« AnteriorContinuar »
It has been found very useful by many, to divide the Bible into two or three parts; and to read a portion from each of them in order, in the morning, at noon, and in the evening, as they have leisure and opportunity; allowing more time to the New Testament, and to devotional parts of the Old ; and reading these, wholly or principally, on the Lord's day, and at other seasons set apart for religion. This plan, pursued for a few years,
will produce a familiar acquaintance with every part of scripture. Singing the praises of God indeed very properly forms a part of family worship, when time will permit; yet reading the scriptures in course (with a few exceptions, at the discretion of the person who officiates,) is a most excellent method of preparing the minds of children and servants for profiting by public instruction, as well as for giving them a comprehensive view of our holy religion ; and should therefore by no means be neglected.
It is also very advantageous to ministers, and others who have much leisure, to vary their manner of reading : at some times going through a larger portion, with a more general regard to the scope
of the sacred writer ; at others minutely examining every word and sentence, in a smaller portion, its connexion with the context, and its coincidence with other scriptures ; and marking carefully the harmony and mutual subserviency of every part of divine truth; the proportion of one part to another; the distinct branches of which the whole consists: and the way in which the several subjects are stated, handled, arranged and expressed.
II. Search the scriptures daily. Divine truth is the food of the soul; which wants its nourishment as often as the body does. That day must have been mis-spent in which no part of the scriptures has been read or meditated on. We should, therefore, redeem time from indolence, recreation, useless visits, trifling conversation, and inordinate attention to secular affairs, for this employment: and then no lawful business would prevent any one from finding a little leisure, morning and evening at least, for reading some portion of the scriptures ; which would furnish the mind with subjects for meditation, (when not necessarily engrossed about other matters,) to the exclusion of vain thoughts and polluting imaginations. The more habitual this practice becomes, the greater pleasure will it afford : and even the old Christian will not think that his knowledge renders it superfluous, or seek an excuse for omitting it; but will apply to it as a healthful person craves and relishes his food. I would especially enforce it upon the consciences of the young, not to let any day begin or end without some time spent in studying the Bible. This will become in a short time a most useful habit; and, if they be abridged of a little sleep by the practice, their bodies will not be injured, and their minds will be improved by it.-It may also be observed that hearing sermons, reading religious books, or joining in pious discourse, will often mislead, and seldom profit, those who do not compare the whole with the sacred scriptures, by daily
searching them, to know whether things are so or not.”
III. Read the Bible with the express purpose of
appropriating the information communicated by it from God to man. When we have humbly and attentively considered and ascertained the meaning of any proposition, we should implicitly believe it, how contrary soever it may be to our former opinion, or that of others in reputation for wisdom. We ought to reverence the authority, omniscience, veracity, and faithfulness of the Lord, who speaks to us in his word ; not doubting the truth or importance of any of his instructions, but studying the meaning of them in docility and patience. Thus deriving wisdom and knowledge from the source, through the appointed medium, we shall grow more learned in divine things than any teachers or aged students who “ lean to their own understandings ;"l even as the bosom friend of the prince, who learns his secrets from his own lips, will know more of his designs than any conjectural politicians can do, though of far superior sagacity and abilities.
IV. Use helps in searching the Scriptures, but do not depend on them. The labours of pious men, who have spent their lives in studying and elucidating the sacred oracles, may be very profitable to those who either have less leisure or ability, or are newly engaged in such researches; as an experienced guide may be to those who are strangers to the road : and it savours greatly of self-sufficiency to undervalue either commentators or other writers on divine things. Yet all men are fallible, and we should “call no man father upon earth :" it must, therefore, be proper to compare all their
elucidations, or inferences with the scriptures themselves. Above all, it behoves us “ to ask wisdom “ of God;" and to beg of him to give us the Holy Spirit, to remove from our minds every prejudice and carnal affection, and whatever might close them against any part of revealed truth, or indispose them to receive the illumination of heaven ; as the vitiated eye cannot make a proper use of the light of the sun. He alone, who inspired the scriptures, can help us to understand them : and, if we search them in dependence on his teaching, and in the spirit of fervent prayer, “He will lead us into “ all truth,” as far as it is requisite for our safety, peace, and duty.
It may be proper here to caution the reader against fanciful interpretations, which surprise and amuse, but mislead men from the practical meaning of scripture: and against those who pretend to modernize divine truth; not choosing to “ speak ac- ,
cording to the oracles of God;" but as they suppose the apostles would have spoken, if they had possessed the advantage of modern improvements : a supposition just as wise as to attempt to improve the light of the sun by modern discoveries in astronomy! In short, every text has its proper meaning, as it stands related to the context; and its proper application to us : these we should seriously investigate, with fervent prayer for divine teaching ; without presuming to add to, alter, or deduct from, the revealed will of God.
V. Lastly, We should search the scriptures as the navigator consults his chart, and makes his ob
Ps. cxix. 98-100.
servations; that he may discover where he is and what course he must steer ; as any one looks into a glass, that he may both know “ what manner of “ man he is,” and learn to adjust what is unbecoming; or as an heir reads his father's will and the inventory of his effects and estates, that he may know what the inheritance is, and the nature of the tenure by which he must possess it. We should accompany our reading with impartial self-examination, in respect to our knowledge, judgment, dispositions, affections, motives, words, and actions in every particular, at present and in times past, that we may learn the state and wants of our souls ;-and with self-application, as the persons spoken to, in every instruction, precept, sanction, counsel, warning, invitation, or promise ; according to our state, character, conduct, and circumstances : pausing to inquire whether we understand what we have read, and what we have learned from it; that, beseeching the Lord ito pardon what is past and to help us for the future, we may, without delay or reserve, begin to practise what we know, waiting for further light in such matters as still continue doubtful or obscure to us. It would be easy to multiply directions; but the scriptures thus studied are“ able “ to make us wise unto salvation, through faith
which is in Christ Jesus."