3. Use such helps as you can obtain. Read carefully selected and judicious authors, on doctrinal subjects.[A] The advantages arising from the perusal of other books than the Scriptures, to obtain doctrinal knowledge, are these: 1. You may profit by the experience of others. You see how the difficulties which arise in your own mind appeared to them, and how they solved them. 2. Much light may be thrown upon many difficult passages of Scripture, by an intimate acquaintance with the times and circumstances under which they were written; and men who undertake to write on these subjects generally search deeply into these things. 3. God has been pleased, in every age, to raise up men “mighty in the Scriptures.” By the extraordinary powers of mind which he has given them, they may have clearer perceptions of divine truth than you are able to obtain by the exertion of your own faculties alone. You may also employ the sermons which you hear, for an increase of doctrinal knowledge, as well as an excitement to the performance of duty. But all these things you must invariably bring to the test of God’s word. We are commanded to “try the spirits, whether they be of God.” Do not take the opinions of men upon trust. Compare them diligently with the word of God, and do not receive them till you are fully convinced that they agree with this unerring standard. Make this your text-book; and only use others to assist you in coming to a right understanding of this.
4. In all your researches after doctrinal knowledge, seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Make it a subject of daily prayer, that God would enable you to understand his word, that you may be “rooted and grounded in the faith.” The influences of the Holy Spirit are two-fold. He enlightens the understanding, to lead it into a correct knowledge of the truth; and he applies the truth to the sanctification of the heart. Pray diligently that you may have both. If you persevere in the proper observance of this direction, you cannot fail to profit by the others. But, if you neglect this, your pursuit of doctrinal knowledge will serve only as food to your pride, self-confidence and vain-glory, and exert a blighting influence upon your soul.
Your affectionate Brother.
[Footnote A: The reader will
find a list of suitable books in the
True Religion a Work of Grace in the Heart; but it must be carried out in all our Conduct.
“And he (the righteous)
shall be like a tree planted by the rivers
of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season: his leaf
shall not wither.”—PS. 1:3.
“Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is; for he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.”—JER. 17:7, 8.