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OF INFERENTIAL READING.
INFERENTIAL READING has for its object, the deducing of Inferences or Conclusions by legitimate consequence, from texts; when the Literal Sense is explored, and the Truths expressed have been fully examined. These Inferences may be either theoretical and mediately practical; or, they may be immediately practical.
The foundation of this Reading is the perpetual analogy and harmony of things sacred; which is such, that, from one truth rightly known, all others depend, being linked, as it were, together. He who keeps this in mind, and is versed in the Sacred Oracles, may easily diffuse himself, from one word, over the whole Scriptures.
It is essential to a right institution of this Reading, that the mind be endued with a living knowledge and “form (UTOTUT WPIS) of sound words in faith and love." It cannot otherwise be prosecuted in a consistent and profitable way, nor can the inexhaustible fulness of the sacred text be else perceived. Experience, will, however, suggest every thing necessary to them who prosecute Inferential Reading.
The SOURCES whence. Inferences are drawn are either themselves Inherent in the text;—or External; that is, taken from other parts of Scripture, and collated with that under consideration.
Sources are INHERENT, when Inferences are deduced as follows:
1. From the Words, and their Emphasis.
2. From the Structure and Order of the things contained in the text.
3. From the Affections of the Sacred Writer.
Sources are EXTERNAL, when a collation of the text is instituted—1. With the Scope; 2. With Antecedents and Consequents; and, 3. With Parallel Passages.
The consideration of Circumstances who? what? where? does not so much constitute a new Source, as yield a more favourable opportunity of drawing inferences from other sources.
If there be different kinds of Inferences, these Sources may be differently applied. Indeed, some Inferences are profitable for doctrine; others, for instruction; others, for reproof; and others, for comfort. Some are useful to confirm faith; others, to elicit love from faith; and others, to nourish hope. Some have respect to piety grounded on faith, hope, and love;
others instil holy wisdom; and others ineulcate sacred eloquence. Some are theoretical, and only virtually practical; while others are in themselves formally practical.
Let us cite an example from 2 Tim. i. 1. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord nor of me his prisoner; but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the Gospel."--Observe here, it is taken for granted, that the Literal Sense of this passage, and the truths expressed in it, are sufficiently obvious to the reader. It is supposed that he is aware of the two-fold proposition which it contains, the one negative, and the other affirmative; that the former has a two-fold object, real and personal; and that, by force of opposition, the latter no less respects this twofold object than the forner.
Inferences deduced from the first Inherent Source.
6 Be not thou ashamed.”--In times of persecution, Boldness is required in our testimony of Christ. Again---It is not the least step towards apostacy, when a man is ashamed of the testimony of Christ; for, thus, the Spirit of courage with which believers are endued, is denied.
“The testimony."--Boldness of confession is in
Creased, in no small degree, by the consideration that we are witnesses, and not the first confessors: we having “a cloud of witnesses." Heb. xii. 1.
« Of our Lord.”_He who is ashamed of the Gospel, is ashamed of the Lord himself, and completely denies that he is His servant. Again--Since we have a Lord in heaven, we need not fear earthly lords.
“ Prisoner.”It is not Christian but diabolical prudence, to pay regard to Christ's members, while they enjoy outward prosperity, and to be ashamed of them in seasons of persecution.
“ His.”—The bonds and wounds of Christians, are the bonds and wounds of Christ. Again--A Christian in bonds, is not the servant of man, but of Christ.
“ Be thou partaker of the afflictions.”_Fellowship in afflictions is consolatory, on account of approaching fellowship in glory; for, in the Gospel, all Christians labour together. Again--He who preaches the Gospel without afflictions, is far removed from the example of the apostle.
“Of the Gospel."--The Gospel proclaims eternal joys in the midst of calamities.
Inferences deduced from the second Inherent Source.
A consideration of the two-fold Proposition tending to the same Scope, evolves the Inference, that He who is ashamed of the testimony of Christ, is desirous of avoiding impending afflictions, though he may endeavour to palliate his fear by the most specious arguments. Again Apostacy is so much to be deprecated, that we must not only carefully watch against the fear of afflictions: but, lest we should apostatize, the mind ought to be constantly prepared to undergo them with alacrity.
From a consideration of the two-fold Object, placed thus—“Be not thou ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of Me, his prisoner”-it follows, that he who is ashamed of suffering Christians, is ashamed of the testimony of the Lord himself.
The implied opposition of this object in the word
Gospel,” authorizes the Inference, that He who avoids the afflictions which result from the faithful preaching of the Gospel, is ashamed both of Christ and his holy servants.
Inferences deduced from the third Inherent Source.
The hope and confidence which the apostle has in