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strong focvér, could not for a Moment maintain their Ground.
The Rules I have laid down for our common Instruction in Reading the Scriptures, are these : First, That we should make eternal Life our chief End, not only because it is our highest Concern, but because it is the great Design of all Revelation. Secondly, That in order to promote this End, we should seek our Instructions intirely in the Scriptures as abundantly sufficient to answer it. Thirdly, That whereas, the Scriptures lay an uncommon Stress upon some particular Virtues or Duties, we should not suffer any Interpretation of Scripture to pass upon us, which is not strictly reconcileable with these clear and express Assertions of Scripture.
From what has been said I would observe first, che heinous Sin of prohibiting the Scriptures, of wich-holding the Bread of Life from the Souls
of Men. If the Scriptures are the only Writings which have in them an absolute Assurance of eternal Life, and they are with-held from us: This must be an Injury so much greater than all others, as the Souls of Men are more precious than their Bodies, eternal Life than the present.
Secondly, It may be doubted, whether ridiculing the Scriptures, be not a Sin more heinous in it self than the former, howsoever it may prove in its Consequences to others. To make a Jest of that awful Volume which was wrote by the Finger of God, which was designed for our highest Improvement and Happiness; what is this but to bid defiance to the Almighty, and throw off all Regard to Virtue and its Rewards ? How shall we escape if we neglect so great Salvation; how indeed, if we ridicule it !
Thirdly, Misinterpreting Scripture, especially in the immediate Concerns Vol. II.
of eternal Life, should not pass wichout its Censure. It is more nearly related to the two former Sins, than we may at first imagine. 'Tis a prohibiting as as far as in us lies, the true Senle of Scripture, and furnishing the buly Mockers with the Materials they want; who, would they confine themselves to the Follics of Men, a Harvest plentiful enough, might do the World à considerable Service; but to make the Word of God, and the absurd Comments of Men one Subject of Ridicule, is the most unreasonable and audacious Injustice. In many things we may err innocently; a critical Mistake-is of small Consequence; but Misinterpretations in things essential to eternal Life, are of too fatal a Tendency both to our selves and others, to admit of Extenuation. In this case, we take and give a Stone instead of Bread; instead of Fish, Scorpions. A Reason this, why every Teacher as
well as Hearer of God's Word should keep his Foot, when he comech into his House, left he give the Sacrifice of Fools, who consider not that they do. Evil.
I would observe, Fourthly, That in searching the Scriptures, from the Motive of eternal Life, and by the Rules laid down, we shall avoid many Difficulties and Perplexities, which the Man whose Eyeis not single to this point, will inevitably fall into. How clear soever the Scriptures may be in the Concerns of eternal Life, they are known to be very abstruse and difficult, deep and mysterious in other things. Our Vanity and Curiosity are apt to lead uś into thefe Researches, in which we are often foild and offended. 'Tis to be feared, that many have been induced to disbelieve and reject all Revelation, upon Account of the Difficulties of fome Parts of it. This present Time is a Time of uncommon Trial, in
which the Grounds and Reasons of Christianity are attacked in the most artful and subtle manner, and in which the Advocates for it are not likely to agree amongst themselves. But to take occasion from hence, to reject the Faith of eternal Life, and neglect to use the proper Means of attaining it, (things which we cannot do without offending our natural Consciences, and defeating our highest Happiness) would not be less ablurd and unreasonable, than if we should refuse to make use of the Fruits of the Earth for our Sustenance and Pleasure, because we cannot account for all their different Qualities. When our Lord entertained his Followers with that mysterious Difcourse of eating his Flesh and drinking his Blood, we are cold, chat many of his Disciples could not bear the hard Saying, but departed from, and walked no more with him: Upon this, he asks the Twelve, Will ye also