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noble test of genuine piety, and operates as the strongest incentive to the duties we owe both to God and man. That morality which is imbibed at the pure fountain of evangelic truth is of all others the most refined, energetic, and exalted. • The grace of God that bringeth salvation, hath appeared to all men, teaching us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world a.? — Let us proceed,
SECONDLY, To shew you that the word of God should be in our affections as well as our understanding.
The most accurate knowledge of Scripture will do us no real good, if it hath not a commanding influence on the judgment and conscience-if it doth not incorporate itself with the vital principles of the soul. It
It may indeed make us skilful disputants, and become an occasion of enflaming the passions of self-conceit, prejudice and bigotry. But what gainers are men by mere speculation in matters of religion? It does them no real honour, and contributes little to their usefulness or happiness : on the contrary, it seldom fails to make them proud and callous, and to set them further from God than even ignorance itself.
It is therefore of the last consequence, that the knowledge which irradiates our minds, warm our hearts. The genial influence of the sun is of as much importance to the creation as its enlightening beams: could they be separated the effect would be fatal. Let the word of God then which informs your understanding, Christians, mingle itself with your' affections. If it excites in your breast ingenuous sorrow for your past offences, and a lively hope in the mercy of God through Christ; bitter resentments against sin, and an ardent desire after holiness; indifference to the vain pleasures of the world, and a warm attachment of heart to the chief good ; love to the great Author and Source of all beauty, excellence, and perfection, and cordial benevolence to your fellow-creatures; if, in a word, while it displays to your view the transcendant love of God in your redemption by Christ, it diffuses a sacred glow of wonder, gratitude, and joy over your souls, then it is in you
a Tit. ii. 11, 12,
to the best and noblest purposes. Thus interweaving itself with the practical powers of the heart, and giving life and vigour to the whole frame, it will make you wise, happy, and holy.
Now to attain these great objects it is our duty when we read the Bible to set God before our eyes, to charge it upon ourselves to remember that every sentence of it was written with his finger, and seriously to consider that the truths it exhibits are most interesting and important. It is our duty to pray, that the good Spirit of God who deigns to irradiate the benighted mind, would be also pleased to fix conviction on the conscience, and kindle a flame of sacred devotion in the heart. It is our duty to realize the solemnities of the last day, when a strict enquiry will be made into our abuse or improvement of this book, and sentence will be pronounced according to the decisions of these sacred records.
Nor should we at the same time lose sight of the pleasing advantages which will result from a diligent perusal of Scripture, lest this business should unhappily become a task instead of an entertainment.
When therefore we sit down to read our Bible, let us unite with the solemn considerations just mentioned, such pleasant and enlivening meditations as these-“ I have before me a book which has made many an attentive reader of it wise and happy. Why may not I reap the like benefit from it? This is the map of the country through which I am travelling to the celestial city. The compass by which I am to steer my course over the tempestuous ocean of human life. of my counsel who kindly offers to be my guide and companion, The brook of which I am to drink as I pass on my way, and lift up my head. The bread of life sent down from heaven to strengthen my heart. And the pleasant song by which I am to beguile the passing hours, in the house of my pilgrimage.” The book of God thus read, with a pious wish every now and then darted to heaven, will quickly find place in our affections, as well as our understanding.–So we pass on to the second head of discourse,
II. That the Bible, thus become ours, should on no ac
count be párted with. But we must not now enter upon the consideration of this question. It shall suffice at present, to close what has been said with a serious address to four sorts of persons—those who have not the word of God, either in their understandings or their affections--those who have it in the former, but not the latter--those of the contrary description—and those who have the word both in their understand, ings, and their hearts.
(1.) How much is their case to be lamented who can in no sense be said to have the word of God!
They who rightly understand the nature and value of civil liberty, cannot but feel for their fellow-creatures groaning under the galling yoke of tyranny. Penetrated with these feelings, they consider it as their duty to communicate all the light they can to mankind on this interesting question. How much stronger is the reasoning when applied to the great concerns of religion ! The yoke of sin is infinitely more humiliating and destructive than that of civil oppression. Is it not then the incumbent duty of those who have been themselves emancipated from the bondage of corruption, and admitted into the glorious liberty of the children of God, to contribute their utmost towards enlightening the minds of their fellow men on this important subject, and so exciting in their breasts an ardent desire of freedom ?
And what is the grand mean to this end ? It is the free circulation of the Bible, wherein this great blessing is held up to our view in all its native charms; the Son of God proclaiming with a voice from heaven liberty to captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound a. The zeal with which this measure has of late been adopted and pursued in this country, gives no small pleasure to good men, amidst their painful feelings on other accounts. May success crown the generous efforts of pious benevolence, and the knowledge of the Lord cover not only this land but the whole earth, as the waters do the channels of the deep b !
a Isa. lxi. 1. b Here it may not be improper to inform the reader of the several bene volent institutions in this couptry, whose main object is the spread of the Bible; viz._^ The Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, in Bartlett'sbuildings, Holborn.”—“ The Society for promoting Religious Knowledge, in Founder's-Hall, Lothbury.”-“ The Society in Scotland, for propagating Christian Knowledge in the Highlands and Islands; whose Corresponding Board in London meets in Scot's-Hall Crane-court, Fleet-street."-" The Sunday Schools throughout the kingdom.”
But how lamentable is it that such multitudes of our countrymen should still continue slaves to sin, and utter strangers to this the grand charter of liberty? By what arguments, Sirs, may we hope to gain your attention to this important object ? Have you no curiosity to gratify?-no sense of your obligation to those, who wish to introduce you to the enjoyment of freedom, wealth, and happiness ?--no desire to have the evils of the present life alleviated which owe their existence to ignorance, folly, and sin ?-no concern to escape the wrath of God in the world to come, and, if there be a heaven, to have admission at death to that happy place? Shall this benevolent stranger knock at your door, and you refuse him entrance ? Shall your kind friends wish
this boon at their hands, and you reject it? Or if you accept it, shall this book, which has the stamp of divine authority upon it, be treated with neglect? Will you make no use of it, take no pains to understand it? O think what awful consequences such ingratitude, such baseness, must draw after it in the great day of account. He who wrote this book, and sent it
your perusal, will be your Judge; and if you remain impenitent, the just sentence his lips will deņounce upon you neither angels nor men will be able to reverse. . (2.) Nor is their condition less to be lamented, who in a sense have the word of God in their understanding, but give it no place in their hearts.
Some there are—and how deplorable such characters ! who value themselves upon their knowledge of the Scriptures, but wrest them, as the apostle Peter expresses it, unto their own destruction a. This disingenuous treatment of the appointed mean of salvation, cannot fail of drawing down upon you, Sirs, be you who you may, the displeasure of Heaven. The wilful misconstruction of the statute-law of any country, not only to excuse the violation of it but authorise disobedience to it, is ever held as an high offence against the supreme legislature. It is a crime pregnant with the most fatal evils. What are you then doing who wilfully pervert the Scriptures ? It is horrid cruelty to the immortal souls of men.
a 2 Pet. jii. 16,
It is high treason against the Majesty of heaven.
But there are others who go not these lengths, put no unnatural force on Scripture; on the contrary admit the truths it contains, and are vain of their adroitness in stating and defending them: yet, alas ! the word of Christ is not theirs in the sense of the text. It hath no place in their affections. Oh, Sirs, What will your superior light and knowledge, your boasted skill and accuracy, avail you? It may excite the wonder of the ignorant, and gain the applause of such vain empty professors as yourselves; but be assured, instead of procuring you any real good, it will only aggravate your condemnation. It is not the soundness of your creed that will save you.
your hearts are not moulded into the spirit of the gospel, and your lives governed by its sacred dictates, it were better you had never claimed acquaintance with it, or officiously drawn your sword in the defence of it. Not every one that saith, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven ; but he that doth the will of my Father, says Christ, who is in heaven. Many, he adds, will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils ? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you : depart from me ye that work iniquity a. O consider these things, ye speculative Christians; ye champions in a cause for which you have no real affection; ye miserable dupes to your own vanity, who care not what may be the event of your contention for the truth, provided you may but display your skill to the view of surrounding spectators.
(3.) Another character to which a few words should be addressed, is that of the unhappy men, who seem as if they had
a Matt. vii. 21-23.