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Comforter, animate our faith and hope by the inspiring promise-" Blessed is the man who endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life;" and support us in the conflict, by the example of him to whose image wẹ are thus by suffering conformed, and with whom we are thus prepared for participating in the glory of heaven-him who endured the cross, despising the shame, and is now "set down at the right hand of God." Are we dismayed at the terrors of death? Do we shrink from the encounter with that enemy which we must encounter? The Scriptures represent to us an Almighty Conqueror, who hath despoiled death of his dominion, and proclaimed that promise which assures triumph to the believer "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live and whosoever liveth, and believeth in me, shall never die." Do we cast an uncertain, and solicitous, and painful look on the dark scenes that stretch into the world beyond the grave? The Scriptures illume them with the light of eternal day; and there the believer beholds an inheritance reserved for him of glory and bliss, infinite in degree and endless in duration.
This is the glorious salvation, these the exalted sources of hope which the Scriptures afford. He whose conscience is freed from the sense of guilt, whose heart is redeemed from the dominion of unholy passions, whose delight is in the law of God, who through faith in Christ Jesus has a sure claim to the protection and favour of the Lord of heaven and earth, who views as his portion beyond the present life, glory and bliss in the presence of his God and Saviour-surely possesses a source of
joy and consolation that passes all understanding, which the world can neither give nor take away. He whose Saviour is almighty, whose Friend and Protector is God, whose inheritance is secured in heaven, may surely possess his soul in patience, neither ruffled by injuries, perplexed by care, or depressed by sorrow. Embracing by faith that glorious salvation which the oracles of truth promulgate, he, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, possesses that "hope which is an anchor of the soul sure and steadfast."
If the Scriptures are thus a source of exalted hope and consolation, should we not be deeply and constantly impressed with their excellence and value?
In them only are displayed the grace and mercy of the Being who made and who is to judge us, and the means of obtaining his favour. Can reason lead us to a knowledge of the attributes and will of the Eternal? Can it establish the terms on which guilty man may be restored to the favour of his offended Sovereign and Judge? Can its feeble suggestions heal the wounded spirit, or assuage the pangs of a conscience penetrated with a sense of its guilt? Can its empty consolations inspire the soul with peace and confidence when oppressed by trouble, when sunk under the stroke of adversity? Can reason, impotent often to discover truth in many of the objects around it, lift the vail from futurity, and fix our faith firmly on the existence and glories of the heavenly state? Where was the enlightening and penetrating power of human reason, when the most acute and learned among the philosophers of the Gentiles embraced but in a feeble degree, and with dubious hope, the consolations
and triumphs of religion? No; the Scriptures, by the luminous discovery which they make of the perfections and will of the one supreme Lord and Maker of the universe-of the purposes of his mercy, through a Saviour, to a fallen world-of the existence and glories of the future state-are the only source of a hope that maketh not ashamed, a hope that will not be moved by the rudest blasts of adversity. In some enlightened heathen, reason may have cherished a pride and greatness of soul that looked down upon sorrow; but reason never inspired that meek resignation, that triumphant but peaceful joy, which the faith of the Scriptures can excite in the most humble believer.
If such be the value of the sacred writings, let us be impressed with the duty and importance of making them the subject of our constant and devout study and meditation.
They unfold the counsels and will of the Maker and Lord of the universe; they ascertain what, to sinful and immortal creatures, is interesting above all that in the world occupies or attracts us-the means whereby we may be restored to our offended Maker and Judge; they offer to our faith those great and precious promises which will make us partakers of the divine purity, and inspire us with triumphant and unfailing hope. Let not, then, these precious depositaries of the mercy of our Almighty Sovereign, of all that concerns our perfection and happiness in the present life, or the eternal one which is to succeed it, be contemned or slightly regarded. Let not the corrupting reveries of an inflamed imagination, the sallies of unlicensed wit, or the theories of a sceptical philosophy-let not even human wisdom, in her brightest
and purest form, draw forth the ardour of curiosity, and occupy the taste, the feelings, and the understanding; while the Scriptures of truth, the oracles of the living God, the knowledge which makes wise unto salvation, are forgotten or neglected. Let not a fastidious taste, let not a superficial and corrupt fancy, let not a profane pride undervalue what the wisest men in every age have prized as the best gift of God to man. And, my brethren, let not those who receive and acknowledge the worth and importance of the sacred volume, be guilty of the inconsistency of not studying the divine truths and practising the holy lessons which it contains.
Brethren, would you be conducted to the mercy and favour of God, the dread Being who made and is to judge you? Would you be enlightened in the saving knowledge of his will? Would you purify your hearts and establish them in holiness and virtue? Would you fortify them with that faith and hope which will raise you above the sorrows, and the corruptions, and temptations of the world? Would you attain that fulness of divine knowledge and purity which will prepare you for the presence and enjoyment of God in his heavenly kingdom? The sacred writings must be the subjects of your serious and devout study. Read them with that humility, gratitude, and reverence which are duc to the messages of mercy from the everlasting Jehovah to his rebellious creatures; but especially read them with earnest prayer that the Divine Spirit, which dictated them, may bless them to your salvation. Keep steadily in view the end for which they were promulgated-to turn you from darkness to light, from the power of sin and Satan unto God-to purify you from all iniquity, to estab
452 THE SCRIPTUres the sourCE OF HOPE, &c.
lish you in every grace and virtue, and thus to prepare you for the glory and bliss of that eternal life which is the gift of God through him whom they set forth as the Saviour of the world. And that this may be the blessed fruits of our perusal of the sacred oracles, let us again address God in the collect for the day. "Blessed Lord, who hast. caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience, and comfort of thy holy word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ."