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THE USE AND BENEFIT OF THE SCRIPTURES.
Ps. xix. 10, 11. More to be desired are they than gold, yea,
than much fine gold ; sweeter also than honey, and the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is thy servant warned : and in keeping of them there is great reward.
GOD has at no time left himself without witness in the world, seeing that he has spoken to all, in and by the visible creation, from which the most unenlightened heathens might learn his eternal power and godhead. But to us he has communicated a perfect revelation of his mind and will, which, as the Psalmist informs us in the preceding verses, is capable of producing the most beneficial effects. It was but a small portion of the Scriptures which David possessed; yet his testimony respecting them shews, that they were inestimable in his eyes, and that to all who received them aright, they would be a source of the richest blessings. In discoursing on his words we shall point out, I. The excellency of the Scriptures
Gold and honey are both excellent in their kind, and may fitly represent those things which are most pleasing to a carnal and a sensual appetite: but the Scriptures are infinitely preferable to both. 1. They are “more desirable than gold”—
[Gold, though so ardently and universally desired, is yet very confined in its uses. It is useful only to the body; yet not to that in all circumstances, nor for any long duration. But the Scriptures are profitable to the soul, and that too in every possible condition: nor will there be any termination to the benefits they convey. What light do they bring into the mind! the weakest Christian upon earth that is instructed out of them, as far surpasses all the philosophers of Greece and Rome, as they surpassed the most ignorant of the human race. How powerful too is their operation on the soul! the suggestions of man's wisdom were utterly incapable of counteracting the vicious propensities of the heart: but these, when applied with power from on high, subdue the soul to God, and renovate it after the divine image. Can gold then, however “great" in quantity, or “fine” in quality, be compared with these ?]
2. They are “sweeter also than honey”
[The most delicious honey is not near so grateful to the palate, as the Scriptures are to the spiritual taste. The doctrines of the Gospel, especially that which is the fundamental article of our faith, salvation through the blood of our incarnate God, how inexpressibly sweet are they to a weary and heavyladen soul! What a delightful feast do the promises, “the exceeding great and precious promises," afford to those who live upon them! The precepts too are equally high in the Christian’s estimation : their purity exactly suits his appetite, and instead of disgusting him, renders them tenfold more pleasing to his soula. Nor is he averse to the threatenings themselves: while he regards them as holy and just, he considers them also as good. In short, the Christian feasts upon the blessed book of God; he finds it the joy and rejoicing of his heart'; he esteems it more than his necessary food".]
But we will proceed to mark more distinctly, II. Their use
A variety of uses are mentioned in the preceding context: but the text comprehends them all under two particulars : 1. They warn us against much evil
[We could have had no conception of the deceitfulness and depravity of the heart, if God had not revealed it to us. But from the insight into it which the Scriptures afford us, we learn that to trust in one's own heart is the most consummate follye, since it is sure to mislead us, and to betray us into some evil.
From the same fountain of knowledge also we learn that there is an invisible, but mighty, agent, whose malice is most inveterate, whose devices are most subtle, and whose labours to destroy us are incessant. Against his wiles we are put upon our guard: we are taught how to distinguish his agency, and to defeat his plots.
There is yet another danger, of which we could have formed no idea, if God had not instructed us respecting it. We are told of another invisible power, even the Holy Ghost himself, who strives with us, and endeavours to establish the kingdom of God in our hearts. But we may “grieve,” and “vex” that divine Agent, and may so “resist” him as to “ quench” his sacred motions. Against this therefore, as the greatest of all evils, we are frequently and strongly warned.
It is no small advantage to us that every duty, and every a Ps. cxix. 140. b Rom. vii. 12. c Jer. xv. 16. d Job xxiii. 12. e Prov. xxviii. 26.
danger, is set before us in living characters. We are enabled in the Scriptures to discern the track of the godly, and to see where all that have suffered shipwreck, have perished : so that, notwithstanding we are passing through an ocean filled with hidden rocks and shoals, yet, if we only attend to the buoys which God has placed in our sight, we cannot but navigate it in perfect safety, and reach in due season our destined port.] 2. They lead us to much good
[We speak not of the recompence, which those who love the Scriptures will meet with in another world. There is a reward in keeping the commandments, as well as for it; and it is of that present recompence that we are called to speak. In receiving the doctrines, what peace do we obtain with God, and in our own consciences! In resting on the promises, what ineffable joy flows into our souls! In obeying the precepts, , what heavenly dispositions do we exercise, and what conformity to God do we obtain! And lastly, in following the bright examples that are set before us, how is our ambition stimulated, and how are our steps advanced! Unanswerable in every view is that appeal of God to man, "Do not my words do good to him that walketh uprightly??"]
1. Those who neglect the Scriptures
[How vitiated is your taste, that you can prefer a novel or a newspaper to the inspired volume! That you can be anxious about the things of time and sense, and be indifferent to that, which is more valuable than gold, more sweet than honey! Ah, think what durable riches, what heavenly delights, you lose! Did you but know what reason you have for shame and regret, you would go and search the Scriptures till you had learned their value by your own experience, and had found them to be the power of God to the salvation of your souls.] 2. Those who are like-minded with the Psalmist
(What do you owe to God, who has given you a spiritual taste, a spiritual discernment! By this, as much as by any thing, you may know your state towards God: you may mark, as by a scale, your progress or decline. With your advancement in the divine life, the Scriptures will rise in your estimation : with your declension, your relish for them will abate. O then “ let them be your meditation all the day; let them be your delight and your counsellors.” Thus will your spirit and temper be cast into their mould, and you will be gradually fitted for that place, where all that is now held forth to your faith, shall be for ever realized.]
f Mic. ii. 7.
PRAYER AGAINST SINS OF INFIRMITY AND PRESUMPTION.
Ps. xix. 12, 13. Who can understand his errors ? Cleanse thou
me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me : then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.
THE moral law, as revealed in the Scriptures, is a perfect transcript of the mind and will of God; and is therefore a mirror in which we may see how deformed we are through the introduction and dominance of sin. It was from a contemplation of its transcendent excellence that the Psalmist was led to bewail his want of conformity to it, and to implore mercy at the hands of God for his innumerable violations of it, and grace, to preserve him from any wilful opposition to it in future. And the more we study it, the more shall we be disposed to adopt the petitions in our text, “ Cleanse me” from the guilt I have already contracted : “ Keep me” from falling a sacrifice to my sinful propensities.
We all need to be delivered from,
[It is not of gross outward sin that we are here to speak, but of “ errors” and secret sins;” that is, such sins as escape the notice of ourselves as well as of others.
Consider the sins arising from defect. The law requires that we love God with all our heart, and all our mind, and all our soul, and all our strength; and our neighbour, under whatever circumstances, as ourselves. Now, if we trace the whole extent of our duty to God, as our Creator; to the Lord Jesus Christ, as our Redeemer; and to the Holy Spirit, as our Sanctifier; if we further pursue into all the different relations of life our duty to our fellow-creatures, and reflect that the smallest short-coming in the performance of it is sin: and then, reflect how great our short-comings are, even when we exert ourselves to the uttermost to fulfil the will of God; we shall see that, under this head alone, our sins are more numerous than the sands upon the sea-shore; since, in fact, we have been doing nothing but what, in fact, was sin, from the very first moment that we came into the world.
But besides the guilt we have contracted through defect, consider that which has arisen from deviations from the precise line of duty which we should have followed. We may conceive of an arrow shot in the right line towards an object, though it fall short of the object itself: and so we may conceive of our attempts to serve God, as perfect in point of aim, though defective in force and energy. But there is a bias in our fallen nature which causes innumerable aberrations from the perfect line of duty. In duty, of whatever kind it be, the principle ought to be as pure as the light itself: but in us it never is so: somewhat of a corrupt mixture will be found in every thing we do. There is so much blindness in our understanding, so much perverseness in our will, and so much sensuality in our affections, that we are imperceptibly drawn aside ; our very judgment is deceived; yea, "our mind and conscience are defiled;" so that, when we would do good, evil is present with us;" and, when we do, as we think, act entirely as unto the Lord, the heart-searching God beholds a mixture of self in our best motives, that serves yet further to vitiate and debase our best actions.
To all this add our actual transgressions, by thought, word, and deed, against the holy commands of God. It is still of “ secret sins” only that I am speaking, and of such as may justly be called sins of infirmity. But how vast the aggregate of evil which has arisen in our hearts from the secret workings of pride, or worldliness, or impurity, or unbelief, or some other corrupt feeling of our fallen nature! Yet not one of these has been unobserved by God, nor will one be kept out of sight in the final judgment.
Well then may we, even in this superficial view of our past errors and deviations, say, “ Who can understand them?”]
We need therefore to cry earnestly to God to « cleanse us from them”.
[The guilt in which they involve the soul is exceeding great: nor can it be purged away but by the atoning blood of Christ. The circumstance of their having been unobserved by us does not lessen the guilt of them, as we imagine ; but only shews how blind and ignorant we are, and how vitiated and debased that soul must be which can harbour such evils unconscious of their malignity, and almost of their very existence. God himself cautions us against regarding this as an extenuation, which, if rightly viewed, is rather an aggravation of our guilt. “Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error ; wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands a?" An atonement was offered by the high priests
a Eccl. v. 6.