PRECIOUS ESS OF THE BIBLE.

By John William Burgeon

Romans iii. 1, 2. What advantage then hath the Jew ? . . . Much every way : chiefly because that unto them were commuted the Oracles of God, o one has ever doubted what S. Paul means by these words. He speaks of the Old Testament Scriptures. And what he says concerning them certainly conveys an extraordinary notion of their value and importance. To have been the authorized keeper of them, he accounts to be the very chiefest glory of the Jewish nation. He had been disparaging the claims of the Circumcision. " He is a Jew " (he says) " which is one inwardly: and Circumcision is that of the heart.'* *' What advantage then hath the Jew ?" (he breaks oflF to inquire, in his usual quick manner,) "or what profit is there of Circumcision ? Much every way : chiefly because that unto them were committed the Oracles of God."

SECO D SU DAY I ADVE T. In other words, the prime glory and boast of the Hebrew nation was this, — that they had been selected by God out of all the nations of the earth to be the witness and keeper of Holy Writ. The Jews had been entrusted with the Oracles of God. That was their chiefest privilege ! Therein lay their true blessedness ! Their pre-eminence consisted in that!

The Collect for to-day is a very remarkable one. It regards the written deposit, and is in fact none other than a prayer for a blessing on its use. Composed (by Archbishop Cranmer probably) in 1549, when the first English Prayer-book was put forth, — and constructed, studiously as well as most skilfully, out of the Epistle for the Day, (which was also the ancient Epistle,) it has superseded an ancient Collect of quite a different tenor, and altogether inferior to it. But what specially occasioned its introduction, I make no doubt, was the newly recovered use of Scripture. It is a plain fact, — that the Romish branch of the Church Catholic keeps the Scriptures from the people. Our forefathers, previous to the Reformation, knew little of the English Bible. Slow instalments had been made: but it was not till 1549 that one lesson from the OJd Testament and another from the ew were

FRBCIOUS KSS OF THE BIBLE. read aloud, in English, in Churches. Then appeared the Collect : and it reads to me like the Church's burst of grateful joy at the recovery of a treasure of which she had been deprived 80 long. "Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning," — and the rest. On such a day then, the train of thought which the text suggests, is not mistimed. And if I seize its spirit rightly, the special purpose of it is not so much to vaunt the beneficent results of Holy Scripture ; its blessed influence on the national life; its pure morality, its intellectual depth, its Evangehzing power; none of these

things so much, as to insist on its intrinsic preciousness and importance, — its inestimable worth. This then is the point to which 1 desire to invite your attention for a few moments : — the unspeakable value, the amazing dignity of Holy Scripture. And first, — Think of the wonderful Providence which hath watched over it from the beginning. Why, there is no miracle comparable to that which has preserved to us the Scriptures. Aiuid all the convulsions of society, — after so many centuries of persecution, neglect, supersUUoxv^ ignoraijce, — that we should still possess l\i^

SECO D SU DAY I ADVE T. writings of Moses in their freshness ; (a history written full thirty-three centuries' ago;) still have a jealously guarded text of five such Books as his, — what a miracle of Providence is that ! For you are requested to note that the Divine record is not, even in the beginning of it, grey and misty, vague and general, — as one might have expected a book to be which goes back to the very dawn of Time. Quite the contrary. The oracular utterances of Adam in Paradise are set down, briefly indeed, but with most punctilious exactness. Tliat prophetic speech of his, when first he beheld his spouse, the world's Creator condescended four thousand years after to re-syllable when He dwelt on earth, and to make the very warrant for the sanctity of the marriage tie. IIow did Moses come to know that primaeval utterance of the first Man ? Yet more. How was

he enabled to record Eve's conversation with the Serpent? Above all. Who told him what " God mid'' before the creation of Man ; and again, of Woman ? . . . I invite you to ponder this question attentively, — remembering that the same question might be asked of a thousand things in Scripture besides. You must joot answer that Moses may have eot it from £0

PBECIOUS ESS OF THE BIBLE. Tradition. That would indeed be a miracle past belief. Besides, as regards the things of God,— /F7*o told Tradition? Then further, — The Old Testament presupposes the ew. either would be intelligible without the other. And both alike have the same mysterious texture, — call it typical, mystical, spiritual, or what you will: whereby the commoa events of men's lives, and the ordinary course of human History, is found to be expressive of Heavenly truths, — to be instinct with Divinest teaching. Woven into the very web of the sacred narrative, — from the Alpha to the Omega of it, — are found the mysteries of Redemption, the secret purposes and practices of God. And why is all this, but because God Himself is in it ; — because His Spirit hath inspired it in every part? The Scripture is the very shrine of the Eternal, — the Holy of Holies, in w^hich the Shekinah of Glory dwelleth, and where God's voice is heard speaking to Man. It is called the Word of God, less because it is His utterance than because it is Divine as w^ell as Human, — shares the nature of Him whose

ame in Heaven is even now, "the Word of God." . . . And need I dwell on the gvawd xnysiery of all, the awful c/rcumstance, that t\\e

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SECO D SU DAY I ADVE T. Gospel not only discourses to us of the Eternal Son come in the flesh, but actually exhibits Him to us ? Yes, Christ is in the Gospel : — dwells there : — moves, speaks, works miracles ; is crucified, dead, buried, risen, ascended into Heaven. In what relation then to the ancient Oracles of Goo is our Saviour Christ found to stand ? As the constant witness to their infallible truths their paramount value, their Divine origin. They are for ever on His lips! " It is written," He says, and the dispute is at an end. Do but think of the inevitable precionsness of that which so exhibits Him ! What wonder if in reply to the question as to what was the Jews' advantage, the Apostle, after declaring that it was " much every way," should have added, — ''chiefly because that unto them were committed the Oracles of God ?" To conclude. I have been reminding you of the preciousness of the Bible : but what S. Paul speaks of is the greatness of the Jews' privilege in having been entrusted with it. This side of the question is not to be lost sight of : rather is it to be put prominently forward at all times, and to be very clearly kept in sight. The reason is obvious. It is because whereas the Catholic Church, the many Churches of universal Chris-

FEBaOUS ESS OF THE BIBLE. tendom, have succeeded the one Jewish Church in this most sacred of all trusts, some of those Churches shew but httle eagerness to make the world at large sharers in their own blessedness. And the question arises, — Do we of this Church and nation act as if we were fully conscious of the responsibility we have incurred in this respect? I really cannot think we do. A nation, you know, is made up of individuals ; and in order to know what individuals are doing, the best plan is for us all to examine ourselves* Does every one then make a point of contributing something, be it ever so little, to the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts ? Does the Church's missionary work at home and abroad find a place in the thoughts, the conversation, the private prayers of us all? How about the pains we are taking to promote the religious education of our poor ? Lastly, — What are we doing to instruct our families, to improve ourselves, in the knowledge of Holy Scripture ? Are there whole Books of it which we have, (to speak plainly,) forgotten all about? Are there hundreds of passages in it which we have never even tried to understand? Do we do anything whatever^ in short, which might be urged as a proof that we really do cherish the sacred ' Oracles' with which

SECO D SU DAY I ADVE T. we have been by God's good Providence * entrusted ?'

And this will be found to be a far more profitable style of inquiry than any discussion of our collective shortcomings. Whether we are or are not, as a nation, fulfilling our high responsibility, — (we, whom Commerce carries into every corner of the globe,) — this, we shall be in good time to discuss afterwards. Will none of you go away intending to make more of your Bible in future than you have in time past ? Must it be all in vain that regularly as Advent comes round, you are reminded that in His Word, Christ makes His periodical approaches to each of us, — is for ever " coming ?'* . . . O how do we at our peril neglect so great a treasure! And it is to neglect it to read it hurriedly, or coldly, or carelessly, or as a mere matter of form. What must be the blessedness of the Christian Church in inheriting both Testaments, — tf the Jews' advantage, "much every way," was '^chiefly, — because that unto them were committed the Oracles of God !"

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