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were "hard to be understood" (fo the preceding words fpeak), and fuch as for that very reafon, there was no neceffity that they should underftand; and yet thefe men would pretend to understand them, and to be very pofitive also, and peremptory in ther opinions concerning them. Further it appears, that thefe places treated not of flight indifferent points of doctrine, but of fuch as were of the utmoft concern and moment; fuch as were the foundations of the Christian faith, and the very pillars that fupported the whole frame of religion. I fay, it appears, that they treated of fuch points as thefe, from the foregoing parts of this chapter, where St. Peter difcourfes of the day of judgement, of its certainty and of the wife reafons for which God was pleafed to delay it; and reprefents fome men as fcoffing at thefe doctrines, "and faying, where is the promife of his coming? For fince the fathers fell asleep all things continue as they were." ver. 4. To convince thefe fcoffers he urges the authority of St. Paul to them; who in his epiftles had maintained the fame affertions, not always however expreffed with fuch a degree of evidence and clearness, as might be thought neceffary to prevent all miftakes from whence ill men had taken an occafion to abufe his words to a quite different fenfe, and to pervert his meaning. So that the points of doctrine, to which these wrefted texts referred, were great and fundamental ones and which it was of the laft importance to be rightly inftructed in, And to this we may add alfo a
Third Remark, That this forced interpretation
of obfcure paffages was in oppofition to other plain and evident texts. For fince (as I have already dif❤ courfed to you) there is no point of moment, but what is fomewhere or other plainly and perfpicu oufly delivered in fcripture, and fince these wrefted places of fcripture, which St. Peter fpeaks of, related, as you have heard, to points of moment; it follows, that they who wrefted them, did it in contradiction to other plain and perfpicuous parts of Holy writ.
The full import of the text, therefore, under thefe feveral explications, will be, that they who, being mifled by pride, and vanity, or any other luft and paffion, perverted the fenfe of fcripture, in order to make it fuit with their own wicked practices, or juftify their ill opinions; who vexed and tortured texts, in order to make them fpeak fuch language as was for their purpo fe who did this in paffages very hard to be undertood, and therefore not neceffary to be underftood, and in points of doctrine which were of the utmoft concern and importance,and interpreted these paffages, in relation to these points, quite contrary to other plain and exprefs places of fcripture; these men, I fay are very justly and reafonably faid, "to have wreted the fcriptures to their own deftruction. For furely there was fuch a complication of infincerity, pride, and obftinacy in this manner of wrefting fcripture, as deferved fuch a condemnation.
And therefore to that queftion, fhall a man be étérnally ruined for a mifunderstood place of fcripture? We anfwer yes doubtlefs, under thofe circumftances which we have before explained,
if it be a fundamental point, about which he is miftaken, and be much his own fault, that he is niftaken.
A mifunderstood place of Scripture may overthrow one of the prime articles of faith, which God has made neceffary to be believed in order to falvation: Or it may deftroy the morality of the gofpel, by introducing a loofe opinion concerning life and manners. By wrefting one fingle paffage of holy writ, a man may either " deny the Lord who bought him, 2 Pet. i. 1. or "turn the grace of God into lafciviousnefs, Jude 4. And he that does either of thefe, cannot be faid to be feverely dealt with, though he be cut off from the mercies of the gospel. For a life led in opposition to the plain practical rules of Chriftianity, or without that faith, which Chriftianity requires, are either of them a fufficient caufe of our condemnation. And therefore fuch a wilful wrefting of fcripture, as occafions either of these, muft, in its confequence, be damnable, and excufe God, in pronouncing this fentence, from all manner of feverity or rigour in his dealings with us. This is the account of the true meaning of St. Peter's affertion of the text, and of the juftnefs alfo, and reasonableness of it. Which points being thus stated and cleared, I come now, as I propofed, to make use of them, in fome obfervations and inferences that they afford us. And,
First, It may be obferved, that the Scriptures were perverted, and turned by ill men to ill purpofes, in the times of the apoftles themfelves; that they were no fooner writtten, but they were wrested. From whence we may learn thefe two things.
1st, That if this happened in the apoftles day, then well might it happen in after times; efpcci ally in this age which is at fo great a distance from the time of the apofties writing. We may cease to wonder, how it has come to pafs, that fo many controverfies have been started about the fenfe of Scripture, that it has been urged to fo many wrong and different purposes, and brought to fupport and countenance fo many heretical opinions in latter days, when we find that during the lives of St. Paul and St. Peter themfelves, it was thus infincerely and unfairly dealt with. The ink was hardly dry. which fell from the apoftles pens, but men began to dispute about the words that were wrote in it; to mifconftrue, and mifap- ply them, every one to fuch doctrines as pleafed him beft; and to draw from the infpired writing things deftructive of faith and falvation, in the face of the infpired authors of them, without afking, or at leaft, without taking their opinions in the point; who furely had been the propereft men to have given an account of their own meaning, And if these things were fo then, what wonder is it, if ever fince, and especially now, in these dregs of time, there be wilful men found, who will oppofe their own vain fancies and novelties to the general fenfe of the whole body of Chriftians, and not fubmit themselves to fuch a concur rent teftimony in the expofition of Scripture, as, though of the utmost moment towards determi ning our affent, yet falls far fhort of infallibility . and infpiration.
From the fame observation also we may learn, in the
zd Place That an unnerring expounder of Scripture is not fo ufeful and néceffary, as fome men would make us believe it is; becaufe ifthere were fuch an one, and he were known and accknow1:dged to be fuch by all men, yet would not that fecure all men from mifinterpreting Scripture, as is plain from the inftance of the text. The apoftles were certainly unexceptionable interpreters of their own writings, and infallible judges of all controverfies that could arife from them; and yet, notwithstanding this, their writings were in their own time perverted, to countenance erroneous and heretical doctrines; and fo doubtlefs would they be now, though there were an infallible judge upon earth ftill. And vain therefore is the pretence of our adverfaries of the church of Rome, that fuck an infallible judge is neceffary, to affure us of the true fenfe of Scripture, and put an end to all controverfies concerning it; fince plain it fs, that, when there was fuch an infallible judge, he did not put an end to all controverfies of this kind: There were ftill a great many proud, pertinacious, and opinionative nien left, that would not be concluded by him.
Now if the inferring the neceffity of God's acting in fuch, or fuch a manner, from the convenience that would redound to mankind from his fo acting, be no very good argument in divinity, even when that convenience is allowed; what kind of argument muft that be, which would prove the neceffity of an infallible judge, from the great expedience of it towards determining all controverfies, when even that expedience itfelf (as we. have feen) wants to be proved?