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L E C T U REI.
REVELATIONS XX. 11, 12, 13.
And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it,
from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away, and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead small and great stand before God, and the books were opened : and another book was opened, which is the book of life : and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it: and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them : and they were judged every man
according to their works. IT is a folemn thing for a man to be judged of his own conscience. How sweet is the approving testimony
of that bosom monitor and witness! but more bitter than death its upbraiding and reproaches. To stand at a human tribunal, with life or reputation, death or infamy depending on the issue, can never appear a light matter to one who understands and feels the value of either. Even conscious innocence and integrity, accompanied with good hope toward Vol. V. B
God, court not the eye of public inquiry, but prefer the secret, filent feast of inward peace, and of divine applause, to the public banquet of innocence proved and proclaimed by found of trumpet. Serious it is to reflect that your name, your words, your conduct may become matter of record, and ages to come mention them with approbation and esteem, or with indignation and contempt. But every feeling of this fort is lost in the certain and more awful prospect of judgment to come. It is a light thing to be judged of man, who can only kill the body, and blight the reputation, and beyond that hath nothing more that he can do; but how formidable is the judgment of Him, who knows the heart, who records in ti the book of his remembrance" the actions of the life, the words that fall from the tongue, the thoughts which arise in the heart; who will bring every
secret thing to light, and “ render to every man according to his works ;” and who, “after he has killed, has power to destroy body and soul in hell.”
Aided by the light which sacred history sheds on ages and generations past, we have ventured into the folemn mansions of the dead, and conversed with those silent instructors who know not either to flatter or to fear; and whom the Spirit of God has condescended to delineate in their true colours and just proportions, that they may serve to us " for doctrinė, and for reproof, and for correction, and for instruction in righteousness.' We have plunged into ages beyond the flood, and contemplated human nature in its original glory; “man," as God made him, “ perfect ;" and man, as he made himself, lost in the multitude of his own inventions.
The “first man, by whom came death,—the figure of Him who should come, by whom is the resurrection of the dead : Adam, in whom all die : Chrift, in whom all shall be made alive."
We have attended “ righteous Abel” to the altar of God, and beheld the smoak of his “ more excellent facrifice" ascending with acceptance to heaveti : and " by which, he being dead, yet speaketh.”
We have seen the hands of 6 wicked Cain” besmeared with a brother's blood; and the earth refufing to cover that blood, but calling to Heaven for vengeance on the murderer ; and the guilty wretch rendered á terror to himself.
We have seen these, one after another, dropping into the grave ; and in that, the triumph of fin and death. But in Enoch we behold the triumph of faith and holiñess, the triumph of almighty grace over fin and death, and over him who has the power of death. Our eyes follow “ the holy man who walked with God," not to the “ dreary house appointed for all living," but, through the higher regions of the air, toward the blessed abodes of immortality, till a cloud receives him out of our sight.
We fought shelter with Noah, and his little saved femnant, from that deluge which destroyed a world of ungodly men, in the ark which God commanded; which that" preacher of righteousness prepared for the faving of his house;" and which Providence conducted and preferved amidst the wild uproar of contending elements—and with him perceived the wrathful ftorm spending its fury, and the dawning light of a day of mercy returning.
We have seen the renewed, restored world, again overspread with violence, ignorance, impiety and idolatry: and the hope of the human race ready to be extinguished in the person of a wandering, aged, childless man ; that in the decay of exhausted, expiring nature, the world might be made to fee, and to acknowledge the vigour, the infallibility, the unchangeablenefs of God's covenant of promise. We removed with that illustrious exile from place to place, and with joy beheld his faith crowned at length with the promised feed, in whom all the families of the earth should be blefled." B 2
From that “tender plant,” that “root out of a dry ground,” we saw a succession of fair and fruitful branches arise, while we studied the noiseless, sequest. ered, contemplative life of Isaac, and the active, va. riegated, chequered life of Jacob, his younger son.
In the affliction of Jofeph we felt ourselves afflictcd, in his exaltation we rejoiced, and by his virtues and piety, in every variety of human condition, we received at once instruction and reproof.
The sweet historian, who had disclosed all these wonders of antiquity to our view, opened to us all these stores of knowledge, all these sources of delight, comes forward himself at last upon the scene, and continues to minister to our pleasure and improvement, by a faithful and affecting detail of his own eventful story, and a candid display of his own senti. ments, character and conduct. What heart so hard as not to melt at fight of yonder weeping babe, a de. serted, exposed, perishing Hebrew child, toating down the stream! What heart does not glow to see him the pride and ornament of Pharaoh's imperial court, instructed in all the learning of the Egyptians! What bofom catches not the hallowed ardour of patriotic fire from the intrepid avenger of his country's wrongs! In whatever situation or character we view him, whithersoever we follow his steps, we feel ourselves attracted, delighted, instructed.
He furnishes us with the history of his brother Aaron and his family, and of the establishment of the Lea vitical priesthood, a type of the everlasting and unchangeable priesthood of the Redeemer. We attended the venerable pair of brothers to the top of the mountain, and beheld Aaron stript of his pontifical robes, resigning his charge, closing his eyes in death; and heard Moses himself warned to prepare for his departure.
Not only by a display of worth and excellence, but by a delineation of vice, by the exhibition of a “heart deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked,”
has he conveyed to us the means of instruction and improvement; in presenting us with the portrait of Balaam, who “ loved the wages of unrighteousness.” In the character of that bad man, we behold the humiliating union of great talents and a corrupted heart; prophetic gifts and moral depravity ; knowledge of the truth, and wilful adherence to error; admiration of virtue, and fixed habits of vice; an earnest wish to “ die the death of the righteous,” with a deliberate determination to live the life of the wicked ; and all this mystery of iniquity explained in one short fentence; his heart went out after its covetousness.
All these have passed in review before us ; and their existence, in succession to one another, occupies a space of two thousand five hundred years. But the text collects them, and us, and all succeeding generations of men, into one great co-existent afsembly, to undergo a judgment infinitely more folemn than ever was pronounced from human tribunal ; a judgment infallible, final, irreversible; which shall bring to trie al, and condemn all hasty, rash, erroneous judgmenis of men, clear injured innocence, bring to light and re. ward hidden worth, abase insolence and pride, detect and expose hypocrisy. Let the prospect of it direct all our inquiries, aniinate all our exertions, dictate all our decisions on the character and conduct of other men, and influence, form and govern our own. Thus the review of preceding personages and events, and the prospect of those to come shall be animated, im. proved, fanctified ; thus shall we feel our interest in, and connexion with the church of God universal, of every age, and converse with Moses and the prophets as our contemporaries, countrymen and friends, whom we shall shortly join, and be united to them in bonds of pure and everlasting love. Recollecting times past, anticipating ages to come, let us draw near and consider this great fight, and may God grant us to feel and improve its influence.