Page images


verfal on its first publication. Messiah is to rule in the midft of his enemies, till the appointed season. when all enemies shall be fubdued under his feet. The gospel, the rod of his power, is so admirably adapted to the necessities of mankind, that the obstruc. tions it has met with, must be ascribed to their wickedness and obstinacy. Not that they could resist the will of God. Had he intended to give it universal fuccess from the beginning, the event would have been ana fwerable. But it was his pleasure to conduct the dispensation of it, so as on the one hand to display his sovereignty, wisdom and power, and on the other, to afford a full proof of the depravity and alienation of the heart of man. This point is so much misunderstood and misrepresented, that though it is attended with great difficulties, especially if we give way to vain reasonings upon it, I shall venture in the present discourse to offer a few thoughts towards clearing the fubject, and vindicating (if the very attempt be not presumptuous) the ways of God to man.

When the Sun of righteoufness, after a long night of darkness, arose upon the world, where appeared a strong probability that the


prophecies concerning the extent of his vital influence, from east to west, from pole to pole, would foon be compleatly realized. In a very fhort space he was known and adored by multitudes, through the greatest part of the Roman empire, and beyond its limits. But, perhaps, for about seventeen hundred years since that period, the boundaries of his kingdom, though they have been altered, have not been much enlarged. If he has since in some measure enlightened the more western parts of the globė, the eastern regions, which one rejoiced in his light, are now overwhelmed with grofs Mahommedan darkness. And if we were capable of investigating the state of the world at this day, we should probably find, that five out of fix of the human race now living, never so much as heard of the name of Jesus as a Saviour. There is reason to fear likewise, that in the nations who professedly call himn Lord, and are not unwilling to be themselves called Christians, a greater proportion than of fiveout of fix, are no less strangers to his power and grace, than the Mahomedans who reject him, of the Heathens who never heard of him.


There is not perhaps a darker chapter in the book of divine providence, nor a meditation which calls for a more absolute subjection and submission to the holy will and unsearchable wisdom of God, than this. The first spread of the gospel proved it to be a divine expedient, fully capable of producing all the great purposes which the prophets had foretold, and which the state of the world required. It reconciled men to God, to themselves, and to each other. It subdued their passions, regulated their affections, freed them from the guilt and bondage of fin, from the love of the world, and from the fear of death. Wherever the doctrine of the cross was preached, it produced that falutary change of conduct, which philofohpy had long attempted in vain ; and raised men to that life of communion with God, of which philosophers had no conception. Such was the bright morning of the gospel day. But in time, yea, in a little time, dark clouds obscured its light, its progress was impeded, and in a manner stopped. On one hand, the profession and name of the nospel, gave occasion to mischiefs and abo

stions, which had been unknown among


the heathens ; so that the part of the world which received the name of Christendom, was little distinguished from the rest, in a religious view, but by a fierce and rancorous superstition which tyrannized over the consciences, liberties, and the lives of men. On the other hand, as I have observed, the very name of christianity, was restrained to a small portion of the earth; many nations have not heard of it to this day, and many who once professed it, have renounced it

long ago.

Thus the fact stands. We cannot deny it. But how shall we account for it? Infidels and petty-reasoners think they here find an invincible objection against the truth. They say, “ If the gospel you speak of, be - fo falutary and necessary, if it be indeed “ the greatest effect of the divine goodness, “ why has not God, who is the common “ Father of mankind, afforded it to all the “ nations of the earth ? And why is it re• strained to so few?" But I think we may retort the question, and let them who propose it, give such an answer (if they can) as shall not amount to a confession of the obstinacy and ungrateful folly of mankind. When the


world faw the happy tendency and effects of this gospel in the age of the apostles, why did they not universally receive it? We know that when the use of the mariner's compass, the art of printing, and many other inventions that might be named, were discovered in one country, they were presently adopted by the surrounding civilized nations. Even the recent attempts to venture through the air with a balloon, hazardous as they cer. tainly are, and insignificant with respect to real usefulness, are likely in a little time not only to engage the notice, but to excite the imitation, of Europe. Why then was the gofpel, the most beneficial and important discovery the world has been favoured with, the only one that has been treated with general contempt ? Certainly, our Lord has affigned the true reason, Light is come into the world, but men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil *. They hate the light, they will not come to it, nor will they permit it to come to them if they can possibly prevent it. This glorious gofpel of the blessed God, has been and still is fhunned and dreaded, and every human pre* John ii. 19.


« PreviousContinue »