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ON THE HOLY SCRIPTURES. *
ROMANS, XV. 4.
Whatsoever things were written aforetime,
were written for our learning, that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope,
WHEN we were last met, the Gospel for the Day led me into some illustrations of the History of our Faith which I propose hereafter to prosecute farther as suitable to the season of Advent upon which we have entered. I think it, however, advisable to remark, at present, that
* Preached on the second Sunday in Advent.
the Epistles appointed for this Season are no less productive of sound instruction. In that for the first Sunday in Advent, which opens with the remarkable words, “owe no man any thing but to love one another,” and which in a very short compass runs over the whole field of social duty, it seems to be indicated to us, as by an inscription fixed over " the everlasting” doors of the Church, that the Gospel in its primary aspect, and before we at all enter into its more recondite doctrines, comes forward as a great and enlightened system of moral discipline; that it requires from its disciples in its very outset a disposition to attend minutely to the claims of every human Being, of whatever kind they may be, and from whatever gradation in society they may arise; and that, by fixing in the heart of the Christian the principle of love to his fellowcreatures as his leading principle of action, it both secures him against the inroad of those malignant or selfish passions which so often spread misery among mankind, and impels him into the generous and noble course of working for their happiness. This is the aspect in which the Gospel is first presented to us in the wise instruction of the Church; and it would have been well if Christians had ever borne it in mind, and had not so often given a pretext to the men of the world to look
the Gospel either as a system of abstracted speculation unconnected with the duties and the business of human life, or even as a system of partiality and exclusion, that was contradicted by the most genuine sentiments of morality.
In the Epistle for this Day the Church commences what may be more properly termed our Religious instruction, and from our duties to man, it raises us to our hopes from God. With this view it directs us to the Holy Scriptures,to “ whatsoever things were written aforetime for our learning ;” and without any farther comment upon them, than “ that through patience and comfort of these Scriptures we may have hope,” it leaves us to prosecute the study of them, if that hope is at all an object of our desire. It is true, indeed, that the influence of the world tends to deaden that desire in our minds,—that we too readily come to confine all our views of happiness within the narrow bounds of the present life; and hence it is, that we prosecute with so much eagerness, objects of earthly ambition or enjoyment, which engross us so thoroughly that we have scarcely any wishes or thoughts to bestow upon higher objects. Were we, however, rather to be occupied with the duties than with the enjoyments of life, and were we rather to seek our happiness in cultivating the affections of Charity and Humanity than in aiming at our private ends, it is scarcely possible that we could look abroad upon human nature without an earnest longing that it may yet appear in a more perfect form, and in a state of greater security; and to men of this affectionate and thoughtful mind, the highest boon which can possibly be presented is the discovery of some information with respect to holier and purer systems of existence, where death, and sorrow, and sin, shall be no more, and what they must eyer cling to with the greatest eagerness, is the supposition of some such information from the only Source from which it can distinctly come, -from a Source superior to the mere conjectures and reasonings of men, and which bears stamped upon it the seal and the authority of God. Thus it is, that wherever men have existed, we shall always find the most virtuous and elevated spirits anxious to discover some traces of truth even in the wildest superstitions,
unwilling to be left to themselves, and to the depth of their own ignorance, in questions of the most profound and intense interest, and courting the blessing of Divine Revelation in whatever form it could be represented to their reason or to their fancy. It is to this state of the human mind, a state which belongs to all men in some occasions of their lives ; in their youthful years, before the world has entwined all its ties around them,-or in the hours of sorrow and disappointment, when the futility of that world is powerfully felt,-or in the decline of life, when the shades of the grave are gathering over them ; but which is more especially the habitual state of feeling of those who take a deep interest in human happiness, and in the ultimate hopes of man :-to this anxious desire for illumination amidst the darkness of the world, the words of the text apply, and the Church at this hour points out to her humble disciples the means by which they may obtain it. She does not call them to any deep or abstruse inquiry, she does not at once lay before them all the grounds on which Faith in the Sacred Writings is founded, nor speaks of meeting every difficulty which may have been