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ting it therefore, we shall, in separate discourses, attend to the manner in which the word should be read, preached, and heard.
In this discourse we shall attend only to the reading of the word, and shall endeavour to show how the word of God ought to be read, and then enforce the duty.
I. Let us attend to the manner in which the Scriptures should be read.
1. We ought to read them with diligence. The Bereans have set us an example in this respect ; and they were commended for it by the Apostle. “These (said he) were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so;" Acts xvij. 11. The command to the children of Israel was, “ These words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart. And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates ;”. Deut. vi. 6—9. The Lord commanded Joshua, “ This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth ; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein; Josh. i. 8. And David said, describing the good man, “ In his law doth he meditate day and night ;" Ps. i. 2. All these texts teach us, that it is our duty to read the word of God diligently. We should make it our daily study. No day should pass, except when necessarily prevented, without reading a portion of it; and we ought to make reading the Scriptures a part of our morning and evening devotions. In this way our families, should they neglect to read the Scriptures, individually by themselves, may receive instruction which they otherwise would not obtain.
2. We should read the Scriptures under a realizing sense that they are indeed the word of God. We are apt, in a measure, to give credit to what we hear or read, and to estimate its importance from the character of the author. Reading the Scriptures, therefore under a realizing sense, And they
that they are the word of God, will have a tendency to give credit and weight to what we read. Let us realize when we open our Bibles, that we are treading on holy ground, and that the almighty God, who will be our Judge, speaks in what we are reading. Were we to bring ourselves to realize this, when we read the Scriptures, we would be more likely to derive instruction and profit from them.
3. We ought to read the Scriptures, under a realizing sense of our own personal and deep concern in them. The Scriptures speak to every individual, and show what the law of God requires of him, and its penalty in case of transgression. They teach us that we are sinners, and inform us of the dreadful consequences of sin. tell us that there is salvation provided, and show us the only way of escape from the ruin brought upon us by sin. In the subject matter of the Scriptures, every one is most deeply concerned. The criminal reads the instrument which contains sentence of death against him, with a deep and awful interest; and he reads his pardon with a deep and joyful interest ; and the heir reads his father's will with a deep and lively interest; but no individual is as much concerned in these things, as he is in what is contained in the Scriptures, and therefore they ought to be read under a realizing sense of the personal and deep concern of the reader in them.
4. They ought to be read with a sincere desire to profit by them. Some read the Scriptures to find appearances of contradiction to establish their minds in infidelity; and some read them to use them in venting their wit and ridicule against religion. Such, instead of profiting by the Scriptures, wrest them to their own destruction; and may expect to be given up of God to find what they are seeking after, and to be given up to strong delusions to believe a lie, that they may be damned who believe not the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness. There are others again who read the Scriptures, merely from the influence of education, or to quiet conscience, as the formalist prays, and attends public worship, but are indifferent about any profit from them. They who read them in this way can bave but little prospect of advantage. To derive advantage from them, we should read them with a sincere desire to profit.
5. The Scriptures ought to be read with care, or attention. The command of our Saviour in our text is, “ Search the Scriptures.” The original word 'is very expressive. It signifies, to search as for a vein of sil
We are not only to read, but to study them, and to seek fully to understand them. We ought carefully to compare different parts, and to attend to the design, connexion, and general scope of passages ; for there are many deep things in the Scriptures, which duly to understand, requires, not merely a superficial reading, but a careful searching.
6. When we read the Scriptures we ought to endeavour to treasure them up in our memories. David hid the word of the Lord in his heart. Having
Having treasured the word of God up in our memories, we shall have something always at hand to teach us when we go wrong, and to warn us against sin, to direct us in the path of duty when we are halting between two opinions, and to answer a temptation when assaulted with it. We shall also have ready, arguments in prayer, promises to console and support us under trials, and matter to employ our meditations while pursuing our daily business, and in the wakeful hours of the night. Meditation on the Scriptures is an important duty, frequently inculcated in the word of God, and which was frequently practised by the Scripture saints. But unless we treasure the Scriptures in our memory, we cannot perform this duty. Indeed if we read, and immediately forget all we read, we read almost in vain.
7. The Scriptures ought to be read with self-examination and self-application. When we find a sin forbidden, we ought to consider the prohibition as addressed to ourselves, and we ought to examine ourselves, whether we live in this sin. When we find a course of conduct pointed out that is declared to be inconsistent with the christian character, and to exclude from the kingdom of heaven, we ought to ask ourselves, are we the character, and admit the consequences with respect to ourselves, and be led without delay to forsake such a dangerous course. Again when we read a command of God, we ought to consider the command as addressed to us, and examine ourselves whether we are living in obedience to it. And so also when we read of a trait of the christian character, we ought to inquire is this our character. In this manner should we read the Scriptures, if we would profit by them.
8. Once more. We ought to read the Scriptures with prayer. “In every thing (said an apostle) by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let_your requests be made known unto God;" Phil. iv. 6. The blessing of God granting the influences of his Spirit, is necessary to enable us savingly to understand the Scriptures, and receive spiritual profit from them. The same power that opened the understandings of the disciples to understand the Scriptures, must open our understandings, or they will be to us, as to their spirituality and power, a sealed book. But the divine constitution is, “Ask, and it shall be given you;
.” Mat. vii. 7. If then we would profit by reading the Scriptures, we ought to feel our dependence on God, and look to him in prayer, to bless to our spiritual benefit what we read.
Having thus shown how the Scriptures ought to be read, we proceed,
Il. To enforce the duty.
1. The first argument I would offer is that the Scriptures are the word of God. “ All Scripture is given by inspiration of God;" 2 Tim. iii. 16. “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost;" 2 Pet. i. 21. That God has been pleased to give us a revelation of his will, sufficiently indicates that it is our duty to read and become acquainted with it, and that we cannot neglect it without guilt. Has the great God, our Creator, Sovereign, and Judge, condescended to give us a revelation of his will, and shall we live without Bibles in our houses, or shall we permit them to lie on our shelves, and not peruse them, or shall we peruse them so seldom, or so carelessly, as not to become acquainted with their contents ? Surely the character of God ought to secure attention to the Bible, which contains his revealed will.
2. Another argument is, that God has commanded us to read bis word. It is doubtless our duty implicitly to obey all God's commands, and it is at our peril if we do not. Now he has commanded us to read and make ourselves acquainted with the Scriptures. Thus he said to the Israelites, “ These words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart. And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them, when
thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand; and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates ;" Deut. vi. 6-9. And in our text we read, • Search the Scriptures."
3. We argue the duty from the example of the saints of old; for we are exhorted to be " Followers of them, who through faith and patience inherit the promises;" Heb. vi. 12. And they studied and highly prized the Scriptures. We hear David in his Psalms expressing himself concerning the word of God as follows: "Thy word have I hid in mine heart. I will ineditate in thy precepts. The law of thy mouth is better unto me, than thousands of gold and silver. O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day. Mine eyes prevent the night watches ; that I might meditate in thy word :" Ps. cxix. some of the expressions which show the high value, that the man after God's own heart, put upon his word. The Bereans were highly commended by the Apostle for their diligent searching the Scriptures.
66 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily whether those things were so; Acts xvii. 11. Of Apollos it was spoken in high commendation, that he was " Mighty in the Scriptures;” Acts xviii. 24. And to the praise of Timothy it was spoken “That from a child he had known the Holy Scriptures ;" 2 Tim. iii. 15. Thus we have the example of the Scripture saints to enforce this duty.
4. Another argument to enforce the reading of the Scriptures is, the advantages which may be derived from a careful attention to them.
The Scriptures contain an important and instructive history of events; and this too for the space of near three thousand years, before we have scarcely any light from profane history. They show us as much as any other history the natural causes of the prosperity, decline, and destruction of nations. They contain the best political institutions and maxims. They abound with the purest moral precepts. And they afford us specimens of fine writing unequalled in human compositions. These are