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could give them the knowledge which would make them wise unto salvation : and no one of enlightened and enlarged spirit could be satisfied to leave the millions of the heathen world in darkness and in the region and shadow of death', if he saw means of leading them to act under the great views of the Gospel, to receive its enlightening and sanctifying principles, to look fowards to a state of righteous retribution, and to live as 'seeing him who is indivisible'. To use the words of the christian philanthropist whom I have already mentioned in my introductory statements “ The man deserves, and has, our sincerest pity, who “ does not see that, gross as are the vices which exist “ in christendom, the religion of Christ has yet accom
plished an unspeakably great improvement in the “ general character of society, wherever it has pre“ vailed. But what is more, by the perfect rule of life “ which it prescribes, by the perfect example with “ which it illustrates all duty, by the worship which it “ has instituted, and by its promises, comprehending so all which a moral and an immortal nature can desire, “ it has supplied us with better means, and stronger “ inducements, than have any of the Heathen, or than
they ever have had, to form a character that qualifies “ for the purest and highest service and enjoyment of " God in heaven. We have as much advantage
over the Heathens, as perhaps some higher order of
beings has over us. We have sentiments, affections, “ interests, and hopes, which every true Christian feels
are unspeakably his choicest possessions, and which * Heathens cannot receive but through the Gospel of “ Christ.” “ This would extend to them new supports,
consolations, and incitements; and exalt them to higher blessedness in the eternal
the eternal kingdom of “ God."*
There can be no doubt in the mind of bim who has duly considered the declarations of prophecy and the geuius of the christian religion, that it is designed to be universal, both in extent and in duration. Men of the highest intellect have perceived its disclosures expanding as they have themselves advanced in comprehension of mind. As they have ascended the heights of human intelligence, they have discerned more and more of the glories of “the light of the world'. And it is not conceivable that any period shall arrive, in this state of being, when the Gospel can be regarded, by those who possess and understand its principles and its hopes, as other than the pearl of great price', beyond all other gifts of our Heavenly Father of inestimable value.
In proportion, too, as the minds of men are cultivated with sound knowledge, christian truth is more readily discernible, and its influences are more effective. Ignorance suits not the spirit of the Gospel, which is 'the spirit of power, and love, and of a sound mind; and where to ignorance is added the debasing influences of sordid selfishness and pollution, scarcely any thing can raise above the mire of earth. On the other hand, where the understanding is exercised, truth is found to be its best nourishment; and sound knowledge, the healthy food of the soul. The mind is thus prepared for light from heaven; and that light shineth more and more unto the perfect day.'
* See the Christian Examiner (Boston, N. E.) for 1824, p. 187, 188: On the Causes by which Unitarians have been withheld from exertions in the cause of Foreign Missions. By the same Author was published, in 1825, An Appeal to Liberal Christians for the cause of Christianity in India. This valuable and interesting tract was, it is believed, reprinted in England.
Many parts of the prophecies are still obscure. To the eye which can only partially discern even the present, that which respects things to come, must commonly have something of the darkness or the dimness of futurity. Even those portions which respect things long past, seem full of mystery to those who are little acquainted with the ancient periods of the world, and have not considered the appropriate language of prophecy. But if there is any thing clear, explicit, and certain in prophecy, it is, that the time shall come when the knowledge of Jehovah shall cover the earth as the waters do the channels of the deep'; when, from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, his name shall be exalted among the Gentiles'; when, in every place shall be offered to him incense and a pure offering—the offering of the heart, the sacrifice of the life. The anticipation of this great and glorious result, was one of the habitual sentiments of our Lord's prophetic spirit. He looked through darkness, and through evil, towards good unbounded, and in its influences eternal. And this anticipation can scarcely fail to be fixed in the Christian's heart. His Lord must reign till all enemies are brought under his feet'. The Heathen have been given him for an inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for a possession'. The words of the prophet in my text are singularly impressive and decisive ; and they are the more important, because whenever our Saviour applies to himself the appellation
'the Son of Man', we may reasonably understand a tacit reference to them.* 'I saw in the night visions', saith the Prophet, 'and, behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days : and they brought him near before him; and there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him : his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away; and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed'.
It is well for the Christian to cherish his faith in the universal extension of gospel blessings, by thus looking on the distant prospect. Borne up on the wings of hope and love, he may thus be encouraged in his exertions and under his disappointments. He must ever remember, too, that in the mighty machine of divine providence, human agency is constantly employed. The efforts of men continually serve as the springs which commence or accelerate motion. In the great field of the world, no one is allowed to rest in indolence, because he cannot see the seed produce the harvest. He must sow, though he sow in tears. Our object and aim must be, while we endeavour to avoid going before the calls of providence, and wait for the signal, to be ever on the watch, and to have our eyes open to discern and our hearts open to obey.
We are also to select the mode of exertion according to our abilities; never hiding our talent in a napkin,
* In John v. 27, and there alone, our Lord uses the expression son of man', viog av pw Tov, without the article, assigning as a reason for his being appointed to judge mankind, that he was himself a son of man. Compare Acts xvii. 31.
nor aiming to make one do the work of two; but still to be ready to do good as we have opportunity, and, by perseverance and faithful zeal, striving to do our Lord's work as effectually as we can.
Our means of aiding others are necessarily limited ; our power of personal service still more so: but we should regard both as entrusted to us ; and as forming a part of that for which we must give an account. We must aim to employ them wisely as well as faithfully; and if we do so employ them, with sincere desires that God may in and by all be glorified through Christ Jesus', we shall certainly perceive, here or hereafter, that we have not been labouring in vain.
It is cheering to believe that the great work of the diffusion of gospel blessings may be promoted in various ways, and is often indirectly promoted where that end was not immediately in view. Such is the character of our holy religion, that whatever tends to enlarge the understandings of men, and to communicate sound and useful knowledge, is preparatory culture for the reception of religious truth ; and those who in various ways contribute to this great service for their fellowmen, are, in their different spheres, preparing the way of the Lord, and may consecrate their exertions to religion by making this their motive and their guide. Still more directly are they thus engaged, when endeavouring to communicate to the poor and ignorant the knowledge of God and duty, and training up in the way in which they should go those who are to be the instructors of the next generation. Wide indeed is the field of spiritual usefulness. The labours of the husbandman in it are often unobserved by the eye of man; and some of the most important services are in