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2 TIMOTHY, III. 15. And that from a child thou hast known the
Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto Salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
When we are called to the performance of any duty, we should consider on what command or promise of God it rests. The divine will is man's rule and encouragement. In proportion as this is express and clear, we should exert ourselves with vigour and cheerfulness. Few duties then are enforced by more weighty considerations than that of assisting in the religious education of the young. The language of the Apostle in the text is sufficient to establish this point. For if the young are capable of knowing the Holy Scriptures from their earliest childhood; and if this knowledge be the ordinary means of making them wise unto Salvation, through faith in Christ Jesus; then the
obligation of instructing them must be imperious. A command and an encouragement are virtually united in the text; and we have only to enter fully into its meaning, in order to excite a Christian congregation to the exercise of its wonted benevolence.
Let us then consider,
I. The duty of communicating to the young an early knowledge of the Holy Scriptures.
II. The inestimable benefit arising from the right discharge of this duty.
On entering upon the subject, I would observe, that though the Apostle Paul must be understood as speaking in the text of the writings of the Old Testament; yet as his statement is equally applicable to all those sacred books which God has revealed for the instruction of mankind, we may fairly comprehend in our argument the entire Sacred Canon, as consisting of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament.
The Book, then, with which children are to be acquainted is the Holy Scriptures.
It is so called to distinguish it from the writings of the heathen moralists and philosophers, which treat of some branches of morals, and of civil justice and honesty, but do not rise to holiness and obedience to God. Such writings, therefore, in opposition to the Bible, are profane. They may contain some fine sentiments, and many acute and useful details of various virtues; but they are carefully to be separated, in point of design and authority, from the Book of God.
This is called Holy, as to its author, its subject, and its end. Its Author is the Holy God, being given by inspiration from Himholy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. Its subject is a doctrine according to godliness; as it treats of holy things, reveals holy truths, lays down holy principles, and enjoins a holy spirit and conduct. Its end also is to make men holy, and, through holiness, happy both here and hereafter.
The Bible is also thus described, as demanding a solemn awe and reverence on the part of those who read it. It is the volume of God. Other books of religion may be taken up and laid down as convenience or curiosity may suggest. We may approach them with more or less of respect and deference, as they are composed by persons of different measures of piety or information ; but the Bible is the Holy Book, to be opened with solemnity of mind, with submission to the authority of God, ą sincere desire to know and do his will, and prayer for the Holy Spirit to illuminate and sanctify our hearts. No levity is to be indulged here. The Bible stands separate and alone. It is a sacred spot; and when we draw near to it, the heavenly voice seems still to admonish us, Take off thy shoes from off thy feet; for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.
Of this book, then, we are to COMMUNICATE
KNOWLEDGE TO OUR CHILDREN; from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures. The Bible, to produce any effect, must be known. Man is fallen and corrupted; but he is not an irrational creature or a lifeless machine: he is to be led by knowledge.
To be acquainted with the Holy Scriptures, indeed, in the full extent of the term, is beyond the reach of ordinary Christians, even with the most enlightened and fervent piety, and with all the aids of long and diligent study. An adequate acquaintance with the Bible is the attainment of a life.
But there is an important knowledge of the Scriptures which is open to all, and which comprehends whatever is essentially necessary. The chief facts, the chief doctrines, and the chief precepts of the Christian faith lie on the very surface of the Bible, and are written as with a sun-beam; and he that is acquainted with them, may be properly said to know the Holy Scriptures.
For, the chief Facts of revelation may be learned by every devout reader. He will have no difficulty in understanding that the worlds were made by the word of God; that God made man perfect; that man fell and lost the divine image, and was driven from Paradise; that God revealed to him the gracious promise of a future Redeemer; that He called Abraham and chose his seed after him; that he delivered Israel from Egypt by the hand of Moses ; that he established a ceremonial and typical dispensation till the Messiah should appear; that he raised up Kings and Prophets to rule and instruct his people ; that in the fulness of time the Son of God was made flesh, died a sacrifice on the Cross, rose again from the dead, poured out the gifts of the Holy Ghost on the Apostles, and established his kingdom in the several parts of the known world.
Nor are the chief Doctrines of Scripture difficult to be ascertained by the humble inquirer. Such are, the evil and guilt of sin; the holiness of the divine law; the corruption of man's whole nature by the fall; his responsibility and accountableness; his condemnation as a transgressor ; his inability to save himself; the person and glory of the Son of God, his deity, incarnation, and sufferings; the proper atonement of his death; justification by faith only; the person and operation of the Holy Ghost; the