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this would prove him to be the child of the devil of itself, and not a child of God. In our private devotional reading, we shall find this rule to be invaluable. It will often prove the clearest commentary to obscure passages which we could have, and impart a vitality and beauty to them most conducive to practical piety, by fixing their sense definitely, where their effect would be otherwise marred and weakened by their leaving on the mind only a vague and general idea. To give one instance: supposing that we had reached in our private reading that beautiful passage, (2 Cor. iii. 17.) “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” A discursive and superficial reader applies it in general to that freedom of soul which the Gospel of Christ really received imparts; and, in a secondary sense, this is undoubtedly true. But when we come to examine the rest of the subject with which this sentence stands connected, we find that St. Paul refers simply to one particular branch or development of this gospel freedom, viz: deliverance from that deplorable mental blindness, which prevents us from receiving the truths of Christ crucified in the love of them, such as was spread over the heart of the Jewish people. The idea, when thus narrowed and defined, becomes much more effective in its practical application, and suggests many points of self-examination and enquiry, which would lose half their force by being generalized. In carrying out this rule, I need only add, that it will be necessary to read the Scriptures connectedly, according to their subjects rather than the artificial division of chapters. This division is indeed exceedingly useful, but sometimes interrupts the train of thought or argument which the writer is following out. Thus the sermon on the mount should be read as a whole; our Saviour's conversation with his disciples from the xv. (perhaps the xiii,) to the xvii. chapters of St. John in the same manner, and many of the Epistles; and others, as the Epistle to the Hebrews, broken up into two or three portions, where the argument divides itself, or one part of the subject is laid aside as sufficiently explained.
Closely connected with this, is the next principle of interpretation to be laid down, which I shall call the
comparative principle, in other words, that the sense of the inspired record is to be ascertained by a comparison of its various parts. Doctrines are not generally found stated in the Bible in a technical or dogmatic form once for all, as in the Creeds, or the confessions of the reformed faith, but are to be gathered from the combination of various passages which mould together and harmonize in support of the true principle. And this is well accounted for, when we remember the form in which the New Testament has come down to us, not so much as a number of catechisms of doctrine, for the use of those who had no elementary knowledge of Christianity, as narratives and letters for the confirmation and building up of those who had been already partially instructed in its fundamental and leading principles. With this object all the Epistles were written, the Acts of the Apostles, and one Gospel, as it is expressly stated in the outset, “that thou mightest know the certainty of those things wherein thou hast been instructed.” Hence, doctrines are often taken for granted, incidentally introduced, or explicitly stated, only in order to correct some error which had obscured or corrupted them, rather than exhibited in their order, as we should do in compiling a catechism. The duty then of comparing the various Scriptures together, in order to obtain a digest of the true Christian doctrine, becomes of the utmost importance. And here we must be careful not to compare the whole of the Bible indiscriminately, because it is composed out of the productions of ages widely separated, and written by men-inspired of course by God's Holy Spirit-of very different characters, talents, learning, and abilities. The style, therefore, the phraseology, the mode of reasoning and thoughts, the sublimity of language, is perceptibly different, and must be taken into account in our comparisons. In endeavouring to ascertain the teaching of the word of God on any given point, we shall find it to be the most useful, as well as the most correct method of proceeding, to take one text which bears on the doctrine in hand, and study all that is said by the writer in connexion with it, both before and after the passage which we have taken as our starting point. In some
instances we shall find it necessary to read thus a whole Epistle for this purpose. When we have gained a clear and comprehensive idea of the view there propounded, we must proceed to investigate what the same writer has stated on the point in question in other distinct treatises. This further examination will enable us to clear up many little difficulties, harmonize seeming discrepancies, and combine the whole into an intelligent and unambiguous statement. Our next care will be to compare the sentiments of other writers in the same inspired volume, living at the same or remote periods, with the view laid down, and modify, fill up, or illustrate the outline which we have already drawn. Nor let this be thought too arduous a method of scrutiny, for the trouble is more than compensated for, by the comprehensive grasp we thus obtain of the doctrines of Christ's religion; and when once by God's help we are fully established, it is a rock which no scepticism can undermine, and no cavils successfully oppugn. To give an illustration of this principle. We desire to know whether Christ died for all men, or only for his sheep-that little flock who will eventually be saved. We take, as our starting point, our blessed Lord's own statement in St. John, “For God so loved the world,” &c. This excludes no man from partaking of the benefits of Christ's death: God gave his Son for the world, and the door to salvation is open for whosoever believeth on Him. We find, as we proceed with the enquiry, similar declarations recorded by the same writer; and in examining the Epistles of the same author, this truth appears quite as evident. (See 1 John ii. 1, 2.) We then compare the sentiments of another writer-St. Paul-and the same view of the atonement is observable, as Rom. v. 6. 2 Cor. v. 14. But we find other statements in the same writers, which do not seem to run parallel with this notion, as Rom. viii. 29., and ix. 22, 23., and also John xvii. 2, 6. Are we then to suppose that Christ's sacrifice is represented in one part of Scripture as offered for all, in another for some only; or will other passages throw some further light on the subject, and reconcile the inconsistency? We find such a passage, 1 Tim. iv. 10. God who is
the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.” Comparing this with the two declarations noted above, there is no doubt left on the serious mind that Christ's sacrifice being offered up for all, he is in will, purpose, and power, the Saviour proclaimed and set forth for all men; but as the benefit of that sacrifice is applied only to the true and sincere believer, he is in fact, and in an especial manner, the Saviour only of such.
Oh! how much error would be avoided, how many snares of the evil one escaped from, how much more unanimity among Christians, did all endeavour prayerfully, carefully, and humbly, to study and compare these Scriptures of truth, the LivING ORACLES, as they would then be indeed proved of the Spirit of God.
QUESTIONS ON ST. MARK ü. 1. Shew that we should not regard our own ease in serving God and our neighbour. (2-4.)
(Rom. xv. 2, 3.) 2. Shew that we ought to help the weak and afflicted.(3)
(Acts xx. 35. Rom. xv. 1.) 3. Shew that the houses of the Jews had flat roofs. (4.)
(Deut. xxii. 8. Acts x. 9.) 4. How may faith be “seen”? (5.)
(James ii. 18—22.) 5. Prove that sin is the cause of sickness.
(Gen. ii. 17—19. 1 Cor. xi. 30.) 6. Shew that the pardon of sin is often connected in Scripture with the healing of sickness.
(Ps. ciii. 3. Is. xxxiii. 24. James v. 15.) 7. Shew that forgiveness of sins is an attribute of God. (7.)
(Ex. xxxiv. 6, 7. Is. xliii. 25. Micah vü. 18.) 8. Prove that faith is necessary in order to obtain forgiveness of sins.
(Rom. iii. 25. Acts xiii. 38, 39.)
9. Shew that our faith will benefit others as well as ourselves. (5.)
(James v. 14, 15. 1 John v. 14–16.) 10. Prove that Christ knew the hearts of men. (6—8.)
(John ii. 25. Acts i. 24.) 11. Shew that Christ can “forgive sins.”
(Acts v. 1 Tim. i. 13-16.) 12. Shew that when God commands he gives power, to those who are made willing, to obey. (9—11.)
(Luke vi. 10. 2 Cor. iii. 5. Phil. ii. 13.) 13. Shew that we ought to glorify God for all his works. (12.)
(Psalm ciii. 145. cv. 1-5. Col. ii. 17.) 14. What other name had Levi? (14.)
(Matt. ix. 9.) 15. What was Levi's occupation ?
(Matt. x. 3.) 16. Which of the apostles seems to have been his brother?
(Compare v. 14. with iii. 18.) 17. Shew that Christians should be hospitable. (15.)
(Rom. xii. 13. Heb. xiii. 2.) 18. Shew that we should not despise any man's company.
(Rom. xii. 16. compare Isaiah lxv. 5.) 19. Prove the duty of shunning the society of open sinners.
(1 Cor. v. 9—13. xv. 33. 2 Cor. vi. 14–18.) 20. For whom was Christ's salvation especially intended? (17.)
(1 Tim. i. 15. compare Rom. iv. 5. v. 8.) 21. Who are those who are prepared to come to Christ for salvation?
(Gal. ii. 19, 20.) 22. Prove that Christ is the “Bridegroom" of his Church. (19.)
(John iii. 29. Eph. v. 25—27. Rev. xix. 7. xxi. 2—9.) 23. What kind of bottles were used by the Jews? (22.)
(Joshua ix. 4. Ps. cxix. 83.)