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the ancients, who seems to have had the good of his people much at heart, complains of them; that one cause of their little proficiency under him, in knowledge and holy practice, was their neglect of reading at home those scriptures which he explained to them.
He observes, likewise, that some of them made excuses for their not reading the scriptures, that they were too expensive for them to purchase. And, indeed, they were costly in those days when they were all written by the hand. But that pretence is now absolutely taken away, by the providential discovery of printing in these latter ages.
It is surely a just reproach to men, that they spend so much time about health, and recreations, and worldly matters, (we speak of those who are most harmlessly employed,) but can find no leisure, and will be at no expense to store our minds with the knowledge of divine truth, and thereby to cultivate virtuous dispositions and affections in ourselves, which will last for ever.
This study of the scriptures, where it is carried on with a single and sincere view to piety and a holy life, has a wonderful effect in exalting and improving men's natural capacities,
as it might well be expected that the peculiar blessing of the providence and good spirit of God should attend those who are so rightly employed. The sacred writers often mark out this difference, and the superior wisdom and dignity which it confers upon their character.
How different the man who at all convenient opportunities gives his mind to these lessons of divine truth, that he may there become wise and good, from those who trifle away their time, without thought or acquisition of any thing useful! They seem creatures quite of another species.
To draw to a conclusion.
The secret satisfaction which is felt by the pious mind in the perusal of these sacred volumes, is not easy to be described. Penetrated, as one well speaks, with gratitude in the thought of the divine goodness therein displayed, we feel a present recompense, and cannot refrain from thanking the divine bounty for giving us beforehand such an earnest and foretaste of those joys and consolations, which will be poured out hereafter on those who have profited here by these precepts of heavenly wisdom.
This study will likewise divert our minds
from those vain things which inflame our passions, and fill us with a just disgust of, and an earnest desire and endeavour to be delivered from, those selfish desires, and pride, and animosities, which are apt to cleave to us, and disturb our peace. And we shall long for that day, to which night will no more succeed; when we shall be admitted to those mansions, where, without partial remorse or interruption, we shall enjoy the bliss that will arise from the knowledge and assured favour of the best and most perfect Being; and from a benevolent exertion of those powers which he has bestowed upon his creatures for their mutual happiness and perfection.
And may this, this present and future blessedness, which flows from the study of the divine scriptures, and a life led in conformity to them, be the portion of all!
Unto God be glory and praise in all things, and for ever!
O thou Father of lights, and fountain of all good!
Blessed be thy name and thy goodness for
ever! that thou hast not left us to ourselves, to the light of reason alone, to find our way to thee; but hast graciously revealed thyself, and thy will and ways unto us; and hast appointed holy men, thy servants, to deliver and write down thy truth for our instruction: by which the knowledge of thee, our Creator, and of thy being, has been preserved in the world thou hast made; and we especially, that are now before thee, have been called out of heathen darkness into the marvellous light of thy gospel.
Suffer us not, O Lord our God, at any time to consider this, thy holy revealed truth, as a matter of fine speculation only, to fill us with curious sublime notions concerning thee and thy laws, O thou Most High! but help us evermore seriously to consider it as given by thee to make thy creatures of mankind holy and good, and thereby to fit them for the improvements and felicities of that eternal state of being for which thou hast graciously designed us.
We thank thee, O righteous Father! that when the world through wisdom and vain philosophy had lost the knowledge of thee, then did thy holy gospel, which appeared fool
foolishness unto men vainly wise, spread abroad the knowledge of thee, the only true God and in all times and periods since, where this thy truth and holy word has been searched into, the shades of darkness, idolatry, and superstition, have fled be
But do thou be pleased, O Lord, of thy goodness, to make our advances in the knowledge of thy sacred will, to which we shall attain, effectual to produce its genuine work of holiness in the heart and life: for, without this, all our knowledge will be vain.
It hath pleased thee, O Lord, to speak to us in the language of men, which is fluctuating and imperfect, so that labour and diligence is required of us, rightly to understand thy truth.
Make us to love thy testimonies; and fill us with ardent zeal to search the sacred volumes of thy holy word, that we may find the treasures of wisdom that are hidden therein.
But above all things, inspire us with holy and humble dispositions, with a love to thee and thy truth, and a delight in it: because thy wisdom will not enter into an evil heart, or dwell in a body given to sin.