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In their public records, in their judicial statements, in their epistolary correspondence, the sufferings of the apostles and first disciples of our Lord were avouched, and their firmness branded with the name of madness. It was a subject of surprise and amazement to the heathen world that men would submit to the most horrible tortures, the cruelty of human ingenuity could invent, rather than deny a poor, outcast, obscure Jew, who suffered, at the instigation of his countrymen, the death of a murderer! Ah, they knew not Jesus of Nazareth! knew not the secret and resistless bond which held his disciples to him! knew not the sweetness of his love! But in the mean time, they have left to every succeeding generation a decided testimony that these things were so."
We detain you only to offer two concluding remarks respecting the best mode of reading the Bible to advantage. The first shall regard the ALLowANces which should be made in consulting this sacred volume. Whoever has paid any, the least, attention to it, must recollect that there are allusions to customs which exist no longer; and that its sublime and poetic parts are filled with figures of speech not altogether familiar to us. We are surrounded by imagery, and reading a language perfectly new—more bold and striking than these colder climes and tongues usually exhibit. When you take up the scriptures make these several allowances. Remember that you are reading the record of ages which have rolled away, and of nations, which have either long since perished, or which exist no longer in the same form. You should allow for the swelling metaphoric style of the East. Their mode of expression is always bold and magnificent beyond the imagination of an European; and the face of their country is also widely different. You must remember the customs then prevalent: these change perpetually with the lapse of time; and the manners of antiquity were altogether distinct from those sanctioned by the fashion of the present day. Consider the countries in which they lived. Every country has a mode of operation, and habits, peculiar to itself. Recollect the persons to whom they wrote; persons who were conversant with the metaphors employed, and with the facts recorded; persons who were contemporary with them, and who had the advantage of making appeals to things and to evidences which exist no longer. And while you call these things to your memory, do not forget the changes which have taken place in all these particulars. Our second remark shall relate to the SPIRIT in which the Bible should be read. Consult it divested so far as possible of prejudice, and with a sincere desire both to attain improvement, and to search out the truth. The investigation which we recommend, lies equally between that inactivity which slumbers for ever over things acknowledged, and that impetuous temerity which relying upon its own powers disdains assistance, attempts a flight beyond the precincts of lawful subjects, and with licentious boldness pries into those “secret things which belong to God.” Some float for ever on the surface of admitted truths, fearful to rise above the level over which they have hovered from the first moment of consciousness. These resemble those birds which feed upon the insects dancing on the water, who never rise into the air, but always skim the surface of the lake, on the borders of which they received life. Others, on bold, adventurous wing, rise into the trackless regions of mystery, till they sink from the pride of their elevation, perplexed and exhausted. These, by aiming at too much lose every thing. Because they have attempted unsuccessfully to investigate that, which God has been pleased to put out of the reach of human comprehension, they will not believe any thing—they embrace a system of universal skepticism. So Noah's dove beheld on every side a boundless expansion of waters; and whether she rose or sunk was equally bewildered, and found no rest for the sole of her foot. There is one point of difference, and that is, that she returned to the ark; but-those whom we have described, too often are found to turn despisers, who wonder and perish. But the Christian is bold in investigating all that God has submitted to his researches, attempts every thing leaning on Almighty energy, and relies with implicit confidence upon the written word. So the eagle rises boldly into the air, keeping the sun in view, and builds her nest upon a rock. We would not have you, with the inactive and supine, always coast the shore: nor with the infidel venture into the boundless ocean without pilot, or com. pass, or ballast, or anchor: exposed equally to the quicksands, to the rocks, to the whirlpool, and to the tempest: but we are desirous that, like the Christian, you should boldly face, and patiently endure the storm, with the Bible as your compass, Hope as you anchor, God as your pilot, and Heaven as your country.
* See the note of this Lecture, at the end of volume.
THE UNSEARCHABLE GoD: OR, AN ATTEMPT TO PROVE AN ANALOGY BETWEEN THE RELIGION OFNATURE AND THAT OF THE BIBLE, BY SHEWING THAT THE SAME OBSCURITY WHICH OVERSHADOWS REVELATION, EQUALLY OVERSPREADS NATURE AND PROVIDENCE.
JOB xxxvi, 14. Lo, these are parts of his ways, but how little a portion is heard of him? but the thunder of his power, who can understand?
MAN is a needy, dependent creature, from his birth to his death. His first cry is the voice of want and helplessness; his last tear flows from the same source; and in no one intermediate period of his life, can he be pronounced independent. His eye, the moment it is opened, is turned upon another for assistance. His limbs must be sheltered from the cold: his nutriment provided, and his wants supplied by the care and ex: ertions of others: or he would perish in the hour of his birth. A few months expand his limbs; and then a new train of wants succeeds. He must be watched. with incessant vigilance, and guarded with unceasing care and anxiety, against a thousand diseases, which wait to precipitate him to a premature grave. The quivering flame of an existence scarcely communicated, is exposed to sudden and furious blasts, and it re
quires all a parent's skill to interpose a screen which may prevent its extinction; and, alas! after all, such interposition as human skill and tenderness can supply, are often ineffectual, and the prevailing blast extinguishes the sickly fire. The child begins to think, and a new field of exertion is opened to the mother. He needs direction, and is dependent upon her wisdom and affection for his earliest sources of information. She watches and facilitates the dawn of reason. She teaches her child for what end he came into the world; and in language adapted to his capacity, exhibits to the inquiring mind, and pours into the listening ear, his high and immortal destination. Oh, then with what anxiety she watches the speaking countenance! With what skill she directs the passions! With what assiduity she strives to irradicate, or at least to bring into subjection his visible propensity to evil and the impulses of a depraved nature! Who among us cannot look back to this early period, and remember a mother's short, impressive conversation—her intreaties—her caresses—her restrictions—and her tears? The boy advances in wisdom and in stature, and in strength: but he is still dependent. And now he must pass into other hands. There are many things which it is necessary for him to know, and to learn, in order to his passage through life with respectability, which it is not a mother's province to teach him. Besides, it is needful that he should sojourn for a season with strangers, to prepare him for the approach of that time, when he must quit the paternal roof for ever, and force his way through the wide world! Grown up at length to manhood, he is still dependent. He lives by conferring and receiving mutual offices of kindness. It is not good for him to be alone. He links his fortunes and his interests, his hopes and his