« VorigeDoorgaan »
geance on the murderer; and the guilty wretch rendered a terror to himself.
We have seen these, one after another, dropping into the grave; and in that, the triumph of sin and death. But in Enoch we behold the triumph of faith and holiness, the triumph of almighty grace over sin 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 sought shelter with Noah, and his little saved remnant, from that deluge which destroyed a world of ungodly men, in the ark which God commanded; which that" preacher of righteousness prepared for the saving of his house:" and which Providence conducted and preserved amidst the wild uproar of contending elements and with him perceived the wrathful storm 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 see, and to acknowledge the vigour, the infallibility, the unchange. ableness 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 seed, "in whom all the families of the earth should be blessed."
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, sequestered, contemplative life of Isaac, and the active, variegated, chequered life of Jacob, his younger son.
In the affliction of Joseph we felt ourselves afflicted, 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 sentiments, character and conduct. What heart so hard as not to melt at sight of yonder weeping babe, a deserted, exposed, perishing Hebrew child, floating 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 bosom 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 Levitical 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 the deliberate determination to live the life of the wicked; and all this mystery of iniquity explained in one short sen. tence; 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 genera-tions of men, into one great co-existent assembly, to undergo a judgment infinitely more solemn than ever was pronounced from human tribunal; a judgment infallible, final, erreversible; which shall bring to trial, and condemn all hasty, rash, erroneous judgments of men, clear injured innocence, bring to light and reward hidden worth, abase insolence and pride, detect and expose hypocrisy. Let the prospect of it direct all our inquiries, animate 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, improved, sanctified; 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 pure and everlasting love. Recollecting times past, anticipating ages to come, let us draw near and consider this great sight, and may God grant us to feel and improve its influence.
The imagery of the scene is sublime and striking. "I saw a great white throne." "A throne," royal state, established empire, acknowledged sway, the right and power of judgment united, universal, everlasting, uncontrollable dominion. A "great" throne.
The seat of kings is raised a little above the people; that of Solomon had six steps; ivory and gold lent their combined aid to enrich and adorn it. But what is the glory of Solomon? His throne once the seat of wisdom, to whose oracular voice foreign potentates and their nations listened with admiration and respect, was at length dishonoured, degraded, defiled by the impurities of idolatry, and by the imprudence and apostacy of him who sat upon it, and thus deprived of one of its firmest supporters, it shook under him, and he at length dropped from it, a monument of the nothingness and vanity of human grandeur, wealth and wisdom. Ten of its twelve props slipt from beneath it, through the imprudence of his son; and, after a few convulsive struggles, it sunk at length into the dust, a poor, precarious, subordinate throne, subject to the lordly state of an Assyrian prince. What is the glory of angels that excel in strength? Delegated power, derived splendour, imparted wisdom, dignity under authority. But, behold on yonder radiant throne, one "made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they." "He maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom." "Sit on my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool." Behold "the Lord sitting upon the throne, high and lifted up," surrounded with the seraphim, crying continually unto one another, and saying, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts, the whole earth is full of his goodness.'
"A great white throne," the emblem of purity, truth and righteousness; itself unsullied, and purifying all that approach it. "Righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne; mercy and truth go before his face." "Shall not the Judge of the whole earth do right?" With the purest inten
tion, with the highest degree of human sagacity, with the most extensive knowledge of the law, and the most determined resolution faithfully to apply it, earthly tribunals are not secure from error: craft may overreach wisdom; hypocrisy may disguise the truth, or cover falsehood; the stream of justice may be diverted or forced out of its channel, and the pellucid tide undergo a temporary pollution. The princes of this world must see with the eyes and hear with the ears of other men; the worthy and the wise may, of course, be kept at a distance, while demerit, wickedness and folly bask in the sunshine of royal favour. But yonder radiant throne applies an infallible test to all that approach it: hypocrisy drops the mask, the windings of deceit and cunning stand exposed, the brazen, imposing forehead of impudence is covered with a blush, and the stony, unfeeling, unrelenting heart is dissolved into watermodest worth rears its drooping head, conscious integrity expands its glowing bosom, and purity seeks the source from which it sprung.
Observe the difference; mark the changes which these undergo, as they draw nigh; see the hardened sinner, cased in sevenfold adamant, advancing with intrepid step, striving to make assurance pass for innocence. But, lo, the rays of that white throne have fallen upon him; the spots begin to appear, they grow blacker and blacker, he gradually becomes abominable and more abominable; odious to the beholder, a terror to himself, he shrinks from inquiry, darkness is diffused around from the brightness of that light; he calls upon the mountains to fall upon him, and upon the hills to cover him.
Not so the humble follower of the Lamb. His countenance becomes more and more serene, his confidence increases, every blemish disappears, "the glory of the Lord is risen upon him," his lustre brightens as he proceeds, at length he is united to, he is lost in the fountain of joy.