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world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”
By those that are lost, understand such as are hardened in vice beyond recovery, not by any immediate act of God, but by their own wilful perseverance in evil courses.
And by the god of this world blinding their hearts lest they should see, is not intended the agency
without them, but the fascinating power and influence of worldly pleasures, riches, and greatness, in taking away all relish for the pure and holy doctrine which Jesus taught, and in setting them against it, which may be called the god of this world ; because the bulk of men basely bow down and submit to be governed by them.
It appears hence, that the design of the Gospel was not by compulsive violent methods to awe and constrain men to holiness, and obedience to the will of God; but, by rational motives of their own truest interest and happiness, to win over and prevail with them; and, if they would not listen to or comply
with these, to leave them to reap the fruits of their own evil choice.
And moreover here, and throughout the whole tenor of the Gospel, it is not supposed or expected that all men would embrace it, or by embracing it become holy and good.
We are all along considered and treated as defective, imperfect beings, that stand in need of moral improvement, and who are accountable for their actions. And in such a state divine wisdom judges it is necessary that creatures should be put as it were in their own power, should be capable of going wrong in order to be the proper subjects of the discipline they are put under : because, as far as we can judge, without this there could be no choice or trial; no opportunity of resisting motives to evil and wrong conduct, and closing in with and following those which lead to that which is good and pleasing to God, and of thereby acquiring those habitual confirmed dispositions to piety and virtue, which, by the divine blessing, are to be the means of securing us from going wrong for ever, and of fixing us in virtue and the divine favour.
And though the reformation of mankind has hitherto been but imperfectly effected by
the Gospel, we may not be dejected on this account, or think disparagingly of it. For we can perceive a great overbalance of good and of virtuous improvement of mankind, which has been owing to it; and we see it still going on and capable of producing a much greater harvest of true wisdom and goodness amongst men; and, in the mean time, we can have no doubt but it has answered the ends of God in communicating such a blessing, however partial and circumscribed its benefits may seem
in our eyes.
The world we live in iz but of yesterday. We ourselves are but just now, as it were, brought into being out of nothing: plainly intended to live here but a very few days, we know not how few.
But however short our date and term here, nature’s light points out with some probability, and our Maker's express revealed word assures us, that we are to live again in another state after death. We are then here but in the very infancy of our being and improvements.
Little then as we mortals can see, so small a portion of our Creator's immense designs which lead to endless ages : nevertheless we actually do perceive a general tendency to pro
mote virtue and the pure happiness resulting from it, in the constitution of things about us ; and particularly, that by the means of the Gospel this is attained in a very considerable degree.
We may then in humble resignation wait the issue, and leave the great benign Being to govern the world he has made, and trust him that all is right and will come right in the end ; that every thing will be rectified and cleared up to us that we think amiss, though so weak and short-sighted often are our conclusions, that perhaps what we would wish removed may be productive of the greatest good.
The great design of Almighty God then, in this moral government of the world, and especially as manifested by his revealed word and in the Gospel, is to open the eyes of the blind who are willing to see the truth, whilst those who vainly think they see and are already wise and good enough, are left to their own devices; out of the mixed mass of mankind to gather together the children of God that are scattered abroad,
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Wicked and unworthy persons of
every nation, and under all dispensations, who have abused the knowledge and advantages given them, fewer or greater, will be rejected.
But virtuous men, who acted up to the light vouchsafed them, when or wherever found, shall be favourably received: and (Matt. viii. 11.)
Many shall come from the east, and from the west, and shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven;while the children of the kingdom shall be cast out."
The instrument by which this grand discrimination of mankind is to be made, is the Gospel of Jesus : and for this it is calculated, and fully equal to it, by the comprehensiveness and universality of its plan, and the mighty power and efficacy of the arguments and inducements which it offers, affecting men's happiness and interest for ever.
This was brought about in some degree by the preaching of Christ' himself in his lifetime on earth.
But in a still larger measure and extent by his Apostles after his resurrection, who walked in his steps and delivered his doctrine to all