« ForrigeFortsæt »
hardly a region, of the then known world, which had not heard the Gospel, and, in some degree, submitted to its powerful influence. Now, although the saving effects produced by this general diffusion of Christian knowledge inight have been partial and limited, yet there can be no doubt but that the reception of the Gospel contributed in no small degree to enlighten the nations which embraced it, to soften the savage customs and manners of the people, and to give them habits of industry, and a taste for the cultivation of useful arts.
2. The signal reformation effected in our own country by the introduction of Christianity, places its efficacy in a striking light. Our forefathers were idolaters, who stained their altars with the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they offered as sacrifices, to pacify the wrath of imaginary gods, made of wood, stone, or brass. But they were prevailed on to abandon those cruel and abominable practices; and in the very temples which were once dedicated to the worship of idols, to present the peaceful oblations of praise and thanksgiving to the God of Heaven. Their religious sentiments were drawn from the Scriptures; and their whole conduct received a holy impression, corresponding with the principles which produced it. They who before were vindictive, cruel, and addicted to the reigning vices of a Pagan life, became placable, forgiving, kind, peaceable, honest, and industrious.
Nor should the temporal benefits, which this renunciation of idolatry secured to Britain, be forgotten. Instead of wandering about like savage hordes, living in woods and trees, without protection and comfort, the ancient Britons, as soon as they knew the Gospel, learned to cultivate a more settled kind of life,
became more polished in their behaviour, and gradually introduced salutary laws for preserving their particular rights.
3. To the benign influence of Christian principles it is chiefly to be ascribed, that, not only in England, but wherever the religion of Jesus has taken a deep root in the hearts and affections of men, charitable institutions have been formed for promoting the spiritual and civil benefit of those who required their aid. With this view, schools have been built for the instruction of children, hospitals have been erected for the diseased, and asylums have been provided for the infirm, the poor, and the destitute.
4. Nor is this all: the administration of justice to all classes of the community, without respect of persons; the preservation of peace and order in society, which is composed of many persons, whose interests, and pursuits, and views, are so widely dissimilar ; must be attributed to the influence of Divine Truth, which disposes men “to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with their God.” Indeed, there is something in the doctrines of our holy religion which often restrains the most depraved from open acts of violence, controuls their passions, and keeps them in subjection. Were it not for the checks of conscience, sharpened by some acquaintance with sacred truth, and for that dread of future punishment with which the Scriptures threaten the wicked, life, property, and every temporal blessing, would be insecure; and lawless men, urged on by the blind impetuosity of passion, would not scruple more frequently to perpetrate the foulest deeds.
We have, then, great cause, as a nation, to feel very grateful to God for the happy fruits which
* Micah vi. 8.
Christianity has produced in the world, and in our own country. Though its effects would be more striking were it not for the corruption common tó man, still it has led to a happy change, and been attended with many blessings which ought to be thankfully acknowledged. When we glance at the ignorant and superstitious condition of our ancestors during the reign of the Druidical priests, and compare it with the present moral and religious state of Britons-though it is far from being what it should be-we cannot help exclaiming, with joyful surprise, “Behold, what hath God wrought!
Let us constantly offer up our prayers to the Throne of Grace, that God would cause the knowledge of his Gospel to prevail more abundantly, in our favoured land, and throughout the world. Then would “the wilderness and the desert rejoice and blossom as the rose filling them with its sweet and fragrant odours. Then would the promise be fulfilled, "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice den. They shall not hurt nordestroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."
5. Thus far we have considered the tendency and effects of Divine truth in a national point of view. Its
power over individuals, who yield themselves up to its authority, is yet more strikingly apparent. b Isa. xxxv. 1, 2.
• ib. xi. 6—10.
The Gospel of Jesus, when applied by the Spirit, produces a deep and extensive change; it imparts Divine knowledge to those who receive it. Sin has darkenened the human soul; and rendered men awfully ignorant of the nature of religion, and of their duty to God; as is clear from the slight notions which they entertain concerning the one, and their glaring neglect of the other. But it is the province of the Divine Spirit to remove the blindness of the heart, by acquainting it with the spiritual character and worship of the Living God," whom to know is life eternal. This wisdom is vouchsafed to every true believer. “From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
The religion of Jesus induces those who cordially embrace it, to give a decided preference to objects more substantial than those which rejoice carnal
It “ sets their affections on things above, where Christ sitteth on the right-hand of God." It improves the life and conversation. The powerful tendency of the Gospel to convert and sanctify the heart is visible in those persons who have been made partakers of its heavenly benefits. By its sublime influence, the soul is turned from darkness to light, and from the service of idols to the true God; yea, is purified from its defilement, and receives a strong bias to that which is good: so that " old things may be said to have passed away, and all things to have become new'. And, thus, the passionate and wrathful learn to check the violence of evil tempers, and to conduct themselves with meekness towards others : those who have been addicted to intemperance and sensuality and lust,
• 2 Tim, iii. 15, Col. iii. 1-3, '2 Car. v. 17,
renounce their sinful pleasures, and follow after righteousness. The drunkard forsakes his cups, and becomes sober. The miser becomes liberal, and freely parts with his gold, to relieye the wants of the necessitous. The worldly are made spiritual: and every species of transgressors lay aside their beseting sins, and strive to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Surely effects like these, resulting from the Gospel of Christ, loudly bespeak its mighty power, and commend it to us, as a saying worthy of all acceptation.”
6. Examine yourselves respecting your belief and practice of the Gospel. Have you indeed received these glad tidings of salvation? Do you confide in Christ for justification and glorification ? If it be so then, what influence has this hope on your mind ? Has it humbled you, under a sense of personal corruption and manifold sins against God? Has it convinced
that you cannot be saved by your own obedience to the law; and that you must take refuge in the merits of Jesus, who justifieth the ungodly, when they repent and believe in his name?
And what effect has your professed faith in Christ produced on your conduct towards God and man? Do you love the Lord, and study “to serve him acceptably with reverence and godly fear?” Is his glory the aim and scope of all your thoughts, words, and actions? Do humility, self-renunciation, faith, hope, love, joy in the Holy Ghost, deadness to the vanities of this world, and a growing meetness for heaven, attest that you have “not received the grace of God in vain?” Are you upright in your dealings with men ? Do you endeavour to instruct the ignorant, and point them to the salvation which is in Christ: