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SERMONS.

SERMON I.

For the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.-JAMES v. 8.

TIME was, when I know not what mystical meanings were drawn, by a certain cabalistic alchymy, from the simplest expressions of holy writ,-from expressions in which no allusion could reasonably be supposed to any thing beyond the particular occasion upon which they were introduced. While this phrensy raged among the learned, visionary lessons of divinity were often derived, not only from detached texts of Scripture, but from single words, -not from words only, but from letters-from the place, the shape, the posture of a letter: and the blunders of transcribers, as they have since proved to be, have been the groundwork of many a fine-spun meditation.

It is the weakness of human nature, in every instance of folly, to run from one extreme to its opposite. In later ages, since we have seen the futility of those mystic expositions in which the school of Origen so much delighted, we have been too apt to fall into the contrary error; and the same unwarrantable license of figurative interpretation which they employed to elevate, as they thought, the plainer parts of Scripture, has been used, in modern times, in effect to lower the divine.

Among the passages which have been thus misrepresented by the refinements of a false criticism, are all those which contain the explicit promise of the "coming of the Son of man in glory, or in his kingdom;" which it is be

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come so much the fashion to understand of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman arms, within half a century after our Lord's ascension, that to those who take the sense of Scripture from some of the best modern expositors, it must seem doubtful whether any clear prediction is to be found in the New Testament of an event in which, of all others, the Christian world is the most interested.

As I conceive the right understanding of this phrase to be of no small importance, seeing the hopes of the righteous, and the fears of the wicked, rest chiefly on the explicit promises of our Saviour's coming, it is my present purpose to give the matter, as far as my abilities may be equal to it, a complete discussion; and although, from the nature of the subject, the disquisition must be chiefly critical, consisting in a particular and minute examination of the passages wherein the phrase in question occurs, yet I trust, that, by God's assistance, I shall be able so to state my argument, that every one here, who is but as well versed as every Christian ought to be in the English. Bible, may be a very good judge of the evidence of my conclusion. If I should sometimes have occasion, which will be but seldom, to appeal to the Scriptures in the original language, it will not be to impose a new sense upon the texts which I may find it to my purpose to produce; but to open and ascertain the meaning, where the original expressions may be more clear and determinate than those of our translation. And in these cases, the expositions which grammatical considerations may have suggested to me, will be evinced to you, by the force and perspicuity they may give to the passages in question, considered either in themselves or in the connexion with their several contexts.

It is the glory of our church, that the most illiterate of her sons are in the possession of the Scriptures in their mother tongue. It is their duty to make the most of so great a blessing, by employing as much time as they can spare from the necessary business of their several callings, in the diligent study of the written word. It is the duty of their

teachers to give them all possible assistance and encouragement in this necessary work. I apprehend that we 1 mistake our proper duty, when we avoid the public discussion of difficult or ambiguous texts; and either keep them entirely out of sight, or, when that cannot easily be done, obtrude our interpretations upon the laity, as magisterial or oracular, without proof or argument;-a plan that may serve the purposes of indolence, and may be made to serve worse purposes, but is not well adapted to answer the true ends of the institution of our holy order. The will of God is, that all men should be saved; and to that end, it is his will that all men, that is, all descriptions of men, great and small, rich and poor, learned and ignorant, should come to the knowledge of the truth. Of the truth, -that is, of the truths brought to light by the gospel: not only of the fundamental truths of faith toward God, of repentance from dead works, and of a future judgment; but of all the sublimer truths concerning the scheme of man's redemption. It is God's will that all men should be brought to a just understanding of the deliverance Christ hath wrought for us, to a just apprehension of the magnitude of our hopes in him, and of the certainty of the evidence on which these hopes are founded. It is God's will that all men should come to a knowledge of the original dignity of our Saviour's person,-of the mystery of his incarnation,―of the nature of his eternal priesthood, the value of his atonement, the efficacy of his intercession. These things are never to be understood without much more than a superficial knowledge of the Scriptures, especially the Scriptures of the New Testament; and yet that knowledge of the Scriptures which is necessary to the understanding of these things, is what few, I would hope, in this country, are too illiterate to attain. It is our duty to facilitate the attainment by clearing difficulties. It may be proper to state those we cannot clear,-to present our hearers with the interpretations that have been attempted, and to show where they fail ;-in a word, to make them

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