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•ut that w hich stamps upon them the highest ralue, that
which renders them, strictly speaking, inestimable, and distinguish them from all other books in the world, is this, that they and they only, "contain the words of eternal life"* In this respect, every other book, even the noblest compofitions cs man, must sail us ; they cannot give us that which we most want, and what is of insinitely more importance to us than all other things put together, Etermal Life.
This we must look for no where but in Scripture. It is there, and there only, that we are insormed from authority, of the immortality of the soul, of a general resurrection from the dead, of a suture judgment, of a state of eternal happiness to the good, and of eternal misery to the bad. It is there we arc made acquainted with the sall of our sirst parents from a state of innocence and happiness; with the guilt, corruption, and misery, which this sad event brought on all their posterity; which, together with their own personal and voluntary transgressions, rendered them obnoxious lo God's severed punishments. But, to our inexpressible comfort, we are surther told in this divine book, that God is sull of mercy, compassion, and goodness; that he is not extreme to mark what is done amiss; that he willeth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness, and save his foul alive. In pity therefore to mankind, he was pleased to provide a remedy for their dreadsul state. Ho was pleased to adopt a measure which should at once satissy his justice, shew his extreme abhorrence of sin, make a sussicient atonement for the sins of the whole world, and release all who accepted the terms propofed to them from the punishment they had deserved. This was nothing less than the death of his son Jesus Christ, whom he sent into the world to take our nature upon him, to teach us
* The two parts, of which the Scriptures consist, are connected by a chain of compositions, which bear no resemblance, in form or stile, to any that can be produced from the stories of Grecian, Persian, or even Arabian learning: the antiquity of those compositions no man doubts; and the unstrained application of them to events long subsequent to their publication, is a solid ground os belief that they are genuine predictions, iiud consequently inspired."
* John, ti. 68
ft most holy, pure, and benevolent religion, to reform us both by his precepts and example; and lastly, to die for our sins, and to rise again for our justisication. By him and his evangelists and apostles we are assured, that if we sincerely repent of our sins, and sirmly believe in him and his Gofpel, we shall, for the sake of his sufferings and his righteousness, have all our transgressions forgiven and blotted out, shall be justified, that is, considered as innocent in the sight of God, shall have the assistance of his Holy Spirit for our suture conduct; and if we persevere to the end in a uniform (though, from the insirmity of our nature; impersect) obedience to all the laws of Christ, shall, through his merits, be rewarded with everlasting glory in the lise to come.
Since then the utility, the absolute necessity of reading the Scriptures is so great, since they are not only the best guide you can consult, but the only one that can possibly lead you to heaven } it becomes the indispensable duty of every one of you most caresully and constantly to peruse these sacred oracles, that you may thereby "become persect, thoroughly surnished to every good work."* They who have much leisure should employ a considerable share of it in this holy exercise, and even they who are most immersed in business have, or ought to have, the Lord's Day entirely to spare, and should always employ some part of it (more particularly at this holy season) in reading and meditating on the word of God. By persevering steadily in this practice, any one may, in no great length of time, read the Scriptures through, from one end to the other. But in doing this, it would be adviseable to begin with the New Testament sirst, and to read it over most frequently, because it concerns us Christians the most nearly, and explains to us more sully and more clearly the words of eternal lise. But after you have once gone regularly through both the Old Testament and the New, it may then be most usesul, perhaps, to select out of each such passages as lay before you the great sundamental doctrines, and most essential duties, of your Christian prosession; and even amongst these, to dwell the longest on such as express these things in the most awsul and striking manner, such as affect and touch you most powersully, such * a Tim. iii. 17.
as make your heart burn within you, and stir up all the pioutf
affections in your foul. But it will be of little use to read, unless at the same time also you rrsteS; unless you apply what you read to thofe great purpofes which the Scriptures were meant to promote, the amendment of your saults, the improvement of your hearts, and the salvation of your souls.
To assist you in this most important and necessary work is the design of these Lectures: and in the execution of this design: I shall have these four objects principally in view:
First, to explain and illustrate those passages of holy writ, which are in any degree dissicult and obscure.
2dly, To point out, as they occur in the sacred writings, (he chief leading sundamental principles and doctrines of the Christian religion.
3dly. To consirm and strengthen your saith, by calling your attention to thofe strong internal marks of the truth and divine authority of the Christian religion, which present themselves to us in almost every page of the Gofpel.
4thly. To lay before you the great moral precepts of the Gofpel, to press them home upon your consciences and your hearts, and render them effectual to the important ends they were intended to serve; namely, the due government of your passions, the regulation of your conduct, and the attainment of everlasting lise.
These are all of them objects of the very last importance; they are worthy the attention of every human being; and they will, I think, be better attained by a samiliar and practical explanation of the sacred wridngs, than by any other species of composidon whatever.
The plan of instruction adopted by our blessed Lord was unquestionably the very best that could be devised. It was not a regular system of ethics, delivered in a connected series of dry essays and dissertations, like those of the ancient heathen philofophers; but it consisted of samiliar discourses, interesting parables, short sententious maxims, and occasional reflections, arising from the common occurrences of lise, and the most obvious appearances of nature. All these various modes of instruction are so judiciously blended and mixed together in the history of-our Lord's lise and conversation, delivered to us in the Gofpel (as all the various sorts of pleasing objects are in the unornamented scenes of nature) that they make a much deeper impression both on the understanding and on the heart, than they could possibly do in any other more artissicial form.
An exposition of Scripture, then, must at all times be highly usesul and interesting to every sincere disciple of Christ; but must be peculiarly so at the present moment, when so much pains have been taken to ridicule and revile the sacred writings, to subvert the very foundations of our saith, and to poison the minds of all ranks of people, but especially the middling and the lower classes, by the most impious and blasphemous publications that ever disgraced any Christian country.* To resist these wicked attempts is the duty of every minister of the Gofpel; and as I have strongly exhorted all thofe who are under my superintendence, to exert themselves with zeal and with vigour in desence of their insulted religion, I think it incumbent on me to take my share in this important contest, and to shew that I wish not to throw burthens on others of which I am not willing to bear my sull proportion. As long therefore as my health, and the various duties of an extensive and populous diocese, will permit, and the exigencies of the times require such exertions, I propofe to continue annually these Lectures. And I shall think it no unbecoming conclusion of my lise, if these labours of my declining years should tend in any degree to render the Holy Scriptures more clear and intelligible, more usesul and delightful; if they shall consirm the saith, reform the manners, console and revive the hearts of thofe who hear me; and vindicate the honor of our divine Master from thofe grofs indignities and insults, which have of late been so indecently and impiously thrown on him and his religion.
* About this time, and for some years before, Tic Age of Reason, and ether pestilent writings os the same nature, were disseminated through almost every district of this country with incredible industry,