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prayer is also very useful; our Lord has greatly encouraged his people in this by- the promise of his presence. * It was the practice of the saints of old,t and is the way to obtain signal blessings for the church and ourselves. It is to be lamented that many young professors do not attend to this important branch of prayer as they ought. They should recollect that in this exercise they are a source of comfort to others, while they are im. proving their own gifts; that these meetings are indicative of love and benevolence, as here we pray more especially for one another, and the welfare of the church; and that it is an evidence of peace and harmony, and forebodes the prosperity of Christ's kingdom in the world. It was a law among the Romans, that none should come near the emperor's tent in the night, upon pain of death; but one night a certain soldier was apprehended standing near the emperor's tent, with a petition to deliver unto him; he was therefore, according to the law, immediately to be executed: but the emperor hearing the noise from within his pavi. lion, called out, saying, “ If it be for himself, let him die; if for another, spare his life.” On be. ing examined, it was found that his petition was for two of his fellow soldiers, that were taken asleep on the watch, and accordingly he escaped the punishment. And thus God is well pleased with the intercession of his people for others, as it shews their affection, their disinterestedness, that they do not seek their own but another's good.
In the performance of this duty, however, it may be necessary to suggest a few hints. There is no occasion to be tedious : scriptural expressions should be attended to in preference to any witty or singular terms of our 'inventing. It should be always entered upon with deep solemnity, a repetition carefully avoided, unpleasant gestures and tones watched against, the voice sufficiently distinct, but not too loud ; and, above all, a heart decply affected with the greatness and goodness of God, and our own unworthiness. It is not to be expected, until you are farther advanced, that you can have gifts equal to others ; yet while you preserve decency and modesty in all your deportment, do not be too backward to en. gage in this work. If you cannot as yet stand before the older and more experienced, be not afraid to make trials with and among those of your own standing. God will be with you ; he loves to see his own united, and he has promised to increase their talents in the exercise of them. *
* Matt. xviii. 20.
of Mal. iii. 16.
Acts xii. 12.
The next important duty we would direct your attention to, is that of reading. This is one great mean which Providence has afforded us for our instruction, and ought not to be neglected by
* Young converts ought to be encouraged to meet together for prayer and praise : some give early indications of their future greatness in these exercises. The celebrated Dr. J. Edwards, with some of his companions, at a very early age, joined together, and built a booth in a swamp, in a very secret and retired place, for a place of prayer.
The great Mr. Matthew Henry, when but a child, used to spend an hour every Saturday afternoon in religious exercises with his sis. ters, by his father's direction, and in his presence : if at any time he thought his sisters too short in prayer, he would gravely and gently tell them, it was impossible in so short a time to include all the cases and persons which they had to recommend to God in prayer.
those who have the ability and opportunity to read: it will be of peculiar advantage to you, whose minds cannot be as yet considerably informed. And here, above all other books, let the Bihle be your companion. In reading this inestimable volume, observe the following rules. 1. Never think of understanding the sacred scriptures without divine assistance; look up to God, therefore, for his blessing and guidance.-2. In general consult the context, and beware of taking detached parts to favour a pre-concerted scheme.
-3. Where it has a double sense, endeavour to understand the literal meaning, before you attempt to accommodate it to that of a spiritual.-4. Beware of a fanciful interpretation, and do not affect to find out strange things which wers never noticed before. *-5. Be not startled at apparent con. tradictions of the different writers : they lived in various ages and places, and used different ima. ges; but by considering the objects they had in view, and the situation, time, &c. of the writer, you will find these apparent contradictions vanish. -6. Look upon the scriptures as a grand whole, displaying at once man's rebellion, and God's wonderful plan of saving and supplying him through his Son Jesus Christ.-7. If there are difficulties which you cannot get over, do not puzzle and make yourself unhappy, because you do not immediately understand: go on 'in patient researches, and ask instruction from the wise and experienced among the people of God.-8. Be not ashamed to use those helps which Gud has favoured us with, if you can possibly attain them. * --9. Never let your faith in them be shaken, nor your diligence in studying them be relaxed by the sneers and ridicule of infidels and wicked men : few, if any of them, have ever read them through with care; they are, therefore, no more judges of them than a blind man is of colours. 10. Compare one scripture with another, and observe how happily one part explaints another. 11. Always read them with a design to get your mind more informed, your affections warmed, and your conduct regulated. If, through the di. vine blessing, you are enabled to observe these rules, you will find the scriptures to be a pleasant field, where are to be found the stores of spiritual wealth, the medicine which will prove an antidote against all the evils of life, and where will open to you the sublimest, grandest, and most soul-satisfying prospects that can possibly be enjoyed. Be not afraid that you shall ever exhaust this valuable treasure.“ Daily experience convinces me more and more (said Dr. Doddridge) that as a thousand charms discover themselves in the works of nature, when attentively viewed with glasses, which had escaped the naked eye, so our admiration of the holy scriptures will rise in proportion to the accuracy with which they are studied.” Embrace every opportunity, therefore, of reading and studying them : their divinity, antiquity, har. mony, penmen, preservation, purity, simplicity, variety, and wonderful effect, demand your perpetual admiration and regard. Never let a day slip, if you can well help it, without examining and retaining in your memory some part of this precious treasure. Let it dwell in you richly in all wisdom; and thus you shall find it to be as a lamp unto your feet, and a light to your path.
* It is affecting to observe how many pervert the scriptures, under the pretence of finding its spiritual meaning; and those preachers, who from a plain text, or simple historical relation, can discover some extraordinary idea, however contrary to sound judgment and common sense, are reckoned by many the deepest divines ! ....Reader, beware of such a false taste.
* Perhaps no commentaries, on the whole, are more useful and edifying than those of Henry and Scott. ,
As to other books, let them be read in subserviency to the Bible. Cultivate a taste for reading: they who never read, are seldom much informed, while they are strangers to a thousand intellectual pleasures which the judicious reader enjoys. There are some who affect to be wise without any assistance of this sort : they boast of supernatural instruction, and pour contempt upon all human learning and publications. The Bible alone, say they, is our study; all beside is insipid trash, and worthless publications. But such are hardly worth reasoning with, for it has never been discovered that they have possessed superior wisdom or religion to others. Books undoubtedly have their advantage. “The writings of divines are nothing else but a preaching of the gospel to the eye, as the voice preacheth it to the ear. Vocal preaching hath the pre-eminence in moving the affections, and being diversified according to the state of the congregation which attend it; but books have the advantage in many other respects: you may read an able preacher, when you have but a mean one to hear. Preachers may be si-, lenced or banished, when books may be at hand: books may be kept at a smaller charge than preachers : we may choose books which treat of