THE NECESSITY OF DIVINE TEACHING.
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for youthat I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not comeunto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And whenhe is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness,and of judgment; of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness,because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; of judgment,because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many thingsto say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he,the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth;for he shall not speak of himself, but whatever he shall hear,that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. John16:7-13.
The doctrine of the necessity of Divine Influence, to enlightenand sanctify the minds of men, is very abundantly taught in theBible, and is generally maintained, as a matter of opinion atleast, in all orthodox churches. But, as a matter of fact, thereseems to be very little available knowledge of the gospel amongmankind; so little that it exerts comparatively little influence.The great ends of the gospel have hardly begun to be realized,in the production of holiness on the earth. It is a grand question,whether we do need Divine Influence to attain the ends of thegospel; and if we do need it, then in what degree do we need it,and why? If our minds are unsettled on this question, we shallbe unsettled on all the subjects that practically concern oursanctification.
In discoursing on this subject tonight, I design to pursuethe following order:
I. Inquire how far the reason of man, unaided by Divine illumination,is capable of understanding the things of religion.
II. Show wherein the reason of man is defective, in regardto the capacity of gaining any available knowledge of the gospel.
III. That the spirit of God alone can supply the illuminationthat is needed.
IV. That every one may have the influence of the Spirit, accordingto his necessities.
V. The reasons why any individual fails to receive this divineaid to the extent of his necessities.
VI. That men are responsible for the light which they mighthave, as well as for that which they actually enjoy.
I. I shall inquire how far the reason of man, unaided by Divineillumination, is capable of apprehending the things of religion.
1. The mind of man is capable of understanding the historicalfacts of religion, just as it comprehends any other historicalfacts.
2. It is capable of understanding the doctrinal propositionsof the gospel.
That is, it can understand those abstractions which make upthe skeleton of the gospel; such as the being and character ofGod,the divine authority and inspiration of the scriptures, andother fundamental doctrines which make up the framework of thegospel.
That is, it can understand them as propositions, and see theevidence that supports them as true, just as it can understandany propositions in science.
For instance, to enter a little into detail A man, by his reason,may understand the law of God. He can understand that it requireshim to exercise perfect love towards God and all other beings.He can see the ground of his obligation to do this, because heis a moral being. He knows, by experience, what love is, for hehas exercised love towards different objects. And he can, therefore,form or comprehend the idea of love, so far as to see the reasonablenessof the requirement. He can understand the foundation and the forceof moral obligation, and see, in some measure, the extent of hisobligation to love God.
So, likewise, he can see that he is a sinner, and that he cannotbe saved by his own works. He has broken the law, so that thelaw can never justify him. He can see, that if he is ever saved,he must be justified through mere mercy, by an act of pardon.
I might go through the whole circle of theology, and show thatthe human understanding is capable of knowing it, in the abstract,as a system of propositions, to be received and believed, on evidence,like any other science. I do not mean to be understood as saying,that unaided reason can attain any available knowledge of thethings of religion, or any such knowledge as will be effectualto produce a sanctifying change.
II. I am to show wherein our knowledge of the things of religionis necessarily defective, without the aids of the Holy Spirit.
In other words, I am to show what our knowledge of the gospellacks, to make it available to salvation.
And here it is necessary to distinguish between knowledge whichmight be available to one that was himself disposed to love andobey God; and what will be available, in fact, to a sinner, whois wholly indisposed to holiness. It is easy to see that one whois disposed to do right would be influenced to duty by a far lessamount of illumination, or a far less clear and vivid view ofmotives, than one who is disposed to do wrong. What we are nowinquiring after respects the matter of fact, in this world. Whetherthe knowledge attainable by our present faculties would be availableto influence us to do right, were there no sin in the world, ismore than I can say. As a matter of fact, the knowledge whichAdam had when in a state of innocency did not avail to influencehim to do right. But we are now speaking of things as they arein this world, and to show what is the reason that men, as sinners,can have no available knowledge of divine things; no such knowledgeas will, as a matter of fact, influence them to love and serveGod.
Knowledge, to avail anything towards effecting its object,must be such as will influence the mind. The will must be controlled.And to do this, the mind must have such a view of things as toexcite emotion, corresponding to the object in view. Mere intellectnever will move the soul to act. A pure scientific abstractionof the intellect, that does not touch the feelings, or exciteany emotion, is wholly unavailable to move the will. It is soevery where. It would be so in heaven. You must bring the mindunder a degree of excitement, to influence the will in any case.In the case of sinners, to influence sinners to love God, youmusthave a great degree of light, such as will powerfully excitethe mind, and produce strong emotions. The reasons for obediencemust be made to appear with great strength and vividness, so asto subdue their rebellious hearts and bring them voluntarily toobey God. This is available knowledge. This men never have, andnever can have, without the Spirit of God.
If men were disposed to do right, I know not how far theirknowledge, attainable by unaided reason, might avail. But, asthey are universally and totally indisposed, this knowledge willnever do it. I will mention some of the reasons:
1. All the knowledge we can have here of spiritual things,is by analogy, or comparison.
Our minds are here shut up in the body, and we derive all ourideas from external objects, through the senses. Now, we nevercan of ourselves obtain knowledge of spiritual or eternal thingsin this way sufficient to rightly influence our wills. Our bodilypowers were not created for this. All the ideas we can have ofthe spiritual world is by analogy, or comparing them with thethings around us. It is easily seen that all ideas conveyed toour minds in this way, must be extremely imperfect, and that wedo not, after all, get the true idea in our minds. The Jewishtypes were probably the most forcible means which God could thenuse, for giving to the Jews a correct idea of the gospel. Consideringhow the eastern nations were accustomed, by their education, tothe use of figures, and parables, and types, probably the systemof types was the most impressive and happy mode that could bedevised to gain a more ready access for the truth to their minds,and give them a more full idea of the plan of redemption thancould be communicated in any other way. And yet it is manifestthat the ideas which were communicated in this way were extremelyimperfect; and that without divine illumination to make them seethe reality more fully than they could by unaided reason, theynever would have got any available knowledge in this way.
So words are merely signs of ideas. They are not the ideas,but the representatives of ideas. It is often very difficult,and sometimes impossible to convey ideas by words. Take a littlechild, and attempt to talk with him, and how difficult it is,on many subjects, to get your ideas into his little mind. He musthave some experience of the things you are trying to teach, beforeyou can convey ideas to him by words.
Suppose this congregation were all blind, and had never seencolors. Then suppose that on that wall hung a most grand and beautifulpainting, and that I was a perfect master of the subject, andshould undertake to describe it to you. No language that I coulduse would give you such an idea of the painting, as to enableyou to form a picture of it in your minds. Where, on any subject,we are obliged, from the nature of the case, to use figurativelanguage, analogies, and resemblances, the knowledge we communicateis necessarily defective and inadequate. Who of you have not hearddescriptions of persons and places, till you thought you had anaccurate knowledge of them; but when you come to see them youfind you had no true idea of the reality?
Suppose an individual were to visit this world, from anotherplanet, where all things are constituted on the most oppositeprinciples from those which are adopted here. Suppose him to remainhere long enough to learn our language, and that then he shouldundertake to give us a description of the world he had left. Weshould understand it according to our ideas and experience. Now,if the analogy between the two worlds is very imperfect, it isplain that our knowledge of things there, from his description,must be imperfect in proportion. So, when we find in the Bibledescriptions of heaven and hell, or anything in the invisibleworld, it is plain that from mere words we can get no true ideasat all adequate to the reality.
2. The wickedness of our hearts is so great, as to pervertour judgment, and shut out from our minds much that we might understandof the things of religion.
When a man's mind is so perverted on any subject, that he willnot take up the evidence concerning it, he cannot, of course,come at the knowledge of the truth on that subject. This is ourcase in regard to religion. Perverseness of heart so shuts outthe light, that the intellect does not, and from the nature ofthings cannot, get even the ideas it might otherwise gain, respectingdivine things.
3. Prejudice is a great obstacle to the reception of correctknowledge concerning religion.
Take the case of the disciples of Christ. They had strong Jewishprejudices respecting the plan of salvation so strong that alltheinstructions of Christ himself could not make them understandthe truth. After teaching them personally, for three years, withall the talent, and simplicity, and skill he was master of, hecould never get their minds in possession of the first principlesof the gospel. Up to his very death, he could not make them seethat he should die, and rise from the dead. Therefore he saysin his last conversation "If I go not away, the Comforterwill not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him untoyou." This was the very design of his going away from them,that the Spirit of Truth might come, and put them in possessionof the things whichhe meant by the words he had used in teachingthem.
The general truth is this; that without divine illumination,men can understand from the Bible enough to convict and condemnthem, but not enough to sanctify and save them.
Some may ask, What, then, is the use of revelation?
It is of much use. The Bible is as plain as it can be. Whodoubts that our Lord Jesus Christ gave instructions to his disciples,as plainly as he could? See the pains which he took to illustratehis teaching; how simple his language; how he brings it down tothe weakest comprehension, as a parent would to a little child.And yet it remains true, that without divine illumination, theunaided reason of man never did, and never will attain any availableknowledge of the gospel. The difficulty lies in the subject. TheBible contains the gospel, as plain as it can be made. That is,it contains the signs of the ideas, as far as language can representthe things of religion. No language but figurative language canbe used for this purpose. And this will forever be inadequateto put our minds in real possession of the thing themselves. Thedifficulty is in our ignorance and sin, and in the nature of thesubject. This is the reason why we need divine illumination, toget any available knowledge of the gospel.
III. The Spirit of God alone, can give us this illumination.
The Bible says, "No man can say that Jesus Christ is Lord,but by the Holy Ghost." Now the abstract proposition of theDeity of Christ, can be proved, as a matter of science, so asto gain the assent of any unbiased mind to the truth, that Jesusis Lord. But nothing but the Holy Ghost can so put the mind inpossession of the idea of Christ, as God, as to fix the soul inthe belief of the fact, and make it available to sanctify theheart.
Again, it is said that "No man can come to me, exceptthe Father which hath sent me draw him; and I will raise him upat the last day. It is written in the prophets, and they shallbe all taught of God. Every man, therefore, that hath heard, andhath learned of the Father, cometh unto me." Here it is evidentthat the drawing spoken of, is the teaching of the Holy Spirit.They must be taught of God, and learn of the Father, before theycan ever have such a knowledge of the things of religion as actuallyto come to Christ.
Christ says, "It is expedient for you that I go away forif I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you. "Theword Paracletos, here translated Comforter, properly means a Helper,or Teacher. "When he is come, he will reprove the world ofsin, and of righteousness and of judgment: Of sin, because theybelieve not on me; of righteousness, because I go to my Father,and ye see me no more; of judgment because the prince of thisworld is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you,but yecannot bear them now. Howbeit, when he, the Spirit of Truth, iscome, he will guide you into all truth; for he shall not speakof himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak;and he will show you things to come."
So in the fourteenth chapter the Savior says, "I willpray the Father and he shall give you another Comforter, thathe may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth whom theworld cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knowethhim; but ye know him, for he dwelleth with you, and shall be inyou." And again, in the 26th verse, "But the comforterwhich is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name,he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance,whatsoever I have said unto you." Here you see the officeof the Spirit of God is, to instruct mankind in regard to thethings of religion.
Now, it is manifest that none but the Spirit of God can supplythis defect, from a single consideration that all teaching bywords,whether by Jesus Christ, or by apostles, or by any inspiredor uninspired teacher coming merely through the senses, can neverput the mind in possession of the idea of spiritual things. Thekind of teaching that we need is this; we want someone to teachus the things of religion, who is not obliged to depend on words,or to reach our minds through the medium of the senses. We wantsome way in which the ideas themselves can be brought to our minds,and not merely the signs of the ideas. We want a teacher who candirectly approach the mind itself, and not through the senses;and who can exhibit the ideas of religion, without being obligedto use words. This the Spirit of God can do.
The manner in which the Spirit of God does this, is what wecan never know in this world. But the fact is undeniable, thathe can reach the mind without the use of words, and can put ourminds in possession of the ideas themselves, of which the types,or figures, or words, of the human teacher, are only the signsor imperfect representatives. The human teacher can only use wordsto our senses, and finds it impossible to possess us of the ideasof that which we have never experienced. But the Spirit of God,having direct access to the mind, can, through the outward sign,possess us of the actual idea of things. What Christian does notknow this, as a matter of fact? What Christian does not know,from his own experience, that the Spirit of God does lead himinstantly to see that in a passage of scripture, which all hisstudy and effort of mind to know the meaning of could never havegiven him in the world?
Take the case again, of a painting on the wall there, and supposethat all the congregation were blind, and I was trying to describeto them this painting. How, suppose, while I was laboring to makethem understand the various distinctions and combination of colors,and they are bending their minds to understand it, all at oncetheir eyes are opened! You can then see for yourselves the verythings which I was vainly trying to bring to your minds by words.Now, the office of the Spirit of God, and what he alone can do,is to open the spiritual eye, and bring the things which we tryto describe by analogy and signs, in all their living realitybefore the mind, so as to put the mind in complete possessionof the thing as it is.
It is evident, too, that no one but the Spirit of God so knowsthe things of God as to be able to give us the idea of those thingscorrectly. "What man knoweth the things of a man, save thespirit of man that is in him?" What can a beast know of thethings of a man, of a man's character, designs, etc.? I can speakto your consciousness being a man, and knowing the things of aman. But I cannot speak these things to the consciousness of abeast, neither can a beast speak of these things, because he hasnot the spirit of a man in him, and cannot know them. In likemanner the Bible says, "The things of God knoweth no man,but the Spirit of God."
The Spirit of God, knowing from consciousness the things ofGod, possesses a different kind of knowledge of these things fromwhat other beings can possess; and therefore, can give us thekind of instruction we need, and such as no other being can give.
IV. The needed influences of the Spirit of God may be possessedby all men, freely, and under the gospel.
A few passages from the Bible will show this:
Jesus Christ says God is more willing to give his Holy Spiritto them that ask him, than parents are to give their childrenbread. "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shallfind; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." "Andall things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shallreceive." "Therefore I say unto you, What things soeverye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shallhave them." James says, "If any of you lack wisdom,let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraidethnot; and it shall be given him." If it be true, that Godhas made these unlimited promises, that all men, who will askof him may have divine illumination as much as they will ask for,then it is true that all men may have as much of divine illuminationas they need.
V. I will show the reasons why any do not have as much divineillumination as they need.
1. They do not ask for it in such a manner or degree as theyneed it.
2. They ask amiss, or from selfish motives.
The apostle James says, "Ye ask and receive not, becauseye ask amiss, that ye may consume it on your lusts." Whenan individual has a selfish motive for asking, or some other reasonthan a desire to glorify God, he need not expect to receive divineillumination. If his object in asking for the Holy Ghost, is thathe may always be happy in religion, or that he may be very wisein the scriptures, or be looked upon as an eminent Christian,or have his experience spoken of as remarkable, or any other selfishview, that is a good reason why he should not receive even whathe asks.
3. They do not use the proper means to attain what they ask.
Suppose a person neglects his Bible, and yet asks God to givehim a knowledge of the things of religion: that in tempting God.The manner in which God gives knowledge is through the Bible,and the other appointed means of instruction. If a person willnot use these means, when they are in his power, however muchhe may pray, he need not expect divine instruction. "Faithcometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
There is an important difference to be observed, between thecases of those who possess these means, and those who do not.I suppose that a person may learn the gospel, and receive allthe illumination he needs, under any circumstances of privationof means. As if he was on a desolate island, he might receivedirect illumination from the Spirit of God. And so he might, inany other circumstances, where he absolutely could not have accessto any means of instruction. Some very remarkable cases of thiskind have occurred within a few years. I have known one case,which I looked upon at the time as miraculous, and for that reasonhave seldom mentioned it, feeling that even the church were notprepared to receive it. When I was an evangelist, I labored oncein a revival, in a neighborhood where there were many Germans.
They had received but little instruction, and many of themcould not read. But when the gospel was preached among them, theSpirit of God was poured out, and a most powerful revival followed.In the midst of the harvest, if a meeting, was appointed at anyplace, the whole neighborhood would come together, and fill thehouse, and hang upon the preacher's lips, while he tried to possesstheir minds with the truth of the gospel. One poor German womannaturally intelligent, but who could not read, in relating herexperience in one of these meetings, told this fact which wascertified to by her neighbors. With many tears and a heart fullof joy, she said, "When I loved God, I longed to read theBible, and I prayed to Jesus Christ, I said and felt, O Jesus!thou canst teach me to read thy Holy Bible, and the Lord taughtme to read. There was a Bible in the house, and when I had prayed,I thought I could read the Bible, and I got the book, and openedit, and the words were just what I had heard people read. I said,O Lord Jesus Christ, thou canst teach me to read,' and I believedhe could, and I thought I did read, but I went and asked the school-madamif I read, and she said I read it right, and the Lord has taughtme to read my Bible, blessed be his name for it." I do notknow but the school-madam to whom she referred was in the houseand heard her relation. At all events she was a woman of goodcharacter among her neighbors, and some of the most respectableof them afterwards told me, they did not doubt the truth of whatshe said. I have no doubt it was true.
At the time, I thought it was a miracle; but since the factswhich have been developed within a few years, respecting the indestructiblenessof the memory, I have thought this case might be explained inthat way; and that she had probably been told the names of lettersand their powers, when young, and now the Spirit of God, in answerto her prayer, had quickened her mind, and brought it all to herremembrance, so that she could read the Bible.
Some of you will recollect the facts which were stated here,one evening, by President Mahan, which show that every impressionwhich is made on the mind of man, remains there forever indelible.One case that he mentioned was that of an old lady, who, whenshe was young, had read some lines of poetry, relating a littlestory; and afterwards, when old, she wished to tell the storyto some children, to whom she thought it would be useful, andto her surprise the whole of the lines came up fresh in her memory,and she repeated them word for word, although she had never committedthem to memory at all, but only read them when she was young.Another was the case of an ignorant servant girl. She had oncelived with a learned minister, who was accustomed to read aloudthe Hebrew Bible, in his study, which was in hearing of the placewhere this girl did her work. Of course she understood nothingof the words, but only heard the sounds. Long afterwards whenshe was on her death-bed, she astonished the bystanders by recitingwhole chapters of Hebrew and Chaldaic. The neighbors at firstthought it was a miracle, but at length learned the explanation.It is plain from this, that even unintelligible sound may be soimpressed on the memory, as afterwards to recur with entire distinctness.I suppose that was the case with this poor German woman, and thatthe Spirit of God, in answer to her fervent prayer, so refreshedher memory as to recall the sounds and forms of letters, she hadbeen told when a child, and thus enable her at once to read theBible.
I say, therefore, that while those who do not possess any outwardmeans of instruction may obtain directly from the Spirit of Godwhatever degree or kind of illumination they need in the thingsof religion; those who possess of can obtain the outward means,and do not use them, tempt God, when they pray for divine illuminationand neglect the use of means for obtaining knowledge. To thosewho have the opportunity, "faith cometh by hearing, and hearingby the word of God." If any man keeps away from the meanswithin his reach, he can expect illumination in no other way.
Whereas, if he is shut out from the use of means, as God istrue to his promises, we must believe that he can be illuminatedwithout means, to any extent he needs.
4. Another reason why many do not receive that illuminationfrom the Spirit of God which they need is, because they grievethe Spirit in many ways.
They live in such a manner as to grieve, or offend, the HolySpirit, so that he cannot consistently grant them his illuminatinggrace.
5. Another reason is, that they depend on the instructionsand means, as available without divine influence.
How many rely on the instructions they receive from ministers,or commentaries, or books, or their own powers of inquiry, notfeeling that all these things, without the Spirit of God, willonly kill, but can never make alive can only damn, but never save.It seems as though the whole church was in error on this point;depending on means for divine knowledge, without feeling, thatno means are available, without the Spirit of God. Oh! if thechurch felt this if they really felt that all the means in creationare unavailing without the teaching of the Holy Ghost, how theywould pray, and cleanse their hands, and humble their hearts,until the Comforter would descend to teach them all things thatthey need to know of religion.
6. Self-confidence is another reason why so little is experiencedof divine illumination.
So long as professing Christians place confidence in learning,or criticism, or their natural ingenuity, to learn the thingsof religion, rely on it, they are not likely to enjoy much ofthe illumination of the Spirit of God.
VI. I am to show that men are responsible for what they mighthave of divine illumination.
This is a universal truth, and is acknowledged by all mankind,that a man is just as responsible for what light he might have,as for that he actually has. The common law, which is the voiceof common reason, adopts it as a maxim that no man who breaksthe law is to be excused for ignorance of the law, because allare held bound to know what the law is. So it is with your children,in a case where they might know your will you consider them somuch the more blameworthy, if they offend. So it is in religion:where men have both the outward means of instruction, and theinward teachings of the Holy Spirit, absolutely within their reach,if they sin ignorantly, they are not only without excuse on thatscore, but their ignorance is itself a crime, and is an aggravationof their guilt. And all men are plainly without excuse for notpossessing all the knowledge which would be available for theirperfect and immediate sanctification.
I. You see what is the effect of all other instructions ona congregation where no divine influence is enjoyed.
It may convince the church of duty, but will never producesanctification. It may harden the heart, but will never changeit. Without divine influence, it is but a savor of death untodeath. II. You see that it is important to use all the appropriatemeans of religious instruction in our power, as the medium throughwhich the Spirit of God conveys divine illumination to the mind.
There is no reason why we should not use the means in our power,and apply our natural faculties to acquire knowledge of religion,as faithfully as if we could understand the whole subject withoutdivine influence. And if we do not use means, when within ourpower, we have no reason to expect divine aid. When we help ourselves,God helps us. When we use our natural faculties to understandthese things, we may expect God will enlighten us. To turn oureyes away from the light, and then pray that we may be made tosee, is to tempt God.
III. They are blind leaders of the blind, who attempt to teachthe things of religion without being themselves taught of God.
No degree of learning, or power of discrimination as to thedidactics of theology, will ever make a man a successful teacherof religion, unless he enjoys the illuminating powers of the HolyGhost. He is blind if he supposes he understands the Bible withoutthis, and if he undertakes to teach religion, he deceives himself,and all who depend on him, and both will fall into the ditch together.
IV. If an individual teaches the gospel with the Holy Ghostsent down from heaven, he will be understood.
He may understand the gospel himself, and yet not make hishearers understand it, because the Holy Ghost in not sent on themas well as on himself. But if the Spirit of God is on them, preciselyin proportion as he understands the real meaning of the gospel,he will make his hearers understand it.
V. In preaching the gospel, ministers should never use texts,the meaning of which they have not been taught by the Spirit ofthe God.
They should not attempt to explain passages of which they arenot confident they have been taught the meaning by the Holy Spirit.It is presumption. And they need not do it, for they may alwayshave the teachings of the Spirit, by asking. God is always moreready to bestow divine illumination than an earthly parent isto give bread to his child; and if they ask as a child when heis hungry asks its mother for bread, they may always receive allthe light they need. This is applicable both to preachers andto teachers in Sabbath schools and Bible classes. If any of themattempt to teach the scriptures without being themselves taught,they are no more fit to teach without divine teaching, than themost ignorant person in the streets is fit to teach astronomy.I fear both minister and teachers generally, have understood verylittle of their need of this divine teaching, and have felt verylittle of the necessity of praying over their sermons and biblelessons, till they feel confident that the Spirit of God has possessedtheir minds with the true idea of the word of God. If this wasdone as it ought to be, their instructions would be far more effectualthan we now see them.
Do you, who are teachers of Bible and Sabbath-school classesin this church, believe this? Are you in the habit, conscientiouslyand uniformly, of seeking the true idea of every lesson on yourknees? Or do you go to some commentary, and then come and peddleout your dry stuff to your classes, that you get out of the commentariesand books, without any of the Holy Ghost in your teaching? Ifyou do this, let me tell you, that you had better be doing somethingelse. What would you say of a minister, if you knew he never prayedover his texts? You might as well have Balaam's ass for a minister,and even the dumb beast in such a case might speak with man'svoice and rebuke the madness of such a man. He could give justas much available instruction to reach the deep fountains of theheart, as such a preacher. Well, now, this is just as importantfor a Sunday-school teacher as for a minister.
If you do not pray over your lesson, until you feel that Godhas taught you the idea contained in it, beware! How dare yougo and teach that for religion, which you do not honestly supposeyou have been taught of God?
VI. It is a vast error in theological students, when they studyto get the views of all the great teachers, the tones of the fathersand doctors, and everybody's opinion as to what the Bible means,but the opinion of the Holy Ghost.
With hearts as cold as marble, instead of going right to thesource of light, they go and gather up the husks of learning,and peddle it out among the churches as religious instruction.Horrible! While they do thus, we never shall have an efficientministry. It is right they should get all the help they can fromlearning, to understand the word of God. But they ought neverto rest in anything they get from book learning, until they aresatisfied that God has put them in possession of the very ideawhich he would have them receive.
I have tried hard to make this impression, and I believe Ihave succeeded in some degree, on the theological students undermy care. And if I had done it more, I have no doubt I might havesucceeded better. And I can say, that when I studied theology,I spent many hours on my knees, and perhaps I might say weeks,often with the Bible before me, laboring and praying to come atthe very mind of the Spirit. I do not say this boastingly, butas a matter of fact, to how that the sentiment here advanced isnonovel opinion with me. And I have always got my texts and sermonson my knees. And yet I am conscious that I have gained very littleknowledge in religion, compared with what I might have had, ifI had taken right hold of the source of light as I ought to havedone.
VII. How little knowledge have the great body of the churchrespecting the word of God !
Put them, for instance, to read the epistles, and other parts,and probably they will not have knowledge enough to give an opinionas to the real meaning of one-tenth of the Bible. No wonder thechurch is not sanctified! They need more truth. Our Savior says,"Sanctify them through thy truth." This grand meansof sanctification must be more richly enjoyed before the churchwill know what entire sanctification means. The church do notunderstand the Bible. And the reason is they have not gone tothe author to explain it. Although they have this blessed privilegeevery day, and just as often as they choose, of carrying the bookright to the author for his explanation; yet how little, how verylittle, do the church know of the Bible, which they are consciousthey have been taught to know by the Holy Ghost! Read the textagain, read other similar passages, and then say if Christiansare not exceedingly to blame for not understanding the Bible.
VIII. You see the necessity that we should all give ourselvesup to the study of the Bible, under divine teaching.
I have recently recommended several books to you to read, suchas Wesley's Thoughts on Christian Perfection, the Memoirs of BrainerdTaylor, Payson, Mrs. Rogers, and others. I have found that, ina certain state of mind, such books are useful to read. But Inever pretend to make but one book my study. I read them occasionally,but have little time or inclination to read other books much whileI have so much to learn of my Bible. I find it like a deep mine,the more I work it, the richer it grows. We must read that morethan any or all other books. We must pause and pray over it, verseafter verse, and compare part with part, dwell on it, digest it,and get it into our minds, till we feel that the Spirit of Godhas filled us with the spirit of holiness.
Will you do it? Will you lay your hearts open to God, and notgive him rest, till he has filled you with divine knowledge? Willyou search the scriptures? I have often been asked by young converts,and young men preparing for the ministry, what they should read.Read the Bible. I would give the same answer five hundred times.Over and above all other things, study the Bible. It is a sadfact, that most young men, when they enter the ministry oftenknow less of the Bible than of any other book the study. Alas!alas! O, if they had the spirit of James Brainerd Taylor, hislove for the scriptures, his prayer for divine teaching, we shouldno longer hear the groans of the churches over the barrennessof so many young preachers, who come out of our seminaries fullof book learning and almost destitute of the Holy Ghost.
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