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bue the mind with the fallible productions of men. Hence, they not only are superlatively pleased with themselves, and look for admiration from others, for their making the Bible their ONLY book ; but they afford, very frequently, no obscure indications of an assumption, that they themselves have imbibed some considerable portion of the infallibility which belongs to the Oracles of Heaven ; and they take it as ill to have their interpretations and decisions questioned, as if they witnessed the refusal to acknowledge “a prophet of the Lord.”
These persons, we cannot but apprehend, have a very erroneous notion of the perfection and sufficiency of the Scriptures; and a very incomplete understanding of what those divine writings actually contain and inculcate. The Holy Scriptures are perfect and sufficient for all the purposes for which they were given, and in all the modes of obtaining those purposes
which Divine Wisdom has seen fit to establish. But it was certainly not among those
. purposes, to supersede any legitimate and sanctified employment of the human mind. The Scriptures are a very miscellaneous collection of writings, and they nowhere assume the form of an elementary, or a systematic treatise. In their whole frame and texture, they take for granted the reader's mind to be possessed of much preliminary knowledge: such as the being, perfections, and government of the only living and true God; the equity, and indispensable obligation of all his claims; the necessary accountableness, and the future existence of man. To the ancient Israelites, the messages of the prophets were always addressed, under the evident
sumption of their being well acquainted with what
ministers and teachers of religion. Undoubtedly: and, Othat they all felt the obligation more deeply, and complied with it more perfectly! But is it wise, is it safe, is it becoming, to speak and act as if this charge lay only upon them? Has not every form of error, that has at any time laid waste the church of God, originated in some one or more of the accredited teachers of the gospel ?—The surest human guarantee for the preservation of a pure and faithful ministry, lies in a holy, enlightened, reading, thinking, and active body of private Christians : they are the great waters which must raise the level of the floating vessels, however large may be the capacity of those vessels, and rich the treasures with which they are laden.
The assiduous exercise of the human faculties, in the investigation of revealed truths and duties, in the position of their evidence, the elucidation of their meaning, and their application (various, through a range fitly corresponding to "the manifold wisdom of God,”) to the characters, situations, engagements, temptations, and all the circumstances of men,-is laid down as a universal duty, by divine authority. “ Yea; and why, even of your own selves, judge ye not what is right ?—Search the Scriptures ; for in them ye think,” (nor was it a vain opinion,) " that
) ye have eternal life: and it is these which testify of me.—Prove all things : hold fast that which is good. I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.--I pray, that your love may abound yet more
and in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve the things which are excellent,” or, as the latter clause may be justly rendered, “ that ye may
discriminate the things which differ."
The Apostle charged his beloved Timothy; “ Till I come, give attendance to reading.” The specification of the period during which Timothy was to wait at Ephesus for his faithful teacher and friend, does not well accord with the interpretation, which attaches the “ reading” enjoined upon him, to the Scriptures alone. It would be the duty of Timothy, not only until Paul's arrival, but after it, and in all his future life, to pay his utmost attention and employ all his suitable opportunities in the reading of so much as he possessed of “the Holy Scriptures, which were able to make him wise unto salvation, through the faith which is in Christ Jesus." But, if we consider that Timothy was in an eminently learned and polished city, that an unusual portion of leisure was put into his hands, and that he could scarcely again expect to enjoy so favourable an opportunity of obtaining the use of books in Grecian literature, large, numerous, and costly, and so much time for the reading of them; the reason of the exhortation becomes apparent, and its reference to other books besides the sacred writings is rendered, to say the least, extremely probable. If then, in the judgment of the holy, faithful, and devoted Apostle, the subject also of miraculous inspiration, it was an advantage not to be foregone, that the young Evangelist should avail himself of a season of extraordinary leisure for the study of books, which, if they were not the inspired writings, whatever else they might be, whether Jewish or Grecian, may, without hazard, be affirmed to have been incomparably inferior to the productions of our best English and Scots divines; the conclusion is too plain to need being formally stated. Truly unhappy,—unhappy to a degree of which he has no conception,—is the British Christian, who, possessing the means, cuts himself off from the enjoyment of such writers as Tyndale and Frith; Jewell, Perkins, and Hooker; Hall, Usher, and Leighton; Baxter, Howe, and Owen; Halyburton, Maclaurin, and Witherspoon; Edwards, Bellamy, and Dwight.—Dear and venerated names ! -Yet, in reciting them, justice requires it to be said, that they are the heads of tribes, princes in Israel, representatives, in their respective classes, of no small numbers of authors who were worthy to follow them, but to enumerate whom would turn this Essay into a catalogue.*
It is indeed a demonstration of no little ignorance, ingratitude, and self-confidence, to imagine ourselves too knowing to be taught, or too wise to be admonished, by the shining gifts with which the informing Spirit has endowed so goodly a number of his servants, in all the periods of his church.
Such an opinion does, in fact, approach to an abdication of one of the chief prerogatives of humanity, above the brute creation : and, in its principle, it goes far towards condemning us to the use of only those improvements which can be attained by the individual, declining the ever-growing amount of knowledge and moral power, which accumulates from the
The Series of “ Select Christian Authors,” now publishing, contains an excellent selection of works, both doctrinal and practical, well adapted to those who are anxious to obtain a cor. rect and extensive knowledge of Christianity, as well as to promote the edification and improvement of the private Christian.