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search the Holy Scriptures. A serious Christian will often find something very suitable and refreshing to the soul, where a careless reader discovers nothing interesting ; just as the botanist plucks in his walks many a rare plant, which others would pass unnoticed, or perhaps trample under their feet. Not that we are to labour in order to find spiritual meanings, in defiance of the plain import of language, and the direct scope of the sacred writers. The wild notions that some people have attempted to draw from Scripture, when a weak judgment is overpowered by a warm and ungoverned imagination, ought to warn us to take heed how we read, as well as how we hear. There are surely plenty of passages in the Old and New Testament, in which Christ and his salvation are clearly revealed, without puzzling ourselves to find, or rather fancying them, in those places which evidently contain no references to them. Such a method of interpreting the Scriptures, as that which is here considered, is calculated to bring contempt on the oracles of truth. It gives a boundless licence to invent schemes the most absurd, and yet covers them with appeals to Scripture. Still, the weak and uninformed are often exceedingly delighted with this way of misrepresenting, under the show of explaining the word of God. To avoid such
errors and dangers, it is needful to seek Divine guidance, that we may both understand and rightly apply what we read.
To the constant reading of the Seriptures must be added serious meditation. The counsel which Paul gave to Timothy, “ Meditate on these things, give thyself wholly to them, that thy profiting may appear to all,” is not unsuitable advice to us. In the mere reading of the Scriptures, their matter glides off the mind, without producing any lasting effect. But by meditation the doctrines drop as the rain, and distil as the dew on the tender herb. In this way the spirit of Divine instruction is imbibed and retained. Yet there is perhaps no other duty to which we naturally feel so much indisposed. The mind, when bent to Divine things, is apt to start back like a deceitful bow. No sooner do the thoughts begin to ascend heavenward, than some sudden interruption breaks their flight, or some gross earthly care damps their ardour. The pious Philip Henry used to say, he could more easily bring himself to travel far, and hear many sermons, than spend one half hour in close meditation. Yet the believer can sometimes shake off the fetters and clogs which embarrass him, and range with delight through the sacred wood, as a garden rich in a variety of the choicest fruits. By meditation
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we compare spiritual things with spiritual, and find a growing interest in them. By meditation we gradually ascend the mount of God, and enjoy clearer and more extended prospects. There are some bright examples to recommend this duty. We read that Isaac, the heir of the promise, went out at evening-tide to meditate in the fields. The devout Psalmist also could declare, " When I meditate on thee in the night-watches, in the multitude of my thoughts within me, thy comforts delight my soul.” And say, O Christian, does not a single promise of your Lord, like a ray of celestial light let into the mind, often kindle a train of reflections, which warm, expand, and elevate every faculty and every feeling? Does not a steady view of the Redeemer's personal glory appear to shed a lustre on his mediatorial work, and the perfection of his finished work give joy its purest sweets, and hope her fairest prospects ? Does not the sublime theme of everlasting love, in those happy moments, seem to open in fresh discoveries, and new wonders sufficient to enwrap the soul in extasy and amaze ? ** Ah !” you reply, “ I remember such a solitary evening's walk ; and, while I was musing on the excellencies of that Saviour, who is made to me wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, even the face of nature put on new
beauties, and smiled with added charms. I remember the silent watches of such a night, when from the world's busy and tumultuous scenes my thoughts were wholly employed in contemplating and admiring the various manifestations of the love of God in Christ Jesus ! I remember many a happy morning, when, after the balmy blessings of repose, reading, sedate reflection, and ardent prayer have rendered my closet a Bethel, a house of God. Yes, at those seasons my meditations of him were indeed sweet !” Let then the recollection of these comforts animate you in the use of every suitable means. Beware of being hurried away by the rapid tide of worldly things. Endeavour to row out of the midst of the current into still water, to escape surrounding dangers. Quit, as often as you can, the bustle, confusion, and interruption of the crowd, for the tranquillity of the shade. With a Bible in your hand, seek the refuge of calm, undisturbed retirement. If business must have a great proportion of your time, still labour to secure, sometimes, an hour for sweet meditation. Call in your scattered thoughts, and accustom them to dwell on heavenly things : “The zeal,” says Baxter, " which is kindled by your meditations on heaven, will be a heavenly zeal. While others, like Baal's priests, are ready to cut themselves, because their sacri
fice will not burn; thou mayest breathe the spirit of Elijah, and in the chariot of contemplation soar aloft till thy soul and thy sacrifice gloriously flame, though the flesh and the world should cast upon them all the water of their opposing enmity. Say not, how shall mortals ascend to Heaven? Faith hath wings, and meditation is its chariot. Faith is a burning glass to thy sacrifice, and meditation sets it to the face of the sun; only take it not away too soon, but hold it there awhile, and thy soul will feel the happy effect." Reader, weigh well this momentous part of our subject. Remember, that the word of God supplies the food, which, if digested by holy meditation, never fails to give health and prosperity to the soul.
2. As means to endear the precious Saviour, watchfulness and prayer may be recommended.
In proportion to the placid and well-regulated frame of the heart will be the measure of our best comforts. But how many things daily arise to unhinge our thoughts, to ruffle and discompose our tempers, and to pollute and embitter our life. Hence the need of our Lord's command, “Watch and pray.”
Would you live under the cheering influence of the Saviour's love? watch over the roving thoughts, and restless passions within. Have you not found by experience the truth of the