« PreviousContinue »
reasons why the Scriptures should be read. Shall we attend to other histories, to other systems of civil policy, and morality, and to other works of taste, and shall we neglect the Scriptures, which are so well calculated to instruct us in these things? But these are advantages of far inferior importance to some which are to be derived from 'reading the Scriptures.
Reading the Scriptures may be of spiritual and eternal benefit to our immortal souls. They contain God's law; they teach us its penalty; they inform us of our ruined condition as sinners; and they discover to us the only way of escape from merited wrath. But to be more particular, reading the Scriptures is calculated to be of spiritual and eternal advantage to every character, to the careless, the enquiring, and the real christian.
The reading of the Scriptures may prove of spiritual and eternal advantage to the careless. For here they have their character drawn and their doom pointed out, in language calculated to awaken them from their security; and here they are told what they must be to escape from deserved wrath. Reading the Scriptures is one of the means of grace, which the Spirit uses to awaken and convict the sinner, bring him with anxiety to seek salvation, and finally convert and bring him into a state of safety. The word of God is called "The sword of the Spirit;" Eph. vi. 17. And it is said "The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart;" Heb. iv. 12. We also read, "The law of the Lord is perfect converting the soul;" Ps. xix. 7. And, "born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God ;" 1 Pet. i. 23. And "Of his own will, begat he us with the word of truth;" Jam. i. 18. Hence we learn that it is of importance to the careless sinner to read the word of God. It may prove to him the sword of the Spirit, and show him his character and danger, and eventually be instrumental in his saving conversion. I dare not say read the word with carelessness and inattention; this would be giving you a license to sin. But I will say read it. And if ever you are brought to a saving knowledge of the truth, it will be a grief to you, if you are ignorant of a speculative ac
quaintance with the Scriptures; and you will find that such a knowledge would be of vast importance to you.
The reading of the Scriptures is also of great importance to the inquiring, and cannot be too earnestly recommended to them. Such feel that they have broken God's law, and have incurred its curse; and they are anxiously inquiring, whether there is any way of escape, and whither, and how they may escape? Now it is the word of God alone that teaches us that there is a way of escape from the wrath to come. It is the word of God alone that teaches us whither we shall flee, viz. to the Lord Jesus Christ, on whom our help is laid, and who is mighty to save. And it is the word of God alone that points out the way to Christ, and lays down the marks of our union to him. In short it is the word of God alone that can answer the all important inquiry of an awakened soul, "What must I do to be saved?" The inquiring soul therefore ought to be much engaged in searching the Scriptures. These are the fountains of religious knowledge. All other books on religious subjects are but the streams. The streams may be polluted; but the fountain is pure. On the instructions of God's word you may rely. And all the instructions you derive from other sources, as from ministers, from God's professing people, and from religious books, ought to be brought to the test of the Scriptures. "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them;" Is. viii. 20. When you come to your minister for direction, all the direction that he can give you, that will be of service to you, must be drawn. from the word of God. Be exhorted therefore to a diligent, careful and prayerful examination of the Scriptures for yourselves. Most probably one principal reason, why some continue so long in darkness, is, an ignorance of the Scriptures; and also, most probably, one principal reason of the false hopes and joys of many is their ignorance of the Scriptures; they are ignorant of what is the Scriptural character of the christian. From all these considerations the inquiring may see the great importance to them of searching the Scriptures.
Again, reading the word of God is of great importance to the real christian. The Bible is the rule by which he is to walk as a subject of the kingdom of Christ. It is the
charter of his privileges as a citizen of Zion. It is the testament of his heavenly Father, in which he has bequeathed to him as his adopted son a heavenly inheritance. It is a map of the way which leads to the promised land. It is the compass to direct him to the haven of eternal rest. And it is a lamp unto his feet, and a light unto his path, while passing through the dark wilderness of this world. Does it become a good citizen to know the laws by which he is to be governed; and is it of importance that he should become acquainted with his privileges? Does the heir take an interest in, and endeavour to know every item of his father's will, especially as far as he himself is concerned? Does the traveller in a strange and dangerous country prize and examine his map? Is the compass of importance to the mariner and does he so esteem it? And is a light useful, to guide our steps in a narrow, dark, and dangerous path? Far more important than any of these is the word of God. Would you christians see the importance of reading the Scriptures and becoming intimately acquainted with them, read attentively the 119th Psalm, and you may see a great variety of benefits resulting to the child of God, from an acquaintance with the Scriptures.
It is of importance that the christian should always be able, among the different pursuits which may present themselves, to know the path of duty; that he should have at hand an answer to temptations; that he should be able to give to every man that asketh him a reason of the hope that is in him; that he should have arguments in prayer; and that he should be able to rely on the promises and plead them? Then it is of importance, that he should diligently attend to the word of God, and treasure it up in his heart.
The word of God is of great use to sanctify the soul, "Sanctify them (said the Saviour) through thy truth; thy word is truth;" John xvii. 17. It is of use to make the christian stable, so as not to be liable to continual wavering, and to be driven about by every wind of doctrine. It is of use to keep him from sin; and to subdue his corruptions, and mortify indwelling sin. "All Scripture (said the Apostle) is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be perfect, thorough
ly furnished unto all good works;" 2 Tim. iii. 16, 17. Wherewith (asked the Psalmist) shall a young man cleanse his way ?" he answered, "By taking heed thereto according to thy word;" Ps. cxix. 9. Again he said in the same Psalm, "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee." And "through thy precepts, I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way." Again, the word of God is of use to support and comfort the soul of the christian, under afflictions. "Unless thy law (said the Psalmist) had been my delights, I should then have perished in mine affliction. This is my comfort in my affliction. I remembered thy judgments of old, O Lord; and have comforted myself. Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage" Ps. cxix. 92, 50, 52, 54. Again the word of God is of use to quicken and strengthen the christian. "Thy word (said the Psalmist) hath quickened me. My soul melteth for heaviness; strengthen thou me according unto thy word;" Ps. cxix. 50, 28. The word of God is also of use to advance the christian in the knowledge of divine things. Paul said to Timothy, "The Holy Scriptures which are able to make thee wise unto salvation" 2 Tim. iii. 15. And in the Psalms we read, "The testimony of the Lord is sure making wise the simple: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;" Ps. xix. 7, 8. "The entrance of thy words giveth light : it giveth understanding unto the simple ;" Ps. cxix. 130. "Thou through thy commandments, hast made me wiser than mine enemies. I have more understanding than all my teachers for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients: because I keep thy precepts;" Ps. cxix. 98, 99, 100.
Such are the advantages to be derived from the word of God. But it is evident that to receive these advantages you must treasure the Scriptures in your minds, and therefore read them.
Let me now press upon you all, the duty of searching the Scriptures. Consider who is their author, that he commands it, and that the duty is enforced by the example of the saints, who are proposed to us for our imitation. Consider the instructions which they contain. Consider their spiritual and eternal use-that they are of use to awaken the careless, to direct the inquiring, and to enligh
ten, guide, establish, sanctify, support, comfort, quicken and strengthen the christian; and be exhorted diligently to read the Scriptures. Read them under a realizing sense that they are indeed the word of God, and of your own personal and deep concern in them; read them with a sincere desire to profit by them; read them with care; treasure their contents in your memory; read them with self-application, and self-examination; and read them with prayer, feeling your dependence on God to make them effectual, and looking to him for the influences of his Spirit.
The Bible, my brethren is an invaluable gift bestowed upon us. God has in this respect highly distinguished us above the heathen: and also above our fathers who lived before the invention of the art of printing, and even above the generations which have immediately preceded us. The poorest may now have Bibles. Those noble institutions of modern days, Bible Societies, have placed the Holy Scriptures within the reach of the poorest. And in view of the importance of the Bible, ought we not to be grateful to God, for those benevolent institutions, which are multiplying copies of this precious book, and which are sending this divine treasure into the cottages of the poor, and even to the millions of the Pagan world? Let us realize our privileges, and improve them; for we must one day give a solemn account. And our condemnation will· be great indeed, if we should be found at last to have neglected the Scriptures and should perish; from under the light, which we enjoy. You must my hearers, one day or other become acquainted with the Scriptures: for in the judgment day, this book will be opened, and you will be tried and judged by it.
And here in view of this subject I feel constrained to remark with gratitude and joy, that although we have reason to fear, many among us still neglect the Scriptures, yet there is an increasing attention to searching them, especially among the young. It is a most promising circumstance, that the Bible which through the influence of infidelity, was a few years since almost banished from schools, has now resumed its place, and a far more important place, than it before occupied; and that the youth in our congregations, and schools, and even in our colleges, are with interest engaged in the study of the