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sentiments of Piety have been breathed, as from the Holy raptures of inspired Prophets and Kings ?_or whether, from any other source, " the man of God” can be so thoroughly “ furnished to all good works,” as from those precepts and examples, of every kind and degree of duty, which are scattered through all the Volume of Inspiration, and which at last come forward in their highest form of perfection, in the words and actions of the Saviour of Mankind ?
III. Need I add, in the third place, that those who are so instructed, who thus meditate on the wisdom, and imbibe the precepts of Revelation, will, through “ comfort of the Scriptures, have hope ?” I may again ask, whether there were ever any hopes so steady, so glorious, so powerful, as those which have opened upon the Christian mind, and whether, amidst the disorders and afflictions of the world, any instances have been found of so much resignation or such genuine comfort, under the most seemingly overpowering circumstances, as those which have been formed under the influence of the Word of God ?- This, then, is the source of
light and of hope which is this day revealed to us in the admonition of the Church. We are sent to the Holy Scriptures as to “ a light shining in a dark place,” to acquire from them the knowledge of that eternal life, which, amid all the weakness of mortality, is yet promised to man, and if we do go to them with the wish to learn, we are informed that they are truly “ written for our learning.” Yet we must not imagine that this knowledge, or these hopes, can be the instantaneous work of a day, or of an hour. They are the result of patient meditation and prayer, and patient continuance in well-doing ; we must “ read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” those Holy Scriptures, which are " written for our learning ;” and such is the condition of human nature, that it requires the calmness of a well-ordered mind, not to be disappointed where knowledge cannot immediately be had, and to proceed in the path of duty, through every trial, even where comfort and hope do not suddenly arise. It is through “ Patience,” then, no less than "comfort of the Scriptures,” that we must seek for the genuine hopes of Religion, or that they can steadily open upon ourselves and upon the world!
ON THE FIRST PERIOD OF THE GOSPEL HIS
MATTHEW, vii. 29.
For He taught them as one having authority,
and not as the Scribes.
It is in this manner that the Holy Evangelist concludes his account of our Lord's sermon on the Mount. He mentions in the preceding verse, that “the people were astonished at his doctrine,” and gives, as a reason for the effect which it had upon them, its superiority to all the religious instruction to which they were accustomed ; “ he taught them (as it is expressed in the text) as one having authority, and not as
* Preached on the third Sunday in Advent.
the Scribes." When we were met on a former occasion, I called your attention to the fact, that the Gospel has ever risen superior to all the obstacles which lay in its way, and that, in very different stages of society, it has still appeared to be the Religion which the mind of man was most ready to embrace. The natural inferences from this fact, are, in the first place, that the Gospel was originally established by the power of God, and has been carried down to us through all the opposition which it has encountered, by his superintending Providence ; and, secondly, that it has made its way by the force of truth, to which the constitution of the human mind is naturally adapted, and which will ever, in a length of time, gain the ascendancy over error. In both these views, very important discussions have arisen respecting the evidences of Christianity. In one view, we consider the external evidences, or the history of those miraculous events which attended its first origin, and of those singular adaptations of human affairs, in which the finger of God may be traced in its progress. In another view, we examine its internal evidence, or that character of truth and excellence which distinguishes its precepts and its doctrines, and to which the mind of man naturally clings whenever it is presented to it. The view which I at present propose to lay before you, is somewhat different from either of these, but is, perhaps, not less worthy of attention, or less calculated to produce belief. Following out the Historical sketch which I have already very shortly submitted to you, I shall now endeavour to point out certain circumstances in the gradual progress of that history, which, in addition to its truth and excellence, have contributed to render the Religion of Christ, the very one which has equally suited every varying impulse of human thought and sentiment, since it was first introduced into the world. The subject, I am well aware, is one of great extent, and in order to be fully illustrated, requiring more research than I have been able to bestow upon it; yet, I trust that, even such imperfect observations as it may be in my power to offer, will supply you with some hints for your own meditations.