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A TOPICAL ARRANGEMENT
INSTRUCTIONS OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.
ADAPTED TO THE USE OF MINISTERS, SABBATH SCHOOL AND BIBLE CLASS
TEACHERS, FAMILY WORSHIP, AND PRIVATE MEDITATION.
PUBLISHED BY WILLIAM PEIRCE.
Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1837,
By J. U. PARSONS,
in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
PHILOSOPHERS of all ages have deplored the inefficiency of systems of Ethics, however pure, to reform and regulate society. And while their own hearts have struggled against their precepts, they have buried the last hope of essentially benefitting their race, by witnessing how powerless all their demonstrations of duty and right fell upon the multitude.
What heathen or Christian philosophy never could accomplish, God proposes to do by his word.
THE BIBLE, AS A REVELATION FROM GOD, AND THE BIBLE ONLY, CAN RESTORE MAN, AND REBUILD THE RUINS OF HIS FALL. To this end it is expressly and PERFECTLY adapted. "The law of the Lord is perfect, CONVERTING THE SOUL." The Gospel of Christ is WISDOM and power.
It may not be unprofitable to bestow a few thoughts on the perfect adaptation of this instrumentality to its purpose, the recovery of the world to holiness and God; and the manner in which it should be employed to promote that object.
When the word of God challenges for itself perfection, it must by no means be limited in our minds to a freedom from inculcating errors in sentiment, or immoralities in practice. The moral code of Plato or Seneca might be as pure as that of the gospel, and yet be perfectly powerless in reclaiming men. Truth from their lips is truth; but it is the production of the statuary; fair in its proportions, comely in its features, the combination of all beauties in its design, and adorned with every grace; yet cold, motionless, lifeless — a statue of stone. In the Bible, it is the production of the great Architect of the universe, who breathes upon a fabric of clay, and it becomes a living soul. It is vivified by the same divine inspiration which clothed the universe with life.
The foundation of its power is laid in the CHARACTER WHICH IT GIVES TO GOD; reflecting, as in a mirror, the image of the only being in the universe, to whom our consciences or judgments, unbiassed by prejudice, would allow us to ascribe perfection. Every conceivable attribute is predicated of him which enlightened reason approves, and in just those proportions, which are essential to the highest excellence of the whole. God is just; yet justice with him is not a naked, heartless demand for right; for God is merciful. And mercy is not a weak and sickly indiscriminate act of oblivion for all offences, and complacency towards all offenders, irrespective of character; for he is JUST. "God is love;" but love controlled by that discriminating holiness which cannot behold iniquity, and sanctioned by that indignation at sin which renders him a flame of fire to the incorrigible transgressor, and declares "if he turn not, He will whet his glittering sword." Not a principle is wanting to constitute Him worthy of perfect trust; not a passion ascribed to Him which can detract from his moral excellence.
Thus He becomes at once the center of attraction for all beings in his intelligent creation, which are controlled by the same law of love, and the center of repulsion for all others. His perfections are held up as so many brilliant elementary colors, which are beautiful in themselves-glorious in combination as the bow of promise but which only become the "light of the world," when blended intimately and in their due proportions, communicating life, and becoming the infallible medium of clear and accurate perception of moral objects and relations. Let but one elementary ray be wanting, and every object upon which the beam shall fall will be distorted and discolored. Let but one perfection be abstracted from the character of God, and he is no longer GOD. Power is not God, or knowledge, or wisdom, or justice, or benevolence; but all his perfections, perfectly and harmoniously united in one, constitute the character which demands our homage.
Upon this foundation is built a perfect corresponding system of precepts and prohibitions. The keenest scrutiny of carping skeptics can find no point at which its moral code is not impregnable. They dare not assail one of its provisions. They dare not hazard the imputation of ignorance or selfishness by calling in question one of its principles.
The perfection of its code is also seen in its COMPLETENESS. There is nothing defective, no point of duty which is not covered, no emergency, amid all the infinite vicissitudes of life, unprovided for; there is nothing superfluous — no rule which could be spared without leaving a deficit. And withal, so simple, summed up in ten simple statutes, which may be written on a single page, instead of filling cumbrous folios; and yet so universal in its extent and application - requiring no revision, no legislative councils to repeal and reënact, suited to all climes, all ages, all classes and conditions of men, and forming by common consent the common law of all nations who become acquainted with its principles. It stands before us as a mirror, reflecting back the perfect image of him whose character it portrays, and from whose inspiration it was given.
We may also notice the perfection of Revelation in its development of human character, and adaptation to it. It addresses itself to the work of recovering man to God, by illuminating his darkness, and sanctifying his corruption. To this end, it developes the whole depravity of his character. It searches every recess of the heart, "deceitful above all things and desperately wicked." It holds up the malignity of his guilt in all its darkness, conscious of its ability to administer a healing balm to every wound. It speaks to man, not as a pure intellect, but as a moral being, lapsed and fallen, but capable of hearing and appreciating argument and motive. It speaks to him not merely to please or startle with new and wonderful views of God, or to instruct his understanding; but to lay its hand upon his raging passions-to regenerate his principles to dethrone his chosen divinities, and subdue the whole soul to God.
To give it such resistless energy, it is invested with a perfect SANCTION. Not an inducement to obedience, which the universe affords, is wanting-not an appeal omitted. Heaven, earth, and hell are exhausted of all that is lovely to inspire, and all that is fearful to awe-all that is winning to allure. Not an emotion, not a sensibility of human nature, remains unaddressed or unsolicited to contribute its influence to subdue the reigning power of sin. "I HAVE LOVED YOU, saith the