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death. Christ is the only door of hope for any lost sinner : to hate bim therefore, is to hate ourselves. Had Naaman continued to despise the waters of Jordan, people would have thought that he had no love for himself. If a company of wretches who had escaped a shipwreck were in an open boat at sea ; and if on the appearance of a friendly vessel bearing down upon them, they were so infatuated, that, instead of imploring assistance, they should treat it with every mark of indignity and contempt, we should say, they love death they deserve to perish. If the power of Christ's anger be considered, it will amount to the same thing. For a man to rouse a lion would seem as if he was weary of his life : much more to provoke the Lion of the tribe of Judah.. Of him it may well be said, Who shall rouse him up?
If a person then be an enemy to God, to mankind, and to bimself ; 'surely it is but right and fit he should be excommunicated from the society of God, and all holy beings, as an enemy to being in general. Surely he that loves not God, ought to be accursed from God ; he that loves not mankind, ought to be banished, to take his lot among devils, as we should banish a murderer from the society of men ; and he that loves not himself, but seeks his own ruin, ought to find it.
Upon the whole, if the foregoing thoughts be just, then that distinction has been made without ground, that sinners will not be punished for their not loving the Lord Jesus Christ, but only for the breach of God's law; as if the want of love to Christ was not a breach of the law. So far from this, it is such a breach of it as perbaps cannot be equalled by any other case whatever. It is at once a breach of the whole law, and that in the highest degree. What doth the law require, but love to God, love to our neighbour, nad love to ourselves? These are the whole of what is included in that summary given of it by our Lord; and these we have seen are all broken, and that in the highest degree, in the want of love to Christ.
O how is it that we are not all excommunicated, and accursed of God? Are we better than others ? No, in nowise. God might justly have banished us from the abodes of the blessed. It is all
of grace, free, sovereign, and great grace, if we are brought to love him, and so escape the awful curse ; and for this we oan never be sufficiently thankful.
ON SPIRITUAL DECLENSION, AND THE MEANS OF
It is a matter of complaint too common, as well as too well founded, that the bulk of Christians in the present age are very deficient in spirituality, and come far short of the primitive Christians in a close walk with God. We lament over our unfruitfulness, our want of growth in grace and increasing conformity to Christ. Complaints of this kind, if they arise from the integrity of our hearts, are necessary and proper; but complaining alone will not effect a cure. We may sigh, and go backward to the last period of our lives. One necessary mean of effecting a cure, is to inquire into the cause or causes of the complaint. An investigation of this nature may, through a divine blessing, answer some good end upon the minds of those whose desire it is to be searched and tried, that every evil way may be detected. . • It is not bere intended to inquire into all the different causes of unfruitfulness, but only to point out a few of those which are the most obvious. That which I shall insist upon in this paper is, THE WANT OF A PROPER REGARD TO THE WORD OF God. It bas been the pleasure of God to magnify his word more than all his Rame; and if we are under the influence of a righe spirit, we shall magnify it too. · It is by the knowledge of its sacred truths that we are freed from the slavery of sin, and our spirits sanctified. In it, as in a glass, we behold the glory of the Lord, and are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, by the Spirit of God.
In almost all the remarkable declensions in the church of God, a neglect of the scriptures bas been at the root. On the contrary, in all the seasons of revival and reformation, the scriptures have been the grand means of their being brought about. During the long and wicked reign of Manasseh, the book of the law of the Lord was lost, was lost even in the temple ; and then it was that idolatry prevailed : when Josiah came to the throne, and a reformation was brought about, the lost book was found, read, and regarded. During the captivity, the word of God seems to have been neglected. In the times of Ezra and Nehemiah, a glorious reformation was brought about ; but by what means ? The sum of the account is this : Ezra and his companions stood upon a pulpit of wood, read the law, and gave the meaning; and the people understood the law, and wept bitterly, and entered into a covenant with their God. Religion was reduced to a low state at the time of our Lord's coming ; and one cause assigned for it was, that the Pharisees, by their traditions, had made void the law of God. On the contrary, the glorious revival which then succeeded, by the ministry of John the Baptist, Christ, and his apostles, was by means of their disseminating the true knowledge of God as revealed in the scriptures. It is true, they themselves were inspired, but yet even the Lord Jesus Christ appealed to the word, calling upon bis hearers to search the scriptures. To what can we attribute the great antichristian apostasy, but to a disregard of the word of God? The original cause, as prophetically given us by the apostle himself, was this, BECAUSE THEY RECEIY. ED NOT THE LOVE OF THE TRUTH, that they might be saved, God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie. The foundation of popery was laid in a disregard to the Bible, and an overweening attachment to traditions and unscriptural ceremonies. As the apostasy ripened, the scriptures were neglected; and at jength, when it arrived to its height, they were utterly discarded, being absolutely forbidden to be read by the common people in their own language. On the contrary, by what means was the glorious Reformation effected? Was it not by translating, ex
posing, and preaching the scriptures ? From the foregoing facts, we ought at least to suspect, that a want of regard to the holy scripture lies at the foundation of our departures from God.
There are several ways in which a want of proper regard to God's word is discovered. I shall mention three in particular.
First: By a neglect of reading, meditating, and praying over it. We have great advantages for knowing the mind of God. He hath told us all his heart. Our advantages are superior, not only to heathens, who walk in the dark, 'without a revelation, but to those of the church of God itself in any former period. Old Testament saints valued the scriptures more than thousands of gold and silver, more than their necessary food; and yet they had but a small part of the sacred canon to what we have. That which has crowned all, and brought life and immortality to light, was then wanting. The most glorious of all the displays of God has been added since their death. Christians themselves, in former ages, had not our advantages. Till the art of printing was discovered, it must have been very difficult for many families to obtain a Bible ; and no doubt a great number of Christians, who were generally a poor people, were denied the pleasure of having those sacred books in their families. Since then, circumstances are altered; we have now, through a kind Providence, the most easy access to the scriptures. But whether we have more of a spiritual understanding into the mind of God than our predecessors had, may be questioned; yea, whether the word of God upon the whole, is read more now by Christians than it was then, may be a matter of doubt. Does not its being common and easy of access, seem to diminish its value in our eyes ? Are we not apt to think light of it, as Israel did of the manna when rained in plenty around their tents ?
The sacred scripture is a rich mine abounding with substantial treasures ; but it is a mine that must be worked. If we would read it to advantage, it must be with prayer and meditation. My son, said the wise man, if thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as Vol. VIII.
silver, and searchest for her as for hid trcasures ; then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. A blessing is pronounced upon the man who meditates in God's law by day and by night. He shall be like a tree planted by the ‘rivers of waters, which bringeth forth fruit in its season. If any think to excuse themselves by alleging that they were never tanght to read ; I answer, if they were interested in a common will, or testament, they would never think of remaining ignorant of its contents. If they could not read, they would procure some person to read it to them ; or if that could not be done, rather than not know its real meaning, they would be at some considerable pains to learn to read it themselves. Now shall all this regard be shown to a common will, and that spontaneously, of our own 'accord; and no more respect be paid to the invaluable testament, of our dying Redeemer ? Where then is the sincerity of our religious profession? Where a man's treasure is, there will his heart be also. .
Secondly: By not reading it for the ends and purposes for which it was written. What those ends are, we are expressly informed in the book itself. All scripture is given by inspiration of God; and is profitable for DOCTRINE, for REPROOF, for CORRECTION, for INSRTUCTION IN RIGHTEOUSNESS. To read the scripture for doctrine, is to leard our religious sentiments from it, and form them by it. So far as we are under the influence of prejudice, or receive systems on human authority; and go to the scripture, not so much with a desire to be instructed in what we know not, as to strengthen ourselves in what we have already imbibed, be it right or wrong; so far we exercise a sinful disregard to the scriptures, and may justly be given' up of God to our own deceits. If we read the word of God to any good purpose, we must suppose beforehand that we do not know every thing, that we are liable to error in judgment and evil in practice ; how else shall we read, it for reproof or for correction?
If we set up our own reason, so as to resolve to admit of nothing as divine truth but what shall be within its conprehension, we despise God's word, and cannot be said to read it either for doctrine or correction. It is not enough that we call no man