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to be seduced from “ the way of peace" by the vicious propensities of our own hearts; and " carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning crafti. ness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.”.
· As the best and only effectual security against these dangers, we are required to be much conversant with the scriptures ; attentively to examine, digest, and combine the seve. ral parts of the system they contain, and “prove what is that good, acceptable and perfect will of God.” For this purpose all partiality and prejudice must be discarded, whilst the law and the testimony” are uniformly consulted and cordially embraced, as the only infallible guide. ..'. :: Content not yourselves, therefore, with a partial survey of the exhaustless treasures of wisdom, which are laid open to your view ; but make," the testimonies of the Lord your delight and your counsellors.” Appeal to them, in all cases, not only as the highest authority for your religious belief, but as “a lamp to your feet, and a light to your path.” Suffer them always to speak their own meaning; nor let prepossession or vice pervert and obscure it. Engrave on your hearts their
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useful instructions, and often read and contemplate the practical rules which they prescribe for the government of your intentions and actions. Then shall “ youreyes be opened to behold wondrous things out of the divine law ;” and whilst your apprehensions of truth are corrected and enlarged, your knowledge and love of duty shall be proportionably increased.
II. This, agreeably to the second divi. sion of the subject, calls our attention to the utility of searching the scriptures. ..
1. One salutary effect of this duty is the production and confirmation of faith in Christ. Its tendency to this effect is particularly specified in the words which succeed and enforce the command to which our thoughts are directed. “ Search the scriptures ; for they are they which testify of me.” The prophets, under the Jewish dispensation, “ at sundry times, and in diverse manners,” foretold the advent and ministry of a glorious mediator between God and man. Each, in his turn, de. lineated some prominent feature of his character. One made mention of his genealogy, another of the time, and another of the place of his birth. This gave a general account of his life and actions ; that descended to partic
ulars, and brought into view the minute oc. currences, which were to mark his earthly pil. grimage. Most of them described the circumstances and ends of his death; and several, at least, predicted his resurrection from the grave, and ascension to heaven.
The exact completion of these prophecies, in the person of our Lord, is clearly demonstrated by the gospel history. It is impossi. ble to compare the one with the other, without perceiving a coincidence, adapted to force conviction upon every candid mind. The artless narrative of the evangelists necessarily remits the attentive reader to the anticipations of those " holy men of old, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” Whilst through a series of distant ages, he traces the progressive opening of a plan, early concerted for the redemption of a fallen world, till “the fulness of time was come,” and the promised Saviour appeared, he is inspired with grateful wonder, and believes, beyond a doubt, that “ this is indeed the Christ.”.
Beside the evidence derived from this source, « the works, which the Father gave him to finish, bear witness of him, that the Father hath sent him : For no man could do the miracles which he did, except God were
with him." To him, who is habitually conversant with his bible, these miracles, which occur in almost every page of the new testament, afford unequivocal and satisfactory proof of the divine original of the christian scheme. Nor is this all : The intrinsick excellence of the gospel code, the visible harmony of all its doctrines and laws, the unexampled purity of its morals, and the awful solemnity of its sanctions inspire him with the profoundest reve. rence for its gracious author ; and constrain him to acknowledge, without hesitation or reserve, “ that never man spake like this man." Weighed in this balance, the most elevated maxims of pagan philosophy are found essentially wanting ; and the true and only cause of that “pre-eminence in all things,” which is peculiar to Jesus of Nazareth, is seen and re. cognised in the divinity of his mission “to seek and save that which was lost.”
2. A distinct and comprehensive knowl.. edge of duty is also to be acquired by searching the scriptures.
On whatever" page we fix our eyes, they are met by instructions and commands, which transcend the noblest discoveries of unassisted reason, and fill the mind with exalted conceptions of the improvement and glory, for which
man is formed. These instructions and com. mands are presented in so many different forms, each imparting illustration and enforcement to others, that the most ordinary capacity can hardly fail of imbibing just sentiments of the nature and design of his being. " The testimonies of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple.” Those, who pay but a superficial attention to them, are known to have more correct and consistent views of religion and virtue, than the best informed moralists of the heathen world could boast. Certainly then, they, who not satisfied with the vague and indefinite notions, obtained by a cursory peru. sal, “ give themselves to reading ;" and “meditate on these things,” will not only « understand more than the ancients," but “ grow daily in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” Unlike others, who “err, not knowing the scriptures,” they are furnished with adequate rules for the direction of their conduct, in every situation. When tempted to “turn aside to the right hand, or to the left," some appropriate injunction, or example of inspiration recurs to memory, with all the authority of a miraculous voice from heaven, saying, “ this is :