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health and vigour, and feed us for eternity; pure without the mixture of any ill quality, and not like mother's milk, which many times has the seeds of disease in it, and conveys ill humours as well as nourishment, and at the best can only feed us for a dying life, which must soon have an end. But the living, or life-giving word of God, the apostle tells us in the foregoing chapter, endureth for ever;" he means in its effects, and as being the instrument of that new birth by which we are made alive unto God, and can no more die than Christ himself, whose life in us it is, when we are grafted into him by faith, and become members of his body. That word, he adds, “ which by the Gospel is preached unto you;" which brings you the glad tidings of peace with God, deliverance from the curse of sin, restoration from death and hell, and is your guide and sure title to the joys of heaven. Desire it, says he, let the will of your souls be to it, hunger and thirst after it, take it, feed upon it daily, “ desire it as new-born babes." Oh! this is saying a great deal. You know that new-born babes have but one appetite, one single desire for their food, cry for it, can be pleased and satisfied with nothing else, do what you will to them, and must perish without it. Even so, says the blessed apostle, with the same eagerness, singleness, and purity of intention, “ desire the sincere milk of the
, word, that ye may grow thereby," as you certainly will, if
your desire is purely to it; to know what God has therein revealed for your benefit and great comfort, what he has done for you, and what you must do for yourselves to follow its directions, to take it into your hearts, to be made wise unto salvation, and nourished by it to eternal life. Let me tell you briefly what you will find in it; the entrance of sin and death into the world; the earth cursed, and heaven lost; the cause of what you would otherwise have been ignorant of, why the body is liable to pain, sickness, and death; why the soul, made at first after the image of God, is now poisoned to the very root, dark in all its faculties, turned from God, as weak as it is corrupt, and dead in trespasses and sins. Behold the depth of your fall in Adam. But if you give way to this knowledge of yourselves, and are willing to understand the truth of your case, as it is declared in Scripture, behold, in the next place, what hope it has for you, and what mercy and deliverance it brings you from God. There you will see the light of heaven rising upon a dark world; the Son of God descending with a message of grace and reconciliation, and working our redemption by himself; taking our nature upon him, that in it, and for it, he might fulfil all righteousness, make satisfaction to justice, pay the debt of our sin by his own sufferings and death, discharge us from condemnation, and restore us to the favour of God, and the hope of eternal life. I mention only these two points, our fall and death in Adam, and recovery by Jesus Christ, because they are the principal, by far the most concerning, the sum and substance of Scripture. All others are only subordinate to these, and chiefly intended to illustrate and guide us to them. With this light in your hands, you will see clearly every step of your way; without it, you will find nothing else in the Scripture. And one of these is likewise in order to the other; that knowing your death and condemnation in sin, you may fly in the peril of your souls to Christ, the salvation of Israel, the light of the Gentiles, the mercy of God to, a lost world, and the hope of all the ends of the earth. This is that blessed word of redemption, which is the glory of all Scripture, and runs through it as a golden thread, which preached to our first parents in that original promise, “ The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head," .Gen. iii. 15; and delivered by them to their posterity, as the sole ground of their trust and hope towards God;
which was renewed and confirmed to Abraham and David; spoken of by all the prophets; and fulfilled in the coming and person of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is that word, which on the day of Pentecost converted three thousand souls, has since brought many millions to God, and is as powerful as ever in the Spirit's hands to “
open men's eyes, to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Christ;" Acts, xxvi. 18. This is that word, which by the mercy of God is sent, and now preached to you, written and put into your hands, " that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ,” the only Saviour of sinners, “and that believing you might have life through his name;" John, xx. 31. This is that sincere, nourishing, wholesome word, which St. Peter exhorts you to desire, as infants do their milk; to study it diligently, to attend upon the preaching of it, to endeavour as God
, shall enable you to understand every thing belonging to it, leading to it, or flowing from it, its doctrines, its promises, its commands, to the end you may grow thereby. As I said before, you will, if you desire and use it for this end. It will be an infallible means of
your “ growth in grace, and in the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ;" 2 Pet. iii. 18. Not so much by any virtue or power of its own, or by our own endeavours working with it, as by the grace of the same Spirit which gave it, and always speaks in and with it, to every sincerely desiring soul. You know it is one of its peculiar doctrines and great excellencies, that it sends us to him, as the Author and Giver of life, by whom we shall be helped effectually, to the utmost of our wants and desires; and by whom alone we can believe to the saving of the soul, and walk worthy of our high and holy calling.
These words of St. Peter, now brought to your remem
brance, and briefly opened by me, may by the blessing of God be a means of begetting or increasing an earnest pure desire for the sincere milk of the word. But I must say something more upon the occasion; and may the Spirit of all grace help you to apply it! Here then is your test; and by this you may prove yourselves, whether you are in the faith or not, Christians, or unbelievers.
you sincerely desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby ;” if you come to it with delight and appetite, as to the food of your souls, provided of God, to improve in saving knowledge, to be confirmed in the truth, to know God, to know Christ, to know yourselves, to know sin more and more, to receive whatever it teaches, relating either to faith or practice, with the simplicity of little children, and to be kept in the way of salvation; you have an assured comfortable proof within yourselves of a Christian state, and that a work of grace is begun and carrying on in you. For a formalist can do nothing of this. He may come to hear the word preached; he may take up the Bible, and read a portion of it, even daily, supposing it to be a duty, and because his conscience will not let him be easy in the neglect of it; but he does not desire it as a child does the breast, for growth and nourishment in faith and holiness. He has no such thought or intention; and especially no prayer accompanying it, to have what he reads opened to his understanding, and set home upon his heart. St. James says, “ He is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass; for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was;" James, i. 23, 24. What then are you doing, and what is your hope as Christians, when you seldom or never read the word of God, and find in yourselves no manner of desire to be acquainted with its sacred contents, no appetite or relish for the heavenly
food it sets before you? Verily the case is plain; you are not believers, you are not in Christ, you are nothing but baptized heathens. Do what else you will, if you are never so civil, sober and prudent, if you come constantly to church and sacraments, whatever you are in your own opinion, or in the esteem of the world; if
you do not study and love the Bible, here is full proof against yon, that you are not in the way of salvation. Your souls lost, and redeemed; God pitying you in your sad condition of sin and misery; Christ following you into the wilderness; the Holy Spirit quickening you ; peace in life, and comfort in death, heaven or hell your everlasting portion, as you refuse or embrace the mercy offered you: are these the weighty matters which the word of God brings to your knowledge, and do you slight it, prefer an idle tale or a song-book to it, saunter away your vacant hours, and especially your Sabbaths, without looking upon it, and as it were trample this pearl under your feet? Was it written on purpose that you might know the love of God and of Christ, and learn how to secure so great a benefit to yourselves; and do you live in woful ignorance of it, and value none of its instructions? My brethren, what can you say to this ? And what plainer proof can be given of your being this day and hour in darkness and unbelief? I beseech you, consider what I say, and the Lord give you understanding. And if it pleases God, that you should take up à resolution to be more diligent for the time to come, in reading, hearing, and studying the word of life, do not think this is all you have to do to bring yourselves into a better state; but read it, and pray over it, to the end it may bring you to Christ for peace with God, and the pardon of all your sins. For so, and not otherwise, you will comply with St. Peter's exhortation in both its parts ; “To lay aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and