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without the deeds of the law, they know well the merciful meaning of the words, that they can be and are forgiven when they come to Christ, even though in their deeds they are most unworthy of his acquittal. They feel that these words are spoken for the penitent; but he is no penitent who does not hate his sins, and in his heart cast them from him. They know that to whom is much forgiven the same will love much; but that—if there be a nature so base as to be moved by this free forgiveness not to love, but to a bolder ingratitude, then having been forgiven, he will therefore sin the more presumptuously: then St. Paul tells him, that thus building again the sins which were destroyed, he makes himself a transgressor, and that for such wilful and obstinate sin there is no second sacrifice: he was once freely justified, but forasmuch as he incurred obstinately a new account of guilt, he will be judged according to his deeds, and certainly condemned.
This is what the simple reader draws from St. Paul's epistles; whilst the unlearned and unstable, —those whom the Scripture calls “ fools,” a term never applied by it to the innocent deficiencies of the mere intellect, but to the moral errors and blindness of the heart,—they wrest them to their own destruction. But they wrest all Scripture also, and all God's gifts of every kind : “ To the impure and unbelieving is nothing pure, but even
their mind and conscience is defiled;" the evil is in themselves, and can only be removed by a change within. For those who are pure in heart, let them read St. Paul's epistles earnestly; they will find indeed passages which they may not understand, but nothing which they can wrest to their harm: they may not have the key to all the treasures of his wisdom, but they will find enough to make them wise unto salvation, and nothing to hinder them in their progress.
April 24th, 1836.
THE EPISTLES TO THE CORINTHIANS.
1 Corinthians, viii. 2.
If any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing
yet as he ought to knoo.
THOSE who are acquainted with that delightful book, the Pilgrim's Progress,—and who is there who is not acquainted with it?—will recollect that the Pilgrim is described as carrying the volume of the Scriptures in his bosom; and that when he is in any difficulty he opens the book, and finds in it some passage suitable to his case. Now, the meaning of this is, if it be not needless to explain what is so clear, that the Scriptures furnish every man with a guide to his practice; and that he who in every difficulty acts according to the principles which are to be found in the volume of Scripture, will be sure to act rightly. But many persons seem to have applied what is said of the
Pilgrim Christian literally to themselves. They seem to think that if they literally open a Bible, and read whatever they happen to find there, that because it is a part of the Scripture, it will therefore furnish them with the direction and comfort which they need. And agreeably with this notion, I have heard persons say that they studiously excluded from their minds all thought of the human writer, whether it were Paul, or John, or Isaiah, or David, and considered themselves to be reading only the words of God.
These “ things may indeed have a show of wisdom in will worship and humility,” as St. Paul says of another sort of superstition; but like that they are really mischievous and unchristian, founded in error, and having error or worse than error for their fruit. If indeed we supposed that when we opened the Bible, God would so order it that we should always open it at the right place, that our looking into it, in short, would be accompanied with a perpetual miracle, then the practice would answer as well with us as the story represents it to have answered with the Pilgrim Christian. There the writer takes care to make his Pilgrim open his book at the right place; the passage which he finds is made to be the very one which his case requires. And most true is it that the Scripture does contain in every case what we want, if we know how to look for it; but the great wisdom
which we need is this very thing, to know how to look for it aright. Now those who say that they try not to think of the human writer, whether it be Paul, or John, or David, or Isaiah, go the
very way to prevent themselves from finding what they need. For Paul and John, and David, and Isaiah, wrote to different persons, and these persons were in many respects unlike each other; so that what was said to some of them, would have been often of no use and miglit even have been hurtful to others. If then we do not think who wrote the part of the Scripture that we are reading, or to whom it was written, or under what circumstances, we run a great risk of applying to our own case a medicine intended for cases of a very different nature; and then, however good the medicine may be when properly used, yet we in our folly shall make it a poison rather than a cure.
This then is the knowledge which we want for every part of the Scriptures; a knowledge of when, and by whom, and to whom, and for what purpose it was written. This is what I may call the outward knowledge, the knowledge which we must gain by reading or hearing, for which we want notes, and expositions, and sermons. But then comes another sort of knowledge, without which the first is useless; a knowledge not to be gained by reading, hardly by hearing, for which we may look in vain through commentaries and works of learned men,