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merely, there could not possibly be presented a contrast more productive of thought or emotion. But it is with feelings of a much deeper thankfulness that we must contemplate it, when we call to mind, that, from our earliest years, we have been reared under the shadow of its boughs,—that we, and the people of our distant land, are a part of that wandering and timid flock that were destined to receive from it food and shelter ; and that from the healing of its leaves we have been taught to seek the cure of our spiritual infirmities, and the principle of our immortal existence. It is, indeed, a subject of thought in which every Christian heart must feel itself warmly interested ; and from the sense of the benefits which it has itself received, it must be inflamed with a corresponding zeal to extend them in every direction in which there is any opening for their conveyance.
It must be anxious that every obstruction should be removed which opposes the progress of the Gospel; and to be enabled, with the same hopeful spirit which the Great Author of that Gospel exemplified even in the humblest moments of its origin, to look forward to its final victory over all the prejudices and corruptions of the world,
1. The first principle, then, which we are called to cultivate with a view to the future progress of our Religion, is that of Faith; and, surely, the history of its progress hitherto may supply us with the fullest assurance of Faith, that such likewise, or still more remarkable, will be its advancement in time to come. When the words of the text were spoken, there could not, perhaps, have been any prospect more utterly hopeless,—yet, from that period to the present, the Gospel has ever been gaining ground; and those circumstances which have appeared destined completely to overwhelm and destroy it, have been the very circumstances upon which its triumph has been most conspicuously reared. The death of its Founder un: der the humiliating form of a criminal and a slave, became, in a very short time, the cornerstone of the Christian system; and its voice of highest power and authority has ever since sounded from the Cross. The persecution and dispersion of his followers only spread more widely, and carried into every corner of the
globe the Faith in which they gloried; and the precious seed which they so abundantly sowed grew and prospered the more from their own blood with which it was watered. So in every after age of the Gospel ;-when, at one time, it seemed sunk under the mass of superstition which choked all the vigour of its native shoots, the very enormity of the corruption be. came the source of its Reformation; and the efforts of a vain Philosophy, in a still later period, to throw doubt upon its evidence, or ridicule upon its tenets, have only tended to its brighter elucidation, and prepared the way for its more certain and universal establishment. In such a retrospect can any other than the most hopeful sentiments be produced with respect to its future progress ? Is there any exertion of Power yet to be tried against it, which it will not have energy to withstand and de feat,--any internal corruption yet to arise in its own bosom, which it will not have vigour and virtue to throw off, any perverted Learn ing or Genius which it has yet to encounter, that will not fall down baffled and degraded before it? And do we see nothing to aid it in those principles of “ glory to God,” and “good will
to men,” of which it is so full,-nothing in that mild persuasiveness of its character, which will ever more and more come out into open day, and mingle with all the kindest and best affections of the human heart,-nothing in that ardour of Truth which belongs to it, and which must gain for it a place in every elevated and generous mind, -nothing, finally, in its perpetual Charity which flows out over every scene of suffering or of guilt,-which leaves no want or woe without seeking to relieve it,-no ignorance without attempting to remove it, no sin without the solicitation to repentance,-no penitence without the promises of acceptance ! We must forget the existence of all those powers and influences which surround and invigorate the Gospel, whenever we permit ourselves, in any untoward circumstances of the world, weakly to despond of its progress-and forget, too, that they are the evident earnest of its being under the protection of that Omnipotent Wisdom and Goodness of which it would be worse than weakness to despond!
II. While, in one view, the former History of the Gospel teaches us to look forward to its futuré progress with the fullest assurance of Faith, it yet no less instructs us, in the second place, to add to our Faith, patience. The least of all seeds has, indeed, grown, and is now the greatest among herbs, and is become a tree under whose branches a long course of generations has securely lodged. But its rise and expansion have been the work of time, and it has been subjected to all the varieties of seasons, and has had its vicissitudes of slower or more vigorous vegetation. In every period of the world, the tares, so profusely mingled among the good seed, seem frequently to smother the rising produce, or to conceal it out of view; and, amidst the vices and corruptions of society, gathering around in so many varied forms, it may often be difficult for any one to say, that the Gospel has made a visible progress within his limited experience, or that it has done more than keep its ground. There may even be, at times, lamentable appearances of a falling off from the Faith, in wide and very important classes of men, whose opinions have necessarily much influence every where around them; and, in the attempts of Christian zeal, to check the progress of the poison, and to prevent it from settling