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The doctrines of Scripture are not proposed in a naked logical form, but arrayed in the most beautiful and striking images which the creation affords*.
A celebrated and well-known author, whose essays have long been the established standard of true taste and fine writing, makes, in one of them, the following observations-" By similitudes drawn from the "visible parts of nature, a truth in the understand
ing is, as it were, reflected by the imagination: we " are able to see something like colour and shape in "a notion, and to discover a scheme of thoughts "traced out upon matter. And here the mind re"ceives a great deal of satisfaction, and has two of "its faculties gratified at the same time, while the "fancy is busy in copying after the understanding, "and transcribing ideas out of the intellectual world "into the material. It is this talent of affecting the imagination that gives an embellishment to good sense, and makes one man's compositions more agreeable than another's. It has something in it "like creation, and bestows a kind of existence. It "makes additions to nature, and gives greater variety "to God's works. In a word, it is able to beautify "and adorn the most illustrious scenes in the universe, and to fill the mind with more glorious shews "and apparitions than can be found in any part of "ity."
Perhaps it is impossible any where to meet with juster sentiments than these are, clothed in more apt
* See Lord Bacon's Advancement of Learning, b. vi. c. 3. › Mr. Addison's concluding paper on the Pleasures of the Imagination. Spectator, vi. No. 421.
and elegant expressions. And this single passage would have sufficed to establish the reputation so justly acquired by its author. The inference I would beg leave to make from it is this: if such be the case in human compositions, where similitudes are drawn by short-sighted man, to illustrate things temporal; what must it be, when they are drawn to illustrate things eternal, by Him who has a perfect knowledge of the nature and properties of the objects from whence they are drawn, as well as of those to which they are applied; nay, who doubtless created the visible world, among other purposes, for that to which he himself, in his revelations to mankind, has so continually employed it, that of serving as a picture, or representation, of the world at present invisible? "Eye hath not seen," says an apostle, "nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart ❝ of man to conceive the things that God hath pre"pared for them that love him. But God hath re"vealed them unto us by his Spirit";" and the Spirit, knowing our infirmities, and whereof we are made, hath revealed them, from the beginning, by external signs, symbols, sacraments, and a figurative language, supplied by them. Upon this very principle it is, that another acknowledged master of style and composition, grounds the character of the sacred writings, considered in that view-" Eloquence, says he is that which persuades: it persuades by "moving; it moves by things and palpable ideas ፡፡ only and hence no eloquence is so perfect as that
z 1 Cor. ii. 9,
"of the Scriptures; since the most spiritual and "metaphysical things are there represented by sensi"ble and lively images,"
In justification of this remark, let the appeal, in the instance now before us, be made to every one endued with sensibility. The position to be laid down is, that, through the alone merits of the Redeemer, we now inherit eternal life. Is it possible for all the art of man to convey this truth in terms so pleasing and informing, as those few used by St. John, with allusion to the scenery in Eden?" And he shewed
me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, "proceeding out of the throne of God, and of the "Lamb. And in the midst of the street of the new "Jerusalem, and on either side of the river, was "there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month; and the "leaves of the tree were for the healing of the na"tions."
To whom, then, blessed Lord Jesus, should we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. Thou art the true tree of life, in the midst of the Paradise of God. For us men, and for our salvation, thou didst
Rollin, Belles Lettres, ii. 360.-"To quarrel with our Maker "about this way of proceeding, would be to blame him for conveying truths to us in the most affecting and agreeable manner; or for creating us with those faculties which are fitted to receive "truths thus conveyed. For the most important truths, as we are "framed at present, can make but a slight impression on the "mind, unless they enter first, like a picture, into the imagination, "and from thence are stamped on the memory." Peters, Crit. Diss. on the Book of Job, part i. sect. 10.
condescend to be planted, in a lowly form, upon the earth. But thy head soon reached to heaven, and thy branches to the ends of the earth. Thy head is crowned with glory, and thy branches are the branches of honour and grace. Medicinal are thy leaves to heal every malady, and thy fruits are all the blessings of immortality. It is our hope, our support, our comfort, and all our joy, to reflect, that, wearied with the labours, and worn out with the cares and sorrows of a fallen world, we shall sit down under thy shadow with great delight, and thy fruit shall be sweet to our taste!
THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE.
GENESIS, II. 17.
Of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt
THIS is the first and the only law recorded to have been promulged in the state of man's innocence. It may, therefore, be reasonably supposed to have contained in itself the substance of many other laws. Its comprehension may be inferred likewise from its importance. The transgression of it occasioned the fall of the human race, and introduced the necessity of a redemption by the Son of God.
Could we ascertain with precision what is intended by the knowledge of good and evil, such a discovery might possibly furnish us with a key to this part of Scripture, and to the transactions relative to the trial of our first parents in Paradise. Let us, therefore, begin with an inquiry into the true meaning of these words.
By the knowledge of good and evil, the generality of commentators understand experimental knowledge; and they suppose the name to have been given to the tree by a prolepsis, because, in the event, through