This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Psalm xix. 7 — 10. The law of the Lord is perfect^ converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure^ making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are rights rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean , enduring for ever ; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea^ than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honey-comb. Theue are two methods which God is pleased to employ in the instruction of mankind. He teaches them by the works of creation, and by the words of Holy Scripture, The heavens declare the glory of God ; and man, if he had
2 THE EXCELLENCY OF not fallen, would have continued to understand this language. The book of revelation might then have been unnecessary. But man as a sinner has no ear to listen to the voice of God in his works ; and it is only by the revealed
words of Scripture that ^le can find the way of pardon and holiness. The Psalmist, accordingly, after he had spoken magnificently, in the preceding verses, of the display of the divine perfections in the works of creation and providence^ makes a ^udden transition in the text to the book of revelation, a^d extols it far above them. The abruptness of this transition, when considered in connexion with the commendations bestowed on the inspired volume, seems to point out the insufficiency of the instructions of nature, and the necessity and excellency of a revelation from God. - The subject, then, which we have now to consider is, the excellency of the Sacred Scriptures. In explaining this, I shall have to point out, the properties, the efficacy, and the value of the word of God. , L We must notice the excellent properties OF THE WORD OF GoD. As A LAW IT IS PERFECT. The rcvelatiou of God, which is his law in the most extensive sense of the term, is complete and entire. It
THE HOLY SCRIPTURES. 3 has no flaw nor defect. It contains every thing
necessary for our salvation. Nature declares the glory of God only in a general manner J and even this instruction is to us now become obscure and imperfect. It was suited to man in his state of innocence, but it cannot show him his danger as a transgressor, or point out any certain miethod of pardon, or give him any sure hope of felicity. But the law of God is perfect. Nothing can be added to it, nothing taken from it. It embraces every part of truth. Not indeed every part, absolutely speaking ; but every part which God has seen it right to reveal. It comprehends all our duty, and all our consolation ; all that is necessary to make us happy and holy ; all that regards the doctrine of pardon and the way of peace. It reveals the good and^accqaabk and perfect will of, God. The writings of the heathen philosophers contain a few mutilated principles and some fine sentiments ; but they are incomplete as a rule, and grossly defective as to their principles of action. The Bible alone is perfect, beginning with the statement of man's sinfulness and guilt, discovering to us a stupendous atonement for sin, revealing a Spirit of grace and holiness, laying down a complete rule of life ; ^ and connecting with these a history of" the creation, fall, and redemption of mankind. It is alt given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, b2
THE EXCELLENCY OF
for reproof for correction, for instruction in righteousness ; that the. man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. B.ut further, as atestimony, the word of GoDis spoken of as sure. Considered as the solemn witr^ess and attestation of God to all those truths which concern man's everlasting salvation, it is sure. It comes with a force and authority to the conscience. The former property denoted the completeness, this the solidity and firmness, if I may be allowed the expression, of the instructions of God in the Scriptures. They are faithful. They ar^ like solid ground on which your foot stands fast, and where you may take a firm step. The authenticity and divine inspiration of the Bible being established by accumulated evidence, all its contents are to be entirely depended on. Whatever doubts we may have as to the opinion^ or writings of the best of men, we can have none with regard to the words of the Holy Ghost. They are a sure direction as to the principles of truth, and a sure guide in the way of duty. It is added, jthat the statutes of the LokD are right. The statutes and judgments of the divine law are altogether right, true, clean, and righteous. (Ver. 8 and 9.) The equity and holiness of them equal their completeness and certainty. They are in all respects true and just and excellent. There is nothing harsh, nothing
THE HOLY SCRIPTURES. 5 defiling, nothing erroneous, nothing arbitrary in them. They have not only authority, but goodness on their side. We may not, in all points, be able to perceive the reasons of the divine declarations. It would be surprising if we could. But shall we not believe that the Judge of all the earth doth right? Shall we not adore what we cannot comprehend ? Shall we not esteem all God's precepts concerning all things to be right? Though obscurity rest on some part of the words and judgments of the Almighty, yet shall we not acknowledge, that they are in themselves undoubtedjy true and righteous altogether ; conceived in eternal wisdom, founded on eternal truth, strictly harmonizing with the unchangeable principles of good and evil, precisely and in every respect that which they ought to be ? ^ And as to the leading features of the moral government of God, as to the stupendous mercies of redemption, and the offers and terms of salvation, there is no enlightened mind but must at once discover their rectitude and excellency. They are clean from all dross or alloy ; they are free from all error ; they are completely true and righteous. ,It is a further property of the word of God, that, AS A COMMANDMENT, IT IS PURE. The Bible is a clear and, perspicuous rule of duty. Like the light of the sun, (to which the word rendered pure may allude,) it is lucid and bril-
6 THE EXCELLENCY OF liant, without any mixture of darkness. The perspicuity of Holy Writ is as remarkable as its other qualities. It manifests itself without difficulty. Its pure doctrine has no need of elaborate proofs, reasonings, or study. It enters, through the power of the Spirit, into the mind, and discovers itself by its own brightness. It seizes the conscience, and silences the vain cavils of passion. Other books are debased by obscure and confused sentiments and positions ; this is pur^ and luminous, in all essential points, as heaven itself. Nor is this all. It is next spoken of as ETERNAL. The laws of mcu are mu table. Even the ceremonial law, though divinely revealed, yet being designed only for a time, was abolished when Christ appeared. But the word of God, in all its main and essential characters, as leading to the habitual fear of his name, endureth for ever. The obligations of revealed truth are perpetual. They vary not with times and circumstances. The blessings of it, the rewards, the effects are unchangeable. The moral precepts of God are immutable. The hfe proposed by the Gospel, and the redemption which it reveals, are eternal. Heaven in which it terminates will know no end. He that doeth the will of God abidethfor ever. These, then, are the properties of the sacred
Scriptures; and they all combine to impress
THE HOLY SCRIPTURES. 7 upon US the authority of divine truths The several expressions to whict we have adverted — law\ testimony^ statutes, commandments, fear, JttdgmenU, — all tend to enforce on us a most reverential sense of the iinportance and weight of Holy Scripture, It is not a vain thing. Religion is not a matter left to our choice. The Sacred Writings are not to be perverted or rejected at our pleasure. They come with a divine commission, and speak to us in the name of God. But properties of themselves are of little moment, unless they appear in correspondent eflPects. Let us proceed then to consider, II. The surprising effects which the WORD OF God produces. It produces conversion, wisdom, joy, illumination, and fear. It converts the soul.. ** The word of God," says a Prelate of our Church, " is perfectly adapted to convert, restore, and bring back the soul from error to truth, from sin to
righteousness, from sickness to health, from death to life ; as it convinces of sin, holds forth the Saviour, is a means of grace and a rule of conduct." The first thing which man needs as a fallen creature, is an entire conversion of the soul. This the Sacred Scripture, by the power
- Q THE EXCELLENCY OF of the Holy Spirit, is able to effect. It begins,, where our necessities begin, with the heart, and brings it back directly to God, It proclaims the holy law, which condemns every transgression. It displays the depravity of our nature. It exhibits the astonishing scheme of redemption in the death of the incarnate Saviour ; and then invites us to repent and be con^ verted, that our sins may be blotted out. Thus men are actually turned from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God. They are pricked to the heart uuder the sense of their guilt and danger, and cry out in anguish. What shall we do ? They then hear the invitations of mercy in the Gospel ; obey these invitations ; and believe on the name of Jesus Christ. They confess and forsake their sins, that they may find mercy. Thus, by the grace of God attending the Holy Scriptures, a radical change is efFedted, in the thoughts, desires, affections, pur-? suits, and conduct of men, who were before wicked and worldly ; and they begin to hate sin, to believe in Christ, to love God, to love
their neighbour, and to live a 4ife of holiness, spirituality, prayer, humility, and good works. But the Bible not only thus acts upon the heart of man generally, but it acts thus in the case of the most simple and ignorant. It is said to MAKE WISE THE SIMPLE. The iguoraut and unlearned, who are most exposed to delu-
THE HOLY SCRIPTURES. 9 sion, and for whom the writings of philosophers and moralists are little adapted, by receiving humbly the word of God, become wise unto salvation. They learn their sinfulness ; they learn to repent ; they learn the way of salvation in Christ Jesus ; they discover the source of strength and grace ; they learn to lead a holy life. Such learning is real wisdom. It regards the highest interests and the highest duties of man. It chooses the noblest end, and pursues it by the best means. However confined the mind or limited the acquirements of the true penitent, the entrance of God's word giveth light, it giveth understanding to the simple, — to those whom human reason would bewilder in error and uncertainty. Pride is not the way to knowledge : he who loves the Bible understands it : faith is the most sure science of man. I am far from intending to insinuate that the aid of human learning, and of a sound and wellordisred criticism, is not important to every
Christian who has the opportunity of making such acquisitions. Much less would I be understood to say, that this aid is not essential to the right understanding of many difficult passages of Scripture, and to the right explication . of it by the ministers of the church of God. But I mean distinctly, to assert, that, as to the ""broad and commanding lessons and topics of Scripture, the most unlettered and simple may
10 THE EXCELLENCY OF become wise unto salvation, as well as the best informed and most learned ; that to the poor the Gospel is preached;' nay, that it frequently pleases God to hide these things from the wise and prudent, and to reveal them unto babes. After conversion, naturally follows joy. Zfee statutes of the!" Lord, it is said, are right, rejoicing THE HEART. For hc who knows a Saviour has a claim to joy. He may well rejoice In the mercy which has been displayed to him. He may well rejoice in the gift of righteousness; in the peace of forgiveness, in the blessedness of reconciliation. There is a joy in all the commands and promises and ways of his Saviour ; a joy of dependence, of expectation, and of obedience. If a man is not really converted by the Holy Scriptures, he will live, as it were,
on the mere surface of the Gospel, and of course will find no scriptural joy. But the penitent discovers in the Scriptures a constant theme of delight ; and iathis he indulges in proportion to his real attainments in true religion. For the sincere student of the Bible will advance in knowledge, as well as joy. The commandment of the Lord, it is added, is pure, ENLIGHTENING THE EYES. It HOt Qnly makcS the simple practically wise, but it furnishes him with an understanding of spiritual things. When the heart has been set right as to the main points of salvation, the judgment still requires
THE HOLY SCRIPTURES. 11 to be directed and illuminated on many of the momentous questions^ which have been at first only generally apprehended. Wisdom directs us to pursue the highest end of man, everlasting salvation. Knowledge makes us acquainted with the various facts and instructions by which the practical judgment may be directed. Wisdom regards the state of the heart, illumination that of the understanding. The Bible is the means of giving both. The Christian, as he goes on to study it, i^ Jitkd with the knowledge of Gjod's will in all wisdom and spirittcal understanding. The eyes of his understanding are enlightened
more and more to know the hope of his calling. The Bible is the remedy of his remaining errors and mistakes. It resembles, as I have already said, the light in its purity and brightness. It unfolds to the mind the works and dispensations of God, the state of man, the nature of sin, the glory of Christ, the doctrine of justification by faith only ; the temptations of Satan, the corruption of the heart, the supports of prayer, the harmony and dependence of different truths on each other, the right use of encouragements, warnings, promises, copsolations, terrors, with all the details of moral principles and duties. Thus the word of God dispels darkness fi-om the mind, and sheds over it a spiritual and heavenly light. It is a light unto our feet, and a lamp unto our path, in all
12 -THE EXCELLENCY OF the ramifications of practical duty and all the intricacies of conflicting opinions. Through its precepts we get understandings and therefore hate every false way. There remains one other effect of the Holy Scriptures, which includes all the preceding, and is necessary to the due apprehension of them — THE FEAR OF THE LoRD. This cxprcssiou appears to be used in this place, by a figure common in Holy Writ, for the doctrine or command^ ment which produces the fear of the Lord; and
it seems to sum up all the previous commendations of the Scriptures ; so that the Bible itself is nothing else, if I may use so strong a figure, but ihefear of the Lord. This fear is indeed the beginning of wisdom^ the fruit and evidence of conversion, the guardian of joy, the guide to knowledge. All religion may be comprehended under it. . A holy, filial, reverentialfear of God, which acknowledges the divine majesty, bows to the divine will, receives the revelation of mercy in a Saviour, trembles at the approach of temptation, employs diligently all the means of grace, dreads provoking God, examines itself, walks circumspectly, and works out its own salvation with a holy solicitude — such a fear is the very life of all religion ; nay, it is religion itself. It well consists with alUthe joys and privileges of the Gospel ; and indeed is at once the best preservative of those blessings, and the best evi-.
THE HOLY SCRIPTURES. 13 dence that they are scriptural : whilst without it our faith is dead, our hope delusive, our knowledge vain, our profession hypocritical. This blessed principle the Bible can produce, and the Bible only. Human laws may infuse a terror which may restrain the hands, but not an ingenuous fear which sways the heart. 'The Bible subjects the inner man, riiakes him love his dependence, acquiesce in the will of the glorious .God, adore his majesty, and see his infinite
right to the obedience of his creatures. Such are some of the surprising effects of the word of God, which, should impress us with a sense of its" efficacy, as the considerations suggested under the first head filled us with a conviction of its authority. It is indeed the incorruptible seed of everlasting life. It is the sword of the Spirit. It is that by which the grace of God &ist begets us again to a heavenly life,^ and then sanctjfies us wholly^ body^ soul, and spirit^ - It contains all the truth which the ministers of God's word expound in their instructions, and which the Holy Ghost teaches in his divine operations on the heart. It is not only the taw of truth, but the instrument of salvation. It is observable, that in the Psalmist's commendations of the works of creation in the verses which precede the text^ no mention is made of any effects produced by them. The
14 THE EXCELLENCY OF heavens pour out a discourse with an overflowing voice. They present to the eyes of men the great volume of nature, for them to read therein the glory of God. The sun has his station as in a royal tabernacle, and goes forth as a bridegroom for beauty and as a hero for strength. But no effects are described as following from
them. It is only when we come to the law of* the Lord that we hear of conversion, wisdom, joy, illumination, and fear. I proceed next to consider, III. The HIGH AITD AFFECTIONATE REGARD WHICH WE SHOULD PAY TO THE HoLY SCRIPTURES. — More to he desired are tfiejf than gold, yea than much fine gold; sweety also than honey , and the honey-comb. With respect to their value, they are more precious than gold ; whilst for delight, they are sweeter than honey. In the first point of view, they are the objects of our esteem ; in the second, of our love. As TO ITS VALUE, THE WORD OF GOD IS MORE PRECIOUS THAN GOLD. This is a conscquence of what has been already stated. For, if the Scriptures possess such excellent qualities, and are capable, under the influences of the Holy Spirit, of producing such astonishing effects, then the merchandise of them must be better than the merchandise of silver , and the gain
THE HOLY SCRIPTURES. 16 thereof than jine gold. The penitent who has felt the authority of divine truth, and who has
experienced its transforming virtue, will necessarily esteem it above all earthly riches. For, what shall a man be profited, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Observe how men in general value gold; with what diligence they acquire it, with what care they preserve it, with what sorrow they lose it. And shall not a Christian much more value his Bible? Do not the Scriptures contain durable riches and righteousness ? Do they not relate to spiritual and unseen and eternal blessings ? Do they not regard the soul ? Do they not reveal the way of salvation ? Do they not open^ all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, yea, the unsearchable riches of Christ 1 And shall he not count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lordl Can this saving knowledge be gotten for gold, or can silver be weighed for the price thereof? Can it be valued with the gold of Ophir, with the previous onyx or the sapphire? Can the gold or the crystal equal it; or can the exchange of it be for jewels of fine gold? But it is not enough to esteem the Holy Scriptures; we must love them, — For delight, THEY MUST BE SWEETER THAN HONEY AND THE HONEY-coMB. How emphatic are these expressions ? In the preceding clause, the value of gold was heightened by the words, ^we
16 THE EXCELLENCY OF
gold, and, much Jine gold. But even this fell short of conveying the full meaning of the Psalmist. Men may highly esteem what they are still unable to love. But the word of God is not only to be esteemed as gold, but to be delighted in more than the most refuied pleasures of sense. Honey, proverbial as it is for its sweetness ; yea the honey-comb, or, as it is in the margin, the droppings of honey , that which flows of itself and bursts from the comb, and is therefore most clear and refined — is but a faint image of the treasure which the Christian finds in the Holy Bible. He esteems the words of God's mouth more than his necessary food. His soul is satisjfied thereby as with marrow and fatness, whilst his mouth praises God with joyful lips. Yes, there is a delight in the prospiect of salvation, in the discoveries of faith, in the contemplation of the promises, in the intimacies of communion, which no words can express. There is not only the knowledge of Christ, but the savour of that knowledge, in the sacred Volume. The name of the Redeemer is as ointment poured forth. All his garments smell, as it were, of myrrh and aloes and cassia, out of the ivory palaces whereby they have made him glad. Such language expresses the joy of the Christian in the knowledge of his Saviour, the relish and repose and refreshment and reviving of soul which he derives from the knowledge of him ; . and therefore the
THE HOLY SCRIPTURES, 17 delight with which he loves the ivard of the truth of the Gospel. This is the pointy I am aware, which worldly persons can little understand. They have never felt the burden of their sins, and never been converted and enlightened by the means of the Holy Volume; and therefore have never been in circumstances to experience this delight in the words of pardon and salvation.; Like persons with a diseased taste, the sweetest food has no relish to them. But the fact is not, on this account, either the less true or the less important, that, to the awakened and illuminated mind, there is an inexpressible savour and unction and fragrance in the truths of the sacred Scriptures. But this leads me, in conclusion,, to apply the whole of what has been said, by I. Inquiring what we ourselves know OF the word of God, and what effects it has produced upon us. Have we submitted to the authority of Holy Scripture? Have we read and prayed •over our Bibles? Do we implicitly bow to the authority of revelation? Do we see that the word of God is perfect and sure and right and pure and eternal? Do we silence'-the vain reasonings of our corrupt hearts, and simply follow the teaching of the' Sacred Volume? Or, instead of doing this, do we satisfy ourselves with
18 THE EXCELLENCY OF loose and general notions about religion? Do we follow the fashionable standard of opinion around us, and virtually disregard or deny the authority of revealed truth? What are the effects which the Bible has produced in us? Supposing that we read our Bibles, which I will aow take for granted, let me inquire if we read them seriously and practically, with the express design of saving our souls ? Have they been the means of turning us from sin and folly to God? Have they made us wise unto salvation ? Have they communicated to us a holy joy? Have they enlightened our eyes ? Have they implanted and nourished in us the fear of the Lord ? > If they have not done something of all this for us, I need not ask what value you put on them. I need not ask whether you desire them more than gold, and Jind them sweeter than the hbney-comb. Alas ! in this case you are as yet dead to God and religion. No book is probably so dull and uninteresting to you as the Bible. No book so little prized, and so little read. Whilst the royal Psalmist esteemed so highly the small portion of the Scriptures which was extant when he wrote the, words of my text, and which was -probably little more than the five books of Moses ; you disregard the Sacred Volume, now that it contains the full and perfect revelation of the will of God. You are
THE HOLY SCRIPTURES. 19 ready to part with the true riches for the earthly mammon^ and to barter away the joys of salvation for the gratifications of sense. But beware : the very Bibles which are in your houses condemn you : the very blessings of revelation increase your guilt : your negligence and unbelief have this aggravation in them, that you sin against light. Awake then to. your duty. ReQjdve not the grace of God in vain. Cast not behind you the invitations of mercy. Consider the plain and striking language of the text. Consider what it states of the properties and EFFECTS and value of the Holy Scriptures. Never be satisfied till you have cordially admitted their authority and felt their efficacy; and then you will begin to understand their value. To this end, implore the teaching and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Beseech him • to illuminate your eyes by his heavenly light to see the wondroi^ things of God's lata. Quench not his holy motions ; retire from the noise of the world to meditation and prayer ; sanctify the Sabbath ; attend with seriousness the public worship of God. Hear, read; mark, team, and inwardly digest the portions of Holy Writ which abound in our Liturgical services. Receive with meekfitss the engrafted word which is able to save yom^ mul. Thus shall you know yourself and your lost condition. Thus shall you discover your ignorance and folly. Thus c2
20 THE EXCELLENCY OF shall you feel your weakness and insufficiency^ Thus shall you be directed to tHe way of pardon, peace, wisdom, and joy. Bi^ I turn from these exhortations to the impenitent, that I may, 11. Urge the sincere Christian to a more devout regard to the holy scripTURES. The little progress we make in religion is very much to be ascribed to our comparatively low esteem of the Word of God., We read other books, and neglect the Bible. We hear what our fellow-dreatures say, and forget the authority of revelation. We listen in some degree to our own vain reasonings and suppositions, and virtiially dispute with God. We take this or the other part of Scripture, and neglect insensibly the large remainder. We deduce consequences from the Bible, and consider those consequences as of divine authority, and then substitute them tacitly for the Bible itself. We explain away passages of the gravest import, or pass them over cursorily, because they suit not our system or temper of mind. Thus the authoritative declarations of God are imperceptibly questioned; and what wonder, if the EFFECTS of the Bible upon us are so little like those of the text? Let us then study
the Bible with silent reverence, with unlimited
THE HOLY SCRIPTURES. 21 subjection of understandiDg and heart, with deep humility, with fervent prayer; that it may convert and teach and gladden and illuminate our souls more and more, and that our tempers and conduct may be -more and more brought into conformity with its holy doctrine and precepts. — To the law and to the testimony, if any speak not according to this rule, it is because they have no light in them. Thus taught in the book of revelation, let us pray that we may have the disposition and ability to study better the book of nature. The glory of God, which the heavens had previously declared to us almost in vain, we shall now behold. The words and lines of this magnificent volume will be more intelligible. The' sun going forth in his strength will lead us more to adore the divine Creator. All nature will have a voice and language to us. , Nor let us cease to labour and pray that the BOOK OF GRACE MAY BE EXTENDED AS WIDELY AS THE BOOK OF CREATION; that in every part of the world, man may be taught by revelation those truths which nature never
can reveal, and without which all her instructions must be useless : that, according to the expression of the Apostle to the Gentiles, the sound of the Gospel may, like the light of the natural sun, go out^ into all the earth, and its ' words unto the ends of the world; so that
22 THE EXCELLENCY OF THE SCRIPTURES. wherever the voice of nature speaks^ and speaks in vain, to fallen man, the voiqe of revelation may penetrate and restore him to himself and to his God,* * It is impossible for me not to notice here the labours and success of the British and Foreign Bible Society. The text seems of itself to be a sufficient authority for the widest possible circulation of the Holy Scriptures ; so that whereever there are men who need conversion, wisdom, joy, and illumination ; the law of the Lord — ^that perfect^ sure, right, perspicuous, and eternal standard of truth — should be disseminated among them.
1. 68 FREE BOOKS http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books
2. ALL WRITINGS http://www.scribd.com/glennpease/documents?page=1000
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.