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Limited circulation of the Bible.

best, in order to show the moral power of this book as distinctly as possible, to analyse thus minutely the operation of it in some particular cases. But the argument would be very deficient if I should leave it here; for if these cases were uncommon, they would prove but little. But they are not uncommon. Even in prisons, a very large number of such cases have, as I have already stated, occurred; and the subjects of such changes have gone, when they have been liberated, in peace and happiness to their homes. There are now scattered over our land vast numbers who have been brought, from every stage and degree of guilt, to seek pardon through the Savior, and to begin a life of virtue and piety. The influence of the Bible, too, upon the community at large is so great, that every country where it freely circulates is distinguished for the peace which reigns there. Vice is comparatively unknown, property and life are safe, every man sits under his own vine and fig-tree, with none to molest or make him afraid. But when man is left to himself, he makes his home a den of robbers. If you travel on the Nile or the Tigris, you must look well to your means of defence. Men must go in caravans in all those regions for mutual protection. But how would an armed escort for a traveller appear on the banks of the Connecticut or the Hudson?

And yet though benefits so great are procured to society by the Bible, they are procured, after all, only by a limited application of its moral power. It is a very small proportion of the whole population, even in the United States, which attends at all to the commands and instructions of the word of God. The numbers are however rapidly increasing. The cause of God is advancing with great rapidity; and as a military despotism or a Christian republic must be the ultimate destiny of every nation, we can look only to the spread of the influence of the Bible to save our country from ruin.

I will close this chapter by mentioning one more instance of the moral power of the Bible-it is its effect in

Fear of death.

The sick young man.

Sting of death.

destroying the fear of death. The fear of death is instinctive, not founded on reasoning. It is reasonable for us to fear some things connected with death, but the chief apprehension which every man feels in looking forward to that hour, is the result of an instinctive principle which Providence has implanted in every man's mind; and the only way by which it can be counteracted without the Bible, is by banishing the subject from the thoughts. That is the way that soldiers acquire courage in battle-by accustoming themselves not to think of death at all. It is not in human nature to contemplate its approach, habitually and calmly, without such a preparation as the Bible gives.

Come in imagination to this sick chamber. That young man tossing restlessly upon his pillow is soon to die. His physicians have given him over. His friends despair, but, by a most absurd and preposterous species of kindness, they will not tell him of his danger, for they know he is unprepared to die, and the knowledge of the approach of the dread hour they think will distress him! But the sad secret they cannot conceal; - he reads his sentence in their anxious looks and agitated words-his pale cheek turns paler with fear, and to the natural restlessness of disease, there is added the overwhelming agitation of mental anguish. Can you soothe him? Can you calm him? Your very effort reveals to him his danger more distinctly, and his heart sinks within him in hopeless terror. Sometimes, it is true, this fear of death does not reign in the heart at the closing hour, for reason may be gone, or the soul may sink into stupor. But when death is really foreseen and known to be near, while the faculties retain their power, the expectation of it weighs down the human spirit with overwhelming fears.

But the Bible tells us that the sting of death is sin, and that Christ will give believers the victory over it. The Bible most faithfully keeps this promise. See that dying Christian mother. She knows that death is near, and has calmly made all her arrangements for the closing scene.

The dying mother.

Practical directions.

Difficulties.

Disputes.

She is a Christian, and looks forward to an entrance into the world of spirits with no foreboding and no anxiety. Her husband, and children, and friends, stand in agitation. and distress around her bed-side, but she is calm. A Christian death-bed very often exhibits the astonishing spectacle of composure and happiness in the one who is to drink the cup, while those around, who are only witnesses of the scene, are overwhelmed in agitation and sorrow. The very one who is to encounter the suffering, is the only one who can look forward to it without fear. It is because the Bible has been shedding its influences upon her heart, and by a moral power, which no other means can exert, has disarmed death, the very king of terrors, and given to a weak and suffering mortal the victory over all his power.

But I must close this chapter, and with it close the short and simple view I have been endeavoring to give of the evidences of Christianity. I cannot but hope that my readers see evidence enough to satisfy them that the Bible is really the word of God. If you do, lay up the conviction in your heart, and let it guide and influence you. But let me, before I dismiss the subject, give you two or three short practical directions.

1. Do not think there is no other side to this question. There are a great many things which may be said against the Bible, and some things which you, with your present attainments in Christian knowledge, perhaps cannot answer. But they do not touch or affect the great arguments by which the authority of the Bible is sustained. They are all small, detached difficulties. Then let your mind rest, calmly and with confidence, upon the great but simple. arguments on which the strong foundations of your belief stand.

2. Never be inclined to dispute upon the evidences of the Christian religion. The difficulty with unbelievers is one of the heart, not of the intellect, and you cannot alter the neart by disputing. When they present you with arguments against Christianity, reply in substance, "What you

Doing duty.

say seems plausible; still it does not reach the broad and deep foundations upon which, in my view, Christianity rests; and consequently, notwithstanding what you say, I still place confidence in the word of God."

3. Notice this, which, if you will watch your own experience, you will find to be true. Your confidence in the word of God and in the truths of religion will be almost exactly proportional to the fidelity with which you do your duty. When you lose your interest in your progress in piety, neglect prayer, and wander into sin, then you will begin to be in darkness and doubt. If you are so unhappy as to get into such a state, do not waste your time in trying to reason yourself back to belief again. Return to duty. Come to God and confess your wanderings, and submit your heart to be inclined to him. If you do this, light for the intellect and peace for the heart will come back together.

CHAPTER VIII.

STUDY OF THE BIBLE.

"Able to make us wise unto salvation."

It is not my intention in this chapter to give any de scription of the Bible itself, or of its history since it came into the world; nor shall I endeavor to establish its divine authority, or present the evidences or the nature of its inspiration. My object is to point out practical duty, and I shall confine myself to a description of the best methods of reading and studying the book.

I ought, however, to remark at the outset, that I intend the chapter to be of a highly practical character, and I shall go accordingly into minute detail. Besides, I an writing for the young, and shall, as I have generally done in this book, confine myself exclusively to them, for 1 have much more hope that they will be influenced to follow

Able to make us wise unto salvation.

Way to study the Bible.

the course which I shall endeavor to describe, than that my efforts will produce any good effect upon those who have gone beyond the meridian of life. If a man has passed the age of thirty without the Bible, it is to be feared that he will go on unaided by its light through the remainder of his pilgrimage. It is different, however, with the young. You shrink from passing life in impiety. You know that the Bible can be the only safe lamp to your feet; and if you are not now living by its light, there is hope that you may be persuaded to come and give yourself up to its guidance.

There should be a distinction made between the manner of reading the Bible on the Sabbath, and during the bustle of the week. The two objects to be accomplished, and the method of accomplishing them I shall describe.

On the Sabbath the Bible should be studied. Every person, old or young, ignorant or learned, should devote a portion of time every Sabbath to the study of the Scriptures, in the more strict and proper sense of that term. But to show precisely what I mean by this weekly study of the Bible, I will describe a particular case. A young man with only such opportunities as are possessed by all, resolves to take this course. He selects the epistle to the Ephesians for his first subject; he obtains such books and helps as he finds in his own family, or as he can obtain from a religious friend, or procure from a Sabbath-school library. It is not too much to suppose that he will have a sacred Atlas, some Commentary, and probably a Bible Dictionary. He should also have pen, ink and paper; and thus provided, he sits down Sabbath morning to his work. He raises a short but heartfelt prayer to God that he will assist and bless him, and then commences his inquiries.

The Epistle to the Ephesians I have supposed to be his subject. He sees that the first question evidently is, "Who were the Ephesians?" He finds the city of Ephesus upon the man: and from the preface to the Epistle

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