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BY REV. ROYAL ROBBINS, Berlin, Conn.
THE SPIRIT OF THE BIBLE.
Ps. cxix. 156.--Quicken me according to thy judgments.
The Psalm from which this passage is selected, besides its numerous particular instructions, is not incorrectly viewed, also, in its general tone, as a test of Christian feeling and experience. Here, the established believer meets with almost every thing he has thought and felt respecting the Bible, and its message of God's mercy to this guilty world. The rich variety of his experience in this matter, is here exhibited with the utmost fidelity. He knows that the spirit which dictated these warm expressions of regard for the Sacred Volume, and these delineations of its effects, is a searcher of his own spirit, and congenial to it. Whatever is unlike it, he is assured is unholy and unchristian.
The Psalmist, after acknowledging the greatness of the Lord's tender mercies, entreats that he may be quickened according to the divine judgments, that is to say, agreeably to God's message in his written word. The terms judgments, statutes, testimonies, and the like, in the present Psalm, designate, as you are aware, the Sacred Scriptures, so far as they were then communicated. This quickening according to the judgments or the word of God, I consider the same thing as having the spirit of the Bible within us. ment with the sentiment thus suggested by the text, at least in the way of accommodation, the following hints are thrown out, in the hope that the Divine Sanctifier will make the needful application to Vol. XIII. No. 8.
your hearts. Let, then, the thought be prominently brought into view--that it is all-indispensable the spirit of the Bible should be infused into every soul.
Let it, in the first place, be briefly inquired what is that spirit.
The spirit of the Bible is its moral peculiarity-is the temper and feeling which it breathes, and with which it imbues the mind that receives it. This, indeed, would present a wide field of remark, as it is nothing less than the whole of experimental religion. But it is designed here to touch only on a few leading thoughts.
First, the spirit of the Bible is a spirit of truth. It is marked, in every part of it, by the veracity of Him who dictated its contents. It teaches truth, and truth only, and that of the highest concernment to the children of men ; so that whatever is revealed in the Sacred Volume may be entirely depended on, and indeed demands unhesitating belief.
But its spirit is that of truth, not only as teaching truth, but as inspiring a love of it. For to him who obtains his religious views from the Bible, there is the operation almost of a charm in the communications of that book. Nothing seems to him so sure and so conformed to the reality of things, as those communications; and he recurs to them at times with intense delight. Nothing seems to him more desirable than truth, and such truth, and he is made indeed to love it wherever he traces any vestiges of it. He is in search of this more than the philosopher's stone, whatever field of inquiry he surveys —whether the heavens or the earth--whether creation, providence, or grace.
A great American scholar and philosopher, who lately deceased among us, is said to have uttered truth, truth, truth, as the last words which he spoke. It may well be the motto of every one, and that in a higher sense, perhaps, than was intended by the person alluded to. The Bible especially inspires a noble love of truth, and lights up the unquenchable flame of religious investigation in every bosom which is imbued with its influence.
The spirit of the Bible is also a spirit of love. It breathes the benevolence of its author in every page.
It exhibits a love on the part of God our Savior, which is unparalleled in the history of the universe. And it is calculated to transmit this holy sentiment to the hearts of those whom it savingly benefits. Love becomes one of their chief characteristics-love to being in general, to all beingsto God first of all, and to his creatures, of whatever rank or degree of intelligence, for his sake. This is one of the most distinguishing characteristics of Bible Christians. In their case, the native character of enmity and selfishness is changed, and the beauty of disinterested, impartial love shines in their disposition and conduct. The Bible teaches and inspires the love of complacency towards all holy beings, and fills the hearts of Christians with good-will towards every rational creature, whether good or evil. In respect to our fellow-men, in particular, it inculcates a broad and effective philanthropy. None among them are so degraded, vicious, or unworthy, as not to become the objects of that benevolence with which the Bible imbues the soul. White or colored, the freeman or the slave, civilized or savage, rich or poor-all come under the law of love, as the Christian reads his Bible, and as it leads him to practice. That message of God's mercy, wherever it is welcomed, tends utterly to banish the malignant and selfish passions, and to implant the kind, gentle, and social virtues in their room.
The spirit of the Bible is likewise that of purity. By this quality all its communications are distinguished, and its unvarying aim is to produce a morally upright state of the soul in every person who is brought within its influence. It is God's chief instrument in effecting moral changes among sinners, and in adorning them with the beauties of holiness. “ The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” All the exhibitions and precepts of the divine word are stamped by holiness. They are holy in their nature and in their tendency. The Bible inculcates nothing wrong, either in essence or in form. No incorrect principle--no unsafe rule of life, was ever legitimately derived from that book. Nothing there contaminates and debases the mind, but every thing is adapted to purify and elevate it. Every thing there breathes of purity. The law is pure--the gospel is pure. Right motives of conduct are enjoined. Holy objects of pursuit are placed before the mind. Every divine communication is designed to inspire purity within. When the word is learned and received in some measure as it should be, it imparts a love of purity, and produces actual purity of thought, conversation, and conduct. It is, in fine, the great means which the Spirit of God employs in preparing sinners for that blessedness which is pronounced upon the pure in heart, and which is impliedly promised to those who follow holiness, namely, that they shall see God.
The spirit of the Bible is moreover that of humility. That sense of guilt and unworthiness--that low opinion of our own merits and attainments—that esteeming of others as better than ourselves, which characterizes the children of God, is emphatically the scriptural temper. It is a moral peculiarity which strikes every one who becomes acquainted with the Bible and the system of religion which it teaches. It is a temper unknown to the world, and indeed directly opposed to the feelings of worldly men. A haughty, self-sufficient, in
dependent disposition, is more commonly that of unrenewed man, He has no proper sense of his demerit as a sinner, and does not seem to understand his assigned place before God or his fellow-creatures. They have conversed with the word of God in vain, who have not been taught this cardinal virtue. Its whole plan of salvation, as well as its individual precepts, are designed to abase the proud heart, to strip the sinner of every plea of self-preference-of every claim to good, except in the sovereign mercy of God through Jesus Christ. And its action on minds already renewed, prepares them continually to mortify the appetite for worldly great things and consideration among
The good servant of God, who was in the habit of stopping his ears, that he might not hear the commendations which were bestowed upon his public performances, is only an example of a more palpable form in which this temper is expressed. Pagan antiquity was so ignorant of this characteristic of a truly excellent nature, that it had no name to designate it. The humility of the cultivated Greek and Roman was meanness of spirit. But in the nomenclature of Christianity it is the only moral worth.
The spirit of the Bible is furthermore a spirit of filial confidence. It teaches the obligation of faith and dependance on God, as no other book does; points to doctrines that must be believed, and a Savior who must be confided in-a Savior who is the only sufficient and all-sufficient object of human hope, and shows by examples the power of this principle in the heart, in its triumph over moral and physical evil. They who obtain and manifest the spirit of the Bible, are men of faith. They trust in God--they trust in Christ, as the only rock of safety, as the only refuge of lost sinners. Their reliance on him is the reliance of children, and it leads them to adopt the filial prayer of "Abba Father.” They cultivate this grace as peculiarly becoming those who are “ bought with a price," and who expect a glorious inheritance of immortality. If "the evil days" are arrived, if trials thicken, if events take place differently from what was to be hoped, still they trust in God, believing that all occurrences are at his control, that the hearts of men are swayed by his influence, and that he will fulfil his own good, though inscrutable, purposes, through every scene of confusion, darkness, disappointment, and sin, in this world. In the event of death, they carry the temper of the Bible with them, meekly and confidingly, though it may be with much anguish of body, resigning their spirits into the hands of Jesus, and humbly hoping to be received and remembered in his kingdom.
In public trials, they who have been taught of God in his word, carry the same confidence with them. It may not be seen, at first, in what manner evil can be averted. Indeed it is not known but that it is best that the evil feared should be inflicted. The chastisement may be needed. The work of God, perhaps, will not be revived without it-certainly not without the humiliation which divine inflictions are designed to produce. Still they whose temper is framed after the scriptural model, will trust in God that deliverance shall be accomplished, if to him it seems best. They will not prematurely despair, repine, and give up all exertion. If no human arm or wisdom can effect the salvation of a community, they doubt not that God, in his might and mercy, can do it.
The spirit of the Bible, in addition to all the above, is that of obedience. Such a disposition is found in all whom it has savingly enlightened and impressed. To do what God has bidden, and to refrain from doing what he has prohibited, constitutes the peculiar character and life of piety. An obedient temper is the prominent trait in every renewed mind. It is the ultimate and crowning excellence and test of religion. We may appeal to that in order to know whether we are Christians or not, when every other criterion has been applied and left us in uncertainty. It comes, then, to be a . question of fact--of actual occurrence. We may take, as the matter of our judgments, that which is palpable and immediately obvious to the senses or to the mind. What is the manner of life? What is the course of conduct ? What are the daily habits of feeling and performance in regard to the truths and precepts of Scripture ? Is there a coincidence between the one and the other ? The true believer's plan of life always includes universal compliance with the commands and will of God. That is a settled purpose, from which he does not habitually and knowingly deviate. And it is obedience within as well as without. It is the rule of the disposition and of the heart, as well as of the overt acts. They who are not willing to obey God in his word, and are inclined to make excuses for sloth and inaction-who prevailingly omit duty and seek to extenuate their faults, and especially who feel that they may occasionally venture on an act of transgression, however slightmare far, very far, from hav. ing the spirit of the Bible wrought in them. They manifest that they know as yet nothing as they ought to know-that they have come in contact with the word to little purpose, if they have not learned the great point on which it insists; or if, having learned it, they refuse compliance. Such, in a few particulars, concisely stated, is the spirit of the Bi
As we may well wish to know how it may be transferred to ourselves, a direction or two will here be given.