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Temple, and read before the king, the contents of it were strange to him, and, as it should seem, to the persons about his court;-and the partial reformation which took place during his reign was the effect produced by the reading of it.
Such was the case in the Israelitish and Jewish Churches. According as the Sacred Scriptures— the written word of God-were brought before the people or suppressed, just notions respecting God, or the contrary, prevailed-the worship of the One God, or of idols-and a corresponding purity or impurity of morals. And the remark may be extended, with equal truth, to the Christian Church. Whenever and wherever the Sacred Scriptures have been diligently read and faithfully expounded, men have been preserved from outward idolatry; and many, even of the most unlearned in human things, have been brought to a right knowledge of divine truth, and have manifested its efficacy in a holy and consistent life and conversation. But wherever the Sacred Scriptures have been kept out of sight, or admitted only in an unknown tongue, there a darkness, little
better than that of heathenism, has prevailed, even amongst the most learned, over the light of divine truth; the worship of angels and men, represented by images of wood and stone, has gradually almost superseded the worship of the True God; and doctrines and practices have been introduced as a part of Christianity, than which nothing could be invented more contrary to the real doctrines and the spirit of the Religion of Jesus Christ.
It is a national blessing, for which we cannot be sufficiently thankful, that, in our own country, considerable portions of the Sacred Scriptures are appointed to be read in the course of the Church Service. So long as our Church shall thus hold forth the word of God in a pure unadulterated state, we may humbly hope that the light of God's countenance will rest upon her. These portions of Sacred Scripture, publicly read, form the best human security against any general departure from the truth of God. If, at any time, our doctrine delivered from the pulpit do not accord with these, we are rebuked, as we ought to be, by the
word of God contradicting us before the congregation.
Our Church says to you, Brethren, and to all her Children: "To the Law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them*." By that let our preaching be judged. If it agree not with that, we are found "false witnesses before God"; but if it agree with that, remember, that it is not our own: it is the word of God; and it will judge you at the Last Day: it will be, to all that hear it, 66 a savour of life unto life," or of "death unto death."
But it is time for me to proceed to a more particular view of this subject. It is much more as individuals, than as members of this or that portion of the Church of Christ, that we have to do with this and other passages of Sacred Scripture. Persons may be members of a Church which does generally withhold from the people the word of God, and yet they may individually have been
* Is. viii. 20.
turned from darkness to light. That this is the case with numbers of the Romish Church, there can be no reasonable doubt. Notwithstanding the errors and inconsistencies of the community to which they externally belong, they have received, in the love of it, so much of the word of God as preserves them from the injurious tendency of the doctrines held by the same Church, which are opposed to it. On the other hand, there are many professed members of our own truly Scriptural Church whose spirit and sentiments are directly opposed to the plain declarations of the word of God, as well as to the Articles and other formularies in which the doctrines of our Church are embodied. Like the Jews of old, they may say— "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, are these*," and they may brand with the charge of heterodoxy all who differ from themselves, while they themselves have "neither part nor lot in the matter." Indeed, so long as any one remains willingly under the power of sin, whatever be the community of Christians to which he nominally belongs, he himself
* Jeremiah vii. 4.
is in darkness: and if he profess to see, his sin is, on that account, the greater. "If ye were blind," said our Lord to certain Pharisees, “ ye should have no sin but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth*."
As long as there is a determination in the mind not to receive any truth which is opposed to the wishes and inclinations of the heart, so long there is a bar to the effectual entrance of the light of God's word: it is quenched, like the light of a candle when taken into foul air. But when the word of God enters into a heart open to receive it, it produces the effects mentioned in the text: "it gives light and understanding :” it imparts all needful information, on the subjects on which a man is most materially interested-his real condition in relation to Godhis actual wants, and the ample provision made for them in the Gospel. It discovers to him these things, not as matters to be coldly assented to, but as things in which the very life of his soul is concerned. Not only does it enlighten the
*John ix. 41.