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apprehended even by those whom it most benefited. They who shine in the annals of fame for the services they rendered the world by their wise instructions in these matters, such as Solon, Lycurgus, Pythagoras, Zoroaster, Plato, and others, were not a little indebted to the divine oracles, how unwilling soever they were to acknowledge it. What there is too of wisdom in the writings of Mohammed may be traced back to the Scriptures, of which he failed not to make considerable
And we all know who have any acquaintance with the history of later times, that as the abuse of the sacred writings by the Romanists, and their withholding them from the laity, contributed not a little to the ignorance and barbarism of the dark age; so the glorious Reformation which restored the Bible to the people, restored to them also the arts and sciences, commerce, liberty, and a thousand other advantages, of which by the loss of this blessed book men were deprived.
And if to all this you add the mighty influence of the morality of the Bible, supported as it is by the doctrine of rewards and punishments in a future state, to control the vices of men, and to regulate their external conduct; you will acknowledge that the world in general is infinitely indebted to the blessed God for this extraordinary revelation of his will. The duties men owe one another in civil society are here placed in the clearest light, and multitudes in every age have been powerfully and sweetly inclined to them, by motives here held up to their view the most sublime and noble. And others who have not entered into the spirit of this book, have yet been deterred, by its tremendous threatenings, from the perpetration of many horrid crimes to which they felt themselves strongly disposed.
It is also to be remembered, that what knowledge the pagan world in ancient times had, and what those who now flourish in remote parts have, of morals and a future state, there is good reason to apprehend they derived it from the Bible. It insinuated itself to them from this grand source through channels unseen and infinitely diversified. And indeed the opposers of revelation themselves owe the brightest part of that armour with which they fight against it to the Scriptures. What I mean is, that if this book had not existed they would have been strangers to many of those ideas and sentiments interwoven with their discourses which they ascribe to the mere light of nature and their own boasted invention.
So that the world, not this or that part of it only but the whole world, are benefited by the Bible, and after a manner unobserved and unacknowledged by the generality of mankind. Could you then extinguish this great luminary, more bright and glorious, more benign and genial than the sun; could you thrust men back into their primitive state, and deprive them of the very idea of those advantages they had derived from it, how wretched, how deplorably wretched, would be the condition of this world of ours! The arts and sciences would retire into darkness and oblivion, commerce and civilization would languish and die, order would depart from society, liberty would exchange her lovely form into licentiousness, men would rise up in arms against each other, and all the ignorance, brutality, and cruelty of savages would cover the whole face of the earth.-How immense then are the advantages, civil, political, and moral, which mankind in general derive from this sacred book !-Let us proceed to out principal object, which is,
SECONDLY, To point out the various use of the Scriptures to individuals.
Here I have to address myself to the understanding, conscience, affections, and experience of every man of God in this assembly. The Bible, my brethren, has been, is, and ever will be profitable to you.
The canon of Scripture was far from being complete in the time of David, yet he speaks of that part of it which was then enjoyed, in terms of the highest respect and veneration. • The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the tes« timony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be de
sired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey, and the honey comb. Moreover, by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward a.'
Such is the psalmist's commendation of the five books of Moses, and of those few other divine records then extant. How justly may we apply it to the Bible in its present entire and perfect state! Let us reduce the sense of the whole, in connection with the language of the text which may be considered as a comment upon it, to the following propositionsThe word of God enlightens the understanding-convinces the judgment-comforts the heart--reneu's the affections—and governs the life of every sincere Christian.
1. The word of God enlightens the understanding.
• The entrance of thy words,' says the psalmist, giveth light: it giveth understanding to the simple b.' When the sable garment of night is cast over the creation, and the heavens are covered with dark and impenetrable clouds, the works of God with all their beauty, harmony, and splendour retire from our view. In vain do we look upwards or cast our eyes around us.
All is silence, darkness, and confusion. But when the sun, as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber cy' begins his race; when the sun ascends the vaulted heavens, and sheds his orient beams over our hemisphere, ten thousand beautiful objects present themselves to the wondering eye. The heavens, the earth, the hills, the vales, fields, woods, and rivers pour upon our sight. We see them in the order nature has arranged them, and with the advantage they may have derived from art and culture. The imagination before asleep awakes, rises into life, receives new ideas from
every quarter, and is entertained with a rich variety of knowledge and speculation. So it is when the Sun of righteousness arises upon our benighted minds.
Ah! how ignorant, how miserably ignorant, are men while in their sins of God and themselves; of their interest and their danger; of the ways of providence and grace; life and death; this world and that which is to come! All is darkness comparatively speaking, darkness that may be felt. Some knowledge indeed is to be collected from the dim light of nature. Here and there an object is to be discerned by the feeble light of the sickly moon—the uncertain conjectures of fallible reason.
a Psal. xix. 7-11.
b Psal. cxix, 30.
c Psal. xix. 5.
But alas ! how are men enveloped in the thick mists and fogs of prejudice and error, and often beguiled and led astray by the fiery meteors of wild and depraved passions ! They think they are in the light of broad day, when they are really in the darkness of night; and amuse themselves with a few terrestrial objects within the narroy circle of sense, beyond which their understanding bath neither vigour nor inclination to stretch itself.
But how is the scene changed when the word of God, by its enlivening beams scatters these mists, pierces through the darkness of night, and shines in upon the soul with its native light and splendour ! With the first ray of divine knowledge beaming upon the mind, the man discovers what he before scarce dreamed of, his own ignorance. By the help of this light he enters his heart, those chambers of imagery upon whose walls were pourtrayed the vile dcities of his own polluted imagination. He discovers the base passions of pride, avarice, anger, selfishness, and sensuality. He sees himself to be a guilty, helpless, miserable creature; unworthy of the favour of God, and deserving of his wrath. He sees too by the same light the worth and dignity of his immortal soul, and the infinite importance of its final salvation.
This bright luminary rising upon him in all the splendour of the Christian revelation, disperses the thick and dark cloud that had shrouded the pavilion of the Almighty, and opens to his view an object most magnificently grand and delightfully amiable—the blessed God, arrayed in majesty and love, seated on a throne of grace, and commanding him to touch the sceps tre of his mercy and live. It shews him the ascended Saviour in the character of an atoning priest, sprinkling the blood he shed on mount Calvary before the seat of injured justice, and mingling the fragrant incense of his merits with the broken sighs and groans of ingenuous penitence. It presents also to his view myriads of happy spirits offering, with one voice, their loudest acclamations of praise to him that sitteth on the throne and to the Lamb for ever and ever. O blessed sight! a sight only to be beheld by the pure light of divine revelation.
This sun of righteousness shines too on every object around him, and gives a new tinge, a new cast, to all the scenes of life and death, of time and eternity. It gives deformity to vice and sin, and beauty to virtue and holiness. It disrobes prosperity of its tinsel habit, and raises up adversity from its languishing desponding state. It develops many a mystery in providence, and carries the eye through many a dark, rough, and trackless path. It marks the road that leads to everlasting life, describes its various windings, and throws a light upon its numerous duties. It points to the green pastures of divine consolation, and leads him beside the still waters. By the instructions of this blessed book he is taught where his dangers and temptations lie, and by what means he is to escape them.
- The secret devices of the enemy are here laid open to his view, and his eye directed to the magazine whence he is to get armour for the fiercest conflict. Down to the shades of death this friendly guide conducts him, and shews him a safe, if not an easy and pleasant, way through that dark and lonesome vale: and thus opens a prospect to him beyond the confines of mortality, into the regions of eternal bliss and glory. With these, and a thousand other interesting truths and entertaining discoveries, does the word of God enlighten the understanding. It is profitable further,
2. For the great purpose of convincing the judgment and conscience.
By convincing the judgment, I mean possessing the mind of the evidence of divine truth; and by convincing the conscience, I mean fixing on the heart a deep sense of the importance of certain real and alarming facts.
As to the former, the reasonings of God's word on the fundamental truths of religion are clear and convincing. No doctrine is here proposed to our faith, but on the grounds of such evidence as most reasonably demands our assent. What is declared, if capable of being comprehended by the human intele