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JOHN v. 39.
Search the Scriptures ; for in them ye think ye have
eternal life : and they are they which testify of me.
This command was originally given to the Jews by our Saviour. His object was to convince them that he was the true Messiah, by an appeal to their own sacred writings. And had this stubborn and unbelieving people obeyed this injunction in its true import; had they read with candour what was written in their Scriptures respecting Christ; had they, in doing this, felt the spirit of their monarch David, when he prayed, “ Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law," then would many have been ready to say, with Philip,“ We have found him of whom Moses, in the law, and the prophets did write; Jesus of Nazareth the son of Joseph.” Then would many
have resorted unto him as the true Messiah, and believed on him to the saving of their souls. But, alas! " that people's heart was waxen gross, and their eyes they had closed, lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their hearts, and should be converted.” A few were open to conviction ; but we have reason to fear that most of those who listened to our Saviour's instruction, and, perhaps, of those who heard the solemn injunction in our text, resisted unto the last the influence of Divine truth. Their doom has been fixed by God ;-we will not judge them. Let us, rather, my hearers, consider how much greater light we enjoy, and, of course, how much more aggravated will be our condemnation, if we close our eyes against that truth which is able to make us wise, through faith, unto salvation. We possess in our own language the word of God. Beside the Law and the Prophets, we have an additional Record, full of Divine instruction, and calculated to persuade every candid and
, sober mind of the truth and importance of the Christian Religion. The evidence, now, of Christ's Messiahship, and of the truth of what he taught, is overwhelming. It beams from every page of the New Testament, and extorted the confession of a celebrated infidel, that if Socrates, one of the most irreproachable of the heathen sages, died like a philosopher, Jesus Christ died like a God. Indeed, the conscience of every one who has been at the pains to peruse carefully what the Evangelists have recorded of our Saviour, bears witness that he was Divine, and that he is the only Refuge for our lost and ruined world. Let us apply, then, to ourselves the precept in our text, feeling that this day Jesus Christ, in fact, says to each one of us, “ Search the
Scriptures ; for in them
for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me.”
In further directing your attention to these words, I propose, first, to consider the importance of searching the Scriptures; and, secondly, with what spirit this search should be adopted.
I. The importance of searching the Scriptures is manifest from two considerations. It is the only way to acquire a correct knowledge of what concerns the welfare of our immortal souls. The habitual performance of this duty is absolutely necessary to the Christian's growth in grace. Let us notice each of these particulars.
1. Searching the Scriptures is the only way to acquire a correct knowledge of what concerns our immortal souls. Think, for a moment, my brethren,
of the condition of those who are destitute of the word of God. Cast your eyes upon those who inhabit the distant islands of the sea, or roam in the wilds of the Western world, or dwell in the pagan regions of the East. Select from among them the most enlightened of their wise men. Place him alongside of some little child of this congregation, who has been taught the first elements of the oracles of God. Let them converse together on moral and religious subjects. Let them speak of that great Being who made the heavens and the earth, who breathed into our nostrils the breath of life, who is the Father of our immortal spirits, the observer of all our conduct, and at whose bar we must one day appear to give an account for all the deeds which we have done here in the body. Which of the two, think you, would speak most
, worthily and correctly of God ? The pagan philosopher would have reason to blush at his ignorance, and to acknowledge himself capable of being taught the most sublime and important truths, even“ out of the mouth of babes and sucklings." -My brethren, we should be as ignorant as the Pagan, had we never listened to the instructions of the Bible. Our minds, like his, would be covered with gross darkness in regard to all moral subjects. Do you require proof of this ? It is furnished by every page of history; and by all we know of the religious knowledge of the wisest nations of heathen antiquity. They who have carefully read the most ingenious writings of pagan philosophy will assure you, that their notions of God, of virtue, and of a future state, are miserably low and erroneous. True, they had some glimmerings of the truth ; but these were few and feeble, and all of them were reflected from the Jewish Scriptures, or from the instructions given by God to the patriarchs of old, and transmitted through tradition.
But we need not resort to the experience of ages to establish the position that our knowledge of Divine truth must be derived from the word of God. Let us examine our own minds. Whence did we derive our acquaintance with religious truth? Surely it was not born with us. We have acquired it according as our mental powers have gradually strengthened and become capable of receiving it. Did we, then, originate it by our own powers of thought ? How, for instance, did we obtain the knowledge of a God ? By considering without any instruction the works of his hands which surround us ? Did these lead our minds to the great Maker of all things with no help from others, from our parents and instructors ? Alas! so far from seeing God in the various displays of his goodness in the heavens and in the earth, how did our youthful minds start back from this serious subject when it was proposed to us ; and how difficult was it, after all, to teach us to form any just conception of the great Jehovah ! No, my brethren ; if we look back upon the history of our own minds, we shall see that we are indebted to instruction for all that we know of God and a future state, and that this instruction was grounded upon the holy word of God. If, then, to know that dread Being, whose law denounces the most severe penalty against us, because we are sinners ; if to learn the real state of our moral condition, and on what our eternal safety depends ; if to hear of that
; Divine Saviour who poured out his blood on the Cross, that he might save all who put their trust in bim; if to be taught that there is a Holy Spirit, whose influences can change our corrupt and rebellious hearts, and prepare us for a world of purity and peace; if to have set before us the awful real
; ities of death, judgment and eternity ;-if these are