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enemies, and other parts of the Christian temper and character. Without this, a proud morality, and a task and form of godliness, comprise the sum total of man's religion ; except as he is brought under 'those impressions and leadings, which will in time influence him to embrace “ the “ truth as it is in Jesus.” This will appear more fully, and be proved more at large in the subsequent Essays.—The importance of revealed truth, therefore, may be evidently perceived, both from the authority of Him who speaks to us in the scripture; from the various methods which he has taken to confirm the words of his servants; and from the tendency and efficacy of sound doctrine to produce spiritual affections and holy obedience.
We grant indeed that the doctrines of scripture may be received by a dead faith into the understanding as true, whilst the heart does not embrace them as good ; and then they will “ be held “in unrighteousness.” But a real and living belief of them is the proper root of true holiness. By regeneration the heart is prepared for thus receiving the truth ; which then becomes the principle of progressive sanctification : “a whited se“ pulchre” is the emblem of all that can be attained, where this is proudly rejected or treated with indifference: and every man's spirituality, piety, humility, and enlarged, disinterested, unostentatious philanthropy, will bear proportion to the degree in which he knows and cordially embraces the great doctrines of the Bible.
It must, therefore, be evident that every person, to whom the scriptures are sent, ought to study them, and acquaint himself with their contents. For, if God, in compassion to our ignorance, and in love to our souls, as well as in regard to the honour of his own name and government, has given us a book, penned under the inspiration of his Holy Spirit ; and if the truths revealed in it be of the greatest importance ; it must be most reasonable that we should bestow pains to acquire the knowledge of them. Whether we consider the scriptures as a revelation which the Lord has made to us of himself, that we may know, worship, and glorify him ; or of his law and government, that we may submit to and obey him, and learn our true condition as sinners; or of his mercy and salvation, that we may find acceptance with him ; or of the privileges of his children in this life and
that which is to come : in every view of the sub-ject, the duty of " searching them ” must be ma
nifest. Nor can we neglect it, without avowing that we despise the knowledge of God and of heavenly things; that we do not desire to serve our Creator ; that we neither value his favour nor fear his frown; or that we can discover the way of peace and happiness without his instruction. Nothing, therefore, can be more expressive of ingratitude, rebellion, and alienation from God, than the general neglect of the Bible, which prevails among those that profess to believe it to be his word.
Does He speak from heaven to us sinners about the way of eternal salvation and shall we refuse to hear his gracious words? Does He give us a book to guide us to happiness in this world and for ever? and shall we not study it? Does He make known to us mortals those glories which
angels adore with unceasing rapture? and shall we turn away with contemptuous aversion? Has He provided for us sinners such a redemption as sinless “ angels desire to look into ?” and shall we think the subject unworthy of notice? Who can pretend to justify such conduct ? Yet how much more pains do lawyers, physicians, and other students, who desire to excel in their professions, be-' stow in poring over voluminous authors, than men called Christians do in searching the scriptures ? Yea, how many give a decided preference to amusing and ingenious trifles, or political discussions, (not to say publications suited to corrupt their principles and morals,) above the sacred word of God! They would be ashamed not to have read some admired or popular author, though the work perhaps be wholly useless, if not worsę : yet they remain year after year, unacquainted with the holy scriptures !-"Surely in vain is the word of “ the Lord given to them; the pen of the scribes " is in vain !”1
It cannot be necessary, in such a compendious Essay, to shew particularly how the study of the scriptures is inculcated in every part of the sacred volume. Let the more attentive reader turn to what Moses said to Israel, what the Psalmist teaches, and Solomon,4 and what is contained in many passages of the New Testament.5 Indeed the apostles and evangelists always reasoned from the scriptures of the Old Testament; appealed to them, and supposed the Jews to be acquainted
Jer. viii. 8, 9.
2 Deut. vi. 6-9. xi. 18-20. 3 Psalms i. xix. cxix.
4 Prov. ii. 146.
with them; and in their writings assure us, that “ these things were written that we might believe “ that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and “ that believing we might have life through his " name.” 1
The case then is plain, that our obligation to search the scriptures is indispensable ; and that it is a duty of the greatest importance. Every person, who allows them to be the infallible word of God, must be convicted in his own conscience of acting in an unreasonable and criminal manner, if he do not diligently study them; and the negligence of most men in this great concern manifestly proves that they are not fully satisfied, that the Bible “ was given by inspiration from God,” and that it reveals the only way of peace and salvation. We do not urge men to believe without evidence; but we call upon them humbly and seriously to examine the proofs afforded them, that the scriptures are the word of God; and then to bestow pains to learn the religion contained in them; and to compare the doctrine which we propose with that unerring standard from which we profess to have learned it. Nor can we doubt that they, who do not comply with such requisitions, will be left without excuse at the day of final retribution, whatever excuses or pretences they may make at present. It may, therefore, be useful to give a few directions to those who are convinced of their duty in this particular, and who desire to attend to it with profit to themselves, or to those placed under their care.
· John, xx. 31.
I. Examine the whole of the sacred scripture.I do not mean, that the same degree of attention and time should be employed about every part of the Bible: some things are but more remotely useful to us; some are easily understood and applied ; others require close and frequent investigation ; while the obscurity of some passages renders them less adapted to the edification of unlearned readers. Yet every part of the sacred oracles has its use, and throws light upon the rest : and, as preachers very properly make their appeal to the scriptures in support of their doctrines, so their hearers cannot well judge how far their arguments are conclusive, unless they have a competent acquaintance with the whole sacred volume. Nor is the Bible so large a book, but that even they who have not much leisure may, in process
of time, get a general acquaintance with every part of it, if they bestow a measure of diligence proportioned to the value of the acquisition: and, as “ all scripture is given
by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doc“ trine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction “ in righteousness; that the man of God may “ be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good “works ;" so every word demands a measure of our attention. It is, therefore, a very great hinderance to edification, when serious persons rest satisfied with text-books and abstracts from scripture ; or with a few favourite passages which are continually resorted to, while the rest of God's word is little regarded ; and, above all, those parts are neglected, which teach men the particulars of the Christian temper, and of the duties in which they are most deficient.