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lence 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 ander 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 hu. man 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 coincide with our own, we cheerfully allow him to be in the right; when they differ, without hesitation we pronounce him to be mistaken.
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 connection with fable. The moment I begin to read one of the animated speeches of a hero or a senator, which were nev. er 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, it is not the fire and address of the speaker, but the skill and ingenuity of the writer that I admire. Modern history, more correct and faithful than ancient, has fallen, however, into an absurdity not much less censurable. I mean that fanciful delineation of character, with which the account of certain periods, and the lives of distinguished personages, commonly conclude; 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, 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."
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.
Men, Brethren, and Fathers, we are about to study the lives of other men ; but it concerns us much more to look well to our own. Our forefathers were; we are. The curtain has dropped, and has hid ages and generations past from our eyes.
Our little scene is going on; and must likewise 'speedily close. We are not indeed, perhaps, furnishing materials for history. When we die, obscurity will probably spread the veil 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 infinitely more desirable, and more truly honourable, than a triumph gained amidst the confused noise of ten
* 2 Peter i. 21.
+ 2 Timothy iii. 16, 17.
thousand warriors, and as many garments rolled in blood; for “he that is slow
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 consideration 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
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 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 men. In the humble and solemn expectation 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 ADAM.
GENESIS V. 5.
And all the days that Adam lived, were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died. If 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
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, heroes and legislators; is it possible to want curiosity, or to miss entertainment, when the history of the venerable Father of all Men is presented to our attention—that of Adam, to whom we feel ourselves closely allied by condition and by blood, however unconnected we may seem to be with most
* Prov. xvi. 32.
of the collateral branches of the family : of whose nature we all partake; by whose conduct we are all afiected, and in the consequences of whose actions we are all to this day involved ?
In pursuing this inportant 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 innumerable vegetable and animal tribes; having created, suspended, and balanced the greater and the lesser lights, and settled the economy of the whole host of heaven ; at length, with all the solemnity and majesty of Deity, as with the maturity of deliberation, as with a peculiar effort of divine power and skill, he designs and produces Adam, the first of men. When the earth is to be fashioned, and the ocean to be poured into its appointed bed; when the firmament is to be expanded, and suns to be lighted up, God says, Let them be, and they are created. But when man is to be made, the creating Power seems to make a solemn pause, retires within himself, looks for a model by which to frame this exquisite piece of workmanship, and finds it in himself. “ And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them.' Thus then was brought into existence, the father and founder of the human
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 r-flection, 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 froin 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.
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 : 5 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 abundance, has nevertheless employment assigned him; he is placed in the garden to dress it. And can any of his degenerate sons then dream of independent property; or reckon want of employment to be an honourable distinction ?
*Gen. i. 26, 27.
Behold him accepting his charge with submission and gratitude; entering on his employment with alacrity and joy; surveying his ample portion with complacency and delight. The prosecution of his pleasant task unfolds to him still new wonders of divine power and skill. The flower, and the shrub, and the tree, disclose their virtues, uses, and ends, to his observing eye. Every beast of the field spontaneously ministers to his pleasure or his advantage ; all the host of heaven stands revealed to his capacious soul; and God himself, the great Lord of all, delights in him, and converses with him as a father and a friend.
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 ills 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 issue in his ruin ?
We are reluctantly brought forward to that awful revolution, which at length took place in Adam's condition and character. Of the duration of his innocence and happiness we have no account. His history now becomes blended with that of the wicked and malignant spirit, who had left his first estate” of holiness and felicity: and who, having artfully seduced our first parents from their innocence, exposed them to the wrath of God, procured their expulsion from paradise, rendered them a prey to fear, shame and remorse, and subjected them to pain, disease and death.
The circumstances of the case, according to the scripture account of it, were these. The devil observed the serpent to be an animal of peculiar sagacity and penetration, and fixes on him as a fit instrument of seduction. Fearing a repulse from the superior firmness and discernment of the man, he watches for, and finds the unhappy moment, when the woman, being separated from her husband, opposed to his wiles inferior powers of reason and intelligence, with greater softness and pliancy. He addresses himself to a principle in her nature, the immoderate indulgence of which has proved fatal to so many thousands of her daughters, curiosity; curiosity, the investigator of truth, the mother of invention ; curiosity, the prompter to rashness, the parent of danger, the guide to ruin. Having first gained her attention, he ex
* Sen, ji. 21, 22,