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which has provided redemption for sinners, can qualify and support even frail and feeble man, for the arduous effort of propagating Christianity throughout the earth. We are especially encouraged in this expectation, by observing in the prophetic records, that the promises of God not only regard the purity and extension of the church, but the means by which they are to be effected. For if the Almighty is pleased to engage, as in the words of my text, that Jerusalem shall be established and become a praise in the earth; and at the same time to declare, that he will raise up men to stand on the walls of the sacred city, and never to desist from their zealous efforts, till his full mercy towards her is accomplished, what Christian can hesitate? What heart remain distrustful? What hand shrink back from assisting, and assisting with ardour, in the sacred undertaking? What further can be wanting in the way of direction or encouragement? Particularly when such declarations are introduced, as in the instance before us, in the midst of a succession of rapturous predictions, apparently for the very purpose of animating the church in those exertions, to which such inspiring prospects are designed to invite her.
The speaker, in the first division of the passage which I have selected, is undoubtedly Jehovah himself, graciously declaring that he will appoint men of holy piety and zeal to enter
on the great work of propagating his truth. The words which follow are generally attributed to the church; by which she welcomes the cheering promise, and, viewing in prophetic vision the blessing as already fulfilled, exhorts these faithful watchmen never to cease in their exertions and prayers, till she shall have received the entire completion of the divine purposes. Such rapid changes of person are not uncommon in the elevated poetry of Isaiah, and add a peculiar beauty and force to his writings. The whole passage may have had a primary relation to the period of the deliverance from the captivity of Babylon, and certainly referred to the glorious time when the Redeemer became incarnate for the salvation of mankind; but its full accomplishment is yet to be expected in the extension of the Christian name, the conversion of idolaters, and the restoration of the ancient people of Israel, to the faith of the Messiah whom they rejected and crucified.
It has appeared to me, therefore, that no text could be more suitable than this for the present occasion; when you, my reverend brethren, together with the several other friends before me who are to be attached to the mission, are about to proceed to Western Africa, under the auspices of our Society, for the purpose of contributing your endeavours, so far as you may
have opportunity, for bringing about this great consummation.
Permit me then to direct your attention, I. To the great EVENT to which we are encouraged to look forward; the establishment and glory of the church.
II. To the MEANS by which this event will be accomplished; the raising up men of fervent piety to enter on the high work of propagating the Gospel, whilst the church generally assists and animates them by her exhortations and prayers.
I. THE EVENT TO WHICH WE ARE ENCOURAGED ΤΟ LOOK FORWARD IS THE CHURCH'S ESTABLISHMENT AND GLORY IN THE WORLD.
Hitherto she has never seen the days to which the energetic language of prophecy has directed her expectation. The Messiah has indeed appeared, and the predictions which related to his person and sufferings have been literally fulfilled. The foundation has been laid in Zion. On this she has stood, and will continue to stand secure. Not the gates of Hell can prevail against her. Multitudes have in every age acknowledged the sceptre, and adorned the grace of the Prince of Life. In this view the church has long been established, and been made a praise in the earth. But the promise,
as it not only embraces the stupendous fact of the Incarnation, and some of its immediate consequences, but regards the full effects of this act of mercy in the illumination and salvation of the world, has never yet received its accomplishment. For what is the history of the Christian religion? What is, in fact, the present state of it, and what has been its state for the last fifteen hundred years? Is it, in any comprehensive sense, the praise of the earth? propagation of Christianity in the two or three first centuries, was indeed rapid. The church appeared likely to be firmly established throughout the world. The praise of the Gospel sounded from every quarter of the globe. A very large portion of Asia, most of the divisions of Europe, with no inconsiderable part of Northern Africa, received the word of salvation. The eyes of mankind were attracted to the splendour of the rising light. But how soon was this light obscured! How soon was the march of truth suspended! How rapidly did the life and power of the religion of Christ decline, and with them the zeal which once animated Christians for propagating the Gospel! Even in the second century, the introduction of a vain philosophy began to weaken the stability of many parts of the sacred edifice. The public reception and establishment of Christianity by the Roman Emperors, great as the blessing in itself
was, unhappily gave occasion to the progress of error and superstition. The wide spread of the Arian heresy soon succeeded, and laid waste the fairest provinces of the Christian commonwealth. The church ceased, even in her own dominions, to be the praise and ornament of the earth.
But, why should I prosecute the gloomy subject? Why need I recal to your minds the desolating triumphs of the Mohammedan Imposture, which swept away before it all, or nearly all, the remains of Christianity in the regions of Asia, Africa, and part of Europe? Or why should I detail the dark strides of the Papal Idolatry, which rested at length in all its gloom on the bright orb of the church in the Western World? It is true some partial gleams burst across the thickening night. Cyprian and Augustine in one age, Anselm and Bernard in another, were the praise of the church. Their labours and writings, especially those of Augustine, formed a bright spot of glory amidst the surrounding darkness. But it was not till the period of the Reformation, under the conduct of Martin Luther, that the church began to emerge from the long eclipse, and to resume her native splendour. Then, indeed, Jehovah visited the earth. A flood of light then broke upon the church, which appeared destined to