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ercises his ingenuity in endeavouring to adapt Scripture to his preconceptions. Do we ask, then, how it happens that errors, even of the worst kind, are the fruit of his labours ? The answer is readily given. He is regardless of the Divine admonition in the text. Instead of being willing to abide by the revealed will of God, he is predisposed to abide by his own will: and it being found impracticable to reconcile these to each other, without wresting the Scriptures from their obvious meaning, some more recondite sense is sought for, and the simplicity of truth is sacrificed at the shrine of vanity.
The rule, then, that “ if any man will “ do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, 66 whether it be of God,” admits, we may perceive, of a more special and circumstantial application than might at first be apprehended : and although it may behove us to exercise the greatest charity and discretion in judging others by this rule, it will, in scrutinizing our own opinions, be necessary to apply it with unsparing freedom. A suspicion of some wrong bent in
the mind ought indeed always to be entertained, when we are conscious of a secret wish to set aside any doctrine, apparently forming a part of that system which, in its general character, we acknowledge to proceed from God.
If, however, it should still be asked, how the concurrence of the will of man with the will of God can thus facilitate either the belief or the right interpretation of the Sacred Word ?--this further answer may be given.
The mere disposition to concur with the Divine will we may conceive to be productive of these results, both by its own natural efficacy, and by the powerful cooperation of that Divine aid which gives a blessing to human endeavours.
Its natural and immediate tendency is, to ensure earnest attention to the subject, diligent inquiry into proofs and evidences, perseverance in surmounting difficulties, deliberation in framing decisions, modesty in proposing doubts, readiness to retract error, firmness in adhering to well-grounded conviction. The effect of these excellent qualities, in removing obstacles to the truth, in disencumbering the judgment of what may impede its progress, and increasing the thirst for those acquirements which enlarge and strengthen the mental powers, may readily be conceived Not to ascribe to them their due share in the acquisition of truth, would be to derogate from the wisdom of that Providence, who, in bestowing upon man the gifts of understanding and of free-will, evidently designed that the honest application of these talents should largely contribute to produce the desired effect.,
Nor is it less evident, that the inquirer after religious truth, cultivating this genuine disposition to know and to do the will of God, may well confide in that communication of heavenly aid, which, if duly sought for, will not fail to be bestowed, as a blessing upon his endeavours, by him
giveth to all men liberally, and up“ braideth not"." For, if the Almighty hath actually imparted his will to man
[ James i. 5.
kind, is it not with the intent that they should thankfully receive it, and diligently search its meaning? And can we doubt that every indication of such a disposition will be regarded with special favour by the great Author and Finisher of our Faith? Can we doubt that the grace of God will assist in perfecting what the humble aspirant after truth is already striving to accomplish, by the use of those means which the providence of God has placed within his reach? What further satisfaction on this point can be requisite, than that assurance of our blessed Lord and Master, “ Ask, and it shall be given
you ; seek, and ye shall find; knock, “ and it shall be opened unto you?”
In whatever point of view, then, we consider the subject, we shall find this position incontrovertibly established, that the willing and ingenuous mind, the free and unrestrained surrender of every thought and purpose, of every imagination and affection, to the all-perfect will of God, is the first principle of religious duty, the germ of every thing which is afterwards to expand and ripen into action. It is that, which can alone produce the fruit of sound Christian knowledge; and to which, when duly planted and watered by human industry, the Divine Benefactor will assuredly give the increase.
s Matth. vii. 7.
Thus we have advanced one step in our inquiry, by shewing what disposition of mind is previously requisite in those who enter upon the interpretation of Holy Writ. The main source of all contentions respecting the sense of Scripture, on points of fundamental importance, may be traced to a reluctance, on one, side or the other, to renounce prepossessions militating against an entire reception of the truth. Men are led by partiality to their own opinions, or undue deference to those of others, not only to irreconcileable dissensions among themselves, but eventually to a departure from the plain and obvious meaning of the Word of God. It was the error of the ancient Jews, that they " set up idols in their heart,” and “put a