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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 have, by some, been delivered in short, plain, and significant sentences; and have been left to produce their effect, by their own weight and evidence. Public teachers have, at other times, taken pains to explain and enforce these principles; have demonstrated their reasonableness and utility; and have exhibited the criminality, the danger, and the misery, of neglecting or transgressing them. The charms and graces of poetry have been employed to set off the native, modest beauties of truth and virtue, and allegory has spread her veil over them, in order to stimulate our ardour in the pursuit, and to heighten our pleasure in the discovery. The penetration of genius, the enchantment of eloquence, and the creative energy of fancy, have successively lent their aid to those gentle guides of human life, those condescending ministers to human comfort.
The historie page, that faithful and true witness, has been unfolded. Ages and generations elapsed and gone, have been made to pass in review; and the lessons of religion and virtue have been forcibly inculcated, by a fair and impartial disclosure of the effects, which the observance or neglect of them have produced on the affairs of men. And the pencil of history has enriched the canvas, not only with men in groups, but selecting distinguished individuals, delineating them in their just proportions, and enlivening them with the colours of nature, has ex
The holy scriptures possess an acknowledged superiority over all other writings, in all the different kinds of literary composition; and in none more than in that species of historical composition which is called BIOGRAPHY, or a delineation of the fortunes, character, and conduct of particular persons: and that, whether the historians be themselves the men whom they describe and record; or whether, from proper sources of information, they record the lives and actions of others.
These Lectures, undertaken at your request, and humbly submitted to your candid and patient attention; and, permit me to add, intended for your religious instruction and improvement, will, through the help of God, present you with a course of SACRED BIOGRAPHY, that is, the more particular and detached history of the lives of those eminent and distinguished personages whom Providence raised up, and whom the Holy Spirit has in the scriptures of truth represented, either as patterns for us to imitate, or as objects of disesteem and aversion. We shall endeavour to compare together those which possess more obvious and striking marks of resemblance or of dissimilitude; and they shall be brought, one after another, into comparison with that pure and perfect example of all excellence, which was exhibited by Him, who is "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners."
Happy will your Lecturer esteem himself, if he shall in any measure attain what he
ardently desires, the power of blending profit with delight, for your use: the power with which the lively oracles of God furnish him, that of rendering the errors and the vices, as well as the wisdom and the virtue of others, beneficial unto you.
In order to justify the design, for we presume not to answer for the execution, we shall endeavour to show the propriety and usefulness of this mode of instruction in general, and the peculiar advantages which the sacred writers enjoy, in thus communicating useful knowledge; and which we of course possess, in the diligent and attentive perusal of their writings: and this shall serve as an Introductory Lecture to the Course.
We begin with attempting to show the propriety and usefulness of conveying instruction by means of the historical representation of the character and conduct of individuals, as opposed to the object of general history.
Now the professed purpose of all history is, without fear or favour, without partiality or prejudice, to represent men and things as they really are—that goodness may receive its just tribute of praise, and vice meet its deserved censure and condemnation. It is evident, that this end is most easily and most certainly attained, when our attention is confined to one particular object, or to a few at most. This may be judged of by the feelings and operations of the mind, in the contemplation of other objects.
When, from the summit of some lofty mountain, we survey the wide extended landscape; though highly delighted, we feel ourselves bewildered, and overwhelmed, by the profusion and variety of beauties which nature spreads around us. But when we enter into the detail of nature: when we attend the footsteps of a friend through some favoured, beautiful spot, which the eye and the mind can take in at once; feeling our selves at ease, with undivided, undistracted attention we contemplate the whole; we examine and arrange the parts; the imagination is indeed less expanded, but the heart is more gratified; our pleasure is less violent and tumultuous, but it is more intense, more complete, and continues much longer; what is lost in respect of sublimity, is gained in perspicuity, force, and duration.
Take another instance:-The starry heavens present a prospect equally agreeable to every eye. The delights of a calm, serene evening, are as much relished by the simple and unlettered, as by the philosopher. But who will compare the vague admiration of the child or the clown with the scientific joy of the astronomer, who can reduce into order, what to the untutored eye is involved in confusion; who can trace the path of each little star: and, from their past appearances,
can calculate, to an instant of time, their future oppositions and conjunctions?
Once more:-It is highly gratifying to find ourselves in the midst of a public assembly of agrecable people of both sexes, and to partake of the general cheerfulness and benevolence. But what are the cheerfulness and benevolence of a public assembly, compared to the endearments of friendship, and the meltings of love? To enjoy these, we must retire from the crowd, and have recourse to the individual. In like manner, whatever satisfaction and improvement may be derived from general histories of mankind, which we would not be thought by any means to depreciate; yet the history of particular persons, if executed with fidelity and skill, while it exercises the judgment less severely, so it fixes down the attention more closely, and makes its way more directly and more forcibly to the heart.
To those who are acquainted with this kind of writing, much need not be said, to evince the superior excellency of the sacred penmen. Biographers merely human, necessarily lie under many disadvantages, and are liable to many mistakes. The lapse of time is incessantly thickening the veil which is spread over remote persons and events. The materials of history lie buried, confounded, dispersed, among the ruins of antiquity; and cannot be easily distinguished and separated, even by the eye of discernment, and the hand of honesty, from the rubbish of fiction. And as they are not always furnished by truth and nature, so neither are they always selected with judgment, nor employed with taste and discretion.
Men, who only see the outside, must of necessity infer the principles of human actions from the actions themselves. And yet no rule of judgment is more erroneous: for experience assures us, that many, perhaps the greater part of our actions, are not the result of design, and are not founded on principle, but are produced by the concourse of incidents which we could not foresee, and proceed from passions kindled at the moment.
Besides, every man sits down to write, whether of ages past or of the present, of characters near or remote, with a bias upon his mind, and this he naturally endeavours to communicate to his reader. All men have their favourite periods, causes, characters; which, of course, they strive, at any rate, to embellish, to support, to recommend. They are equally subject to antipathies on the other hand, under the influence of which, they as naturally strive to depress, to expose, and to censure what they dislike. And as men write and speak, so they read and hear, under the influence of prejudice and passion. Where the historian's opinions coin
cide with our own, we cheerfully allow him to be in the right; when they differ, without hesitation we pronounce him to be mistaken.
of truth, of pleasure, and of improvement, instantly disappear. Length of duration can oppose no cloud to that intelligence, with which "a thousand years are as one day, and one day as a thousand years." The human heart is there unfolded to our view, by Him "who knows what is in man," and "whose eyes are in every place, beholding the evil and the good." The men and the events therein represented are universally and perpetually interesting, for they are blended with "the things which accompany salvation," and affect our everlasting peace. There, the writers, whether they speak of themselves or of other men, are continually under the direction of the Spirit of all truth and wisdom. These venerable men, though subject to like passions with others, there speak not of themselves, but from God; "for the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."* And "all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."t
Most of the writers of profane ancient history are chargeable with an absurdity, which greatly discredits the facts they relate, and reduces their works almost to the level of fable. They attempt too much; they must needs account for every thing; they conjecture when light fails them; and because it is probable or certain that eminent men employed eloquence on important public occasions, their historians at the distance of many centuries, without record, or written document of any kind whatever, have, from the ample store of a fertile imagination, furnished posterity with the elaborate harangues of generals, statesmen, and kings. These, it is acknowledged, are among the most ingenious, beautiful, and interesting of the traces of antiquity which they have transmitted to us: what man of taste could bear to think of stripping these elegant performances of one of their chief excellencies? But truth is always injured, by every the slightest connexion with fable. The moment I begin to read one of the animated speeches of a hero or a senator, which were never composed, delivered, or written, till the historian arose, I feel myself instantly transported from the real theatre of human life, into a fairy region; I am agreeably amused, nay, delighted; but the sacred impress of truth is rendered fainter and feebler 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 certain 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 hazarded for the sake of a point; and a strong feature added to, or taken away from a character, merely to help the author to round his period.
Finally, a great part of profane history is altogether uninteresting to the bulk of mankind. The events recorded are removed to a vast distance, and have entirely spent their force. The actors exhibited are either too lofty to admit of our approach, with any interest or satisfaction to ourselves; too brutal to be considered without disgust, or too low to be worthy of our regard. The very scenes of action are become inaccessible or unknown; are altered, obliterated, or disregarded. Where Alexander conquered, and how Cæsar fell, are to us mere nothings.
But on opening the sacred volume, all these obstructions in the way of knowledge,
Having premised these things, we will proceed next Lord's day, if God permit, to the execution of our plan; and shall begin, as the order both of nature and of scripture prescribe, with the history of Adam, the venerable father and founder of the human race.
of oblivion over us. But let it be ever remembered by all, that every man's life is of importance to himself, to his family, to his friends, to his country, and in the sight of God. They are by no means the best men, who have made most noise in the world; neither are those actions most deserving of praise, which have obtained the greatest share of fame. Scenes of violence and blood; the workings of ambition, pride, and revenge, compose the annals of men. But piety and purity, temperance and humility, which are little noticed and soon forgotten of the world, are held in everlasting remembrance before God. And happy had it been for many of those, whose names and deeds have been transmitted to us with renown, if they had never been born.
One corruption subdued, is a victory infi† 2 Timothy iii. 16, 17.
* 2 Peter i. 21.
drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God."
We are about to review ages past, and to converse with men long since dead. And the period is fast approaching, when time itself shall be swallowed up; when Adam and his youngest son shall be contemporaries, when the mystery of providence shall be cleared up, the mystery of grace finished, and the ways of God fully vindicated to
nitely more desirable, and more truly honourable, than a triumph gained amidst the confused noise of ten thousand warriors, and as many garments rolled in blood; for "he that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city."* Remember, my friends, that to be a child of God is far more honourable than to be descended from kings; and that a christian is a much higher character than a hero. And let this considera-men. In the humble and solemn expectation influence all that you undertake, all that you do. Act as if the eyes of Cato were always upon you, was the precept given, and the motive urged, to the Roman youth, in order to excel in virtue. The eyes of God are in truth continually upon you. Live then as in his sight; and knowing that every action as it is performed, every word as it is spoken, and every thought as it arises, is recorded in the book of God's remembrance, and must come into judgment, "keep thy heart with all diligence," set a watch on the door of thy lips, and whether you eat or
Prov. xvi. 32.
tion of that great event, knowing and believing the scriptures, and the power of God, let us study to live a life of faith and holiness upon the Son of God; "redeeming the time, because the days are evil," and working out our own salvation with fear and trembling." And may the God of our fathers be our God and the God of our offspring, and conduct us through the dangerous and difficult paths of human life, and through the valley of the shadow of death, to his own "presence, where there is fulness of joy, and to his right hand, where there are pleasures for evermore." Amen.
HISTORY OF ADA M.
And all the days that Adam lived, were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died.-GENESIS V. 5
quences of whose actions we are all to this day involved?
In pursuing this important inquiry, we have GOD himself for our guide, and we plunge into the dark regions of the remotest antiquity, lighted by that gracious SPIRIT, to whom all nature stands confessed, and with whom the whole extent of time is a single point, an unchanging NOW.
God having framed and fitted up this vast fabric, this magnificent palace, the earth, worthy of the inhabitant whom he designed to occupy it, and worthy of himself; having formed, arranged, and fructified the various and immumerable vegetable and animal
Ir to trace the origin of particular nations; if to mark, and to account for, the rise and progress of empire, the revolutions of states, the discovery of new worlds, be an interesting, pleasant, and useful exercise of the human mind; how amusing, interesting, and instructive must it be, to trace HUMAN NATURE itself up to its source! Placed beneath the throne of God, it is pleasing to observe how the heavens and the earth took their beginning; and by what means this globe was at first peopled, and continues to be filled with men. If there be a natural, and not illaudable propensity, in individuals, to dive into the pedigree of their families; and 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 conse-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."*
Thus then was brought into existence, the father and founder of the human race. And O, how fair must that form have been, which the fingers of God framed, without the intervention of a second cause? How capacious that soul which the breath of God immediately inspired! But glorious and perfect as he is, Adam, upon his very first reflection, feels himself a dependent and a limited being. No sooner has his eye ascended to God who made him, than it returns to the earth from whence he was taken; and the very first excursion of reason informs him that he is at the disposal of another, and restrained by a law. He receives a whole globe, over which he is permitted an unlimited sovereignty: but one tree is reserved, as a token of his subjection. Every plant in paradise offers itself to gratify his sense, every animal does homage at his feet; but the sight of one kind of fruit in the midst of the garden continually reminds him, that he himself is dependent upon, and accountable to God; and while six parts of time are allowed for his own employments and delights, the seventh is set apart, sacred to his Maker.
But yet he is alone; and therefore, even in paradise, but half blessed. The exulting heart of man pants for communication of satisfaction, and the rich profusion of Eden is but half relished and enjoyed, because there is no partaker with him. Being corporeal and earthly, he is unfit for the society of pure spirits; being rational and divine, he is above the society of the most sagacious of the subject tribes. “For Adam,” in the wide extended creation, "there was not found an help meet for him." But no sooner is the want felt, than it is supplied. God, who does nothing imperfectly, at length makes the happiness of paradise complete, and fills up the measure of Adam's joy. "And the Lord caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof. And the rib which the Lord had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man."*
What an important era in the life of Adam! What a new display of the Creator's power, and skill, and goodness! How must the spirit of devotion be heightened, now that man could join in social worship! What additional satisfaction in contemplating the frame, order, and course of nature, now that he possessed the most exalted of human joys, that of conveying knowledge to a beloved object! Now that he can instruct Eve in the wonders of creation, and unfold to her their Maker's nature, perfections, and will! What a new flavour have the fruits which grow in the garden of God acquired, now that they are gathered by the hand of conjugal affection, and recommended to the taste by the smile of complacency and love!-Ah! why were not joys like these permanent as they were pure? Was bliss like this bestowed but to be blasted? And must Adam's chief felicity
Behold him then taking possession of his fair inheritance, of his vast empire, in all the majesty of unclouded reason, all the beauty of perfect innocence; possessed of every bodily, of every mental endowment. His numerous vassals of the brute creation present themselves before him; at one glance he discovers their nature and qualities, and gives them suitable names. But, while he is invested in the property of a world, he receives it as a charge for which he is to be responsible: "The Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden, to keep it;" and he for whom God and nature 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