« AnteriorContinuar »
S. I will suggest to you two methods. One of them will be little more than the statement of the principles furnished by the description I have already given of the general character which your discourses must possess : the other will refer to the subjects which it will be necessary for you to study, and which must be classified according to some principle which we may be able to ascertain when we place them before us. By the first, your system-and it will be a very simple one will be formed according to the particular object which you seek to accomplish: by the otherwhich will unavoidably be more complex-it will be formed according to the nature of the separate subjects studied, and the relation they bear to THE TRUTH itself, which is to be the great subject of your ministry. I mention the former chiefly to enable you to answer such a question as this,which you may propose at any time in the course of your reading,—To what does this reading tend? In what manner will it contribute to the increase of ministerial efficiency?
J. How will you describe this system?
S. As qualification for any work can only be ascertained by referring to the work itself, let me ask you to repeat what your work is to be, as a preacher of the Gospel.
J. The explanation of various portions of Scripture, and the application to the conscience of the truths which they contain, and all in reference to the salvation of the soul, as the great object to be secured.
S. You have to communicate truth to others ?
S. But you cannot communicate what you do not yourself understand ?
J. Undoubtedly not.
S. The knowledge of the truth which you have to teach is, then, in the very first instance, indispensable?
J. Assuredly so.
S. And this truth, so known by you, is to be communicated to others; and that, not carelessly, nor even in reference to its simple perception, but impressively, and in reference to the accomplishment of a most important object. It will be necessary, therefore, that you understand
the best mode of communicating truth, especially such truth as it will be your duty to communicate, and in reference to such objects as it will be your duty to propose ?
J. All this is undeniable.
S. Thus far, then, our way is clear. Looking at your proper work, and at those intellectual qualifications which are necessary for its efficient performance, it appears that you must yourself be well acquainted with the truth; for if you kreow it not, neither can you make it known: and you must likewise be aware of those methods by which it may be most effectually communicated; that is, most clearly, and most impressively. Your studies, therefore, must relate to the acquisition of knowledge, and to the communication of knowledge. Generally, when engaged in any particular branch of study, if you pause, and ask yourself the question,—To what is my present study to be referred? the answer will very likely be one of these three :—The study you are pursuing may refer directly to the truth which you have to preach; or, It may refer to the best method of preaching it; or, It may refer to those rules of mental discipline and order which serve equally to guide you in seeking for truth, and in making it known when found. Thus, in whatever order you may sometimes be obliged to receive your specimens, their place in the cabinet will depend, not on the time when they were collected, but on their respective nature. You thus systematize the knowledge which you are obliged to receive irregularly.
J. Of course, I am not to understand you as undervaluing a systematic attention to study, where it is practicable ?
S. By no means. In the earlier days of your ministry, especially, you must, as far as possible, form to yourself a plan of study both minute and comprehensive, and extending over a considerable space of time. But I wish you to be prepared for the worst. Circumstances may prevent any continuous adherence to a carefully-adjusted scheme for the employment of your time; and for this you must be prepared. And in later life, when your engagements, as I have intimated, will unavoidably be more numerous, as well as such as that you cannot refuse to attend to them, a
woll-ordered mind will never be desultory, even in the midst of the most irregular circumstances. And thus, so long as the power of mental application is continued to you, so long may you be, if not a close, yet a regular, and a truly improving, student.
MINISTERIAL STUDIES, WHETHER DIRECTLY OR COLLATERALLY,
ARE STILL TO BE BIBLICAL.
S. But we must now examine the subjects which it will be your duty to study, endeavouring both to enumerate and to classify them. And let me begin by reminding you again of what I have said on the subject of self-education. Gibbon, the historian, has rightly said, that “every man who rises above the common level, has received two educations: the first from his teachers; the second, more personal and important, from himself.” I can now only give you an outline. The filling it up, as a system of study, and the observance of it, as one part of your rule of life, must be your own work.
Let me ask you to repeat the text which we have already taken, as so briefly, but luminously and impressively, describing the work of a Christian preacher.
J. You mean that which occurs in the fourth chapter of the second Epistle to the Corinthians: “By manifestation of the truth, commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God?”
S. Yes. It teaches you what you have to preach,—the truth. The expression has, of course, a definite, specific meaning. It refers, so to speak, to a particular kind of truth. If you lectured on astronomy, it would be your duty to state the truth, so far as you knew it. If on natural philosophy, if on political economy, still the same rule would apply,—you are to manifest the truth. But St. Paul does not refer to truth thus generally?
J. Certainly not. He refers to religious truth.
S. Yes; and to religious truth considered as mercifully made known to man for his instruction and salvation. It is not necessary just now that we examine what that truth
is particularly. Its general character will be sufficient. A glance at the connexion of the passage will show you
that he refers to that system of revealed truth which is distinctively termed evangelical; the truth by which men are to be saved. Recollecting this, let us advance a step. Where is this truth to be found ?
J. You have just now suggested the reply. You spoke of this truth as revealed. This revelation we have in the holy Scriptures.
S. Turn to St. Paul's second Epistle to Timothy, the third chapter, and read the last three verses.
J. “And that from a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness : that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”
S. “Able to make thee wise unto salvation.” That which, as dwelling in us, is wisdom, -as proposed to us, to be received and known by us, is truth. This, therefore, is in holy Scripture.
J. St. Paul refers here, primarily, does he not, to the Old Testament?
S. Undoubtedly. But, for our present purpose, we may take the assertion as a general truth, referring as well to the completed canon,—the entire volume of inspired Scripture. The Old Testament had the power of “ making wise unto salvation, you will perceive, “ through faith in Christ Jesus.” And to the Old Testament, as the sacred canon, the Apostles were always accustomed to refer. Our Lord, after his resurrection, “opened their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures." (Luke xxiv. 45.) He enabled them to perceive that they had not to preach what was, strictly speaking, new truth, now for the first time made known; but truth which had previously (shall I say, in various germinant forms?) been made known. He taught them (and we are not to omit the consideration of the subsequent descent of the Holy Ghost) how they were to apply
-to amplify,—to connect into system, what God had been pleased to state in the Scriptures of the preparatory dispensation, in the writings of Moses, in the Psalms, in the writings of the Prophets, and which all related to himself. (Luke xxiv. 25-27; 44-47.) And thus, in the Acts of the Apostles, we find that Paul was accustomed to reason “out of the Scriptures,” and that Apollos was “ mighty in the Scriptures;" so that at one place, Berea, the hearers are commended, for that “they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily,” for the
purpose of ascertaining “whether these things were so.” Thus, too, in his first Epistle to the Corinthians, in the fifteenth chapter, St. Paul very emphatically says, “I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures.". I cannot notice these significant phrases without being reminded of the evident rule of the Jewish dispensation, as asserted by Isaiah : (chap. viii. 20 :) “ To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” It is to the Bible, therefore, that you are to come, that as the Christian prophet you may, as it were, “ hear the word at the mouth of God, and give” the people warning from him." J. This, then, is to be my first and principal study?
S. Undoubtedly. If you wish to be a useful and acceptable minister of Jesus Christ, you must be “mighty in the Scriptures.” Your duty is to “preach the word;" and where but in the written word, the word of inspiration, can you learn the will of God, which, as a message, you are to deliver in his name? Good Bishop Jewell says, “The truth must be spoken, not lies; the Scriptures, not fables; the precepts of the highest God, and not the dreams of men. For religion is to be ordered, not by our judgment, but by the word of God.” “Therefore it is, that all the Scriptures do move us so often and so diligently, that we neither add anything to the word of God, nor take aught therefrom, nor that we bow to the right hand, or to the left. Neither