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This temper may be acquired, first, by frequent reading and meditation of the Scriptures. A practice of this kind is essential in order to realize so happy a result. It is the same here as in other subjects of investigation. Diligence and assiduity are to be applied to the sacred volume. It is to be much read and meditated upon. It is to be made a study, with such powers and means and opportunities as you possess.
How can you understand it unless you investigate it ? and how can you imbibe its spirit and the feelings it is adapted to impart, unless you understand it-understand it in some good degree? The more it is studied and understood, the more will you feel its influence, other things being equal. Persons distinguished for piety have been distinguished for their acquaintance with the Bible. It is a book which they have loved daily and frequently to read-to which they have resorted more than to any other for light, consolation, and heavenly wisdom, and on which their habitual thoughts and meditations have been employed—often their best powers of comparison and analysis been expended. It is quite natural to think that the man, as accounts state, who was in the habit of reading his Bible through once every month, must have loved it in no ordinary degree, and deeply drank of its spirit. Although I here speak of an attention to the inspired volume chiefly for devotional purposes, yet the scope of these remarks may include also a methodical and critical study of it.
Again--the spirit of the Bible is acquired by means of true-hearted prayer. This must be added to the reading and study of the word. Such an exercise indicatest he temper which is suitable in learning or interpreting the sacred oracles. It is connected with a disposition essential to a profitable attention to the Bible. Fervent prayer also betokens the sincere desires of the mind, and called forth by such an interest as God's precious truth, it will not fail to enlist those energies which may be demanded for the purpose in view. It moreover secures the assistance of the Holy Spirit to render the word plain, and to impress its communications on the mind. But
have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things"-a declaration which, as applied to believers now, may lead them to expect, from such an influence, an adequate acquaintance with divine truth. With the Spirit's guidance, obtained through prayer, none will essentially err, or "stumble at the word, being disobedient.” Light, and glory, and beauty from the word, will follow in the wake of prayer.
Again-you acquire the spirit of the Bible by practising according to its rule, so far as you know it-so far as you are enlightened. This will be, of course, in successive measures.
" Then shall we
know, if we follow on to know the Lord." "For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance.” God gives us his grace in proportion as his communications are practically regarded. That is a law of his spiritual kingdom.
Let a person live according to the light he has derived from the Bible, and he shall have increased light. His spirit will become more and accordance with the divine rule. The truth, purity, love, humility, faith, and obedience, which have been spoken of, will be more completely diffused through all his moral nature.
Furthermore, the spirit of the Bible will be obtained by feeling our indebtedness to God and dependance on his Spirit for the gift. Certainly it will not be obtained without such a reference. In such a concern, we are not permitted to trust in our own independent efforts, or to ascribe our spiritual acquisitions to any thing short of the divine assistance. Here our own strength is weakness--our own light is darkness. We are indebted to God for all that is right in us, as it is the production of his Holy Spirit. To God, therefore, we should feel our obligations, and on his Spirit should we continually depend, and then the grace of salvation will abundantly flow into our souls. Then shall we consistently bear about with us the temper of God's word, and it will, as it were, shine in our very countenances.
Now, in respect to the importance of being imbued with this temper, the following illustrations and arguments may be urged. Every child of God should fervently plead, “Quicken me according to thy judgments,” the communications of the inspired book. It deserves every consistent, strenuous effort, to be quickened, made alive, animated, revived in religion, by such an influence—to show the piety of the Bible in our whole hearts and lives.
1. This scriptural activity constitutes true nobility of soul. The Bereans, as we are taught on one occasion,“ were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily whether those things” which they heard from the apostles accorded with that standard. Thus they felt the holy energy of divine truth filling and stirring their minds. It endowed them with true nobility of soul. That spirit which was thus produced, and thus efficient, is a great, a noble spirit. The Bible elevates the thoughts and views of men-raises their affections into the purer regions of invisible realities, and sets them on the pursuit of "glory, and honor, and immortality.” A mind penetrated with the truths of revelation cannot be chained to this world and its fading interests--it cannot grovel in
sensuality and sin. It feels that it was made to rise above the low cares and vanities of life, and to hold communion with God and with heaven. This elevation of the mind is, of course, incompatible with covetousness and every idolatrous affection ; and while diligence in the prosecution of common and necessary secular objects is employed, the soul is fervent, serving the Lord. The difference which scriptural truth makes in mankind, in respect both to their intellect and their hearts, is no less surprising than true. It refines and expands, and ennobles the soul, by many perceptible degrees, above that state in which it was uninfluenced by divine considerations. How important then is the infusion of a Bible spirit in the human mind, which is so accountable to God for its spiritual elevation in this world and above it !
2. You will think and decide correctly on moral and religious subjects, provided you are imbued with the spirit of God's book. The great reason why there are so many wrong judgments and decisions on morals and divine truths--so many religious controversies and altercations, is, that there obtains so deplorable a destitution of the temper of the Bible among men. Many will depart from the right and the true on these subjects, because the tone and temper of that book are unknown to their experience. They will not be controlled by its decisions--they will not yield to its claims, and this because they have not that spiritual understanding and that sanctified taste which enable the mind to see and approve that which is morally excellent. How seldom does a Bible Christian--a man who wears the impress of the Bible on his heart--whose soul is enlightened by its light, and the whole or the greater part of whose religious views have been derived from the sacred volume-err from a straight course, or fall into obvious mistakes. If we decide by the light of Scripture, we decide aright. No one's soul can be greatly jeoparded by any speculative error, when he manifests and acts out the temper inspired by that book, since in this case it can be an error only on subordinate topics, or of philosophical explanations.
3. Your feelings will be composed and tranquil—there will be peace within—when you are quickened according to the divine statutes. When your hearts are shaped by the Bible, and filled with its light and love, they are prepared for consolation. Your fears are then removed, your agitations soothed, your hopes brightened. In proportion to your heavenly feelings will be the tranquillity of your minds. God will be rejoiced in his service will yield a divine satisfaction. The terrors of hell—a servile dread—will die away, and you will be allured to duty rather by joy than impelled to it by a
tormenting conscience. It is only unfaithfulness to God and to the Bible, in any part of our walk as Christians, that necessarily straitens and depresses the soul. Right feelings and activity in duty make room for peace. The consciousness of following the divine rule, and of always having a disposition to follow it, must have a direct and strong tendency to inspire a sweet serenity of mind.
4. Such a participation of the spirit of the Bible as has been described, prepares us for every demanded religious service. It is the very temper with which to go forth to our duties--our great works as Christians. It prepares us to engage in them with alacrity, with vigor, and with effect. Having learned of Christ, we know, in some degree, what is required of us, and how to engage in the divine work acceptably. A willing, subdued heart, feeling the sanctifying influence of the gospel, is ready for any service to which it is called. It is indeed the only qualification for it, as a contrary state of the affections must be connected with aversion to duty. A man uninfluenced, unaffected with the motives of God's revealed truth, is in a very unfit condition of mind for any labors and sacrifices in the cause of God. But let these motives be felt with their appropriate force, and it constitutes the very aliment of the soul to do the divine will.
5. Your influence for good in the world depends on the degree in which we are imbued with the spirit of the Bible. No man does good in the highest sense, unless he has a measure of this spirit. Every one must feel the effect of the sacred message on his own heart, before he can successfully recommend it to others. truth, purity, love, humility, filial confidence, and obedience, which constitute the elements of scriptural piety, must be exhibited by those who would exert a useful influence on others-on an impenitent world. None but they who possess these and other characteristics of the gospel will study to do good-will be in the habit of devising ways and means of benefiting the souls of their fellow-men. It is the true spirit of the Bible alone that induces men to engage in the self-denying labors of benevolence. It is this temper which feeds the spring of so heavenly a charity. It is an influence of this kind which induces the philanthropist to seek out the causes of human wretchedness, and to spend his property or risk his life to remove them. It is this which inclines the converted, redeemed sinner, to meet the odium of the world, in attempts to turn his unconverted neighbors or companions from their sins and follies, and win them to Christ. It is this which sends the missionary of the cross to heathen barbarians, far from kindred and country, where he voluntarily
exiles himself from the delights of refined and intelligent society, for the sake of saving the guilty souls of these his fellow-heirs to eternity. It is this temper of God's book, wrought into the soul, forming its very texture, that finds its only proper life in these beneficent labors. How unspeakably important, then, that it should be possessed by all who would, in the highest sense, be useful in such a world as this !
6. Your meetness for death and the judgment, depends on the fact of your being imbued with the spirit which has been described. The inspired book was given us in order that we might form our characters according to its precepts and rules. Until, therefore, you come under an habitual influence from it, you have not answered its principal purpose in relation to yourselves. You are without a meetness to undergo the change of death, and without a prospect of experiencing, under its agonies, that support which our sinking, frail nature then requires. You are without a preparation to enter into the world of spirits, and to appear before Christ in judgment. The purifying efficacy of the truth by the Holy Spirit, is absolutely needful for all, in order to pass the scrutiny of the judgment uncondemned. To enjoy security at that fearful period, it must appear that we have profited by the Bible--that we have learned its vital truths--that we have practised its commands that we have imbibed its peculiar genius. There is no way to be right with God, or to attain a new spiritual nature, except through the knowledge and influence of his word. As you would, then, be sustained in death-be approved in the judgment, and hear the cheering sentence of acquittal, and the joyful welcome to heaven, you will feel the necessity of realizing all the purifying effects of the scriptural message upon your hearts. You must not fail of being Christians, according to the full meaning of the term and of that book. To come short of this, is to be undone
Finally, your present assurance of final acceptance depends on the degree in which you are influenced by the spirit of the divine word. No one can feel within himself the evidence of the Savior's favor except as he is actuated and controlled by that spirit. Without it, he must have an internal demonstration that he is in the wrong, and he can feel no authorized assurance that he will meet with the mercy of the Judge. He cannot have a solid basis of pi. ety in his own view; and whatever hopes he may conceive at times, his heart will be extremely apt to fail him in the hour of trial, as many have then been cut off from every ray of comfort. The only proper persuasion, therefore, of final acceptance, rests on the reality and extent of that grace which the Bible has been the means of