2 Peter 1:19-21
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto you do well that you take heed, as to a light that shines in a dark place…
I. IT IS POSSIBLE THAT A GOOD MAN MAY BE IN THE DARK. Was not David in the dark (2 Samuel 22:29)? Was not Job in the dark (Job 19:8)? A good man may live and dwell in a place or town where no means of grace are; in a poor, dark, and ignorant corner of the world. Did not Job dwell in the land of Uz? As a good man may be offended and stumbled, so he may stumble into some mistakes and errors; erroneous times are dark times: every error is darkness, as truth is light. Ye see how it is in a room where there are many pictures; though ye see some of them presently, yet others have a silken curtain drawn before them, which ye see not immediately: so here, though God do reveal much unto you, yet there is a silken curtain that is still drawn before some truths, and therefore even a good man may be much mistaken. And if a good man may be under some temptation and sin, then he may be in the dark.
II. THOUGH A GOOD MAN MAY BE IN THE DARK, YET HE HATH SCRIPTURE LIGHT TO WALK BY. God hath not left him comfortless, and without light, in obscure darkness. But have not even wicked men this light also of the Scripture, to walk by in their darkness? I answer, They have it as a blind man hath the sun. And though a wicked man doth hear and may read the Scripture, and know many truths which are therein contained, yet he doth not know the greatness of them. But may not a good man's eyes be held from this Scripture light? When he is converted, then are his eyes said to be opened, then is he anointed with the unction of the Holy One, and doth know all things necessary unto his salvation. He doth not shut his own eyes against any Scripture light. He knows more than he is able to utter and he feels more than he can speak. And though some Scripture truths may be hidden from him sometimes, yet he hath his intervals of sight. And though a good man may be in the dark, yet God doth not leave him so.
III. THIS SCRIPTURE LIGHT IS THE MOST EXCELLENT, SAFE, AND SURE LIGHT: it is the light of lights; the most excellent light of all under God in Christ. For —
1. It is a true light. There is God seen especially, and Christ seen; there also you see yourself and your own dirty face; there also you see the creatures that are in the room with you, and their emptiness; the emptiness of men, and of all comforts and relations.
2. As it is a true light, so it is an admirable and wonderful light. In other knowledges, the more ye know, the less ye admire; but in Scripture knowledge, the more light ye have, and the more ye know, the more you will lift up your hands and admire, at your own ignorance and God's grace.
3. As it is an admirable light, so it is a safe and sure light. Other false lights do lead men into fens and bogs; but we have a more sure and safe light, and the more of it falls upon your eye, the more is your eye preserved.
4. As it is a safe and sure light, so it is a pleasant and satisfying light. Light is pleasant to the eye, and the eye ordinarily is not satisfied with seeing: but this is that light which doth bring men to rest; for when a man knows what shall be his portion for ever, then his heart is at rest, and not before.
5. As it is a pleasant, satisfying light, so it is a full and sufficient light, able to make the man of God perfect unto salvation. What state can you be in, but the Scripture will find a commandment for your rule, and a promise for your assistance and reward?
6. As it is a full and sufficient light, so it is a clear light, a light that shineth; it hath no thief in it, as many lights and candles have: not that there are no hard things therein, and difficulties. Yet what truth is in all the Scripture, which is necessary to salvation, but doth lie plain and clear? (Deuteronomy 30:11-14; Romans 10:6).
7. As it is a clear light, so it is the best light in the world, the most excellent light, a light beyond all other things which do pretend to light.
(1) Wherein doth this Scripture light exceed or go beyond revelations or visions, and the light thereof?
(a) This Scripture light, as you have seen, is a full light, a light which did shine forth at once in and by Jesus Christ. Revelations and visions are more particular; though God did sometimes speak in that way and manner, yet then He spake drop by drop; but now He hath, in these last days, spoken His full mind by His Son. These were but as the apples which did fall from the tree of wisdom; but in the gospel and Scripture, ye have the whole tree itself.
(b) Scripture light is the highest light; Scripture dispensation the highest dispensation: the dispensation of visions and revelations was of a lower rank.
(c) This Scripture light is a more sure and certain light: for if God should now speak unto you by visions, or visional revelations, how would you know that this were the voice of God, and not a delusion of Satan?
(d) There is no danger in tending upon and taking heed to this Scripture light. But if men do attend to revelations and visions, how easily may they be drawn to despise the Scripture, and such as do wait thereon!
(e) Why but, you will say, may not God speak by extraordinary visions and revelations, in these days of ours? Though God may thus speak to some of His servants, yet if I have an itching desire after visions and revelations it is ill.
(2) As for dreams and voices, the Scripture or the written Word of God, is more excellent than those; and the light of Scripture is the best light in compare with any light that may come from them.
(3) As for impressions made upon the soul, whether by a particular word or without it; the Scripture, or the written Word of God, is more sure than those; and the light thereof the best and most excellent light in comparison with the light of impressions. If I do make an impression the certain judge of doctrines, then am I much deceived.
(4) As for that light and law of grace which is in the saints, the light of the Scripture is beyond and more excellent than that. The light and law within us here is imperfect, for we see but in part, and know in part (1 Corinthians 13:9); but the Word of God written, the Scripture and the light thereof, is perfect (Psalm 19.). The law of grace within, and the light within, is not able to convince others. Though experience be a great help to our faith, yet, take it alone, abstracted from the Word, and it cannot heal our unbelief. But though experience be the parent of hope, yet it is not the ground of our faith; it is an help unto faith, but not the first ground of our faith.
(6) As for Divine providence, the Scripture is a more sure light than it. For God doth sometimes try us by His providence. So He led the children of Israel in the wilderness forty years to try them, and to know what they would do, and to humble them. But the Scripture is the rule of our doing, and therefore a more safe and sure light to walk by. And if the providence of God extendeth unto all our actions, good and evil, and to evil as well as unto what is good, then there is no certain rule or judgment to be made up from thence.
(7) As for human reason and the light thereof, Scripture light is more excellent than it. For though human reason be a beam of Divine wisdom, yet if it be not enlightened with a higher light of the gospel, it cannot reach unto the things of God as it should. And as mere human reason cannot make a sufficient discovery of sin, so it cannot strengthen against sin and temptation: temptations answered by reason will return again; it cannot convert the soul. "But the Word of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul." Though the light of reason be good, yet it is not a saving light. It is revelation light from the gospel that doth bring to heaven: mere human reason cannot do it. Is there then no use of reason and of the light thereof? Yea, much, not only in civil things but in the things of God, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
IV. As Scripture light is the most excellent light, the best and most sure light, so IT IS OUR DUTY, THE DUTY OF ALL THE SAINTS AND PEOPLE OF GOD, TO TAKE HEED THEREUNTO, and that especially in their dark times and places. Yet further, ye shall do well that ye take heed thereunto, for the doctrine of the gospel written is —
1. The Word of the Son of God. The more excellent the person is that speaks unto you, the more diligently ye will take heed unto what he saith.
2. As the Scripture is the Word of the Son, so it is the only rule of our lives. Now that which is the only rule of our lives, we are in special manner to take heed unto.
3. As the Scripture and the Word of God written is the only rule, so it is that salt which doth season all your enjoyments. It is the rule and measure of your worship; for if you do not worship according to the appointments of God in His written Word, your worship is but idolatry and superstition. It is the great relief of your souls in time of temptation. It is that which sanctifieth all your outward comforts, even amongst the creatures (1 Timothy 4:4). And shall the Word of God written be such a blessed treasure, and shall we not take heed thereunto?
4. As it is the salt of all your comforts, so it is, and shall be, your judge at the great day. But the text saith, "That we shall do well to take heed thereunto, until the day dawn, and day-star arise in our hearts": but the day hath dawned on me, and the day-star hath arisen in my heart; and therefore now, what need I take heed to the Scripture or the written Word any longer? I answer, Yea, still you have need to do it: for did not the day dawn and the day-star arise on the hearts of the apostles and Christians in their days, according to your sense and meaning? yet they still attended on the written Word of God. But why are the saints and people of God to take heed unto the Scripture and the written Word of God especially in their dark times and seasons? I answer, Because they are then in most danger of stumbling and falling: he that walketh in the dark, stumbleth; and who is not then apt to fall? But by taking heed to this sure light, they shall be kept from the power of their darkness. What must we do, that we may take heed and attend unto Scripture? Ye must do three things —
I. Ye must attend to know and understand it.
II. Ye must attend to keep it. And —
III. Ye must attend to walk by the same. And —
I. For your knowledge in and understanding of the Scripture, and the written Word of God, ye must —
1. Observe, keep, and hold fast the letter of it; for though the letter of the Scripture be not the Word alone, yet the letter with the true sense and meaning of it, is the Word.
2. If you would have the true knowledge, and understand the Scripture, and so behold this great light in its full glory and brightness, you must diligently inquire into the true sense and meaning of it, for the true sense and meaning is the soul thereof.
II. But secondly, and more practically: if you would so understand the Scripture, that you may take heed thereunto, as to a light shining in your dark state, then — You must go to God for the Spirit; for without it ye cannot understand the mind of God in the Scripture: no man knows the mind of Paul but by the spirit of Paul; nor the mind of Peter but by the spirit of Peter; no man knows the mind of Christ but by the Spirit of Christ: stand therefore under gospel dispensations, where the Spirit breathes. Take heed of a worldly, fleshly mind; fleshly sins do exceedingly blind the mind from the things of God, and a worldly mind cannot savour them. Yet take heed that you be not too indulgent to your own condition, disposition, or opinion. It is a good speech of Hilary: He is the best interpreter of Scripture that doth rather bring his sense from the Scripture than carry his sense to the Scripture. If you do desire so to understand the Scripture, as it may be a light to all your paths; then be sure that you put nothing else in commission with it for your rule. It is with the Scripture in this respect, as with God, Christ, and the Spirit; if you come to God for help, yet if you join another god in commission with Him, He will not give down His help. And so here: though you come, and tend, and wait upon God in the Scripture, yet if there be anything else which you do make your joint rule with the Scripture, any light within you, or precept of man without you, it will not give down its light to you, but you will be left in the dark.
III. Yet one thing more. If you would take heed to the Scripture, you must so heed the same, as you may walk thereby. Therefore prize it much: who takes heed to that which he does not prize? Therefore, also, get your heart affected with love to every truth which you know; for because men receive not the truth in the love thereof, therefore God doth give them up to strong delusions: men take heed unto what they love. And therefore that you may heed it so as to walk thereby, let it be your continual companion, going where you go; if you go into the fields, oh! let the Word go with you; if into your calling, oh! let the Scripture and the written Word of God be with you. Thus shall you take heed unto it, as to a light shining in a dark place.
(W. Bridge, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: