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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
W. H. Bonner
I love the Bible. As the storehouse of religious knowledge; as the instrument of ministerial usefulness; as the test of Christian experience; as the guide of social order and guardian of civil freedom; as the only sure barrier against the desolating inroads of fanaticism, Socinianism, and atheism; as the friend of the people, irrespective of condition or class; and as the "world's best hope."
I love the Bible:
I love its testimonies, for their truthfulness and moral grandeur. I love its arguments, for their fairness and cogency.
I love its invitations, for their condescension and freeness.
I love its promises, for their appropriateness, vastness, and certainty.
I love its prayers, as models of filial freedom and believing reverence.
I love its songs, for their solemn gladness, and their godly bearing.
I love its precepts, for their equity and chasteness, their accordance with the principles of grace, their affinity with the promises, and their applicability to the vicissitudes of my heaven-ward pilgrimage.
I love it for its Author and authority; for the evils it rebukes and removes; for the good it does and designs; for the goodness it reveals and requires; for the fellowship it creates and the friendship it sanctifies and cements; for the happiness it diffuses, and the prospects it unfolds.
I love it as a record, a memorial, a standard, a treasure, a companion, and a guide.
As a law-book it is the cheapest and safest; as a prayer-book, it is full and infallible; as a hymn-book, alike faultless are its theology, poetry, spirit, and style; and as a school-book, it surpasses every other for fixing the attention, feeding thought, controlling the imagination, informing the judgment, training the conscience, educing the superior affections of the heart, and in every respect fitting for society.
Therefore I love it in the study, the pulpit, and the pew; in the counting-house and the workshop; in the garden and the field; in the sitting-room and the bed-chamber; in the railway-carriage and the steamboat; in the morning and the evening; in sickness and in health. In every case and place, be it near me for reading or learning, for counsel or comfort.
Because of its Divine origin and originality, it is the best of books; and in religion is the sole authority, infallible and absolute. It needs not and will not sanction a companion volume, as being equally with itself a test of truth or rule of practice. To "the Bible, the Bible only," every one who would learn "the good and the right way," must apply his mind and yield his conscience. He must resort to it, not to obtain support to opinions previously adopted, but to receive meekly, unreservedly, and unhesitatingly whatever is really taught therein.
"For instruction, for conviction, for reformation, (or restoration) and for education in righteousness," the scriptures, "given by the inspiration of God," are "profitable" and sufficient. No tenet is true, no principles are sound, no motives are pure, no conduct is correct, no hope is well founded, no precepts are binding, no ordinances, rites, or ceremonies are becoming, and no worship is acceptable, except in harmony with this sacred volume.
It alone is the standard of morals and prescriber of piety. It is not a book of science; yet every science is false that is contradictory to it. It is not a book of politics; yet all politics which are adverse to its principles, are unjust and mischievous. It is a book for time, to guide through it; a book for earth, to lift above it; a book for society, to regenerate and elevate it.. It is a book for man, in relation to man his brother, — and for man the sinner, in relation to "God the Saviour."
It is "the book of Jehovah," because it, and it only, teaches us of the One eternal Being, who of himself alone is immutably existent; who in himself alone is absolute perfection; who is the first cause of all things good, and the end of all things, both in the way of terminating what is to be concluded, and of consummating what is to be completed.
It is "the word of Christ," because "the testimony of Jesus," the appointed Redeemer of sinners and Lord of saints, is its alpha and omega — beginning and end. it is "the word of truth," because its records are facts, its gifts are substantialities, its requirements are righteousnesses, and its predictions and promises are but anticipations of providence, which, without exception, in due time and order become verities.
It is a book of purposes, not experiments; of realities, not fancies; and of positivities, not possibilities. It is "the book of the law," because it admits of no appeal from its decisions. No other book is so wide in its range, so lofty in its aim, so benevolent in its spirit, so dignified in its character, and so happy in its influence. Its depth is the mystery of truth, its height is the. splendour of purity; its mission is the mission of love; its course is the path of wisdom; its sphere is the world of fallen mankind; and its end is the glory of God.
It is, therefore, and it only is, of universal utility. The philosopher, by the study of it, may extend his knowledge of the laws of matter, and the properties of mind; the statesman may learn from it precedents and principles applicable to national government; the poet may find in it inspiring aids to his noblest aspirations; the painter may depict from it scenes of loftiest grandeur and holiest awe, and portraits of goodness and beauty affording the fullest scope to his artistic genius; while the plough-boy and "the maid behind the mill," may by means of it learn the most exalted lessons and attain unto the divinest skill.
Whoever is humbly led by it, is safely lead to heaven. it confounds the conceited, baffles the speculative, rebukes the proud,: frowns upon the formal, denounces the ungenerous, dooms the profligate and the impenitent, smiles upon the meek and self-denying, assures the fearingly, contrite, and refreshes the way-worn follower of Christ with living water from' the crystal fountain of eternal love.
Like all the works of God, his word is diversed and harmonious, plain and profound, simple and sublime, suitable and serviceable. It contains the developments of the Eternal Will, the thunderings of righteous and reasonable wrath, the benefactions of unmerited favour, the rebukes of fatherly fidelity, the beauties of holiness, the glowings of love, the counsels of wisdom, and the index of futurity.
By it, faith unto salvation is authorized, penitence is evoked, prayer is instructed, hope is uplifted, love is attracted, obedience is guided, affliction is mitigate, zeal is animated, praise: inspired, and death is conquered. It is the dissector of the human heart, the charter of the Christian church, the specular of the Deity, and the telescope of eternity.
This is the book — the one book of my heart. "O how I love thy law," Father of lights, and God of truth! "The law of thy mouth: better unto me than thousand of gold and silver."
Dear to my soul the "truth and grace,"
Unfolded in this Book;
Grant, Lord, the beamings of thy face,
When on its leaves I look.
From Christ that I may not depart
Nor yield to sin or sense,
Engrave thy Word upon my heart,
By gracious influence.
In every trouble let me find
Thy wise directions bless;
Let truth support and cheer my mind,
When sore afflictions press.
Thy Word alone my steps shall guide,
A pilgrim while I rove,
My staff shall be in death's cold tide,
My triumph when above!