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THE USE OF THOSE MEANS RECOMMENDED, WHICH
HAVE A TENDENCY TO ENDEAR CHRIST.
it THE sacred writers,” says an admired author, “ have made things clear, in proportion as they are momentous ; and such is the perspicuity with which many of the principles of religion are laid down in Scripture, that we should deem it impossible for them to be misunderstood, did we not know how easy it is to perplex a rule by which we dislike to walk, and remember what a power there is in the passions to pervert the dietates of the understanding, and baffle the admonitions of conscience.” What can be more plain in Scripture, than that God has connected every desirable end with suitable means ? When temporal prosperity is the object of pursuit, this truth is instantly perceived, and universally acknowledged. He would be thought deficient in common sense, who should expect his lands to produce valuable crops without culture, or his trade to go on successfully without order, attention, and diligence : yet it is to be lamented, that there are some who boldly attempt to sever the intimate connection that subsists between religious privileges and duties. Can there be a more glaring and palpable absurdity? Is it possible to conceive a more shameful perversion of the doctrines of freegrace, than, under the pretence of making God the sole author of spiritual blessings, to nullify his solemn commands, and set aside his appointed ordinances ? Nor does what is here suggested affect those only who live in the total neglect of means, but all who give merely a cold, partial, inconstant attention to them. Let us never forget who hath said, “ Them that honour me will I honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.” That the spiritual blessings which are in Christ Jesus may be fully enjoyed, I would earnestly recommend the following means :
1. The reading of the Scriptures, accompanied with serious meditation.
Faith in Christ is the vital spring of heavenly consolation. We cannot warrantably expect to be filled with joy and peace, but in believing.
In the darkest ages of popery there was much unmeaning jargon about implicit faith, a blind assent to things utterly unknown, and even unexamined. But true faith is built upon knowledge, and divine knowledge is drawn from the word of God. We are assured, that all that is written in the law, the prophets, and the Psalms, concerning Christ, shall be fulfilled. Would you then grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ ? search with unwearied diligence, and deep humility, the sacred Scriptures. Do not rest satisfied with devoting to this employ merely a few scattered, occasional moments of your time. Many and specious are the pleas, with which men endeavour to justify or excuse the slight and careless manner in which they read the Scriptures. Some are deeply entangled in the multiplied and incessant affairs of business. The account books, which ascertain their profit or loss in trade, are punctually adjusted ; but no regular portion of time is allotted to examine the Scriptures, which are both the source that supplies, and the standard that measures our spiritual profit. Many professing Christians, under the show of sociability and friendship, are engaged in a continual interchange of visits, which steal away many precious hours, and thus rob them of the opportunities which they possess of increasing their acquaintance with the word of God. Others, who have both leisure and inclination for reading, are so occupied by the endless variety of human publications, that, although they appear scarcely able to live without books, they very rarely look into the Bible. And can we wonder, while this blessed book is so much neglected, at the coldness, languor, and unprofitableness of Christians ? That you, my dear reader, may avoid such evils, let the perusal of the Scriptures make a part of your stated daily employ. Fence off, as sacred for this duty, a portion of your time, upon which no other business shall be allowed to encroach. Nothing can so well deserve, or repay your diligence, as the serious perusal of the word of God. Show the same resolute perseverance in this duty, that many evince in things of far inferior consequence. No one expects to fathom the depths of science by occasionally dipping into it; or to reap all the advantages of any particular branch of learning by slightly glancing upon its first principles. And can you reasonably expect the highest wisdom, without making one earnest effort in God's appointed way? The sacred Scripture is a field, which contains treasures of infinitely greater value than thousands of gold and silver ; but you must dig to attain these treasures. Yes, here is the pearl of great price which enriches the soul; do not then suffer baubles and toys to divert you from seeking it.
Besides, that you may be profited, it is not only necessary to read the Scriptures with diligence, but to yield your understanding to the dictates of inspiration, with humility and reverence. For want of this spirit many have, with considerable labour, searched the Bible, and yet have overlooked its grand design, the recovery of lost men hy the glorious work of redemption. They have showed a lively curiosity in examining its records of surprising facts and events, but never obtained precious faith in the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. They have learned many things concerning the Christian religion ; but never so learned Christ as to surrender their souls and everlasting interests into his hands, from the full persuasion, that there is no other name given under heaven among men by which we must be saved, but the name of Jesus. The apostle Peter tells us, “ There are given to us exceeding great and precious promises.” They are justly called great, from the importance of the subject to which they relate, the great salvation ; and precious, on account of their sweetness in the experience of those who believe. Now, for these invaluable promises you must constantly