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165 prefly faid to be " revealed to babes, but hidden from the wife," Matth. xi. 25.

Let us therefore weigh and confider what we read as well as we can; but let us not too much indulge our private reafonings upon, and fanciful expofitions of Scripture. When we stick any where, let us modeftly confult thofe who fhould know better than we, and whose particular bufinefs it is to understand and explain this facred volume. Let us enquire what has been the interpretation generally received in the church of Chrift in the pureft ages of it. Or, if that be hard to come at, what is the opinion of our own church, that particular member of the mystical body of Chrift, into which it has pleafed the divine Providence to engraft us. When we have found it, let us refolve not lightly to vary from it; not without ftrong reafons, and clear convictions to the contrary; and even then to do it with modefty, and be content to enjoy our own private opinions, without endeavouring to make profelytes, or troubling the peace of the church, for the fake of them. Let us pay a due deference, though not a blind obedience, to fo great an authority. And let us not reverence her decifions only, but make ufe of her admirable words alfo, which fhe puts into the mouth of every one, who defires to grow in the knowledge of Scripture.

Bleffed Lord, who haft caufed all holy Scripture to be written for our learning, grant, that we may in fuch wife hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digeft them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the bleffed hope of everlasting life, which thou haft given us through Jefus Chrift our Lord. THIRD

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2 PE T. iii. 16.

Which they that are Unlearned, and Unstable wrest, as they do alfo the other Scriptures, unto their own deftruction.


ROM the former part of the verfe, I have already taken occafion to discourse to you largely concerning the obfcurity of holy writ. In the latter part of it, which I have propofed now tỏ handle, St. Peter gives us an account of the ill impreffions that thefe difficult parts of fcripture make often on the minds of weak Chriftians they are "wrested" by them (he tells us)." to their own destruction.


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By unlearned men, the apostle means not fuch as wanted that which we commonly call learning, but fuch as were not well skilled in divine things. By unftable, fuch as, not being well grounded in the faith, were,' upon that account, eafy to be drawn afide into pernicious opinions and deftructive errors. Such, he fays, as thefe, wrest, i. e. mif


misunderstand, mifapply, and pervert the writings of St. Paul, and the other fcriptures: And this they do, to “their own destruction:" That is to their eternal ruin in another world. So that the meaning of this whole paffage is, That fome men, not being firmly rooted and grounded in the true faith of Christ, and being by consequence of an uncertain and wavering Judgment in matters of religion, were apt to make an ill use of the difficult places of fcripture, and to turn them to fuch a fenfe as deftroyed Chriftianity; and fuch therefore as could not but end in the destruction of thofe who afferted and maintained it.

This at firft fight perhaps may feem an hard faying. What! will fome men say, shall a man be ruined eternally for a misunderstood place of fcripture? Shall they who own the divine authority of the holy writ (as 'tis plain these persons did), and who are ftudious to know and embrace the true fenfe of it every where, if in, fome obfcure paffages they fhould miftake it, be anfwerable for that mistake, at the hazard of their falNation?

Better, at this rate, had it been, that the Bible fhould never have been given men, if it be fo very fatal a thing to make a wrong expofition, even of the most doubtful and intricate parts of it.

I fhall endeavour to give an answer to this complaint, by stating the juft bounds, and fhewing the great reasonableness, of St. Peter's affertion; and fhall then make ufe of the truth of the text, thus explained and justified, in fome obfervations and inferences, that it will afford us.

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In order to ftate the bounds of the affertion, it will be fit to confider, more particularly,

First, What is ftrictly to be understood here by wrefting of fcripture.

Secondly, What kind of paffages in cripture they were, that are faid to have been thus wrested.

As to the First of thefe, it must be confidered, that, to wreft fcripture, doth,' in ftrictnefs of fpeech, fignity, not only to milinterpret, and mifunderstand it, out of weaknefs and ignorance, as any Christian may blamelefly do, but with fome degree of perverfity and wilfulness to force an unnatural and falfe conftruction upon it, in order to make it fall in with our corrupt opinions and prejudices, which we have before-hand entertained, and refolved not to part with. Thus much is intimated by the original word gev which fignifies, either to detort or turn away, or to torment, and put to the queftion. In the firft of these fenfes, when applied to fcripture, it im plies, that thefe wrefters of it bent and warped the ftraight line and mtafure of their duty, on purpofe to make it fuit with their own crooked opinions. In the fecond (which comes to much the fame), that they did as it were torment and vex it, till it spake according to their minds.



Secondly, We are to obferve, what kind of paffages in fcripture they were, which thefe men are faid to have wrefted. They were fuch as VOL. III.


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