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Thus the Apostle, when he tells us that he lived by the faith of the Son of God, adds, “ who died and gave himself for me." It is this application of Jesus Christ to our hearts, that makes his redemption effectual to each of us.
And it is this application of all the doctrinal and historical parts
of scripture, when we are reading them over, that must render them profitable to us, as they were designed for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, and to make every child of God perfect, thoroughly furnished to every good work.
I dare appeal to the experience of every spiritual reader of holy writ, whether or not, if he consulted the word of God in this manner, he was not at all times and at all seasons, as plainly directed how to act, as though he had consulted the Urim and Thummim, which was upon the high-priest's breast. For this is the way. God now reveals himself to man: not' by making new revelations, but by applying general things that are revealed already to every fincere reader's heart.
And this, by the way, answers an objection made by those who fay; 4. The word of God is not a perfect rule of actions " because it cannot direct us how to act or how to determine « in particular cases, or what place to go to, when we are in “ doubt, and therefore, the Spirit, and not the word, is to
be our rule of action.". But this I deny, and'affirm on the contrary, that God at all times, circumstances, and places, though never so minute, never so particular, will, if we diligently seek the assistance of his Holy Spirit, apply general things to our hearts, and thereby, to use the words of the holy Jesus, will lead us into all truth, and give us the particular assistance we want : But this leads me to a
Fifth direction how to search the scriptures with profit: Labour'to attain that Spirit by which they were written.
For the natural man difcerneth not the words of the Spirit of God, because they are spiritually discerned ; the words that CHRIST hath spoken, they are spirit, and they are life, and can be no more understood as to the true sense and meaning of them, by the mere natural man, than a person who never had learned a language can understand another speaking in it. The scriptures, therefore, have not unfitly been compared, by
some, to the cloud which went before the Israelites, they are dark and hard to be understood by the natural man, as the cloud appeared dark to the Egyptians; but they are light, they are life to christians indeed, as that same cloud which seemed dark to Pharaoh and his house, appeared bright and altogether glorious to the Israel of God.
It was the want of the assistance of this Spirit, that made Nicodemus, a teacher of Israel, and a ruler of the Jews, so utterly ignorant in the doctrine of regeneration : for being only a natural man, he could not tell how that thing could be ; it was the want of this Spirit that made our Saviour's disciples, though he so frequently conversed with them, daily mistake the nature of the doctrines he delivered ; and it is because the natural veil is not taken off from their hearts, that so many who now pretend to search the scriptures, yet see no farther than into the bare letter of them, and continue entire strangers to the spiritual meaning couched under every parable, and contained in almost all the precepts of the book of God. *** Indeed, how should it be otherwise, for God being a spirit, he cannot communicate himself any otherwise than in a spiritual manner to the hearts of men ; and consequently if we are strangers to his Spirit, we must continue strangers to his word, because it is altogether like himself, spiritual. Labour, therefore, earnestly for to attain this blessed Spirit; otherwise, your understandings will never be opened to understand the scriptures aright: and remember, prayer is one of the most immediate means to get this Holy Spirit. Therefore,
Sixthly, Let me advise you, before you read the scriptures, to pray, that Christ, according to his promise, would send his Spirit to guide you into all truth ; intersperse Phort ejaculations whilst you are engaged in reading ; pray over every word and verse, if poffible; and when you close up the book, most earnestly beseech God, that the words which
have read, may be inwardly engrafted into your hearts, and bring forth in you the fruits of a good life.
Do this, and you will, with a holy violence, draw down God's Holy Spirit into your hearts ; you will experience his gracious influence, and feel him enlightening, quickening, and inflaming your souls by the word of God; you will then not only read, but mark, learn, and inwardly digest what you
read : and the word of God will be meat indeed, and drink indeed unto your souls; you then will be as Apollos was, powerful in the scriptures; be scribes ready instructed to the kingdom of God, and bring out of the good treasures of your heart, things both from the Old and New Testament, to entertain all you converse with. One
Direction more, which shall be the last, Seventhly, Read the scripture constantly, or, to use our Saviour's expression in the text,
«s search the scriptures;” dig in them as for hid treasure; for here is a manifest allusion to those who dig in mines; and our Saviour would thereby teach us, that we must take as much pains in constantly reading his word, if we would grow wise thereby, as those who dig for gold and silver. The scriptures contain the deep things of God, and therefore, can never be sufficiently searched into by a careless, fuperficial, cursory way of reading them, but by an industrious, close, and humble application.
The Psalmist makes it the characteristic of a good man, that he “ meditates on God's law day and night.” And so this book of the law, (fays God to Joshua) shall not go out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein day and night;" for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and thou shalt have good success. Search, therefore, the scriptures, not only devoutly.but daily, for in them are the words of eternal life; wait constantly at wisdom's gate, and she will then, and not till then, display and lay open to you her heavenly treasures. You that are rich, are without excuse if
do not; and you that are poor, ought to take heed and improve that little time you have : for by the scriptures you are to be acquitted, and by the scriptures you are to be condemned at the last day.
But perhaps you have no taste for this despised book; perhaps plays, romances, and books of polite entertainment, suit your taste better : if this be your case, give me leave to tell you, your taste is vitiated, and unless corrected by the Spirit and word of God, you shall never enter into his heavenly kingdom í for unless you delight in God here, how will you be made meet to dwell with him hereafter. Is it a fin then, you will say, to read useless impertinent books; I answer, Yes: And that for the same reason, as it is a fin to indulge useless
conversation, because both immediately tend to grieve and quench that Spirit, by which alone we can be sealed to the day of redemption. You may reply, How shall we know this? Why, pyt in practice the precept in the text ; search the scripture in the manner that has been recommended, and then you will be convinced of the danger, finfulness, and unfatisfactoriness of reading any others than the book of God, or such as are wrote in the same spirit. You will then say, when I was a child, and ignorant of the excellency of the word of God, I read what the world calls harmless books, as other children in knowledge, though old in years, have done, and still do ; but now I have tafted the good word of life, and am come to a more perfect knowledge of CHRIST Jesus my Lord, I put away these childish, trifling things, and am determined to read no other books but what lead me to a knowledge of myself and of Christ Jesus.
Search, therefore, the scrip'ures, my dear brethren; taste and fee how good the word of Gopis, and then you will never leave that heavenly manna, that angel's food, to feed on dry husks, that light bread, those trifling, finful compositions, in which men of false taste delight themselves : no, you will then disdain such poor entertainment, and blush that yourselves once were
fond of it. The word of God will then be sweeter to you * than honey, and the honey-comb, and dearer ihan gold and vsilver ; your souls by reading it, will be filled as it were, with 'marrow and fatness, and your hearts infenfibly moulded inta the spirit of its bleffed Author. In short, you will be guided by God's wisdom here, and conducted by the light of his divine word into glory hereafter.
The Indwelling of the Spirit, the common
Privilege of all Believers.
JOHN vii. 37, 38, 39, In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood
and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the firipture bath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this Spake be of the Spirit, which they that believe on bim Mould receive.
OTHING has rendered the cross of CHRIST of less
effect; nothing has been a greater stumbling-block and rock of offence to weak minds, than a supposition, now current among us, that most of what is contained in the gospel of Jesus Christ, was defigned only for our Lord's first and immediate followers, and consequently calculated but for one or two hundred years. Accordingly, many now read the life, fufferings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, in the same manner as Cæsar's Commentaries, or the Conquests of Alexander are read: as things rather intended to afford matter for speculation, than to be acted over again in and by us.
As this is true of the doctrines of the gospel in general, so it is of the operation of God's Spirit upon the hearts of believers in particular ; for we no sooner mention the necesity of our receiving the Holy Ghost in these last days, as well as foșmerly, but we are looked upon by some, as enthusiasts and madmen; and by others, represented as wilfully deceiving the people, and undermining the established conftitution of the church.