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to follow such doctrines. When a precept is given, you will very generally find it connected with some one or other of the peculiar principles of the scriptures, Thus the introduction to the decalogue is, I am the Lord thy God, who brought &c. The principles are evangelical and spiritual. You may observe in every part of the Bible the utmost freedom in insisting on duties, without any fear of thereby weakening doctrines which might have the appearance of an opposing view. Men are in all cases called, if they would not perish, to give up their sins and turn to God; and yet the worst sinners are offered a free pardon. Our plan is not scriptural unless we can readily act thus.
Yet TRUTH IS STATED IN MANY DIFFERENT FORMS. There is an advantage in this, as it is adapted thus to the various characters of men. God gives to each of his servants their proper gift. There are varied gifts in the sacred writers; the meek Moses, the devotional David, the eloquent Isaiah, the plaintive tender Jeremiah, the fervent Paul, the practical James, and the seraphic John, vary much in the character of their writings ; but they deliver the same truths, and the common features of Christianty are still preserved by each. There may be very different gifts, and yet all be scripturally used. There may be much diversity of statement without any departure from the analogy of faith.
And thus it is in human writers in our day. There is the practical holiness of Walker of Truro, and the evangelical glow of Hervey; yet both according to the same analogy of faith. There is the doctrinal clearness of Perkins, and the devotion of Thomas a Kempis ; and yet both built on one foundation.
It is not therefore, the mode of expression arising
from the natural character of the writer, but the mode of its statement in connexion with Christ Jesus, and harmonizing with the general features of the gospel, which constitutes the character of scriptural divinity.
We conclude with a practical remark : HOW MUCH SHOULD WE STUDY THE SCRIPTURES that our mind may be embued with the train of thought, and the very spirit of the sacred writers. Erroneous and unscriptural views arise from leaning to our own understanding and the love of sin. Let us then read the Bible more with earnest petitions for the aid of that Holy Spirit, under whose inspiration this holy book was first written, so shall we leave beneath us the littleness of human systems, and ascend to the majesty, and see the glory, and taste the sweetness, of the Divine Word.
The influence of practical holiness on the acquisition, of religious knowledge, has already been pointed out in the second chapter of this work, and all that was there said will tend to show the importance of studying those works, the direct aim of which is to promote personal religion. The knowledge which is directly and immediately connected with our duty and our salvation, is the first thing which, as Christian students, we have to learn.
The scriptures in this, as well as in every other respect, justly claim precedence, as the best book of devotions, and the most practical work that can be read. Next to the scriptures, the most heart-moving, and spiritual, and evangelical treatises that we can procure, treatises which many of the older writers furnish on such practical topics as conversion, prayer, temptation, death, the Saint's Rest, the Saviour, the Christian armour, contemplations on the scriptures, &c. &c. should be daily read.
To furnish his mind with knowledge is but one part of the work of the Christian student. If this be all his aim, it may qualify him to shine among men, and to dispute, and, with some advantages, contend with those around him; but its result will only be to inflate him with pride, and disqualify him for the indispensable exercise of humility and love.
To affect the heart aright, is the more important part of study, and for this end, after prayer for the Holy Spirit and study of the Divine records, such books as we have mentioned must be read, and read in the spirit of seriousness, self-examination, and prayer, that thus we may be brought nearer to God.
It is the fault of many systems of divinity, and many plans of study, that they leave out this more important part. Whether it be from overvaluing knowledge, or thinking this less needful for immediate use, it is however, evident that students have not frequently had pressed on their attention, the great importance of studying practical and devotional works. The pious Ludolf has observed that the learned generally read authors, more out of a vain itch to fill their heads with knowledge and a party scheme, than with intent
to improve their hearts in love, wisdom, humility, and meekness.'1 - Such studies are in truth eminently needful for our real happiness and daily usefulness. If the heart be raised to communion with God, there is the best preparation for a spiritual discernment of the nature and value of the various sentiments, which in the course of other studies are brought before the mind. - Those books are mainly useful, those studies of prime importance, which directly tend to regulate the heart, to raise the flame of inward devotion, which make us more spiritually-minded, more holy, and more heavenly. This course of study is most calculated to discover to us that interior truth of God's word which is often least of all revealed to those who are learned in critical disputation, and wholly engaged in verbal niceties. Indeed all the accomplishments of human learning may leave a man utterly devoid of spiritual knowledge, and under the full power of a corrupt heart.
We are ready to think that time is lost in practical studies. By no means. It is not a loss, but a gain of time to read pious and devout works. Very often we shall find even the very doctrines of the gospel more usefully, more wisely, and more soberly stated, than in direct controversial treatises on the subject, and they help us to acquire that state of mind which is essential to the right reception of truth.
It was a remark made to the Author by a pious friend, the Rev. Legh Richmond, now gone to his reward, when I told him of this work— Let me beg
1 See Ludolf's Remains, p. 69.
you, to press devotion of heart-devotional works; most students are dry and intellectual, and lose the best fruits of their studies.'
This study should therefore be intermingled with all our other studies, and our leisure time on the Sabbath should be especially consecrated to it. It is a great temptation to diligent students to appropriate part of the Sabbath to those studies in which they are specially engaged during the week. Such a temptation should be strenuously resisted, and the retired hours of the Sabbath be given to devotional works. So shall we find a blessing on all our other studies. Our Saviour has declared that if any man will do his will he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God, it will help us to do his will, and so rightly to understand the scriptures, daily and especially on Sundays to peruse the most holy and spiritual treatises with which we can meet, such as Doddridge's Rise and Progress, Beveridge's Private Thoughts, Owen on Communion with God, Leighton's Peter, Adam's Private Thoughts, Kempis's Imitation of Christ, Serle’s Horæ Solitariæ, Halyburton's Life, and similar works.
Baxter justly remarks in a book which cannot be wholly approved (his Confession of Faith), Practice is the excellent help to be truly orthodox. The practical experimental preachers and people do hold fast those truths to salvation which opinionatists and mere disputers are either wholly drawn from, or hold but speculatively, and detain in unrighteousness to their own perdition.' He adds, the godly and learned do lose that truth too often in disputations which before they held in sober practice.'
All who have deeply engaged in study have felt its tendency to draw the heart from God : so to occupy