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EXTRACTS FROM THE WRITINGS OF FRANKÉ.
FROM " A GUIDE TO THE READING AND STUDY OF
THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.”
On Expository Reading. COMMENTATORS are generally diffuse on critical, polemical, and common-place subjects; and seldom examine very minutely into the spiritual sense of scripture. We must therefore be careful to select such commentaries as are most agreeable to the object we have in view; and especially such as evince the illumination of that Spirit who speaks in the sacred oracles. This is essential; for if we cannot understand the scriptures without the aid of the divine Spirit who dictated them; is it possible to derive assistance from a commentator who has presumed to judge of spiritual things, while he himself is carnal ?
Some valuable remarks on this subject, by Melancthon, deserve to be noticed here : the reader may see them in his treatise “ de Origine et Auctoritate Verbi.”'_“The gift of interpretation indeed, belongs not to the ungodly, but is with that assembly which is governed and sanctified by the Holy Spirit; for St. Paul says— Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge; however, if any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. Interpretation tben is a revelation made by the Holy Spirit, and since the ungodly are the organs of Satan, it cannot be made in them. Hence, how much soever some men may excel in learning and polity, the interpretation of scripture appertains not to them, but to the regenerate; because the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, which are spiritually discerned.” I Cor. ii.
Immediately antecedent to this remark, Melancthon has another: “ When the ordinary succession and government of the church was enjoyed by blasphemous, idolatrous, and ungodly men, God raised up prophets and others, who were not in the order of succession, to reprove the sins of the high and inferior priests. This is evident, as it respects the prophets Elijab, Elisha, Isaiah, and Amos; whom the Lord endued with the gift of interpretation, at a period when the priests were enemies to the truth. So, in the time of Christ, the gift of interpretation was not possessed by Annas, Caiaphas, the scribes, and the pharisees, though they were the heads of the visible church, and considered themselves to be the only true church and people of God. The gift was, at that time, confined to the church and assembly of Zachariaș, Elizabeth, the Baptist, the shepherds, Simeon, Anna, the Apostles, &c. who were all conspicuous for their purity, and the light of heavenly instruction. It therefore becomes our duty not to listen to those who, for the sake of wealth and honours, assume the right of interpretation, without being themselves influenced by the knowledge and fear of that God, who, as the sole Author, is the sole Interpreter of scripture ; and who, by his Spirit, imparts the gift to those only who are pious, renewed, and lovers of the word.”
Caution is requisite in another respect; namely, lest we accumulate external things without measure; for the perusal of scripture is too easily neglected, when we are searching after many and various external helps. We may safely assure those who read the word with devotion and simplicity, that they will derive more light and profit from such a practice, and from connecting meditation with it in the manner so exquisitely described by David, Psalm i.), than can ever be acquired from drudging through an infinite variety of unimportant minutiæ. They who search the scriptures for the edification of themselves and others, and not for the sake of vanity, or to please men, will learn from what has been advanced, to avoid the abuse of external things, and to build their knowledge of divine truth, on foundations firm and immoveable.
Practical reading is essentially necessary and eminently useful; and its object is the application of the scriptures to faith and practice. This application respects either others, or ourselves; and, of course, it would be absurd to apply divine truth to our peighbour, before we have done so to our own hearts. To deduce practical doctrines and inferences from scripture, and to apply them in an historical way, is not properly practical reading, which chiefly respects the affections of the person who institutes it.
Practical reading is of such a nature, that it may be prosecuted by an illiterate person; for the appli-, cation of scripture which it enjoins, is connected with salvation; and, therefore, if it were not within the ability of the unlearned, it would be vain to concede to them the reading of the scriptures. We do not, however, deny, but that from an acquaintance with the Greek and Hebrew languages, several things of an edifying nature may arise, which would not be so obvious in a translation. It is, however, sufficient, that all things necessary to faith and practice may be acquired from versions.
The simplest application of divine truth is certainly the most profitable, if it be made with sincerity of soul: yet if some advice on this subject be required, the following observations, it is presumed, will not be found useless.
Practical application should be rightly distinguished, as it respects its commencement and its continuation. It is begun with the reading of the scriptures, and it is to be continued during the whole life.
The commencement of practical application is instituted with inost ease, by including the text we are employed on and its component words, in short prayers or ejaculations, after its meaning has been properly ascertained. This method may appear simple and puerile; but many have approved its excellency by experience, and learned its value by the rich fruits which it has produced.
When a physician attends a patient, be, in the first place, ascertains his malady and its attendant symptoms ; then, he inquires into the causes of it; and, lastly, he fixes on the remedies. Just in the same way are we to act, in applying any portion of Holy Writ. After the most natural and obvious meaning of the text has been ascertained, we are, accordingly, to consider first the habit of our minds, and accurately to compare it with the portion under our notice. If this be done with singleness of soul, we shall plainly perceive, as in a glass, the particular faults under which we labour. We are then to examine into the causes of these faults, that we may not attempt to heal an internal wound with an external remedy; or commit any similar error. After this, we must look for remedies proper to correct our faults.
It is not merely external precepts that are to be observed, for we should solicitously search out their foundation; and, in this, practical reading should principally terminate ; otherwise, we may accumulate precepts to no useful purpose. Here, the following directions require our attention.
1. We should seek for the foundation of precepts in the scriptures themselves.
2. We should then try whether we can discover it in our own breasts. For instance, when we are required to pray for our enemies, it is evident that the foundation of the precept is sincere and unaffected love for them. We should therefore consider, whether we really possess this love ; because, to pray for them when we have it not, must be hypocrisy.
3. The foundation must be laid in our hearts, before we think of building any precepts npon it.
In all practical application, we must have our eyes fixed on Christ; for, first, he is to be applied to us, by faith, for salvation; and, secondly, he is to be imitated in our lives ; for ' he is the way, the truth, and the life; and no one cometh to the Father, but by him. The examples of men are to he copied