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almost the whole world to a kind of similarity of language and manners, and had opened such an intercourse between distant nations, as made that one of the most favourable periods for spreading a new religion. Countries were now accessible that had before been unknown; and universal peace, added to universal subjection to one common empire, gave the disciples of Christ and first preachers of the Gospel a great advantage in travelling from clime to clime.
Now, who knows but Almighty Wisdom may have predetermined a period similar to this, in the situation of affairs in this new world, for spreading His glorious Gospel to the remotest parts of it?
And the consideration of this leads me to the se. cond head of my discourse; which was “to make some remarks on the situation of things on this continent, with respect to the Gospel economy, and the probability of a speedy accomplishment of the Prophecies which relate to the Coming in of the Fulness of the Gentiles, and final conversion of the nations."
And here what a series of remarkable circumstances claim our most devout attention? Reasoning upon moral as upon natural things, what a beautiful analogy shall we find among all the operations of Divine Providence?
The Sun, the glorious Luminary of day, comes forth from his chambers of the east, and, rejoicing to run his course, carries Light and Heat and Joy through the nations to the remotest parts of the west, and returns to the place from whence he came. In like manner it doth appear that the Light of the glorious Gospel is to proceed, till it hath carried one bright
day over all the habitable world; and then will come the end of things. The inspired writers, we have already seen, love to speak of the propagation of Christianity, under this figure; as proceeding from the Rising to the Setting of the Sun; and this course we find it has pursued.
In the primitive ages of simplicity, the first indications of Divine Will were given to the Patriarchs of mankind in the Eastern parts of the world, by God himself, conversing with them face to face, as they tended their flocks, or journeyed on from pasture to pasture. This was the Dawn of things. Soon af. terwards followed the Law, and then the Prophets, advancing nearer and nearer to a full and perfect Revelation; till at last it broke forth in its Meridian Glory, by the coming of the son of God, at that period already referred to, when the situation of the world had prepared the way for its more effectual reception. The wisdom of God was visible in all this; and soon did the Christian Religion spread itself Westward, till it reached the vast Atlantic ocean and the Isles of the Gentiles, where the posterity of Japhet dwelt.
Now among these Isles, or places on the ocean, or western parts, as they are indifferently phrased, Great-Britain, our mother-country, that ultima Thule of the ancients, bore a principal figure. Early was the Gospel preached there, if not by the Apostles themselves, yet certainly by some of their followers, in their days, and before the destruction of Jerusalem*.
There is some probability that the Gospel was preached in GreatBritain by St. Simon the apostle, there is much greater probability that it VOL. II.
Here the matter rested. This was the first stage of the Gospel-progress. To the westward of Britain, the ancients seem to have known nothing. They considered these islands as the ends of the world; and extensive as the Roman empire was at our Saviour's coming; this American continent, more extensive than it all, lay entirely hid from their knowledge, and seems to have been reserved as the stage of a second remarkable period in the Gospel-progress.
Not a vestige, therefore, of Christianity was propagated hither, till after it had kept possession of the Old World, in various forms and under various corruptions, for at least fifteen centuries. But, at the expiration of that period, it pleased God to open the way to the discovery of new countries, which likewise opened the way to the establishment of the Gospel in them. For it is obvious to remark, that the nations, which were raised up for this purpose, were those among whom Christianity was openly professed; and consequently they carried their religion along with them. Being likewise superior to all the rest of the world in the arts of commerce and every improvement of civil life, they were the fittest to explore new settlements, conciliate the affections of the natives, and push their discoveries to the greatest extent. This they did with remarkable zeal and success; and, though it must be confessed that they have made use of the advantages which they enjoyed, chiefly for the secular purposes of extending their empire and commerce, yet they have not been altogether negligent of the propagation of the sacred religion which they profess.
was preached there by St. Paul; and there is absolute certainty that it was planted there in their days. Eusebius says that the apostles preached in all the world, and some of them passed beyond the ocean, even to the Britannic isles ;---truns Oceanum evasisse, ad eas insulas que Britannicæ vocantur. Demons. Erang. lib. 3.
And Theodoret, amorg the nations converted by the apostles, reckons particularly the Britons :-neque solum Romanos, sed et Britannos, atque, ut semel dicam, omne bominum genus. Serm. 9. See Bishop Newton, Disserta. rion XVIII.
In this divine work, our mother country, one of the purest branches of the Christian-church, always foremost in every pious and humane undertaking, has signally exerted herself. In her, even in an age wherein Christianity hath lost much of its influence on the lives of men, many public societies have been formed, and noble contributions made, with the glorious view of extending the knowledge of God over this vast untutored continent. At the head of these is justly placed that venerable Society, incorporated “ for propagating the Gospel in foreign parts;” in whose service most of you, my brethren, have the honour to be employed; and for promoting whose pious designs we are now voluntarily assembled together. That august and venerable body consists of the principal dignitaries of our church, sundry of the prime nobility of the nation, and many other pious persons of every degree. It has subsisted now more that one hundred years; and, by the providence of God, has been remarkably enabled to support the great and growing expense incident to such an undertaking.
Two objects have most worthily employed the attention of this Society; the First, to provide for the administration of religious ordinances among our colonists themselves, who have hitherto been generally too thinly settled to be able to support a regular ministry without such assistance; the Second, to win over the Heathen-natives to the knowledge of God, and a firm attachment to our national interest. These two designs, however much evil men may strive to separate them, must necessarily go hand in hand. Should the Society employ themselves wholly to the business of converting the Indian natives from Heathenism, while they suffered their own colonies to degenerate into a state little better than that of Heathenism itself, the attempt would be equally vain and unjust. For it would be to little purpose for us to send out Missionaries among them to persuade them to embrace our Religion, unless “ the Light thereof should so shine before them, that they seeing our good works, may glorify our Father which is in Heaven*.”
The support, therefore, of Christianity among ourselves, and the propagation of it among our Heathen neighbours, are but different parts of the same undertaking; and though we have not hitherto had any great success in the latter, yet it is our duty to continue our best endeavours. For who knows either the particular time when, or the means by which, the Lord may be pleased to accomplish His own Divine promises!
The conversion of nations has often, before now, been brought about when but least expected, and by means which, to human foresight, seemed the least probable. One single Savage, fully convinced of the
Matthew, Chap. V. 16.