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and all our attempts to distort it, one way or the other, are puny and contemptible.
A MAN may find much amusement in the Bible variety of prudential instruction-abundance of sublimity and poetry: but, if he stops there, he stops short of its great end; for, the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. The grand secret in the study of the Scriptures, is, to discover Jesus Christ therein, the way, the truth, and the life.
In reading the Scriptures, we are apt to think God farther removed from us, than from the Persons to whom He spake therein : the knowledge of God will rectify this error; as if God COULD Be farther from us than from them. In reading the Old Testament especially, we are apt to think that the things spoken there, in the prophet Hosea for instance, have little relation to us: the knowledge taught by Christian Experience will rectify this error; as if religion were not always the SAME SORT of transaction between God and the soul.
THERE are two different ways of treating the Truths of the Gospel—the SCIENTIFIC and the
It was seriously given me in charge, when I first entered into the Ministry, by a female who attended my Church, that I should study Baxter's “ Catholic Theology.” I did so: but the best idea that I acquired from this labour was, that the most sagacious and subtle men can make out little beyond the plain, obvious, and broad statement of Truth in the Scriptures. I should think it a very proper and suitable punishment for a conceited and pragmatical dogmatist, to oblige him to digest that book. Another great truth, indeed, we may gather from it: and that is, that the intemperate men, on either side, are very little aware of the consequences, which may be legitimately drawn from their principles. Even Dr. Owen has erred. I would not compare him, in this respect, with Baxter; for he has handled his points with far greater wisdom and simplicity: yet he errs ex abundanti. He attempts to make out things with more accuracy, and clearness, and system, than the Bible will warrant. The Bible scorns to be treated scientifically. After all your accurate statements, it will leave you aground. The Bible does not come round, and ask our opinion of its contents. It proposes to us a Constitution of Grace, which we are to receive, though we do not wholly comprehend it. Numberless questions may be started on the various parts of this Constitution. Much of it I cannot understand, even of what respects myself; but I am called to act on it. And this is agreeable to analogy. My child will ask me questions on the fitness or unfitness of what I enjoin : but I silence him: “ You are not yet able to comprehend this : your business is, to believe me and obey me.” But the Schoolmen will not be satisfied with this view of things: yet they can make nothing out satisfactorily. They have their de re, and their de nomine: but nothing is gained by these attempts at clearness and nice distinctions. These very accurate men, who think they adjust every thing with precision, cannot agree among one another, and do little else than puzzle plainer minds.
WHATEVER definitions men have given of Religion, I can find none so accurately descriptive of it as this—that it is such a belief of the Bible as maintains a living influence on the heart. Men may speculate, criticise, admire, dispute about, doubt, or believe the Bible; but the RELIGIOUS MAN is such, because he so believes it, as to carry habitually a practical sense of its truths on his mind.
The fears of the general class of Christians are concerned about the superstructure of religion ; but those of speculative minds chiefly relate to the foundation. The less thinking man doubts whether he is on the foundation : he, whose mind is of a more intellectual turn, doubts concerning the foundation itself. I have met with many of these speculative cases. Attacks of this nature are generally sudden. A suspicion will, by surprise, dainp the heart; and, for a time, will paint the Bible as a fable. I have found it useful, on such occasions, to glance over the whole thread of Scripture. The whole, presented in such a view, brings back the mind to its proper tone: the indelible characters of Simplicity and Truth impress with irresistible effect that heart, which can discern them as having once felt them.
OLD AND NEW DISPENSATIONS.
THE Old and New Testaments contain but one scheme of Religion. Neither part of this scheme can be understood without the other; and therefore, great errors have arisen from separating them. They are like the rolls on wbich they were anciently written, before books of the
present form were invented. It is but one subject and one system, from beginning to end; but the view which we obtain of it grows clearer and clearer, as we unwind the roll that contains it.
There is one grand, and striking feature of distinction between the spirit of the Old Testament Dispensation and that of the New. - The Old Dispensation was a dispensation of limits, waymarks, forms, and fashions: every thing was weighed and measured: if a man did