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time goes on, should we not discover in it more than we at present know on the subject of religion and morals ?

But this is hardly a question of practical importance to us as individuals; for in truth a very little knowledge is enough for teaching a man his duty: and, since Scripture is intended to teach us our duty, surely it was never intended as a storehouse of mere knowledge. Discoveries then in the details of morals and religion, by means of the inspired volume, whether possible or not, must not be looked out for, as the expectation may unsettle the mind, and take it off from matters of duty. Certainly all curious questions at least are forbidden us by Scripture, even though Scripture may be found adequate to answer them.

This should be insisted on. Do we think to become better men by knowing more? Little knowledge is required for religious obedience. The


and rich, the learned and unlearned, are here on a level. We have all of us the means of doing our duty; we have not the will, and this no knowledge can give. We have need to subdue our own minds, and this no other person can do for us. The case is different in matters of learning and science. There others can and do labour for us ; we can make use of their labours; we begin where they ended; thus things progress, and each successive age knows more than the preceding. But in religion each must begin, go on, and end, for himself. The religious history of each individual is as solitary and complete as the history of the world. Each man will, of course, gain more knowledge as he studies Scripture more, and prays and meditates more; but he cannot make another man wise or holy by his own advance in wisdom or holiness. When children cease to be born children, because they are born late in the world, when we can reckon the world's past centuries for the age of this generation, then only can the world increase in real excellence and truth as it

older. The character will always require forming, evil will ever need rooting out of each another. “As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,” such is the general history of man's moral discipline, running parallel to the unchanging glory of that All Perfect God, who is its Author and Finisher.




before and to aid us in our moral discipline must ever come fresh and immediate from the Holy Spirit. So the world ever remains in its infancy, as regards the cultivation of moral truth; for the knowledge required for practice is little, and admits of little increase, except in the case of individuals, and then to them alone ; and it cannot be handed on to


Practical religious knowledge, then, is a personal gift, and, further, a gift from God; and, therefore, as experience has hitherto shown, more likely to be obscured than advanced by the lapse of time. But further, we know of the existence of an evil principle in the world, corrupting and resisting the truth in its measure, according to the truth's clearness and purity. Whether it be from the sinfulness of our nature, or from the malignity of Satan, striving with peculiar enmity against divine truth, certain it is that the best gifts of God have been the most woefully corrupted. It was prophesied from the beginning, that the serpent should bruise the heel of Him who was ultimately to triumph over him ; and so it has ever been. Our SAVIOUR, who was the Truth itself, was the most spitefully entreated of all by the world. It has been the case with His followers too. HE was crucified with thieves ; they have been united and blended against their will with the worst and basest of mankind. The purer and more valuable the gift which God bestows, far from this being a security for the truth's abiding and advancing, rather the more grievously has been the gift abused. St. John even seems to make the greater wickedness in the world the clear consequence and evidence of our Lord's having made His appearing. “Little children, it is the last time” (i. e. the time of the Christian Dispensation) “and as ye have heard that Antichrist shall come, even now are there many Antichrists, whereby we know that it is the last time 3.St. Paul drew the same picture. So far from anticipating brighter times in store for the Church before the end, he portends evil only. “This know” (he says to Timothy), “ that in the last days perilous times will come. .... Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived 4.”

In these and other passages surely there is no encouragement to look out for a more enlightened, peaceful, and pure state of the Church than it enjoys at present : rather, there is a call on us to consider the old and

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2 Tim. iii. 13.

original way as the best, and all deviations from it, though they seem to promise an easier, safer, and shorter road, yet as really either tending another way, or leading to the right object with much hazard and


obstacles. Such is the case as regards the knowledge of our duty,—that kind of knowledge which alone is really worth earnest seeking. And there is an important reason why we should acquiesce in it; -because the conviction that things are so has no slight influence in forming our minds into that perfection of the religious character at which it is our duty ever to be aiming. While we think it possible to make some great and important improvements in the subject of religion, we shall be unsettled, restless, impatient; we shall be drawn from the consideration of improving ourselves, and from using the day while it is given us, by the visions of a deceitful hope, which promises to make rich but tendeth to penury.

On the other hand, if we feel that the way is altogether closed against discoveries in religion, as being neither practicable nor desirable, it is likely we shall be drawn more entirely and seriously to our own personal advancement in holiness; our eyes being withdrawn from external prospects will look more at home. We shall think less of circumstances, and more of duties under them, whatever they are. In proportion as we cease to be theorists we shall become practical men; we shall have less of self-confidence and arrogance, more of inward humility and diffidence; we shall be less likely to despise others, and think of our own intellectual powers with less complacency.

It is one great peculiarity of the Christian character to be dependent. Men of the world, indeed, in proportion as they are active and enterprising, boast of their independence, and are proud of having obligations to no one. But it is the Christian's excellence to be diligent and watchful, to work and persevere, and yet to be in spirit dependent; to be willing to serve, and to rejoice in the permission ; to be able to view himself in a subordinate place; to love to sit in the dust. Though in the Church a son of God, he takes pleasure in considering himself Christ's “servant” and “ slave;" he feels glad whenever he can put himself to shame. So it is the natural bent of his mind freely and affectionately to visit and trace the footsteps of the saints, to sound the praises of the great men of old who have wrought wonders in the Church and whose words still live; being jealous of their honour, and feeling it to be even too great a privilege for such as he is to be put in trust with the faith once delivered to them, and to follow them strictly in the narrow way, even as they have followed Christ. To the ears of such persons the words of the text are as sweet music : “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and

shall find rest for


souls.” The history of the Old Dispensation affords us a remarkable confirmation of what has been argued from these words; for in the time of the Law there was an increase of religious knowledge by fresh revelations. From the time of Samuel especially to the time of Malachi, the Church was bid look forward for a growing illumination, which, though not necessary for religious obedience, subserved the establishment of religious comfort. Now, I wish you to observe how careful the inspired prophets of Israel are to prevent any kind of disrespect being shown to the memory of former times, on account of that increase of religious knowledge with which the later ages were favoured ; and if such reverence for the past were a duty among the Jews when the Saviour was still to come, much more is it the duty of Christians, who expect no new revelation, and who, though they look forward in hope, yet see the future only in the mirror of times and persons past, who in the angel's words) “wait for that same Jesus ... come in like manner as they saw Him go into heaven.”

Now, as to the reverence enjoined and taught the Jews towards persons and times past, we may notice first the commandment given them to honour and obey their parents and elders. This, indeed, is a natural law. But that

so to


circumstance surely gives force to the express and repeated injunctions given them to observe it, sanctioned too (as it was) with a special promise. Natural affection might have taught it; but it was rested by the Law on a higher sanction. Next, this duty of reverently regarding past times was taught by such general injunctions (more or less express) as the text. It is remarkable, too, when Micah would tell the Jews that the legal sacrifices appointed in time past were inferior to the moral duties, he states it not as a new truth, but refers to its announcement by



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a prophet in Moses age,– to the answer of Balaam to Balak, king of Moab.

But, further, to bind them to the observance of this duty, the past was made the pledge of the future, hope was grounded upon memory ;

all prayer for favour sent them back to the old mercies of God. “The Lord hath been mindful of us, He will bless us *;" this was the form of their humble expectation. The favour vouchsafed to Abraham and Israel, and the deliverance from Egypt, were the objects on which hope dwelt, and were made the types of blessings in prospect. For instance, out of the many passages which might be cited, Isaiah says, “Awake . of the Lord, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old 6.Micah, “ Feed thy people with thy rod, the flock of thine heritage, which dwell solitary in the wood, in the midst of Carmel ; let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old; according to the days of thy coming out of Egypt will I show unto him marvellous things?.” The Psalms abound with like references to past mercies, as pledges and types of future. Prophesying of the reign of Christ, David says, "The Lord said, I will bring again from Bashan, I will bring my people again from the depths of the sea,” and Moses too, speaking to the Israelites—"Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations; ask thy father and he will show thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee 8.” Accordingly, while a coming Saviour was predicted, still the claims of past times on Jewish piety were maintained, by His being represented by the prophets under the name and character of David, or in the dress and office of Aaron ; so that, the clearer the revelation of the glory in prospect, in the same degree greater honour was put upon the former Jewish saints who typified it. In like manner the blessings promised to the Christian Church are granted to it in the character of Israel, or of Jerusalem, or of Sion.

Lastly, as Moses directed the eyes of his people towards the line of prophets which the Lord their God was to raise up from among them, ending in the Messiah, they in turn dutifully exalt Moses, whose system they were superseding. Samuel, David, 5 Psalm cxv. 12.

6 Isa. li. 9. 7 Mic. vii. 14, 15.

8 Deut. xxxii. 7.

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