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before our Judge, may it be our happy lot to appear with joyful confidence, and say, “ Here, Lord, am I, and the children whom thou hast given me.”
We further entreat thee, O holy Saviour, to bless our ministers, who shall this day deliver unto us the Gospel of truth. Give them wisdom from above, that they may preach with boldness and faithfulness Jesus Christ and him crucified; and do thou prepare our hearts, and the hearts of every hearer, by thy grace, that the good seed of thy word may take deep root in them, and bring forth fruit abundantly, through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Lord. “Our Father,” &c.
EVENING. O Lord our heavenly Father, we here present the imperfect services of this day to thee, earnestly imploring thy pardon and thy blessing. All that has been wrong is ours; if anything has been right, it is all of thee. To thee be all the glory. Let those portions of thy holy word, which have been read and explained in these schools to-day, sink deep into the hearts of these young persons now before thee. May they be led to serious thought. Grant that many a young heart may be saying, “What must I do to be saved ?" Let both the teachers and the taught leave this room with increased solemnity of mind, and more earnest desires for thy glory. Let the remainder of this holy day be devoted to thee. Let none go home and lose the good impressions that have been made, by foolish conversation or idle visits; but may all seriously meditate on thy word, and endeavour to bring down a blessing on the instruction of this day, so that we may all go forth to our employment, through the week, with renewed strength to resist temptation, and to walk in the straight and narrow road that leadeth unto everlasting life. We ask all for thy dear Son's sake, and conclude our imperfect petitions in the words which he hath taught us :
“Our Father,” &c.
JOB xxviii. 14.
“ It is not in me.” SCIENCE has made rapid advances, but it has not yet learned how to soothe a troubled conscience, or to lift the burden of remorse from an aching heart. Thousands of years ago, in one of the most ancient of books, the question was asked, “Where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding?" and in the many works that have been written since, men have tried, in one way or another, to answer it. The thoughtful patriarch who proposed it sought in vain from all the wisdom and knowledge of his time for a reply that would give peace to his restless spirit. And if we turn to the more mature science of our own day, and repeat the question, “Whence, then, cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding?” what is the answer? Even as it was ages ago.
The geologist drills and bores through stratum after stratum, and digs and delves far “deeper than plummet ever sounded,” only to return and tell that the depth saith, “It is not in me.” The voyager covers the sea with ships. With sail, and paddle-wheel, and Archimedes' screw, they speed north and south, and east and west, and round about the pendant globe. Many run to and fro, and knowledge increases. What the foamcrested waves will not tell, the abyss may reveal, and with net, and dredge, and diving-bell, the fathomed caves of ocean” are searched through and gazed into, and “gems of purest ray,” and monsters who never saw the sun, are brought into the light of common day. But, above all the stir and strife of man's endeavour, the murmuring billows lift their voices, and the sea saith, “ It is not with me.” The chemist gathers together every object which has shape, or weight, or volume, living or dead, and with fire and furnace, and potent agent and electric battery, tests and assays it; but when “victorious analysis” has done its best, he replies, It cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir, with the precious onyx or sapphire. The gold and the crystal cannot equal it. The price of wisdom is above rubies.” The naturalist
wanders through the pathless forests of far distant lands, and, with pain and toil, grows familiar with the habits of every thing that lives; but, after he has gone the round of all creation in search of wisdom, he answers, with mournful aspect, “It is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept secret from the fowls of the air.'
The anatomist makes the writhing animal agonize under his torturing hand, and slays it, that perchance in the page of death the mystery of life and of wisdom may be found written ; but he will venture, in reply, to say no more than that destruction and death say, “We have heard the sound thereof with our ears."
But, while all the oracles of science are silent on this great question, lo! through the thick darkness a ray of light descends, and a voice, solemn but benignant, proclaims to us as it did to the first anxious seeker after truth—"The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding."
HINTS ON THE INTERPRETATION OF THE
But it is time to bring these observations to a close. My object in laying down the foregoing rules has been not to supersede, but to assist our labours in the study of the sacred volume: not to give us a short and unirodden way towards the attainment of Scripture truth, but to facilitate its attainment by marking down a certain method on which to proceed, and some general points to be borne in mind.
Toil must be expended, and efforts exerted, before we become “scribes instructed unto the kingdom of heaven.” But that toil will be lightened, and those efforts rendered effective, by being methodized. The road must be still traversed along, by which alone each child of God arrives at the knowledge of his Lord's will. But it will be rendered plain and simple, by having land marks reared to guide us in our course. I would wish, in conclusion, to add a
few remarks on some collateral points connected with this subject:
Always realize the simple object, which, as Teachers, you ought to have in view in studying the Bible. It is not to gratify the curiosity of an irreligious and prying mind; it is not merely to gain expertness in reasoning on divine things; it is not to store the head and furnish food to the memory, while the affections are untouched, and the will undirected; but a Teacher's object therein ought to be that he may be made wise unto salvation himself, and that he may make others wise also. This will lead him to peruse, with the minutest attention, those doctrines which are most necessarily connected with this end, and to bestow less care on those which have a more distant reference to it. This will lead him to select and ponder over, and illustrate those duties which go with God's blessing most directly towards the maturing of his faith and love, and keep in the back ground those which are more unimportant and indifferent.
With this grand object before him, he will be prevented from digressing too widely, either in his own Scripture reading, or in expositions to his class, into subjects which are not for the use of edifying, or suited to the comprehension of his pupils. His motto will be, "These are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that, believing, ye might have life through his name.
Then, again, be careful that the frame of mind in which you study the Bible is serious and devout, and in dependance on God's Spirit. These are weighty words which bishop Gibson addressed to the people of his diocese, when suggesting means for checking infidelity and scepticism: "As a farther proof of your sincerity, be careful and diligent particularly in reading the Scriptures, and making them familiar to you, and comparing one part of them with another, by which a moderate capacity may make considerable advancement in the knowledge of religion. And you must not fail to pray to God, that in all your searches and enquiries after the truth, he will be pleased to guide and direct you by his holy Spirit; which he is always ready to vouchsafe to
every humble and sincere mind.” And Teachers must not think it enough to read over hurriedly, on a Sunday morning, the Scripture portions intended for the day. Relying on a ready utterance and fancied facility for offhand explanations, many scarcely glance over the lessons before them. But God's Word must not be so dealt with. Teachers must devote a stated time in the previous week for serious and prayerful preparation. Even those who are the most busily employed, may set apartsay an hour or two on Saturday evenings—when they may retire, and in the solitude of their chamber, seek for guidance and a blessing on their labours. They will there learn what to say, and in what manner to say ithow to exhort their class seriously without dulness, and cheerfully without levity. They will there see how best to state a doctrine, and how best to illustrate it: and as each individual of their class passes before the mind, and the particular character, failings, besetting sins, and wants of each, rise in the review, they will there learn how to point their style with short and effective personal application-intended for each, and useful to all. Whereas, without any such preparation, there will be found-however great the natural advantages be of which a Teacher is possessed-a lamentable and ever increasing defect in his instructions, his pupils, and himself. He is long in finding quotations which he thinks illustrate the passage under review, and perhaps after leading his scholars to some particular chapter, discovers that the object of his search is in some other distant part of the Bible, or is, at last, obliged to give it up in despair. His illustrations which, perhaps, have some genuine force in them, are applied obscurely, or stated inaptly; or some feature in them which is laughable, and which, if he had thought them over previously, he might easily have avoided, is delineated in the hurry of the moment, the attention of the scholars drawn to it, amusement created, and all effect lost. Grave and serious are the evils which follow in the train of a loose and careless habit of mind in neglecting preparation. But, lastly, which is more nearly connected with my
* Pastoral Letters. I.