. It might shake their faith in other
things when their credulity was disproved by the event; the gospel might be
brought into contempt when their error only was confuted; as many men, who have
been peremptory in fixing times, afterwards have thrown off their religion.
It showed a diseased mind, that they were sick of questions; as the apostle
speaks, 1 Tim. 6:4, 'Doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh
envy,' &c., when they had so much wholesome food to feed upon.
It did but engender strife among Christians, begat wranglings and disputes in
the church: I Tim. 6:4, 'he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting (or sick)
about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railing, evil
surmisings.'

Use 1. Let us not fix times. Many of the ancients were too bold this way, and we
are apt to it. Lactantius peremptorily said, the world would endure but two
hundred years after his time. So many will fix the time of the calling of the
Jews, and the destruction of Antichrist without evident grounds and reasons.
What God hath revealed is enough to bear us out in our duty and suffering. In
other things let us patiently wait; we see reason to do so, when we consider how
many men have proved false prophets.

Use 2. Let us not put off the time, and set it at too great a distance. Distant
things, though never so great, will hardly move us; that which men put off they
do in effect put away; they put far off the evil day, they would not let it come
near their minds to have any operation upon them. Look, as the stars, those vast
globes of light, by reason of the distance between us and them, do seem but as
so many spangles, so we have but a weak sight of what is set at a great
distance, and their operation on us will be but small; the closer things are,
the more they will work upon us. One that looks upon what God hath revealed of
this as sure and near, is more affected with it than others are. Therefore set
yourselves at the entrance of that world, where you: must everlastingly be, and
watch and be ready. They that put it off are apt to loiter in their work. If
Christ's coming be not near at hand, certainly the time of our departure is at
hand, and it will not be long ere it come about. But this is but introductive to
the doctrine of Antichrist. Therefore I come to the second thing.

Secondly, The effect that this error might produce, trouble and unsettledness of
mind: 'That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or troubled.' In the words there is a
twofold metaphor; the one taken from a tempest, or sea-storm, as the word
plainly implies, that ye be not shaken in mind; and the other word is taken from
the sudden alarm of a land-fight, which breeds trouble.

Doct. 1. That errors breed trouble of mind: they do not only trouble the
church's peace: Gal. 5:12, I would they were even cut off which trouble you; but
they hinder tranquillity of mind: Gal. 1:7, 'There be some that trouble you, and
would pervert the gospel of Christ.'

How do errors hinder tranquillity of mind? Partly because it is an unsound
foundation; it can never yield solid peace. We only find rest for the soul in a
true religion, and there where it is purely professed others are left to great
doubts and uncertainties. The Lord seems direct us in this course when we are
upon consultation about the taking up of a religion: Jer. 6:16, 'Stand in the
ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk
therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.' Soul-rest is only found in
God's way, find where it is most clearly professed. Partly because whatever
false peace is bred there, it will at last end in trouble. The apostle compares
seducers, Jude 13, to 'raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame;'
and we are told of the locusts that came out of the bottomless pit, Rev. 9:5,
that they 'stung like scorpions.' Every erroneous way of religion is
comfortless; yea, their doctrine breeds anxiety, and vexes the spirit; for they
have no true way of quieting the conscience; let us therefore detest error,
because it is so much our interest. It is the property of truth to beget a
delectation of mind; it is 'sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.' Verum est
bonum intellectus truth is the good of the understanding. Now when we
understand truth satisfyingly, it breeds an incredible delight; when we have
been in some perplexities, and begin to find out a truth: Prov. 24:13, 14, 'My
son, eat thou honey, because it is good, and the honeycomb, which is sweet unto
thy taste: so shall the knowledge of wisdom be when thou hast found it.' Honey
is not so sweet to thy taste as this is to thy understanding. When a man hath
found out any truth, though it be but a natural truth, it breeds its delight:
much more spiritual truth; it is very pleasing to the understanding, and most of
all when spiritual. Truth is obeyed and practised; for the understanding gives
us but a sight of it, but obedience gives a taste thereof. Our Saviour saith,
Mat. 11:28-30, 'Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will
give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly
in heart. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.' If you will but come
under Christ's blessed yoke and sceptre, and that way of religion he hath
recommended to you, you will find an incredible peace, joy, and oblectation in
your mind.

Doct. 2. That Christians should be so established, and have such constancy of
mind, that they should not be easily shaken and moved from the faith.

Let us see how this is pressed. Sometimes it is pressed from the encouragement
of your great hope: I Cor. 15:58, 'Be stedfast, and unmoveable, always abounding
in the work of the Lord; forasmuch as you know that your labour is not in vain
in the Lord.' First, he would have them stedfast and unmoveable; these two words
have their special signification, the one is a degree above the other. A man may
be stedfast in a thing, though he be moved a little in some by-matters; but now,
since your innocency will bear you out, be not only stedfast but immoveable,
which is a higher degree; but take it thus, be stedfast in yourselves, and
unmoveable by the storms of temptation from without: a man is stedfast in
himself, settled upon his own foundation; and you are unmoved when you are
strengthened against outward assaults: Acts 20:24, 'None of these things move
me, neither count I my life dear unto me, so I might finish my course with joy.'
A man may be settled in the knowledge of the truth, but he is not unmoveable
except he be fortified against all temptations that may draw him off from his
profession. Such constancy of mind may be well enforced because of our great
hope; thus it is pleaded for there. Then the absolute necessity of it is urged
at other times, as Col. 1:23, 'If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled,
and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel.' The same condition is
required to continue as to begin our right in the privileges of the gospel.
There are some conditions required for the beginning, others for the continuing
of our right, Now this is absolutely required for the continuing of our right,
both for present reconciliation with God, and future glory; it is upon this
condition, 'if ye continue in the faith.'

Let us inquire what is necessary to this constancy and establishment of mind,
that we may not be soon troubled and shaken; partly that our minds may be
enlightened to know the truth, and our hearts renewed to believe and love the
truth; for without this there can never be any constancy of mind in religion.
A clear conviction of the truth, or certainty of knowledge, a rooted assent, or
well-grounded persuasion; not some fluctuating opinion about it. A half light
maketh us very uncertain in our course: James 1:8, 'A double-minded man is
unstable in all his ways' diyucoV akatastatoV; first 'try all things,' 1 Thes.
5:21, then 'hold fast that which is good.' When men resolve upon evidence, or
after due examination, the truth sticketh the closer and faster by them; but
when they take up things hand-over-head, they have no firm principles, and
therefore waver hither and thither, as vessels without ballast are tossed with
every wave: 2 Peter 3:16, 17, 'Beware lest ye also, being led away with the
error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness' idiou sthrigmou,
substantial grounds within themselves. They do not stand by the knowledge of
others, or the faith of others, and consent of others: light chaff is carried
about with every wind, perijeromenoi: Eph. 4:14, 'That ye henceforth be no more
children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.'
They go through all parts of the compass; sometimes this wind of error taketh
them up, sometimes that; sometimes taking up one opinion, then changing it for
another: this is the fruit of half-convictions.

The other part of our basis is a resolution to adhere to the truth. What
likelihood is there that we should continue, who are not so much as resolved so
to do? The heart must be established by grace, as well as the mind soundly
convinced: Heb. 13:9, 'Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines,
for it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace;' as the apostle
speaketh of a purpose not to marry: 1 Cor. 7:37, 'He that standeth stedfast in
his own heart,' &c. So here, Acts 21:13, 'I am ready not to be bound only, but
also to die at Jerusalem, for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.' A firm,
thorough resolution is requisite to fortify us against all changes in religion;
otherwise we are but as trees without a root, or a house without a foundation.
Now this resolution of the heart is by faith and love. Faith: Heb. 13:12, 'Take
heed lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the
living God.' Love: 2 Thes. 2:10, 'They received not the love of the truth, that
they might be saved; and for this cause God shall send them strong delusions,
that they shall believe a lie.' We are not only rooted and grounded in faith,
but 'rooted and grounded in love:' Eph. 3:17, 'That Christ may dwell in your
hearts by faith, that ye being rooted and grounded in love,' &c.

The opposite to this is instablity and inconstancy of mind, that soon quitteth
truth without difficulty, or without much hesitancy and resistance yields to the
temptation. The scripture often taketh notice of this sudden embracing of error:
Gal. 1:6, 'I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into
the grace of Christ unto another gospel;' and in the text, 'soon shaken in
mind.' Credulity is a lightness in believing, when we are like reeds shaken with
every wind, Mat. 11:7, and have a faulty easiness, ready to be carried away with
every doctrine which pretendeth to truth: 'The simple believeth every word,
Prov. 14:15. There is a readiness of mind which is good, but it goeth on
sufficient evidence; so 'the wisdom that is from above is gentle, and easy to be
entreated,' James 3:17; and the Bereans were proJumoi: Acts 17:11, 'They
received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures,
whether these things were so or no.' But a readiness of mind differs from a
weakness of mind, or a lightness in believing upon slender and insufficient
grounds: they never receive the truth with thorough efficacy, and are prone to
error.

The causes of this instability and inconstancy of mind are these:

Lack of solid rooting in the truth; they receive it hand-over-head, as the stony
ground forthwith sprang up: Mat. 13:5, 20, 'Anon they receive it with joy;' they
do not so soon receive the word, but they as soon quit it.

Lack of mortification: 2 Tim. 4:10, 'Demas hath forsaken us, having loved this
present world.' Lusts are uncertain; fear of men, favour of men, carnal hopes
will easily prevail.

A certain readiness of mind which disposeth men to conform and comply with their
company, as the looking-glass representeth every face that looketh on it; so
they are very changeable, and unstable as water; as Zedekiah, Jer. 38:5, 'The
king is not he that can say you nay;' soon turned this way and that way.

Lack of a thorough inclination to God, so that they are right for a while, or in
some things, yet they are not universally true to his interest: I Kings 2:28,
'Joab turned after Adonijah, though he turned not after Absolom;' Hosea 7:8,
'Ephraim is a cake not turned.'

Lack of holiness and living up to the truths we know: I Tim. 3:9, 'Holding the
mystery of faith in a pure conscience.' Choice liquors are best kept in a clean
vessel; men provoke God to desert them and leave them to a giddy spirit.
Libertinism. Men think they may run from one sect of Christians to another, as
the wind of interest bloweth. If they were to turn to Ethnicism, Turcism, or
Judaism, they would die rather than change their religion; but they think the
differences among Christians are not of such moment as to venture anything upon
that account. Every truth is precious, and must be owned in its season, and it
is damnable in itself to do anything against conscience, and he that giveth way
to a small temptation will entertain a greater; as a man that hangeth over a
precipice, when he lets go his hold, will sink further and further till he come
to the bottom; therefore, it is good to be faithful in a little.

Use. Let us take heed of this evil credulity and lightness.

Till Christians get a settled and sound judgment they never have peace within
themselves, for fears and scruples arise in the dark, and those that live in
error are full of perplexities, and have not that tranquillity of spirit which
they have who are fully persuaded in their own mind: Rom. 14:5, 'Let every man
be fully persuaded in his own mind.'

If hardened in error, consider your opinions will ordinarily have an influence
upon your whole religion, and will pervert your carriage towards God and men;
your prayers will smell of your opinions, and be like Balaam's sacrifice,
offered to God to engage him against his own people; your love will be dispensed
according to the interests of your faction: 1 Cor. 1:12, 13, 'Every one of you
saith, I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ. Is
Christ divided?'

The danger of error to others. Vice is like a duel, error a war: 2 Tim. 2:17,
'Their word will eat as doth a canker;' 'All in Asia have turned from me,' 2
Tim. 1:15.

There is danger to yourselves, though the error be not damnable, 1 Cor. 3:13.
You have not so full communion with God.

Thirdly, The third thing is the means which these impostors used to seduce them
from the faith, spirit, word, letter; by all which the apostle would not have
them troubled and shaken in mind; none of these engines which the seducers used
should draw them from the truth. What should poor Christians do thus assaulted?
Ans. Stick to the apostolical doctrine. I shall observe:

Doct. That a Christian should be so persuaded in religion that neither spirit,
nor word, nor writing, should be able to shake or unsettle his mind. I shall
show you:

What ways or what means God hath appointed whereby a man may settle his choice
as to opinions in religion.

That the word of God will sufficiently fortify him against all these false ways
by which error is wont to be insinuated.

For the first, if a Christian would be established and guided aright in the
choice of a religion, he must follow both the light of nature and scripture.
The light of nature, antecedently to any external revelation will sufficiently
convince us of the being of God and our dependence upon him: Rom. 1:19, 20,
'That which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God hath showed it to
them; for the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly
seen, being understood by the things which are made, even his eternal power and
Godhead.' For I must know there is a God, or else I cannot be certain that he
hath given us a rule or revelation of his mind. We begin with what is natural,
and then go on to what is spiritual. Nature will tell us that there is one God,
the first cause of all things, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; that it
is reasonable he should be served by those whom he hath made; that he will
reward and punish men as they disobey or serve and please him: but how God will
be served, how they shall be rewarded or punished, or how they shall escape
punishment, if after a breach they are willing to return to their duty and
obedience to him, this is revealed in the word of God.

The written word shows us the true way of worshipping and pleasing God, and
being accepted with him; therefore it is a sufficient direction to us: there is
enough to satisfy conscience, though not to please wanton curiosity; as that may
quench the thirst of a sober man that will not satisfy the lust of a drunkard:
there we are 'made wise unto salvation,' 2 Tim. 3:15 'Thou hast known the holy
scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation;' and Ps. 119:105,
'Thy word is a light unto my feet, and a lantern to my paths.' There we have the
knowledge of many things evident by the light of nature discovered with more
clearness and certainty; and that which could 'not be found out by natural
light, as salvation by a Redeemer, or the remedy of our lapsed estate, which,
depending on the sole will and good pleasure of God, could not be known till it
was manifested and revealed by him. When man sat in darkness and in the shadow
of death, it was necessary that God should some way or other reveal his mind to
him by word of mouth or by writing. By word of mouth, that is, either by oracles
or extraordinary messengers. That sufficed while God saw fit to reveal but a few
truths, or such as did not much burden the memory; and men were long-lived, and
the church confined within a small compass of ground, and not liable to so many
miseries and changes as now in the latter ages; and then he put it into writing,
that men may not obtrude upon us their own conceits, but we might have a
standard or rule of Faith and manners: Gal. 6:16, 'As many as walk according to
this rule,' &c.

The natural truths contained in the word of God are evident by their own light.
The supernatural truths, though they are above natural light, yet they are not
against it, or contrary to it, and do fairly accord with those principles which
are naturally known; and are confirmed, partly by an antecedent testimony,
which is prophecy; partly by an innate evidence in their own frame and
contexture; partly by a subsequent evidence, which is valuable testimony as to
matter of fact. The antecedent testimony: John 5:39, 'Search the scriptures, for
in them ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me;' 2 Peter
1:19, 'We have a more sure word of' prophecy, to which we do well to give heed,
as to a light shining in dark places.' The innate and concomitant evidence: 2
Cor. 4:2-4, 'We have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in
craftiness, nor handling the word of' God deceitfully, but by manifestation of
the truth, commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
For if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost, in whom the god of
this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of
the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.'
The subsequent testimony, the apostles: Acts 5:32, 'We are witnesses of these
things, and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey
him.' They were eye and ear witnesses of great fidelity and credit; their
religion forbiddeth them to lie for God, and they were accompanied with the
mighty power of the Holy Ghost, not only in giving them success in the face of
the learned world, hunting out the devil everywhere, but also by miracles,
divers signs, and wonders; and they and their followers endured all manner of
torments and death to witness to the truth of these things, and transmitted them
to us with assurance of God's owning this doctrine.

The word being thus stated and put into a sure record, it is intelligible
enough, in all necessary matters at least; for if God should speak or write
darkly to his people, especially in necessary things, it is because he could not
or would not speak otherwise. The former is direct blasphemy: Exod. 4:11, 'Who
hath made man's mouth? have not I, the Lord?' The latter cannot be said, because
that is contrary to his goodness: Ps. 25:8, 'Good and upright is the Lord,
therefore will he teach sinners the way.' It is not to be imagined that the
great and universal king should give a law to mankind, and speak so darkly that
we should have no sure direction from thence, nor be able to know his mind in
any of the duties God hath required of us, or expose us to great difficulties
and hardships in the world. And if he had not plainly expressed his will to us,
man would never leave writing and distinguishing himself out of his duty. Surely
he that will venture his all for Christ's sake had need of a clear warrant to
bear him out, for none will hazard all that is near and dear to him but for
weighty reasons.

Besides, the illumination of the Holy Spirit doth accompany this word, and make
it effectual to us, to show us God as revealed in Christ: 2 Cor. 4:6, 'God, who
commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into our hearts, to
give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus
Christ;' and for heaven, Eph. 1:17, 18, 'Praying that the God of our Lord Jesus
Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and
revelation in the knowledge of him; the eyes of your understanding being
enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the
riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.' He sanctifieth and
healeth our souls, and prepareth us for the entertainment of the truth, that as
natural things are naturally discerned, so spiritual things are spiritually
discerned: 1 Cor. 2:14, 'The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit
of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because
they are spiritually discerned.'

There are promises of direction made to humble and sincere minds: Ps. 25:9, 'The
meek shall he guide in judgment, the meek shall he teach his way;' to the
industrious: Prov. 2:4, 5, 'If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her
as for hid treasures, then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find
the knowledge of God;' to the godly and well-disposed: John 7:17, 'If any man
will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or
whether I speak of myself;' so to them that pray much: James 1:5, 'If any man
lack wisdom, let him ask it of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and
upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.' They that thus sincerely endeavour
to know the will of God, will come to a sound, established judgment in the
truth.

A Christian that is thus established, is fortified against spirit, word, or
writing, or all suggestions that may perplex his mind.

Against pretended revelations, called here spirit.

Because having his mind thus settled, he may boldly defy all revelations
pretended to the contrary: Gal. 1:8, 'Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach
any other gospel than we have preached, let him be accursed.' Any doctrine, if
diverse, or different from, or besides the written word, much more contrary to
it, a Christian may reject it, and account it cursed doctrine; therefore neither
church, nor angel, nor spirit is to be heard against it.

Because a Christian is upon better terms, having the written word, than if God
dealt with him by way of revelations: 2 Peter 1:19, 'We have bebaioteron logon,
a more sure word of prophecy;' comparing it with the voice from heaven, of which
he spake before; not as if there could be any uncertainty in the Lord s voice
speaking from heaven, but because a transient voice is more easily mistaken or
forgotten than an authentic standing record; as Samuel thought Eli called him,
when it was the Lord. It is quoad nos; though God gave evidence of the truth of
such revelations as he made, yet we have more accommodate means. Our Lord
intimateth such a thing: Luke 16:3l, 'If they hear not Moses and the prophets,
neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.' This is the
surest ground for faith to rest upon of any that ever hath been or can be given
to sinners, subject to forgetfulness, jealousies, and mistakes.

Because it is not rational to expect new revelation, now the canon and rule of
faith is closed up: Heb. 2:1, 2, 'Therefore we ought to give the more earnest
heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them
slip,' &c.; Mat. 28:20, 'Teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have
commanded you;' John 17:29, 'Neither pray I for these alone, but for them which
shall believe on me through their word.'

Because if any such be pretended, it must be tried by the word: Isa. 8:20, 'To
the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is
because they have no light in them;' so 1 John 4:1, 'Beloved, believe not every
spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God, because many false prophets
are gone abroad into the world.'

Because they that despise ordinary means, and pretend to vision, revelation, or
inspiration, are usually such as are given up by God to a unstable spirit, and
cast into the dungeon of error, for the punishment of other sins: Micah 2:11,
'If a man walking in the spirit of falsehood do lie, he shall be the prophet of
this people;' God will permit those that are both deceivers and deceived
themselves to come amongst them for a plague to them. Sleidan giveth sad
instances of some given up to this fantastical frenzy, that killed their own
relations on pretence of inspiration, and of others that murdered fifty thousand
in one day.

By word or unwritten tradition. This also should not shake the mind of settled
Christian, for this hath no proof no evidence of its certainty, and would lay
us open to the deceits of men, blinded by their own interest and passions; and
if such tradition could be produced as hath unquestionable authority, it must be
tried by the scripture, which is everywhere commended as the public standard,
and true measure and rule, both of faith and manners.

Not by epistle as from us.

Supposititious writings, which the church in all ages hath exploded, having
received only those which are unquestionably theirs whose names they bear.
False expositions. These are confuted by inspection of the context, scope of the
writer, comparing of obscure places with plain and clear.

Thus you see what certainty God hath provided for us to guide us in the way to
eternal life.

 

Promoting a Greater Understanding of the Discovery of the Americas