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$ 3. The reading of the Scriptures is strongly recommended to us by the example of the saints in all ages. Their practice is worthy of our imitation. Job informs us that he esteemed the word of the Lord more than his necessary food. Job, 23 : 12. The word of God is as necessary for our souls, as our food is for our bodies. And as our natural life needs daily support, so ought we to hunger and thirst after the word of God, which nourishes and strengthens our spiritual life. David also made it his medi. tation all the day. And the Holy Ghost has recorded it to the honor of the Bereans, and for our imitation, “ that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Acts, 17:11. Oh, my brother, let us follow the worthy example of these our Jewish brethren at Berea. Although they received the word preached by the apostles with a ready mind, without prejudice or opposition, like the other Jews, yet they daily searched the Scriptures of the Old Testament, to see whether the apostles' preaching agreed with the writings of Moses and the prophets. Observe further:
§ 4. It is the express command of God, that we should read the Scriptures. We are not left at liberty to choose whether we will receive the Bible or not. God hath made it our duty, as well as our privilege, to search the Scriptures. This command was frequently renewed to our fathers, in the Old Testament. “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up." Deut. 6:6, 7. God had just commanded our fathers to love him with all their hearts; now follows the duty of reading the word of God constantly and diligently, morning and evening, by day and by night, at home and abroad, as an evidence of their love to God, and
a most effectual means of nourishing and increasing it. Such was the duty of the whole nation. Now hear the command of Jehovah to the king : " It shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book, out of that which is before the priests, the Levites: and it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life.” Deut. 17 : 19, 19. Although he might have some copies, yet he must write one, and must do it himself; and even if he should know it by heart, he must read it again and again all the days of his life. Neither was the general in the army exempted from this duty. When our whole nation was committed to the care of Joshua, the generalissimo, he received the following charge from Jehovah himself: " This book of the law shall not depart out of thy inouth, but thou shalt meditate therein night and day." Neither rank, nor talent, nor occupation will release us from the duty of reading the Scriptures. The duty was renewed in the days of Isaiah, "Seek ye out of the book of the Lord, and read.” Isa. 34 : 16. Under the New Testament dispensation we are equally bound to read the word of God. What Jesus said to the Jews, he saith to us also; “Search the Scriptures,” John, 5: 39: and the exhortations of the apostle to the churches of old are 'vritten for our instruction : "Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Eph. 6: 17. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.” Col. 3 : 16.
§ 5. I shall notice only one argument more, to enforce the duty of reading the Bible, viz. the consequences which will follow our conduct. Every command of God is sanctioned by a reward and punishment. David, speaking of the statutes and commandments of the Lord, saith, “in keeping of them there is great reward.” Ps. 19:11. A proper reading of the Scriptures is calculated to be of great use to us in every condition in life. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for
reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness ; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Tim. 3: 16, 17. The word of God is “a light to our feet, and a lamp to our path.” The Scriptures guard us against error, preserve us from temptation, deliver us from sin, support us under affliction, and comfort us in death. As the leaves of the tree of life were for the healing of nations, so the leaves of the Holy Bible are for the healing of our spiritual diseases. This tree of knowledge may be touched, and its pleasant fruit may be eaten. Yea, unless we eat thereof, we shall surely die. Those who do not read the Scriptures, not only lose the benefits which they are calculated to confer, but their condemnation will be as aggravated as it will be just. The Scriptures are the clearest light that ever shone. man hates it, it is a sure and awful sign that his deeds are evil. We are told that the heathen will be judged for not walking by the light of nature; how much greater must be the punishment of those who refuse to walk by the light of divine revelation! Oh, my dear brother, how shall we escape if we neglect so precious a gift—if we refuse to follow the sure and only guide that leads to the heavenly Canaan?
§ 6. To assist in the performance of this important duty, let me recommend to read the Scriptures with a proper and suitable frame of mind. Let us love and esteem the Bible as the most excellent, and the most useful book, and the perusal of it will become a pleasure. People do not take pains to seek for what they do not value. Thus David loved the word of God more than gold; Job esteemed it more than his necessary food; and an innumerable company of martyrs rather parted with their lives than with the Holy Scriptures. Let us remember that the Bible is the field where the pearl of great price and the hidden treasure are to be found. It is the only chart and compass that can direct us in sailing to the heavenly Jerusalem. The many great and precious promises which it contains,
are cordials in all our distresses, and so many streams of consolation from the inexhaustible fountain of eternal love. Whilst reading God's holy word, our hearts ought to glow with gratitude, and our lips should be filled with praise. If light is pleasant to the eye, how much more pleasant should the light of the Scriptures be to the eye of the mind ? How many millions of heathen are still involved in ignorance ? “For his judgments they have not known them.” Ps. 147 : 20. How many live in the region of death where this bright star of the Bible never appeared, and where the sun of righteousness has never shone? Well might we ask, with admiration and thankfulness, “ How is it, Lord, that thou wouldst show thyself to us and not unto the world ?"
07. It is further reasonable and important that we should read the Scriptures with humble and teachable dispositions. As humility is the ornament of a Christian, and most lovely in the sight of God, so it is the first and most requisite preparation for reading the Scriptures. To the humble only is the promise made. “ The meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way." Ps. 25 : 9. secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant.” ver. 14. Hence the inspired apostle exhorts us " to receive the ingrafted word with meekness.” James, 1:21. When men come to the reading or studying of the Holy Scriptures in the confidence of their own skill, wisdom, parts, learning, or understanding, God beholdeth them afar off, and scorneth to teach them. Oh, beloved brother, let us approach the word of God with a heart sensible of our own unworthiness be taught, and our own inability to learn--ready to receive, embrace, and submit unto what shall be made known to us.
§ 8. It is scarcely necessary to remark that the Bible ought to be read with great seriousness and holy reverence. When God speaks, it becomes us to be serious and atten tive. In prayer we speak to God; in the sacred Scriptures God speaks to us. If the ark was not to be touched because
it contained the law, with what reverence ought we to approach the Bible, which contains both the law and Gospel ! The Scriptures are the oracles of God, and not of men. lence the apostle commended the Thessalonians,
" that they received the Word, not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God.” i Thess. 2 : 13. Besides, God hath promised his blessing “to them that tremble at his word.” Isa. 66: 2.
Ø 9. To pray for the illumination of the Spirit is peculiarly necessary whenever we read the sacred Scriptures. The things of God knoweth no man but by the Spirit of God, by the Spirit of wisdom and revelation. The wisdom that cometh from above is the most valuable acquisition we can possess. But to read and not to understand will be of no advantage. The internal illumination is as much necessary as the external revelation. Thus Jesus Christ not only repeated the words of Scripture to his disciples in the way to Emmaus, but he also opened their understandings, that they might understand them. Luke, 24 : 45. Without this, a person may have the brightest parts, and the most penetrating judgment, in other respects, and yet be unacquainted with the mind of God in his word. A treasury deep and immured in darkness may be filled with gold and costly pearls; yet if a man goes into it without a light, instead of seeing what is desirable, he may be filled with fear and terror. Nor is it possible for a man, without the enlightening influences of the Holy Spirit, to discover the riches and treasures of the Bible. There is a veil over the heart” of every man, whether a Jew or gentile. Earnest prayer, therefore, for the guidance, direction, assistance, and illumination of the Spirit, to enable us to discern and understand the deep things of God, is most necessary. Where this is neglected, whatever we know, we know not as we ought. This illumination is the peculiar work of the Spirit. 2 Cor. 3 : 18. 4:6. It is promised by Christ, John, 14 : 26. 16: 13. 1 John, 2 : 20, 27. Hence David prayed that the Lord would open his