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varying and variable offences-our frauds, and injuries of our neighbours, our multiplied rebellions against our God. Of ourselves, we can no more make adequate recompense for our offences than a traitor to the state for the deluges of blood, the consequences of his desperate treasons. One recompense alone remains for wretched man, and in that he is most blessed;" God hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin: that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."

VIII.-Religious reading.

THE words of the mouth and the meditations of the heart are abundantly supplied with spiritual food, by a judicious choice, and religious use, of holy books. I do not mean such books as are calculated to advance critical and learned knowledge, however valuable, as those that tend to administer especially, to the establishment and improvement of the Christian character. The instruction of the head must have been already laid, as a sound foundation for the instruction of the heart. In every period of life, the vis vita, the force and power of existence, require to be recruited by the accumulated application of heavenly wisdom from other sources than our own. Our lamp must

be supplied with holy oil, that it may burn brightly at the coming of the bridegroom. When we find the mind well furnished with food for holy thought; then may we rejoice in the possession of sacred treasure, and no longer feel the poverty of the soul. Then will the train of religious contemplation flow freely through every vein of the body, and the whole man be sensible of that healthy state of mind, which will carry him on his way rejoicing.

I need hardly mention the holy book, as the sacred fount, from which every man must drink the water of life. But every man should be careful how he drinks: for much as we may think ourselves conversant in it, a veil may still be upon our hearts. Our first approach to it must be in prayer, or with an heart disposed to pray; and with a tongue ready to start forth both in prayer and praise. But with all this preparation we must not suppose ourselves inspired; or that we are thoroughly acquainted with all mysteries, or all knowledge. Presumption will never lead us to a true interpretation of holy Scripture. The modest reply of the Ethiopian convert is the surer road to spiritual wisdom. "Understandest thou what thou readest?"

said Philip. guide me1?"

"How can I, except some one should

I will not here consider their case who misinterpret Scripture to meet some preconceived erroneous opinion,

1 Acts viii. 31.

Neither will I speak of those honest, but ignorant people, who are constant in reading the Scriptures through as a task, and imagine themselves well employed. Doubtless the Lord will accept the imperfect endeavours of those who fly to him for help, and will lead them into the way of salvation. But all is not done, be the dead letter of Scripture ever so often perused. I do not mean to discourage any by this remark; but simply to inquire, whether superficial reading be searching the Scripture; that is, laying together every vital doctrine of Scripture and making the application to the heart? "Buy the truth, brother! and sell it not; also wisdom and instruction, and understanding':" spare no pains, no cost, to acquire such a valued possession, and when thou hast acquired it, sell it not again, for it is thy life.

"Give attendance to reading," said Paul to Timothy, meaning the holy records of Scripture then in existence-and to exhortation and doctrine; the holy fruits of a holy tree. The same admonition is addressed to every pupil of the Gospel, even to the remotest generations; and never with more effect than at this day, when education has rendered, or may render, every man able to accomplish so happy a purpose. "Blessed are the people who have the Lord for their God!"

All this is well known, and hardly needs repetition,

1 Prov. xxiii. 29.

2 1 Tim. iv. 13.

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but religious reading, properly so called, goes further than this; because every one of us, more or less, requires line upon line, and precept upon precept1, to keep us up to the knowledge which we possess. Even with the knowledge of Scripture which we may have already attained, the human mind is too apt to retrograde; and we require continued study of the same holy topics, to fix our sliding footsteps. The pure word, indeed, wants no support from human efforts, considered in itself, but the feebleness of the faculties of man frequently does, either from too much, or too little, exercise. The pious labours of good men, therefore, may be admitted as valuable auxiliaries. Every day produces something admirable in this way, and truly acceptable to a pious heart. The difficulty, for many obvious reasons, is in the selection. Many good old authors, though dead, still speak among us with a powerful voice. But as good men are sometimes deluded even by their goodness, great care is necessary to select the precious grain, and cast away any adventitious substances which may have accompanied it.

That I may be the better understood I will only instance in the case of one, "Law's Devout Call to an holy life;" and take my answer from one of the most pious and evangelical Divines of a recent age. The excellent Bishop Horne, in his youth, selected

1 Is. xxviii. 10.

flowers from every garden of God; amongst others from Mr. Law. But "though he conformed himself to the strictness of Law's rules of devotion, he was in no danger of falling into the mystic reveries of Jacob Behmen which had misled many. And being sensible how easy it was for many of those who took their piety from Mr. Law, to take his errors along with it, he drew up a very useful paper for the security of such persons, as might not have judgment enough to distinguish properly, under the title of Cautions to the readers of Mr. Law; and excellent they are, for the purpose intended." Other writings of a similar kind had attracted Bp. Horne's notice. "He used them with judgment and moderation, to qualify and temper each other: he took what was excellent from all, without admitting what was exceptionable from any '." This principle has been followed up by the publication of many excellent tracts on the fundamental doctrines. of Christianity, excluding what might be thought inadmissible by the pious, sober, and judicious member of the pure and primitive Church established in this realm. The writer is ready to admit benefit from the secluded perusal of these good men's thoughts-always bearing in mind our Lord's admonition, adapted to a different inlet of knowledge, Take heed how you read.

Religious reading is an indispensable medium, in

1 Jones's Life of Bishop Horne, p. 73.

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