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ledge of his righteous statutes; and by representing to our minds the reasonableness and propriety of upright obedience, we shall be constrained to act according to our several obligations. By meditating daily on religious truths, our hearts shall be imbued with religious principles; by preparing ourselves every morning for discharging thë duties and resisting the temptations of life, we shall act our part with integrity and innocence; by reviewing in the evening the actions of the day, we shall learn circumspection, and maintain a conscience void of offence.—By comparing, on the sabbath, our hearts and lives with the rule of God's commandments, we shall discover wherein we transgress, and wherein we observe them; -by taking a retrospect of our past behaviour on days of fasting and humiliation, we shall form resolutions of new obedience ;-and by anticipating at certain seasons the trials which await us during the remainder of our days, we shall be enabled to undergo them with Christian fortitude:
-And when we come to die, we shall then have the comfort to look back upon a well spent life with satisfaction, and have nothing then to do but wait till our change come, and at the hour of our departure resign our souls into the hands of our Redeemer, with the joyful expectation of everlasting life. If such be the issue of considering our ways, let us all be persuaded to live the life of the righteous, that our latter end may be peace.
ON READING THE SCRIPTURES.
JOHN V. 39.
MANKIND are a race of beings, who, from accidental circumstances, are both ignorant and wicked. Their faculties, when unimproved by education, are incapable of making any advances in the discovery of truth; and their hearts, when uninfluenced by religious principles, become the seat of corruption and depravity. Accordingly we find, that the barbarous nations of the world, who have had nothing but the light of nature to direct them, have remained in a state of ignorance respecting every species of knowledge both human and divine, and are little superior in mental excellence to the beasts that perish. Unacquainted with the character of God, who is the object of religious homage ; they conceive the most preposterous ideas of his nature, and institute superstitious observances in the mode of his worship. Uninstructed in right principles of morals; they are void of those sentiments of justice and benevolence, which are universally adopted in countries where Christianity has introduced civilization and refinement.
While the heathens are thus destitute of knowledge and virtue; we can boast of superior excellence in these valuable attainments, and almost regard ourselves as a different species of beings.' Now, what is the cause that has made this distinction betwixt intelligent creatures capable of the same improvement ? It is in a great measure owing to the influence which the scriptures have had in enlightening the minds of men, respecting the nature of the Supreme Being, in teaching us the relative and social duties of life, and enforcing the practice of universal holiness, by the sanction of a future retribution according to our works. Wherever the scriptures have been propagated, and received as the rule for directing human conduct, they have produced such reformation on the opinions and manners of men, as to indicate that “ they are the power of God, and the wisdom of God for our salvation.” And no wonder that their efficacy has been felt in turning men from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, when we consider that “ they are quick and powerful” to convince us of sin, and convert us to righteousness, “ being discerners of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” The scriptures are the word of God who cannot lie, dictated by inspiration to his servants the prophets, and in later times delivered by our Lord and his apostles ;—for all these “ spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” The several authors of the scripture revelation proved that God spake unto them, by those miracles which they performed in attestation of their mission,—the least of which no man could do, except God was with him.
When God thus condescended to instruct men in the knowledge of those truths, which concern their duty in the present world, and their' everlasting welfare in the world to come; it might be expected that he would disclose every thing necessary to be believed and practised for our edification and growth in grace. Accordingly, the scriptures contain a complete system of religion and morality, which is the purest and most excellent, that has ever been known either in ancient or modern times. In them the measure of our duty is so minutely described, as to extend to every circumstance and condition of life; -the precepts delivered are so easily understood, that become acquainted with subjects of the greatest importance, and ascertain with precision every thing relative to his best interests. By reading them attentively, and treasuring up their sacred admonitions in the heart, every one who is sincerely desirous to improve his character, may be furnished with directions for every good work. As they are the words of the living God, we may rely upon them as faithful sayings, and worthy of all acceptation; and as they contain every thing requisite to be known and practised for promoting our salvation; therefore we may be assured, that if a man do according to all that is written therein, he shall at last attain as the end of his obedience, the salvation of his soul. Since such is the value of the scriptures for all the purposes of the Christian life, it may be a useful exercise to investigate in the following discourse,
1. The complete system of religious instruction therein communicated.
II. The obligations under which we are to search the scriptures.
III. The manner in which this exercise should be performed.
IV. The advantages derived from studying the scriptures successfully.
I. The scriptures contain a complete system of religious instruction. They are accordingly said by an apostle, to be “ profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness.” If we examine the several subjects detailed in the sacred books, they will appear fully worthy of this character assigned them. They begin with an account of the creation of the universe by the power of God, which has settled all the doubts entertained by philosophers respecting the primary cause of the universe. They thereby represent the Almighty as the only object of religious homage, because he hath given being to man and other creatures, and constantly supports them by his unceasing care.—They next relate the history of our original progenitors, and the manner in which their nature became perverted, so as to
infect all their posterity with that moral pollutior, which we find inherent in every individual. This is a discovery of vast importance, since it teaches us that “ God made man upright, and that by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death hath passed upon all men, for that all have sinned."—We are then informed of the universal wickedness which prevailed in the earliest ages, by which God was provoked to sweep the race of mankind from the face of the earth by an overwhelming flood, and produce various changes upon the soil, climate, and atmosphere of the globe. Such a revolution as is described in sacred writ coincides with the phaenomena observable in the present arrangement of things, so that the credibility of the scripture records is corroborated by the testimony of our own experience. The re-peopling of the world by the descendants of Noah, and their dispersion into several countries in the manner related by the inspired historian, are facts which the traditions of all nations contribute to support; and the universal similarity of the human race in corporeal structure and mental endowments, proves that “God hath made of one blood all the people of the earth, and fixed the bounds of their habitation.”—The annals of the Jewish nation which are preserved in the writings of Moses, Joshua, and their successors, contain an instructive lesson concerning the particular providence which God exercises over mankind, whether as communities or individuals, and, by the prosperity or adversity which befel them according to their good or bad behaviour, demonstrate that while “ righteousness exalteth a nation, sin is the ruín of any people.” Thus, even the historical books of scripture, which are occupied in the recital of these events, are profitable for doctrine and instruction in righteousness.If we examine the devotional and practical, prophetical and apostolical books of the sacred canon, they will be found equally instructive for the purposes of rendering us wise unto salvation. Thus, the writings of Job express the most noble and magnanimous sentiments of resignation in the time of affliction, which may be usefully adopted by every one in a similar condition. The Psalms of David breathe a