Brethren Archive
1 Peter i. 11

Angelic Interest in the Disclosures of the Gospel

by Henry Craik


    A SERMON
Preached at Bethesda Chapel, on the Evening of Christmas Day, 1859.

" . . . which things the angels desire to look into."—I. Peter, i. 11.

The previous verses of this chapter are distinguished for compass of thought, richness of expression, and a very elevated exhibition of Christian experience. It is evidently the object of the Apostle to lift up the minds of his readers above the sorrows of their pilgrimage, by leading them more fully to appreciate the blessedness of an interest in the great salvation. He sets before them the electing love of God, the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, and the efficacy of the blood-shedding of the Lord Jesus Christ. He directs their thoughts to the heavenly inheritance which is in sure reserve for all believers. He comforts their hearts by reminding them of that Divine guardianship by which their ultimate possession of that inheritance is secured. He tells them that this great salvation has been, in all ages, the subject of earnest enquiry and thoughtful contemplation to the most gifted of God's servants;—that those inspired messengers, who, through the possession of the spirit of prophecy, were endowed with an insight into the future, and enabled to predict the sufferings and glory of the Saviour, pondered, with diligent reflection, the meaning of their own predictions and the application of those predictions to the coming of the great Deliverer and the events connected there with. He then passes away from the prophets of ancient days, and from the divinely commissioned messengers of the time then present, and, directing their attention to those who encircle the throne of God in Heaven, he sums up this introductory portion of his epistle with the brief, but most deeply interesting, declaration—"which things the Angels desire to look into."
In directing your thoughts to the consideration of these words, I shall endeavour, by the help of God, to lay before you:—
I. The Fact here announced.
II. Some op the Reasons on which this Fact is founded.
III. Some of the Lessons which it is fitted to teach us.
I.—(1.) The term "Angel" in its primary import, is descriptive of office, and not of nature. The Greeks knew of no such beings as Angels, in the Scriptural meaning of the term; but the word which they employed to denote "messenger" was adopted by the inspired writers, who, in the act of thus adopting it, enlarged and elevated its signification. Even in Scripture, it is often used to denote an earthly messenger; and, in some passages, this two-fold application of the word occasions a slight ambiguity; but, generally, the context serves to settle the question as to the sense in which the term is to be understood. Both in the Old and New Testament, very frequent mention is made of those heavenly messengers. They are described as exceedingly numerous,—endowed with marvellous powers—pure, and holy, and obedient—swift to fulfill the will of Jehovah—and serving Him with all their capacities. They are represented as taking a deep interest in the well-being of men, and as willingly devoting themselves to attend upon the children of God. We may not yield them undue honour,—we may not bow down before them, nor render them that homage which belongeth only to the living God; but we may legitimately take comfort from the conviction that they have been given us by the King of Heaven, as our guards to conduct us to the celestial city. Well has one of our own poets said:----
"Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth
Unseen, both when we wake and when we sleep."
While the mere earthly-minded man sees nothing but what he can perceive with the natural eye, the true believer, with the eye of faith, beholds chariots of fire and angelic occupants round about those whom the world despises; and, as we walk about in a world full of danger and sorrow, we are warranted to rejoice in the conviction that, as the angels are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister unto the heirs of salvation, so our heavenly Father giveth them charge over us to keep us in all His ways. There have been men who prided themselves on their superiority to vulgar superstitions, and their high attainments in sound philosophy, who would explain away, as mere metaphorical expressions, all that which Scripture reveals respecting angelic beings. They profess to believe in God, but, with that one exception, they will allow nothing to have any real existence except that which their eyes see and their hands can handle. How full of presumption! How utterly unreasonable is such a philosophy as this! Have not the discoveries of modern astronomy laid open to the inquisitive mind of man such evidence of the extent of the material creation as is calculated to baffle the most capacious intelligence and to overpower the loftiest imagination? The telescope has unfolded suns and systems utterly overwhelming in their interminable extension, so that, in striving to form some idea of the vastness of the universe, the mind sinks back utterly exhausted. Now, just as modern science has laid open the existence of unnumbered worlds in addition to this earth of ours, which, but for such discoveries, might have been deemed the greatest of the material works of Jehovah; so the Bible tell us of principalities and powers,—of authorities and dominions,—of ranks and orders, in regular gradation and unnumbered multitude, ever attending upon the throne of the Highest, and ever engaged in the execution of His gracious designs.
(2.) The Apostle here affirms, respecting the Angels, that "they desire to look into "the things publicly ministered by Christ's servants under the leading and energy of the Holy Spirit. Under such a statement, we are warranted to include everything connected with the redemption that Christ has accomplished, and every result of that redemption in time and eternity. Whatever may legitimately be associated with our glorious Immanuel,—whatever, in anywise, relates to the present or future well-being of His people,—may be regarded as comprehended within the scope of angelic scrutiny, and as the object of delighted interest to the powers and principalities in heavenly places. His mysterious incarnation—the union of the divine and human in His undivided personality—the temptations He experienced—the instructions He delivered—the miracles He wrought—the sufferings He endured—the sacrifice He offered—His death, resurrection, and ascension—His session at the right hand of God—and His intercession, on our behalf, within the vail—His triumphant return and glorious kingdom, all are included in the statement before us. Angels waited upon Him while on Earth, they announced His birth, they ministered unto Him, after He had worsted Satan and come forth uncontaminated by contact with the tempter;—they were also the witnesses of His agony, and the glad messengers of His triumph over death and the grave. After He had disappeared from the longing eyes of His disciples, angels appeared to comfort them by informing them of the place whither He had ascended, and of the certainty of His return. And as they waited upon every step of His sojourn on earth, during the days of His flesh, so have they continued ever since to take a real interest in those on earth who belong to the Saviour. Not "grudgingly, nor of necessity," do they undertake or execute the commissions with which they are entrusted on the behalf of the saints of the Most High. The church is to them the mirror in which they see reflected the manifold wisdom of God.
While the men of the world despise or neglect the great salvation, and even while true Christians often feel but too little interest in the things revealed in Scripture, the angels seek to penetrate into the wisdom, love, and power exhibited in the great plan of redeeming love. Although far advanced in knowledge, as in might, above the condition of humanity, and having probably opportunities of gaining instruction from which mortals are excluded, they yet regard the sufferings of Christ, and the glory thence resulting, as constituting the chief exhibition of Jehovah's character. To us the Word of God, when rightly apprehended, bears constant testimony, directly or indirectly, concerning the person, and work, and character of Him who is the one great theme of prophecy, and the fact that Angels feel the deepest interest in the truths contained in that Word, is fitted to rebuke our indifference, and to stir us up to more earnest endeavours to apprehend and enjoy the disclosures of the Bible.
II. Having thus briefly considered the fact here stated by the Apostle, I come now, in the second place, to notice some OF THE REASONS ON WHICH THAT FACT IS FOUNDED.
(1.) The angels take a deep interest in Gospel verities because they are holy creatures, and therefore in sympathy with the mind of God. We know, from the highest authority and the strongest evidence, that the Blessed Being who planned the method of our redemption takes the deepest interest in the accomplishment of His own gracious purposes, grounded upon the work of His only begotten Son. But the angels, being holy, must be in sympathy with the thoughts of Him who is the Spring of all holiness and the Fountain of all blessedness and joy.
There is no discord—no lack of harmony in Heaven. All that bow before the throne of the Eternal, yield heartfelt homage to their glorious King. His interests are their interests; whatever He regards with complacency, in that they also find their satisfaction—so that this interest felt in the plan of redemption is a necessary result of that condition of internal conformity to the Divine image which belongs to those elect angels who have been upheld in their original purity and bliss. Likeness to God, they cannot be disjoined from holiness, and the various ranks of the heavenly messengers are all described as the holy angels.
As benevolent beings, they rejoice in those discoveries of the Divine character which are fitted to impart peace to the disquieted, and gladness to the despairing heart. They know what the Gospel can do; they have repeatedly witnessed what it has done,—for "there is joy in heaven among the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." They delight to contemplate the softening, soothing, sanctifying effects of that Divine remedy which has operated, as a heavenly balm of Gilead, upon so many diseased and miserable victims of satanic power.
(2.) Again, the angels are possessed of high intelligence, and capable of deriving delight from the employment of those capacities wherewith their Creator has endowed them.
Among fallen beings there is often a practical opposition between intellectual strength on the one hand, and spiritual attainments on the other. The man of large and penetrating mental powers will often be found on the side of the world; while persons of little intellectual ability may be found among the number of those who have obtained the pearl of great price, and are living in the conscious enjoyment of the Saviour. But there is no necessary connection between intellectual strength and that pride or indifference which leads to the rejection of the Gospel; for the angels, "who excel in strength," find exercise for their loftiest powers in the objects which it lays open to their contemplation. We are so constituted, by our Creator, as to be capable of finding delight in the exercise of those powers wherewith He has endowed us, and by which we are distinguished above the inferior creation, and we ought thankfully to enjoy that which He has bestowed. In the study of His holy Word, the main thing is that our hearts be rightly affected by what that Word declares concerning Him—whom to know is everlasting life; but there is also a sanctified use of our mental powers, in connection with our inquiry into the things of God, which is to be regarded as a legitimate source of enjoyment, and in which we may, in our feeble measure, have fellowship with those whose original position in the scale of being, is higher than our own. (For it becomes us ever to remember that, although in Christ, all who believe are exalted above the highest ranks of angelic beings, and brought nearer to the throne of the Highest, yet our first parents, even in a state of innocency, were, as to their creature standing, "lower than the angels.") If to us, amidst all the hindrances connected with our present condition of infirmity, there be a pure and elevated delight in the study of Divine truth, and the exercise of our several powers in prayerful investigation of the blessed Word of God; surely we need not wonder that the angels,—possessed of higher powers, and free from the infirmities that clog the wheels of our spirits and hinder the rapidity of our intellectual motions,—should find, in such contemplations, a sublime delight. Most of us, I believe, lose much by yielding to mental indolence, or by failing to cultivate habits of self-restraint. All over-indulgence of our sensual appetites will be found prejudicial to the liveliness and activity of our internal powers; nor will prayer and contemplation be successfully pursued except even lawful indulgencies are kept under the check of a vigorous vigilance. Most Christians know little of the extensive fields of enquiry opened up to the diligent student of Scripture. If any are conscious to themselves of powers adequate to the task, and the providence of God permits them to enjoy the necessary leisure for the extensive and thoughtful study of the Divine Oracles, let them know that the exact study of those languages in which the Scriptures were originally written:—the comparison of ancient predictions and more modern fulfilments—the reverent inquiry into apparent diversities of statement—the application of Bible principles to questions connected with the duties and requirements of business, and the state of modern society—these, and other related subjects of legitimate interest, are sufficient to afford ample scope for the energies of the most gifted and laborious of Scripture-students. Let everything be attended to in a spirit of lowliness, dependence, and prayer. Let the object aimed at be our own spiritual profit and the edification of our fellow-believers, and then we need not fear the result. It is an evil thing to feed the understanding, and to starve the affections; but it is also an evil thing to starve the understanding, and seek only the gratification of spiritual feeling. The angels know the joy of holy feelings; but they also know the delights attendant upon intellectual exercise. If hitherto we have been satisfied merely, or almost exclusively, with the former, let us henceforth endeavour, by God's grace, to aim after the enjoyment of the latter also. The combination of the two is essential to the maturity of our Christian manhood.
(3.) Another ground upon which this declaration is founded depends on the fact that the angels, although marvellously gifted with intelligence and endowed with most comprehensive knowledge,—are still capable of advancing to a condition of higher attainment. Progress is one of the laws of their existence. The knowledge and enjoyment of God constitute the essence of their blessedness. As God is infinite in all His unutterable and glorious attributes, so no limit can be set to their measure of attainment in the apprehension of those attributes. The law of this lower creation is altogether different. Origin, growth, maturity, and decay, characterize "every living thing," whether rational or animal. Even trees, and plants, and flowers—like animals and men—have their birth and growth, their maturity and dissolution. But those spiritual existences, spoken of in Scripture under the name of angels, are ever advancing in the career of progress. They have been, ever since their creation, employed in learning and in serving; and every fresh exhibition of the Divine character, as manifested in creation, providence, or grace, becomes the means of elevating them to a higher reach of apprehension, and a larger amount of enjoyment. They do not know all things, as God does, by immediate intuition. The term here employed by the Apostle, and rendered "to look into," is adapted to express and illustrate the mode in which the angels seek to make still clearer discoveries of the ways of God. That term implies a prying interest—and argues a kind of loving curiosity, which leads to careful examination. It is found only in Luke xxiv. 12; John xx. 5, 11; and James i. 25; and thus, including the instance before us, occurs only five times in the New Testament. On earth, we can find no example of unlimited and undecaying advancement. The acorn becomes a sapling, the sapling grows into a tree, and flourishes, as the monarch of the forest, for many a summer, and braves, without injury, the blasts of many a wintry storm; but, at length, old age comes on, and the once vigorous trunk gives evidence of decay.
The infant gradually advances, through childhood and youth, to full maturity of age and stature. The mind also reaches the full development of its powers. In some rarer specimens of humanity, the several faculties expand into a condition of marvellous strength and extraordinary elevation. But after a few short years at the most, genius loses its brightness, and intellect its penetrating power. Old age brings dullness and decay. Mere natural endowments obey the same law that regulates the growth and dissolution of the feeblest flower. "For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth," so also the rich and the learned, the men of successful ambition and of loftiest genius, "fade away in their ways." But the angels, upheld by the might of Omnipotence, retain their ever-expanding powers in immortal vigour. After the lapse of ages—in the maturity of their strength—they rejoice in the freshness and the glow of undecaying youth.
III. I come now, in the last place, to notice some of the PRACTICAL LESSONS WHICH THE STATEMENT WE HAVE BEEN CONSIDERING IS FITTED TO TEACH.
(1.) Perhaps the most obvious is a lesson of reproof. If the angels, who have no immediate and personal interest in the blessings of redemption, examine with such prying scrutiny the mysteries of the Gospel, with how much livelier an interest ought we, for whom that redemption has been provided, to ponder its character and results. Are there not some here present who have never felt any real interest in the disclosures of the Bible? Some to whom its pages have presented nothing of an attractive character? Some, who, possessing a copy of the Scriptures, and leisure and opportunity for studying their contents, have yet allowed subjects of a mere earthly nature entirely to occupy their minds? Let me remind you of the folly and the guilt with which you are justly chargeable in thus neglecting the "Words of eternal life." No mere mental acquirements, no mere worldly possessions, can satisfy your deepest necessities or render you truly happy. In the knowledge of God, and in that only, can you ever find solid satisfaction. The purest and most unalloyed delight is to be found in the saving knowledge of Him, of whom Moses in the law, and the Prophets wrote, and in whom alone such sinful beings as we can find pardon and peace. The Blessed God has devised a plan of infinite wisdom, and unutterable love. He has sent His only-begotten Son to accomplish, what no mere creature would have been capable of effecting. He has sent His Holy Spirit to enable His chosen servants to unfold in human speech the history and progress of Redemption. He has caused that precious record to be translated into your own mother-tongue. It appeals to your most legitimate curiosity; it concerns your highest well-being; it is adapted to call forth every affection of your hearts, and every faculty of your minds. It furnishes you with Divine instruction in every variety of outward form. Its histories carry you back beyond the period embraced in any history of mere human authorship; its predictions, partly fulfilled and partly awaiting their fulfillment, attest its heavenly origin; its exhibitions of Jehovah's character inspire sentiments of deepest reverence and grateful adoration; its hymns of praise and triumphant thanksgiving are adapted for training us to become heavenly worshippers; and yet you can live in the habitual neglect of a Book that presents itself with such unrivalled claims. It sets before you a Saviour adequate to supply your every real need, and it invites you to contemplate His work and character as, through the power of his Spirit, the appointed means for attaining that holiness which is essential to the enjoyment of God; and yet, though pardon, and peace, and everlasting blessedness, depend upon the knowledge and reception of what that Book contains, you can leave it unread and unprized. This indifference to God's blessed Word confirms its testimony, and ought to alarm and humble all who are conscious of having hitherto neglected the great salvation. At this festive season,—when, through the length and breadth of Christendom, the birth of a Saviour is professedly observed, how fearful is the reflection that thousands celebrate that most marvellous manifestation of Divine wisdom and compassion, by acts of sensual indulgence and sinful gratification! One of our greatest poets, by a beautiful play of imagination, speaks of the powers of evil being restrained in their working during that hallowed season----"Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated;" but such an assertion has no foundation in fact or experience. During this season of the year, while professing to keep up a festival in honour of the Lord Jesus Christ, His authority is openly disregarded, and His Word set at nought by large numbers of those who call themselves by the name of Christian. What an illustration does this melancholy fact afford at once of the depravity of man, and of the patience and long-suffering of God. Your only real security against following a multitude to do evil will be found in a believing reception of the Gospel, and a diligent taking-heed to the instructions of that Book wherein the principles of that Gospel are set forth. A taste for Divine knowledge will destroy your relish for the impure and degrading pursuits of worldliness and sin, and, lifted up into the atmosphere of communion with God, you will escape the pollution by which so many suffer themselves to be defiled.
In the good providence of God, you have been permitted to see the last Lord's-day of another year. I would entreat those of you who have hitherto neglected those themes of pure and elevated contemplation "into which the angels desire to look," to reflect on the many opportunities you have neglected, and the many warnings you have slighted, during the course of the year that has so nearly terminated. Still, God has borne thus far with your continued course of thoughtless ungodliness. He is still waiting to be gracious unto you. If conscious to yourselves that, in your present condition of soul, you are unfit to die, and that you have never yet, in good earnest, sought His favour,—now, at last, be persuaded to humble yourselves under His mighty hand, and to seek, above all things, that you may experience the enlightening, convicting, comforting and sanctifying power of His Holy Spirit. Let the closing days of this 1859, be characterized by a heartfelt turning unto God, and, during the whole period of your future existence, this will be marked as a season "much to be remembered," and you will look back upon it with feelings of liveliest gratitude. Henceforth, God will open up to you "waters in the wilderness and streams in the desert." You may have to pass through many a trial; the path may be sometimes rough and toilsome, and dark and dreary; but, while trusting in the living God, you will never be left utterly destitute. You will be warranted to take home to your heart the consolations which all pilgrims travelling towards the heavenly Canaan may, without presumption, expect to enjoy, and to say, with the poet:—
"From darkness here, and dreariness,
We ask not full repose:
Only be Thou at hand, to bless
Our trial hour of woes.
Is not the pilgrim's toil o'erpaid
By the clear rill and palmy shade?
And see we not, up earth's dark glade,
The gate of heaven unclose."
(2.) But, while the subject before us is calculated to minister reproof and warning to those who have hitherto neglected their highest interests; surely we who have, through grace, been led to prize the Divine Testimonies, and to find them to be more precious than thousands of gold and silver, may gather instruction and encouragement from the statement on which I have been led to dwell this evening. This statement is fitted to remind us of the value of Divine knowledge, and to lead us to seek a keener relish for that spiritual nourishment which the Word of God sets before us. We are so constituted by nature that the exercise of our faculties, even in the lower region of mere earthly objects, is accompanied with a measure of satisfaction and delight. But to the renewed mind there will always be a sense of deficiency and disappointment connected with the pursuit of mere secular studies, if looked at apart from their relation to Him who is the Fountain of all light and the Spring of all holy enjoyment. Such studies may exercise a strengthening influence upon our mental faculties, and may render us more useful members of society, and, in various ways, augment our capacity of benefiting our fellow men; but in themselves, they fail to meet the cravings of our weary hearts. On the other hand, the study of Divine truth, and of all that which bears upon its enjoyment, or aids in its illustration, ministers to present satisfaction, and fits us for future service. Such studies tend to the nourishment and strength of the inner man, and help our communion with the Father of our spirits. The savour of them serves to preserve our minds from being carried away by the worldly influences to which we are all, more or less, exposed; and the consolations arising out of them aid us in sustaining the pressure of trial, and in resisting the temptations by which we may be assailed.
We are pupils in the school of God, and cannot, therefore, give our best energies to that species of learning which will cease to be of any value when we come to bid an eternal farewell to this present world. In the study of Divine truth, we are exercising our souls in the contemplation of those objects which will continue to interest our hearts after this brief earthly existence shall have passed away. Though nearer the throne of God, and dearer to Him that sitteth thereon than even the elect angels, we may yet be associated with them hereafter in reverently pondering on the great redemption. Dwelling together in our Father's house on high, we may together inquire in His temple. Vanity and evanescence are thus stamped upon the highest attainments in mere secular science, while solid worth and lasting perpetuity characterize that knowledge which maketh wise unto salvation. When great men die,—when those who have successfully explored some formerly unknown region of natural science, or who have extended the power of man over mechanical forces previously unsubdued, are suddenly called away from this present state of being,—we may not think of them as having lived to no purpose, or as having sinfully expended their lofty powers on worthless objects of pursuit. Still, after they are gone, the inquiry will arise, whether their minds and hearts were wholly devoted to the pursuit of science? and, in reflecting on their removal to another world, we are comforted by any satisfactory evidence that they cherished a true appreciation of the value which belongs to the pursuit of heavenly wisdom. Thus, the instinctive feelings of believers bear witness to the infinite value of those truths which call forth the intense interest of angelic beings, while they minister to the eternal well-being of man.
In conclusion, I would take this opportunity of offering a word of exhortation in relation to the right mode of dealing with the Word of God. Some may entirely neglect the study of the Divine Oracles, while others may read them habitually, and yet fail to derive from their perusal any spiritual profit. It is requisite that the Bible be dealt with in a right frame of spirit, in order that the legitimate effects of its heavenly instructions may be experimentally realized. We must read it with conscious dependence,—child-like submission,—earnest diligence, and practical application.
(a.) The express declarations of Scripture, illustrated by the uniform experience of the best specimens of Christian attainment ever known on earth, are fitted to impress our minds with the urgent need of the help of the Holy Spirit, in order that we may rightly learn those truths which that Book unfolds to our hearts. Prayerful dependence upon the teaching of the Comforter is absolutely essential to preparedness of heart and illumination of the understanding. The waywardness of the will, the perversity of the affections, the darkness of the mind, can only be removed by the gracious, enlightening, softening, and sanctifying energy of the Spirit of all grace. Let, then, all your study of the Bible be begun, carried on, and concluded in a spirit of dependence upon that help which God has promised to all those who diligently seek for Him. Never expect by your own mental efforts or untiring exertion to apprehend aright the things of God. No ability, however great—no learning, however extensive—no diligence, however unwearied—can make up for that dependence upon Divine teaching which must lie at the foundation of all successful study of the Word of inspiration. Let it be deeply impressed upon your hearts that "the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow," constitute the leading theme of the Bible from its commencement to its close, and that the Spirit of God is the appointed and willing Agent for taking of the things of Christ and manifesting them unto the children of men. Begin, if you have never yet heartily done so, begin from this very hour, to ask God to impart to you His Holy Spirit in connection with the secret study of His Word; and see if you do not find, by happy experience, that it is no vain thing thus to call upon the Lord.
(6.) Child-like submission is another essential requisite to the right study of the Scriptures. Receiving the Old and New Testament as coming to you with a Divine authority, you cannot consistently set up your own preconceived opinions, or your own natural partialities, in opposition to the testimony of the Most High. You may aver that, as you cannot read the original Scriptures, and as there may be errors in the Translation, this submission to the teaching of your English Bible must be capable of a measure of limitation. But such limitation does not touch the great leading facts of the Gospel, nor the principles of Divine truth, either in experience or practice. No Translation is an absolutely perfect counterpart to the original, yet none of our Protestant Translations fail to convey substantially to the mind of the reader all that which is necessary for "life and godliness." An amended Version would, for the most part, only set in a clearer light some of those passages which are defectively, or obscurely, rendered. Even those mistranslations which are positively erroneous teach no essential error, and keep back no essential truth. Whatever infidels, on the one hand, or Romanists, on the other, may assert to the contrary, all qualified scholars—of all Christian denominations—admit and maintain that no variety in the readings of the ancient manuscripts, and no correction of errors in our Authorized Translation would alter, either by addition or excision, those truths that make up the great system of Scriptural Christianity. No ancient books have come down to us with that weight of evidence, as to their being genuine and uncorrupted, which belongs to the writings of the Evangelists and Apostles; and the mistakes of transcribers, and slips of godly translators no more interfere with the spiritual nourishment ministered by the English Bible, than a few grains of husk in a wheaten loaf would interfere with the nutritive power of that bread which "strengthened the heart of man." In such matters, ignorance is the mother of infidelity, and knowledge is the handmaid of faith.
Firmly maintaining the importance of an acquaintance with the original Scriptures to all, who, in the Providence of God, are placed in circumstances to acquire it, I find great satisfaction in seeking to disabuse the minds of my fellow-believers, who may be the subjects of groundless fears or distressing apprehensions in reference to that Book on which they are resting their souls for eternity. I would not exchange the ability to read the Scriptures in the original for all the wealth which the richest millionaire in England could offer me, and I believe that the wide-spread indifference, among Christian men, to such acquisitions is founded on ignorance or delusion, and upheld by indolent acquiescence in a customary neglect. But, inasmuch as, in the present condition of society, this knowledge can never be generally diffused among the mass of Christian people, it cannot be regarded as essential to progress in spiritual attainments and advancement in practical knowledge of Divine truth. Therefore, let no misgiving thoughts about the Translation hinder you from yielding yourself up with devout docility of mind to the teachings contained in your English Bible.
(c.) Lastly, let me remind you that an indolent and thoughtless perusal of Scripture is, of necessity, dishonouring to its Author, and prejudicial to your own spiritual well-being. Read the Bible slowly, reverently, earnestly, and, specially, with self-enquiry and self-application. Remember the weighty saying of the Apostle James—"Whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his doing." Read the Word of God, that you may know His will, so that having known His will, you may seek to do it. In no other way can you grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. The object sought, in beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, is that we may be changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. Thus only shall we advance onwards in that path of the righteous, likened unto the light which shineth more and more unto the perfect day. Thus, by real, although imperfect, discoveries of God, while still struggling amidst the darkness and the infirmities of the flesh, we shall be able triumphantly to look forward to that time when we shall be like Christ, because we shall see Him as He is, when we shall see His face, and His name shall be written on our foreheads. Then shall the song of the angelic host, heard by the Shepherds on the plains of Bethlehem, find its full accomplishment—
"Glory to God in the highest,
On earth peace,
Goodwill toward men."
Amen.






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