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LECTURE X. March I, 1799.
Matthew xii. Observation of the Sabbath; Demoniacs; Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost.
IT being my intention to give from this place, on the Fridays during Lent, a course of Lectures, explanatory and practical, on such parts of Scripture as seem to me best calculated to inform the understandings, and affect the hearts of those that hear me, I shall proceed, without further preface, to the execution of a design, in which edification not entertainment, usefulness not novelty, are the objects I have in view; and in which, therefore, I may sometimes perhaps avail myself or. the labours of others, when they appear to me better calculated to answer my purpose than any thing I am myself capable of producing.
Although my observations will for the present be confined entirely to the Gospel of St. Matthew, and only to certain select parts even
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of that, yet it may not be improper or unprofitable to introduce these Lectures by a compendious view of the principal contents of those writings which go under the general name of the Holy Scriptures.
That book which we call The Bible (that is, The Book, by way of eminence) although it is comprised in one volume, yet in fact comprehends a great number of different narratives and compositions, written at different times by different persons, in different languages, and on different subjects. And taking the whole of the collection together, it is an unquestionable truth that there is no one book extant, in any language, or in any country, which can in any degree be compared with it for antiquity, for authority, for the importance, the dignity, the variety, and the curiosity of the matter it contains.
It begins with that great and stupendous event, of all others the earliest and most interesting to the human race, the creation of this world, of the heavens and the earth, of the celestial luminaries, of man, and all the inferior animals, the herbs of the field, the sea and its inhabitants. All this it describes
with a brevity and sublimity well suited to the magnitude of the subject, to the dignity of the Almighty Artificer, and unequalled by any other writer. The same wonderful scene is represented by a Roman poet*, who has evidently drawn his materials from the narrative of Moses. But though his description is finely imagined and elegantly wrought up, and embellished with much poetical ornament, yet in true simplicity and grandeur, both of sentiment and of diction, he falls far short of the sacred historian. Let There Be Light: And There Was Light ', is an instance of the sublime, which stands to this day unrivalled in any human composition.
But what is of infinitely greater moment, this history of the creation has settled for ever that most important question, which the ancient sages were never able to decide; from whence and from what causes this world, with all its inhabitants and appendages,drew its origin; whether from some inexplicable necessity, from a fortuitous concourse of atoms, from an eternal series of causes and effects, or from one supreme, intelligent, self-existing Being, * Ovid.
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