Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;…
1. That men may by writingcommunicate what light God gives them for the good of the Church. It is true the Gospel was at first spread and planted by preaching, that is more properly the means of conversion. There is reason also for this, if we consider(1) The relation that is amongst all the members of the Catholic Church, whereby all are tied, to be edifying one to another, etc.
(2) The end wherefore God had given men gifts, which is to profit withal: and yet(3) That a man cannot by word make his gift forthcoming in the extent that he is obliged; there is therefore a necessity of using writing for that end, it being a singular gift of God for promoting edification.
2. That none should take on them to write anything, as the Lord's mind, for the edification of the Church, without a call to it: I mean not an extraordinary call, as John had; but this I mean, that as there is an ordinary call needful to the preaching of the Gospel, so, in the general, that same consequence will hold in respect of writing for such an end. And if we look through the Scripture, we will find a call for writing as well as for preaching. And to warrant writing, we would conceive so much to be necessary as may(1) Satisfy the man himself as to his being called to such an eminent duty by God, and therefore there must be somewhat to hold out to him that it is God's mind he should undertake such a task.
(2) That men walk not by their own satisfaction alone; but that there may be so much as to convince others, that God put them on that work.
3. That a man therefore may have peace as to his undertaking, we conceive there is a concurrence of several things needful to be observed: As(1) There is a necessity of a single end, to wit, God's glory, others' edification; and in part may come in, his own exoneration as to such a duty. It is not self-seeking, nor getting of a name, nor strengthening such a particular party or opinion, that will give one peace in this matter.
(2) It is necessary, not only that the thing be truth; but that it may be edifying, profitable, and pertinent, at such a time: God's call to anything, doth ever time it, and tryst it well, as most subservient to the scope of edification.
(3) Besides these, there are circumstances in the concurrence of providences trysting together, in reference to the person writing, to the subject written of, the time wherein and occasion whereupon, and such like: which being observed, may contribute to give some light in the thing. As(a) If the person be called publicly to edify the Church; if he be of that weight, as his testimony may prove profitable in the Church for the strengthening and confirming of others, or the like considerations; though no new thing be brought forth by him: which ground, as a moral reason, Luke gives to Theophilus of his writing the Gospel (Luke 1:1).
(b) Considerations may be drawn from the subject. As
(i.) If it be a necessary point that is controversed.
(ii.) If the Scripture opened be dark and obscure; and possibly not many satisfyingly writing of it.
(iii.) If the way of handling it be such as gives any new advantage to truth, or to the opening of that Scripture.
(c) The time would be considered, if such a truth be presently controverted, or such a subject necessary to be spoken unto now; if such a person's interposing may be useful, if such a duty be neglected, or if such a Scripture be not made use of, and the like.
(d) Occasion also may be, from God's putting one to have thoughts of such a subject when others are otherwise taken up, some not having access to be edifying otherwise; as when occasion of study is given, and the thing by public delivery or secret communication is known to others, and called for by them to be made public: or that they would set themselves to it, God giving occasion of health, quietness, means, etc., for it: the thing getting approbation from such as are single, and intelligent, judging such a thing useful; in this the spirits of God's servants would be subject to others.
Parallel VersesKJV: Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;