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However, my text is fulfilling, and shall be fulfilled. joyful sound has already been spread far abroad, in defiance of all attempts to restrain it. Multitudes, from age to age, have heard it, and found it to be the power of God unto salvation. And it would be easy to prove, if it belonged to my subject, that the superior advantages of civilization which Christendom enjoys, are remotely owing to the knowledge of revelation. To this must be chiefly ascribed the different state of this island from what it was when visited by Julius Cæsar. Yea, our modern philosophers would make but a poor figure, were they despoiled of all the plumes they have borrowed from the book they affect to despise. Further, the purpose of God to save sinners by faith in his beloved Son, is the primary ground of that patience and longsuffering which he still exercises towards such a world as this. And some imperfect traces of this design, transmitted by tradition, are probably to be found, though wofully disfigured, among every nation and people under heaven; which have at least preserved, in a degree, the notices of a right and wrong, and some faint warnings of conscience, in the most savage state of human nature. But, were it not for reasons connected with the designs of his mercy, we can scarcely conceive that the Holy God would have perpetuated the race of mankind in a state of rebellion and enmity against his government. Or if he had permitted them to multiply, and left them wholly and absolutely to themselves, without interposing some restraints upon their depravity, I believe the inhabitants of the earth would have been no better than incarnate fiends.
The prophecies, both of the Old and New Testament, encourage us to hope for a time when the light of Gospel truth will break forth with meridian brightness, the glory of the Lord be revealed, and all flesh shall see his salvation. As a pledge of this, and of the truth of the whole Scripture, we have what may be called a standing miracle continually before our eyes; I mean the state of the Jews, who, though dispersed far and wide among many nations, are every where preserved a distinct and separate people. The history of the world affords no other instance of the like kind. The great monarchies, by which they were successively conquered and scattered, have successively perished. Only the names of them remain. But the people whom they despised, and endeavoured to exterminate, subsist to this day; and, though sifted like corn over the earth, and apparently forsaken of God, are still preserved by his wonderful providence, unaffected by the changes and customs around them; still tenacious of the law of Moses, though the observance of it is rendered impracticable. Many days, many ages they have lived as the prophets
foretold they should, without a temple, without sacrifice or priest. As yet, many Heathen nations are permitted to walk in their own ways. But at length the fulness of the Gentiles shall come in, and all Israel shall be saved.'t The revolution and commotions in kingdoms and nations, which astonish and perplex politicians, are all bringing forward this great event. The plan of the human drama, to us, who only see a single scene, is dark and intricate; but the catastrophe is approaching and in the close of the whole, the manifold wisdom of God will be admired and adored, and all holy and happy intelligences will acknowledge, with transport,' He has done all things well.'
But the point I am chiefly to press upon my hearers, is, that this word of salvation is sent to you. How the great Judge will deal with the Heathens, who were never favoured with it, he has not seen fit distinctly to inform us. But thus far he has assured us, that it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon, yea, for Sodom and Gomorrah, than for those who have the privilege of knowing the Gospel, if they reject it. To them much is given, and of them much will be required. Do not think ministers assuming if they magnify their office. We have no reason to think highly of ourselves. Nor would you be blameable for disregarding us if we spoke in our own names. But if we preach the truth of the Gospel in simplicity and sincerity, then we speak in the name of the Lord, and demand your attention. Do you ask for our authority and commission? Ask your own consciences. If, like Felix, when you mean only to indulge your curiosity by hearing us, you are constrained to tremble ;|| if we force upon your mind the remembrance of what you have said or done; our message makes you uneasy and dissatisfied with yourselves; if you cannot avoid feeling at some times the truth of our principles, and the necessity of the change we would press upon you; if, though you have been repeatedly displeased and offended with what you hear, and perhaps, have gone away purposing or threatening that you would hear it no more, you still appear amongst us--then you have a sufficient proof that the ministers are sent and authorized to speak to you, and we take your consciences to witness that we preach the truth.
*Hos. iii. 4, 5. Rom. xi. 25, 26. Acts, xiii. 26. Matth. xi. 20-24 Acts, xxiv. 25.
OPPOSITION TO MESSIAH UNREASONABLE.
PSALM ii. 1—3.
Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his Anointed: saying, Let us break his bonds asunder, and cast away his cords from us.
It is generally admitted, that the institutes of Christianity, as contained in the New Testament, do at least exhibit a beautiful and salutary system of morals; and that a sincere compliance with the precepts of our Lord and his apostles would have a good effect upon society. Few infidels have ventured to contradict the common sense of mankind so far as to deny this. it be denied that the author of this institution, if we judge by the history and character given of him by the evangelists, exemplified, in the highest perfection, by his own conduct, the precepts which he enjoined to his followers. While he lived as a man amongst men, the tenour of his behaviour was such as became the friend of mankind. Though he submitted to a low estate, and often suffered hunger, thirst, and weariness, we do not read of his having wrought a single miracle merely for his own relief. But the wants and calamities of others continually excited his compassion, and engaged his assistance. He gave sight to the blind, health to the sick, and sometimes wiped away the tears of mourners, by restoring their dead to life. He endured hunger himself; but once and again provided food for multitudes, lest they, having nothing to eat, should faint by the way. Nor did he confine his acts of benevolence to his followers, but was easy of access, and granted the request of all, indiscriminately, who applied to him. "He went about doing good,'* and often put himself in the way of those who would not otherwise have known him. And though he was opposed, calumniated, and laughed to scorn, he continued unwearied and determined in the same cause, bestowing benefits on all around him, as occasions offered, and returning good for evil. May we not with reason ask, why then did Jews and Heathens, priests and people, Scribes and Sadducees, rage so furi
* Acts, x. 58.
ously against him who did nothing amiss, who did all things well? Why did persons of the most opposite interest, parties, and sentiments, who could agree in nothing else, so cordially agree in opposing MESSIAH?
His Gospel breathes the spirit of the great Author, and has a direct tendency to make men happy and useful. Wherever it was published, in the first age, among the Heathens, many of them turned from the worship of dumb idols, to serve the living and true God. It taught and enabled them to renounce ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly ;'* and it still produces the same effects. The world now bears the name of Christian; but under this new and honourable name it retains the same spirit as formerly. Many who are called Christians, are no less under the power of evil tempers and evil habits, than the Heathens to whom the apostles preached. But where the Gospel of the grace of God reaches the heart, a real and observable change is produced. The profane person learns to fear an oath, the libertine is reclaimed, the drunkard becomes sober, and the miser kind. Wherever the truth of the Gospel is known and received, instances may be found of persons who were a terror and a burden to their families, being delivered from the stings of a guilty conscience, from the dominion of headstrong passions, from the slavery of habitual wickedness, and made peaceful, useful, and exemplary members of society, by what the apostle calls the preaching of the cross. And we challenge history to show, that an abiding, consistent reformation, was ever effected by any other doctrine, in a single province, or city, or village, or even in a single family.
What then shall we say of that zeal which kindled the fire of persecution against our Lord and his apostles, and his followers, through a succession of ages?-What is the common principle, the bond of union, which at this day connects people who differ so widely in other respects, and points their displeasure from all sides against this one object? In a former discourset I briefly mentioned the grounds of that dislike which the Jews manifested to MESSIAH's personal ministry; and I observed that they are deeply rooted in the nature of fallen man, and therefore not peculiar to any one age or nation. The Gospel always did, and always will, produce the same happy change in those who receive it; and provoke the same opposition and resentment in those who do not. The actings will be different as circumstances vary, but the principle is universally the same. In this Island, which the good providence of God has distinguished by many signal and
peculiar favours, the spirit of our constitution and government is friendly to liberty of conscience and the rights of private judgment; so that our religious profession does not expose us to the penalties of fire and sword, stripes or tortures, imprisonment or banishment. Such trials have been the lot of our forefathers; when the servants of God, under the names of Gospelers or Puritans, were treated as heretics of the worst sort. We are bound to acknowledge, with thankfulness, the blessings of religious and civil liberty which we enjoy. But the world at large around us is not more favourably disposed to the grace and rule of MESSIAH'S kingdom, than it was in the days of Heathen and Popish darkness. The tongue at least is unrestrained, and out of the abundance of the heart the mouth will speak. The Gospel offends the pride of men, by considering them all on a level, as sinners in the sight of God; and by proposing only one method of salvation, without admitting any difference of plea or character. It offends them likewise by its strictness. Like Herod, they might perhaps consent to do many things,* if they were left at liberty to please themselves in others, in which, though expressly contrary to the will of God, they will not submit to be controlled; and therefore they are much displeased with the Gospel, which, by affording no allowance or connivance to the least known sin, but prescribing a rule of universal holiness, crosses their inclinations and favourite interests. When Paul preached at Ephesus, Demetrius and his companions perceived that their craft was in danger. This was the real cause of their anger, but they were ashamed to avow it; and therefore their ostensible reason of opposing him was of a religious kind,† and they professed a great concern for the honour of Diana. Few, perhaps, would have given themselves much trouble to promote or preserve the gain of the craftsmen; but a pretended regard for the worship which had been long established, was a popular topic, which wrought powerfully upon the superstition of the ignorant multitude, and thousands were presently induced to join with them in the cry, 'Great is Diana of the Ephesians.'
The like arts are still practised with the like success. same secret motives are disguised by the same plausible pretenThe deceitfulness and wickedness of the heart appears in no one instance more plainly than in the cavils which are repeated and multiplied against the grace of the Gospel. When we preach a free salvation by faith in Jesus, and propose his obedience unto death, as the sure and only ground of acceptance with God; when we say, in the words of the apostle, to the vilest of + Acts, xix. 28.
* Mark, vi. 20.