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and be taught how in all things he may glorify the God and Saviour, who has " called him out of darkness into marvellous light.”
In something like this manner it is, that the word of God, in the hand of the Spirit, turns the soul from sin to holiness ; vitally unites it to Christ; and renders it a partaker of all the benefits of his great salvation.
3. The declaration of the text, as it relates both to knowledge and sto holiness, is remarkably verified in the practical Christian, through the whole of his life. The entrance of the divine word gives him more and more light; makes him increase both in knowledge and sanctification, till he enters into the “ rest that remaineth for the people of God." Nay, we have reason to believe, that saints in glory, will understand their Bible better than they ever did on earth ; for there they will see clearly many things referred to in divine revelation, which here they saw " through a glass darkly;" and their capacity for understanding the things of God will there be so enlarged, that their comprehension of them will exceed that of their present state, as much as the intelligence of manhood exceeds the few and feeble conceptions of infancy.
In the mean time, the people of God, while passing through this state of pupilage and discipline, this vale of tears, are continually instructed and edified, made to know their duty, to grow in grace, and to abound in divine consolation, by a constant resort to the sacred volume. After reading and hearing its truth a hundred and a thousand times, those truths are still new.-A new beauty is seen in them, and new directions, support and encouragement are drawn from them, to the
last. The facts, doctrines, precepts, promises, warnings, reproofs and threatenings, of God's holy word, are, at different times, seen in new views, and felt with a new force and influence ; and substantial improvement in knowledge and holiness is the uniform and happy result. Brethren, I call you to witness, that there are seasons in the life of the practical Christian, at which, by reading a passage or portion of sacred Scripture, or by hearing it discoursed on from the pulpit, or by finding its illustration in a book, or by meditating upon it in private, some precious truth comes to the mind with a flood of new light; and this truth is, at the same time, set home on the heart, with such a power and sweetness as is literally inexpressible. Then is the happy Christian prepared to say with emphasis, “ The entrance of thy words giveth light;" or with Peter on the mount, “It is good to be here ;” or with the author of our text in another Psalm, “ | rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil." Well may the Christian believer highly prize, as he always will, these delightful seasons of light, and enlargement, and sacred pleasure, and look for them, and pray for them earnestly, in reading, and hearing, and meditating on the word of God.
Nor am I willing to close this discussion, without a repeated notice of the well known fact mentioned at the entrance, that unlettered Christians, who have scarcely read another book beside the Bible, do sometimes, by great familiarity with that, become so expert in all subjects of practical piety and morality, as to be able to confound and put to shame, those who have read ever so much, if they have left unread, or unremembered, the volume of inspiration.
Thus have we seen how extensively and wonderfully the text is verified—“ The entrance of thy word giveth light; it giveth understanding to the simple.” From what has been said we may remark,
1. On the folly and wickedness of infidels, in their endeavours to discredit the Bible, and to banish it from the world. Their attempt is no other than to blot out the Sun of our moral system. But blessed be God, their effort is just as vain as would be an attempt to blot out the sun which shines in the firmament of heaven. Both are the work of the same God, and both equally beyond the reach of injury from puny mortals. The beams of both may be partially obstructed in their course ; but their fountain remains unimpaired, and will shine on, and illumine the rest of the world, in despite of all the rage, and all the efforts of those, who “ hate the light because their deeds are evil.”
Could the wishes and attempts of infidels succeed, they would throw the whole human race back into all the darkness and horrors of heathen idolatry; into an utter ignorance of the true God, and of the worship which he requires ; and an utter uncertainty of a future state of existence. There is in these attempts a wanton cruelty, which it is not easy to characterize as it deserves. Wretched and hard hearted men ! Why will you seek to rob the miserable, of every name, of the best alleviation of all their sufferings? Why will you attempt to deprive some of the excellent of the earth of that which constitutes their highest happiness? Infidels usually avoid our assemblies, and in speaking as I do, I am perfectly aware that what I say is not likely to strike the ear of one of their order. Nor do I seek, Christian brethren, to stir you up to hate or persecute these men. No verily; but I would stir you up to pity them, to pray for them, and with Christian zeal, mingled with meekness, to labour, in every proper way, for their conversion : and I would stir you up to guard the young and the unwary against their arts and their delusions ; as against a moral pestilence, poisonous to the very vitals of social happiness, and leading to all the horrors of the second death.
2. From the subject and the discussion to which your attention has been invited, we may see the importance of Bible translations, Bible societies, Missionary operations, Tract societies, and Sabbath schools. These have all the same object. They all co-operate to diffuse the light and influence of revealed truth. If I might characterize them from the metaphor furnished by our text, I would say, that the translators of the Bible are preparing lamps, or torches, fitted to enlighten all the dark
parts of the earth; that Bible societies are forming magazines of these lamps, to be distributed, by sale or donation, in every place, and to every individual that needs them ; that Missionaries are intrusted to carry these lamps abroad, that those who want may obtain them readily for themselves,—and that the missionaries are themselves torch-bearers, throwing light into every dark path and corner of the world ; that Tracts are tapers, lighted at these lamps, and distributed gratuitously, inducing men, by their manifest utility, to seek for the lamp itself, and in the mean time enabling them to avoid the pit of perdition, and to turn their footsteps into the path of life; and that Sabbath schools are so many moral infirmaries for the blind, into which innumerable children and many adults are kindly received, to have their blindness removed, and their eyes opened on that glorious light “ which shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” The operations and institutions which we here contemplate, are the glory of the age in which we live; and the man or woman who does not take some part in promoting them, is not worthy of the name of a Christian.
3. Our subject shows the importance of carefully reading and hearing the word of God, and of accompanying both with much and earnest prayer for the enlightening and sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit.
Those who neglect the perusal of the Holy Scriptures and the preaching of the gospel, are regardless of the ordinary means which God has appointed for their salvation. We do not deny that they may be arrested and brought to consideration, in some very extraordinary way ; but the hazard of this is fearful beyond expression. It is to risk eternal happiness or misery on an appalling improbability : and what is this, but the very madness of human folly ? “ Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God :” and to the word of God every soul under the light of the gospel, must at last be brought ; or its everlasting perdition is as sure as its existence. O that this were duly considered, by those in Christian communities who seldom open a Bible, and as seldom appear in a place of public worship, or hear, on any occasion, the preaching of the gospel.
But it is also of unspeakable importance to keep in mind, that even reading and hearing are not likely to be attended with a saving efficacy; if they are not accompanied with earnest prayer. Alas! we have reason to believe, that the neglect of prayer for the teachings of the Holy Spirit, to give impression to his own truth, is the great cause, that by multitudes its influence is never felt; or if felt at all, is speedily dissipated and lost. Could we persuade men never to open the Bible without sincere and ardent aspirations of soul, for the enlightening and sanctifying influences of the Spirit on the portion to be read, and never to close it without similar aspirations for a blessing on what has been read--and could we engage them in the like devotional exercises in their closets, before and after every sermon they hear-0! brethren, if we could effect this, be assured it would not be long before we should see converts multiplying like drops of the morning dew; and professing Christians manifesting a growth in grace, most comfortable to themselves, most ornamental to religion, and most influential in promoting the cause of God in the world. To produce such an effect, let us withhold no effort in our power; and let us remember, that among the means to be used, none will be more important than to exemplify in ourselves, what we recommend to others.
4. Finally—This subject affords instruction and admonition to preachers of the gospel.
In much that has already been addressed to Christians in general, we who are ministers of the gospel, have more than a common interest; since to us it is peculiarly important to realize in our own souls, what we urge upon our hearers ; and because it is also especially incumbent on us to take the lead in every measure, and every effort, to diffuse the light of the gospel, among those who are yet groping in the darkness of ignorance and sin.
But there is yet another, and a more exclusive application of this subject to us, as preachers of the gospel. It is summarily this—that in preaching, we look well that it be revealed truth, and that only, which we deliver to the people; and that we be much engaged in prayer for the influences of the Holy Spirit, to render effectual all that we address to our fellow-sinners
Dear Brethren—If we rightly estimate our character as ambassadors of Christ, we shall never go into the sacred desk to deliver discourses on philosophy, or to exhibit specimens of eloquence, or samples of elegant composition. We shall be absorbed by the desire to make the truths of God's holy word enter both the understandings and the hearts of our hearers. Eyeing this great object, we shall avoid every process of abstract reasoning, and sacrifice every ornament of style, and forbear every attempt at oratory, that would hinder, and not help us, in reaching the point at which we aim. We shall use such plainness and simplicity of language and manner, that if any of our audience do not understand and profit by what we say, theirs and not ours shall be the fault. We shall, in a word, preach, in our humble measure, as Paul did not with enticing words of man's wisdom,- not in the words that man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth, comparing spiritual things with spiritual."
From the time of Paul to our own, there has been too much of ó man's wisdom,” in his sense of the phrase, in preaching the gospel — too much of it, not only in language and manner, but really in attempts to be wiser than the book of God-wiser than the teachings of the Holy Ghost. I will freely state what I take to be one example of this. It seems to me, and so it has seemed to all the best expositors of Scripture, of whom I have any knowledge, that the Bible is replete with the doctrine of substitution, or imputation; that the whole Mosaic ritual taught this doctrine, and was in a great measure founded upon it; and that the same is taught by the inspired writers of the New Testament in as plain language as they could use. But no-say some-- the thing is impossible. It is impossible that either guilt or righteousness should ever be imputed. They are in their own nature personal qualities, and they never can be transferred from one party to another ; one party can never be a substitute for another, in relation to these qualities. Now, to this I answer in the words of Paul, in relation to a doctrine far more mysterious than that of substitution ;—“Nay, but o man! who art thou that repliest against God ?” Show me, if you can, that the word of God does not, by a fair construction, teach this doctrine. While you attempt this, I shall listen to you.
But I will not listen, for a single moment, to your reasonings against that word ; for I know that human reason, however plausible, is often fallacious ; but that God can neither err nor deceive. If he has spoken clearly-reason as you may-he and not you must be believed. Yes, and away, too, with all torturing of that blessed word, with a view to make it say something, which, in its plain import, it does not say—that thus it may be forced into an alliance with a favourite system.
Brethren, let us go and sit down, like little children, at the feet of our divine Master, and take our system of doctrines, in the first place, from him alone. We will reason on them afterwards; we will reason on them all; and we will make them square with our reasons, as far as we can; and when we can go no farther, we will believe Him, and distrust ourselves. Do not say that this is to act blindfold in the matter of religion. It is not. We are neither infidels nor sceptics.
We have already satisfied ourselves that God does verily speak to us in the Bible ; and if so, we know that all he has there told us is consistent with the most perfect reason, although we cannot always trace it fully. On this very account it is that we ought to prefer what he says, before any of the deductions or conclusions of fallible human intellect : that is, we ought to resolve to follow an infallible guide, rather than a fallible one; and if this is not a rational resolve, let any one tell us how such a resolve may be formed.
Apart from the guidance and authority of revelation, sure I am, that if we could reason better than Locke, or Butler, or Edwards, or Reed
-yea, if we could reason with the powers of an angel, instead of those of a man-we should never be able to reason a single sinner out of his sins, and persuade him into faith in Christ and love to God. The truths of Holy Scripture, plainly stated and powerfully urged, are those only from which we can look for this effect ; because every thing in this great concern depends on God's blessing ; and it is his plan and purpose ordi