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ON THE DUTY AND ADVANTAGES OF STUDYING
“ All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”*
- Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning ; that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”+ The above words have reference especially to the Old Testament; the New Testament being at the time they were written incomplete, and few of its books sent forth. As the terms “Scripture" and " what was written aforetime relate to the whole of the preceding revelation, it is clear that every mode in which the Divine will was made known is included in the reference, and therefore demands our studious and prayerful attention; and that it is our duty to reverence the word of God as a divinely inspired whole. What, then, are the advantages to be derived from carefully consulting those particular portions of the Old Testament which consist of similes, figures, and types? We may see in these things, I. A most striking manifestation of the * 2 Tim. iii. 16.
+ Rom. xv. 4.
wisdom of God in his manner of dealing with intelligent creatures.
It was necessary, even from the earliest period of time, both in regard to the Creator and also in reference to the human race, that the Eternal should give a knowledge of his mind and will ; as, without this, man would have been destitute of a rule by which to regulate his conduct; he could have had no perception of a way of salvation, nor would he have been able to answer the end of his creation. To supply this rule, the works of creation and the light of nature were insufficient. They were of great importance so far as they went; but there was much of God's nature and perfections which these did not reveal at all; and what was known by them (though quite enough to leave those who were committed to their guidance without excuse, as the Apostle Paul has fully shown*) was so uncertain, that even the best of men in the heathen world could arrive at nothing definite on which they could rely with confidence in regard to their future state—the character and attributes of the Governor of the universe, or the nature and design of his providence. If, then, the mind and will of the great Eternal was to be known with certainty, it must be by a direct communication, delivered with unquestionable proof of its divine origin, from God himself.
But if a revelation must be made, it is required, in order to the end designed by it, to be suitable to those to whom it is given: consequently, the creature to be led and instructed by it must be raised up to a state and circum
* Rom. i. 19, 20.
stances so as to meet it in any particular character it might assume, or that itself must be brought down and adapted to him. The latter of these modes of procedure constitutes the principle upon which the early revelations from heaven were made: and hence arises the difficulty which is sometimes felt in understanding the dictates of the Divine mind. It should always be remembered that the expressions employed even in the Bible are necessarily human expressions; they could not be otherwise understood; they are borrowed from something analogous to, but not identified with, the topic to be illustrated; they are the “shadow," therefore, of things spiritual, but not " the very image of the things "—the condescensions of an infinite mind to a finite capacity. They must be received with the limitations and guards supposed by this circumstance. * It is not from any arbitrary choice that God has been pleased to adopt the method he has chosen, but because he saw that it would be the most suitable in itself, and would agree best with all his other works, and the changes which he has at different times in his all-wise providence effected.
The world, especially during the first periods of its existence, was but in a state of infancy; and though gradually improving from age to age, and from one dispensation to another, yet during all the time that the law continued, it was in its nonage: hence the Apostle tells the Jews, that for the lengthened period in which it was enjoined, they were as “ children under tutors and governors, until the time appointed
* Collyer's Lecture, " Scripture Comparison," p. 11.
of the father.”* The Mosaic ritual, with all its varied services, as well as the simple modes of worship by which it was preceded, and the manner of intercourse between God and his intelligent creatures on the earth, were all ordered with a peculiar regard to the state of the world, to prepare it for the advent of Christ and the introduction of his Gospel; therefore it is said, that these things happened to the ancients “for ensamples; and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”+ We may discern in these things,
II. The harmony apparent in the works and ways of God, and trace the resemblance which the moral and spiritual world bear to that which is physical.
Jehovah has made all things for himself and his own glory; and were there no other proof of the identity between the Author of our being and the Disposer of events than the manner in which his dealings with us are adapted to our capacity, that of itself would seem to be sufficient. He who in the beginning made the heavens and the earth, could, in their very first producticn, have given to them the form which they were afterwards to wear; but knowing the designed nature and constitution of those by whom his works were to be known and studied, he was pleased to employ six days in the moulding and arranging of that which did not necessarily require the space of one. Providence and creation in this respect resemble each other; hence a long series of * Gal. iv, 2.
f 1 Cor. x. 11.
years is occupied in the production of changes, and disclosing wonders and mysteries from the boundless treasures of his wisdom and knowledge, which could have been instantaneously effected.
Precisely so is it in the economy of grace and redemption. For a long course of ages prior to the Son of God assuming our nature, things were not in a fit state for his reception. The world could not, if it had been disposed, appreciate the blessings attendant on his advent, nor test the claims which he put forth. Its civilization, learning, and intelligence were not sufficient to constitute it a fitting stage on which the Deity could show himself in the glorious work of redemption; nor was there a proper channel through which the blessings of the Gospel might be conveyed to the remotest generations of mankind. “ But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” *
What is said of the introduction of the great scheme of man's salvation will apply with equal propriety to the carrying out of its principles. Hence the great Master himself said, “ So is the kingdom of God as if a man should cast seed into the ground, and should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself, first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear." op And this gradation is not only a display * Gal. iv. 4.
+ Mark iv. 26—28.