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started with respect to some particulars of an History extending from the first origin of our race through so many thousand years, and amid such an infinite variety of incidents and Divine interferences, she expresses no anxiety about thedefence of their bulwarks from the attacks of infidelity or the cavils of scepticism,-she simply tells us, that they were “ aforetime written for our learning ;” and if we really have an anxiety to obtain the highest hopes of our being, she sends us with perfect confidence to these Scriptures as to the undoubted source from which we may derive them.
There are several particulars stated in the text, which may both give us an intimation of the true character of Sacred Scripture, of the dispositions of mind with which we ought to study it, and of the inestimable advantages which we may derive from that study.
I. In the first place, it is here intimated to us, that these Holy Writings were " written afore time,”-that they are not the invention of any late age, which might amuse itself with speculating on the previous condition, or the final hopes of mankind; but that they go back to the very earliest cradle of our race, and are confessedly the most ancient records that have come down to us from the beginning of time. Were there nothing more in this Sacred Book than its venerable Antiquity,—were it only the most ancient narrative that remains of the history of the world, it surely would merit, even in this view, an attentive study, and a reverential regard. Instead of flying with eagerness to detect every flaw that might appear in its narrative, or to expose every trace of the barbarism of primitive manners which might be found in it, it would rather be the part of a liberal mind, to follow out, with a sacred reverence, the chain of truth which pervaded its story, and to delight in every exhibition of genuine nature, or of virtuous character, which might shine out from the rust of a former world. This would be the true disposition with which Scripture ought to be studied, were it merely an history of human events; but from the beginning to the end, it is an history of man with a reference to his dependence upon God; and here, too, the very Antiquity of the History demands a serious and attentive ear. It does not come to us in any questionable form of late philosophical invention, in which individual opinions might assume an authority which did not belong to them, but its representations are blended with the most primitive traditions of mankind; and through a lang succession of ages, they come forward varied, yet the same,-under an holy uniformity of impression, yet with all the variety arising from a diversity of human agents, and from the changes of human affairs with which they are successively interwoven. There is, it cannot be denied, in such representations of Religion, in such views of the intercourse of a Divine Spirit, with a weak and sinful, yet intelligent and moral offspring, something infinitely more satisfactory to a considerate and thoughtful mind, in the midst, it may be, of occasional unexpected appearances, than if unconnected with the hiss tory of the species from its earliest rise, the first aspect of Revelation should have opened upon an enlightened age, and amidst the refined digcoveries of science and philosophy.
II. The second intimation of the text is, that “whatsover things were written aforetime, were written for our learning.” This surely is a claim for Sacred Scripture which may very
easily be admitted ; and à consistent record of so great antiquity, and relating to so deeply interesting a subject, may, without much previous consideration, be received as “ written for our learning.” It is evidently, then, a subject of study which we ought to study as those who are anxious to learn; with that humble mind which feels its ignorance, and is desirous to receive instruction; with that readiness to believe, which fixes upon every trace of Divine Truth, and does not too easily take offence at any real or seeming difficulty; with that thankful spirit, which receives, with devout gratitude, every intimation of a communication from God that may seem worthy of His gracious Wisdom to make, or that can lead to the improvement and happiness of man; with that simplicity of heart which chiefly looks in Scripture for what it feels most beneficial for it to learn; and does not only search for a confirmation of opinions previously formed, or for what may merely add to the self-sufficiency or pride of knowledge. I may ask, my brethren, whether it yet ever happened, that those who went with these dispositions of mind to the study of Holy Scripture, did not make the precious discovery, that it was indeed “written for their learning ?” I may ask, whether they have not derived from it a knowledge of themselves, and of the human heart, deeper and more profound than all that is commonly known under the boastful name of knowledge of the world ?-whether they have not learnt, from these Holy Writings, that knowledge which may well indeed humble them in the dust-the knowledge of the weakness and wandering of every thing that is called man? But let me ask, have they learnt nothing more? Have they not farther learnt the all-sufficiency and the tender mercies of God; and from the first hour of the transgression of man, to the last hour of its expiation on the Cross, what is the grand leading feature of those Heavenly communications ?-what but a constant call to Man, to raise his eyes from his own condition of infirmity and degradation, to the Infinite Power who is watching over him ; to rise from his own pollution under the influence of the Divine Holiness and purity; and ever to “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling," with the firm belief of celestial aid, and of unlimited forgiveness? I ask, my brethren, whether, from any of the writings of unassisted Man, such profound