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position opposed to true godliness. Were the Son of God to revisit the earth in a human form, and were we again to consult him on the great business of salvation, who can doubt but what we should do it with great seriousness? In like manner we should now consult the Sacred Oracles, which contain the knowledge of God, and the revelation of his will to the human family. The Bible is a serious book, and was written by holy men, as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. It treats of serious subjects—subjects that involve the eternal and everlasting interests of man; it should, therefore, be perused by a mind filled with a holy and devout awe. “ I can speak from experience," says the celebrated Erasmus, “ that there is little benefit to be derived from the Scriptures, if they be read cursorily or carelessly; but if a man exercise himself therein, constantly and conscientiously, he will find such an efficacy in them as is not to be found in any other book whatever."
2. We should read the Book of the Lord, with all the attention we are capable of exercising. Without attention, all books are alike, and equally insignificant; for he who adverts not to the sense of what he reads, will never gain instruction from books; the wisest discourses signify no more to him, than the most exquisite music does to a man perfectly deaf. The letters and syllables of the Bible, are no more sacred than those of any other book ; it is the sense and meaning that is divinely inspired ; and he who only considers the former, might as well entertain himself with a ro
Search the Scriptures, said our Saviour. The word which he employed is very expressive.
" It is a metaphor," says St. Chrysostom,“ taken from those who dig deep, and search for metals in the bowels of the earth. They look for the bed where the metal lies, and break every clod, and sift and examine the whole, in order to discover the ore.” The Book of the Lord has a rich vein of heavenly wisdom running through it, whose merchandise is better than silver ; but the treasure lies deep, and superficial observers never see it. While we read, let us search narrowly, till the true force and meaning of every sentence be known and understood. Confer place with place ; the scope of one place with that of another; things going before with things coming after ; compare word with word, and letter with letter, till the whole is thoroughly examined and comprehended.
3. We should read the Book of the Lord frequently. Mankind are prone to forget God and his holy commandments. Surrounded as we are with the objects of time and sense, which imperceptibly steal our sensibilities and captivate our affections ; we need to have our memories quickened, and our attention roused to the concerns of the spiritual and eternal world. For this purpose we should frequently consult the Sacred Oracles, as well as to acquire a knowledge of their meaning. If we cannot spare hours to devote to this purpose, let us snatch moments; and if we cannot peruse many chapters, let us read single verses, and treasure them
up in our memories. Thy word, says David, have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee. Let our memories be sacred repositories for the word of God, so shall our feet abide in the path of rectitude, and our affections be placed on things above.
4. We should read the Book of the Lord with earnest and devout prayer for divine illumination. Holy men of old, spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit ; we need the same spirit to guide our understanding into its true meaning, and to impress upon our hearts its divine energy. The natural man may apprehend the literal and grammatical sense of the word, but its power and energy—that insinuative, persuasive force, whereby it works upon the heart of a true believer, is peculiar to the Spirit; and, therefore, without his aids, the Scriptures, while they lie open before our eyes, may still be a book that is sealed, and be as ineffective as if the characters were illegible. Turn thou, at my reproof, says God, and I will pour out my spirit upon you, I will make known my words unto you. The royal Psalmist was penetrated with the belief of this doctrine, when he prayed : Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. It is then certain, that persons of piety, who are anxiously desirous of knowing the divine will, and of understanding the Sacred Oracles of truth, are aided by the Spirit of God in searching out the true meaning of the Scriptures, especially of those parts which refer to the faith and practice of a Christian. We should, then, not trust too much to our own understandings, but pray to God for divine illumination, that we may be enabled to see clearly, and feel forcibly, what is that good, acceptable, and perfect will of God.
5. Finally, we should read the Book of the Lord with a sincere desire to know, that we may do the will of God. This disposition of mind, is indispensible to a right understanding of the word of God. If we give loose to the indulgence of irregularity and passion ; if we lead a life which obviously makes it for our interest to misunderstand the Christian system, these passions, prejudices, and interests, will serve as films and mists, to distort every object presented to the view, and make it impossible to discern the form and features of truth. Unbelief and error, usually spring up from the darkness and corruption of sin. The truth of this statement is clearly and forcibly illustrated, in the rejection of our Saviour by the Jews. Their understandings were so effectually blinded by a dark and dense cloud of sinful prejudices, that they did not know the Lord of Glory. Hence our Saviour said to this wicked and rebellious people : If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. A disposition to rebel against God and his government, is very unfavorable for the reception of divine truth ; and they who dwell under the shadow of this unholy and impure temper of mind, will be harassed with doubts and fears, and deluded into the images of sin and error. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty,
and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in the deed. The chief object for which God has revealed his will to us is, that we may do it. The secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things which are revealed belong to us, and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. The Oracles of God were given to us for the purpose of directing us what to do, and of encouraging us in doing it ; they having been written for our learning, that we, through patience and comfort of the Scripture, might have hope. The practical reading which we here recommend is of such a nature, that the most illiterate person may prosecute it with advantage, for the application of Scripture which it enjoins is connected with salvation ; and, consequently, if the unlearned were incapable of making such application to themselves, it would be in vain for them to peruse the sacred writings. The simplest practical application of the word of God will, unquestionably, prove highly beneficial; provided that it be conducted with a due regard to those moral qualifications which have already been stated and enforced, as necessary to the right understanding of the Scriptures.
1. If the Scriptures are indeed the Book of the Lord ; if they are a revelation of the will of God concerning man; if they are able
, through faith that is in Christ Jesus, to make us wise unto salvation, what sin and folly to neglect them? Notwithstanding the Scriptures are the wells of salvation, from whence we are privileged to draw water with joy, yet there are multitudes who pay but little attention to them. They prefer any book of science and amusement to the Bible; and, if they ever read it, it is merely in a formal and cursory way.
This is the height of madness and folly! What man, in his senses, when navigating his ship among rocks and quicksands, neglects to consult his chart? Yet, as if there were no dangers in sailing over the rough sea of life, or no evils to be incurred by negligence, the multitude are quite indifferent about that book, which alone can conduct us safely to a better world. How vitiated must be the taste of that man who prefers a novel or a newspaper to the inspired volume! Who can be anxious about the things of time and sense, and be indifferent to that which is more valuable than gold, and more sweet than honey! Ah, think what durable riches, what heavenly delights, you lose! Go and search the Scriptures with serious and devout attention, and God will open your understandings to understand them, and will work effectually by them to your salvation. They are the rod of God's strength, and the sword of the Spirit; and if you read them in humanity and faith, you shall find them quick and powerful, and sharper, than any two-edged sword, piercing to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow; and they shall discover to you the
very thoughts and intents of the heart. If you will not sit thus at the feet of Jesus and learn of him, it is in vain for you to hope for salvation ; but if you will come to him, you need not be
discouraged at your weakness or ignorance ; for he says, Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest io
2. If the Scriptures are thus valuable and important, how necessary it is that we should be well acquainted with them. The word of God denounces vengeance against many characters that are innocent among men; nor will our ignorance of these threatenings avert or delay the execution of them. Let us, then, study the Sacred Oracles with an express reference to ourselves, that we may know what God says in them respecting us. We may, perhaps, find many passages which, when applied to our hearts, will give us just occasion to mourn, as did the pious monarch Josiah. Because thine heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before God, when thou heardest his words against this place, and ugainst the inhabitants thereof, and humblest thyself before me, and didst rend thy clothes, and weep before me, I have even heard thee also, saith the Lord. Better were it far to know the full extent of our guilt, and thereby be stimulated to repentance, than through ignorance of our state to continue impenitent, till the wrath of God shall come upon us to the uttermost, and we be forever deprived of the means of grace.
Finally, permit me, in the conclusion of my remarks on this subject, to urge upon you, not only the importance of reading the book of the Lord, but of dedicating yourselves entirely to his service. Come unto me, says our Saviour, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest to your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. By his own gracious voice, Jesus Christ called you while on earth. By the voice of his embassadors he continues to call, and he now calls you by mine. Come to this Saviour of sinners, and he shall give you rest—rest from the hard servitude of sin, and appetite, and guilty fear. That yoke is heavy, that burden is intolerable ; his yoke is easy, and his burden is light. But come in sinceritydare not come in hypocrisy and dissimulation. Think not will avail you anything in the last day, to have called yourselves Christians, to have been born and educated under the gospel light, to have lived in the external communion of the church on earthif , all the while, your hearts have holden no communion with its head in heaven. "If instructed in Christianity, and professing to believe its doctrines, you lead the lives of unbelievers, it will avail you nothing in the next, to have enjoyed in this world, like the Jews of old, advantages which you despised and neglected—to have had the custody of a holy doctrine which never touched your heart-of a pure commandment, by the light of which you never walked. To those who disgrace the doctrine of their Saviour by the scandal of their lives, it will be of no avail to have vainly called him Lord, Lord. None but the pure in heart shall see God.
None but those who do his commandments shall enter in through the gates into the city, and eat of the tree of life, in the midst of the paradise of God.
On the Christian Name.
“The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.”-Acts xi., 26.
Names are words given to persons and things, and express, by the common consent of mankind, certain ideas, by which these persons and things are known and designated. In modern times, names are little more than arbitrary distinctions; but among the orientalists, the appellations given as names are always significant. And in this sense all the names given to God in the Old Testament are to be understood. Hence, a knowledge of his name imports, not merely a knowledge of the different names by which he is known, but a knowledge of his essential perfections. According to this view of the subject, God was pleased to reveal himself in express terms, declarative of all his glorious perfections. The Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty. Before God proclaimed his name to Moses, he placed him in a cleft of the rock, in Horeb. This rock was an eminent type of Christ ; and doubtless the whole transaction was intended to show, that in Christ alone he could be so viewed by fallen man. According to this view of the subject, the name, that is, the perfections of the Lord, become a strong tower to the righteous, into which they run and are safe. Hence, says the Psalmist, They that know thy name will put their trust in thee.
The names which have been given to Jesus Christ are, also, appropriate and significant. It is, therefore, said, that God has given him a name which is above every name ; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. The name to which the apostle here refers, as having been given to Christ, and which he declared to be above every other name, is doubtless the name of Jesus. No other being, in heaven or in earth, can possess this name, as it is possessed by the Saviour and Redeemer of the