صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

painful consequence of admitting Scripture to be true should, in this case, at all operate to prejudice the understanding and judgment; the joyful consequence resulting thence should also operate as a balance against that prejudice. Let us then not only admit the truth, but admit it with the greatest cordiality and joy.-Once more,

(3.) Persuaded of their divine authority, with what respect and veneration should we treat the holy Scriptures !

The indecent liberties which many take with this book, who yet would be considered as the friends of it, cannot be enough lamented. With that levity, if not affectation of wit, do some interweave the language of Scripture with their familiar discourse! And how irreverently do others bring forward, into all companies where they come, the sublime truths of the Bible, starting difficulties with no other view than to display their dexterity at an argument! Some we hear excepting against this and some against that part of Scripture, upon pretences which, if admitted, would shake our faith in the divine authority of the whole, or however deprive us of the advantage it was meant we should reap from it as a divine test. Some we see putting the most unnatural force on particular passages of holy writ, to answer the purposes of a party, a system, or a favourite opinion. Some attempting to extract that from Scripture which no sober man can persuade himself was ever in it. Some converting plain history into symbolic prophecy. And some creating doubts in their hearers of the most substantial truths of religion, if not exposing them to scorn, by grounding them on the mere circumstances of an allegory or parable.

These, and many other freedoms which men take with their Bibles, cannot be enumerated without giving pain to a serious mind. But to what are they owing? To the want, no doubt, of that reverence for the holy Scriptures which their divine authority demands. Let us then, while we are lamenting these evils, cherish in our breasts that ardent piety which is the best antidote against them. Let us read the Bible, hear its truths and duties discoursed of, and talk of them to one another, with an awe of God upon our spirits. Nor let us attempt, with levity and indiscretion, even the defence of the sacred oracles, remembering what befel Uzzah when he inconsiderately put forth his hand to hold up the ark of the Lord when the oxen shook it a. In fine, let us charge it upon ourselves to listen to the voice of God in his word, with that reverence the Israelites felt, when Jehovah deigned himself to pronounce the ten commandments in their hearing on the holy mount; and at the same time with that sacred pleasure which glowed in the bosoms of the disciples, when they heard the gracious words which proceeded from the lips of Jesus in che synagogue of Nazareth.

DISCOURSE IV,

THE VARIOUS USE OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES CON

SIDERED.

2 TIM. III. 16, 17.- 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, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. IN

our former discourses on this subject, we have explained the phrase all Scripture, shewn you of what books the Bible consists, and by what rules we are to be guided in fixing the sacred canon. So we have proceeded to ascertain the scripture meaning of the word inspiration, and to consider the nature and intent of this divine influence, so far as it relates to the committing the will of God to writing. From hence we have gone on, in the last discourse, to prove that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are thus inspired. And we aro now,

a 2 Sam. vi. 6, 7.

IV. To consider the true and proper Use of the Scriptures.

They are profitable, the text says, for doctrine a, that is, for the

purpose of instructing us in the fundamental principles of religion. For reproof, or conviction b as the word might be rendered, that is, for possessing us of criteria or arguments for the fully convincing our judgments of the absurdity and dadger of errors opposed to those truths. For the apostle had been speaking of those who resisted the truth, men of corrupt minds, reprobate, or of no judgment, concerning the faith C; and of evil men and seducers, who should wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived d.—They are useful further for correction e, that is, for reproving or setting men right in regard of irregularities of conduct, which are here pointed out, exposed, and authoritatively guarded against.-And for instruction in righteousness f, that is, for the purpose of leading us on step by step, as children under the instruction of a skilful master, in the path of divine knowledge, piety, and holiness.

And such is the use of Scripture to the man of God, to every godly man who devoutly reads it, but especially to the Christian minister, who seems here chiefly intended by this honourable character; for the apostle had been particularly speaking of the knowledge which Timothy had acquired in the Scriptures, and in the words after the text exhorts him with great earnestness to the duties of an evangelist or preacher of the gospel. Now the Bible is singularly profitable to the man of God, to him who makes it his constant study : for hereby he becomes perfect, a complete well instructed minister, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed g; thoroughly furnished or fitted for every good work, or service proper to his function as a minister of Christ. Such is, I think, the obvious sense of the text.

Nor should we here forget to take notice of the apostle's commendation of the sacred Scriptures in the preceding verse, For having spoken of Timothy's knowing them from a child, he adds, that they were able to make him wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus. Upon which passage

[ocr errors]

c Ver. 8.

α Διδασκαλία». .
ε επανόρθωσιν.

και έλεγχο». .
f παιδειαν την εν δικαιοσύνη.

d Ver. 13.
& 2 Tim. ii. 15.

it is natural to observe, that the apostle clearly establishes the generally acknowledged connection between the Old and New Testament, and plainly intimates that the former receives its principal use from its reference to the latter, that is, to Jesus Christ the Messiah; for it is by faith in him that those Scriptures are able to make us wise unto salvation.

Having thus briefly explained the terms by which the apostle sets forth the excellence and utility of the Scriptures, let us proceed to a more particular consideration of this pleasing subject. And here I shall speak of the advantages which mnankind in general derive from the Bible—and then of its use to individuals. On the latter of these we shall chiefly insist.

FIRST, As to mankind in general. The advantages, civil, political, and moral which they derive from this sacred book, are much greater and more universal than is commonly imagined. It may

be difficult to throw ourselves back into a state of nature, and to determine precisely what would be our ideas and feelings in that situation. But it is probable that thus circumstanced we should put three kinds of questions to ourselves.The first, questions of fact. “ How came I into existence ? How came this world into existence? Who existed before me? What is their history? Who will follow me? And what will happen to succeeding generations ?”—The second would be questions respecting our powers, interests, and obligations as placed in civil society, and having a mutual dependance on each other. " Formed as

the same plan with many beings around me, How am I to behave towards them, so as to secure my own and their peace and happiness ?”—And probably the third and most important question would be, “ What will become of me after death? Is there a future state ? Shall I be miserable or happy in that state? And what is to be done to prevent the latter and secure the former ?”

Now the solution of these questions would have great effect on the civil interests of mankind. It would give existence to arts and sciences, and to those active exertions whereby the present life is relieved of many evils, and its happiness considerably augmented. And it would be followed with advantages of a moral kind the most important to the order and well-being

I am upon

of society. Wholly ignorant of these matters men would be selfish, fierce, and ungovernable. But with these lights, though but general and confused, they would become decent, civil, and sociable. Such has been the reasoning of wise and virtuous men in all ages.

From what source then was a satisfactory reply to these questions to be obtained ? Some of them could only be solved by a revelation from heaven, and others, considering the depraved state of mankind, would have been very imperfectly developed by the light of nature. But the Bible gives a full and elear reply to them all, and by so doing affords no small assistance to history, philosophy, policy, and morality.

As to history, the Bible is confessedly the most ancient book in the world. It begins with the creation, and carries us down through a series of near four thousand years to the grand period of the coming of the Messiah. An event this the most important that ever took place in our world, and which, by its connection with the preceding and subsequent events related in the histories and prophecies of the Bible, gives us the most complete and harmonious view of the administration of divine providence that can in the present life be contemplated by the mind of man. Take away the light this sacred book affords, and you know nothing about the creation of the world, the deluge, and the new-peopling this wide extended globe. You are deprived of many important informations respecting the Assyrian and Persian monarchies; of those noble predictions which have been fulfilling from the time of Daniel to the present period; and of all the light which that wonderful prophet, and our divine Saviour and his apostles have thrown on times yet to come, and on the grand scenes which are to close the whole. Am I rash then in affirming that, however the Bible was not given to make us historians, astronomers, or philosophers, yet the men who are most celebrated for their improvements in natural knowledge, have received no small assistance from these venerable records?

As to jurisprudence, or that kind of knowledge which is necessary for the founding and governing states, republics, and kingdoms; it flows from this fountain in a manner little

« السابقةمتابعة »