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God that we should study to observe all things written in the book of the law to do them.
He hath delivered to us a complete code of laws for teaching us our duty, and warned us that by them we shall be judged at the last day; and it hence becomes a most serious concern for each of us to inquire what the will of the Lord is, and whether we are walking in hig commandments or not. For how shall we escape, if we neglect to receive the words of everlasting life, which are given as “a light unto our feet, and a lamp unto our
Has God sent his servants the prophets, in ancient times, and in these last days spoken unto us by his own Son; has he inspired the apostles to declare to us the message of reconciliation, and preserved the whole of his revealed will in the scriptures of truth; and shall we make light of his sacred oracles by refusing to examine them? Assuredly, when God hath thus condescended to become our teacher it becomes us to imbibe the instructions he communicates, if we would “ learn his righteous statutes.”
But we are not left to infer our obligations to search the scriptures, we are expressly commanded to perform this duty. Thus we are enjoined to “ lay up the words of the living God in our heart and in our soul, and teach them diligently to our children even to the third and fourth generation.” It is also written, that “the book of the law shall not depart out of our mouth, but we shall meditate therein day and night, that we may observe to do all that is contained therein; for then shall we make our way prosperous, and we shall have great success.In conformity with this, the psalmist says, of the pious man, that “ his delight is in the law of the Lord, and therein doth he meditate day and night.”—Isaiah, wishing to convince the people how important the study of the scriptures was, exhorts them" to seek out the book of the law and read,” that they might know all that God commanded them.-Our Lord, knowing the valuable information that may be derived from the sacred writings, persuades the Jews to “ search the scriptures, for in them are the words of everlasting life, and they are these which testify of him.” “ For whatsoever things were written
aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through faith and patience might have hope.”
If this be the case with the Old Testament, which con. tains a dispensation of things that is now abolished, how
a much more worthy of our study is the New, which details the account of that gracious covenant into which God hath entered with his own Son for bringing us to glory and to happiness! Accordingly we are told, that the gospels are written “ that men might believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and that believing they might have life through his name.” But how shall they believe, unless they read and study, and apply them for their instruction in righteousness? - Indeed so careful were the apostles to enforce upon their converts the perusal of the scriptures, that St. Paul directs his epistles to be read not only by the persons to whom they were written, but “ by all the holy brethren."— And St. John, in the beginning of the Revelation, which seems least fitted of any for common use, encourages Christians to peruse it, when he says, “ blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of the prophecy of this book.”-Such was the veneration paid to the scriptures by the primitive Christians, that they employed their thoughts continually in meditating on them; they carried about a copy of them wherever they went, to supply themselves with materials for useful reflection, and gave up their lives rather than part with so .sacred a treasure. Shall we not be equally solicitous to know the will of God by inquiring what he would have us to do? Shall we not be constrained by the divine commands enforcing us, to impress upon our minds the truths revealed in the scriptures, lest at any time we should let them slip?
Our obligations to study the scriptures will appear still more clearly, by considering the evil consequences which ensue from neglecting them. While we daily consult the oracles of truth for information on subjects of religion, we shall by such application become familiarly acquainted with that knowledge which maketh wise unto salvation. But if we seldom or never examine the contents of the sacred volume, we shall be liable to ignorance, uncertainty, and error, in matters of the utmost importance. We shall form wrong notions of God and of ourselves, of this world and the next; we shall neither understand his holiness nor our own sinfulness, the superior importance of our spiritual to our temporal interests, nor the qualifications necessary for rendering us meet for the inheritance of the saints in light. A sense of these things shall wear out of our minds, and we shall gradually acquire such a careless temper as to live without religion in the world. If also we neglect to inquire into the several duties and right dispositions which the scriptures inculcate, we shall at last become regardless of conformity to the divine will, we shall live “ according to the fashion of the world which lieth in wickedness;" and as we do not like to retain the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus, " God will give us over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient,” till we be averse to every good work. Such, in general, is the result of neglecting to search the scriptures; and accordingly we find, that those who have disused the practice of reading the word of God in their families and in their closets, become lukewarm in the profession of religion, and insensible to the value of their spiritual and eternal interests. If we would be religious, not in name only, but in deed and in truth ; let us search the scriptures, as we shall find them profitable for doctrine and instruction in righteousness, and be thereby furnished unto all good works.
That we may derive advantage from the reading of the scriptures, consider,
III. The manner in which this exercise should be performed.
It is evident, that as the divine oracles contain a great variety of matter, with all of which we should be acquainted; it is necessary we should frequently apply ourselves to study and examine them. If we wish to attain a knowledge in any art or science, it is only by repeated trials in the practice of it that we can at last excel.' If we would become versant in the subject which any book illustrates, it is only by perusing it often that we can gain a compe
tent knowledge of its contents.-In like manner, it is only by a diligent and unremitting investigation of the scriptures, that we can learn the whole of those truths which they profess to reveal. The bible contains a vast fund of information on many topics, of which we should be informed for establishing our faith, and directing our conduct: and it is only those, who devote regular portions of their time for the study of the scriptures, that can make any proficiency to the knowledge of the subjects which they unfold. Accordingly, it is the practice of every serious man, who would become wise unto salvation, to read a passage of the word of God at least once a day, either by himself or in his family; and a larger portion on the sabbath, before and after the public service of the sanctuary. And surely, no one is so immersed in business, who might not find leisure to read somewhat of the scriptures every day, and thus gain new accessions to his knowledge of divine truths.
But as there are some places more important for our edification than others; we should make a selection of such, and peruse them more frequently in our retirements. With this view, the books of Genesis, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Isaiah and the prophets, will be found perhaps more instructive in religious and moral reflections than the other books of the Old Testament, and therefore deserve a more frequent examination; though the historical books should also be studied at certain seasons. The whole of the New Testament must be carefully perused, and its meaning as clearly apprehended, as our abilities and opportunities enable us.-In order to read the scriptures in such a manner as is suitable to their sacred character, and improving to ourselves, let us study to understand and apply to our use the scope of the passage we peruse. If it be historical, let us reflect how it sets before us the sovereignty and superintendence, the wisdom and goodness, justice or mercy of God; the amiableness and rewards of virtue, the deformity and punishment of vice; the heights of piety and holiness at which the saints ar rived, and the enormous sins into which they fell, that we may imitate them in the one case, and not in the other.
If we read a devotional part of scripture, let us endeavour to infuse into our own hearts the spirit of piety which it breathes; if a didactic passage, let us imbibe the sentiments which it contains; and if a prophetical one, let us consider the unerring wisdom of the divine Being, to whom present and future are equally known. If we study the gospels, let us admire the perfect character, heavenly doctrines, and wonderful works of our Redeemer, and imitate him who hath left us an example that we should follow his steps: and if we examine the epistles, let us endeavour to understand those mysteries of the faith once delivered to the saints, and apply to our use those practical rules of life which are adapted to every case and condition of the Christian character.
For this purpose, it would be a useful practice to reflect as we read, on the different species of instruction which the passage conveys. Thus, we should consider what acknowledgments of gratitude such a declaration requires; what consolation and joy such a promise imparts; what fear for our safety such a threatening should inspire; what duty this precept enjoins; and what sin it is intended to forbid.-Let us ask ourselves whether our character be agreeable to the standard of obedience prescribed in the scriptures; whether we are arriving at greater conformity to the divine statutes; and yet from a sense of our insufficiency, trusting to the merits of Christ as the sole medium of acceptance with God, and to his intercession for grace here and glory hereafter. Such personal application of the scriptures to our own condition, will have a powerful tendency to convince us of sin and convert us to holiness, and build us up through faith unto salvation.
As there are many subjects which the scriptures unfold of a mysterious nature, and many rules of duty prescribed which are difficult to observe, it is necessary when reading these, that we submit our understandings and wills to the authority which delivers them. For as we are finite creatures, whose minds are incapable of comprehending the deep things of God, therefore it becomes us to believe, that whatever infinite wisdom hath revealed must be true, whatever infinite goodness hath commanded must be best.