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as the nurseries of men, that will by their carnal reasoning and learning obstruct the advancement of the more spiritual Gospel. Alas! what will this conceit bring men to at length, but barbarism and confusion? And who are the authors that teach these silly men to decry learning, but the papists, whom yet they seem most of all to defy? For take away universities and learning, and they are sure of their opportunity, and that the more ignorant will in tract of time be easily brought to any religion, and so to theirs. If learning and the schools of learning be once suppressed among us, we shall in a little time have no learned men to stand in the gap, and to keep out popery. Hoc Ithacus velit, this is that which the Jesuit would have, and passionately desires. In short, popery was born and bred in ignorant and unlearned ages; and as soon as learning revived, popery began to decline, till at last the happy reformation ensued, which we now enjoy; and if ever learning run to decay again, we must expect to relapse into popery, or something else as bad as or worse than that.
But let us proceed in the improvement of the doctrine we are now upon.
2. This may teach all ministers of the Gospel their duty, viz. diligently to read and study the holy Scriptures in the first place, and next to them the books of learned and good men that have bestowed their pains in explaining them, and whatever books besides they can get which may be any way useful to them in their ministry.
It is the note of the learned and judicious Estius upon the text: "Let bishops and priests," saith he, "learn from hence what great need they have of
"continual reading and study, how great soever "their proficiency may already be; seeing St. Paul, "who had been taught the mysteries of religion by "the Lord Christ himself, and now a long time ex"ercised in the office of an apostle, had still occasion "to make use of books." And when we consider how strict a charge the same apostle gives Timothy, that great apostolic prelate, to apply himself to reading and study; and that the inspired prophets, under the Old Testament, thought the same exercises necessary for themselves; how dare we (very mushrooms, the best of us, compared to them) either through pride, scorn and reject, or out of sloth and laziness, neglect those helps? We ought not in the least to value the clamours of the wild fanatics among us, who cry out, " that if we study for what we do, we do it not by the Spirit;" as if the assistance of the Spirit and human industry were inconsistent with, yea repugnant to each other. For on the contrary we may be assured, from what hath been said, that the Spirit of God will help none but the studious and industrious. Let us therefore give attendance to reading and study, yea addict ourselves wholly to these exercises, with daily prayer to God for his blessing on them, that our profiting may appear unto all men.
3. And lastly, this may serve to instruct also lay Christians in their duty of diligently reading the sacred Scriptures, and those other good books, that God's providence hath furnished them with, in order to their instruction in the matters of religion. If the ministers of Christ, yea the very apostles of Christ, have thought reading and study useful to them, can you think you have no need at all of
it? It is true, more time and pains in those exercises is required of the ministers of religion, than of others; but none are wholly exempted and excused from the duty; because all men are bound to be wise unto salvation, and to be so requires no small pains and industry. Ministers are to read that they may be able to teach; and you are to read that you may be capable of learning, or being taught. For unless there be a concurrent industry in the teacher and the disciple, the one teacheth in vain, because the other will never learn.
Be sure therefore daily to read the holy Scriptures, and those other good books you have or can procure, that may help you to understand them. And if any of you cannot read yourselves, (I hope there are very few, if any, in this congregation under so unhappy circumstances,) get some relation, friend, or neighbour to read to you; and they must be very uncharitable indeed, that will deny you that assistance. They that cannot read are concerned to double their diligence in hearing, and in a more careful attendance on all opportunities of instruction that shall be offered them in public, and in asking and seeking after instruction from their ministers in private, adding their daily and most earnest prayers to God for the assistance of his holy Spirit in the use of those means, and encouraging themselves with that promise of his, James i. 5. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
In a word, let none of you think or imagine divine wisdom and knowledge so cheap a thing, as to be obtained without labour and diligence. And re
member that it is worth your while and pains to learn the right way to heaven; for if you miss it, you are undone for ever.
Wherefore consider what I say, and the Lord give you understanding in all things.
To God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, be ascribed all honour and glory, adoration and worship, now and for ever. Amen.
THE EXISTENCE OF ANGELS PROVED FROM REASON AS WELL AS SCRIPTURE, THEIR CREATION BY GOD, THE FALL OF SOME OF THEM, THE NATURE OF THE HOLY ANGELS, THEIR STATE AND CONDITION IN REFERENCE TO GOD.
HEBREWS i. 14.
Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?
THE subject-matter of my text, concerning the holy angels of God, hath suffered between two extremes, the bold presumptuous curiosity of some, and the desperate or supine carelessness and unconcernedness of others about it; some flying too high, others sinking too low; some thinking and speaking too much, others too little of those noble beings, which we call angels. St. Paul takes notice of some in his time, whose curiosity in this inquiry led them to a religious worship of angels, whom therefore he condemns, as intruding into those things which they had not seen, vainly puffed up by their fleshly minds, Col. ii. 18.
But to let these pass, about the end of the fourth century (as it is probably conjectured) there came forth a book under the name of Dionysius the Areopagite, (the convert and disciple of St. Paul, of whom we read Acts xvii. 34.) entitled, Concerning the Celestial Hierarchy; wherein the author speaks so sublimely, so punctually, with so much assurance