Sidor som bilder

of St. Matthew, and only to certain select parts even of that, yet it may not be improper or unprofitable to introduce these Lectures by a compendious view of the principal contents of those writings which go under the general name of the Holy SCRIPTUREs. That book which we call THE BIBLE (that is, THE Book, by way of eminence) although it is comprised in one volume, yet in fact comprehends a great number of different narratives and compositions, 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 degree be compared with it for antiquity, for authority, for the importance, the dignity, the variety, and the curiosity of the matter it contains. It begins with that great and stupendous event, of all others the earliest and In OSt most interesting to the human race, the creation of this world, of the heavens and the earth, of the celestial luminaries, of man, and all the inferior animals, the herbs of the field, 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 Artificer, and unequalled by any other writer. The same wonderful scene is represented by a Roman poet *, who has evidently drawn his materials from the narrative of Moses. But though his description is finely imagined and elegantly wrought up, and embellished with much poetical ornament, yet in true simplicity and grandeur, both of sentiment and of diction, he falls far short of the sacred Historian. LET THERE BE LIGHT: AND THERE was LIGHT ; is an instance of the sublime, which stands to this day unrivalled in any human com

position. But what is of infinitely greater moB 2 ment,

[ocr errors]

ment, this 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 inhabitants and appendages, drew its origin ; whether from some inexplicable necessity, from a fortuitous concourse of atoms, from an eternal series of causes and effects, 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 foun'dation of all religion and all morality,

and the great source of comfort to every

human being, the eaistence of one God, the Creator and Preserver of the world, and the watchful Superintendent of all the creatures that he has made. The Sacred History next sets before us the primaval happiness of our first parents in Paradise; their fall from this blissful blissful state by the wilful transgression of their Maker's command ; the fatal 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 family 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 family and people, the Israelites (or, as they were afterwards 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 fundamental doctrine of THE UNITY; while all the rest of mankind, even the wisest and most learned, were devoted to polytheism and idolatry, - B 3 and

and the grossest and most abominable
superstitions. It then gives us the history
of this people, with their various migra-
tions, revolutions, and principal transac-
tions. It recounts their removal from the
Land of Canaan, and their establishment
in Ægypt under Joseph : whose history is
related in a manner so natural, so inte-
resting 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 bond-
age in AFgypt, 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 finger of
God himself, and delivered by him to
Moses with the most awful and tremen-
dous solemnity ; containing a code of

[ocr errors]
« FöregåendeFortsätt »