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THE DUTY OF STUDYING THE HOLY SCRIPTURES WITH PATIENCE.
ROM. XV. 4.
Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning; that we, through patience, and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope.
WHENEVER we are led by the temptations of the world, acting on our own sinful propensities, to violate the obligations of any Christian duty, we know not what an accumulated train of evils may follow, as the natural consequence. For example, by first transgressing the bounds of temperance, in a slight degree, habits of sensual indulgence and extreme profligacy have been gradually formed, which have led to disease and ruin, to infamy, and untimely death. Many a thoughtless youth, also, who, in early life, when
released from the wholesome control of parental authority, neglected his duty to God, and listened to the seductive voice of idleness, or pleasure, has sunk, almost insensibly, into the lowest state of vice and dissipation; and when standing on the verge of eternity, has confessed, with all the bitterness of remorse, that his sufferings, and his crimes, originated from the thoughtless and sinful profanation of the Christian Sabbath.
If we attend to the common breaches of the sacred duty of truth, we shall frequently observe a similar progression, from slight delinquency, to vice and wickedness of the deepest dye. The same habits of falsehood, which the usages of the world, on some frivolous occasions, are supposed to sanction, or excuse, will often prevail, when vanity seeks for gratification, or when selfishness, combined with any of the malignant passions, is eagerly pursuing its object. Thus, at length, will falsehoods be scattered in every form of turpitude and malice ;-sometimes to remove the imputation of guilt or folly from ourselves, and sometimes to fix it undeservedly on others. The last stage of depravity in this sinful course is, when the awful sanction and solemnity of oaths are disregarded;-when men presume to make
their own distinctions, also, between oaths of what they call form and ceremony, and oaths in their common use and application. Hence it is, that the course of justice between man and man is often impeded, or turned aside, and that our Courts of judicature are almost daily polluted with the dreadful crime of perjury.
Still more numerous, perhaps, but not so alarming, or atrocious, are the evils, which result from neglecting to cultivate the humble and passive duty of patience, mentioned by the Apostle in the text. Connected as it is with that learning, or rather that instruction, which we are taught to seek in the Holy Scriptures, we may be well assured, that it forms an essential requisite in pursuing the great work of Christian edification, and improvement. Of this we shall be the more sensible, if we mark the evils of a hasty and impatient temper; which is too often associated with vanity, arrogance, and pride;—with excessive sensibility to every thing that respects ourselves, and, not unfre quently, with the want of all proper feeling for every thing that concerns another. Hence originate rash judgments, mischievous errors, and precipitate, if not irretrievable mistakes.
From the same source proceeds the hasty
adoption of scandalous reports, and often that speedy propagation of calumny and malice, which, in many cases, can never be entirely stopped, or counteracted. It is impossible, also, not to observe, and lament, how frequently the prevalence of this same disposition impedes the progress of the young at an early period, when making those acquirements, which are necessary for their station in life; and, afterwards, when engaged in the laudable pursuit of eminence and fame in some liberal profession. Not without talents, perhaps, but without that patient industry, which is necessary to the successful cultivation of them; and not without ambition, but not being steadily directed to any praise-worthy object, they are unable to avail themselves of any favorable opportunity, that might promote its gratification, or render it successful.
But it may be more useful to advert to the many hasty decisions, that have been adopted, and the many deplorable errors that have been committed, on the subject of religion, chiefly from the same cause. It is a little remarkable, that, in studying "those things, which were written aforetime for our learning," the holy apostle should require, in addition to what must
doubtless be presupposed, namely, the utmost reverence, impartiality, and attention, the peculiar requisite of Patience: but, for want of this, or from the prevalence of passions and propensities, that are in direct opposition to it, "The Gospel of Christ," we know, "was to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness."
It is deeply to be lamented, that it should still be so to many rash, impetuous mortals at present; who, unfortunately for themselves, and others, have rejected the words of Divine Truth, because all their vain inquiries have not been satisfied, and because every ground of cavil, from "the oppositions of science, falsely so called," as St. Paul observes, has not been immediately removed. A little Patience, united with deference, and humility;-sufficient time for inquiry, with earnest prayer for further light, might have dispelled the mists that interrupted their view, and enlisted all the powers of their minds, together with the best affections of their hearts, in favor of Revelation, instead of marshalling them in proud array against it.
Not to enter into any length of critical disquisition on this subject, which, I am well aware, is better adapted for the closet than the