Imatges de pÓgina

ence is not material; and either sense will afford us instruction. If we receive it as a command, we should consider is as given us by the Lord himself, whose disciples we profess to be; as bound on us by our own acknowledgment, since in them we think, and say, we have eternal life; and as absolutely necessary to be complied with, since it is these, and these only, testify of Christ, in the knowledge of whom our eternal life consists. If we should understand it in the latter sense, as spoken to the Scribes and Pharisees, it may give us a useful caution not to lay too much stress either on what we think or on what we do. For these persons we find had, in some respects, a right sentiment of the holy Scriptures : they believed that in them there was eternal life : and, in a sense likewise, they made this an inducement to read, yea, to search them. But though they thus thought and thus acted; and though the Scriptures, from the first page to the last, do testify of Christ; yet they could not understand or receive this testimony, but rejected the Messiah whom they professed to hope for, and took all their pains in searching the Scriptures to no purpose.

In what I am about to lay before you, I propose the following order : 1st, To mention a few requisites, without which it is impossible rightly to understand the Scriptures : 2d, To show how the Scriptures testify of Christ: Sd, To consider what the import of their testimony is : 4th, To press the practice of searching the Scripture, from the argument used in the text, which is equally applicable to us as to the Jews of old, “ that in “ them we think we have eternal life.”

I. The first requisite I shall mention is Sincerity ; I mean a real desire to be instructed by the Scripture, and to submit both our sentiments and our practices to be controlled and directed by what we read there. Without this, our reading and searching will only issue in our greater condemnation, and bring us under the heavy doom of the servant that knew his master's will and did it not. A remarkable instance of this we have in the 42d and two following chapters of Jeremiah After the destruction of Jerusalern, and the death of Gedaliah, the people that were left entreated the prophet to inquire of the Lord for them, concerning their intended removal into Egypt. Their request was fair : “ That the Lord thy God may

show us the way “ wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may “ do." Their engagement was very solemn : “ The " Lord be a true and faithful witness between US,

if “ we do not even according to all things for the which “ the Lord thy God shall send to us. Whether it be

good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of “ the Lord our God, to whom we send thee.” But their hypocrisy was most detestable. The Lord, who seeth the inmost purposes of the soul, could not be put off with their fair pretences. He sent them in answer an express prohibition to go into Egypt; assuring them that his curse should follow them, and that there they should certainly perish. Yet they went, and verified what the prophet had told them: “For ye dissembled “ in your hearts, when ye sent me to the Lord your God, saying, Pray for us unto the Lord our God, “and according to all that the Lord our God shall say,

so declare unto us, and we will do it.” Then they spoke out, and, like themselves, when they told him, “ As for the word which thou hast spoken unto us in “ the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto “ thee, but we will certainly do whatever thing gocth * forth out of our own mouth.” None of us

speak thus in express terms : but if we bring our preconceived opinions or purposes, not in order to examine them strictly by the test of Scripture, but to find or wrest some passages in the word of God to countenance or justify ourselves; if our desire is not simply to be led in the very way of God's commandments; if we are not really willing to discover every error and evil that may be in us, in order to forsake them; we closely imitate these deceitful, obstinate, insolent Jews, be our pretences ever so fair; and are liable to the like dreadful judgment for our hypocrisy; the curse of God upon our devices here, and the portion of his enemies hereafter.

Where this sincerity is wanting, every thing is wrong; neither praying, nor hearing, nor reading, can profit: The Scripture abounds with the severest threatenings against those who presume to mock the all-seeing God: I shall only produce one passage from Ezekiel xiv. 5. " Son of man, these men have set up their idols in “their hearts, and put the stuinbling-block of iniquity “ before their faces: should I be inquired of at all by " them? Every man of the house of Israel that set“ teth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stum

bling-block of iniquity before his face, and cometh " to the prophet, I, the Lord, will answer him that "cometh, according to the multitude of his idols.” I say not this that I would have any one throw aside the ordinances of God, especially his public worship. These are the means which God has appointed, in which he has commanded us to wait, and where he is often pleased to be found, even by those who seek him not. But I would entreat such persons seriously to consider the dreadful condition they would be in, if death should suprise them in sach a state of insincerity as renders

their very prayers and sacrifices “ an abomination to " the Lord,” and perverts those things which are designed for their advantage, into an occasion of their falling

A second thing necessary is Diligence. This, with the former, is finely described in the book of Proverbs.

My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandment within thee; so that thou incline thine ear to wisdom, and apply thine heart to under

standing: yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and “liftest up thy voice for understanding: if thou seek“est her as silver, and searchest for her as hid trea“ sures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the

Lord, and find the knowledge of God, Prov. ii. The wisdom of God, in which we are concerned, is contained in his word. The best understanding is to keep his commandments, Psal. cxi.; but as we cannot keep them unless we know them, neither can we know them without a diligent inquiry. The word which is rendered search, epruvaw, is borrowed from the practice of miners : it implies two things, to dig, and to examine. First, with much labour they pierce the earth to a considerable depth ; and when they have thus found a vein of precious ore, they break and sift it, and suffer no part to escape their notice. Thus must we join frequent assiduous reading, with close and awakened meditation; comparing spiritual things with spiritual, carefully taking notice of the circumstances, occasion, and application of what we read : being assured, that there is a treasure of truth and happiness under our hands, if we have but skill to discover and improve it. Only let us be mindful that we have the same views in reading the Scripture, that God has in revealing it to us; which the apostle thus enumerates :

“ All Scripture," or the whole Scripture, πασα γραφης “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 per“fect, thoroughly furnished to every good work,” 2 Tim. iii. And elsewhere it is said to be able to make us “ wise unto salvation." How absurd would it be for a man to read a treatise of husbandry with a design of learning navigation, or to seek the principles of trade and commerce in an essay on music? No less absurd is it to read or study the Scriptures with any other view than to receive its doctrines, submit to its reproofs, and obey its precepts, that we may be made “ wise unto salvation." All disquisitions and criticisms that stop short of this, that do not amend the heart as well as furnish the head, are empty and dangerous, at least to ourselves, whatever use they may be of to others. An experience of this caused a learned critic and eminent commentator, (Grotius,) to confess, towards the close of his life, Vitam prorsus perdidi, laboriose nihil agendo! Alas! I have wasted my life in much labour to no purpose! But, on the contrary, when we are diligent and studious, that we may be better acquainted with the divine precepts and promises, and better inclined to observe and trust them, then we may hope for happy success; for, “ blessed is “ the man whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and “ who meditates therein day and night: for he shall “ he like a tree planted by rivers of waters, which

bringeth forth its fruit in due season ; his leaf also

shall not wither, and whatsoever he doth,” under this influence," shall prosper,” Ps. i. Thus God has promised, and thus many have found it, and been enabled to adopt the words of David, “ Thou through

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