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ligion, more elevated than ethics, without a holy inclination of mind.
Not only however do the stronger passions, avarice, sensuality, or ambition, pervert the judgment in its estimate of moral and religious truth: the perversion is equally produced by those dispositions which are less exposed to the observation of others, by pride, obstinacy, envy, the love of fame, the spirit of the world, devotion to pleasure, neglect of God; with this important difference, that, as these evils are more latent, their operation is less attended to, and therefore more fatal.
This then appears to be the sentiment of the text. If you are disposed to do the will of God; if you are serious and in earnest about religion; if you are desirous to receive its doctrines, that you may be saved; if you are determined, in reliance on the grace of the Holy Spirit, from whom alone any good resolution can proceed, to follow the truth, as you may discover it, in the regulation of your temper and conduct, then you shall know of the doctrine, you are a proper subject for religious instruction, your inquiries will be practical, and therefore humble and successful.
But not so, if your disposition be different. If you approach the Scriptures from mere curiosity, with a mind occupied by prejudice, with a proud, angry, or disputatious spirit,
with a reliance on intellect and learning, to the exclusion of prayer and obedience; with a secret inclination to embrace only what may confirm your preconceived notions, instead of simply deriving every sentiment from the oracles of God: in a word, if you take up the Bible as you take up Aristotle or Newton, and expect that the mere exertion of natural talents, assisted by literature, will make you master of divine truth, as it does of the principles of human art and science; then you shall not, you cannot, really know of the doctrine; you are not in a right frame of heart; you want the recipient faculty, if I may so speak: the propensities of your mind as much incapacitate you from being an adequate judge of the nature and bearings of Christian truth, as a distempered eye renders a man incapable of rightly judging of colours: you may obtain that information which may furnish matter for dispute or fuel for pride, but you will remain destitute of that sacred knowledge which alone maketh wise unto
salvation; you will in fact grow more and
more averse from the reception of Scriptural doctrine; and, like a traveller in a mistaken
road, the further you proceed, the more widely will you wander from the end which you propose to yourself in your journey.
3 2 Tim. iii. 15.
I am not here, nor in any future observations I may offer, to be understood as if I in the least depreciated talents or literature. Their eminent value was never questioned, except by those who chose to despise what they did not possess. They are of distinguished importance in Theology. But then, like every thing else that is excellent, they have their peculiar province. While they are supreme in concerns of human investigation, they are subordinate in those of divine. They cannot communicate a right disposition of heart, nor can they compensate for its absence. In religion, they are beneficial only in proportion as they are inspired, as it were, and even animated by genuine and fervent piety. Like the armour of the ancient warrior, if the native vigour of the frame can wield them with alertness and skill, they are his defence and his ornament; but if this vigour be wanting, they are of no advantage whatever, they become on the contrary a burden and an incumbrance.
It is evident then that the successful method of studying Theology is not to bestow all our diligence in arranging our system in a speculative manner, whilst we leave the practice of it to some future time, as a matter of acknowledged moment indeed, but of no immediate influence on our present inquiries; but rather, with our text, to let obedience precede investi
gation, to consider piety as that which must open the way to knowledge, to return first to our duty by sincere endeavours to do the will of God, and then to hope that impediments to the reception of religious truth will be gradually removed, and that our advances will be direct and accelerated. Without this, our very first principles will be wrong, and all our deductions must partake of the error. With it, the wayfaring men, to use the language of the prophet, though fools, shall not err thereint. Barren speculation, like the light of the moon, may be clear, but it is cold and lifeless, and leaves men to their slumbers: whilst the knowledge of my text, like the light of the sun, warms and animates, and calls them up to labour and activity: by the first a man may be a hearer, by the second he is a doer of the word, and is blest in his deeds.
This representation is confirmed by the general tenor of the word of God. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not to thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments". The scorner seeketh wisdom,
4 Isaiah, xxxv. 8.
$ Jam. i. 25.
6 Prov. iii. 5, 6.
7 Ps. cxi. 10.
and findeth it not: but knowledge is easy to him that understandeth3. The meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way. With the heart man believeth unto righteousness'. The seed sown in good ground are they who in an honest and good heart receive the word". Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly of heart. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth". Receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls 5. The ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors, those who will not do his will, shall fall therein.
I might enlarge on the examples of the importance of this method of pursuing truth, which are found in Cornelius and the Ethi opian Eunuch, who, following with sincerity what they knew of the will of God, attained to a full discovery of his doctrine, by attending, the first, to the ministry of St Peter; the second, to the instruction of Philip': and eminently in the Bereans, who received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so; and of
Prov. xiv. 6.
9 Ps. xxv. 9.
1 Rom. x. 10.
Luke, viii. 15.
Matt. xi. 29.
41 Cor. viii. 1.
5 James, i. 21.
6 Hosea, xiv. 9.
7 Acts, x. and viii.