« ZurückWeiter »
obvious in a translation. It is, however, sufficient, that all things necessary to faith and practice may be acquired from versions.
The simplest Application of Divine Truth is certainly the most profitable, if it be made with sincerity of mind: yet, if some advice on this subject be required, the following observations may not be found useless.
Practical Application should be rightly distinguished, as it respects its Commencement and its Continuation. It is begun with the reading of the Scriptures, and it is to be continued during the whole life.
The Commencement of Practical Application is instituted with most ease, by including the text we are employed on and its component words, in short prayers or ejaculations, after its meaning has been properly ascertained. This method may appear simple and puerile; but many have approved its excellency by experience, and the rich fruits which it has produced.
When a physician attends a patient, he, in the first place, ascertains his malady and its attendant symptoms; then, he inquires into the causes of it; and, lastly, he fixes on the remedies. Just in the same way are we to act, in applying any portion of Holy Writ.--After the most natural and obvious meaning of the text has been ascertained, we are, accordingly,
to consider first the habit of our minds, and accurately to compare it with the portion under our notice. If this be done with singleness of intention, we shall plainly perceive, as in a glass, the particular faults under which we labour. We are then to examine into the causes of these faults, that we may not attempt to heal an internal wound with an external remedy; or commit any similar error. After this, we must look for remedies proper to correct our faults. (a)
It is not merely external precepts that are to be observed, for we should solicitously search out their foundation; and, in this, Practical Reading should principally terminate; otherwise, we may accumulate precepts to no useful purpose. Here, the following directions require our attention.
1. We should seek for the Foundation of precepts in the Scriptures themselves.
2. We should then try whether we can discover it in our own breasts. For instance, when we are required to pray for our enemies, it is evident that the Foundation of the precept is sincere and unaffected love for them. We should, therefore, consider, whether we really possess this love; because, to pray for them, when we have it not, must be hypocrisy.
3. The Foundation must be laid in our hearts, before we think of building any preeepts upon it.
«« Be ye
In all Practical Application, we must have our eyes fixed on CHRIST; for, first, he is to be applied to our hearts, by faith, for salvation; and, secondly, he is to be imitated in our lives; for “He is the way, the truth, and the life; and no one cometh to the Father, but by him.” The examples of men are to be copied only so far as they conform to this rule. “ followers of me,” saith Paul, “even as I also am " of Christ.” 1 Cor. xi. 1.-Here, likewise, we must guard against two common errors; lest, in the Girst place, our carnal nature and depraved reason, which are propense to evil, should mistake vice for virtue; and, in the second, lest we should pay that regard to external excellencies, and hold them up to that imitation, which are due rather to the internal habit of our minds. Rom. xv. 3.
We ought frequently to read some book of Scripture which inculcates the foundations of faith and practice with peculiar force and perspicuity, and studiously endeavour to render ourselves as much as possible conformed to it. Such are the Gospel and Epistles of John. This is not, however, enjoined, to the exclusion of other, and perhaps better plans.
In the Commencement of Practical Reading, the student should attend to the following remarks:
1. We are not to apply all things at once, but suc
cessively; lest our minds be overwhelmed with the abundance of matter.
2. Application should commence with the more easy books and passages, in which the understanding is not liable to be fatigued by any difficulties in the sense, nor to be agitated by consequent doubts. When a proficiency has been made, recourse may be had to those which are more abstruse.
3. Application is to be instituted, not that we may have matter for discourse, but for practice.
The Continuation of Practical Application should Occupy the whole of our lives. It is assisted partly by our own industry, which would, however, be inefficient without grace; and, partly, by the help of Divine grace, which is continually poured out in larger measures on their hearts, who receive the seed of the word, as into good ground. We are bound, on our parts, to use diligent prayer, and constant meditation; -to institute perpetual collations of Scripture;-to be instant in our attention to what passes in others and ourselves;--and to exercise a vigilant observation of our own state of mind. Equally essential with these important particulars, are conversation with those who have made greater advances in spiritual knowledge; and the cultivation of inward peace; of which, the more we possess, the more we shall enter into the true meaning of the Scripture.
Many other things there are, which experience will readily suggest to the minds of those who are intent on the application of divine truth. God, in his infinite mercy to his children, imparts to them the internal operation of his Spirit, at other seasons than when engaged in reading his Word. As he blesses the seed sown in the earth, and causes it to strike root, to flourish, and to bear abundant fruit; so does he incessantly nourish the incorruptible seed of his Word, with the richest out-pourings of his grace. He likewise permits the mind to be exercised with trials, internal and external: and, by all these means, the Practical Application of Scripture, is much assisted.
The Application of the Sacred Oracles to others, whether in public or private, is attended with less trouble and more confidence, after sufficient care and devotion have been used in the duty of self-application: because no other way of salvation is to be exhibited to them, than that by which we expect to be saved. It however supposes in those who exereise it, not a vain prurience, but a holy zeal for the conversion of souls; the spirit of experience and discretion; a knowledge of the state of the Church; and that all the admonitions given, spring from faith and love. The Lord help us so to interpret Scripture, both to ourselves and others!