“Out of His infinite favour God is pleased to give some— in those places where He intendeth to gather a people to Himself, for His eternal praise— beside the twinkling starlight of nature, the clear and perfect sunlight of Scripture, to ‘guide their feet in the ways of peace.’
This Word is one of the most signal mercies that ever He bestowed upon the sons of men, the whole world without it being but a barren and rude wilderness.
The Word of God is a spring of living water, a deep mine of costly treasure, a table furnished with all sorts of food, a garden wherein is variety of pleasant fruits, the church’s charter, containing all her privileges and her deeds, manifesting her title to the purchased possession.
It hath pious precepts for the Christian’s reformation, and precious promises for his consolation.
If the saint be afflicted, it can hold his head above water, and keep him from sinking when the billows go over his soul; there are cordials in it rich enough to revive the most fainting spirit.
If the saint be assaulted, the word is armour of proof, whereby he may defend himself manfully, and wound his foes mortally.
If the soul be unholy, this word can sanctify it; ‘Ye are clean through the word which I have spoken to you,’ (John 15:3). This water can wash out all the spots and stains.
If the soul be an heir of hell, this word can save it: ‘From a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise to salvation,’ (2 Tim. 3:15). Other writings may make a man wise to admiration, but this only can make him wise to salvation.
This word, which is of such unspeakable worth, God hath deposited as a special treasure into the hands of the children of men, that they might ‘obey His will, and know the just one.’
And, reader, it is thy duty to search and study this book. When kings send out their proclamations, either concerning acts of grace, or some law which their subjects ought to obey, they expect that all should take notice of them, and give them the reading and hearing.
What an affront dost thou offer to the King of the whole world, if thou turnest thy back upon His word! I must tell thee it is no less than crimen lœsœ majestatis. (‘the crime of injured sovereignty‘)
‘He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me,’ (Luke 10:16).
Thou mayest think, possibly, that by neglecting to hear, thou dost only contemn the preacher; but believe me, it is a contempt of thy Maker—ministers are God’s ambassadors.
Now to deny an ambassador audience, is one of the greatest disrespects which can possibly be offered him, nay, it is an affront to his prince, on whose errand he cometh, and whose person he representeth; and what is the conclusion usually of such bad premises, but a bloody war?
Consider what thou dost, when thou ‘refusest Him that speaketh from heaven;’ for if thou shuttest the windows of thine eyes from reading, and the door of thine ears from hearing, God may clap such a padlock of a judiciary curse upon them both, that thou shalt never open thine eyes nor ears, till thou comest, as the rich glutton, to see Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom, and to hear and bear thy part in those dreadful screechings and howlings which are in hell.
It is a mercy that the tree of knowledge, the word of God, is not forbidden, but commanded fruit; nay, that it groweth in the very path to the tree of life.
Oh, why shouldst thou then, like the pharisees, ‘reject the counsel of God against thy own soul’? If thou art a child of Adam, I am sure thou hast thy death’s wound; now by neglecting the word, thou, like a frantic patient, throwest away that medicine which only can cure thee.
Do not say thou wast not warned of thy danger and duty. I do here show thee the hand and seal of the King of kings to that warrant to which I require thy obedience.
The Scripture is the word of Christ, and God commandeth thee upon thine allegiance to hear him, (Col. 3:16; Matt. 3:17).
The Word is the cabinet in which thy Saviour, that pearl of infinite price, is laid up; and therefore thou art commanded to look into it for this jewel: ‘Search the Scriptures, for they are they which testify of Me,’ (John 5:39).
The word is ἐρευνᾶτε (search), and speaketh such a diligent search as covetous men make for silver; they spare no labour, that they may attain their deified treasure. What shouldst not thou do for ‘durable riches and righteousness’?
But, reader, if thou art a child of God, I doubt not but thou delightest to look into thy Father’s will, and weighest every word in it, as knowing that in his testament there is a great charge committed, and a great legacy bequeathed, to thee.
It is thy daily companion and counsellor; thou darest not go without thy cordial, being liable every day to faint; nor without thy weapons, being called every hour to fight.
The Scriptures are the light by which thou walkest, and the tools with which thou workest.
Let me persuade thee to persevere in this gracious practice; take the counsel of the author of it, who is fittest to give laws for thy carriage towards it: ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,’ (Col. 3:16).
The word is ἐνοικέτω (dwell), and signifieth to keep house with you. Do not leave thy Bible, as some do, at church, and hear nothing of it all the week long; but bring it home to thy house, let it dwell with thee.
Let not the word be ‘as a wayfaring man, to tarry with thee but for a night,’ and so begone; but let it be an inhabitant, one that accompanieth thee to bed and board, and with whom thou conversest continually as thy familiar and intimate friend.
Make thine heart, as Jerome saith of Nepotianus, by his assiduous reading and hearing the Scriptures, Bibliothecam Christi, the library of Jesus Christ.
I cannot but think that thou hast found the Bible so bountiful a guest, to pay thee so liberally for its board, that thou hast bid it heartily welcome, and wouldst not part with it for the whole world.”
–George Swinnock, “The Christian Man’s Calling,” The Works of George Swinnock, Volume 1 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1992), 1: 141-143.
“It is the will of the Lord of lights to teach the ignorant, to strengthen the feeble, to illumine the blind, and to make His truth to reign” by John Calvin
“O you who call yourselves bishops and pastors of the poor people, see to it that the sheep of Jesus Christ are not deprived of their proper pasture; and that it is not prohibited and forbidden to any Christian freely and in his own language to read, handle, and hear this holy gospel, seeing that such is the will of God, and Jesus Christ commands it.
For it is for this cause that he has sent His apostles and servants throughout the whole world; giving them the power to speak in all tongues, so that they may in every language preach to every creature; and he has made them debtors to the Greeks and the barbarians, to the wise and the simple, in order that none might be excluded from their teaching.
Surely, if you are truly their vicars, successors, and imitators, it is your office to do the same, watching over the flock and seeking every possible means to have everyone instructed in the faith of Jesus Christ, by the pure Word of God. Otherwise, the sentence is already proclaimed and put down in writing, that God will demand their souls at your hands.
It is the will of the Lord of lights by His Holy Spirit, by means of this holy and saving gospel, to teach the ignorant, to strengthen the feeble, to illumine the blind, and to make His truth to reign among all peoples and nations, to the end that the whole world may know but one God and one Savior, Jesus Christ; one faith, and one gospel.
So be it.”
–John Calvin, “Preface to Olivetan’s New Testament,” Calvin: Commentaries, Ed. Joseph Haroutunian (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1958), 72-73.
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