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St. Paul declares to comprehend the whole counsel of God? I venture thus plainly to put the inquiry, because, whilst we are considering the means of communicating knowledge to others, we may possibly be, some of us, neglecting it ourselves. We may assist in building an ark we never enter. We may be active in promoting these Schools, and thus making the Poor wise for Heaven, when we are despising in fact, or postponing the highest and first of all duties, the Salvation of our own souls!
But I pass forward to a further consideration, arising out of this part of the text. The Apostle says, the Holy Scriptures ARE ABLE thus to make men wise unto Salvation. The Efficacy, then, of the Sacred Volume to convey the inestimable benefit which we have been considering, must now be noticed.
The Apostle appears to use this expression, with a reference to the dangerous arts of those seducers whom he predicts as about to arise in the last times. Instead of lending himself to their corrupt tenets, Timothy was to continue in the things which he had learned and had been assured of, knowing of whom he had learned them, and that from a child he had known the Holy Scriptures which were able--sufficient in every sense adapted—to make him wise unto Salvation; containing in themselves every thing necessary to instruct him in all the articles of sacred truth, and to protect him against the evasions and heresies of false teachers.
We learn, then, from this sentiment, that the Bible is the perfect and adequate and intelligible revelation of the Will of God. Nothing need be added to it, nothing can be taken from it. There is a plain, obvious, steady, consistent meaning in the Word of God-equal, inflexible—the expression of God's immutable will—which may be attained by every sincere student—and which, amidst all the fluctuation's of human error and passion, remains unchanged -always competent to direct the simple and humble-minded penitent, who is seeking in earnest for Salvation, in every point essential to the great object of his inquiry. All religious error springs from ignorance, perversion, or misunderstanding of the plain obvious meaning' of Scripture. Men explain away or overlook some portions of this sacred book; or they add their own notions, inventions, superstitions, and prétended new Revelations to it, as of equal or superior importance; and thus corruptions of doctrine and precept infect the simplicity and majesty of Truth. Still, so long as the Bible remains, there is an unbending standard by which we may try every sentiment
The prominent and exclusive encomium of Scripture is, that there, and there
The word of God will not profit, unless it be mixed with faith in them that hear it.
For what, if men read the Scriptures only to cavil, to raise curious questions, to select some favourite parts merely, to model divine truth after the dictates of a corrupt reasoning, or to rest in a cursory formal speculation on its chief topics? What, if they read it without attention, without seriousness, without prayer? Will it in such a case make us wise unto salvation? No, my brethren. The Scriptures, to be efficient, must be read with a lively faith. We read other books, indeed, in order that we may reject or receive what is proposed to us, according to our best judgment of truth. We are to try them by some standard. We come to them as judges. But when we read the Scriptures, we are to come, not as judges, but disciples. They are themselves the standard of all religious doctrine. We are to receive them as the unerring revelation of God. We are to submit all our sentiments, all our prejudices, all our doctrines, all our conduct, to their authoritative guidance. It is not reasoning, but faith, which God requires. And therefore the young and ignorant as to other things, may sometimes make more solid advances in the Wisdom of salvation, than the most refined scholar, because they may have the true key to its blessings--a heart which believes unto righteousness. Nay, the very mysteries of our religion, which are the stumbling-block to a proud and hazardous objector, are the food and nourishment of faith. We believe the doctrines of the proper deity of our Lord, of the personality and divinity of the Holy Ghost, of the purposes and decrees of God, of the fall and impotency of man, of the efficacy of divine grace in regenerating and sanctifying the heart, and if there be any other doctrine most commonly objected to as mysterious; not because we can resolve all the difficulties which a presumptuous mind may advance against them, but because they are revealed in that book, which is to be received with silent faith, and not arraigned at the bar of the very sinners whom it was given to illuminate and save.
The Apostle adds concerning this faith, that it is In Christ Jesus; because he would direct us to that distinguished truth which gives all their virtue to the Holy Scriptures. They can make us wise unto salvation, because they reveal the Saviour. And faith is the means by which such effects are produced, because faith, amidst all the other doctrines of the Bible, fixes most intently on that which includes and surpasses them all—the doctrine of the Cross.
More especially, in the case of Timothy, to whom the Epistle was addressed, the knowledge of the writings of the Old Testament, in
which he had been trained from his infancy, would make him wise unto salvation; not if he rested in the letter of them, and rejected or despised the Messiah after he had appeared on earth, but if he welcomed with faith that Saviour and acknowledged in Himn the hope and consolation of the Church.
But indeed, generally, faith, when it is genuine, conducts in the first instance to the same commanding truth. All the knowledge which it acquires respecting the guilt of sin, the holiness of the Law, and the justice and wrath of God, only quicken its eagerness in embracing the record which is given of the Saviour. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son; he that hath the Son, hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life. This is the Truth by way of eminence. The sum of the whole Bible is, that God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life. Christ is the Shepherd, the Friend, the Prophet, the High Priest, the King of his church. He is that in the spiritual world, which the bright orb of day is in the natural, the source of light and warmth and life and consolation. All the faith in the Holy Scriptures, and all their efficacy to salvation, meet at last in Him, for the excellency