Imatges de pàgina
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perficial knowledge, enough to discover difficulties, but not enough to remove them ; or in attempting to stretch' even the best attainments to points beyond their reach. But the value of solid acquirements of this kind, soberly and discreetly applied, is fully proved by the signal benefits which the Christian Faith has actually derived from the various improvements and discoveries of modern times in literature and science, tending to corroborate many important truths in the Sacred Records, and enabling us to retort upon the sceptic and the scoffer many a formidable blow, aimed at it in the vain confidence of irresistible strength.

There are indeed, in every branch of human knowledge, certain principles, and certain facts, so clearly and indubitably established, as to make it incredible that any system of Divine truth, rightly understood, should be found to contradict them and' by such a test, many a false interpretation of Scripture has been detected and exposed. But to apply this test súccessfully, is not the work of a rash or un

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skilful hand. Every principle and every fact resting upon human authority only, must be placed beyond the reach of controversy, before it can here be admitted as evidence: nor may even such evidence be admitted, if it be not strictly applicable to the subject under discussion.' And since, in this respect, considerable doubts and difficulties may occasionally arise, it will well become the man of science, rather to mistrust his own judgment in the case, than hastily to infer that reason and revelation are irreconcileably at variance.

Subject to these restrictions, we need not hesitate to give to human reason and science their full share in the interpretation of the Sacred Oracles. To apply to this purpose every intellectual endowment which God has bestowed upon us, is so far effectually to fulfil his will ; remembering, however, the infinite disparity between ourselves and Him. The energies of the human mind may thus be brought successfully to lend their aid in the acquisition of spiritual knowledge. Though incompetent in themselves to the discovery

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of that knowledge, yet, when discovered, they are competent to discern, to examine, to compare, to illustrate, and to confirm it, by means similar to those which, in every other pursuit, lead most certainly to improvement and perfection.

III. It now only remains, to add a few observations respecting the ordinary assistance of the Holy Spirit, promised to individuals for their advancement in religious knowledge; and the reliance which may be placed upon it, in subordination to the authority of Scripture.

No devout believer in the Scriptures will be regardless of St. Paul's declaration, that “our sufficiency is of God.” Nor need we hesitate to affirm, that the ablest as well as safest expositors of Holy Writ are generally to be found among those who bave been most distinguished by the dispositions emphatically called in Scripture, “ the fruit of the Spirit.” Among the opposite characteristics, “ the works of the “ flesh",” the Apostle enumerates “ va

m Gal. v. 22, 23.

1 2 Cor. iii. 5.

Gal. v. 19, 20, 21.

“ riance, “ riance, strife, and heresies :”, and they who wantonly separate from the Church are declared to be “ sensual, having not “ the Spirit o.” We are, therefore, warranted in maintaining, that in the work of interpreting Scripture, as well as in other Christian duties,“ every good and every “perfect gift is from above, and cometh “ down from the Father of lights ?.”.

But this truth is of a general nature only, applicable to this subject in common with whatever appertains to the character of a faithful disciple of Christ. Whether engaged in the study of the Scriptures, or in any other means of working out his salvation, the devout Christian acknowledges that “it is God 66 who worketh in him both to will and to “ do of his good pleasure",” and that for : every degree of light and information of which he is conscious, he is to give God the glory. This assurance, however, of Divine help to further his own exertions, he knows, is not to be expected as a spe

P James i. 17.

• Jude 19.
4 Phil. ii. 13.

cial or extraordinary gift; much less as intended to supersede the use of any

other helps or means, with which the providence of God has blessed him. In the infancy of the Church, there were " diversities "66 of gifts,” proceeding from “ the same “Spirit",” for the great work of spreading the Gospel far and wide, and for the immediate edification of those who could not have been brought, without such extraordinary means, to the knowledge and acceptance of the Gospel. These gifts appear to have been limited to persons holding official stations in the Church, and to bave continued no longer than the exigencies of the Church required. In process of time, they were gradually withdrawn and their place is now to be supplied by the use of the Holy Scriptures, accompanied with such attainments as the 'light of human learning, bearing some faint analogy to the light of inspiration, enables us to bring to the inquiry. Upon the diligent application of these, and the

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