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The Importance and Advantage of a Thorough Knowledge of Divine Truth;' founded upon the words, "When, for the time, ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again, which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat." The arguments which he employs, are in his usual manner of perspicuous and powerful simplicity. Among his 'Directions for the Acquisition of Christian Knowledge,' with which the discourse is concluded, he gives this advice: "Procure, and diligently use, other books, which may help you to grow in this knowledge. Many excellent books are extant, which might greatly forward you in this knowledge, and afford you a very profitable and pleasant entertainment in your leisure hours. There is doubtless a great defect in many, that, through a loathness to be at a little expense, they furnish themselves with no more helps of this nature. They have a few books, indeed, which now and then, on Sabbath-days, they read; but they have had them so long, and read them so often, that they are weary of them; and it is now become a dull story, a mere task, to read them."

Many persons, indeed, satisfy themselves with an avowed abjuration of human writings, under the pretext, that those writings, even the best of them, being only streams from the fountain, and being so far only true and valuable as they deduce the waters purely "out of the wells of salvation;" that fountain, also, being always open and near at hand, in the WRITTEN WORD OF INSPIRATION; it can never be necessary, and it may be prejudicial, to im

bue the mind with the fallible productions of men. Hence, they not only are superlatively pleased with themselves, and look for admiration from others, for their making the Bible their ONLY book; but they afford, very frequently, no obscure indications of an assumption, that they themselves have imbibed some considerable portion of the infallibility which belongs to the Oracles of Heaven; and they take it as ill to have their interpretations and decisions questioned, as if they witnessed the refusal to acknowledge "a prophet of the Lord."

These persons, we cannot but apprehend, have a very erroneous notion of the perfection and sufficiency of the Scriptures; and a very incomplete understanding of what those divine writings actually contain and inculcate. The Holy Scriptures are perfect and sufficient for all the purposes for which they were given, and in all the modes of obtaining those purposes which Divine Wisdom has seen fit to establish. But it was certainly not among those purposes, to supersede any legitimate and sanctified employment of the human mind. The Scriptures are a very miscellaneous collection of writings, and they nowhere assume the form of an elementary, or a systematic treatise. In their whole frame and texture, they take for granted the reader's mind to be possessed of much preliminary knowledge: such as the being, perfections, and government of the only living and true God; the equity, and indispensable obligation of all his claims; the necessary accountableness, and the future existence of man. To the ancient Israelites, the messages of the prophets were always addressed, under the evident pre

sumption of their being well acquainted with what the Most High had already done, and what intimations of his will he had communicated, in the days of their fathers, and in the infancy of the human race. Even with regard to the superstitious and idolatrous Gentiles, the evangelical message itself plainly pre-supposed such a knowledge of God, and the invisible things of God, as left them without excuse; and such an inscription of "the work of the law," its great outline and purport, "upon their hearts, that they, not having the law, were a law unto themselves." The writings of the New Testament as evidently proceed upon the supposition, that the Christians, to whom they were immediately addressed, had been faithfully instructed, had received the Gospel from a full and clear oral ministry, and so possessed a universally admitted knowledge of the rule of faith and directory of conduct. It clearly follows, that these component parts of previous and fundamental knowledge should be brought into our possession; and for this end the Scriptures must be illustrated, by contributions from every spot in the wide domain of facts accessible to our investigation. The Scriptures must also be interpreted: and no interpretation is valid, unless it express "the mind of the Spirit;" unless it give the genuine sense of the terms and paragraphs which it professes to explain. Therefore, the judicious and holy employment of philology and criticism, of history and antiquities, and of an acquaintance with the faculties. and susceptibilities of man, as the subject of religion, is necessary for our correctly understanding the word of God. It is often said, this is the province of the

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ministers and teachers of religion.

Undoubtedly: and, O that they all felt the obligation more deeply, and complied with it more perfectly! But is it wise, is it safe, is it becoming, to speak and act as if this charge lay only upon them? Has not every form of error, that has at any time laid waste the church of God, originated in some one or more of the accredited teachers of the gospel?-The surest human guarantee for the preservation of a pure and faithful ministry, lies in a holy, enlightened, reading, thinking, and active body of private Christians: they are the great waters which must raise the level of the floating vessels, however large may be the capacity of those vessels, and rich the treasures with which they are laden.

The assiduous exercise of the human faculties, in the investigation of revealed truths and duties, in the position of their evidence, the elucidation of their meaning, and their application (various, through a range fitly corresponding to "the manifold wisdom of God,") to the characters, situations, engagements, temptations, and all the circumstances of men,-is laid down as a universal duty, by divine authority. "Yea; and why, even of your own selves, judge ye not what is right ?-Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think," (nor was it a vain opinion,) "that ye have eternal life: and it is these which testify of me.-Prove all things: hold fast that which is good. I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.-] pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve the things which are excellent," or, as the latter clause may be justly rendered, "that ye may


discriminate the things which differ." The Apostle charged his beloved Timothy; "Till I come, give attendance to reading." The specification of the period during which Timothy was to wait at Ephesus for his faithful teacher and friend, does not well accord with the interpretation, which attaches the reading" enjoined upon him, to the Scriptures alone. It would be the duty of Timothy, not only until Paul's arrival, but after it, and in all his future life, to pay his utmost attention and employ all his suitable opportunities in the reading of so much as he possessed of "the Holy Scriptures, which were able to make him wise unto salvation, through the faith which is in Christ Jesus." But, if we consider that Timothy was in an eminently learned and polished city, that an unusual portion of leisure was put into his hands, and that he could scarcely again expect to enjoy so favourable an opportunity of obtaining the use of books in Grecian literature, large, numerous, and costly, and so much time for the reading of them; the reason of the exhortation becomes apparent, and its reference to other books besides the sacred writings is rendered, to say the least, extremely probable. If then, in the judgment of the holy, faithful, and devoted Apostle, the subject also of miraculous inspiration, it was an advantage not to be foregone, that the young Evangelist should avail himself of a season of extraordinary leisure for the study of books, which, if they were not the inspired writings, whatever else they might be, whether Jewish or Grecian, may, without hazard, be affirmed to have been incomparably inferior to the productions of our best English and Scots divines;

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