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to the task, how slow is our progress and how imperfect our performance! So true is it that Nature is unwilling to the subject of the Scriptures. The soul is previously possessed with adverse interests; the world hath laid an embargo upon her faculties, and monopolized them to herself; old Habit hath perhaps added his almost incurable callousness; and the enemy of God and man is skilful to defend what he hath already won. So circumstanced, and every man is so circumstanced, we come to the audience of the word of God, and listen in worse tune than a wanton to a sermon, or a hardened knave to a judicial reprimand. Our understanding is prepossessed with a thousand idols either of the world religious or irreligious—which corrupt the reading of the word into a straining of the text to their service; and when it will not strain, cause it to be skimmed, and perhaps despised, or hated. Such a thing as a free and unlimited reception of all the parts of Scripture into the mind, is a thing most rare to be met with, and when met with, will be found the result of many a sore submission of Nature's opinions, as well as of Nature's likings.
But the Word, as hath been said, is not for the intellect alone, but for the heart, and for the will. Now if any one be so wedded to his own candour as to think he doth accept the divine truth unabated--surely no one will flatter himself into the belief that his heart is already attuned and enlarged for all divine affections, or his will in readiness for all divine commandments. The man
who thus misdeems of himself, must, if his opinion were just, be like a sheet of fair paper, unblotted, unwritten on; whereas all men are already occupied, to very fulness, with other opinions, and attachments, and desires, than the Word reveals. We do not grow Christians by the same culture by which we grow men, otherwise what need of divine revelation, and divine assistance ? But being unacquainted from the womb with God, and attached to what is seen and felt, through early and close acquaintance, we are ignorant and detached from what is unseen and unfelt. The Word is a novelty to our nature, its truths fresh truths, its affections fresh affections, its obedience a new obedience, which have to master and put down the truths, affections, and obedience gathered from the apprehension of Nature, and the commerce of worldly life. Therefore, there needeth, in one that would be served from this storehouse of truth opened by heaven, a disrelish of his old acquisitions, and a preference of the new, a simple, child-like teachableness, an allowance of ignorance and error, with whatever else beseems an anxious learner. Coming to the word of God, we are like children brought into the conversations of experienced men; and we should humbly listen and reverently inquire : or we are like raw rustics introduced into high and polished life, and we should unlearn our coarseness, and copy the habits of the station :-nay, we are like offenders caught, and for amendment committed to the bosom of honourable society, with the
power of regaining our lost condition, and inheriting honour and trust-therefore we should walk softly and tenderly, covering our former reproach with modesty and humbleness, hasting to redeem our reputation by distinguished performances, against offence doubly guarded, doubly watchful for opportunities, to demonstrate our recovered goodness.
These two sentiments--devout veneration of God for his unspeakable gift, and deep distrust of our own capacity to estimate and use it aright will generate in the mind a constant aspiration after the guidance and instruction of a Higher Power. The first sentiment of goodness remembered, emboldening us to draw near to Him who first drew near to us, and who with Christ will not refuse us any gift. The second sentiment, of weakness remembered, teaching us our need, and prompting us by every interest of religion and every feeling of helplessness to seek of him who hath said, “If any one lack wisdom let him ask of God, who giveth liberally and upbraideth not.” The soul which under these two master feelings cometh to read, shall not read without profit. Every new revelation, feeding his gratitude and nourishing his sense of former ignorance, will confirm the emotions he is under, and carry them onward to an unlimited dimension. Such a one will prosper in the way; enlargement of the inner man will be his portion, and establishment in the truth his exceeding great reward; affection to the Godhead will lead him on; and the strength which
sustaineth the humble will be his reward.
Thus delivered from prepossessions of all other masters, and arrayed in the raiment of humility and love, the soul should advance to the meeting of her God; and she should call a muster of all her faculties, and have all her poor graces in at-tendance, and any thing she knows of his excellent works and exalted ways she should summon up to her remembrance: her understanding she should quicken, her memory refresh, her imagination stimulate, her affections cherish, and her conscience arouse. All that is within her should be stirred up, her whole glory should awake, and her whole beauty display itself, for the meeting of her King. As his hand-maiden she should meet him; his own handy-work, though sore defaced, yet seeking restoration; his humble, because offending servant-yet nothing slavish, though humble-nothing superstitious, though devoutnothing tame, though modest in her demeanour;. but quick, and ready, all addressed and wound up
for her Maker's will. How different the ordinary proceeding of Christians, who with timorous, mistrustful spirits, with an abeyance of intellect and a dwarfish reduction of their natural powers, enter to the conference of the word of God! The natural powers of man
are to be mistrusted, doubtless, as the willing instruments of the evil one; but they must be honoured also as the necessary instruments of the Spirit of God, whose operation is a dream, if it be not through knowledge, intellect, conscience, and action. Now Christians, heedless of this grand regeneration of the mighty instruments of thought and action, at the same time coveting hard after holy attainments, do often resign the mastery of themselves, are at once taken into the current of the religious world--whirling around the eddy of some popular leader—and so drifted, I will not say from godliness, but drifted certainly from that noble, manly, and independent course, which under steerage of the word of God, they might have safely pursued for the dignity and salvation of their immortal souls. Meanwhile these popular leaders, finding no necessity for strenuous endeavours and high science in the ways of God, but having a gathering host to follow them, deviate from the ways of deep and penetrating thought-refuse the contest with the literary and accomplished enemies of the faith-bring a contempt upon the cause in which mighty men did formerly gird themselves to the combat—and so cast the stumbling-block of a mistaken paltriness between enlightened men and. the cross of Christ! So far from this simple-mindedness (but its proper name is feeble-mindedness,) Christians should be as aforetime in this island they were wont to be—the princes of human intellect, the lights of the world, the salt of the political and social state. And till they come forth from the