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or their immediate successors; and their comments will be found to agree in recommending men to practise righteousness, and to believe that Jesus Christ came in the flesh.
The Spirit which guided the inspired writers in the way of truth, and which brought all the sayings of the Lord to their remembrance°; the extraordinary gifts of wisdom, knowledge, and faith, of divers kinds of tongues, and of the interpretation of tonguesP; are, in the present circumstances of the Church, not necessary; and because they are not promised, they cannot be expected with a reasonable faith, or be assumed without exciting a suspicion of vanity. It matters not who pretends to these extraordinary revelations, whether it be the boldest infidel who denies, or the weakest visionary who admits, the incarnation of his Saviour. He makes his appeal from the stronger to the weaker power, from the reason to the imagination; and we are the still more confident in the rejection of his illusive fancies, not because the individual doubts, or because he presumes, but because the Book of Revelation hath been sealed for ever, with a curseo upon him who ventures to enlarge or abridge its contents, and not with the
o John xiv. 26. xvi. 13.
P 1 Cor. xii. 8, 9, 10.
promise of new revelations to remove its difficulties and obscurities. The devout inquirer after truth will nevertheless commence his studies with earnest prayer to him who is the Father of lights, and from whom “every good and every perfect gift "" do proceed. As the Scriptures were originally given by divine inspiration, there is no weakness in believing that divine assistance is necessary, and no presumption in hoping that it will be afforded in the interpretation of them. To maintain that this or that exposition of a text is the result of an immediate inspiration, would be equivalent to claiming a new revelation of truth, and would be justly imputed to fanatical delirium. But no such imputation can be alleged to the pious practice of
9 Rev, xxii. 18, 19.
r James i. 17.
those, who, acknowledging that they are destitute of wisdom, ask it of God', or who, under the conviction that there is foolishness in the natural man which
prevents him from receiving the things of the Spirit of God, seek the aid of that Holy Spirit, whose office it is to search and to know the deep things of God, while they are labouring to understand and to deliver the words which that Spirit teacheth, and to compare spiritual things with spiritual. Such prayers of humility and faith will assuredly be blessed with an adequate measure of instruction, of improvement, of conviction and confirmation, concerning truth and righteousness. To every one who in searching the Scriptures is diligent in using what he hath, grace will be given, and he will be made to excel ; while from him who pretends to gifts which have not been promised or bestowed, will be taken away even that which he seemeth to have".
s James i. 5.
ti Cor. ii. 10, 13, 14. u Matt. xiii. 12. xxv. 29. Mark iv. 25. Luke viïi. 18. xix, 26.
While in their proper use and measure these several means may be serviceable in assisting the infirmity of men, and preserving them from error; while in their abuse and misapplication all may be vain and deceitful; while pretended visions are but idle dreams; while traditions may be corrupted, and philosophy delusive, there remains the Scripture, given by inspiration of God, and “profitable for doctrine, for “ reproof, for correction, for instruction in “ righteousness,” and “through faith which 6 is in Christ Jesus,” making
66 wise unto “ salvation,
that the man of God may “ be perfect, throughly furnished unto all
good works*.” By this light of wisdom and heavenly truth, which shineth in the darkness of human infirmity, we may
be guided through all perplexity, certified in all doubt, secured from a false, and confirmed in a true profession of the faith. In the words, not which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth, the truth is revealed with such plainness
x 2 Tim. ii. 15, 16, 17.
and precision, that none but the unlearned or unstable do wrest it to their own destruction. The love of God and of man is unequivocally declared to be the substance of the Law and the Prophets; the mystery of godliness, which is the manifestation of God in the flesh, is declared and defined by that Holy Spirit, who alone can comprehend the deep things of God; and the Divinity himself has condescended to the wants of his creatures, and opened to them the treasures of heavenly knowledge.
But let not deceitful and deceivable man venture to approach the Divine Instructor with unregulated and irreverent mind. Let him not think, that while his understanding is distracted with sinful affections, while his mind is inflamed with pride and prejudice, while he is impatient of instruction, or ambitious of displaying his proficiency, he will be able to overcome the frailty of his nature, or be qualified to comprehend the words of eternal life, and to distinguish the spirit of Error from the spirit of Truth. He must receive the lessons of his Master with all the simplicity and