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What a passage! What an interview! He, a hardened, rebellious, impious, ungrateful wretch ; who has wasted all the means of salvation, prostituted his talents, squandered his time, despised his Maker, “crucified afresh the Lord of glory, and done despite unto the Spirit of Grace ;' now comes before that glorious and offended God, who knows all the sins which he has committed. He is here, without an excuse to plead, without a cloak to cover his guilt. What would he now give for an interest in that Atonement which he slighted, rejected, and ridiculed, in the present world; in that Intercession, on which while here he never employed a thought ; and in that Salvation, for which perhaps he never uttered a prayer! The smiles of redeeming, forgiving, and sanctifying love are now changed into the frowns of an angry, and irreconcileable Judge. The voice of mercy sounds no more ; and the hope of pardon has vanished on this side of the grave.
To the Judgment succeeds the boundless vast of Eternity. Live, he must : die, he cannot. But where, how, with whom, is he to live? The world of darkness, sorrow, and despair, is bis final habitation. Sin, endless and increasing sin, is his dreadful character; and sinners like himself are his miserable and eternal companions. Alone in the midst of millions, surrounded by enemies only, without a friend, without a comfort, without a hope ; he lifts up his eyes, and in deep despair takes a melancholy survey of the immense regions around him, but finds nothing to alleviate his woe, nothing to support his drooping mind, nothing to lessen the pangs of a broken heart.
In a far distant region he sees a faint glimmering of that “ Sun of Righteousness," which shall never more shine upon him. A feeble, dying sound of the praise, the everlasting songs of the general assembly and church of the first-born” trembles on his ear; and in an agonizing manner reminds him of the blessings in which he also might have shared, and which he voluntarily cast away. In dim, and distant vision those heavens are seen, where multitudes of his former friends and companions dwell ;
friends and companions, who in this world loved God, believed in the Redeemer, and by a patient continuance in well-doing sought for
glory, honour, and immortality. Among them perhaps, his own fond parents ; who, with a thousand sighs, and prayers and tears, commended him, while they tabernacled here below, to the mercy of God and to the love of their own Divine Redeemer. His chödren also, and the wife of his bosom gone before him; have perhaps fondly waited at the gates of glory in the ardent expectation, the cheering hope, of seeing him once so beloved, reunited to their number, and a partaker in their everlasting joy. But they have waited in vain.
The curtain now is drawn ; and the amazing vast is unbosomed to his view. Nature, long decayed, sinks under the united pressure of sickness, sorrow, and despair. His eyes grow dim; his ears deaf; his heart forgets to beat ; and his spirit, lingering, terrified, amazed, clings to life, and struggles to keep possession of its earthly tenement. But, hurried by an unseen Almighty hand, it is irresistibly launched into the unseen abyss. Alone and friendless, it ascends to God; to see all its sins set in order before its eyes. With a gloomy and dreadful account of life spent only in sin, without a single act of piety, or voluntary kindness to men, with no faith in Christ, and no sorrow for iniquity ; it is cast out as wholly wicked and unprofitable, into the land of darkness and the shadow of death ; there to wind its melancholy journey through regions of sorrow and despair, ages without end ; and to take up forever the gloomy and distressing lamentation in the text, “ The harvest is past, the summer is ended ; but I am not saved."
But saved Noah, the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness
bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly.
In this chapter St. Peter argues from the analogy of God's prov. idence, that, as he punished sinners in the former ages, so, from the immutability of his character, it is to be believed, that he will punish sinners, also, under the dispensation of the Gospel
. Among the instances of such punishment, selected by the Apostle for this purpose, one, the most affecting, which he could have chosen, is the destruction of the ungodly by the flood, mentioned in the text. In his account of this subject he remarks, in order to remind his readers of the love and faithfulness of God to the righteous, the preservation of Noah from the general ruin; and characterizes him by this honourable epithet ; "a preacher of righteousness.
To understand the import of this character, we must recur to the age, and circumstances, of Noah. In his days, we are informed,“ the earth was corrupt before God, and was filled with violence.” From the account, given us in the sixth chapter of Genesis, it would seem, that the family of Seth, or more probably, the great body of the descendants of Adam, who had been professed worshippers of the true God, relaxing their religious principles, had, much more closely than before, united themselves to that part of their fellow men, who were openly irreligious. The distinction between the friends and the enemies of Religion had, for ages, been strenuously preserved. On this ground opposite
names are given to them by Moses; or perhaps more probably, the names were assumed by themselves, and retained by Moses. The class, which, by publicly adhering to the precepts of God, manifested in their character his image, were called Children of GOD : while the class, which, by their irreligion, appeared to be totally destitute of this image, and discovered strongly their likeness to apostate Adam, were called the Children of Men.
These two great divisions of the human race, it is indicated by the sacred historian, entered, some time before the deluge, into numerous and intimate connections by marriage. “The sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were fair ; and they took them wives of all whom they chose.” The offspring of this immoral and indefensible union became, as we learn, eminently licentious" and also," says the sacred historian, "after that, , when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men, which were of old, men of renown. And God saw," that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord, that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart." From this forcible language it is clear, that the gorruption was excessive, and wonderful. It is evident also, that it was extended throughout the world ; not, probably, so as to reach every individual, beside the family of Noah, but so as generally to prevail wherever the earth was inhabited.
Whenever virtuous men condescend to the measures and principles of the wicked; or, in Scriptural language, whenever such men are conformed to the world” Religion regularly decays; and wickedness gains the ascendant. A steadly, firm,
A steady, firm, open adhe. rence to undefiled religion, is a primary means of supporting the cause of God, and perpetuating virtue in mankind. All civility to sin, all conformity to loose customs, all compliances with the demands, all concessions to the persuasion, all submission to the authority, of mere worldliness; are direct sacrifices of righteousness and truth. It is of no consequence how decent, how apparently harmless, how agreeably conciliatory, this conduct may
be. He, who concedes in this manner, yields up the very object, which he may be really labouring to promote, and which, he
may flatter himself, his measures are calculated to secure. In periods of declension virtue must, in a great measure, lay aside the sweetness and gentleness of her character. Her face, instinctively overspread with smiles, must assume austerity and sternness. It is no longer her business to allure, and charm; but to resist, contend, and overcome. Her followers must then “put on the whole armour of God;" must “ blow the trumpet in Zion," rally around the divine standard, and conflict “ earnestly for the faith, , once delivered to the saints." The mildness of Melancthon will not here succeed: the strenuousness of Luther is indispensable.
If good men yield, nay, if they condescend, to the opinions, and customs, of bad men, of whatever nature they may be ; much more if they form intimate connections, and alliances, with the licentious; they give up the cause, which they are summoned to defend. Thus it was in the case before us. From the concubinage here described, and the lewd dispositions which gave birth to it, sprang, according to the unchangeable law of nature, oppression, injustice, contention, irreligion, and the final abandonment of all duty, and all principle.
In consequence of this general prostration of moral good, Gop determined to destroy the race of men. Yet, according to his abundant long suffering, he allotted to them “one hundred and twenty years," as an opportunity for repentance and reformation. During this period, probably through the whole of it, and to this collection of human beings, Noah was “a preacher of righteousness.” His situation, while performing the duties of his office to this evil generation of men, has often struck me with very great force; and appeared to furnish very valuable lessons of instruction.
To understand, and realize this subject, it will be necessary to consider, the circumstances, in which Noah was placed. He was alone in the midst of a world of opposers and enemies. All the weight of immense numbers ; all the power of example ; all the force of argument; all the efficacy of hatred ; all the pun