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IT being my intention to give from tins place, on the Fridays during Lent, a course of Lectures explanatory and practical on such parts of Scripture as seem to me best calculated to insorm the understandings and affect the hearts of thofe that hear me, I shall proceed, without surther presace, to the execution of a design, in which edisication, not entertainment, usesulness, not novelty, are the objects I have in view; and in which therefore I may sometimes perhaps avail myself of the labors of others, when they appear to me better calculated to answer my purpofe than any thing I am myself capable of producing.
Although my observations will for the present be consined entirely to the Gofpel of St. Matthew, and only to certain select parts even of that, yet it may not be improper or unprositable to introduce these Lectures by a compendious view of the principal contents of thofe writings which go under the general name of the Holy Scriptures.
That book which we call The Bible (that is, The Eook, by way of eminence) alhough it is comprized in one volume, yet in sact comprehends a great number of different narratives and compofitions, written at different times, by different persons, in different languages, and on different subjects. And taking the whole of the collection together, it is an unquestionable truth that there is no one book extant, in' any language, or in any country, which can in any d?gree be compared with it for antiquity, for authority, for the import* ance, the dignity, the variety, and the curiosity of the mat* ter it contains.
It begins with that great and stupenduous event, of all others the earliest and most interesting to the human race, the creation of this world, of the heavens and the earth, of the celestiall uminaries, of man, and all the inserior animals, the herbs of the sield, the sea and its inhabitants. All this it describes with a brevity and sublimity well suited to the magnitude of the subject, to the dignity of the Almighty Artisicer, and unequalled by any other writer. The same wondersul scene is represented by a Roman poet,* who has evidently drawn his materials from the narrative of Mofes. But though his description is sinely imagined and elegantly wrought up, and embellished with much poetical ornament, yet in true simplicity and grandeur, both of sentiment and of diction, he salls sar short of the sacred historian. Let There Be tiGHT And There Was Light; is an instance of the sublime, which stands to this day unrivalled in any human composition. «
But what is of insinitely greater moment, his history of the creation has settled for ever that most important question, which the ancient sages were never able to decide; from whence and from what causes this world, with all its inhabitant and appendages, drew its origin; whether from some inexplicable necessity, from a fortuitous concourse of atoms, from an eternal series of causes and esfects, or from one supreme, intelligent, self-existing Being, the Author of all things, himself without beginning and without end. To this last cause the inspired historian has ascribed the formation of this system; and by so doing has established that great principle and foundation of. all religion and all morality, and the great source of comfort to every human being, the existence of one God, the Creator and Preserver of the world, and the watchsul Superintendent of all the creatures that he has made.
The Sacred History next sets before us, the primæval happiness of our sirst parents in Paradise; their sall from this * Ovid,
blissful state by the wilsul transgression of their Maker's command; the satal effects of this original violation of duty; the universal wickedness and corruption it gradually introduced among mankind; and the signal and tremendous punishment of that wickedness by the deluge; the certainty of which is acknowledged by the most ancient writers, and very evident traces of which are to be found at this day in various parts of the globe. It then relates the peopling of the world again by the samily of Noah; the covenant entered into by God with that patriarch, the relapse of mankind into wickedness; the calling of Abraham; and the choice of one samily and people, the Israelites (or as they were asterwards called the Jews) who were separated from the rest of the world to preserve the knowledge and the worship of a Supreme Being, and the great sundamental doctrine of The Unity; while all the rest of mankind, even the wisest and most learned, were devoted to polytheism and idolatry, and the grossest and most abominable superstitions. It then gives us the history of this people, with their various migrations, revolutions, and principal transactions. It recounts their removal from the land of Canaan, and their establishment in Egypt under Jofeph ; whofe history is related in a manner so natural, so interesting and affecting, that it is impossible for any man of common sensibility to read it without the strongest emotions of tenderness and delight.
In the book of Exodus we have the deliverance of this people from their bondage in Egypt, by a series of the most astonishing miracles; and their travels through the wilderness for forty years under the conduct of Moses; during which time (besides many other rules and directions for their moral conduct) they received the Ten Commandments, written on two tables of stone by the singer of God himself, and delivered by him to Mofes with the most awsul and tremendous solemnity; containing a code of moral law insinitely superior to any thing known to the rest of mankind in thofe rude and barbarou,s ages.
The books of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, are chiefly occupied with the various other laws, institutions, and regulations given to this people, respecting their civil
government, their moral conduct, their religious dimes* and their ceremonial observances.
Among these, the book of Deuteronomy (which concludes what is called the Pentateuch, or sive books of Mofes) is distinguished above all the rest by a concise and striking recapitulation of the innumerable blessings and mercies which they had received from God since their departure from Horeb; by strong expostulations on their past rebellious conduct, and their shamesul ingratitude for all these distinguishing marks of the Divine savor; by many forcible and pathetic exhortations to repentance and obedience in suture; by promises of the most substantial rewards, if they returned to thenduty; and by denunciations of the severest punishments, if they continued disobedient; and all this delivered in a strain of the most animated, sublime, and commanding eloquence.
The historical books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings* and Chronicles, continue the history of the Jewish nation -under their leaders, judges, and kings, for near a thousand years; and one of the most prominent and instructive parts of this history is the account given of the lise and reign of Solomon, his wealth, his power, and all the glories of his reign ; more particularly that noble proof he gave of his piety and munissicence, by the construction of that truly magnissicent temple which bore his" nanie; the solemn and splendid dedication of this temple to the service of God; and that inimitable prayer which he then offered up to Heaven in the presence of the whole Jewish people; a prayer evidently coming from the heart, sublime, simple, nervous, and pathetic; exhibiting the justest and the warmest sentiments of piety, the most exalted conceptions of the Divine nature, and every way equal to the sanctity, the dignity, and the solemnity of the occasion.
Next to these follow the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, which contain the history of the Jews for a considerable pe- . riod of time after their return from a captivity of 70 years; in Babylon, about which time the name of Jews seems sirst to have been applied to them. The books of Ruth and Esther are a kind of appendage to the public records, delinsutin^ the characters of two very amiable individuals, distinguished by their virtues, and the very interesting incidents