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and yet derive very little advantage therefrom. It is not the quantity, but the quality of our reading, which should be kept in view. I am inclined to be of St Paul's opinion, who would rather speak five words, which himself and others might understand, than ten thousand in an unknown tongue; so I consider it to be far more profitable to read five verses of the word of God, with the disposition of the eunuch, a desire to understand them, than so many chapters without it.
Nor can I suppose that common readers can spare at all times, so much time as is due to so large a portion of the Scriptures. Extensive reading is like excessive eating, it may be overdone; and if there be imperfect digestion, it can do but little good. Some professors estimate their Christianity by the number and variety of sermons which they hear; others, perhaps, may form their opinion of the quantum of profit from the quantity which they read. These are however, very fallacious standards. Permit me then to shew my opinion.
The question itself, I suppose refers to private reading; but the subject is interesting, and may be viewed in a more general manner:
Ist. Let us inquire how the Scriptures may be profitably read in private retirement. Seasons of devotion are seasons of meditation; and it is to be supposed that reading the word of God will always constitute one part of such an exercise. Surely, on such occasions, it is most profitable to take a devotional, doctrinal, experimental, or practical part of the Scriptures, as the subject of meditation; and a real believer needs no information where such parts are to be found. On such occasions, I have experienced it most profitable to select a small portion, a chapter or psalm at most; to read the same with care; and then to bow the knee before God, and pray over the subjects read, seeking an interest therein. This method has a tendency to give enlargement in prayer: it leads us to pray in Scripture language; and the subjects become more rivetted in the mind, and converse with us afterwards.
2dly. Reading the word of God in the family. Family-religion is important; and the word of God ought always to be used on those occasions. Short sermons may sometimes be profitably introduced; but reading a portion of the Scriptures must ever be important. I conceive it most profitable to select the plainest and most devotional parts of the Old Testament; and to read the New in regular course from one end of it to the other: the one part in the morning, and the other in the evening
3dly, Reading the Scriptures occasionally. To one who loves the word of God, there will be found certain intervals in the course of the day, in which he may converse a few moments with such a friend. Perhaps, it may be profitable then to take a small portion of it, in any part which may be thought fit; and having conversed with this friend on earth, let the heart be lifted up for a few moments to our Friend in heaven, that he would graciously bless the same.
4th, Reading the Scriptures on extraordinary occasions. When a Christian has more time than ordinary to spare, I would say, 'Let not inferior, not to say pernicious, publications divert his attention from the Bible.' I would not undervalue the labors of any man; yet I am inclined to think that the religious world is overstocked in this respect: not that I would discourage good books of any kind; but I suspect the temptation does exist, and is too often successful in drawing the Christian from his Bible. I am persuaded, that a few hours may very profitably be employed in converse with the Divine writings. Let prayer be joined with meditation; and the Scriptures divided into three parts. First, the Old Testament, as far as Isaiah, secondly, The testimony of the prophets themselves; thirdly, The New Testament. Let one of these sections be chosen, and read on attentively; and it may be profitable to consult the marginal references, especially in the writings of the prophets. Remember, o Christian! it is the quality, and not the quantity, of thy reading which renders it most profitable. Be careful what kind of expositors you consult; for many false prophets are gone forth into the world. There is one mode which some have adopted; but I cannot fully approve of it. Some cases may occur, in which ancient customs may trow a degree of light on the text; but many of these interpretations are calculated to excite an idea that the Scriptures are veiled with great obscurity. They remind me of a good man of the past age, who preached from that text, “Fools make a mock at sin.' It was usual, in those days, to introduce a doctrine as explanatory of the text, and preach from it. This person proceeded in his usual course; and the doctrine founded on his text, was Fools make a mock at sin;' which explanation Jeft the text where it found it; so it is with many expositors. If I were inclined to dispute any passage in the word of God, I should smile at an opponent who should endeavor to convince me, by the custom of a modern heathenish brahmin, or practice of some wandering Arab. Let us not darken counsel by words; but rather be concerned that the word of Christ may dwell in our hearts richlý în all wisdom.
Can it be clearly proved, either from the nature of the subject itself, or by any Scriptural evidence, “That regeneration is ever a gradual, and not always an instantaneous effect?''
ANSWER. SIR, To answer the question of your correspondent respecting regeneration, it only requires to be understood what he includes in the term Regeneration, and then the question will answer itself. If it simply mean that change which passes in the soul by the influence of the Holy Spirit, whereby it is delivered from a state of spiritual death, and raised to newness of life, Scripture and reason teach us, that such a change, as a work of God, must be instantaneous; because, in spiritual as in natural things, there is no medium between life and death, light and darkness, a being delivered from the wrath of God, and an acceptance into his favor. If, however, by the term Regeneration, be meant the whole work of fitting a sinner for heaven, then the term containing under it the actings of the new-birth, or the work of sanctification, it must be gradual and progressive; because there is “a growth in grace," "a making men meet for the inheritance with them that are sanctified," "a growing up into Christ Jesus in all things."
THE NATURE OF REGENERATION CONSIDERED. “Does the Spirit of God in regeneration produce a new principle in the heart, or only impart a new light in the understanding?”
MR. EDITOR, The question, as stated by your correspondent, I consider as important; and as admitting of a satisfactory
Whether I shall be able to afford him satisfaction I cannot tell, but will do the best I can towards it. If we were called to determine how, or in what manner the Holy Spirit operates upon the human mind, great difficulties might attend our inquiries; but the purport of this question seems to relate not to the modus of his operations, but to the nature of what is produced. To this I should answer, “The Spirit of God in regeneration does produce a new principle in the heart, and not merely impart a new light to the understanding.' The reasons for this position are as follow:
First, That which the Holy Spirit imparts in regeneration corresponds to his own nature: it is holiness, or spirituality; “That which is born of the Spirit, is spirit.” But mere light in the understanding, as distinguished from the bias of the temper of the heart, has nothing in it spiritual or holy; it is a mere exercise of intellect, in which there is neither good nor evil. The Scriptures, it is true, make frequent mention of spiritual light, and of such light being imparted by the Spirit of God; but VOL. III.