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Church of England
SUNDAY SCHOOL QUARTERLY
1st JANUARY, 1862.
The Teacher in his Closet.
A HANDFUL OF CORN FROM OLD FIELDS.
We study and search the Scriptures : oh alas! but we first seek not, or crave for God's Holy Spirit; but read learning thereout, something to show ourselves gospellers; or picking places everywhere to maintain argument.
Strype, Life of Archbishop Whitgift.
Some things in Scripture are hard, I deny not: it is very expedient that somewhat should be covered, to make us more diligent in reading, more desirous to understand, more fervent in prayer, more willing to ask the judgment of others, and to presume less on our own.
The general end both of the Old and New Testaments is one, the difference between them consisting in this, that the Old did make wise by teaching salvation through Christ that should come; the New by teaching that Christ the Saviour is come, and that that Jesus whom the Jews did crucify, and whom God raised up, is He.
We must attach ourselves to those things which are delivered in the Scriptures, but not seek into those which are not established in the word of God, because the Holy Spirit would have put them into the Scriptures, if it had been necessary for us to have known them; and we must not imagine ourselves wiser than the Holy Spirit. If certain things are not written, they must not even be mentioned, while on the other hand it is criminal to efface those which are writ. ten; for we are not masters but disciples.
Every mind not infatuated by intellectual vanity must admit that it is only some few necessary points of knowledge relating to the constitution and movements of the spiritual and infinite world that can be made the matter of revelation to mankind, and these must be offered in detached portions, apart from their symmetry. Meanwhile the vast interior, the immeasurable whole, is not merely concealed, but is in itself strictly incomprehensible by human faculties.
Read the Bible !-read the Bible! Let no religious book take its place. Through all my distresses and perplexities I never read any other book, and never felt the want of any other. It has been my hourly study; and all my knowledge of the doctrines, and all my acquaintance with the experience and realities of religion, have been derived from the Bible only. I think religious people do not read the Bible enough. Books about religion may be useful, but they will not do instead of the simple truth of the Bible.
Mrs. Hannah More used to repeat from her friend, Mrs. Kennicott, a little anecdote of Dr. Kennicott, which strikingly proves
how much the love of the sacred volume grows with its perusal. During the time that he was employed on his Polyglot Bible, it was her constant office in their daily airings, to read to him those different portions to which his immediate attention was called. When preparing for their ride, the day after this great work was completed, upon her asking him what book she should now take, “Oh," he exclaimed, " let us begin the Bible.”
The Bible is like a fair and spacious orchard, wherein all sorts of trees do grow, from which we may pluck divers kind of fruits ; for in the Bible we have rich and precious comforts, learnings, admonitions, warnings, promises, and threatenings. There is not a tree in this orchard on which I have not knocked, and have shaken at least a couple of apples or pears from the same.
Let no man think that the diligent reading of the Holy Scriptures will leave him with slight and imperfect knowledge. Such a study embraces the chief points of all human learning and science, In thoroughly knowing the Bible, he will know the most ancient and authentic history, the most sublime strains of poetry, the most just lessons of deep wisdom to guide his life, the most curious antiquities of nations, the most perfect book of devotion, the only infallible theology, the only origin and nature of the world in which he lives, and the only true information concerning that to which he is going; it will lay open to him the elements of oratory, and the purest speci. mens of eloquence, the secret springs of all human actions, and the chief events that shall hereafter take place up to the final judgment of all things. One justly said, “ give me a candle and a Bible in a dark dungeon, and keep me there, and I will tell you all that the whole world is doing."
It is true that there be dark and deep passages in Scripture, for the exercise, yea for the humbling, yea for the amazing and astonishing of the sharpest sighted readers. But this argues much the pride and vanity of men's minds, when they busy themselves only in those, and throw aside altogether the most necessary, which are therefore the easiest and plainest truths in it. As in nature, the commodities that are of greatest necessity God hath made most common and easiest to be had, so in religion, plain instructions are given us to live by; and in the search of things that are more obscure, and less useful, men evidence that they had rather be learned than holy, and have still more mind to the tree of knowledge, than the tree of life. And in hearing of the word, are not they who are any whit more knowing than ordinary, still gaping after new notions, after something to add to the stock of their speculative knowledge, loathing this daily man
na, these profitable exhortations, and "requiring meat for their
“ lust ?" But remember there is intemperance of the mind as well as of the mouth.
Again we have others complaining of the difficulty and darkness of the word of God and Divine truths; to say nothing of Rome's doctrine, who talk thus in order to excuse the sacrilege of stealing away the word from the people of God, (a senseless pretext, though it were true ; because the word is dark in itself, should it therefore be made darker, by locking it up in an unknown tongue?) but we speak of the common vulgar excuse, which the gross ignorant profaneness of many seeks to shroud itself under, that they are not learned, and cannot reach the doctrine of the Scriptures. There be deep mysteries there indeed; but what say you to these things,such rules as these ? “Honour all men, Love the Brotherhood, Fear God, Honour the King ?" Are such as these riddles, that you cannot know their meaning ? Rather do not all understand them, and all neglect them? One well said, “ the best way to understand the mysterious and high discourse in the beginning of St. Paul's Epistles is to begin at the practice of those rules and precepts that are in the lattor end of them."
In the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament there is no dis. tinction of verses. Robert Stephens is thought to have been the
. author, or inventor of verses in the New Testament in 1551, and of the whole Bible in 1555. Michælis
that the Old Testament was divided into verses in the thirteenth century by Cardinal Hugo de Sancto Caro. It appears
that the Saxons had more than one translation of parts at least of the Bible among them. The first remarkable translation of the Bible was however by John Wiclif, who died in 1384. In 1526 William Tyndale printed the first edition of his New Testament. The first English Bible, or complete translation of the Scriptures printed, was that by Myles Coverdale, Bishop of Exeter, in 1535. Archbishop Cranmer's Bible was printed in 1539, and Richard Taverner's in 1575 ; while the present Authorised Version was di. vided among 47 translators, and first printed in 1611.
There is such fulness in that Book that oftentimes it says much by saying nothing; and not only its expressions, but its silences are teaching, like the dial, in which the shadow as well as the light informs us.
The very night before the Lady Jane Grey suffered death, she addressed the following exhortation to her beloved sister, the Lady Catharine Grey, in a letter written at the end of her Greek Testament; “ I have here sent you, good sister Catharine, a book which though it be not outwardly trimmed with gold, yet inwardly it is more worth than precious stones. It is the book, dear sister, of the law of the Lord; it is his Testament and last will, which He bequeathed to us poor wretches; which shall lead you to the path of eternal life."
“ Progresses of Queen Elizabeth.”
How but from God could men unskilled in arts,
Cities fall, kingdoms come to nothing, empires fade away as the smoke. Where is Numa, Menos, Lycurgus ? where are their books? what is become of their laws ? But that this Book, no tyrants should have been able to consume, no tradition to cloke, no heretic maliciously to corrupt,—that it should stand unto this day, amid the wreck of all that is human, without the alteration of one sentence, 80 as to change the doctrine taught within, sure here is a very singular Providence claiming our attention in a most remarkable manner.
The Bible was not designed to clear up every difficulty. There are three lights, the light of nature, the light of grace, and the light of glory. The first cannot explain why a good man should suffer, and a bad man should flourish ; but the light of grace solves the difficulty by teaching us that there is a future life, in which the wicked shall be punished, and the righteous rewarded. But the light of glory teaches us that the ways of God, which are incomprehensible at present, will at the last day appear most manifestly to be strictly just, and holy in the very highest degree.