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at some length, elsewhere, he need not at present enlarge.*
2. Perusal of the Sacred Volume.—This most interesting and important branch of domestic religion, if attended to with becoming solemnity, as the voice of God, cannot fail to acquaint the whole family, in a greater or less degree, with the general contents and main design of divine revelation; as, without such daily perusal of some portion, I may truly assert, not only that some of the inmates, whether Children or Servants, may and will remain grossly ignorant, but the Family, as such, will be found extremely confused and superficial, and, consequently, at variance in their ideas respecting divine truth. Here, how
I require to remind Parents, as the conductors of Family Worship, of the all-important distinction between the Scriptures, as a book, and all other volumes whatever. Other volumes might be read aloud, with some benefit to your Families, in many frames of mind, and some in almost any; while, in regard to the Inspired Writings, everything depends upon the dispositions in which you generally open and read them. There are, in the Family, unprofitable readers, and there may be even in the pulpit; but wherever these exist, the baneful consequence must follow: there are to be found also unprofitable hearers, or mere lookerson; and these too, observe, as a consequence of the dispositions of the reader. The meekest of men could not be permitted to go over Jordan into Canaan, because he once <spake unadvisedly with his lips.” What then will become of the Parent, and what impression can he expect to produce, who reads unadvisedly, and thus reads the words of Him who gave us existence, and who is graciously unfolding
* See the Preface to an arranged Selection of Hymns, adapted for Divine Worship; third edition, 1823.
those eternal truths, according to which the final and everlasting state of the reader, and his hearers, is to be unchangeably determined ?
One essential disposition, therefore, on the part of a Parent, when opening this book daily, is that of reverence. Holy men of God spake these words as they were moved by the Holy Spirit; how necessary then must it be that we should read them as influenced by Him? One of these men said, “ My heart standeth in awe of thy word;" but since his day, Jehovah hath also spoken to us by his Son, and said of Him, “ They will reverence my Son." The favorite of Heaven is said to be the man who trembleth at the word of the Lord; but there can be no doubt, . that such veneration is materially promoted, by a regular and reverent perusal of the Sacred Record itself. The finest human composition must lose somewhat by every successive reading, but with the Inspired Volume, familiarity, far from generating contempt, absolutely begets reverence; while, for the farther discovery of divine truth, this disposition is at once indispensable and invaluable. “ In the Word of the living God,” says such a man, “should I find anything enjoined, whether as a matter of faith or of Christian duty, conscious of its being imposed by that Father of Spirits, who has both right to enact laws, which must therefore be just, because he enacts them, and power to punish the transgression of them with no less than eternal death, I then leave roving, and see where to cast anchor. I think it my part, without disputing them, to obey his orders, and acquiesce more in that imperious "Thus saith the Lord,' than in a whole dialogue of Plato, or epistle of Seneca. I therefore love to build my morals, as well as my creed, upon the Rock, and esteeming nothing but the true, and proper, and strict sense of the Scripture to be indispensably obligatory, either as to faith or practice, it is no wonder if I study God's
will most in that book, wherein alone I think it revealed; and truly, finding in myself no motive more justly prevalent to obedience than his right to exact it, who requires it, few men are more ready than I am, in distinguishing what indeed God says, from what man would make him
In one word, “ I use the Scriptures, not as an arsenal, to be resorted to only for arms and weapons to defend this or that party, or to defeat its enemies; but as a matchless temple where I delight to be: to contemplate the beauty, the symmetry, and the magnificence of the structure, and to increase my awe, and excite my devotion to the Deity there preached and adored !"*
Nor is gratitude less incumbent in daily Family reading. It was often said of the posterity of Abraham, and first said to them by God himself, who alone knows wherein earthly happiness consists, “ Happy art thou, 0 Israel ; who is like unto thee?” And what advantage, then, had the Jew ? and what profit was there in circumcision ? Much every way : chiefly, because that unto them were committed the Oracles of God. The Oracles of God !-which not merely explain the cause of all sorrow and of death itself, but point out the way to pardon and perpetual day; which reveal a Saviour, and unfold, as far as mortal language may, the glorious subjects which interest and engage, and so fill the capacious faculties, as to produce the homage of prostration in the spirits of the just, and the burning seraphim before the throne. Surely, then, gratitude well becomes us when perusing the pages from which even angels have derived instruction with gratitude ;nay, which even the Messiah himself read and expounded, and which he counselled us to search. “ Should God have been pleased to instruct us, as he did Jonah, by the shadow of a weed, it had been
* The Honorable Robert Boyle.
+ Ephes. iii. 10.
our duty to acquiesce; how much more then, when he vouchsafes to speak to us in almost as glorious a manner as he did to Moses ; in a Scripture that hath such resemblances to the sanctuary ; which contained the law of God; exhibited the mercy-seat ; and in which the two golden cherubims, like the two precious and harmonious testaments, looked towards one another, and both towards the mercy-seat that typified the Messias ? Surely, then, it becomes us, “not only with acquiescence but gratitude, to look upon God's having appointed the Scripture to be the light in which his Spirit regularly shines upon his Church, since the luminary is as well refulgent as the choice of it His, whose blessing can prosper any means of grace, as without his blessing no means of grace can
I need scarcely add a disposition to receive as true what God has said, since a captious spirit was one which the Saviour himself regarded as the most desperate of
“ Why,” said He, “ do ye not understand my speech ? Even because ye cannot hear my word.” They would not give Him so much as one patient hearing, although He had condescended to say to them, only the day before" If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” Clearly intimating, that there is required, if I may so express it, a disposition in the eye of the mind towards the object proposed, in order to any man discerning at once the excellence and the origin of what is taught. The impatient and the querulous must therefore be left till they come to reflection, or they must perish; but I introduce these few remarks chiefly with a view to remind the Christian Parent, that faith (without which a disposition to receive the word, as it is in truth the word
of God, cannot exist), is not natural to any man, and that it is often weak indeed even in those who possess it. See, then, that your faith, however weak, be influential—see that it be unfeigned; then, before the power and authority of this daily reading, will you find every vain imagination in yourself cast down, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and every thought brought into captivity, so as to be charmed with obedience to Christ Jesus.
Finally, with regard to requisite dispositions, if the Scriptures are read without a spirit of expectation, there can be no desire. To excite this habitually expecting spirit, this watching for information, only let me ask, Where is the book to be found, from which you not only may daily derive new ideas, and from which you can reason negatively with great profit, as some old expositors have done with such effect? Yes ; well
I adore the fulness of the Scriptures :" for in that book, as Mr. Boyle says, rising upon the idea of Lord Bacon, “ there is such a fulness that oftentimes it says much by saying nothing ; as not only its expressions but its silences are teaching : like a dial, in which the shadow as well as the light informs us." Family reading, on the part of a Parent, ought therefore, unquestionably, to be associated with a spirit of desire or reverent inquiry, and more especially since it is to be immediately followed by Family Prayer. The man who expects to find little or nothing in his daily reading, will insensibly turn the means into an end, which is a flagrant abuse, and sink down to the low and dull ground of what is called, though falsely," doing duty." But should the Parent only possess the desire or spirit for discovering the mind of God in the Scriptures; should he thus be found watching daily at the gates of wisdom, and thus waiting at the posts of her doors; I am saved at once from almost any directions as to the manner of reading. He will