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13 August, 2013

A Christian Library Part 2

 ......Again: the effects which it performs demonstrate it to be the word of God. With a powerful and penetrating energy, it alarms and pierces the conscience, discovers the thoughts and intents of the heart, convinces the most obstinate, and makes the most careless tremble. With equal authority and efficacy, it speaks peace to the troubled mind, heals the wounded spirit, and can impart a joy unspeakable and full of glory, in the midst of the deepest distress. It teaches, persuades, comforts, and reproves, with an authority that can neither be disputed nor evaded; and often communicates more light, motives, and influence, by a single sentence, to a plain unlettered believer, than he could derive from the voluminous commentaries of the learned.

 In a word, the Bible answers the character the Apostle gives it: "It is able to make us wise unto salvation; it is completely and alone sufficient to make the man of God perfect, thoroughly furnished for every good work." The doctrines, histories, prophecies, promises, precepts, exhortations, examples, and warnings, contained in the Bible, form a perfect WHOLE, a complete summary of the will of God concerning us, in which nothing is lacking, nothing is superfluous.

 The second volume which deserves our study, is the book of CREATION. "The heavens tell of the glory of God. The skies display his marvelous craftsmanship." Nor can we cast our eyes anywhere, without meeting innumerable proofs of his wisdom, power, goodness, and presence. God is revealed in the least, as well as in the greatest of his works. The sun and the glow-worm, the stars and each single blade of grass-are equally the effects of Divine power. The lines of this book, though very beautiful and expressive in themselves, are not immediately legible by fallen man. The works of creation may be compared to a beautiful, but unknown language-of which the Bible is the key; and without this key they cannot be understood. This book was always open to the heathens; but they could not read it, nor discern the proofs of his eternal power and Godhead which it affords. "They became vain in their own imaginations, and worshiped the creature more than the Creator."

 The case is much the same at this day with many reputed wise, whose hearts are not subjected to the authority of the Bible. The study of the works of God, independent of his word, though dignified with the names of science and philosophy, is no better than an elaborate trifling and waste of time. It is to be feared none are more remote from the true knowledge of God, than many of those who value themselves most upon their supposed knowledge of his creatures. They may speak in general terms of his wisdom; but they live without him in the world; and their philosophy cannot teach them either to love or serve, to fear or trust him.

Those who know God in his word, may find both pleasure and profit in tracing his wisdom in his works, if their inquiries are kept within due bounds, and in a proper subservience to things of greater importance; but comparatively few have leisure, capacity, or opportunity for these inquiries.

 But the book of creation is designed for the instruction of all believers. If they are not qualified to be astronomers or anatomists, yet from a view of the heavens, the work of God's fingers, the moon and the stars, which he has created, they learn to conceive of his condescension, power, and faithfulness. Though they are unacquainted with the theory of light and colors, they can see in the rainbow a token of God's covenant love. Perhaps they have no idea of the magnitude or distance of the sun; but it reminds them of Jesus the Sun of Righteousness, the source of light and life to their souls.

 The Lord has established a wonderful analogy between the natural and the spiritual world. This is a secret only known to those who fear him; but they contemplate it with pleasure; and almost every object they see, when they are in a right frame of mind, either leads their thoughts to Jesus, or tends to illustrate some scriptural truth or promise. This is the best method of studying the book of Nature; and for this purpose it is always open and plain to those who love the Bible, so that he who runs may read.

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The book of  
PROVIDENCE is the third volume, by which those who fear the Lord are instructed. This likewise is inextricable and unintelligible to the wisest of men who are not governed by the word of God. But when the principles of Scripture are admitted and understood, they throw a pleasing light upon the study of Divine Providence, and at the same time are confirmed and illustrated by it. What we read in the Bible, of the sovereignty, wisdom, power, omniscience, and omnipresence of God, of his over-ruling all events to the accomplishment of his counsels and the manifestation of his glory, of the care he maintains of his church and people, and of his attention to their prayers-is exemplified by the history of nations and families, and the daily occurrences of private life.

The believer receives hourly and indubitable proofs that the Lord reigns; that truly there is a God who judges the earth. Hence arises a solid confidence: he sees that his concerns are in safe hands; and he needs not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord; while others live at an uncertainty, exposed to the impression of every new appearance, and, like a ship in a storm, without rudder or pilot, abandoned to the power of the winds and waves.

 In the history of Joseph, and in the book of Esther, and indeed throughout the Bible, we have specimens of the wise unerring providence of God: what important consequences depend, under his management, upon the smallest events; and with what certainty seeming contingencies are directed to the outcome which he has appointed! By these authentic specimens we learn to judge of the whole; and with still greater advantage by the light of the New Testament, which shows us, that the administration of all power in heaven and earth is in the hands of Jesus. 

The government is upon his shoulders: the King of saints is King of nations, King of kings, and Lord of lords: not a sparrow falls to the ground, nor a hair from our heads, without his cognizance. And though his ways are higher than our ways, and his thoughts than our thoughts; though his agency is veiled from the eye of sense by the intervention of second causes; yet faith perceives, acknowledges, admires, and trusts his management. This study, like the former, does not require superior natural abilities, but is obvious to the weakest and lowest of his people, so far as their own duty and peace are concerned.

 The fourth volume is the book of the HEART, or of Human Nature, comprehending the experience of what passes within our own breasts, and the observations we make upon the principles and conduct of others, compared with what we read in the word of God. The heart of man is deep; but all its principles and workings, in every possible situation, and the various ways in which it is affected by sin, by Satan, by worldly objects, and by grace-in solitude and in company, in prosperity and in affliction-are disclosed and unfolded in the Scripture. Many, who are proud of their knowledge of what they might be safely ignorant of, are utter strangers to themselves.

Having no acquaintance with the Scripture, they have neither skill nor inclination to look into their own hearts, nor any certain criterion whereby to judge of the conduct of human life. But the Bible which teaches us to read this mysterious book, also shows us the source, nature, and tendency of our hopes, fears, desires, pursuits, and perplexities; the reasons why we cannot be happy in ourselves, and the vanity and insufficiency of everything around us to help us. The rest and happiness proposed in the Gospel, is likewise found to be exactly suitable to the desires and necessities of the awakened heart. And the conduct of those who reject this salvation, as well as the gracious effects produced in those who receive it, prove to a demonstration, that the word of God is indeed a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

 My limits will admit but of a few hints upon these extensive subjects. I shall only observe, that whoever is well read in these four books, is a wise person, how little whatever he may know of what the men of the world call science. On the other hand, though a man should be master of the whole circle of classical, scientific, and philosophical knowledge, if he has no taste for the Bible, and has no ability to apply it to the works of creation and providence, and his own experience-he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. I have pointed out a treasure of more worth than all the volumes in the Vatican.