Imatges de pÓgina
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Reflections on the foregoing History. What a melancholy picture does this history display of human guilt! From the disobedience of Adam to the era of the deluge, there appears to have been a rapid increase of immorality and irreligion; every generation adding to the follies and crimes of the past, till there was nothing base or impious which had not been done. Neither chastity nor temperance, neither sobriety nor honesty, neither sincerity and fidelity to man, nor piety to God, then found friends. The historian has left us no enumeration of crimes ; this is all he says— The earth was corrupt before God, and the earth also was filled with violence.' Its inhabitants surely, must have been sunk to the lowest depths of infamy, ere the Giver of life could determine by one awful judgment to sweep away the proud and rebellious, the impure, the unjust, and the violent, with his vast and whelming waters. Painful as this conviction may be, yet it is due to the justice of God to believe that his punishment, however exemplary, was proportionate to the crimes of those on whom it was inflicted. The justice of God, so the Scriptures persuade us, and só our own experience teaches us, is always attempered with mercy; and we are led, therefore, to believe, that even clemency could not pardon the sinners of the world before the flood. Their sins rose up to heaven and cried aloud for punishment ; and only by ample retribution could the ends of the divine government, and the most important interests of mankind in succeeding ages, have been promoted. Had the Lord

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restrained his anger, and suffered his creatures still to follow their own inclinations without placing any impediment in their way, the probability is that they would have become, if possible, more abandoned, and every vestige of the dignity of human nature have been for ever obliterated, till not even a Noah could be found one righteous person-worthy of being the second father of the human race.

The history teaches us, and it is a lesson which will be often impressed upon our minds, that under the government of a righteous God, punishment will fall upon the guilty. Whether individuals or nations sin, there is an eye ever attentive to their movements ; there is an arm strong to impose the penalty of their crimes. Cain, the murderer, was driven from his home to wander a wretched vagabond. The guilty families of the earth were buried beneath the abyss of waters. Devouring fire laid waste the reigons of Sodom and Gomorrah. Many signal judg. ments befell the Israelites in different periods, till they were driven, like Cain, from the land of promise, to wander and find no resting place among the nations. And the many striking events of a calamitous nature with which the history of the world abounds, have answered the most important purposes, although the reasons of their infliction are concealed from us. Does not the Almighty make the follies and even the crimes of men subserve his wise purposes ? Does He not make their ambition and tyranny his instruments at once to punish and reform? Can it be that the commotions which have agitated Europe REFLECTIONS ON THE FOREGOING HISTORY. 39 even during our short life, the wars which have carried off so many thousands of mankind, and the great political changes which have taken place, have not been under the control and direction of the Governor of the universe ?

As the government of God is universal, so it is equitable and benevolent; and although he finds it necessary to inflict heavy but not undeserved punishments on his creatures, their punishment is followed by salutary consequences.

Let us not close the subject without admiring once more the excellence of Noah's character. In the midst of a sinning world, he stood forward the intrepid friend of virtue,

the preacher of righteousness. Like the seraph in Milton's Poem :

faithful found
Among the faithless, faithful only he;
Among innumerable false, unmoved,
Unshaken, unseduced, unterrified,
His loyalty he kept, his love, his zeal ;
Nor number, nor example with him wrought
To swerve from truth, or change his contant mind,

Though single. While he walked with God he suffered no thoughts of ease or danger to prevent him from giving a friendly, an earnest warning, to the men of iniquity and rapine. But it was useless. He earnestly wished to be the means of reforming them, and although their folly disappointed him, and deprived him of so great an honor, he still felt some consolation from the fulfilment of his duty. And he still preserved himself with exemplary care from evil influence: he continued to be the righteous Noah.

The manners of the present age are not so dreadfully depraved, vice and crime are not so dark and universal, but virtue still requires support—and the labors of her friends are not unneeded. The firmness and integrity of Noah may be imitated by all, who wish to see their fellow-creatures increasing in goodness and advancing to higher degrees of moral purity. Those who delight to walk with God have much to do in opposing the spread of moral corruption, and exerting their influence and giving the force of their example on the side of virtue and piety. Vice still finds friends and followers; and it becomes the good, by wholesome and wise precepts, and active efforts, to diminish the number of its votaries, and to lead them back to Him to whom their duty is owing, and with whom alone safety and peace can be found. In no age of the world have its inhabitants been so just and perfect, as not to need the advice and reproof of the more excellent among them; and none who have boldly ventured to advise and reprove, from a sense of duty and a desire to please God, will fail of their reward. Noah was preserved from the general destruction brought upon the men of his age ; and every one who assists in increasing the authority and the spread of goodness and religion, will at length enjoy the rewards which God and religion have to bestow.

SERMON I.

On the Genius of Christianity.

Philippians iii. 8.--I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.

Religion, to prove a real blessing to man, must be suitable to his nature and his condition. It must be such as consists with a rational, intelligent, and moral being, and with the fluctuating and fleeting circumstances of human existence; and whilst it improves and exalts his moral and mental powers, it must guard him against the changes to which he is exposed, and enable him to derive permanent benefits from these changes.

Without religion, indeed, he can scarcely exist; and in every state, from the most savage to the most civilized, he has sought it for himself, (where the advantages of revelation have been denied;) he has invented something under the name of religion, from which the wants of his moral being might be supplied; out of which he might draw that nourishment for his mind and those stimulants for his affections, which are as essential to his peace and, satisfaction, as essential to his spiritual existence, as natural food is to his corporeal.

In how far has he succeeded, however, in supplying his own wants, and acquired the real blessing we set out by describing? Have the systems he framed, improved and exalted him-or, on the contrary, exercised that influence

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