Page images
PDF
EPUB

did not belong to these seven nations, they were directed to deal with them according to the common law of arms at tbat time. If the city submitted, it became tributary, and the people were spared ; if it resisted, the men were to be slain, but the women and children saved.

3. Though the crime of cruelty cannot be justly laid to their charge on this occasion, you will oberve, in the course of their history, many things recorded of them, very different from what you would expect from the chosen people of God, if you suppose them selected on account of their own merit. Their national character was by no means amiable ; and we are repeatedly told, that they were not chosen for their superior righteousness, « for they were a stiff necked people, and provoked the Lord with rebellions from the day they left Egypt.” " You have been rebellious against the Lord,” says Moses, “ from the day that I knew you."

4. They were appointed to be the scourge of other nations, whose crimes rendered them fit objects of divine chastisement. For the sake of righteous Abraham, their founder, and perhaps for many other wise reasons, undiscovered to us, they were selected from a world over-run with idolatry, to perserve upon earth the pure worship of the one only God, and to be honoured with the birth of the Messiah amongst them. For this end they were precluded, by divine command, from mixing with other people, and defended by a great number of peculiar rites and observo ances, from falling into the corrupt worship practised by their neighbours.

CHAPTER XCII.

OF JOB Religious Devotion, the Power, Wisdom and Magnificence of God, and the comparative Littleness and Ignorance of Mon.

1. THE story of Job is very ancient ; it is dated 1520 years before Christ; I believe it is uncertain by who it was written. Many darts of it are obscure ; but it is well worth studying, for the extreme beauty of the poetry and for the noble and sublime devotion it contains. The subject of dispute between Job and his pretended friends, seems to be, whether the Providence of God distributes the rewards and punishments of this life in exact proportion to the merit or demerit of each individual.

2. His antagonists suppose that it does ; and therefore infer, from Job's uncommon calamities, that, notwithstanding his apparent righteousness, he was in reality a grievous sinner. They aggravate his supposed guilt, by the imputation of hypocrisy, andcall upon bim to confess it, and to acknowledge the justice of his punishment. Job asserts his own innocence and virtue in the most patbetic manner, yet does not presume to accuse the Supreme Being of injustice.

3. Elibu attempts to arbitrate the matter, by alleging the impossibility, that so frail and ignorant a creature as man, should comprehend the ways of the Almighty; and therefore, condemns the unjust and cruel inference the three friends had drawn from the sufferings of Job. He also blames Job for the presumption of acquitting himself of all iniquity, since the best men are not pure in the sight of God; but all have something of which they must repent; and headvises him to make this use of his affliction.

At last, by a bold figure in poetry, the Supreme Being himself is introduced, speaking from the whirlwind, and silencing them all by the most sublime display of his own power, magnificence and wisdom, and the comparative littleness and ignorance of man. This, indeed, is the only conclusion of the argument, which could be drawn at a time when life and immortality were not yet brought to light. A future retribution is the only satisfactory solution of the difficulty arising from the sufferings of good people in this life.

CHAPTER XCIII. OF THE PSALMS.-Piety and Devotion. 1. IF you have any taste, either for poetry or devotion they will be your delight and afford you a continual feast. Select some of the best psalms, and get them by heart , or, at least make yourself master of the sentiments they contain, and by comparing them with the events of David's life, you will greatly enhance your pleasure in them.

2. Never did the spirit of true piety breath more strongly, than in these divine songs ; which, being added to a rich vein of poetry, makes them more captivating to the heart and the imagination. You will consider how great disadvantages any poem must sustain from being rendered literally into prose and then imagine how beautiful these must be in the original.

3. May you be enabled, by reading them frequently, to transfuse into your own breast that holy flame which inspired the writer ! to delight in the Lord, and in his laws, like the Psalmist to rejoice in him always, and to think, “one day in his courts better then a thousand" elsewhere. But may you escape the heart-piercing sorrow of such repentance as that of David ; by avoiding sin, which humbled this unhappy king to the dust, and which cost him such bitter anguish, as it is impossible to read without being moved !

4. Not all the pleasures of the most prosperous sinners would counterbalance the hundredth part of those sensations, described in his penitential pealms, and which must be the portion of every man, who has fallen from a relia. gious state, into such crimes, when once he recovers a sense of religion and virtue, and is brought to a real hatred of sin. However available such repentance may be to the safety and happiness of the soul after death, it is a state of such exquisite suffering here, that one cannot be enough surprised at the folly of those who indulge sin, with the hope of living to make their peace with God by repen-. tance.

5. Happy ore those who perserve their innocence unsullied by any great or wilful crimes, and who have only ; the common failings of humanity to repent of; these are sufficiently mortifying to a heart deeply smitten with the love of virtue, and with the desire of perfection. There are many striking prophecies of the Messiah, in these divine songs, particularly in the twenty-second psalm. Such may be found scattered through the Old Testament. To bear testimony to Him, is the great and ultimate end for which the spirit of prophecy was bestowed on the sacred writers.

CHAPTER XCIV. OF THE PROVERBS, ECCLESIASTES, SOLOMON'S SONGS, THE

PROPHECIES AND APOCHRYPHA. Wisdom, Morality, and Sublime. Description. 1. THE Proverbs and Ecclesiastes are rich stores of wisdom, from which you may adopt such maxims as may be of infinite use both to your temporal and eternal interest. But detached sentences are a kind of reading not proper to be continued long at a time; a few of them, well chosen and digested, will be of more service to you, than to read several chapters together. In this respect, they are directly opposite to the historical books, which if not read in continuation can hardly be understood or retained to any purpose.

2. The Song of Solomon is a fine poem ; but its mysrical reference to religion, lies too deep for a common understanding ; if you read it, therefore, it will be rather as matter of curiosity, than of edification. Next follow the Prophecies; which, though highly deserving the greatest attention and study, I think you had better omit for some years, and then read them with a good exposition, as they are much too difficult for you to understand without assistance.

8. Doctor Newton on the prophecies, will help you much, whenever you undertake this study, which you should by all means do when your understanding is ripe enough ; because one of the main proofs of our religion rests on the testimony of the Prophecies. They are very frequently quoted,andreferred to, in the New Testament. Besides, the sublimity of the language and sentiments, through all the disadvantages of antiquity and translation must, in very many passages,

strike every person and the excellent moral and religious precepts found in them, must be useful to all.

4. The first book of Maccabees, carries on the story till within 195 years of our Lord's circumcision; the second is the same narrative, written by a different hand, and does not bring the history on so far as the first; so that it may be omitted, unless you have the curiosity to read some particulars of the heroic constancy of the Jews,

of taste;

under the tortures inflicted by their heathen conquerors, with a few other things not mentioned in the first book

5. The other books of the Apocrypha, though not admitted as of sacred authority, have many things well worth your attention ; particularly the admirable book called Ecclesiasticus, and the book of Wisdom. But in the course of reading, it will be proper to omit them tilt you have read the Gospels, and the Acts, that you may preserve the thread of the history. These shall be treated of in the following chapters.

CHAPTER XCV. OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, AS THE RULE AND DIRECTION

OF OUR MORAL CONDUCT. 1. THE New Testament is the most important part of scripture, and which you must make your constant study, not only till you are thoroughly acquainted with it, but through your whole life ; because, how often so-ever repeated, it is impossible to read the life and death of our blessed Saviour, without renewing and increasing in our hearts that love, and reverence, and gratitude towards him, which is so justly due for all he did and suffer-ed for us. Every word that fell from his lips is more precious than all the treasures of the earth; for his “are: the words of eternal life."

2. They must, therefore, be laid up in your hearts, and constantly referred to, on all occasions, as the rule and direction of all your actions ; particularly, those very comprehensive moral precepts he has graciously left with us, which can never fail to direct us aright, if fairly and honestly applied. Such, for instance, as " whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, even so do unto them." There is no occasion, great or small, on which you may not safely apply this rule for the direction of your conduct Whilst your heart honestly adheres to it, you can never be guilty of any sort of injustice or unkindness,

3. The two great commandments, which contain the summary of our duty to God and to man, are no less easily retained, and made a standard, by which to judge our own hearts: “ To love the Lord our God with all our hearts, with all our minds, and with all our strength ; and our

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »