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place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah hath read: Because they have forsaken me, and have burnt incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore my wrath shall be kindled against this place, and shall not be quenched. But to the king of Judah, which sent you to inquire of the Lord, thus shall ye say to him, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, As touching the words which thou hast heard; Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before the Lord, when thou heardest what I spake against this place and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before me; I also have heard thee, saith the Lord. Behold, therefore, I will gather thee unto thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace; and thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place.” (2 Kings xxij. 15--20.) The like say we concerning the sacred canon, which now, blessed be the Lord, every one who now heareth me possesseth, and readeth in his mother tongue. Be assured, brethren, that the use or the abuse of that book, the belief or the disbelief of its marvellous records, the meditation or neglect of its wisdom, the obedience or disobedience of its commandments, the receiving or rejecting of its doctrines concerning the state of nature and of grace, must work an effect of good or evil upon the heart, beyond all other causes whatever, and go either to deepen and improve, or to waste and scourge the soil. For, where God's most precious words of truth have become indifferent to the heart, perhaps odious to the very hearing of a man, what a state it proves him to be in, and how very far from the kingdom of heaven! And when we have time for all manner of converse with our family, our friends, and neighbours, but none for converse with the word of God, how engrossed with base preferences, and how abject in our desires it proveth us to be! And what miserable masters it proveth us to be enthralled unto, and how delighted with their bondage, when, for the word of redemption and Divine recovery from death, we have no ear at all!
The word of God, I make no doubt therefore, is both a great preparation for the Sower, and its estimation is a true witness to him of those who are worthy of his seed, and of those who are worthless.— I am not now speaking of the word of God when it hath begun to quicken; for then it becometh seed, not soil : “ The seed is the word of God.” I am speaking of it while as yet it is food to the understanding of the mind, a delight to the feelings of the heart, and a guide to the unrenewed will of man; the support of a good character, the rule of a moral life; the great basis of truth and morals, of laws and customs; such as we have experienced it to be unto all, even the unregenerate, of this island, and especially in the northern parts of it, for the last two centuries. And of its effects I will say, that all the books which have been written, and all the traditions which are not written, but live from mouth to mouth, are but as a drop in the bucket, when compared with the Scriptures, in restraining the wickedness of the natural man, and permitting the oppressed reason to bring forth those fruits of wisdom and worth to which in itself it is equal. The light of truth which
speaketh in the Holy Scriptures, the weight of wisdom with which every part of it is burdened, the lineaments of manly beauty which shine in its examples, the marvellous might of God's manifold doings, and the sublime majesty with which he is clothed, all the stupendous acts of judgment, and the yet more stupendous acts of mercy; the perfect comprehension which the word of God hath of manhood, and the truth, the manifest truth, of all its counsels unto sinful man, the encouragement of its numerous promises, the infinitude of its rewards; the awful depth of its mysteries which swallow up the visible, and the intelligible, as it were, in a boundless abyss of meditation; and withal its perfect plainness, and straight-forward intention, and application to all practical things,and every-day occurrences;—these grand peculiarities, and others of the like character, do give to the holy Scriptures, merely considered as a book for storing up the gifts of reason, and educing the good of the present life, such an immense superiority over all other books, that I do wonder with exceeding great admiration, how any parent or schoolmaster, law-giver or magistrate, or any other entrusted with the care and well-being of immortal souls, should stand for a moment in doubt concerning their duty to make it the basis of all their undertakings and the guide of all their endeavours.
For my own part, I, as a minister of Christ, having my commission from the great Head of the church, and my standing under one of the ancient establishments of this land, do exhort you, my flock, and all who come hither to hear the word of God at my mouth, to make no tarrying, if
you have not already begun, to read the word of God every day in the hearing of your assembled household, men, women, and children ; and to require a strict observance and obedience of all its statutes, conforming yourselves diligently thereto : and though it be not yours to touch the heart, or to quicken the seed, rest assured that you will be blessed to produce the lower fruits of reason, which God doth not disregard, soundness and health of mind, honesty of heart, subordination of the will, correct judgments of men, charitable ways of thinking and feeling concerning things, right dispositions, and an upright walk and conversation. And you cannot conceive what delicacy, yet freedom of intercourse between young men and young women, what chastity, yet liberty of discourse, what self-command, and self-restraint, what playfulness of wit, and sportiveness of fancy, and cheerful humours of the mind spring up in the bosom of a people whose hot and violent passions are brought and kept under subjection by the fear of God, and reverence of his holy word. These, I allow, are not fruits from heaven, but from earth: they belong to the fallen reason, not to the quickened spirit; yet are they good in their kind, though not fit for the garner of God; and as the lichen, and the moss, and the blades of grass, which, by oft growing and oft decaying, do at length cover the face of the rock with such a depth of vegetable mold as maketh it apt to produce wheat, and oats, and barley, for the use of man, so by the much producing of their fruits of honesty, purity, morality, and kindness, a soil is produced of a sufficient depth and proper quality for receiving the seed of the word. And to the houses of such worthy men God sendeth sowers of the seed; and it taketh root, and the Holy
Ghost watereth it, and there a fruitfulness commenceth which is to the praise and the glory of our Father in heaven. Do not therefore, dear brethren, in the training of your children and your households, weary
your patience, or fall from your stedfastness, because you see no fruit of Divine grace, but go on doing what man can do, and praying for what God only can give, resting assured that in due time
ye faint not.
2. Next to the diligent use of God's word, I place the converse and communion, the living voice and visible actions of his church. I do not mean the ordinances of public worship, of which I have not yet come to speak, but our daily intercourse with those who fear the Lord, and are, so far as man can judge, walking in his covenant; the saints, the excellent ones of the earth, those who bear the vessels of the Lord : amongst whom I place, first, the ministers of the Gospel; to whose discourse in private, as well as in public, you ought to give good heed,- for the lips of the priest should keep knowledge, and men should receive the law at their mouth. Next stand the rulers in God's house, who occupy the places appointed by Christ in his church ; in whom you may expect to find the grace of rule and authority and watchful care to be reposed, for the profit of the Lord's heritage: and after them, the heads of families in the congregation of the Lord's house, in whom, according to their years and gravity, you may expect the experience of the past age to be treasured up, and its wisdom to be chronicled ; every man according to the gift which the Spirit hath divided unto him, and according