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Jesus.” By stimulating them early to think of what they read, by encouraging their inquiries, and meeting them with valuable information, you lead them to dig into those mines of inexhaustible wealth. Many of the most eminent biblical scholars have laid the foundations of their sacred science in very early life; of this, Matthew Henry and Dr. Doddridge are proofs.
Church of the living God, suffer the word of exhortation.
“See that this epistle be read to the church,” said an apostle. Our Lord gave his high sanction to this part of the worship of the synagogue, by reading the Scriptures there himself; and it is the duty of every church to see that the Scriptures be read largely and devoutly, as a most important part of its public worship. After all the labour of sabbath schools, many come into the congregation unable to read; and of those who say they can, how many do it so imperfectly that it affords them no instruction! Many who can read will so neglect the holy Scriptures, that they would be entirely destitute of the advantage of scriptural readings if they did not enjoy it in the church. Besides, there is a charm in the living voice, especially when it is judiciously employed, that gives to the reading many of the advantages of the exposition of the word of God.
To the public exposition of the Scriptures, the church of God should give its most solemn sanction. In this exercise, every expression is examined, that its own exact import may be known, and the peculiar shade of meaning derived from the connexion may be noticed. I am aware that this is not so popular as preaching, at which I grieve, I had almost said blush, for it is proof of the low state of our churches. Be it yours, my friends, to contribute to redeem your country from the disgrace of undervaluing that which is so eminently calculated to honour the word of God, and bring down his blessing on the church.
Finally, encourage that kind of ministry which promotes scriptural research. By your contributions, your prayers, your preference, and your profiting, promote a learned ministry, by which I mean, such a one as employs the original languages of Scripture to pour the whole "mind of the Spirit” upon the church. By their superiority in this hallowed learning, the first reformers vanquished the catholic priests. The original puritans and nonconformists were the first biblical scholars of their day. Whenever we cease to cultivate this knowledge, we sink, and deserve to sink. It is, therefore, deeply to be deplored, that our country has, in this department of knowledge, fallen below its former eminence. Germany, and
even America, that infant country, have snatched from us the palm. To the disgrace of London, its University cannot obtain a Hebrew class : nor has the whole united empire any celebrity in a language that is the master of all others, and the honoured vehicle in which God first spake by the lips of men. We have no more Ainsworths, Waltons, Robertsons, or Lowths. O for the day when our talented youths shall give their powers, not to piquant novels, and infidel verse, but to the sacred fountains of revealed truth, the Hebrew Bible and Greek Testament! Spirit of Truth, lead men to those Scriptures, in which thou hast deposited the testimony of Jesus, that in them we may find eternal life!
THE SUPERABUNDANT EVIDENCE OF REVEALED RELIGION.
BY JOSEPH HUGHES, A, M.
LUKE xvi. 31.-If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither
will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.
Much instruction, important to all, especially to those who indicate a morbid craving for evidence, is here comprised in a parable. A parable, it is well known, introduces us to an imaginary scene, where, beside the principal objects, are delineated, for the completion of the group, sundry objects of a subordinate class, not always requiring, sometimes not warranting, a separate and particular interpretation.
The neglect of this plain distinction has occasioned no small degree of mispent toil and unprofitable conjecture. Hence statements, in themselves deeply affecting, have been stretched and tortured into fanciful analogies ; meanings, foreign and unsupported, have been assigned; and dignity, simplicity, and force, have been all sacrificed.
An evil of this kind is greatly aggravated, when the incidental circumstances presented in a parable are quoted, not merely as suggesting language felicitously adapted to the illustration of acknowledged truth, but also as furnishing, independently too of proof from a better source, the adequate support of controverted doctrine.
If such references be made on behalf of error, and if the persons whose attention is drawn to them be superficial, credulous, eager for novelty, and blindly partial to their mistaken guides, injurious results may be expected soon to show themselves, long to adhere, and, by the power of contagion, widely to prevail. What can a
sober commentary achieve for minds preoccupied and charmed by entertaining vagaries, and tutored (a frequent case) by men whose tone is no less peremptory and vehement than their glosses are strange and absurd ?
But, even if the doctrine so deduced were obviously sound and valuable, the mode of establishing it must be disclaimed by judicious advocates, and is sure to provoke the ridicule of sarcastic objectors.
The scene of the parable before us is laid in a distant world. It exhibits a human being, who had lived in splendour, and died in his sins,“ suffering the vengeance of eternal fire,” yet in sight of Abraham, and imploring that venerable patriarch to send another departed spirit first to his own infernal abode, with a drop of water to cool his flaming tongue, and then to the gay abodes of his five brethren, whom he supposed to be pursuing the round of unhallowed revelry on the earth.
Disallow, my brethren, or forget, the distinction between principal and subordinate objects ; push your inquisitiveness far into all the minutiæ of parabolical symbols : and you will speedily find yourselves roaming within a labyrinth of perplexities.
It may be asked, for example, Are men, immediately after death, cognizable in material forms, and capable of being acted upon by material elements? Is it permitted the sons of perdition to converse with Abraham, and to behold a sainted spirit who has been “carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom ?” Do they long for the conversion and salvation of such as were once their “ kinsmen according to the flesh ?"
The distinction, my brethren, already noticed, sets these questions fairly and finally at rest, by warranting us to affirm, that the expressions which may give rise to them were designed, not to sustain a system, but to fill up a description ; and that we must be content with apprehending the general scope and features of the parable, instead of resorting to it for information which it pleases God to withhold altogether, or, at least, which a well-disciplined judgment cannot discover there.
Jesus Christ intimates in the parable, that those whom God approves may be poor, while those whom he disapproves may be rich ; that hence the divine estimate of our character cannot as yet be ascertained by our condition ; that, nevertheless, it will be palpably disclosed when the stream of time shall have flowed into the ocean of eternity; that the Scriptures, even of the Old Testament, promote, in the mind of a diligent and devout inquirer, solemn, happy, and boundless anticipations ; that fallen nature is prone to harbour dissatisfaction with the evidence which relates to the Scriptures; and, finally, that no kind or extent of evidence would suffice for the durably beneficial conviction of those whom the evidence afforded leaves in the disastrous shades of that uncertainty which it was intended to dissipate.
Our country, though pervaded by the light of a celestial communication, shining with every advantage derived from the learning, the argumentative power, and the civil freedom, which distinguish that portion of the globe;-our country, blessed as it is with skilful teachers and pure exemplars, abounds with speculative as well as practical, with polished as well as vulgar infidels. Some cavil at the Scriptures throughout; some invidiously extract and expound detached passages; some live, ill at ease, in a state of incessant vacillation ; some contrive to bury the subject in deep oblivion. It will, however, be found, on a careful scrutiny, that partial, occasional, and thoughtless infidels, concur with their more adventurous and ungodly brethren in surmising, that the existence of a state beyond the grave is problematical; that written documents respecting its nature, particularly if the production of a remote age, and laid down as the basis of a new and complicated dispensation, need to be explored with a jealous eye; and that, in the room of a volume, or at least in connexion with a volume, asserting extraordinary things, they reasonably ask for a supernatural vision, which, as they allege, would at once and for ever destroy their scepticism.
Such, we have seen, was the opinion attributed to the speaker in the parable. But Abraham opposed it, saying, “ If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead."
We, my brethren, as placed under the later and superior economy, are accosted, not only by Moses and the prophets, but also by Jesus Christ and the apostles. It is therefore to be inferred, with augmented confidence, that, in the event of our being unpersuadable by the evidence which we possess, the rising of one from the dead would not, as a matter of course, transform us into even nominal believers.
Let us compare evidence with evidence—that which is proposed in the parable, and which would be preferred by multitudes in real life, with that which is dispersed over the pages of the whole Bible.
I. We may concede, that “if one rose from the dead,” to assure us that our existence will not terminate here, or, speaking more comprehensively, if he rose in confirmation of the Christian religion,