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preaching was in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” Does such an unreflecting teacher forget, that Paul might also have depended upon “man's wisdom ?” He, doubtless, might have borrowed from the sages of his nation arguments, which, though despised in our days, would have fascinated his contemporaries; but, instructed by a higher wisdom, the Apostle of Christ “determined not to know any thing among" the disdainful Corinthians, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”—His example directs us to our duty.
Do not deceive yourselves by imagining that this duty is less obligatory now, than in the times of the Apostles. Neither the heart of man nor the wisdom of God has changed since then; and if circumstances are different, we may discover, in that difference, fresh motives to the study of the Scriptures. This will appear sufficiently evident from the consideration of a single point-for example, the variety of adversaries, against whose attacks you will be called upon to contend for the faith.
In the case of the infidel, will not the
very ground on which the contest must be maintained, be the Bible? : You cannot be ignorant, that it is from the Bible itself that the adversary of religion collects his' objections; and how will you be able to answer them, unless you are better acquainted with it than he ? Conceive the situation of the minister who has never considered-it may be, never read—the passages of Scripture brought forward against him, —who, wearing the robe of a teacher, is obliged, before his opponents and his hearers, either to confess his disgraceful ignorance, or, by answering at random, to compromise his cause—in other words, the salvation of his brethren. in Or, in case you had to defend yourselves against Christians of other communions and different opinions, you would find a thorough knowledge of the Bible no less needful. It will be no less needful, for maintaining your right to draw your theology from the Word of God, than for proving that you have really drawn it from that source. As Protestant Christian ministers, let us never forget those principles in virtue of which we boast that we are such, nor imagine that we are in a condition to contend for the liberty of examination, without having first examined for ourselves. The more we contemplate, in their various aspects, the duties and the position of the Christian pastor, the stronger will be the conviction upon our minds, that the persevering and careful study of the Holy Scriptures is his first duty, and the indispensable ground of his knowledge.
At the same time, I wish you fully to understand, that I am far from interdicting those philosophic labours, and that profitable meditation, which are due to the study of the heart and mind of man, and to the works of those who have employed themselves in this extensive and important pursuit. What I assert, and desire to inculcate upon you, is, that these studies alone, or nearly alone, are wholly insufficient for the Christian Divine ; but that, when combined with, and made subservient to, that of the Scriptures, they receive from the latter their unity, applicability, and effect. When Scripture, as a supreme rule, takes its proper place, the inquiries of reason are much less likely to lead men into error; they serve, on the contrary, to explain, to arrange, to illustrate, to generalize the declarations of the inspired writings. If we would draw from those writings the truths which they comprise, we must understand them; we must understand, not the words only, but, above all, the ideas the aim--the spirit; we must seize with precision what each writer meant to teach or to persuade, on each occasion: and to do this, we must bring to our aid critical knowledge, good sense-in fine, argument. Studies, therefore, which excite and correct the ideas, and exercise the reasoning powers, are not thrown away upon the theologian; far from being useless, they are actually necessary. They enlarge his faculties and resources. Even in his own peculiar province, they afford him a key to numberless difficulties, in regard to which he would have been otherwise left in ignorance, or, which is still worse, in error. They help us to discover in the Bible. the purposes of the Almighty, his intentions respecting his creature—to penetrate those magnificent plans which regulated the works both of creation and revelation, and which still regulate those of providence and grace. Scripture, on its part, then, supplies the imperfection and narrowness of our reasoning powers; it reveals to us the secret mysteries which our feeble understanding could not discover, the links that connect those scattered truths which excited our curiosity; in one place, throwing light upon that obscurity in the midst of which our restless mind vainly toiled ; in another, presenting matter for the highest and most profitable meditation. The proudest achievements of the philosopher are effected by its means, whilst, viewed by the light of his science, the majesty of revealed truth becomes more apparent; as some enormous mountains appear the more lofty, the higher the spectator is placed.