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    SERMON I

    “May we know what this new doctrine whereof thou speakest is? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know, therefore, what these things mean.” - Acts 17:19, 20.SSII 19.1

    PAUL, the apostle, in preaching the gospel, came to Athens; he there beheld an altar inscribed “TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.” At the idolatry he saw, his spirit was stirred within him; hence he disputed daily with them that met him. He encountered certain philosophers - wise men, no doubt, - at least in their own estimation - and some of them said: What will this babbler say? Others said, he seemeth to be a setter forth of strange Gods. Doubtless they thought he was a heretic of the blackest stamp; yet they seemed disposed to hear him, before they passed final sentence upon him. In this respect they manifested a better disposition than many of the present day, who are so wise in their own estimation, that no one can advance a thought to which they will listen, unless it has first received the approbation of some doctor of divinity. Not so with the men of Athens; strange as the things were that the Apostle taught, they were desirous to know what the new doctrine was. Not that it was new in itself, but only new to them.SSII 19.2

    Various errors exist among men in regard to revealed truth. These errors go to show how imperfect we are in knowledge - the mistakes committed in our education - the reluctance of the mind to investigate - and a want of moral courage to step aside from the track marked out by learned men, as they are thought to be, but who, most likely, have conducted their own investigations under the influence of the fear of being denounced as heretics, if they should be led to results unlike to those who are reputed for wisdom. But “if any man will be wise, let him become a fool that he may be wise,” is the language of the apostle.SSII 20.1

    We honor God only so far as we have right conceptions of His character, government and purposes, and act in accordance with them. If we believe God will reward, or punish men contrary to His own word, we dishonor Him, however much sincerity we may possess. Truth and the honor of God are inseparable: and we cannot glorify our Heavenly Father by erroneous opinions. Yet, most professed Christians, if pressed on the subject, can give little better reason for what they believe, on many points, than that such has been the instruction they have received from men.SSII 20.2

    It is a solemn duty to study our Bibles, and form our opinions of what they teach for ourselves, as we must answer for ourselves. But in this study the adoption of correct principles of interpretation is of the first importance. Without this, our appeal to the word of God may only serve to confirm us in error.SSII 20.3

    The plainest truths of the Bible have been wrapped in darkness by pretending that the language of the Scriptures has a mystical or secret meaning that does not appear in the words employed. Such a principle of interpretation is a libel on the Bible. That Book professes to be a revelation; and the Saviour says, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine.” The language of the Bible, then, should be explained as the language of any other book, i.e., according to its plain and obvious meaning: unless there is a clear necessity for departing from it. A strict adherence to this principle is necessary, if we would be saved from the wildest errors, and see the children of God united in one. With these remarks I proceed toSSII 20.4

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