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encouragement and the direction of Sunday-schools,
should seek to lead them on. We should keep clear and conspicuously bright the lamp of holy truth, which, as the priests of the temple, we are appointed to watch; holding forth constantly to view (for this is the life and light of the Church, and in exact proportion as it is obscured, our ministry fails of its purpose) the salvation of sinners through the free grace of God in Christ Jesus. We should magnify the love which was displayed in the rescue of a guilty race, and in the gift of the spirit of holiness; we should press these things home to the bosoms of our hearers, and teach men to make them their own; we should labour night and day to awaken those who are plunged in the sleep of sin, and to dissipate the dreams of those who smoothe over the doctrines of the cross, and are satisfied in conscience, because they satisfy the nominally Christian world. We should regard it as the business of our lives to be instrumental in "turning men from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God." And even if it were to please God that we could turn but one, shall we not think the labour of our lives to have been better spent than in the pursuit, however successful, of any worldly object, when we remember, for our encouragement, the value of one immortal soul, as set forth in the declaration of Him who paid its ransom, that "there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth?"
EXHORTATION TO THE DILIGENT AND
For the Second Sunday in Advent,
JOHN, V. 39.
"Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life and they are they which testify of me." THE intention of Advent season, it is well known, is both to prepare our minds for the suitable observance of the approaching great festival of Christmas, and also to stir us up to a more wakeful, watchful, and prepared state to meet the Lord when he cometh.
away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light," admonishing us that "it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed."
This language is evidently borrowed from the idea of rousing a man from the bed of sloth; as if one should say to him-" What meanest thou, O sleeper? how canst thou waste thy precious hours in unprofitable and inglorious slumber, whilst the sun is shining in upon thee? dost thou not perceive that it is high day? shake thyself from thy sloth-up and be doing clothe thyself with fair raiment, and gird thee for the journey thou hast to take, for the business thou hast to transact." Well, suppose the man to be roused from spiritual sloth, and to be girded with new energy for the prosecution of the great work of his soul's salvation, what shall he first apply himself to? to his Bible thither the Church sends us. She comes to us with an awakening call-"It is high time to awake out of sleep." She bids us rise and gird up the loins of our minds, and clothe us with the armour of light: and what next? Go, and seek instruction from the source of all truthgo to our Bibles. Can we then select a more seasonable subject than this-the importance of the study of the word of God? or can we have a more appropriate text by which to enforce it than this exhortation which our Lord Jesus Christ addressed to the Jews: "Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." As this exhortation is equally applicable to men of our day as it was to those to whom it was first addressed, I shall not expend our time by making any reference to the particular circumstances under which our Lord gave this exhortation to the Jews, or the particular connexion in which it stands; but shall view it as addressed to us: for all Scripture is written for our learning, and this amongst the rest. We will consider, then,
I. The exhortation here given us, "Search the Scriptures."
II. The object we are to propose to ourselves in this search-" for in them ye have eternal life." And
III. The clew which is here supplied for our guidance in this search; "and they (saith Christ) are they that testify of me." We note
I. The exhortation, "Search the Scriptures." How thankful should we be that we have the Scriptures in our hands--millions of our fellow-beings never saw a Bible, yea, never heard of the Bible! It is our high privilege to possess this inestimable treasure; and it is open to us all, and within the power of all to obtain it. Before the invention of Vela traham, et terris festinem advertere proram."-Virg. | printing, a copy even of the New Testament cost
The order which our Church adopts in her services at this season, is worthy of particular note. She first rouses us from our spiritual sleep, and sets us to pray for
extremo ni jam sub fine laborum
a large sum of money, equal, it is said, to 40%., according to the value of money at the present day; but now, by means of printing, and especially by the efforts of societies for the circulation of the Scriptures, every man, however poor, can possess a Bible; and it is his own fault if he do not. The most honourable title that was ever given to this land was, "The Land of Bibles!" How thankful, again, should we be that we possess the Bible in our own mother tongue. It is well known that the Papists did all they could to prevent the translation of the Bible. When Tindal's English Translation of the New Testament came out, Tonstal, the popish bishop of London, bought up the books and burnt them at Paul's Cross. The popish bishop wished to keep the Bible sealed up under its original languages, or in Latin, that none but the priests, and a few learned men, might be able to read it, and so they might let the people know only just so much as served their purpose; and might deal out the word of God to them mixed up with human traditions, and perverted by human interpretations. But, blessed be God, they could not succeed. O, what a privilege that we can read, every one in his own tongue in which we were born, the wonderful works of God! How thankful should you be, brethren, that you are not hindered from reading the Bible, as thousands and tens of thousands are in popish countries. Even our own fellow-subjects in Ireland are hindered from reading the word of God. It is taken away from the poor children in the schools; and if a Roman Catholic priest finds one of his people reading the Bible, he will subject him to persecution for it; perhaps he will take away the Bible and burn it. I will mention a fact illustrative of this. In the year 1834 a petition was presented to the House of Commons, founded on the following occurrence. A Romish priest, in King's County, was called upon to visit the family of a poor man, one of whose daughters was in the last stage of a consumption. On entering the house he observed a Bible: he took the Bible, and after remarking in strong language upon what he deemed the mischievous tendency of the book in the hands of unlearned persons, he went on to require that it should be burned. The sick young woman, her mother, and sister, entreated that he would
not burn it; but the priest persisted, and committed the Bible to the flames. The father of the family, who took great delight in hearing the precious volume read to him, returning just at the time to his cabin, saw the Bible on the fire, and tried to save it, but was too late. The truth of this statement is unquestionable; and the fact that numerous persons, magistrates and others of high respectability, signed the petition to parliament on the subject, shews that the interference of the priests in hindering the poor people from reading the Scriptures is a matter of general notoriety. Surely it is high time that the Protestants of this country should speak out in defence of their oppressed brethren in Ireland. But my immediate design in referring to that disgraceful act of the popish priest is to impress your minds, brethren, with the peculiar privilege you enjoy in not only possessing the Bible, but being delivered from that soulenslaving thraldom which restrains multitudes of even your own fellow-subjects from using their spiritual liberty.
• Even Tonstal's attempt to suppress the English version of the New Testament, by buying up the copies and burning them, turned out rather for the furtherance of the Gospel. It is recorded that Sir Thomas More, who was at that time chancellor, and who concurred with Tonstal in his Bible-burning enterprise, inquired of a person who was accused of heresy (and to whom he promised a free release, if he would give a satisfactory answer), how Tindal subsisted abroad, and who were the persons in London that supported and abetted him; to which inquiry the accused heretic replied, "It was the Bishop of London who maintained him, by sending money to buy up the impressions of his New Testament." The chancellor smiled, admitted the truth of the declaration, and suffered the accused person to escape.
Such a case of tyranny as has just been recited no doubt rouses your feelings. You are indignant that the poor people should not be permitted to read the Bible; you think you would not suffer any man to hinder you from reading your Bible. It is well. But is it not to be feared that some of you are restrained from reading the Bible by a still more fatal, a still more effectual bondage-the bondage of the will? A man's own indolence, carnal-mindedness, and reluctance to come to the light of scriptural truth, are far more effectual barriers against reading the Bible than all the popish priests in the world. When there is a will to read the Bible, there will be a way; but if there is no will, then, whatever pretence of zeal for Christian liberty may be made, the liberty will not be employed. To illustrate this, we need only refer to that very instance just now stated. The priest took away the poor people's Bible and burnt itwhat then?-the poor sick girl had a New Testament concealed in the bed with her. So you see, where there is a will, a fervent desire to read the word of life, it will not be restrained.
But perhaps some here present may be conscious that no outward restraints are put upon them to keep them from reading, yet they do not read it, and the reason is, because they have no inclination. If there be any such present, I would begin with applying the exhortation to them :-I beseech you read the Bible-read it diligently-search the Scriptures. A chapter or two on a Sunday does not at all come up to the idea. The word of God is spiritual food: now we want daily bread-not weekly, but daily. The noble
Bereans (therefore called noble) searched the Scriptures daily. But whilst you read the Bible every day, you will make it particularly your study on the Lord's day. When should God's book be read, if not on God's day? Let me entreat you to begin this day, employ this afternoon, in reading-not the newspaper, but the Bible. Nay, read the Bible rather than any other good book. That man of God, Henry Martyn, used to watch over himself especially in this particular. He counted it a sin, if he caught himself preferring some religious book, of man's composing, before the word of the living God. But again-it is not the mere reading of the Bible, after all, though you read it every day of your lives, and twenty chapters a day, that will come up to the meaning of this text, "Search the Scriptures." You must not only read, but read with an inquiring mind; you must read under a lively impression that there is something to be discovered in the Bible that greatly concerns you. You must read it as the student in any art or science peruses and pores over the volumes that contain the principles of that particular art or science, that he may get them graven upon his memory, and digested in his mind, so as to turn them to account, and profit by them. You must read the Scriptures with that feeling of anxious search with which a miner examines and searches into a
mine to find a vein of ore that shall enrich him for life. You must read them as a man afflicted with a deadly disease would read a book of medical recipes, which he was assured contained one prescription just answering to his case. You must read them as a rebel, guilty of high treason, would read over the pages of a proclamation issued by his sovereign, offering pardon to such and such persons, who should seek it in the way and time appointed. You must read them as you would peruse a last will and testament of some great and benevolent person, from whom you had no just expectations of any favour, but who is reported to have left you some bequest in his will. Or, rather, to come directly to the point, you must read them as a poor, guilty, perishing sinner, who has heard that in that book alone he can find directions how to escape the dreadful consequences of his sin, and to attain to pardon, and peace, and holiness, and heaven.
Here we open upon the second topic proposed, viz.
II. The object we are to have in view in this search. "Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life." How conclusive is this to prove that the Jews, under the Old Testament, did not look only for transitory promises relating to this world, as some have pretended, but that the Old
Testament does indeed contain a revelation of eternal life! "Search the Scriptures," said our Lord (meaning the Old Testament Scriptures, the only Scriptures then in being), "for in them ye think ye have eternal life." Here, then, was the object for which our Lord Jesus Christ sent the Jews to their Bibles; and is not this the true object for us to have in view when we read our Bibles? If the Jews thought that eternal life was contained in their Bibles, we know that eternal life is contained in ours, for life and immortality are "brought to light," clearly revealed, without type or shadow, by the Gospel. May we not then address this exhortation to you, brethren, with increased point and emphasis"Search the Scriptures, for in them ye know that ye have eternal life revealed." Well, if you know that there is such a treasure, and know the field where it is hid, will ye not search that field? If you know that there is a pearl of great price, and know where it lies concealed, will you not dive after it to fetch it up? If you will not search the Scriptures, it must be owing to one of these two reasons, either you do not desire eternal life, or else you do not believe that the Bible contains it. Now both these points must be deeply settled in your minds before you will search the Scriptures to any good purpose. A great many people read the Bible (and very carefully too) who get no good by it, simply because they do not desire to get any. An infidel will read the Bible to scoff at it, and endeavour, though in vain, to refute it. A mere man of learning may read the Bible for the sake of the languages in which it was written; he reads the Bible, not to seek his soul's salvation, but to learn Greek and Hebrew. The student of history will read the Bible because he finds there what he can learn no where else the true history of the first ages of the world, and a more minute account of the history of some nations in later ages, particularly of the Jews-than he can get any where else. One will read the Bible as the best code of morals; another, as containing some of the finest specimens of oratory, and the sublimest pieces of poetry, that are extant in any language. Nay, some will read the Bible because it is full of wonderful and curious accounts, which greatly amuse them. Some, again, will read the Bible because it is generally acknowledged that Bible-reading is a good thing, and that to neglect it is a bad thing; and so, perhaps, desiring to be very good, they will read the Bible very much; they will read the Bible as though they were reading for their lives, and yet they will be very far from being actuated by the principle here suggested; they will read their chapters upon the same principle that the Papists say
"Pater Nosters" and "Ave Marias"-to make | a merit of it, as if they could make God their debtor by much reading. Now all this is very wide of the mark proposed. If we will read the Bible, so as to get good by it, we must read it in a humble, penitential, teachable, believing frame of mind. We must go to our Bible with the same question that the gaoler came with to Paul and Silas"What must I do to be saved?" And our Bibles, open them at whatever page we will, give us virtually the same answer as he received" Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." This is what our Lord himself intimates in the text, whilst he sets us upon a general investigation of the Scriptures, and bids us not to take things upon trust, but to search for ourselves. He does not leave us to work at random, but supplies us with a direction or clew for our guidance. We note
III. The clew which is here supplied for our guidance in the search. "And they are they which testify of me." Here, then, is our directory in searching the Scriptures: if we would so search them as to find eternal life in them, we must search them as testifying of Christ. He is the treasure hid in the He is the pearl to be dived after in these pure waters. He is the tree of life, whose fruit we are here invited to pluck, which will serve both for food and for medicine to our souls. "Search the Scriptures," said Jesus to the Jews, "for they testify of me." The Old Testament, then, testifies of Christ. No wonder the Socinian does not like to be referred to the Old Testament. He cannot find his Christ there. The Old Testament is full of Christ; but then, it is a divine Christ, one whose name is "The Mighty God;" it is an atoning Christ, set forth in all the sacrifices of the law. The Socinian knows no such Christ; he will have none of him; and therefore he would fain throw the Old Testament aside, if he could, as out of date and useless. But let us not make this mistake; let us search the Old Testament for our Christ, and we shall find him in every page. Turn to the first page he is there, with his creating power. Christ was the Word of God, that was in the beginning with God, and was God, by whom also he made the worlds. "By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made," and Christ was that WORD. Turn to the second page; does it record man fallen, and paradise lost? The same page records the blessed hope of man to be saved, of paradise to be regained; and Christ is there, announced as the Seed of the woman, that shall bruise the serpent's head. Turn to the third page; what do we find? Abel's sacrifice accepted, Cain's rejected;
why? because Abel's had reference to Christ; it was a bloody sacrifice, typical of Christ's; for without shedding of blood there is no remission ;-and it was offered in faith-faith in the one promise, "the Seed of the woman," &c. Turn to the fourth page; see the wickedness of man so great in the earth, that the Lord Jehovah, in righteous wrath, sends a flood of waters to destroy all flesh. Now, where is Christ? Floating, in type, upon the surface of the mighty deep, up-bearing in safety the one rescued family; sending forth the dove of peace, and landing the rescued ones, at last, on the summit of the everlasting hills. Turn to the fifth page; the waters are assuaged-all is safety, the ark rests on dry land-a promise is given that no such rain shall occur again whilst the earth remains, but that seed-time and harvest shall succeed each other: and what is the sacrament of that covenant? A lovely rainbow. And what is the substance of that rainbow? Christ. It is because in and through Jesus Christ all the attributes of God, his more awful attributes of justice, holiness, and truth, blend and combine with his milder attributes, mercy and love; therefore are we left in the enjoyment of so rich a portion of providential blessings, and in the hope of the infinitely richer blessings of his grace. Turn we to a page beyond the flood, and we get to an eminence whence we can catch a glimpse of Christ's day; for Abraham rejoiced to see Christ's day; and he saw it, and was glad. How blind, then, should we be, if we did not find Christ in the promise made to Abraham, and in his devoted son, and in the substituted ram! Turn a page or two forward, and contemplate Jacob's ladder, connecting earth with heaven, so that the messengers of God's mercy should be able to descend, and the participants of his mercy to ascend upon the Son of man. Nay, even Job, who lived and wrote, as it is thought, before Abraham, could say, "I know that my Redeemer liveth." It were endless to particularise, where all is full of Christ. The histories of Scripture are not inserted as mere barren records of fact, but as illustrative of the manner in which the old prophecies concerning Christ were fulfilled. The very genealogies, which some ignorantly suppose to be almost useless now, are of the utmost use, as shewing that Christ came of the lineage of David, and of the seed of Abraham. The types are all in some way or other types of Christ. The prophecies almost all relate directly to Christ; and those which do not directly relate to him, do indirectly; for example, those which concern the destruction of wicked nations-that of Obadiah, for instance,
have reference indirectly to Christ; for why
were those nations marked for destruction ?because they and their forefathers rejected Christ. If Edom is to be destroyed with a sore destruction, it is to be traced to Esau's contempt for the birth-right (along with which went the promise of Christ), and to the Edomites' opposition to Israel when marching through the wilderness, with Christ as their leader in the pillar and the cloud.
But if it be indeed true, and most true it is, that every page of the Old Testament testifies of Christ, oh, how full of Christ is the New! Here life and immortality are fully brought to light. The veil of type and prophecy is rent, and the way into the holiest clearly laid open. Here the ore is so rich, so full, that it lies, as it were, on the surface of the field. Here, too, is the key supplied, with which to unlock all the secret treasures of the Old Testament, and lay open the mysteries hid from ages and generations. And can you, brethren, having all these rich treasures within your reach, suffer them to lie disregarded and unexplored. Is it indeed true that holy Scripture is able to make you wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus? And have you no desire to be made wise unto salvation? Had the tree of forbidden and of destructive knowledge such attractions for our first parents, and does this blessed tree of saving knowledge, which is not forbidden, but freely laid open to us, possess no attractions for us fallen children of Adam? Will you not even so much as put forth your hand and take of the fruit of this tree of life, that you may eat and live for ever? What hinders? No flaming sword warns you off. No, the way is laid open to you; if you do not pluck this blessed fruit, it is because you have no desire for that heavenly wisdom which it imparts. If you do not search into this rich mine, it is because you do not value the treasure it contains. It would be easy to enlarge on this topic, but time admonishes me to forbear. I hasten to that which is the most important part of my sermon, and with the importance of which I am increasingly impressed; I mean the application.
To what purpose will it be, brethren, that I shall have spoken and you listened for this short time to an exhortation about searching the Scriptures, if it is to lead to no practical result? Let me beg of you that this sermon may not be delivered in vain. In vain, indeed, it will not be, for no sermon is delivered in vain; every sermon we hear either works for our good, or else increases our condemnation. But what I entreat of you is, that you will receive the precept of the text as addressed to yourselves : "Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal
life," you who have wholly, or almost wholly, neglected to read the Bible. I wish I may be mistaken in supposing that there are any here who come under this description; but it is to be feared that there are more instances of this lamentable neglect than some would imagine. Let me then entreat those who unhappily have hitherto neglected to read the Bible, to neglect it no longer. Consider, I pray you, what a sad state of mind you must be in; how little reverence or love of God you can have, when you wilfully live in the neglect of that only revelation which he has made of his will-wilfully neglect that whereby alone he can be knownhis word. Your heavenly Father has written you a letter, and you let it lie unopened. Your heavenly Father has made a will in your favour, and you so despise the inheritance, that you will not read the testament that secures it to you, upon your suing out your claim to it in a certain way; you will not give the smallest attention to this all-important document. What is this but practical infidelity? You do not believe that the Bible is what it professes to be. If you had an idea that there was a will in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, in which you had an interest, though it were only to the amount of a few acres of land, or a few hundreds of pounds, you would search after it diligently, and when you had found the document purporting to contain such interesting matter, you would search and examine that document. If, then, you will not search that testament which professes to offer you a title to "an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away," it is plainly either because you do not desire that inheritance, or do not believe that the Bible is the record of it: and what is this but practical infidelity? It is difficult to say which dishonours God most, the man who boldly says, "I do not believe the Bible," or he who professes to be a believer of it, and yet manifests no concern to search into its saving truths. It is treating God with such contempt not to think his holy book worth reading, or his great salvation worth seeking after. Oh, begin this day to read that blessed volume.
But there are some who do read the Bible, who yet do not profit by it. Perhaps you read it only as you would read some common book, to get a general idea of its contents; this is not to "search" the Scriptures. Or perhaps you read only to satisfy conscience by doing a good work; this is not to search the Scriptures for life-for the life of your souls. Take your Bible up again, and begin with prayer. You have been making too light of the Bible, as if it were some common book. Go to it with that solemnity which