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To-day, in conformity with my promise, I propose to direct your thoughts to a peculiar view of this question -a view peculiar indeed, but important, and which appears to me entirely to embrace it: I allude to the obstacles which the union of the character of a Teacher to that of a Christian, seems to put in the way of the theological student. From this union there result two sorts of duties, which, being both together binding upon the individual, concur, it is true, in directing him to the study of the Scriptures, the original source of doctrine and piety, but oblige him to pursue it in diverse and even contradictory methods.
Having earnestly besought of God that help which is so necessary in this serious and difficult subject, let us first endeavour to explain the nature and opposition of these two methods; we will afterwards indicate the course to be followed in order to combine them; and shall conclude with urging the importance of both,
I. First, then, we will consider the minister of Jesus Christ as A CHRISTIAN; secondly, as
A THEOLOGIAN; and, thirdly, point out what
METHOD HE IS CALLED UPON ESPECIALLY
TO FOLLOW. IN EACH OF THESE CHARACTERS, FOR THE STUDY OF SCRIPTURE.
1. What METHOD ought the Christian to choose, in order that he may draw from the well of salvation, most abundantly and effectually? This is the first question—the answer must depend upon the nature of the book to be studied.
The essential tendency of Scripture is, not to instruct, but to move, to convince, to win: it proposes for its object to change the heart, not to inculcate upon its readers a complete and learned system of theology. In other words, it offers its tenets as incentives to perfection, and means of salvation, and not as the elements of a theory.
The same remark which applies to the essence, is applicable also to the form of Scripture. Its style is, in general, simple, popular, engaging, , abounding in imagery; not precise, exact, or philosophic. The man of God goes not up into the pulpit to give a lesson: throwing himself, as it were, among the multitude, he urges, intreats,
rages them to “
exhorts, in season and out of season; he calls upon his companions in misery to “ look unto the Author and Finisher of the faith,” and, appealing to the sorrows of their hearts, encou
lay hold upon eternal life.”. It is to the heart, rather than to the intellect, that his language is addressed. Such, My Brethren, is the leading fact, which necessarily determines the true method to be followed by the Christian, in the study of the sacred volume.
In order to enter into the Divine purposes, he must endeavour all he can to produce in himself, or rather to receive, the particular impression intended by Scripture. He must, in a manner, make himself one of the many, in order that he may conceive and understand what is addressed to them. For this, little knowledge is necessary-it was to the simple, to the “little ones,” that the truths of the Gospel were revealed. He must press forward in spirit in the footsteps of Jesus; must think he listens to his Lord himself upon the mountain ; must follow Paul to the Areopagus, and make himself by turns a Galilean, a Corinthian, a Galatian, that he may be the more qualified to hear: he must dispose his mind to humility and prayer, then submit and obey
The effect produced, then, is obedience--submission of mind. What the Christian reads he applies to himself, and he immediately performs what he is commanded. Such is the natural effect which the Scriptures are calculated to produce.
The faculties required in the work, are chiefly the affections. It is to them the voice of God speaks; it is they that hear and answer. The ability for discussion and examination, the cool and logical intellect, so necessary to the theologian, are here less required. They might even prove detrimental, if not sufficiently counterbalanced ; because that beautiful harmony, resulting from the presence and equilibrium of each several faculty, indispensable to a sound condition of the moral being, would then be destroyed; the faculties of tenderness and love would be proportionably diminished, and there could no longer be the same self-resignation to the power of the Gospel. If the heart is not touched, the end is not attained; inasmuch as the will can no otherwise be brought under submission. It is because the feelings have been brought into action-because the Christian has contemplated with the eye of faith, the love of his God--the sacrifice of his Saviour—the promises of eternal life--and the many othertruths of Scripture calculated to excite emotion, that he learns obedience.
In short, he who thus studies Scripture, will be rich in moral graces, though poor in speculative knowledge; he will secure the promise both of this world and of that which is to come,” assigned to “ godliness;” but he will not acquire the theory of religion. By means of this method, the Christian will become a better, a worthier disciple of Christ-a greater in the kingdom of heaven. This is no doubt what is most essential; and so long as he makes advances of this kind, he may dispense with any other; at the same time, it is not thus he will acquire that systematic and connected knowledge, which is necessary to the minister. His heart will be softened, his purposes will be invigorated, his conduct will be blameless;