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DC. THE USE AND BENEFIT OF THE SCRIPTURES.
Ps. xix. 10. 11. More to be desired are they than gold, yea than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.
GOD has at no time left himself without witness in the world, seeing that he has spoken to all, in and by the visible creation, from which the most unenlightened heathens might learn his eternal power and godhead. But to us he has communicated a perfect revelation of his mind and will, which, as the Psalmist informs us in the preceding verses, is capable of producing the most beneficial effects. It was but a small portion of the scriptures which David possessed; yet his testimony respecting them shews, that they were inestimable in his eyes, and that to all who received them aright, they would be a source of the richest blessings. In discoursing on his words we shall point out
I. The excellency of the scriptures
Gold and honey are both excellent in their kind, and may fitly represent those things which are most pleasing to a carnal, and a sensual, appetite: but the scriptures are infinitely preferable to both.
1. They are "more desirable than gold"
[Gold, though so ardently and universally desired, is yet very confined in its uses. It is useful only to the body; yet not to that in all circumstances, nor for any long duration. But the scriptures are profitable to the soul, and that too in every possible condition: nor will there be any termination to the benefits they convey. What light do they bring into the mind! the weakest Christian upon earth that is instructed out of them, as far surpasses all the philosophers of Greece and Rome, as they surpassed the most ignorant of the human race. How powerful too is their operation on the soul! the suggestions of man's wisdom were utterly incapable of counteract
ing the vicious propensities of the heart: but these, when applied with power from on high, subdue the soul to God, and renovate it after the divine image. Can gold then, however "great" in quantity, or "fine" in quality, be compared with these?]
2. They are "sweeter also than honey"
[The most delicious honey is not near so grateful to the palate, as the scriptures are to the spiritual taste. The doctrines of the gospel, especially that which is the fundamental article of our faith, salvation through the blood of our incarnate God, how inexpressibly sweet are they to a weary and heavy-laden soul! What a delightful feast do the promises, "the exceeding great and precious promises," afford to those who live upon them! The precepts too are equally high in the Christian's estimation: their purity exactly suits his appetite, and instead of disgusting him, renders them tenfold more pleasing to his soul. Nor is he averse to the threatenings themselves: while he regards them as holy and just, he considers them also as good. In short, the Christian feasts upon the blessed book of God; he finds it the joy and rejoicing of his heart; he esteems it more than his necessary food."]
But we will proceed to mark more distinctly II. Their use
A variety of uses are mentioned in the preceding context: but the text comprehends them all under two particulars:
1. They warn us against much evil
[We could have had no conception of the deceitfulness and depravity of the heart, if God had not revealed it to us. But from the insight into it which the scriptures afford us, we learn that to trust in one's own heart is the most consummate folly, since it is sure to mislead us, and sure to betray us into some evil.
From the same fountain of knowledge also we learn that there is an invisible, but mighty, agent, whose malice is most inveterate, whose devices are most subtle, and whose labours to destroy us are incessant. Against his wiles we are put upon our guard: we are taught how to distinguish his agency, and to defeat his plots.
There is yet another danger, of which we could have formed no idea, if God had not instructed us respecting it.
a Ps. cxix. 140.
d Job xxiii. 12.
▷ Rom. vii. 12.
e Prov. xxviii. 26.
Jer. xv. 16.
We are told of another invisible power, even the Holy Ghost himself, who strives with us, and endeavours to establish the kingdom of God in our hearts. But we may "grieve," and "vex" that divine Agent, and may so "resist" him as to "quench" his sacred motions. Against this therefore, as the greatest of all evils, we are frequently and strongly warned.
It is no small advantage to us that every duty, and every danger, is set before us in living characters. We are enabled in the scriptures to discern the track of the godly, and to see where all that have suffered shipwreck, have perished: so that, notwithstanding we are passing through an ocean filled with hidden rocks and shoals, yet, if only we attend to the buoys which God has placed in our sight, we cannot but navigate it in perfect safety, and reach in due season our destined port.]
2. They lead us to much good
[We speak not of the recompense, which those who love the scriptures will meet with in another world. There is a reward in keeping the commandments, as well as for it; and it is of that present recompense that we are called to speak. In receiving the doctrines, what peace do we obtain with God, and in our own consciences! In resting on the promises, what ineffable joy flows into our souls! In obeying the precepts, what heavenly dispositions do we exercise, and what conformity to God do we obtain! And lastly, in following the bright examples that are set before us, how is our ambition stimulated, how are our steps advanced! Unanswerable in every view is that appeal of God to man, "Do not my words do good to him that walketh uprightly?"]
1. Those who neglect the scriptures
[How vitiated is your taste, that you can prefer a novel or a newspaper to the inspired volume! that you can be anxious about the things of time and sense, and be indifferent to that, which is more valuable than gold, more sweet than honey! Ah, think what durable riches, what heavenly delights, you lose! Did you but know what reason you have for shame and regret, you would go and search the scriptures till you had learned their value by your own experience, and had found them to be the power of God to the salvation of your souls.]
Mic. ii. 7.
2. To those who are like-minded with the Psalmist
[What do you owe to God, who has given you a spiritual taste, a spiritual discernment! By this, as much as by any thing, you may know your state towards God: you may mark, as by a scale, your progress or decline. With your advancement in the divine life, the scriptures will raise in your estimation: with your declension, your relish for them will abate. O then let them be your meditation all the day; let them be your delight and your counsellors. Thus will your spirit and temper be cast into their mould, and you will be gradually fitted for that place, where all that is now held forth to your faith, shall be for ever realized.]
DCI. THE CHRISTIAN'S STRENGTH.
Eph. vi. 10. Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
THE Christian's life is frequently represented in the scriptures under the metaphor of a warfare. Christ is called "the Captain of his salvation; "a and they who have enlisted under his banners, and "quit themselves like men," "fighting the good fight of faith," and enduring cheerfully all the hardships of the campaign, are called "good soldiers of Jesus Christ." "Like warriors, they do not entangle themselves with the affairs of this life, that they may please him who has chosen them to be soldiers: " but they set themselves to "war a good warfare," and they look for the rewards of victory, when they have subdued all their enemies.f
In the chapter before us, this subject is not slightly touched, as in the detached passages above referred to, but is treated at large; and that which in other places is only a metaphor, is here a professed simile. St. Paul, standing, as it were, in the midst of the camp, harangues the soldiers, telling them what enemies they have to combat, and how they may guard effectually against all their stratagems, and secure to themselves the victory. He begins with an animating exhortation, wherein he reminds them of the wonderful talents of their General, and urges them to place the most unlimited confidence in his skill and power.
Heb. ii. 10. • 2 Tim. ii. 3, e 1 Tim. i. 18.
The exhortation being contracted into a very small space, and conveying far more than appears at first sight,
b 1 Cor. xvi. 13.
1 Tim. vi. 12.
d Ib. ver. 4.
2 Tim. iii. 7, 8. Rev. iii. 21.