Are you a Christian?
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Having thus laid down at large the principles of the Christian religion, and the reasons on which they are founded, and given a general view of that divine revelation from which they are extracted, it may be necessary to give a few directions to those who seriously ask the question, "How may we profit most, and grow wise unto salvation, by reading the sacred writings?" I answer: --
1. Deeply consider that it is your duty and interest to read the Holy Scriptures.
2. When you read, consider that it is God's Word which you read; and that his faithfulness is pledged to fulfill both its promises and threatenings.
3. Read the whole Bible, and read it in order; two chapters in the Old Testament and one in the New, daily if you can possibly spare the time; and you will have more time than you are aware of; if you retrench all needless visits, and save the hours spent in useless or unimportant conversation.
4. Think that the eye of God is upon you while you are reading his word: and read and hear it with that reverence with which you would hear God speak, were he to address you as he did the prophets and people of old; for, be assured, that he considers it as much his word now as he did when he first spoke it.
5. Remember that the word of God is not sent to particular persons, as if by name; and do not think you have no part in it, because you are not named there. It is not thus sent: it is addressed to particular characters; to saints, sinners, the worldly minded, the proud, the unclean, the dishonest, the unfaithful, liars, Sabbath-breakers, the repentant, the tempted, the persecuted, the afflicted, &.c., etc..
6. Therefore examine your own state, and see to which of these characters you belong, and then apply the word spoken to the character in question to yourself; for it is as surely spoken to you as if your name were found printed in the Bible, and placed there by divine inspiration itself.
7. When, in the course of such reading, you meet with a threatening, and know from your own state that this awful word is spoken against you, stop, and implore God, for the sake of the sufferings and death of His Son, to pardon the sin that exposes you to the punishment threatened.
8. In like manner, when you meet with a promise made to the repentant, tempted, afflicted, etc.., having found out your own case, stop, and implore God to fulfill that promise.
9. Should you find, on self-examination, that the threatening has been averted by your having turned to God; that the promise has been fulfilled, through your faith in Christ; stop here also, and return God thanks for having saved you from such sore evils, and brought you into such a glorious state of salvation. Thus you will constantly find matter in reading the book of God to excite to repentance, to exercise faith, to produce confidence and comfort, and to beget gratitude; and gratitude will never fail to beget obedience. He who reads the Bible in this way must infallibly profit by it.
10. It is always useful to read a portion of the Scriptures before prayer, whether performed in the family or in the closet. In doing this, mark some particular passages, that they may become a subject for your petitions; by attending to this, all formality and sameness in this sacred duty will be prevented; and you will have an abundance of materials for petitions, supplications, thanksgiving, etc.. And thus your prayers will never be tedious, unsatisfactory, or unedifying, either to yourself or to others.
11. Remember that in reading, you keep the eye of your mind steadily fixed upon Him who is the end of the law, and the sum of the gospel; for even the Holy Scriptures can make you wise unto salvation only through faith in Christ Jesus. 2 Tim. iii, 15.
12. Let the Scriptures, therefore, lead you to that Holy Spirit by which they were inspired: let that Spirit lead you to Jesus Christ, who has ransomed you by his death. And let this Christ lead you to the Father, that he may adopt you into the family of God.