« EdellinenJatka »
"hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them,"2 Cor. iv, 4.
In the foregoing argument, we have not spoken of that extraordinary light, which imparted to men the gift of prophecy and of tongues; but of that ordinary light, which sheweth to the sinner“the glorious gospel of Christ;” as above expressed: and which inspireth him with love to God and with faith in his redeemer; which mortifieth evil affections, purifietli the heart, giveth to the soul a peace which passeth all understanding, and a sure and certain hope of the resurrection unto eternal life. We speak of that light, whatever it may be, which is necessary "to open the understanding, that we may understand the scriptures," Luke xxiv, 45.
We before asserted, that the spiritual light is not given to a nation or community of men by any system of education; but to individuals: even to those, who obey the divine admonition, and supplicate the “Father of Lights,” for the "good and perfect gift.” Let us now proceed to inquire what was the character of those persons whom our Saviour addressed as "the Light of the World.” For if men say, “We cannot see this spiritual light: to us it is invisible:” we must lead their attention to that which is obvious and visible; namely, the MORAL character of "the children of light."
The character of those who are called the Light of the World, is recorded by our Lord himself in his sermon from the Mount; for they are the persons whose virtues are the subject of his beaTITUDES. It was on that occasion, when he had fin. ished the enumeration of their peculiar dispositions, that he said “Ye are the Light of the World.”
I know not any mistaku so general at this day as that which regards our Lord's sermon froin the Mount. The general impression seems to be that
these precepts may be obeyed by a heathen as well as by a Christian, if you merely propose them to him, without the aid of any spiritual influence from above. But, my brethren, no man can observe these precepts, or even have a just conception of the meaning of these Beatitudes, unless he have "the light of life.” For how can we understand what it is to be "poor in spirit;"_“to hunger and thirst after righteousness:" or "to rejoice and be exceding glad when we are persecuted for reighteousness sake;" or “to pray for them who speak all manner of evil against us falsely for Christ's sake," unless the "eyes of our understanding be opened?" Eph. i, 18.
“In these Beatitudes our Saviour exhibits to the world the character of his disciples. He declares the heavenly temper and consequent blessedness of those persons, who should be subjects of his spiritu. al kingdom, which had now commenced. For, when he saith, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven;" he saith, in effect, "Blessed are ye, my disciples, for ye are poor in spirit;" and so of all the other dispositions there described;“Blessed are the meek:” Blessed are the merciful;” Blessed are the peace makers:” “Blessed are the pure in heart:” “Blessed are they which hunger and thirst after righteousness." All these inestimable qualities of mind belong to the disciples of Christ; not one of them, but ALL, They all flow from “the selfsame spirit;” like sweet waters from the same fountain. 'They are the characters of that great MORAL CHANGE, which our Saviour foretold would be a frequent event under the new dispensation.
When our Lord had given this record of the pure and heavenly dispositions of his disciples, he said unto them, "Ye are the Light of the World."
At that time, there were many illustrious characters in the world: men of great eminence, who fourished in Greece and Rome, and enlightened mankind by their science and learning; whose names are
renowned at this day. But our Lord said to his unlettered disciples, "Ye are the Ligt of the World.”
At that time, too, there were many in Judea, who had the revelation of God in their hands; "to whom were committed the oracles of God," and who conceived themselves to be the church and people of God. Yet, when our Saviour came, he did not find. one fit instrument for his ministry among the priesthood of the Jewish church. And he turned to his disciples, and said, "Ye are the Light of the World."
We have introduced this doctrine of the Divine Illumination into the exordium of the discourse, that it may guide us in our way through the diffi- . cult subject which lies before us. You will be now prepared to consider the following propositions:
1. If you would be “The Light of the World," you will draw your light from Christ, and send forth preachers bearing the CHARACTER which He hath: delireated.
2. If you be instruments of "the true light,” you will be zealos in adopting the most effectual MEANS. of diffusing it. And it will probably appear to you, that you ought to adopt more efficient measures for this purpose, than have hitherto been employed. For it is manifest, that a new æra in the church hath arrived; which authorizes you to use new means.
1. If you would appropriate the appellation of our.. Saviour, and be the “light of the world, you will draw your light from Christ, and send forth preachers bear.. ing the character, which he hath delineated.
They must be men into whose hearts "the true light hath shined;” such preachers as our own church approves; who “trust that they are moved to the work by the Holy Ghost.” And, with regard to their outward deportment, they must be men whose disapositions accord with those which are described in the sermon on the Mount; such as the Hindoo Christians call Men of the Beatitudes:" That is their proper character; and there are more persons of thai char.
acter in Great Britain at this day, than there were in Judea, in the time of our Saviour. This is sufficiently evident from the evangelic history. You ought not to be at a loss, then, to find fit instruments of the light.
But, in regard to such instruments, there are two important subjects of inquiry at this period of the church: first, what degree of learning they ought to possess; and, secondly, whether they ought to be invested with the sacred character before they proceed on their mission.
1. Our first inquiry respects the degree of learnîng, which Christian missionaries ought to possess.
The preachers, whom our saviour sent forth, were men of humble condition, and destitute of human learning. This was ordained, that the divine power of his gospel might be made manifest, by the appa rently inadequate means employed in its promulgation. All learning, however, of whatever kind, which was necessary for their ministry, was imparted to them supernaturally.
But the Apostle Paul, the “chosen vessel,” who was ordained to preach to the gentiles, was not destitute of human learning, naturally acquired. And we are taught by his Epistles, that we may avail our. selves of every human aid to dispense the blessings of the gospel; such as rank, wealth, eloquence, and learning. For all these are blessings of God; and are means of persuading men, as much as speech itself. Has it ever been imagined, that a man could .preach the gospel without the gift of speech, by signs alone! All these human aids, I say, are valuable gifts of God; and only cease to be blessings by the abuse of them. It is true, that the gospel may be preached with great energy by ministers possessing incona siderable attainments in literature. It sometimes happens, that the most successful ministrations are conducted by men of very moderate acquirements.. And, indeed, the character of the gospel seems to
require, that, in most cases (where the true doctrine is preached) it should give more honor to zeal and diligence, than to genius and learning. But it is also true, that God is pleased to make himself known by the use of means. And, when these means are used in subordination to his grace, he will honor the means. This has been the experience of every eminent preacher of the gospel, in the history of Christianity, from the time of the Apostle Paul, down to your late, pious, eloquent, and honored pastor, who so long and so successfully ministered in this church. *
It is expedient, then, that those who go forth as preachers to the Gentiles at this day, should, like the first great preacher, have a competent degree of knowledge; that they may be able to meet the arguments of the more learned among the heathen.
I have sometimes been ashamed to see the Christian missionary put to silence by the intelligent Brahmin, in some point relating to the history of eastern nations, or to the present state of mankind. I have felt anxious for the credit of Christianity, if I may so speak, on such occasions: for the argument from fact, and from the existing state of the world, is strong ground, both for the Christian and his adversary, in all discussions relating to a revelation from God. This is well illustrated in the history of St. Paul, who disputed with the learned at Athens on their own principles; and quoted their poets in defence of the gospel.
Let us then honor human learning. Every branch of knowledge which a good man possesses, he may apply to some good purpose. If he possessed the knowledge of an archangel, he might employ it all to the advantage of men, and the glory of God.
Some portion of learning is, therefore, indispensible to insure even a tolerable degree of success, in preaching to the heathen world. But let us rightly
# The Rev. William Romaina,