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Let us therefore assent to any doctrine though it be above the reach of our conceptions, and endeavour to obey every precept however opposite to our inclinations ; because they are “ the words of that God who cannot lie, and who will have all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Another rule, no less important to enable us to read the scriptures with advantage, is, to divest ourselves of prejudice either for or against certain opinions which we may entertain. Many persons are so far misled by erroneous principles which they have imbibed in their childhood, that they wrest the scriptures to the most unnatural and perverted meaning, in order to support their preconceived sentiments. They will establish some general truth from an ambiguous expression, which they do not understand, and whose signification is entirely different from that which they attach to it. If we would not therefore “ handle the word of God deceitfully,” let us beware of interpreting it in a manner agreeable to our own fancy; let us read it in the spirit of simplicity, and with a sincere desire to comprehend its import. For this purpose, let us never impose on any text or passage such a sense as is contrary to right reason, or to other texts more clear and numerous ; let us consider the intention of the writer, and the subject-matter of discussion, and make every particular phrase consistent with the general topic of the argument.
To assist us in this, we may often derive edification from the exposition of a judicious commentator, with which therefore we should furnish ourselves for this purpose. But it is advisable that Christians of ordinary talents should rather study the practical places of scripture, than the controversial; and endeavour to instil into their hearts the holy maxims which are therein recommended. The scriptures were written chiefly with the design of renewing us in the spirit of our minds, by prescribing the attainment of such good dispositions as may render us meet for the heavenly inheritance. They contain alsą
, indeed, the method of our reconciliation with God through
of salvation only to those who obey him." Therefore, as the scriptures describe the measure and extent of that obedience, we should search and examine them for knowing what is therein required of us, and we shall find them
profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, and be thoroughly furnished to all good works.”
Let us also try ourselves often by the rules of the gospel, that we may discover wherein we offend, and what we neglect; let us think of these things at our leisure moments, and form a serious and persevering purpose to adhere with greater constancy to every obligation; and never cease our determination after well-doing, till we be fully confirmed in the practice of virtue.
Finally, as we are insufficient of ourselves to do any thing of ourselves, and as our sufficiency is of God; let us pray for the illumination of the Holy Spirit, that he may shew us wondrous things out of God's law : and let us depend upon divine assistance to perfect strength in our weakness, and enable us to will and to do God's good pleasure.
That we may be induced to apply these rules to practice, consider,
IV. The advantages derived from studying the scrip, tures successfully
These are many and important. Thereby we shall gain an acquaintance with the various perfections of the Almighty, and the methods which he has adopted to govern mankind in every age of the world. Thereby we shall obtain information respecting our present state and future destiny, with the wonderful scheme of our redemption, undertaken and accomplished by Jesus Christ our Lord. Thereby we may learn, how we may obtain an interest in that covenant of mercy which is well ordered in all things and sure, and how we may regain the favour of God and the kingdom of heaven. Is it not the most signal advantage, that we have such a revelation of the divine will, as informs us with certainty on these important subjects, so that we can now ascertain every thing requisite for settling our doubts, and “ filling us with peace
“ and joy in believing ?”
If we read the scriptures, and receive them as the word of the living God, we shall rely on every discovery therein made “ as a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation.” If also we read them with the sincere intention of knowing our duty, we shall be instructed in every obligation required of us, and taught what is well-pleasing in the sight of God. By them also inay we understand the privileges and consolations which are the inheritance of the righteous, with the awful doom of the ungodly and impenitent. By reading them daily, we may be induced by the motives and sanctions they contain, to lead the life of the righteous," that our latter end
“ that our latter end may be peace.” From them we may be furnished with constant subjects of contemplation for our understandings, and of exercise for our dispositions and affections, till we be renewed in the spirit of our minds, and prove what is the good and acceptable, and perfect will of God. Let us then search the scriptures, for therein we shall find directions for the attainment of everlasting life, and by their admonitions be made wise unto salvation.
ON PUBLIC WORSHIP, ,
HEB. X. 25. Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together
as the manner of some is.
IT is a wise appointment in the Christian church, that one day in seven has been set apart for the purpose of religious instruction ; and that men, duly qualified for performing this office, are ordained “to the work of the ministry, for the edification of the body of Christ.” Places for the public worship of God have been erected, in which the faithful may meet together for joining in acts of devotion; and receiving information respecting those truths which are able to make them wise unto salvation. Great are the advantages of the institutions for the service of the sanctuary, and every religious man will be ready to acknowledge with the pious David : "how amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts! a day in thy courts is better than a thousand spent in the tents of wiekedness.” Highly have the opportunities afforded by the Christian sabbath, for waiting upon God, been esteemed by every one who wished to improve in knowledge, and grow in grace; and as long as people are careful to frequent the assemblies of the saints, they will maintain upon their minds a sense of religion, and be stirred up to the practice of holiness. The lessons of instruction which are there communicated, will teach them at least the knowledge of their duty, and if they be duly attentive to treasure them up in their hearts, will excite them to love and to good works. The external services
which Christianity prescribes, have hitherto supported the public profession of it among mankind; and been accompanied with the divine blessing for the conversion of sinners, and building up the saints in their most holy faith.
If such are the beneficial consequences of a due improvement of the services enjoined on the Christian sabbath ; is it not wonderful that many who profess to believe the gospel, and expect to share in the blessings which it promises, can from week to week forsake the assemblies of the faithful under the most frivolous pretences, and thus neglect the most precious seasons for confirming their faith, strengthening their virtue, and exciting their obedience ? Many will spend the sabbath at home in the most useless and unprofitable manner, when they might as easily convene in the house of God, and hear the words of everlasting life. This practice, to the credit of the people in our country, is not yet general; and every one who wishes to secure the favour of God and man, still deems it his duty to go to the sanctuary of God, and inquire in his temple. They will profit by engaging in its sacred offices; and may hope to obtain the blessing from on high, for the respect which they pay to the worship of their Maker. But there are not a few who care for none of these things; who absent themselves, if not regularly, at least very frequently, for no valid excuse; and thus receive no advantage from the public services and instructions, which are the appointed means of religious improvement.
Some may allege, that they are already sufficiently informed on every topic which can be discussed in a religious discourse, and therefore it is in vain to spend their time in attendance on the sanctuary. But let such persons consider, that it is not so much with the intention of learning new truths,' as of impressing those already known more deeply on their minds, that they should come up hither, and join in the solemn exercises of prayer and praise to the Father of their spirits.-Others may excuse themselves, that the preacher does not render his instructions useful; that either the subject is uninte