« EdellinenJatka »
as if God would thus do honor to a church holding pure doctrine, and to a state united with that church which hath defended the true faith, amidst the superstitions and corruptions which have so long reigned in the Christian world. Latterly, indeed, it should seem as if God had selected this nation, as formerly his chosen people of Israel, to preserve among men a knowledge of the true religion; for we have been called to stand up, as it were, "between the living and the dead,” in defence of Christian principles. And although it be true that we have fought rather for our country, than for our religion, yet it is also true that religion is, in present circumstances, identified, in a certain degree, with the existence of our country. trust, that it is in the purpose of Providence by saving the one, lo save the other also..
Let this nation, then, weigh welt what it is, in God's moral administration of the world, which saves her at this period. Let her beware of infidelity, and of that moral taint which ever accompanies it. It is true that many of our chief men begin to "laugh at vice," like Voltaire! Let us recal to view the experience of France. We beheld infidelity gradually infecting that nation, even as poison passeth through the human frame, till the whole body of the great was saturated. Then was their iniquity full, and God's judgment began. Now, though it be true that the faith of our church is pure, that "she holdeth the head," that she is founded on the Prophets, Evangelists, and Apostles; though it be true that there is in the midst of her a large body of righteous persons, men possessing sound learning, enlightened zeal, and pure charity; men who are called by our Saviour "the light of the world," and "the salt of the earth;" yet it is equally certain that the greater part of her members are not of that description. It is certain that the spot of moral disease begins to be visible at a distance. And we know
not but that the true state of the nation may be this, that there is just “salt” enough, (to use the figure of the gospel,) to preserve the body from corruption.
Let us then weigh well what it is which, in the present circumstances of the world, saves this nation. If it be the divine pleasure to save us, while other nations are destroyed, it cannot be on account of the greatness of our empire, or of our dominion by sea, or of our extended commerce. For why should the moral governor of the world respect such circumstances as these? But if we are spared, it will be, we believe, on account of our maintaining the pure religion of Christ as the religion of our land, and of our promoting the knowledge of that religion, and of the blessed principles which accompany it, throughout the rest of the world. This may be a consideration worthy of the divine regard. And this, though it be no pledge of our duration, is the chief assurance of our perpetuity. On this chiefly, (viz. our being an instrument of good to the world,) must depend our hope of surviving the shocks and convulsions which are now overwhelming the other nations of Europe.
Let us now recapitulate the evidence noticed in this discourse, which encourage us to believe that the time is come for disseminating the knowledge of christianty in the heathen world.
1. The facility with which christianity is propagated generally in Asia, wherever the attempt has been made.
2. The peculiar success that has attended our own endeavours to promote the religion of the Bible.
3. The conversion of iliustrious persons in Asia, by means of the Bible alone.
4. The translation of the Bible into almost all the languages of Asia; promising, as it were, a second promulgation of christianty to the east.
5. The general contemplation of the prophecies in Europe and Asia.
6. The general commotion among the bands of infidelity, who are hostile to the design, both in Europe and Asia.
7. The consent of good men, in all Christian nations, to promote the design. And,
8. The preservation of our own country, to carry on the work, amidst the ruin or infidelity of other nations.
Behold, then, my brethren, the great undertaking for the promotion of which you are now assembled. If it were in the power of this asssembly to diffuse the blessings of religion over the whole world, would it not be done? Would not all nations be blessed? You perceive that some take a lively interest in this subject while others are less concerned. What is the reason of this difference? It is this: every man; who hath felt the influence of religion on his own heart, will desire to extend the blessing to the rest of mankind; and no one who hath lived without a concern about religion, will be solicitous to communicate to others a gift which he values not himself. At the same time, perhaps, he is not willing to be thought hostile to the work. But there is no neutrality here. "He that is not with Christ,” in maintaining his kingdom on earth, "is against Him." And so it appeareth to "God, who searcheth the heart.” Every one of us is now acting a part in regard to this matter, for which he must give an account hereafter. There is no one, however peculiar he may reckon his situation or circumstances, who is exempted from this responsibility. For this is the criterion of obedience in the sight of God, even our conduct in receiving or rejecting the "record which God hath given to his Son.” And no man “receiveth this record," in sincerity and truth, who will not desire to make it known to others. You have heard of the conversion of Mahometans and Hindoos. Yes, our Lord hath said, “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: but the children of the kingdom shall be cast out.'
Begin, then, at this time, the solemn inquiry, not merely into the general truth of Christ's religion, but into its divine and converting power. You observe that in this discourse I have distinguished between the name of christianity and the thing. Forit seems there are some who have departed from the ancient principles of our reformation, who admit the existence of the spirit of God, but deny his influence; who agree not with the apostle Paul, that the "gospel cometh to some in word only," and to others "in power, and in the holy ghost, and in much assurance" and who seem to forget what our Saviour hath said of the "broad road" and the "narrow way.” Begin, then, the important inquiry; for “the time is short" and this question will soon be brought to issue before an assembled world. In the mean time I shall offer to you my testimony on this subject.
The operation of the grace of God, in “renewing a right spirit within us,” (Ps. li.) is a doctrine professed by the whole faithful church of Christ militant here on earth. The great author of our religion hath himself delivered the doctrine, in the most solemn manner to the world. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Verily, verily: it is an undoubted truth, an unchangeable principle of the heavenly dispensation, that, except a man be renewed in mind by the Spirit of God, he shall not have power even to see or behold the kingdom of God. What, though many in our day deny this doctrine? A whole nation denied a doctrine, greater, if possible, than this. The very name and religion of Christ have been denied in our time. But if our Saviour hath declared any one doctrine of the gospel more clearly than another, it is this of a spiritual conversion; and the demonstation of its truth is founded in all lands
where his gospel is known.* Christians, differing in almost every thing else, agree in this. Differing in language, custom, colour and in country; differing in forms of worship and church government, in external rites and in internal order; they yet agree in the doctrine of a change of heart, through faith in Christ; for this hath been the grand characteristic of Christ's religion among all nations tongues and kindreds where the gospel hath been preached, through all ages down to this day. This is, in fact, that which distinguishes the religion of God, in Asia, from the religions of men. In every part of the earth where I myself have been, this doctrine is proclaimed, as the hope of the sinner, and the glory of the Saviour: And again, in every place it is oppposed, in a greater or less degree, by the same evil passions of the human heart. In rude nations, the same arguments are brought against it, in substance, which are used here in a learned country. Among ignorant nations, a terın of reproach is attached to serious piety, even as it is here among a refined people; thereby proving what our Lord hath taught, That the superior goodness inculcated by his gospel would not be agreeable to all 'men; and that some “would revile and speak evil of his disciples, for righteousness' sake;" thereby proving what the Apostle Paul hath taught, That "the cross of Christ is an offence" to the natural pride of the human heart; that "the carnal mind is enmity against God;" and that the "natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God, because they are spiritually discerned.”
The late learned and judicious Paley has given his dying testimony to the truth of this doctrine. (See his sermons, p. 119 ) A change so entire, so deep, so important as this, I do allow to be a conversion; (he had said berore, where must be a revolation of principle: there must be a revolution within;'?) and no one who is in the situation above described, een be saved without undergoing it; and he must necessarily both be sensible of it at the time, and remember it all his life afterwards. It is too momentous an event ever to be forgoi. A mnan might as easily forget his escape from shipwreck. Whe:her it was sudden, or whether it was gradual, if it was effected (and the fruits will prove tha',).it was a true conversion; and every such person may justly both believe, and say it himself, that he was converted at a particular assignable time."
Paley here speaks the language of the true church of Christ, in all ages and nations.