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The importance of a deep and intimate acquaintance with dirine truth, will more particularly appear, from the following considerations :
1. A neglect of God's word is represented as a heinous sin. But we shall not be able to escape this sin, if we content ourselves with a superficial acquaintance with truth. Revelation, in every stage, demands our serious attention ; but the revelation of eternal life through Jesus Christ requires attention in the bighest degree, This is that great salvation which we are charged not to neglect. The dignity of its autbor, its sublime and interesting nature, with the accumulated evidence which God bas condescended to afford us of its divine origioal, combine to require of us the most careful and cordial examination into its contents. A neglect of this is either total or partial : the former would denominate us unbelievers, and expose us to utter destruction ; the latter, though it may exist in siocere Christians, is, nevertheless, a sin, and a sin more than a little offensive to the God of all truth.
To be contented with a superficial acquaintance with divine things, implies disrespect to Him who has revealed them. A letter from a distant friend, to whom we are cordially attached, is viewed and reviewed, and every sentence of it carefully inspected, and, on many occasions, committed to memory. Why should not the word of God be productive of the same effects? Indeed it is : fur in proportion as we love God, his word will dwell richly in us. It will be our bosom companion, to which we shall have recourse on every occasion ; especially in seasons of leisure, when the mind, like a spring from which a pressure is removed, rises to its natural position. Hence the following language: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might : and these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart, and thou shalt teach thein diligently to thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
To be contented with a superficial acquaintance with divine things, implies also a want of affection to the things themselves.
A will, or testament, in which we were deeply interested, would be procured with eagerness, and read with avidity ; and, if any difficulty remained as to the meaning of a particulor passage, we should have no rest till, by some means or other, we had obtained a solution of it. I need not apply this remark. Notbing is more evident, than that whatever is uppermost in our affections, will form the grand current of our thoughts. And, where our thoughts are directed to a subject with intenseness and perseverance, it will be come familiar to us; and, unless it be owing to the want of natural capacity, or any other necessary means, we shall, of course, enter deeply into it.
I have been much struck with the ardent affection which David discovered to the holy scriptures, and every part of their sacred contents. The whole 119 Psalm is a continued encomium upon them. There we have such language as the following : 0 how I love thy law! My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times. Thy statutes have been my song in the house of my pilgrimage. The law of thy mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver. Now, all the scriptures which were then extant amounted to little more than the writings of Mo
What additions bave we since enjoyed !. Besides the Book of Psalms, and the Prophecies which followed, we have the whole New Testament, full of grace and truth, wherein the invisible God has, as it were, rendered himself visible. Him whom no man had seen at any time, the only begotten Son, who dwelt in his boson, hath declared. How is it that such a price should be in our bands to get wisdom, and yet that we should have so little heart for it?
2. The word of God is represented as a mean of sanctification, But no effect of this kind can be produced beyond the degree in which we imbide it. One great object of our Lord's in tercession with the Father, on our behalf, was, that we might be sanctified through the truth, even by his word, which is truth. The gospel is continually held up, not only as a doctrine according to godliness, but as having a powerful influence in producing it. It teacheth us, That denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we shall live soberly,
righteously, and godly, in this present world. It toorketh effectually in those who believe. It was by the doctrine of the cross, that the world became crucified to the Apostle, and he unto the world.
So universal and so manifest were the effects of divine truth upon the practice of the primitive Christians, that the sacred writers could appeal to fact, on their behalf, that they, and they only, were successful combatants against the world's temptations : Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?
Now, in order that the gospel may be productive of these effects, it is necessary that it be understood. Without this, how should it interest or affect the heart? We must believe the truth ere it will work effectually : we must know it, or it will not make us free. That we may serve God acceptably, and with godly fear, we must bave grace ; and grace is multiplied through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.
Knowledge and affection have a mutual influence on each other. That the love of truth will prompt us to labour affer a more perfect acquaintance with its contents, has been already observed : and that such an acquaintance will promote an increasing love of truth, in return, is equally evident. We cannot love an unknown gospel, any more than an unknown God. Affection is fed by knowledge, being thereby furnished with grounds, or reasons, for its operations. By the expansion of the mind the heart is supplied with objects which fill it with delight. It is thus that it becomes enlarged, and that we feel ourselves sweetly induced to run in the way of the divine commandments.
How was it that the apostle became dead to the world, by the cross of Cbrist? I suppose, on much the same principle, that the light of the stars is eclipsed by that of the sun ; or, that a man, having drunk old wine, ceases to desire new, for he saith the old is better. It is by drinking deeply into religion, that we become disaffected to carnal objects.
3. The word of God is represented as the great source of Christian enjoyment. But no effect of this kind can be produced, any farther than we imbibe the truth. The same way which divine
truth operates, as a medium of sanctification, it becomes a source of enjoyment ; namely, by interesting and affecting the heart. That which, by its superior lustre, eclipses the pleasures of sense, and crucifies us to the world, at the same time kindles a joy in the heart which is unspeakable and full of glory. The habitual joy which was possessed by the apostles and primitive Christians chiefly arose from a knowledge and belief of the gospel. It was the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord, that induced the Apostle to count all things but loss. Those in whom the word of Christ dwelt richly, in all wisdom, were supposed to be so enlivened by it, that it became natural to them to teach and admonish one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in their hearts to the Lord. The object for which the Apostle bowed his knees to the Father of glory, in behalf of the Ephesians, was, that, by means of a comprehensive knowledge of the breadth and length and depth and height of the redeeming love of Christ, they might be filled with all the fulness of God. The wells of salvation are deep ; and he that lacketh knowledge is as one that has nothing to draw with.
The prejudice of many Christians against doctrinal preaching, as being; in their esteem, dry and uninteresting ; and the preference given to that which is more descriptive of their feelings, and, there. fore, termed experimental, is worthy of attention. If the doctrine which we preach be not the unadulterated gospel of Christ, it will indeed, be dry ; or if, instead of entering into the spirit of truth we are employed in a fruitless discussion of terms, or things on which the scriptures forbear to decide, it must needs te uninteresting, and even disgusting, to a holy mind. But if the pure gospel of Jesus, well understood by the preacher, and communicated from the fullness of his beart, do not interest us, there must be some lamentable disorder in the state of our minds. If the manua that comes down from heaven be loathed, it is a sign tbat ibings are not with us as they ought to be. The doctrine of Moses, and surely much more that of Jesus, dropped as the rain, and distilled as the dew, upon the tender herb.
Christian experience, (or wbat is generally understood by that
term, the painful and pleasurable feelings of good men,) will be found, if genuine, to arise from the influence of truth upon the mind. If we be strangers to the glory of God's moral character, and the great evil of sin, we shall be strangers to all the feelings of godly sorrow on account of it. And what ground is there for joy and peace, but in believing? Take away the deity and atonement of Christ, and they are annibilated. To this may be added, Give up the doctrines of the resurrection and a future life, and what becomes of hope ? From these instances, out of many others, you will easily perceive, that doctrinal and experimental preaching are not so remote from each other as some persons bave imagined ; and that to extol the latter, at the expense of the former, is to act like him who wishes the fountain to be destroyed, because he prefers the stream.
4. It is a great object in the Christian life, according to our capacities and opportunities, to diffuse the light of the gospel around
But we cannot communicate any thing beyond the degree in which we possess it. The communication of gospel truth is not confined to ministers. Every Christian moves in a sphere of some extent ; and is expected so to occupy it, as to mbrace every occasion which may offer, to make known the way of eternal life to those about him. The primitive churches were schools of heavenly instruction, as the words of the text, to go nu farther, plainly intimate ; and the Apostle reproves some of their members for hav. ing made no greater proficiency. Though it would be in vain for every one to aspire as being a public teacher of Christianity, yet, as has been already observed, every one should be concerned that he may be able to give a reason for the hope that is in him, and to teach the good and the right way to those with whom he is immediately connected. The duties of a parent and a master, include in them the instruction of those who are committed to their care. Many opportunities arise, in which Christians might communicate the knowledge of Christ to their neighbours ; those in a state of servitude, to their fellow-servants; and, provided it were done on proper occasions and, according to the apostolic rule, in meekness