« PoprzedniaDalej »
cording to appearances, but judge righteous judgments. And the apostle Paul-fudge nothing before the time, till the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart.
2. Judge of others with fairness, and not under the influence of prejudice or passion. A wise and benevolent man will be able to discern the virtues even of his enemies. For, if we so often ask, Who is without his faults? may we not with equal reason demand, Who is there that does not possess some virtues? Candour in acknowledging, and liberality in commending, the amiable or the estimable qualities of our friends and acquaintances, are necessary in order to cultivate in our own breasts that benevolent and Christian temper, which alone can give weight to our counsels, and even procure them access to the heart. Has our Master who is in heaven, made it the duty of his disciples to advise, encourage, and exhort one another? With what sure acceptance may advice be administered, that is prefaced by suitable commendations! How deeply may our counsels penetrate, if they are mingled with kindness, and demonstrate that candour and impartiality, which are not insensible to the merit of our Christian brother! Above all, let us learn to turn our eye inward upon our own faults—let us profoundly examine and know ourselves, and not dare to pull the mote out of our brother's eye, till we have cast forth the beam which is in our own. Humility in us is the surest pledge of fairness in our judgments of others, as it is of that
3. Charity which in the next place should accompany all our decisions. Charity recognises with promptness and ardour all that is good and amiable in our brethren—charity covers a multitude of sins—charity gives the most favourable interpretation to every doubtful action, and to those motives which cannot be known to us. Are their vices palpable and public? Charity endeavours to diminish the scandal of them; it will rather weep over them in secret than be loud in its reproaches and severe in its censures. Is remonstrance or reproof at any time merited? Charity will offer it with that gentleness, that tenderness, and affection, which are calculated to go at once to an ingenuous heart. Has it to deal with rougher spirits or more hardened offenders? Do times, do places, do characters render it useless or imprudent to speak ? Charity is silent. But in casting our view round, and considering the state of our Christian brethren, and of the church, charity delights especially in encouraging and promoting all those graces and virtues which adorn the profession of God our Saviour. It delights to enkindle, to strengthen and purify those holy fires which unite us to heaven-those kind and amiable affections which unite us to our fellow men, and continually prompt, both ourselves and others, to love and good works.
4. Finally, Christians, as the men of the world, the profane and scoffing, consider your imperfections, your falls and miscarriages, only that they may fortify themselves in their sins, and more effectually break from their necks, the galling yoke of religion, do you consider one another's graces, only to strengthen your mutual love. Draw from each other's example, new arguments and incitements to grow in grace-new motives to quicken your progress in the divine life. Reprehend each other's languor in the heavenly course-stimulate each other's zeal-quicken the things which remain and are ready to die and, by bringing together your sacred but languishing fires, strive to rekindle their ardours, till they rise into a bright and fervent flame, and give new life to the whole church. Thus, by mutual communion and conference, on the great subjects of religion and of your eternal interests, endeavour to revive your decaying graces, and to carry to perfection the principle of the divine life in your hearts.
They that fear the Lord, says the prophet, speak often one to another. What can tend more to quicken your own holy affections, or to call forth those of your Christian brethren? As iron sharpeneth iron, so may a man sharpen the countenance, and enliven the graces of his friend. And what subjects more sublime or more interesting, can employ the tongues of men or of angels? Speak of the glory and the wondrous works of God; speak of the condescensions and the love of the Redeemer; speak of the wonders which God has done for your soul; speak of the holiness and perfection of his law; speak of the pleasures of duty, and the ineffable consolations of his love; speak of the hopes of immortality, of the rewards of virtue, of the pleasures which flow eternally at God's right hand. Often pour forth your souls in such mutual and happy communications, till your hearts, like those of the disciples travelling to Emaus, in converse with their Lord, begin to burn within you. Then might we hope to see the graces of individual Christians assume a higher tone, and the languid spirit of the whole church rise from that lukewarmness into which it is so lamentably sunk.
Do you say that true piety is modest and retired, but these religious discourses savour of ostentation and hypocrisy? Hypocrites may abuse them; but can any topics be more reasonable in themselves, or more worthy the faith and piety of good men? Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. When the heart is filled with the glory of God, and the love of the Redeemer—when it glows with the warm affections of true piety—can the tongue be silent? When you see the friend, to whom perhaps you owe the dearest obligations, can you suppress your emotions? When you behold the sublime or beau
tiful scenes of nature, do you not seek for a congenial mind to whom you may impart your transports ? Shall we then be permitted to express the sensations with which sublimity—with which beauty—with which friendship or gratitude inspires the heart-and shall not the subjects of religion more delightfully employ the meditations and converse of Christian friends? Where is an object so sublime as God? Where are beauties so ravishing as those presented to the eye of faith? Where do you owe obligations so profound, so immeasurable, as to the Redeemer of the world? Where are there interests, possessions, joys, so glorious, as those which the gospel opens to you in the hopes of immortality? Then consider one another, brethren, to incite each other to love and to do good works: and exhort one another daily while it is called to-day.
LECTURES ON BIBLICAL HISTORY.
“ And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, And I, behold I, establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; and with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every bcast of the earth. And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off arry more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of the covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: and I will remember my covenant which is between me and you, and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.”— Gen. ix. 8-15.
The situation of Noah and his family, immediately after the flood, must have been peculiarly interesting. Preserved by a kind and powerful Providence, in the midst of desolation and death, their bosoms could not fail to swell with gratitude to the gracious Author of their distinguishing mercies. The only survivors of a guilty race, that had been swept from the face of the earth by an exterminating judgment of Heaven, they must have had an impressive sense of the evil of sin, and of the importance of acknowledging God, in all their ways, by a prompt and religious attention to the instituted rites and ordinances of his worship. Accordingly, we find their first act, after leaving the ark, was an act of solemn devotion. " And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt-offerings on the altar.” Nor was this a vain service. God had appointed sacrifices of this nature, as types or significant representations of the Redeemer's
blood, that rich and never-failing fountain which cleanseth from all sin. And they who offered gifts on the altar, in the faith of the divine testimony, and with a believing reference to the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world, were, in every instance, blessed in their deed and made accepted in the Beloved. Thus it was with Noah, on this occasion. “ And the Lord smelled a sweet savour: and the Lord said, in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth: neither will I again smite any more every thing living as I have done.” The Lord's smelling a sweet savour is a figurative expression, intended, evidently, to indicate his gracious acceptance of Noah and his offering. And that this favourable acceptance was vouchsafed, by virtue of the mediation of Jesus Christ, is pretty plainly intimated by the apostle Paul, in his Epistle to the Ephesians, v. 2, where he uses an expression, in regard to the great sacrifice of the cross, substantially the same as that now before us: “ Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God, for A SWEET SMELLING SAVOUR.” Let us, then, in all our approaches to God, and in all the services we render him, have respect to our Divine Advocate with the Father, who suffered once, the just for the unjust; but who is now exalted at the right hand of the Majesty in Heaven, where he “ever liveth to make intercession for his people.” Our best performances are polluted with sin; nor are we warranted, in scripture, to expect the acceptance of our purest desires, or most fervent prayers, save through the merits and mediation of the Lord Jesus. He is our hope. In him the Father is well pleased: and, for his sake, mercy can be extended to the chief of sinners.
The Noahic covenant, which is to be the main subject of this lecture, conveys to mankind several pieces of useful and desirable instruction. It consists in a promise, on God's part, confirmed by a sacramental sign and seal of divine appointment. It is a solemn stipulation, that the world shall not be again visited by a universal deluge; that, under the hand of cultivation, the ground shall produce food convenient for man and beast; that the seasons of the
year, “ seed-time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease, while the earth remaineth.” This covenant engagement was accompanied by a command to multiply and replenish the earth, and to regard the life of man as sacred and inviolable. Murder was forbid. den, on pain of death. Even a beast that caused the death of a human being was to be slain, as an attestation of God's indisputable claim to be the sole disposer, as he is the giver of life; i Surely, your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it; and at the hand of man; at the
hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for, in the image of God made he man.” In connexion with these commands, there was renewed to Noah and his posterity, the grant of dominion over the inferior animals, originally vested in our first parents; and, in addition to this, a right was now first given to man to use animal food, excepting blood, which was strictly prohibited. “ Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb, have I given you all things: but flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat."
In contemplating this covenant transaction with the new world, the serious mind is strongly impressed with the condescension and benignity of the Creator towards his dependant creatures. As all things received their existence from God, so are they dependant on him for their preservation and well being. The survivors of the deluge may reasonably be supposed to have been painfully apprehensive, that, on the increase of their numbers, and the consequent growth of wickedness, they might be, again, visited by a similar calamity. This fear, if not removed by some express revelation of the divine purpose of clemency and forbearance, would have checked the spirit of enterprise, and greatly retarded their progress, in useful arts, and intellectual improvements. Even their pious affections and religious exercises would, probably, have partaken more of servile fear, than filial confidence, gratitude and joy in the Lord. Behold, then, the loving kindness and tender compassion of the Most High. He has never withheld from mankind the tokens of his goodness. On this occasion, he gave full and formal evidence of his gracious regards for the creatures of his power. The little remnant of his faithful worshippers had devoted themselves to his service by sacrifice and thank-offerings, of which he testified his favourable acceptance; and now, that they are entering on a new world, which they are to people and to cultivate, and where they are to maintain the worship of Him who made heaven and earth, and use their endeavours to promote his truth and honour; and while the desolating expression of his wrath against sin, is still fresh in their minds, he condescends to reveal himself to them, as their covenant God and faithful guardian. He directs them to replenish the earth: and to encourage them, in so doing, and to remove their fears of a second deluge, he assures them, by solemn stipulation, that the earth shall yield her increase to the hand of industry; that there shall be seed-time and harvest, day and night, winter and summer; that all flesh shall not any more be swept away by the waters of a flood: and that they and their descendants, to the latest generation, might have a visible token or remembrancer