Imatges de pÓgina
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SACRED BIOGRAPHY.

LECTURE I

REVELATIONS XX. 11, 12, 13.

And I faw a great white throne, and him that fat on it, from whofe face the earth and the heaven fled away, and there was found no place for them. And I faw the dead small and great stand before God, and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of thofe things which were written in the books according to their works. And the fea gave up the dead which were in it and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

IT is a folemn thing for a man to be judged of his

own confcience. How fweet is the approving teftimony of that bofom monitor and witness! but more bitter than death its upbraiding and reproaches. To stand at a human tribunal, with life or reputation, death or infamy depending on the iffue, can never appear a light matter to one who understands and feels the value of either. Even confcious innocence and integrity, accompanied with good hope toward VOL. V. God,

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God, court not the eye of public inquiry, but prefer the fecret, filent feaft of inward peace, and of divine applause, to the public banquet of innocence proved and proclaimed by found of trumpet. Serious it is to reflect that your name, your words, your conduct may become matter of record, and ages to come mention them with approbation and efteem, or with indignation and contempt. But every feeling of this fort is loft in the certain and more awful profpect of judgment to come. It is a light thing to be judged of man, who can only kill the body, and blight the reputation, and beyond that hath nothing more that he can do; but how formidable is the judgment of Him, who knows the heart, who records in the book of his remembrance" the actions of the life, the words that fall from the tongue, the thoughts which arife in the heart; who will bring every fecret thing to light, and "render to every man according to his works ;" and who, "after he has killed, has power to deftroy body and foul in hell."

Aided by the light which facred history sheds on ages and generations paft, we have ventured into the folemn manfions of the dead, and conversed with those filent inftructors who know not either to flatter or to fear; and whom the Spirit of God has condefcended to delineate in their true colours and juft proportions, that they may ferve to us "for doctrine, and for reproof, and for correction, and for instruction in righteoufnefs." We have plunged into ages beyond the flood, and contemplated human nature in its original glory; "man," as God made him, "perfect ;" and man, as he made himfelf, loft in the multitude of his own inventions.

The "first man, by whom came death, the figure of Him who fhould come, by whom is the refurrection of the dead: Adam, in whom all die: Christ, in whom all fhall be made alive."

We have attended "righteous Abel" to the altar of God, and beheld the fmoak of his "more excellent

facrifice"

facrifice" afcending with acceptance to heaven and "by which, he being dead, yet speaketh."

We have seen the hands of "wicked Cain" besmeared with a brother's blood; and the earth refufing to cover that blood, but calling to Heaven for vengeance on the murderer; and the guilty wretch rendered a terror to himself.

We have seen thefe, one after another, dropping into the grave; and in that, the triumph of fin and death. But in Enoch we behold the triumph of faith and holiness, the triumph of almighty grace over fin and death, and over him who has the power of death. Our eyes follow "the holy man who walked with God," not to the "dreary houfe appointed for all living," but, through the higher regions of the air, toward the bleffed abodes of immortality, till a cloud receives him out of our fight.

We fought fhelter with Noah, and his little faved remnant, from that deluge which deftroyed a world of ungodly men, in the ark which God commanded; which that "preacher of righteousness prepared for the faving of his houfe ;" and which Providence conducted and preferved amidst the wild uproar of contending elements-and with him perceived the wrathful ftorm fpending its fury, and the dawning light of a day of mercy returning.

We have feen the renewed, restored world, again overfpread with violence, ignorance, impiety and idolatry and the hope of the human race ready to be extinguished in the perfon of a wandering, aged, childlefs man; that in the decay of exhaufted, expiring nature, the world might be made to fee, and to acknowledge the vigour, the infallibility, the unchangeablenefs of God's covenant of promife. We removed with that illuftrious exile from place to place, and with joy beheld his faith crowned at length with the promifed feed, in whom all the families of the earth fhould be bleffed."

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From that "tender plant," that "root out of a dry ground," we faw a fucceffion of fair and fruitful branches arife, while we ftudied the noiseless, fequeftered, contemplative life of Ifaac, and the active, variegated, chequered life of Jacob, his younger fon.

In the affliction of Jofeph we felt ourselves afflicted, in his exaltation we rejoiced, and by his virtues and piety, in every variety of human condition, we received at once inftruction and reproof.

The fweet hiftorian, who had disclosed all these wonders of antiquity to our view, opened to us all these stores of knowledge, all these fources of delight, comes forward himself at last upon the fcene, and continues to minister to our pleasure and improvement, by a faithful and affecting detail of his own eventful story, and a candid difplay of his own fentiments, character and conduct. What heart fo hard as not to melt at fight of yonder weeping babe, a deferted, exposed, perishing Hebrew child, floating down the stream! What heart does not glow to fee him the pride and ornament of Pharaoh's imperial court, instructed in all the learning of the Egyptians! What bofom catches not the hallowed ardour of patriotic fire from the intrepid avenger of his country's wrongs! In whatever fituation or character we view him, whitherfoever we follow his fteps, we feel ourselves attracted, delighted, inftructed.

He furnishes us with the history of his brother Aaron and his family, and of the establishment of the Levitical priesthood, a type of the everlasting and unchangeable priesthood of the Redeemer. We attended the venerable pair of brothers to the top of the mountain, and beheld Aaron ftript of his pontifical robes, refigning his charge, clofing his eyes in death; and heard Mofes himself warned to prepare for his departure.

Not only by a difplay of worth and excellence, but by a delineation of vice, by the exhibition of a "heart deceitful above all things, and defperately wicked,"

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has he conveyed to us the means of inftruction and improvement; in prefenting us with the portrait of Balaam, who loved the wages of unrighteoufnefs." In the character of that bad man, we behold the humiliating union of great talents and a corrupted heart; prophetic gifts and moral depravity; knowledge of the truth, and wilful adherence to error; admiration of virtue, and fixed habits of vice; an earnest wish to "die the death of the righteous," with a deliberate determination to live the life of the wicked; and all this mystery of iniquity explained in one fhort fentence; his heart went out after its covetousness.

All these have paffed in review before us; and their existence, in fucceffion to one another, occupies a fpace of two thousand five hundred years. But the text collects them, and us, and all fucceeding generations of men, into one great co-exiftent affembly, to undergo a judgment infinitely more folemn than ever was pronounced from human tribunal; a judgment infallible, final, irreverfible; which fhall bring to trial, and condemn all hafty, rafh, erroneous judgments of men, clear injured innocence, bring to light and reward hidden worth, abase infolence and pride, detect and expofe hypocrify. Let the profpect of it direc all our inquiries, aniinate all our exertions, dictate all our decifions on the character and conduct of other men, and influence, form and govern our own. Thus the review of preceding perfonages and events, and the profpect of thofe to come fhall be animated, improved, fanctified; thus fhall we feel our intereft in, and connexion with the church of God univerfal, of every age, and converfe with Mofes and the prophets as our contemporaries, countrymen and friends, whom we shall shortly join, and be united to them in bonds. of pure and everlasting love. Recollecting times paft, anticipating ages to come, let us draw near and confider this great fight, and may God grant us to feel and improve its influence.

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