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There are various other methods which might be mentioned and described, but enough has been said to enable, I think, any one who is disposed, to engage at once, for a short time each Sabbath, in such an intellectual study of the Bible. Parents can try the experiments I have above described in their families, and Sabbath-school teachers can try them in their classes. Sabbath-schools would be astonishingly improved at once, if the teachers would put their ingenuity into requisition to devise and execute new plans, so as to give variety to the exercises. There would be a spirit and interest exhibited both by teacher and pupil, which the mere servile reading of printed questions, and listening to answers mechanically committed, never can produce.
There is far too little of this intellectual study of the Bible even among the most devoted Christians. Its literature, its history, its biography-the connexion of its parts-all are very little understood. It is indeed true that the final aim of the Bible is to teach us personal religious duty. It comes to the conscience, not to the literary taste of men;-and is designed to guide their devotions, not to gratify their curiosity, or their love of historic truth. But why is it that God has chosen the historic form, as a means of communicating his truth? Why is it that his communications with mankind were, for so many years, so completely involved with the political history of a powerful nation, that that whole history must be given? Why is our Saviour's mission so connected with the Roman government, and all this connexion so fully detailed, that no inconsiderable portion of the geography and customs and laws of that mighty empire are detailed in the Evangelists and Acts? The moral lessons which our Saviour taught might have been presented in their simple didactic form. The whole plan of salvation, through the blood
of a Redeemer, might have been given us in one single statement, instead of leaving us to gather it piece by piece from multitudes of narratives and addresses and letters. Why is it, then, that instead of one simple proclamation from the Majesty on high, we have sixty or seventy different books, introducing us to the public history of twenty nations, and to the minutest incidents in the biographies of a thousand men? Why, it is that we may be excited by the interest of incident and story;-that religion and impiety may be respectively presented to us, in living and acting reality, and that the principles of God's government and of his dealing with men may come to us in all the vividness of actual fact. If, then, we neglect to understand this history as history, and to enter into all the incidents which are detailed, we lose the very benefit which the Spirit had in view in making the Bible such a volume as it is. Without such an occasional effort to make the Scriptures a study-examining them intellectually, comparing one part with another, and endeavouring to bring vividly to view the scenes which they present to our minds,--it may safely be said that no one can truly understand the Bible, or enter into the spirit of its descriptions, its warnings, and its appeals.
But, after all, the great object in studying the Bible is not merely to understand it. The revelation which God has made is a message sent, not to the intellect, but to the consciences and hearts of men; and unless it reaches the conscience and the heart, it entirely fails of accomplishing its object. We ought, indeed, to gain an intellectual knowledge of it, but that is only to be considered as a means to enable us the more fully to apply to our own characters and conduct the practical lessons which it teaches.
The Sabbath seems for most persons the most proper time for the systematic study of the Scriptures, but a portion of it should be read practically every day. This part of my subject does not need so full an illustration as the other, for the great difficulty in regard to reading the Scriptures practically, is a want of disposition to do it. They who really wish to learn their duty, and overcome their temptations, who desire that the sins of their hearts and lives should be brought to their view by the word of God, will easily make for themselves an application of the truths which the Bible contains. Will not all my readers do this faithfully and persevering
ly? Resolve to bring a short portion of the preceptive or devotional parts of the Scriptures home to your heart every day: and let your object be, in this daily reading of the Bible, not so much to extend your intellectual view of the field opened to you in its pages, as to increase its moral and spiritual influence upon your heart and conduct. Be not so careful, then, to read this exact quantity, or that, but to bring home some portion really and fully to the heart and to the conscience, to do it so forcibly that the influence of those few verses, read and pondered in the morning, will go through the day.
Reading the Bible is, however, sometimes practised with a very different spirit from this. A boy, for example, whose parent or whose Sabbath-school teacher has convinced him that he ought to read the Bible daily, takes his book and sits down by the fire, and reads away rapidly and thoughtlessly the portion which comes in course. He looks up occasionally to observe the sports of his brothers and sisters,—or to join in their conversation, and then returns again to the verse he left. In fifteen minutes he rises from his seat, shuts his book, and pushes it into its place upon the shelf, saying, “there—I have read my chapter;"—and this is the last he knows or thinks of the Bible during the day.
Consider, now, another case. In an unfurnished and almost an unfinished little room in some crowded alley of a populous city, you may see a lad who has just arisen from his humble bed, and is ready to go forth to his daily duties. He is a young apprentice, and must almost immediately go forth to kindle his morning fire, and to prepare his place of business for the labours of the day. He first however takes his little Testament from his chest, and breathes, while he opens it, a silent prayer, that God will fix the lesson that he is about to read upon his conscience and his heart. "Holy Spirit!" whispers he, "let me apply the instructions of this book to myself, and let me be governed by it to-day, so that I may perform faithfully all my duties to myself, to my companions, to my master and to Thee." He opens the book, and reads perhaps as follows:--"Be kindly affectioned one to another, with brotherly love, in honour preferring one another." He pauses his faithful self-applying thoughts run through the scenes through which he has that day to pass, and he considers in what
cases this verse ought to influence him. "Be kindly affectioned." I must treat my brothers and sisters, and all my companions kindly to-day. I must try to save them trouble, and to promote their happiness. "In honour preferring one another." As he sees these words, he sighs to reflect how many times he has been jealous of his fellow-apprentices, on account of marks of trust and favour shown to them, or envious of the somewhat superior privileges enjoyed by those older than himself; and he prays that God will forgive him, and make him humble, and kind-hearted in future to all around him.
"Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit, serving the Lord." He stops to reflect whether he is habitually industrious-improving all his time in such a manner as to be of the greatest advantage to his master ;-whether he is fervent in spirit, i. e. cordially devoted to God's service, and full of benevolent desires for the happiness of all ;-whether he serves the Lord in what he does, i. e. whether all his duties are discharged from motives of love to his Maker and Preserver. While he thus muses, the fire burns. He shuts his book-asks God to protect him, as he now must go out into the labours and temptations of the day. God does bless and protect him. He has read, indeed, but two verses ; -but these verses he carries in his heart, and they serve as a memorial of kindness and love to man, and fidelity towards God, which accompanies him wherever he goes, and keeps him safe and happy. The Bible is thus a light to his feet and a lamp to his path. Which, now, of these, do you think reads the Bible aright?
Let no child who reads this, understand me to say, that I consider two verses enough of the Bible to read each day. What I mean by this case is, that so much more depends upon the spirit and manner with which the Bible is read, than the quantity-that a very small portion, properly read, may be far more useful than a much larger quantity hurried over in a careless and thoughtless manner. No precise rules can be given in regard to quantity. It must vary with circumstances, and of these the individual must in most cases be the judge.
"Remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy."
My readers are undoubtedly generally aware, that the present obligation to keep the Sabbath has been by some perons denied, on the ground that keeping one day in seven holy is a sort of ceremony, and that it was only intended to be required of the Jewish nation. I do not intend in this chapter to enter at all into a discussion of that subject. Most if not all of those who will read this book are undoubtedly satisfied in regard to it. I will, however, simply state the facts on the ground of which the present binding authority of the Lord's day is generally admitted by Christians.
As soon as God had finished the creation, it is stated that "he rested on the seventh day, and sanctified it ;"—that is, he set it apart for a sacred use. The time and the circum
stances under which this was done sufficiently indicate that it was intended to apply to the whole race, and to extend through all time. A ceremony solemnly established at the foundation of an empire would be universally considered as designed to extend as far and continue as long as the empire itself should extend and continue, unless it should be distinctly repealed. And so with a duty established at the foundation of a world.
Many years afterwards, the Creator gave a very distinct code of laws to his people the Jews. These laws were of two kinds, ceremonial and moral. It was the design of the former to be binding only upon the Jewish nation, the latter are of permanent and universal authority.
The ceremonial laws were merely repeated to Moses, and