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session.' At present, (as I have formerly observed,*) if the whole of Christendom was inhabited by real Christians, they would bear but a small proportion to the rest of mankind. Large countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa, where the Gospel was once known, have been for many ages involved in Mahommedan darkness. The scattered remnants of the Greek church in Turkey are so miserably depraved and ignorant, that they scarcely deserve to be mentioned as an exception. The rest of Asia knows little of Christianity, unless they have learnt it in the eastern parts from the cruelty and tyranny of men who bear the name of Christians. The like may be said of America, excepting the northern provinces of our late dominion there. For the zeal of the Spaniards and Portuguese has produced few other effects than rapine, slavery, and deluges of human blood. The interior parts, both of Africa and America, are unknown. The countries and islands lately discovered in the southern hemisphere, are left, as they were found, in gross ignorance. The exertions of our navigators to supply them with sheep and cows, and useful implements, from Europe, were humane and laudable. But it does not appear that the least attempt was made to impart to them the knowledge of our holy religion. The only missionary they have from us (if he be yet living) is the much spoken of Omiah. This man was brought to England, almost from the antipodes; he spent some time amongst us, and was then sent back to tell his countrymen what he had seen and heard. But if he gave a faithful account of our customs, morals, and religion, so far as they fell within the circle of his own observations, the relation would certainly be little to our honour, and I am afraid much to their hurt. In brief, a large part of Europe, almost the whole of the other three continents, with the islands in the Eastern and Southern oceans, are destitute of the true Gospel. But there is a time approaching, called, the fulness of the Gentiles,' when the Redeemer's glory shall dawn and shine upon all nations. And though we cannot see when or how this happy change shall be effected, yet, in the Lord's hour, mountains shall sink into plains. Nor is it more improbable to us now, than it would have seemed to an inhabitant of Rome in the time of Julius Cæsar, that the island of Great Britain should one day be distinguished by all those privileges which the providence of God has since bestowed upon it.
2. That this Gospel shall prevail, not in word only, but in power. Even where the name of Christ is professed, but little of the power of it is at present known. The superstition and false
* Page 256.
worship generally prevalent within the pale of the Roman and Greek churches, may be mentioned without offence to Protestants. But the bulk of the Protestant countries are equally overspread with scepticism and wickedness. Few, comparatively, among Protestants, are friendly to that Gospel which the apostles preached; and much fewer are they who are influenced by it. Perhaps no nation is favoured with greater advantages for knowing the truth than our nation, nor any city more favoured than this city. I doubt not but there are persons now living, who would have been thought eminent Christians, if they had lived in the first and happiest age of the church; and I trust their number is greater than we are aware of. The Lord has a hidden people, little known to the world, or to each other. But if we judge by the standard of truth, we must acknowledge that the power of religious profession is very low. How little does it appear in the lives, tempers, and pursuits of most who hear the Gospel? But the time will come when Christians shall again be known by their integrity, spiritual-mindedness, and benevolence, and all the fruits of righteousness, which are, by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. The fall of mystical Babylon, and of antichrist in its various forms, and the calling of the Jews, are events which are positively foretold, and which, when they come to pass, will have great effects. Zion, as yet, is only building, but it shall be built.
3. That the animosities and disputes which prevail among Christians shall cease. The observation of a late ingenious writer, which, it is to be feared, he was confirmed in by his own experience, is too much founded in truth: We have just religion enough to make us hate one another.' The spirit of party, prejudice, bigotry, and interest; a zeal for systems, forms, modes, and denominations, furnish men with plausible pretences for indulging their unsanctified passions, and deceive them into an opinion, that while they are gratifying their pride and self-will, they are only labouring to promote the cause of God and truth. Hence often the feuds which obtain among religious people are pursued with greater violence and to greater lengths, and are productive of more mischievous consequences, than the quarrels of drunkards. The lovers of peace, who refuse to take a part in these contentions, but rather weep over them in secret, are censured and despised as neutrals and cowards, by the angry combattants on all sides, while the world despises and laughs at them all. It was not so in the beginning, nor will it be so always. The hour is coming, when believers shall be united in love, shall agree in all that is essential to a life of faith and holiness, and shall live in the exercise of forbearance and tenderness towards
each other, if, in some points of smaller importance, they cannot think exactly alike; which possibly may be the case in the best times, in the present imperfect state of human nature. Ephraim then shall no more envy Judah, nor Judah vex Ephraim.'*
4. That it will be a time of general peace. At present, the kingdoms which, by their profession, should be subjects of the Prince of Peace, are perpetually disturbing, invading, and destroying each other. They live in babits of mutual fear and jealousy, and maintain great armies on all sides; that each nation may be prepared, if occasion offers, to strike the first blow. War is followed as a trade, and cultivated as a science; and they who, with the greatest diligence and success, spread devastation and ruin far and wide, and deluge the earth with human blood, acquire the title of heroes and conquerors. Can there be a stronger confirmation of what we read in Scripture concerning the depravity of man? Can we conceive an employment more suited to gratify the malignity of Satan and the powers of darkness, if they were permitted to appear and act amongst us in human shapes? Could such enormities possibly obtain, if the mild and merciful spirit of the Gospel generally prevailed? But it shall prevail at last, and then the nations shall learn war no more.'†
How transporting the thought! that a time shall yet arrive, when the love of God and man, of truth and righteousness, shall obtain through the earth. The evils (and these are the greatest evils of human life) which men bring upon themselves, and upon each other, by their wickedness, shall cease; and we may believe that the evils in the natural world will be greatly abated. Sin will no longer call down the tokens of God's displeasure, by such public calamities as hurricanes, earthquakes, pestilence, and famine. And if some natural evils, as pain and sickness, should remain, submission to the will of God, and the compassion and tenderness of men towards the afflicted, will render them tolerable.
If this prospect be desirable to us, surely it will be the object of our prayers. The Lord will do great things, but he will be inquired of by his people for the performance.
But to many persons the extension of dominion and commerce appears much more desirable. The glory and extent of the British government has been eagerly pursued; and the late diminution of our national granduer and influence has been much laid to heart; while the glory of the Redeemer's kingdom, and the conversion of the Heathens, are considered by the politicians and merchants of the earth, as trivial concerns, unworthy of their
* Isaiah, xi. 18.
+ Isaiah, ii. 4.
notice, or rather as obstacles to the views of ambition and avarice. But it is said of MESSIAH, and of his church, The nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish.'* The word of God may be slighted, but it cannot be annulled; and it is more a subject for lamentation than wonder, that our national prosperity should decline, when we are indifferent, yea, adverse, to that cause which the great Governor of the world has engaged to promote and establish.
KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
REVELATION, xix. 16.
And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written,] KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OE LORDS.
THE description of the administration and glory of the Redeemer's kingdom, in defiance of all opposition, concludes the second part of Messiah. Three different passages from this book are selected to form a grand chorus, of which his title in this verse is the close; a title which has been sometimes vainly usurped by proud worms of the earth. Eastern monarchs, in particular, have affected to style themselves king of kings, and lord of lords. In the Scriptural language, men, whether high or low, rich or poor, one with another, are compared to worms and potsherds of the earth; but they are by nature so strongly infected by pride, that they cannot invent titles of honour answerable to the idea they have of their own importance, without intrenching upon divine prerogative. Thus sovereignty, majesty, holiness, and grace, and other attributes which properly belong to God alone, are parcelled out among the great. But let the great and the mighty know, that wherein they speak proudly, MESSIAH is above them. The whole verse, (of which the latter clause only is in the Oratorio,) offers two points to our meditations.
I. How he is represented as wearing his title. It is written, or inscribed, upon his vesture dipped in blood, and upon his thigh; either that part of his vesture which covers his upon
*Isaiah, lx. 12.
thigh, or upon the upper part of his vesture, and upon his thigh likewise.
11. The title itself, King of kings, and Lord of lords.' Whatever power the kings and lords among mankind possess, is derived from him, and absolutely subject to his control.
I. The manner in which he wears his name or title. It is written upon his vesture and upon his thigh.
1. This name being written upon his vesture,' denotes the manifestation and the ground of his authority. It is written upon his outward garment, to be read, known, and acknowledged by all beholders. And it is upon his bloody garment, upon the vesture stained with his own blood, and the blood of his enemies; which intimates to us, that his government is founded upon the success of his great undertaking. In the passage from whence this verse is selected, there are three names attributed to MESSIAH. He has ' a name which no one knows but himself,"* agreeably to what he declared when upon earth. No man, oudεis, no one, neither man nor angel, knoweth the Son, but the Father; this refers to his eternal power and Godhead. A second name, The word of God,'t denotes the mystery of the divine personality. The name in my text imports his glory, as the Mediator between God and man, in our nature, which, when he resumed it from the grave, became the seat of all power and authority; which power we are now taught to consider, not merely as the power of God, to whom it essentially belongs, but as the power of God exercised in and by that Man who died upon the cross for our sins. In consequence of his obedience unto death, he received a name which is above every name.' This inscription his own people read by the eye of faith in the present life, and it inspires them with confidence and joy, under many tribulations they pass through in the course of their profession. Hereafter it shall be openly known, and read by all men. Every eye shall see it, and every heart must either bow or break before him.
2. It is written upon his 'thigh.' The thigh is the emblem of power, and is the part of the body on which the sword is girded.§ By this emblem we are taught, that he will assuredly maintain and exercise the right which he has acquired. As he has a just claim to the title, he will act accordingly. Many titles among men are merely titular. So the king of Great Britain is styled likewise king of France, though he has neither authority nor possessions in that kingdom. But this name which MESSIAH bears is full of life, truth, and influence. He is styled King of kings, and Lord of lords,' because he really is so; because he Psalm xlv. 8.
*Rev. xix. 12 + Rev. xix. 15.
Phil. ii. 9.