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of woe. A few there are, a very few I fear, who can understand something of the serenity of his mind, and comprehend something of the nature of his fortitude. There are those, whose sympathetic piety can read and interpret the characters of resignation on his brow. There are those, in fine, who have felt the influence of faith.

In this influence there is nothing mysterious, nothing romantic, nothing of which the highest reason may be ashamed. It shows the christian his God, in all the mild majesty of his parental character. It shows you God, disposing in still and benevolent wisdom the events of every individual's life, pressing the pious spirit with the weight of calamity to increase the elasticity of the mind, producing characters of unexpected worth by unexpected misfortune, invigorating certain virtues by peculiar probations, thus breaking the fetters which bind us to temporal things, and

From seeming evil still educing good,
And better thence again, and better still,
In infinite progression.

When the sun of the believer's hopes, according to common calculations, is set, to the eye of faith it is still visible. When much of the rest of the world is in darkness, the high ground of faith is illuminated with the brightness of religious consolation.

Come, now, my incredulous friends, and follow me to the bed of the dying believer. Would you see, in what peace a christian can die? Watch the last gleams of thought, which stream from his dying eyes. Do you see any thing like apprehension ? The world, it is true, begins to shut in. The shadows of evening collect around his senses. A dark mist thickens and rests upon the objects, which have hitherto engaged his observation. The countenances of his friends become more and more indistinct. The sweet expressions of love and friendship are no longer intelligible. His ear wakes no more at the well-known voice of his children, and the soothing accents of tender affection die away, unheard, upon his decaying senses. To him the spectacle of human life is drawing to its close, and the curtain is descending, which shuts out this earth, its actors, and its scenes. He is no longer interested in all that is done under the sun.

0! that I could now open to you the recesses of his soul; that I could reveal to

you

the light, which darts into the chambers of his understanding. He approaches the world, which he has so long seen in faith. The imagination now collects its diminished strength, and the eye of faith opens wide. Friends ! do not stand, thus fixed in sorrow, around this bed of death. Why are you so still and silent? Fear not to move-you cannot disturb the last visions, which entrance this holy spirit. Your lamentations break not in upon the songs of seraphs, which enwrap his hearing in ecstasy, Crowd, if you choose, around his couch-he heeds you not-already he sees the spirits of the just advancing together to receive a kindred soul. Press him not with importunities; urge him not with alleviations. Think you he wants now these tones of mortal voices

-these material, these gross consolations ? No! He is going to add another to the myriads of the just, that are every moment crowding into the portals of heaven! He is entering on a nobler life. He leaves you—he leaves you, weeping children of mortality, to grope about a little longer among the miseries and sensualities of a worldly life. Already he cries to you from the regions of bliss. Will you not join him there? Will you not taste the sublime joys of faith? There are your predecessors in virtue; there, too, are places left for your contemporaries. There are seats for you in the assembly of the just made perfect, in the innumerable company of angels, where is Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, and God, the judge of all.

SERMON XI.

2 PETER III. 15, 16:

EVEN AS OUR BELOVED BROTHER PAUL, ALSO, ACCORDING TO THE WISDOM GIVEN

UNTO HIM, HATH WRITTEN UNTO YOU, AS ALSO IN ALL HIS EPISTLES, SPEAKING IN THEM OF THESE THINGS, IN WHICH ARE SOME THINGS HARD TO BE UNDERSTOOD,

WHICH THEY THAT ARE UNLEARNED AND

UNSTABLE WREST, AS

THEY DO ALSO

THE OTHER SCRIPTURES, UNTO THEIR OWN DESTRUCTION.

This passage is a remarkable testimony of one apostle to the character and writings of another. It proves, that, at the time Peter wrote, some epistles of Paul existed ; and intimates, that they were written according to a kind of wisdom, which he had supernaturally received. It proves, also, that they were considered of so much authority, as to be dignified with the name of scriptures, which is a title equivalent to that of sacred writing. This passage declares, also, that, from some cause, either in the writer or the subject, there were some things in these epistles hard to be understood, and likely to be perverted.

In order to understand the unconnected writings of any person, written at a remote period, and in a foreign language, the character of the writer, the opinions that prevailed in his time, his object in writing, and every circumstance peculiar to his situation, must be taken into consideration, before we can be sure of having reached the whole of his meaning. This is more especially necessary in reading the epistles of Paul, from circumstances, which shall be presently mentioned. It is my present design to give you, in the first place, the history and character of this

apostle, and then to consider the causes of that obscurity in his writings, of which Peter coinplains.

His history, after his conversion, is more detailed than that of any other apostle, and this, too, by the pen of his companion, Luke, an excellent narrator. This part of Paul's life, which is so minutely recorded in the Acts, we shall not include in our present survey, as it may be so easily read, and in so orderly a narrative. Those portions of his life, which tend most to illustrate his character, are his conduct before his conversion, and the consequences of that remarkable event. We shall intersperse the narrative with occasional remarks.

In the history of Paul we have two different men to describe, the persecutor and the apostle. Nothing can be imagined more complete, than the change of views in this apostle, yet he preserves, through the whole of his life, what may be called the original stamina of his character. He was born at Tarsus, a city of Cilicia, a place by no means obscure, but rather distinguished for the pure and flourishing condition of Greek literature, among its citizens. Paul's parents were Jews, who had probably obtained, by the favour of Augustus, the freedom of the city of Rome. Hence Paul, though a Jew, of the tribe of Benjamin, declares, that he was born a Roman citi

His father was a Pharisee, the most rigid of the Jewish sects; and he seems to have taken care, that his son should be educated in all the severity of the order, and furnished with that kind of learning, which then abounded among the Jews, consisting in a knowledge of the traditions of the law, and a thousand false and superstitious notions, which it

Zen.

was then thought the perfection of science to understand, and of which we have some specimens remaining in the Jewish writings of that age. Every thing in Paul's education was calculated to foster a strong prejudice against Jesus and christianity, for if there was any system on earth, to which Christ's religion was particularly opposed, it was the pharisaism of that period. He was placed under the instruction of Gamaliel, a celebrated Jewish doctor, from whom Paul might have learned moderation, at least as far as his temper would have admitted moderation in any thing; but, as soon as the persecution of the christians commenced, we find him among the foremost of those, who were engaged in exterminating the followers of Jesus. His early prejudices in favour of his own sect, the pride of his learning, the consciousness of talents, his reverence for the rabbis, whom he called his masters, and especially á mistaken zeal for God, actuated this young scholar; and he comes from the feet of Gamaliel to assist at the stoning of Stephen, and is afterwards busily engaged in the arrest, trial and punishment of christians, wherever he could find them. The ground of opposition to the christians, in this early age, was, that they maintained Jesus to be the Messiah, a person, who, in the opinion of every Jew, was yet dead, after suffering the fate of a malefactor. It was regarded as a species of blasphemy, to maintain the claims of such a person to such a character;

; and Paul, no doubt, thought himself acting an honourable, or at least a conscientious part, in seizing and punishing, wherever he could find them, those who dared to profess such an offensive belief. His zeal for every thing, connected with the honour of his sect and nation, and with the glory of God, transported him to these extremes of fanaticism. There is nothing in Paul's character before his conversion, which can lead us to suppose, that he was either

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