« ZurückWeiter »
LECTURE I. For whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through patience
and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.-Romans xv. 4. VARIOUS methods have been employed, at hibited a collection of striking portraits, for different periods and by different persons, to our entertainment and instruction. In conconvey useful knowledge to mankind. The templating these, we seem to expatiate in a knowledge most useful and most important vast gallery of family pictures, and take deto man, is that of morals and religion. These light in observing and comparing the various sciences not only afford the most pleasant and features of the extensive kindred, as they reelevating subjects of meditation, but evident- semble or differ from each other; and through ly possess a very powerful influence over hu- the physiognomy piercing into the heart, we man happiness, both in the life which now is, find them, though dead, yet speaking and and in that which is to come.
pleasing companions. The principles of morality and religion The holy scriptures possess an acknowhave, by some, been delivered in short, plain, ledged superiority over all other writings, in and significant sentences; and have been left all the different kinds of literary composition; to produce their effect, by their own weight and in none more than in that species of hisand evidence. Public teachers have, at other torical composition which is called BIOGRAtimes, taken pains to explain and enforce PHY, or a delineation of the fortunes, characthese prineiples; have demonstrated their ter, and conduct of particular persons: and reasonableness and utility; and have exhi-that, whether the historians be themselves bited the criminality, the danger, and the the men whom they describe and record; or misery, of neglecting or transgressing them. whether, from proper sources of information, The charms and graces of poetry have been they record the lives and actions of others. employed to set off the native, modest beau- These Lectures, undertaken at your retics of truth and virtue, and allegory has quest, and humbly submitted to your candid spread her veil over them, in order to stimu- and patient attention; and, permit me to add, late our ardour in the pursuit, and to height- intended for your religious instruction and en our pleasure in the discovery. The pene- improvement, will, through the help of God, tration of genius, the enchantment of elo- present you with a course of SACRED Bioquence, and the creative energy of fancy, GRAPHY, that is, the more particular and dehave successively lent their aid to those gen- tached history of the lives of those eminent tle guides of human life, those condescending and distinguished personages whom Proviministers to human comfort.
dence raised up, and whom the Holy Spirit The historie page, that faithful and true has in the scriptures of truth represented, witness, has been unfolded. Ages and gene- either as patterns for us to imitate, or as obrations elapsed and gone, have been made to jects of disesteem and aversion. We shall pass in review; and the lessons of religion endeavour to compare together those which and virtue have been forcibly inculeated, by possess more obvious and striking marks of a fair and impartial disclosure of the effects, resemblance or of dissimilitude; and they which the observance or neglect of them shall be brought, one after another, into comhave produced on the affairs of men. And parison with that pure and perfect example the pencil of history has enriched the can- of all excellence, which was exhibited by vas, not only with men in groups, but select- Him, who is “holy, harmless, undefiled, and ing distinguished individuals, delineating separate from sinners." them in their just proportions, and enliven- Happy will your Lecturer esteem himself, ing them with the colours of nature, has ex-) if he shall in any measure attain what he
ardently desires, the power of blending profit, can calculate, to an instant of time, their with delight, for your use: the power with future oppositions and conjunctions? which the lively oracles of God furnish him, Once more:- It is highly gratifying to that of rendering the errors and the vices, find ourselves in the midst of a public asas well as the wisdom and the virtue of sembly of agreeable people of both sexes, others, beneficial unto you.
and to partake of the general cheerfulness In order to justify the design, for we pre- and benevolence. But what are the cheersume not to answer for the execution, we fulness and benevolence of a public assemshall endeavour to show the propriety and bly, compared to the endearments of friendusefulness of this mode of instruction in ship, and the meltings of love? To enjoy general, and the peculiar advantages which these, we must retire from the crowd, and the sacred writers enjoy, in thus communi- have recourse to the individual. In like cating useful knowledge; and which we of manner, whatever satisfaction and improvecourse possess, in the diligent and attentive ment may be derived from general histories perusal of their writings: and this shall of mankind, which we would not be thought serve as an Introductory Lecture to the by any means to depreciate; yet the history Course.
of particular persons, if executed with fideWe begin with attempting to show the lity and skill, while it exercises the judgpropriety and usefulness of conveying in- ment less severely, so it fixes down the atstruction by means of the historical repre- tention more closely, and makes its way sentation of the character and conduct of more directly and more forcibly to the heart. individuals, as opposed to the object of gene- To those who are acquainted with this ral history.
kind of writing, much need not be said, to Now the professed purpose of all history evince the superior excellency of the sacred is, without fear or favour, without partiality penmen. Biographers merely human, neor prejudice, to represent men and things as cessarily lie under many disadvantages, and they really are—that goodness may receive are liable to many mistakes. The lapse of its just tribute of praise, and vice meet its time is incessantly thickening the veil which deserved censure and condemnation. It is is spread over remote persons and events. evident, that this end is most easily and most The materials of history lie buried, concertainly attained, when our attention is founded, dispersed, among the ruins of anticonfined to one particular object, or to a few quity; and cannot be easily distinguished at most. This may be judged of by the and separated, even by the eye of discernfeelings and operations of the mind, in the ment, and the hand of honesty, from the contemplation of other objects.
rubbish of fiction. And as they are not alWhen, from the summit of some lofly ways furnished by truth and nature, so neimountain, we survey the wide extended ther are they always selected with judglandscape; though highly delighted, we feel ment, nor employed with taste and discreourselves bewildered, and overwhelmed, by tion. the profusion and variety of beauties which Men, who only see the outside, must of nature spreads around us. But when we necessity infer the principles of human acenter into the detail of nature: when we tions from the actions themselves. And yet attend the footsteps of a friend through some no rule of judgment is more erroneous: for favoured, beautiful spot, which the eye and experience assures us, that many, perhaps the the mind can take in at ance; feeling our greater part of our actions, are not the reselves at ease, with undivided, undistracted sult of design, and are not founded on prinattention we contemplate the whole; we ciple, but are produced by the concourse of examine and arrange the parts; the imagi- incidents which we could not foresee, and nation is indeed less expanded, but the heart proceed from passions kindled at the mois more gratified; our pleasure is less vio- ment. lent and tumultuous, but it is more intense, Besides, every man sits down to write, more complete, and continues much longer; whether of ages past or of the present, of what is lost in respect of sublimity, is gained characters near or remote, with a bias upon in perspicuity, force, and duration.
his mind, and this he naturally endeavours to Take another instance :-The starry hea- communicate to his reader. All men have vens present a prospect equally agreeable to their favourite periods, causes, characters; every eye. The delights of a calm, serene which, of course, they strive, at any rate, to evening, are as much relished by the simple embellish, to support, to recommend. They and unlettered, as by the philosopher. But are equally subject to antipathies on the who will compare the vague admiration of other hand, under the influence of which, the child or the clown with the scientific joy they as naturally strive to depress, to expose, of the astronomer, who can reduce into or- and to censure what they dislike. And as der, what to the untutored eye is involved men write and speak, so they read and hear, in confusion; who can trace the path of each under the influence of prejudice and paslittle star: and, from their past appearanccs, sion. Where the historian's opinions coin
cide with our own, we cheerfully allow him of truth, of pleasure, and of improvement, to be in the right; when they differ, without instantly disappear. Length of duration hesitation we pronounce him to be mis- can oppose no cloud to that intelligence, taken.
with which "a thousand years are as one Most of the writers of profane ancient day, and one day as a thousand years.” The history are chargeable with an absurdity, human heart is there untolded to our view, which greatly discredits the facts they relate, by Him“ who knows what is in man," and and reduces their works almost to the level " whose eyes are in every place, beholding of fable. They attempt too much; they the evil and the good." The men and the must needs account for every thing; they events therein represented are universally conjecture when light fails them; and be- and perpetually interesting, for they are cause it is probable or certain that eminent blended with “ the things which accompany men employed eloquence on important pub- salvation,” and affect our everlasting peace. lic occasions, their historians at the distance There, the writers, whether they speak of of many centuries, without record, or writ- themselves or of other men, are continually ten document of any kind whatever, have, under the direction of the Spirit of all truth from the ample store of a fertile imagination, and wisdom. These venerable men, though furnished posterity with the elaborate ha- subject to like passions with others, there rangues of generals, statesmen, and kings. speak not of themselves, but from God; “for These, it is acknowledged, are among the the prophecy came not in old time by the most ingenious, beautiful, and interesting of will of man; but holy men of God spake as the traces of antiquity which they have they were moved by the Holy Ghost."* And transmitted to us: what man of taste could "all scripture is given by inspiration of bear to think of stripping these elegant per- God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reformances of one of their chief excellencies? proof, for correction, for instruction in rightBut truth is always injured, by every the eousness; that the man of God may be perslightest connexion with fable. The mo- fect, thoroughly furnished unto all good ment I begin to read one of the animated works.”+ speeches of a hero or a senator, which were Having premised these things, we will never composed, delivered, or written, till proceed next Lord's day, if God permit, to the historian arose, I feel myself instantly the execution of our plan; and shall begin, transported from the real theatre of human as the order both of nature and of scripture life, into a fairy region; I am agreeably prescribe, with the history of Adam, the amused, nay, delighted; but the sacred im- venerable father and founder of the human press of truth is rendered fainter and feebler race. to my mind; and when I lay down the book, Men, brethren, and fathers, we are about it is not the fire and address of the speaker, to study the lives of other men; but it conbut the skill and ingenuity of the writer cerns us much more to look well to our own. that I admire. Modern history, more cor-Our forefathers were; we are. The curtain rect and faithful than ancient, has fallen, has dropped, and has hid ages and generahowever, into an absurdity not much less tions past from our eyes. Our little scene censurable. I mean that fanciful delinea- is going on; and must likewise speedily tion of character, with which the account close. We are not, indeed, perhaps, furof certa in periods, and the lives of distin- nishing materials for history. When we guished personages, commonly conclude; die, obscurity will probably spread the veil in which we often find a bold hypothesis of oblivion over us. But let it be ever rehazarded for the sake of a point; and a membered by all, that every man's life is of strong feature added to, or taken away from importance to himself, to his family, to his a character, merely to help the author to friends, to his country, and in the sight of round his period.
God. They are by no means the best men, Finally, a great part of profane history is who have made most noise in the world; altogether uninteresting to the bulk of man- neither are those actions most deserving of kind. The events recorded are removed to praise, which have obtained the greatest a vast distance, and have entirely spent their share of fame. Scenes of violence and blood; force. The actors exhibited are either too the workings of ambition, pride, and revenge, lofty to admit of our approach, with any in- compose the annals of men. But piety and terest or satisfaction to ourselves ; too bru- purity, temperance and humility, which are tal to be considered without disgust, or too little noticed and soon forgotten of the world, low to be worthy of our regard. The very are held in everlasting remembrance before scenes of action are become inaccessible or God. And happy had it been for
of unknown; are altered, obliterated, or disre- those, whose names and deeds have been garded. Where Alexander conquered, and transmitted to us with renown, if they had how Cæsar fell, are to us mere nothings. never been born.
But on opening the sacred volume, all One corruption subdued, is a victory infithese obstructions in the way of knowledge,
2 Timothy iji. 16, 17.
• 2 Peter i. 21,
nitely more desirable, and more truly ho-drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the
there are pleasures for evermore." Amen.
HISTORY OF ADAM.
And all the days that Adam lived, were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died.-GENESIS v. 5
If to trace the origin of particular nations; quences of whose actions we are all to this if to mark, and to account for, the rise and day involved ? progress of empire, the revolutions of states, În pursuing this important inquiry, we the discovery of new worlds, be an interest- have God himself for our guide, and we ing, pleasant, and useful exercise of the hu- plunge into the dark regions of the remotest man mind; how amusing, interesting, and antiquity, lighted by that gracious Spirit, to instructive must it be, to trace HUMAN NA- whom all nature stands confessed, and with TURE itself up to its source! Placed beneath whom the whole extent of time is a single the throne of God, it is pleasing to observe point, an unchanging now. how the heavens and the earth took their God having framed and fitted up this vast beginning; and by what means this globe fabric, this magnificent pałace, the earth, was at first peopled, and continues to be worthy of the inhabitant whom he designed filled with men." If there be a natural, and to occupy it, and worthy of himself; having not illaudable propensity, in individuals, to formed, arranged, and fructified the varidive into the pedigree of their families; and ous and iimumerable vegetable and animal in nations, to fix that of their princes, he-tribes; having created, suspended, and baroes and legislators; is it possible to want lanced the greater and the lesser lights, and curiosity, or to miss entertainment, when settled the economy of the whole host of the history of the venerable Father of all heaven; at length, with all the solemnity Men is presented to our attention—that of and majesty of Deity, as with the maturity Adam, to whom we feel ourselves closely of deliberation, as with a peculiar effort of allied by condition and by blood, however divine power and skill, he designs and prounconnected we may seem to be with most duces ADAM, the first of men.
When the of the collateral branches of the family: of earth is to be fashioned, and the ocean to be whose nature we all partake; by whose con- poured into its appointed bed; when the duct we are all affected, and in the coriso- | firmament is to be expanded, and suns to be
lighted up, God says, Let them be, and they mission and gratitude; entering on his emare created. But when man is to be made, ployment with alacrity and joy; surveying the creating Power seems to make a so- his ample portion with complacency and delemn pause, retires within himself, looks for light. The prosecution of his pleasant task a model by which to frame this exquisite unfolds to him still new wonders of divine piece of workmanship, and finds it in him- power and skill. The flower, and the shrub, self. " And God said, let us make man in and the tree, disclose their virtues, uses, and our image, after our likeness; and let them ends, to his observing eye. Every beast of have dominion over the fish of the sea, and the field spontaneously ministers to his pleaover the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, sure or his advantage; all the host of heaven and over all the earth, and over every creep- stands revealed to his capacious soul; and ing thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God himself, the great Lord of all, delights God created man in his own image, in the in him, and converses with him as a father image of God created he him, male and fe- and a friend. male created he them."*
But yet he is alone; and therefore, even in Thus then was brought into existence, the paradise, but half blessed. The exulting father and founder of the human race. And heart of man pants for communication of O, how fair must that form have been, which satisfaction, and the rich profusion of Eden the fingers of God framed, without the in- is but half relished and enjoyed, because tervention of a second cause? How capa- there is no partaker with him. Being corcious that soul which the breath of God im- poreal and earthly, he is unfit for the society mediately inspired! But glorious and perfect of pure spirits; being rational and divine, he as he is, Adam, upon his very first reflection, is above the society of the most sagacious of feels himself a dependent and a limited be the subject tribes." For Adam," in the wide ing: No sooner has his eye ascended to extended creation, there was not found an God who made him, than it returns to the help meet for him." But no sooner is the earth from whence he was taken; and the want felt, than it is supplied. God, who does very first excursion of reason informs him nothing imperfectly, at length makes the that he is at the disposal of another, and re- happiness of paradise complete, and fills up strained by a law. He receives a whole the measure of Adam's joy. “And the Lord globe, over which he is permitted an un- caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and limited sovereignty: but one tree is re- he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and served, as a token of his subjection. Every closed up the flesh instead thereof. And the plant in paradise offers itself to gratify his rib which the Lord had taken from man, sense, every animal does homage at his feet; made he a woman, and brought her unto the but the sight of one kind of fruit in the midst man. of the garden continually reminds him, that What an important era in the life of Adam! he himself is dependent upon, and account. What a new display of the Creator's power, able to God; and while six parts of time are and skill, and goodness! How must the spirit allowed for his own employments and de- of devotion be heightened, now that man lights, the seventh is set apart, sacred to his could join in social worship! What additional Maker.
satisfaction in contemplating the frame, orBebold him then taking possession of his der, and course of nature, now that he posfair inheritance, of his vast empire, in all sessed the most exalted of human joys, that the majesty of unclouded reason, all the of conveying knowledge to a beloved object! beauty of perfect innocence; possessed of Now that he can instruct Eve in the wonevery bodily, of every mental endowment. ders of creation, and unfold to her their MaHis numerous vassals of the brute creation ker's nature, perfections, and will! What a present themselves before him; at one glance new flavour have the fruits which grow in he discovers their nature and qualities, and the garden of God acquired, now that they gives them suitable names. But, while he are gathered by the hand of conjugal affecis invested in the property of a world, he re- tion, and recommended to the taste by the ceives it as a charge for which he is to be smile of complacency and love! Ah! why responsible: “The Lord God took the man, were not joys like these permanent as they and put him into the garden of den, to were pure? Was bliss like this bestowed but kerp it;” and he for whom God and nature to be blasted? And must Adam's chief felicity had produced all things in a luxuriant abund- issue in his ruin? ance, has nevertheless employment assigned We are reluctantly brought forward to him; he is placed in the garden to dress it. that awful revolution, which at length took And can any of his degenerate sons then place in Adam's condition and character. Of dream of independent property; or reckon the duration of his innocence and happiness want of employment to be an honourable we have no account. His history now bedistinction?
comes blended with that of the wicked and Behold him accepting his charge with sub- malignant spirit, who had “left his first es* Gen. i. 26, 27.
• Gen. ii. 21, 22. B