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RELIGION AND MORALS. THE PROGRESS OF THE intended and directed by the hand GOSPEL.
of Providence; it may also, in like
manner be inferred, that its begin. Acts xix, 20.
nings proceeded from the same So mightily grew the word of God, and heavenly source; that as the Deily prevailed.
evidently exerted his power for its
support and encouragement, so it The very astonishing progress
must originally have been sent down which our holy religion made, dur
from him to earth, and consequently ing the short period which imme
be a divine revelation. diately followed upon the resur
Now as to the fact, that Chrisrection of our Lord, has always tianity, very soon after its institubeen justly considered as a strong
strong tion, was most widely diffused, and argument in favour of its divine
received by people of various tribes origin. That a system of opinious, and languages, by referring only to at first taught by one who had been
ad been the Acts of the Apostles as an hisdespised and rejected of men ; and
torical record, we have abundant after the ignominious death of the
proof. At the first preaching of first teacher, successively propa
St. Peter, on the day of Pentecost, gated by a few obscure individuals,
ividuals, there were added to the church should have gained ground so ra. about three thousand souls *. We pidly, and suddenly attracted so
read also, that additions were made many zealous supporters, is a phe- dailut to the number of believers. nomenon, which has never been has never, been
Again we find the increase, thus reasonably explained, but by an
continually made, described as appeal to the manifest interference
multitudes both of men and women i. of God. It is a conclusion to which
Even the persecutions, which af. we are immediately drawn. If it
terwards arose, contributed to the is certain that a vast number of
same end. When the disciples believers were suddenly added to
were scattered abroad, they still the church, (as appears from the
preached the word, and wherever Acts of the Apostles ;) and it is
they fled from their enemies, there also known, that the human means, also they carried their persevering in this particular case, were in
efforts, and with undismayed boldadequate to so mighty an effect, it
ness, employed themselves in makundoubtedly follows, that a divine ing converts to the faith. Nor were agency must have interposed to their labours unrewarded. For the direct the event. And if then the progress of the Gospel was super- * Acts ii. 41. + Ibid. 47. Ibid. v. 14. · REMEMBRANCER, No. 67.
hand of the Lord was with them: But we shall not dwell on this and a great number believed and argument. Though upon the strength turned unto the Lord. Such is the of it, we might justly claim to our testimony which we have received religion the authority of a divine to the fact of the sudden growth revelation ; yet as the rapid proand prevalence of the Gospel, gress of the Gospel is a subject which also has been strongly con- involving so many considerations tirmed to us by every succeeding worthy of our diligent attention, account, from the age of the Apos- we need not insist exclusively upon tles, to the present time; and upon the mere rapidity of its extension, as which we rest one powerful evidence a ground for believing it to have of the truth of our holy religion. proceeded from God; but shall
The fact being once clearly esta. derive a fuller confirmation of the blished, that upon its first and ear- same conclusion, by taking a brief liest publication, the word of God review of some of the principal grew mightily, and prevailed; it circumstances which attended that remains for us, to account for it in progress. the most consistent and satisfactory. It will appear to us, that the manner.
human means employed were utterly We might indeed argue simply inadequate to produce so sudden from the circumstance of that won- an effect. derful rapidity, with which the For let us first consider the chaGospel spread throughout the world, racler of those, who were appointed that the meaus, which effected so to preach the Gospel to all nations. sudden and general a change in the The Apostles were men chosen minds of men, were of a nature from a low rank of society, and beyond the compass of human capa. suddenly called to undertake their city and power. Wherever we dis- holy office, without any previous cover the power of man alone con- instruction, or formal qualification cerned, the effect is produced only for the arduous enterprise set before by progressive steps, we perceive a them. They were altogether una gradual advancement in the work, learned. Their occupations, which until at length, by repeated endea were those of men, who earn their vours, the desired result is obtained. livelihood by the daily work of their With the power of God, a different hands, were such, as necessarily Jaw holds. He said in the begin- excluded them from all leisure for niug, Let there be light, and there literary acquirement, or knowledge was light*. He spake the word, and beyond that of ordinary experience. all things were made: he commanded, All the learning they could have and they were created t. With him had, must have consisted in the to think, is at once to act. The profession of their religion, which operation and the effect are coin- esacted from them, as Jews, an stantaneous. In circumstances, acquaintance with the history of therefore, which present to our their remote ancestors, as well as observation effects bearing in their with numerous rites and ordinances character a similar promptness of implicitly connected with that hisexecution, which exhibit the work tory, commemorative pf God's sinas immediately consequent upon gular blessings towards them, and the design, it is a fair presumption intended to preserve the stock of to suppose the same divine Artificer, Israel, a distinct race from all the who spoke the universe into being, rest of mankind. An education, to have been the priucipal agent in such as this, only served to incabringing them also to pass. pacitate them for the reception of
any new truth, and to prejudice * Gen, i. † Psal. cxlviii, 5. their minds against any apparent
encroachment on the religion of same character and complexion. their fathers. A mere Jew could No certain rule could be devised, not but regard, with an eye of no precise method invented, which jealous aversion, any innovation, might be universally applicable. which tended towards removing the What might have appeared pecuwall of partition, between himself liarly forcible and convincing to and the Gentile, any change must some, would have been to others have appeared to him, as a sort of no better than sounding brass or a political death, as an extinctiou of tinkling cymbal. Some had peThe high privileges which he arro. culiar prejudices, of which others gated to himself as a son of Abra, were entirely destitute. Some were ham. That the Apostles were more hardened in the perverseness of secure than any other Jews against their own wisdom; others altoge. such prejudices, we have no reason ther blunted in the dulness of their whatever to suspect. Nor again, ignorance. Some were highly civiare we at all authorized to suppose lized and polished ; others, as yet that they were men naturally gifted untamed from the roughness of with high degrees of fortitude and original barbarism. In short, the constancy. On the other hand, work of conversion was extended to they are not backward in displaying people the most dissimilar in sentheir own weakuess, and shewing timent, character, and manners, and that they were men of like passions required an address, varying with and inclinations with ourselves. each peculiarity of circumstances, How then could such persons, un- in order to give the preacher any learned, prejudiced, and weak, as hopes of success, with those to they were naturally, have availed whom it was directed, He had to overturn the religion of the world. need, indeed, to make himself serHow could they have become con- vant unto all, that he might gain verts themselves, much less have the more *. As St. Paul eloquently persuaded others to become so, but pictures his own situation : unto for the extraordinary illuminations ihe Jews, (says he,) I became as a of the Spirit, which shed on their Jew, that I might gain the Jews : minds a sincere conviction of the to them that are under the law, as truth, and enabled them also migh- under the law, that I might gain tily to convince others of that which them that are under the law. To they really believed.
them that are without law, as withIn the next place let us remem- out law, ( being not without law to ber who they were, in whose hearts God, but under the law to Christ,) the work of conversion was to be that I might gain them that are wrought. They were such as to without law. To the weak, became present insuperable difficulties to I as weak, that I might gain the the preacher of a new doctrine, weak. I am made all things to all upless he were endued with power men, that I might by all means from on high. That which alone save some. would have rendered any unassisted Thus to adapt the manner to the attempt altogether unsuccessful, particular case, and to speak not was the vartety of persons to whom only intelligibly, (which in itself the word of exhortation was to be, to human power is an impossibility,) addressed. It was of no use to but also persuasively to all men, is ascertain, by experiment, what was a task, we must allow, which preadapted to any particular case, for sents no ordinary obstacles. But the number of different cases pre- besides the general difficulty of cluded the applications of that, which succeeded on one occasion,
* 1 Cor. ix. 19. to another which was not of the
varying, according to circumstances, them an invisible God, whose wore and suiting the word to the person ship was not that of sacrifices and and the occasion, there was also a burnt-offerings; but purely spiri. peculiar difficulty in each separate tual, and who required clean bands, case. Covsidering the bearers, as and an upright heart, in order to divided into two great classes of render that worship acceptable in Jews and Gentiles, we shall observe, his sight. Those again among that from neither of these two were them who had cast away all relithe Apostles likely to meet with a gious sentinient, and were wanderfavorable reception. The Jews had ing in the maze of uncertainty, were already crucified the Founder of the not likely to adopt another religion, religion. They had by this deci- from the suspicion which they must sive stroke, staked their opinion, as have naturally entertained, that all to the truth of the pretensions and religions were equally false. How doctrines of the Apostles; they felt ever the novelty might entice, yet also, that as far as they were able, the recollection of their former erthey had crushed the first risings of ror, and the difficulty, with which the faith, and done injury to Christia. they must have extricated themvity, and its advocates: from a feel. selves from it, were sufficient to ing, therefore, compounded of cou make them cautious of again comscious pride at their partial success, mitting themselves on a point of and of that malignant hatred which such vital importance. Add to unhappily ever rankles in the breast this, that Christianity must have of those who have done a wanton appeared to them attended with injury to another, a hatred, aggra- personal trials and dangers; these yated in their case by the ineffec- ihey must have seen the Apostles tual perpetration of their evil de- themselves undergo; and they could signs, they could not but be hostile not but contrast their own state of to the views of men, who were quietness and safety, with the ha. openly engaged in the propagation zardous toils and enterprise of the of the same religion, which they new converts. It appears in fact had already exerted their utmost to that the heathen nations, on the suppress; who boldly set their ani- whole, were most adverse to the thority at defiance, and (what was designs of the Apostles, and that it still more formidable to their op- was not through any passive subponents,) were not intimidated by mission on thieir part, as to a matter ihreats or adverse fortune, from of indifference, that they were inpersevering in the arduous work induced to depart from the steps of which they had begun.
their ancestors, and become the Nor were the Gentiles less indis- disciples of a more enlightened and posed to raise a similar opposition spiritual philosophy. to the progress of the Gospel. These How then, it may confidently be were either addicted to gross ido- asked, could the Apostles have latry, or in reality had no religion prevailed against such opposition at all. Those among them who of the whole world, by their own had been nurtured in the worship of unassisted means-how was it posfalse Gods, and were accustomed sible for them almost to sicceed in to represent their fabled deities by any one particular case, much less sensible images and signs, with to have influence with such a variety whom God was not one but many: of persons and cbaracters ? But it and whose devotions were but a will farther appear how impractitissue of impieties and immorali- cable such an undertaking was to ties, were, of all men, the least them, wben we consider the nature inclined to listen to the teachers of of that docirine, which they were a new creed, which revealed to appointed to publish to mankind.
Any revelation, which claims to trine was to all received notions. itself the title of having proceeded and expectations. We have an immediately from God, must natu- example indeed in modern times, rally be liable to great objections illustrative of the same point. and difficulties. Whilst in things, When some Spanish ecclesiastics, which are the subjects of our senses, who accompanied one of the expea we often find the actual experience ditions sent out to conquer the quite the opposite to what we had newly-discovered world, attempted previously conceived; how much to convert some of the natives, and more is it to be expected, that in a were proceeding to unfold the mysdivine revelation, which professedly teries of Christianity, it was this treats of things wbich we do not doctrine of God made man, and see, the knowledge communicated dying for our sakes, which scared should widely differ from all our them from the very threshold of antecedent ideas of its nature. Dif- belief*. The simple Peruvian was ficulties thus arising from our igno- indignant that a notion so discorrance and misconception, would dant with his ideas of a God, should peculiarly beset the first access to be offered to his acceptance, and at belief, and tend to impede the once disclaimed all allegiance to a progress of the faith. For the faith, in his opinion so impious and, scheme of revelation, which Jesus abominable. Christ brought down from heaven From the great doctrine of the to earth, though when closely exa- atonement, other doctrines necesmived it is found to be entirely sarily flowed, and were consequently consonant with reason, contains connected with it in the same divine njysteries, as far beyond the stretch revelation, which are, at the same of human expectation, and out of time, no less remote from all that the verge of common notions, as, it ever entered into the heart of man when revealed, they are incompre- to conceive. The kpowledge of the bensible to our finite capacities and divine Trinity, of three persons in faculties. What could be more the unity of the Godhead, all distinct distant from the conception of man and equal, yet without division or than the doctrine of the atonement, confusion, ihough obscurely and upon which our whole religion is faintly shadowed out under the founded! What more astonishing Jewish dispensation, yet was then to buman reason, than the notion only fully revealed to the world, of an incarnate God, suffering death when God the Son descended from on the cross for our sins, and rising the throne of the Majesty on high, again for our justification of the to redeem bis fallen creatures, when manner in which the death and being present among us, he declared resurrection of our blessed Lord himself as the Jehovah of the Hemust have been generally received, brews, saying, “ Before Abraham we have an example in the speech was, I am,” and testifying that of Festus, wlio, in alluding to the the Father and himself were one : accusation which the Jews had when at his baptism the Holy brought against Paul, says-They Ghost appeared in the form of a had certain questions against him dove, and the voice of the Father of their own superstition ; and of was at the same time heard from one Jesus, which was dead, whom heaven, approving his mission; Paul affirmed to be alive *. This wben, after his ascension, he sent slight and contemptuous manner of the Comforter to compensate for speaking on the subject, sufficiently his absence, and to guide his disshews how repugnant such a duc- ciples unto all truth; when, by bis