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THE

CHRISTIAN DISCIPLE.

NEW SERIES—No. 28.

July and August, 1823.

[The following discourse is printed at the request and under the direction of the Executive Committee of the Society, before whoin it was delivered. It was heard with great satisfaction, and we hope that its publication in the Disciple inay accomplish the design of tbe writer, by exciting increased attention and patronage to the interesting institution, whose plan and objects it exhibits.]

A SERMON PREACHED AT CONCORD, MASSACHUSETTS, MAY 15th, 1823, AT THE SEMI-ANNUAL MEETING OF THE “ EVANGELICAL MISSIONARY SOCIETY IN MASSACHUSETTS.” BY DAVID DAMON, A. M. Minister of the Church in Lunenburg, Massachusetts,

Rom. x. 14, 15. How shall they hear without a preacher ? and how shull they preach except they be sent ?

It is

my first object, on this occasion, to present some considerations in favour of missionary exertions in general. I shall then endeavour to state the particular objects and claims of the Society, who hold their semi-annual meeting this day.

In the first place, then, I am to present some considerations in favour of missionary exertions generally.

What I have to suggest upon this topic, may be arranged under the following general considerations or heads, viz. :

1. The Christian religion is adapted to be a universal religion.

2. There are indications, that the Christian religion will in fact prevail universally, or become the religion of mankind at large.

3. The Christian religion is adapted to promote the happiness of those who embrace it. New Series-Vol. V.

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4. In the efforts, which missionary associations are now making, the probable means of extending the Christian religion are included.

1. The Christian religion is adapted to be a univeral religion; to be the religion of the world of mankind. It relates to principles and circunstances which are common to all men ; and when it has reference to the peculiarities of any age or nation, it is for the sake of argument or illustration, or something which is auxiliary to its main design. Its grand outlines are drawn over and occupy what may be called common ground. Such for instance are its precepts. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart. Do unto others as ye would that they should do unto you. Forgive and ye sball be forgiven. Judge not, that ye be not judged. Let all your things be done with charity. Quench not the spirit.' These precepts are not adapted to any particular age, or nation, or rank exclusively, but to all men. Such for instance are its promises and threatenings. Whosoever believeth in me shall not perish, but have everlasting life. Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father which is in heaven; but whosoever shall deny me before men, bim will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.' Such for instance is the nature of the rewards and punishments which it proposes as sanctions. • These shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal. It is absolute happiness and misery which are proposed. Their nature is defined sufficiently to affect the imaginations of those, who would not be affected by the mere use of general terms, while there is still so mucb obscurity left in the definitions, that none can imagine themselves destitute of a deep interest in them, on account of their individual tastes or habits. The Christian religion takes hold of and acts upon principles common to human nature, in the actual state in which it is found in human society. It does not suppose a sinner, in whose character there is an unusual combination of vile babits and enormous crimes, constituting him a moral monster, and make provision for his conversion and restoration exclusively ; but provision is made for all sinners, and invitation is extended to all to partake of it. Neither does it lay down special precepts for forming a character of exalted excellence for a particular station, which never existed, or which but one among many millions of the human race can occupy; but it aims at raising all to moral excellence, whatever may be the stations assigned them in providence. Also, it does not enumerate a great variety of outward acts to be done or avoided, which must vary considerably with the different circumstances of individuals ;

but it aims directly at the seat of moral action, which is the heart, since, if the moving power be regulated aright, the motions will be right. Hence it treats of powers, capacities, desires and passions which are common to all men.

These general objects of the gospel revelation are, indeed, pursued in a great variety of methods. Sometimes the general rule with one or more particular examples or illustrations is given, and men are left to make the application in other instances for themselves; and sometimes it is left to them to infer the general rule from a particular example or illustration. But in all cases the real and generally the most obvious end aimed at is something of a general nature, in which mankind do, or ought to feel a common interest.

Its ordinances are of the same nature. There is nothing in them to distinguish nation from nation, or sect from sect, but only Christians from those who are not Christians, and this in the simplest manner possible; and, besides, the moral aim and tendency of the same are at once general and striking. Hence likewise there are no such particular rules for the outward wor. ship and discipline of the church, as we might expect to find in a religion designed to be national, or, still more, particular rather than universal. Much is left to be varied and settled in successive

ages, upon the principle of expediency, with the help of inferences from very general rules.' Thus it broke down the partition wall which once existed, that there might be no difference between the Jew and the Greek; for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. The very model of devotion which our Saviour furnished at the request of his disciples, shows that his religion was intended for men as such ;--not for rulers and magistrates only, but for their subjects also, and not for the latter to the exclusion of the former, because God will have all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Therefore he will have all men to pray, and all to be prayed for; and all to pray and to intercede for those things which all men need daily, and those which all men ought to wish for continually. Nor may we omit to mention expressly what has already been frequently implied, that the Saviour's interposition was intended for the benefit of all promiscuously, and not for any class or nation exclusively. This appears from a great variety of expressions relating to every part of bis mediation, and his sufferings and death more particularly, such as,— He died for all-he tasted death for every man-behold the lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.' The contrasts and dissimilitudes between the Christian religion and all others show the same thing more strikingly. Many systems of paganism

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can exist only among a barbarous people ; many sceptical systems only among a refined people. Even the Jewish religion, which was of divine origin, is rendered incapable of becoming a universal religion, by its ritual alone. The Christian religion has none of these incumbrances. It can exist entire in a monarchy or in a republic, under any meridian, and within any of the five zones; and among those who are exclusively pastoral, or agricultural, or commercial in their pursuits, or are raised by their particular circumstances above the necessity of any common pursuit as a means of living: And it attempts no alterations in previous habits, or pursuits, or opinions, excepting when some moral good is to be accomplished by the alteration. It does, indeed, suppose a certain degree of information ; and the common enjoyment of a certain measure of the means of information. But it can be communicated, in some measure, even to barbarians; and the least measure has an elevating and saving tendency, the effects of which lay a foundation for further communications of it ;--so that the actual existence of barbarous nations is no objection to the position which we would maintain. It only shows, that with Christianity we should endeavour to impart civilization ; and that a certain portion of the latter affords many facilities for progagating the former in any place to which it has not been previously extended.

2. There are indications, that the Christian religion will in fact prevail universally, or become the religion of mankind at large.

Its very adaptation to the actual exigencies common to man is one indication. Others are found in the express language of scripture-in the prophecies relating to the Christian dispensa: tion in the old testament, in the commission given to the apostles in the new testament, and in the prophetic passages of the new testament also. Quotation here is attended with

difficulties, not through the scarcity, but the abundance of passages which present themselves for selection; and perhaps it is unnecessary. It is readily conceded that many prophetic passages, which some interpreters have supposed to refer to a future general prevalence of Christianity, received their fulfilment in the age of the apostles and their immediate successors. But there are other passages, which many still understand as referring to a future period, and which do not seem to be capable of a different construction, without violence done to common rules of interpretation. In the place of many quotations and references, suffer me to refer you to the last chapter of the prophet Daniel, and the concluding parts of some of the preceding chapters of the same book

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