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of common understanding can make them out. For these things, and many others, we ought to be very thankful; and the way by which God wishes us to show our thankfulness, is by reading and receiving His book as the Word of Truth, and as "able to make us wise unto salvation, through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ."
In the text, St. Peter speaks of the Bible, and especially of that part of it which contains Paul's epistles. And in considering it, we shall have to notice what he says,
ABOUT SOME THINGS CONTAINED IN
ABOUT SOME READERS OF SCRIPTURE. I. He says that IN SCRIPTURE ARE SOME THINGS HARD TO BE UNDERSTOOD. It is not at all necessary that we should spend our time in endeavouring to discover to what particular passages Peter here refers. Indeed, there are many things in the Bible hard to be understood; and the wonder is, not that there is any thing therein which we cannot understand, but that there is so much that we can. If there were no mysteries in the Bible, nothing but what our minds could easily comprehend and understand, we should have great cause to suspect that it was not what it is declared to be the word of God and the word of truth. For consider,
The topics or subjects on which Scripture speaks. It tells us of God, of His nature, character, and dealings; and surely this is a very deep and mysterious subject; and those who think they can fully understand it, have a much better opinion of their powers of mind, than, I am bold to say, any archangel in heaven has of his: and any body who
rejects and disbelieves the scriptural account of God, because he is not able fully to understand it, or because it seems inconsistent and improbable, acts just as foolishly, as the man who at night puts out the candle, because he cannot have the light of the sun. Full and clear light on this subject we shall never have, till we arrive at another world; but this is no reason why we should refuse to enjoy and make the best use of what light we have. Consider again,
The weakness of our capacities for the understanding even of simple and common subjects. Scripture in itself is not so hard to be understood, as man is slow and stupid, and incapable to understand. If ever we get to heaven, we may venture to promise ourselves, that there will not be then any part of the Bible which we shall not clearly understand and comprehend. And what will make the difference? The Scripture will not be altered; it will remain just what it is now; but our minds and capacities will be altered and amended, and we shall be able clearly to understand things which now seem very mysterious, and to attempt explaining which, is very often "darkening counsel by words without wisdom."
It will be remembered that there are other books, on the pages of which there are found things hard to be understood. The book of nature is one of them. There are as many things in a green field hard to be understood, as there are in the Bible; from the great oak in the hedge, down to the blade of grass in the field-from the ox that feeds therein, to the butterfly that flies about it-all is mystery. But no one ever doubts the facts concerning the oak, and the grass, and the ox, and the butterfly,
because he does not understand how the acorn grows into the oak, and the caterpillar is changed into the butterfly.
The book of providence is another book, on the pages of which are found things hard to be understood. Many good, and excellent, and useful persons are frequently cut down in the prime of life and taken away, when it seems they can ill be spared. And this is a mystery; no one can understand why this should be. Again, many bad people enjoy worldly prosperity, and are left to live long, and cumber the ground very many years, doing no good, but a great deal of harm. It is another mystery, why this should be permitted. But though we do not understand it, no one thinks of doubting it.
The truth is, that the things hard to be understood in the Scriptures, never prove a real and invincible stumbling block to him who wishes their contents to be true. People who hope that they have no souls, and that there is no place of punishment hereafter, are those who make objections, and cavil and dispute about the word of God; not indeed in order to be convinced, not from an honest desire of getting at the truth; but in order to have something like an excuse for living just as they please, and doing what their ungodly hearts aud corrupt inclinations like most. If the Scripture contained nothing at all hard to be understood, they would not believe it the more. Indeed those who make most objection to it, are those who know least about it; and unbelieving as some are on this subject, no persons can be more credulous and easily deceived on others. They strain at a gnat, but find no diffi
culty in swallowing a camel. They will not believe what God says, but are ready to take upon trust what any wicked and ungodly man chooses to tell them.
We pass on to notice what Peter says of
II. SOME PERSONS WHO READ THE SCRIPTURE.- "Which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest to their own destruction." Here we have a description of their character-their conduct-and their end.
Their character is this-they are "unlearned and unstable." Peter does not here refer to those who deny altogether the truth of the word of God, for these neither use the Scriptures nor pervert them. The unlearned and unstable, of whom he speaks, are people with a little knowledge of scriptural truth, but without any fixed and steady principles. They pick up a little acquaintance with the words of the Bible, become very vain of their knowledge, and imagine they know a great deal more about the matter than their teachers; but not being rooted and grounded in the faith, not having a sound mind to distinguish truth from falsehood, they are the fit persons to be practised upon by every teacher of new doctrines, and to be carried about hither and thither by every fresh wind that blows over the world.
There are many unlearned and unstable persons in our own days, as there were in Peter's days, and it is likely there will be to the end of days. But many as there are already, Satan would be glad if there were more, because he knows that next to rejecting the Scriptures altogether, come perverting them and misapplying them; yea, that a person who professes to reverence them, and to
derive his own false and fatal doctrines from them, is a more dangerous enemy to the cause of Christ, than one who denies their truth, and rejects their authority altogether. This leads us to notice,
The conduct of the persons alluded to in our text-" They wrest the scriptures," i. e. they twist, and turn, and torture them, to make them appear to signify something which they were never meant to signify. There is scarcely any thing false and dangerous either in doctrine or practice, to which Scripture, wrested and perverted, may not seem to give countenance. I shall only produce a few examples.
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is often wrested and perverted by the poor, being unlearned and unstable, and is made to signify, that poverty is a recommendation to God's favour, and misery in this world a sure passport to glory in the next. Jesus Christ did not intend that any such doctrine as this should be extracted from his words. Lazarus went when he died into Abraham's bosom, not because he had been poor and badly clothed, and ill fed, and sick, and afflicted, but because he had obtained mercy of God; which had he not obtained, not all his rags, and hunger, and sores, put together, could have saved him from another doom.
The history of the penitent thief becomes often in the hands of unlearned and unstable people, an encouragement to continue in sin, in hopes, notwithstanding, of being saved at last. And thus what God intended to keep some poor dying sinner from despair, is perverted, and keeps hundreds of living sinners in presumption. They live as the thief did, in the expectation of dying as he did,