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may ascertain whether the doctrine of salvation as a whole has been digested by us in the above sense of moral digestion. The question is not whether we understand the Christian scheme as à speculative, but as a morally operative scheme; not so much advancing the Christian in the knowledge of this “mystery of godliness," as producing in him the vital effects of that doctrine; in other words, “the life of Jesus,” “the mind which was in Christ Jesus." Hence it will appear, that those persons have most profited by the Scriptures, who have imbibed more of that love which “edifieth” than of that knowledge which "puffeth up;" who are “thoroughly furnished unto every good work,” rather than they who “have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mystery and all knowledge." When the scriptures have become to us a new and a transforming principle of action, a rule of life as well as a rule of faith, then may we truly be said to have “inwardly digested” them, and by thus becoming the principle of a new life within us, we no longer receive them as the word of men (bestowing on our bibles only the attention and interest due to a composition merely human) but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh in us. It is
then also “the power of God to our salvation," and dwells in us richly in all wisdom.”
It must, on the other hand, be obvious, that if the holy scriptures be not in “such wise" read, and inwardly digested, if they be not deeply entered into, their precepts and maxims made our own, by being habitually lived upon and acted upon; in a word, if they become not in a manner part of ourselves, by growing with our growth and strengthening with our strength, we cannot be said to have attained to the “ patience and comfort of God's holy word,” nor to “embrace and hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life which he has given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ."
For would you farther ascertain the progress you have made in religion under the teaching of the scriptures, you will enquire whether you have yet attained to “patience” under their searching operation. If with the knowledge of a holy God, a Redeemer, and Sanctifier, you have also acquired, not merely an insight, but a deep and an habitual conviction of your condition as a fallen creature, a transgressor from the womb, a miserable sinner;' you will not slightingly pass over those particular scriptures which come more immediately home to your bosom, which show you to yourself, “as in the water face answereth' to face." You will be patient of their reproofs, and bring yourself under the weight of their severest rebukes. Hence, when the word of God pronounces over you, Thou art the man ; if you have attained to the “patience" of the scriptures, you will with heart and soul, though with unfeigned humility and contrition, reply, I have sinned ! " Lord' thou knowest my foolishness, and my sins are not hidden from Thee !” “Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean: wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.”
The world would reach forth its hand to the “ comfort of God's holy word,” before it has endured the smarts, the divisions, the piercing asunder, the probings thereof. It would follow Christ to a kingdom, but not to imprisonment and to death. If you, my brethren, have not so learned Christ, then have you attained to the patience” of the scriptures, knowing that 6 even Christ pleased not himself, but, as it is written, the reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.”
To such only belongs the “ comfort of God's holy word.” “ The bones which God has
when you on the last sabbath-day brought it with you from the house of God. With it too religion is thus resumed and laid aside by the week. For if the scriptures be not daily and habitually perused, and perused with seriousness, religion cannot live and thrive. Prayer and reading the word of God are the Christian's pulse. As these are kept up, a healthy, a vital circulation is maintained through the religious system. The soul lives, and thrives, and delights itself in the Lord. Cease or relax these—religion dies away, and the cold apathy of the world seizes upon that heart, and understanding, and affections, which were created for God.
Other books, of a light and worldly cast, are substituted in the room of the scriptures : these are read with avidity: an interest is excited: they gratify a pampered and a false appetite. The scriptures have nothing of that kind, of excitement which such appetites require. They excite indeed an interest, but an interest of their own. A taste for better things than those of time and sense must be produced in the heart, before the scriptures can inspire such an interest. When a “hungering and thirsting after righte. ousness” has taken possession of the soul--then there is no interest like that of the scriptures ;
no pleasure equal to their's who meditáte in the law of the Lord. All other books, whatever be their separate interest and independent merit, when compared to the words of eternal life, are but the shaking of the leaves. To read, to delight in, to digest the scriptures, is as the gleaning of the vintage. “ Their object is not to make us either poets, philosophers, or orators ; but by their instructions they confer immortality, a divine nature, and heaven."*
Such is that book, the holy scriptures. Such the things which were written for our learning : a book not to be lightly skimmed over, and then closed and laid aside, but to be read, marked, learnt, and inwardly digested. Much less will it yield its sweetness to those who seldom or never taste its fruit. Nor for the languid, desultory reader, has it either patience or comfort. But let it be resorted to constantly; give it the precedence in your estimation and practice, before all other books ; each morning at least, and in particular, rifle its opening sweets, before you go forth into the world ; and sure I am that its sacred truths, if received into an honest and good heart, and with the blessing of God's holy spirit piously and affectionately implored,