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WAY OF SALVATION.
PSALM cxix. 105.-"Thy word' is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto
My wish, in illustration of this text, is to call your attention to the BIBLE. It is not to pronounce an eulogy on it, or to enter into an argument for its Divine origin, or to state and defend its doctrines; but it is to urge its claims to attention, particularly as laying the foundation for the only true knowledge of the Way of Salvation.
When a man, especially one who has cherished sceptical views and feelings, sits down to read the Bible, there is a class of thoughts that bear upon his mind wholly different from such as exist when he peruses any other book. When he sits down to the study of the Iliad, he is conscious that he is perusing the most celebrated poem of the world. It has come down from a very remote antiquity ; it has been read by millions, and always with increasing pleasure ; it has commanded the admiration of the most eminent scholars of all ages. He feels, therefore, that his perusal of it will be attended with no discredit anywhere; and it will excite no feeling of shame in his bosom should it be known by all his friends that he is engaged in that employment. Substantially the same feeling exists when he reads the Paradise Lost. To admire it, is an evidence of good taste; and an intimate acquaintance with it will be a passport of some value to the good esteem of others, and will never suffuse his cheek with a blush. The same remarks might be made of Herodotus and Xenophon ; of Hume and Gibbon ; of Seneca and Bacon; of the Spectator and the Rambler. No young man could be found who would think it necessary to practise any concealment in reading them; no one would close them if surprised in their perusal; no one would feel the blood mounting to his cheek as if he were engaged in an occupation which he would rather should be unknown. On the contrary, he knows that he will rise in the estimation of others in proportion to his familiarity with such productions of genius and taste, and is furnishing evidence that he is worthy of esteem.
But when he sits down to read the Bible, he is surrounded by a new set of influences, and is conscious of a new train of emotions. Unless he is a Christian, he enters upon it as if it were some deed that is to be done when alone. He would feel some revulsion at being surprised in the employment. He would expect that it would excite remark—perhaps a playful remark—if he were to select this book for perusal from a collection of annuals and poems on a centre table. He would be apt to close it if he was found reading it when he had laid down his Homer or his Virgil, his Addison or Shakspeare or Byron, for this purpose. His first feeling is, that it is a book of RELIGION, and that to read it will be understood to be indicative of seriousness, and, a purpose to become a Christian. He is intimidated also by a somewhat antiquated style, and by what seems to him an uncouth phraseology; and, perhaps, he would be also by its denunciation of some passion that reigns in his heart; by its frequent reference to death and the judgment; and by the serious and solemn tone which everywhere pervades it. It is a book which he does not mean wholly to neglect, but its perusal he intends to defer until that somewhat remote period when it will be necessary to prepare for the future state, and when he purposes, as preliminary to that, to become religious.
The consequence of such feelings is, that the Bible is a book greatly neglected. Many are quite familiar with a considerable part of the range of ancient classic learning, who have almost no acquaintance with the sacred Scriptures. Many are familiar with the whole range of fictitious literature to which this age has given birth, who are strangers almost wholly to the Book of God, except in name. Many see exquisite beauty in the poets of modern times, who see none in the “sweet psalmist of Israel ;" and many find pleasure in copious draughts from the fountains of Helicon, who have no relish for the “ gently flowing“ waters of Siloam. I may add, too, that the people in a nominally Christian community are distinguished pre-eminently for the neglect of the oracles of the religion which prevails in their own country. The Mussulman reads the Koran with profound attention, and without any consciousness of doing anything that should excite a blush; the Shasters and Vedas of the Hindoos are read by the worshippers of the gods with anxious care ; but how few are there, except professed Christians, who are in the regular habit of reading the Bible! How few young men are there who could be seen reading it without some consciousness that they were doing that which they would rather not have known!
I will, therefore, proceed to suggest some considerations designed to urge upon you the study of the Bible; and shall deem it a sufficient reward for iny labour if I can induce but one to commence and continue the practice through life.
I. In the first place, it is the oldest book in the world. Of course you will not understand me as saying that the entire Bible is more ancient than any other book. I know that some parts of it were written since the time of Hesiod and Homer; of Xenophon and Herodotus ; of Demosthenes and Plato. But what I mean is, that some portions of it stretch far back beyond the records of classic literature, and before the dawn of wellauthenticated profane history. He who sits down to read the book of Job may do it with the moral certainty that he is perusing the most ancient written poem in the world; and he who reads the book of Genesis is certain that he is perusing a history that was penned long before any Grecian writer collected and recorded the deeds of ancient times. Take away the history of the past which we have in the Bible, and there are at least some two thousand years of the existence of our race of which we know nothing—and that too the forming period, and in many respects the most interesting part of the history of the world. Begin, in your investigation of past events, where ancient profane history begins, and you are plunged into the midst of a state of affairs of whose origin you know nothing, and where the mind wanders in perfect night, and can find no rest. Kingdoms are seen, but no one can tell when or how they were founded ; cities appear, whose origin no one knows; heroes are playing their part in the great and mysterious drama, can give an account. Begin your knowledge of the past at the remotest period to which profane history would conduct you, and you are in the midst of chaos, and you cannot advance a step without going into deeper night-a night strikingly resembling that which the oldest poet in the world describes as the abode of the dead: The land of darkness and the shadow of death ; a land of darkness as darkness itself; and of the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is as darkness.” Job x. 21, 22. And thus in reference to the darkness of the past-the history of our race in its by-gone periodsbeyond the reach of all other guides the Bible is “a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path.”
one knows whence they came, and what are their designs; a race of beings is seen whose origin is unknown, and the past periods of whose existence on the earth no one can determine-a race formed no one can tell for what purpose, or by what hand. Vast multitudes of beings are suffering and dying for causes which no one can explain ; a generation in their own journey to the grave tread over the monuments of extinct generations, and with the memorials of fearful changes and convulsions in the past all around them, of which no ono
Now there is some interest, at least, in the fact that we have in our possession the most ancient book which was ever written. We should feel some interest in seeing and conversing with a man who had lived on earth during all that time, and had looked on the sun, and stars, and earth before the time of Hesiod and Homer; who had lived amidst all the revolutions of past kingdoms and empires--while proud Assyria spread its conquests and fell; while Babylon rose and declined; while Rome carried its arms around the world and sank:- if he had lived on while seasons walked their rounds, and had seen fifty generations buried, and had come to us now with the ancient costume and manners, to tell us what was in the days of Noah or Abraham. We contemplate with deep interest an “ancient river ;” and no one ever looked on the Mississippi or the Ganges for the first time without emotion. So of a venerable elnı or oak that has stood while many a winter storm has howled through its branches, and while the trees that grew up with it have long since decayed. So with an ancient bulwark or castle; an ancient monument, or work of art. Whatever stands alone, and has lived on while others have decayed, excites our admiration. The pyramids of Egypt, and the tombs of the kings of Thebes, and the pillar of Pompey, thus attract attention. Any lonely memento of the past has a claim to our regard, and excites an interest, which we feel for nothing when surrounded by the objects amidst which it rose.
In the wastes of Arabia, between the Nile and Mount Sinai, there stand some half a dozen or more headstones in an ancient burying-place. There is not a town, or city, or house, or tent, or fertile field near. They are the lonely memorials of a far-distant generation. All else is gone,--the men that placed them there; the towns where they dwelt; the mouldering ashes, and the names of those whose last place of sleep they mark. So the Bible stands in the past. All is desolation around it. The books that were written when that was, if there were any, are gone. The generations that lived then are gone. The cities where they dwelt are gone. Their tombs and monuments are gone; and the Bible is all that we have to tell us who they were, why they lived, and what occurred in their times. Had the Bible to this day been unknown, or were it suddenly discovered in some venerable ruin and authenticated, who would not hail such a monument of what occurred in the past periods of the world?
The circumstance here referred to of the antiquity of the Bible derives additional interest from the attempts which have been made to destroy it. No book has excited so much opposition as this; but it has survived every attack which power, talent, and eloquence have ever made on it. Now, we do and we should feel an interest in anything which has survived repeated attempts to destroy it. The remnant of an army that has survived a battle, and that has successfully resisted great numbers in the conflicts of war; the tree that has stood firm when all others in its neighbourhood have been prostrated; the ancient castle that has sustained many a siege, and that remains impregnable ; the solid rock that has been washed by floods for centuries, and that has not been swept away--all excite a deep interest. We love to contemplate these, and we should deem ourselves destitute of all right feeling if we should pass them by without attention. But no army ever survived so many battles as the Bible; no tree has stood so long, and weathered so many storms; no ancient bulwark has endured so many sieges, and stood so firm amid the thunders of war and the ravages of time; and no rock has been swept by so many currents, and has still stood unmoved. It has outlived all conflicts, survived all the changes in empires, and come down to us notwithstanding all the efforts made to destroy it; and while the stream of time has rolled on, and thousands of other books have been engulphed, this book has been borne triumphantly on the wave. It has shown that it is destined to be borne onward to the end of time, while millions of others shall sink degradedly to the bottom.
II. The second consideration which I suggest is, that the Bible contains the religion of your country. Chillingworth uttered a sentiment which contains as much meaning as can be well condensed into a few words, when he said, that “ The Bible is the religion of Protestants.” In a similar sense, we may say that the Bible is the religion of our country. The ancient religion of Persia is in the Zendavesta ; the religion of India