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without shame—and sometimes, it is to be feared, with self-complacency-that they have not studied the fundamental principles of the Gospel: such things they will profess to leave to those whose professional business it is to study them. They will perhaps persuade themselves that the mysteriousness which they conceive to attach to the subject, will account for, and excuse, the vagueness and in
distinctness of their notions.
My Friends, if any of you are conscious that you are chargeable with such wilful ignorance-such indifference, shall I say?—with respect to the fundamental principles of the Gospel-that revelation from God, on the influential knowledge of which your everlasting happiness and misery depend I must testify to you, that ignorance and indifference on such a subject are most unreasonable, and highly offensive to God. The wildest enthusiast, who pays attention to the subject, acts more rationally than you do; and his lot in another world will probably be preferable to yours. If you are unacquainted with the principles of the Gospel, it is your own fault; and if you remain in wilful igno
rance, you will perish for lack of knowledge. If you really desire to be taught of God, you need not remain ignorant of any thing which it is necessary that you should know respecting the way of Salvation. While you are determined to hold fast any known error, or any known sin, you will remain ignorant;—so far, at least, that no knowledge which you can acquire will bring you nearer to God and heaven. God will not bless the means of instruction to you, not even His own word, so long as you continue in such a state of mind. But if, with a sincere desire of learning the will of God respecting your salvation, you improve the opportunities which you possess of hearing and reading the word of God in public and private-praying, at the same time, that the Spirit of God may lead you to the knowledge of the truth-abstaining from all known sin, and practising all known duty-you will assuredly be taught of God; you will be preserved from all fatal error; and guided into all necessary truth ; -things which now appear dark to you, will be made light-crooked things will be made straight. The direction and the promise are distinct: “If any you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth
to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him*."
I will conclude with the advice of the excellent Archbishop Leighton :-"I exhort, I beseech you, never to suffer so much as one day to pass, either through lazy ignorance, or too much eagerness in inferior studies, without reading some part of the Sacred Records with a pious and attentive disposition of mind; still joining with your reading, fervent prayer, that you may thereby draw down that divine light, without which spiritual things cannot be read and understood. But with that light shining upon them, it is not possible to comprehend how much sweeter you will find these inspired writings than those of all other orators, poets, and philosophers. They reason about imaginary felicity; and every one, in his own way, addresses some precarious and uncertain thoughts about it. But this Book alone shews clearly, and with absolute certainty, what it is; and points out the way which leads to the Author of it. This it was which prevailed with Augustine to study the Scriptures, and en
* James i. 5.
gaged his affections to them. "In Cicero and Plato, and such other writers," said he, "I meet with many things wittily said, and things that have a moderate tendency to move the passions; but in none of them do I find these words-"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' "