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First, The reading of the word is an ordinance of God, and mean of falvation, of God's own appointment. The Bible is this word, and God has given it to us, and appointed it to be read.
1. The public reading of it in the congregation is God's ordinance, and a mean of Galvation. And we find it in scripture performed by the teachers of the people, Neh. viii. 8. So they read in the back in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading. Ver. 2. 3. And izr the priet brought the law before the congregatio, both of men and wonen, and all that could hear with undertandingspun the first day of the seventh month. And lie reud tveicin before the street that was before the water geie, from the morning until mid-day, before the men and the unity, wed those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unio the book of the law. And to the reading of the word claims a place among public pr. dinances. Hence reading and expounding a pittige of scripture every Lord's day in the church, is ilmu able and well-warranted practice in this church.
2. The private reading of it in families, civió. 7. 8. 9. These words which I command thee is in Jhall be in thine heart. And thou shalt teach tittiin gently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them dozivom fittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the Dunya and when thou lieft down, and when thou rijeti... sense? thou shalt bind them for a hgn upon thine hund, vilev shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And these site write them upon the posts of thy house, and on the Plal. lxxviii. 5. For be established a testimony in jo!!, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanviei bur fathers, that they should make them known to their chil. dren. Every family ought to be a church; and as tiey are to speak to God by prayer, so they are to hear God speak to them, by reading of his word. And this they ought to do every morning and evening, as well as command tlieir children and servants to read it by themselves.
3. Secret reading of it by one's felf, Deut. xvii. 19. It (the law or word of God] shall be with him, and be full read therein all the days of his life. John v. 39. Search the scriptures. By this means the foul conver. ses with God in his word. And those who do not make a practice of daily reading the scripture, are none of the Lord's people, whatever otherwise they may profess.
Hence it is evident, that the people not only may, but ought to read the Bible, and therefore it ought to be translated into the vulgar languages. Which highly condemns the Antichriftian church of Rome, which takes away the key of knowledge from the people, by prohibiting them to read the word of God.
Secondly, 'The preaching of the word is an ordinance of God, and mean of grace, 1 Cor. i. 21. It pleases God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. But though all may read the word, yet none ought to preach it, but those who being qualified for it, are duly called thereto, 2 Cor. iii. 6. Who hath made us able ministers of the new teftament, not of the letter, but of the spirit. Rom. s. 15. How fall they preach except they be sent? 1 Tim. iv. 14. Neglect net the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy; with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Tho' the reading of the word as well as the preaching is a mean of salvation, yet the preaching of it is the speeial means, though a despised ordinance in the world, therefore called foolishness, 1 Cor. i. 21. It is the most ancient of the two. Noah was a preacher, before the Bible was to take his text from, 2 Pet. ii. 5. And fo was Enoch before him, Jude 14. In this work Christ himself spent the time of his making public appearance in the world, viz. preaching the kingdom of God. It is the mercy of the church of God, that they have the word of God as a lamp always burning : but the preaching of it is the inuffing of the lamp, by which it gives the greater light. And for this reason the
preaching of the word should be attended on by all, if ever they expect to be saved.
II. I proceed to fhew what are the ends for which the Lord has appointed these means and ordinances of reading and preaching the word.
Firji, For sinners out of Christ they are appointed means of two great and necessary purposes.
1. Of their conviction, i Cor. xiv. 24. 25. But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all : and thus are the secrets of his heart made manifeft; and so falling down on his face, he will worship Gol, and report that God is in you of a truth. The finner naturally is asleep in lin, and the word awakens him; he is bold and daring, and will not consider his sin, nòr duty either; but the word brings him to the bar, judges him, convicts him, and condemns him. And,
(1.) It discovers his fin to him. [1.] What are his fins.' It comes home so close to him, as if it faid, Thou art the man. It goes out thro' and in thro' him, and opens up his very heart, tells hiin of himself what none in the world were privy to, but only God and his own conscience, 1 Cor. iv. 25. This is what the spouse means by the watchmens finding her, Cant. iii. 3. Who has told the minister, say many, when the minifter drawing his bow at a venture knows not whom it hits, till the party touched cries out, but the minister directs the arrow, Heb. iv. 12.? And many a time have we seen the reproof laid in seasonably for the fin, that one could not miss it, if but going on itraight in the ordinary.
[2.] What the hainou nature of his fin is, Heb. iv. 12. Gid's word pulls off the paint and varnishing from the man's fin, and discovers it in its loathsome nature, and killing aggravations. It makes him fee the evil in it that he never saw before, Acts xxvi. 18.
(2.) It discovers his misery out of Christ, Aisi
37. The finner fees in the word, as in a glass, his lott state without a Saviour; perceives himself bound over to death with cords of guilt, which fills him with fear, terror, anxiety, and remorse,
2. Of their conversion, Pfal. xix. 7. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. The word is the means which God hath chosen for bringing finners to himself, Acts xxvi. 18. for raising the dead foul to life, for regeneration, and the working of faith and repentance. This effect of the word we take up in these two particulars.
(1.) The word is the mean of driving the finner out of himself to Jesus Christ by faith, as it did Peter's hearers, Acts ii. 37. 38. Faith cometh by bearing. The law goes before and condemns the finner, and discovers him a lost man. The gospel follows with the glad tidings of salvation, and the foul is perfuaded to embrace them.
(2.) It is the mean of driving the finner out of his fins unto God, Acts xx. 21. It fets fire to his nest in fin, and brings him to the Lord as a Master, and to a compliance with his will as his duty.
Secondly, For faints they are means appointed for their edification or building up, Acts xx. 32. The church of Christ in this world is but a building, and not yet finished ; and every particular saint's itate in this world is but an unfinished building: and therefore they must have the word continued with them, as the fcaffolding is with the house till it get on the topstone, Eph. iv. 11. 12. 13. And the reading and preaching of the word are,
1. Means of building them up in holiness, the foundation of which is laid in them at conversion, Acis xx. 32. As they are born again of the incorruptible feed of the word, so they are nourished by these breasts ; by the fame means they bad their spiritual life, they get it more abundantly, 1 Pet. ii.
It does so by, (1.) Establishing them in the good they have at
tained, setting them to hold it fast over the belly of temptations, Eph. iv. 14. By the reading and preaching of the word, the truth according to godliness is rivetted in them, that the longer they live under the means, they are more confirmed in the Lord's way.
(2.) Cleansing them from remaining evils in their heart and life, Psal. xix. 9. Coming to this glals, they get their spots discovered to them, that they may wipe them off. So the word is the pruning hook of the great Husbandman, John xv. 2. 3. and the engine for demolishing the remaining strong holds of the rebels, 2 Cor. x. 4. 5.
(3.) Pressing and helping them forward to the good thing lacking, 2 Tim. iii. 16. 17, and so the effect is, that they all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord, 2 Cor. iii. 18. It helps them ftill to add a cubit to their stature, shewing them more of the truth and the duties of holiness.
2. A means of building them up in comfort, Rom. sv. 4. They are liable to many griefs in the world; but it is appointed to be their great cordial, and fovereign remedy against all their griefs. And this it dues, (1.) By setting their case in a true light, Pfal. lxxiii
. 17. (2.) By affording suitable remedies for their case, from the precious promises and doctrines of it suited to every case, If. xl. 1. 2. Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, faith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerca Salem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accom- , plished, that her iniquity is pardoned : for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her fins.
III. I shall consider the efficacy of the word. Concerning which observe,
1. The parties to whom it is effectual. Its conrin. cing efficacy it my have on the reprobate, as Felix,
Its converting eficacy it huis on this Vol. III.
Acts xxiv. 25.