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ON SEARCHING THE SCRIPTURES.
THE invention of writing and printing, though it has been much abused, is an invaluable blessing to mankind. Hereby an history of the remotest times and events is faithfully conveyed to posterity; and the present age has the opportunity of improving by the recorded discoveries of the past. But the principal advantage arising from the arts just mentioned is, that the revelations which God formerly made to the prophets, are hereby transmitted to succeeding generations. The art of writing, seems to have been taught immediately by God himself, for this particular purpose. "He gave unto Moses two tables of testimony, written with the finger of God."* It has been conjectured by some, and not without some strong probability, that this was the first specimen of literal writing; and it certainly expresses the great design for which it was intended. So long as Divine revelation was confined to the Jewish nation, and for a considerable space of time under the Christian dispensation, this was the only medium of pre. serving and communicating the oracles of God from one age to another. This was attended with much trouble * Exodus xxxi. 18.
and expense. Brandt, in his History of the Reformation of the Low Countries, tells us, that, for one copy of the Bible tolerably written on vellum, it was usual to pay four or five hundred crowns. How thankful then should we be to the providence of God, for the still more valuable art of printing. Hereby God has provided for that extensive circulation of the sacred records which would have been impracticable without it; by this means the volume of inspiration is placed within the reach of the poorest Christian; and he enjoys the privilege of making it his pocket-companion. A multitude of books have been ushered into the world' through the medium of the pen, and of the press; and many of these are valuable; but the best of them, when set in competition with those which were written by Moses, by the prophets, and by the apostles of our Lord are comparatively worthless. They are, therefore, em. phatically and deservedly styled by way of eminence, the scriptures. Various are the arts by which Satan and his emissaries have endeavored to prevent a general and due attention to these sacred pages! The hellish policy of the Roman church, has labored to keep them in an unknown tongue; and by her sacrilegious authority, has proscribed the use of them to the common people. The advocates for infidelity, have attempted to turn the sacred writings into ridicule; whilst an host of authors, with incessant toil, endeavor to divert the attention of mankind, by productions more suited to their vitiated taste. Christians themselves, even those of whom we justly entertain an high opinion, are frequently, I fear, too inattentive to the duty of searching the scriptures. May the Spirit of God impress deeply upon the church
es, and upon the minds of Christians individually, the vast importance of this duty, and accompany the arguments enforcing it with his own divine energy and influence!
A consideration of the Divine origin of the scriptures, should prompt us to search them. "They are all given by inspiration of God. They came not by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." This is their claim, and it is well supported. Who can seriously consider the miracles which accompanied them, the prophecies abounding in them, their holy tendency, and their happy effects, without being constrained to acknowledge their Divine authority? Reason blushes at those who, under the pretence of its patronage, affect to question such decisive testimonies. If we admit that the scriptures are of God, surely feason requires us to search them; yea, it loudly reproaches us, if we neglect to do so.
Their incomparable excellence, urges us to the duty. They contain the best principles of knowledge; the purest rules of conduct; and the richest source of consolation. Herein doctrines of the utmost importance are taught, respecting God, ourselves, and the way to happiness. Science essentially connected with our eternal interests, and which could not have been attained but by Divine revelation, is hereby diffused from the source of infallible truth, unmixed with error. Herein the path of duty is clearly described, and the most exalted maxims of morality are enforced by arguments the most effectual. The sacred scriptures accommodate themselves to every circumstance of distress, and contain a sovereign balm for every wound. Are we la
boring under bodily affliction? Are we oppressed with a sense of guilt? Are we groaning under a body of sin? Are we harassed by temptations? Do we seem to be deserted of God? Are we in bondage through fear of death? Are we sinking into the depths of despair?Let us search the scriptures. In the doctrines, the invitations, the promises of the Bible, there is matter of relief suited to every case. Let but God the Spirit apply this sovereign remedy, and then relief is adminis tered, and the cure is immediately effected, be the malady what it may.
However correct and extensive our knowledge of the scriptures may be, still we should search them, for their excellences can never be fully explored. A re newed understanding finds that they improve upon trial. They ever continue to exhibit new beauties, and to unfold fresh stores of wisdom to those who study them under the illuminating influences of the Holy Spirit. "They have shallows in which the lamb may wade, and depths in which the elephant may swim."
By neglecting to search the scriptures, we are not only guilty of the basest ingratitude to the kindness of God, but offend against his authority: for he frequently and expressly commands us to search them. With what earnestness did God charge the Israelitish church in the wilderness to attend to this duty. "These words which I command thee, shall be in thine heart; and thou shall teach them diligently unto thy children, and shall 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. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as front
lets between thine eyes; and thou shall write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.' Our Lord's charge to the Jews to "search the scriptures," extends to us. We are commanded to "let the word of Christ dwell in us richly in all wisdom."+
The duty is recommended to us by the example of God's saints in every age. If we read the 119th psalm, we see how much David was employed in reading and meditating on God's word. Herein Daniel exercised himself in the time of the Babylonish captivity. Thus the treasurer of Queen Candace was engaged upon his journey. Does not his example make many persons blush? "How," says bishop Horne, "How will the Ethiopean eunuch rise up in the judgment against all those Christians, who, in the hours of domestic ease and tranquillity, never open a Bible, when he would not even travel without one in the chariot with him! Sitting in his chariot, he read Esaias the prophet."§
The most desirable advantages generally result from a diligent attention to the scriptures. It is a mean of preserving us from hurtful errors; of transforming us into the image of their divine Author, of enlivening our graces, of arming us against temptation, of comforting us in trouble, and of directing us in the various concerns of life. The experience of many bears witness to this truth. They feel their best interests promoted, in ruminating on the oracles of God.
Sooner or later we shall reflect upon ourselves for neglecting the scriptures so much; and for having given too much of our attention to other writings. This was
* Deut. vi. 6--9.
† Col. iii. 16.