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is Christian religion. Every thing else, whether negative or external, is utterly wide of the mark. But what a paradox is this! How little is it understood in the Christian world; yea, in this enlightened age, wherein it is taken for granted, the world is wiser than ever it was from the beginning! Among all our discoveries, who has discovered this? How few, either among the learned or unlearned! And yet, if we believe the Bible, who can deny it? Who can doubt of it? It runs through the Bible from the beginning to the end, in one connected chain; and the agreement of every part of it, with every other, is, properly, the analogy of faith. Beware of taking any thing else, or any thing less than this, for religion! Not any thing else: Do not imagine an outward form, a round of duties, both in public and private, is religion! Do not suppose, that honesty, justice, and whatever is called morality, (though excellent in its place,) is religion! And least of all dream that orthodoxy, right opinion, (vulgarly called faith,) is religion. Of all religious dreams, this is the vainest; which takes hay and stubble for gold tried in the fire!
6. Oh do not take any thing less than this for the religion of Jesus Christ! Do not take a part of it for the whole! What God hath joined together, put not asunder! Take no less for his religion, than the "faith that worketh by love ;" all inward and outward holiness. Be not content with any religion, which does not imply the destruction of all the works of the devil; that is, of all sin. We know, weakness of understanding, and a thousand infirmities, will remain, while this corruptible body remains; but sin need not remain: this is that work of the devil, eminently so called, which the Son of God was manifested to destroy in this present life. He is able, he is willing, to destroy it now, in all that believe in him. Only be not straitened in your own bowels! Do not distrust his power, or his love! Put his promise to the proof! He hath spoken and is he not ready, likewise, to perform? Only "come boldly to the throne of grace," trusting in his mercy; and you shall find, ❝he saveth to the uttermost all those that come to God through him!"
SERMON LXVIII.-The General Spread of the Gospel.
"The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea," Isa. xi, 9.
1. In what a condition is the world at present! How does darkness, intellectual darkness, ignorance, with vice and misery attendant upon it, cover the face of the earth! From the accurate inquiry, made with indefatigable pains by our ingenious countryman, Mr. Brerewood; (who travelled himself over a great part of the known world, in order to form the more exact judgment;) supposing the world to be divided into thirty parts, nineteen of them are professed heathens, altogether as ignorant of Christ, as if he had never come into the world: six of the remaining parts are professed Mohammedans: so that only five in thirty are so much as nominally Christians!
2. And let it be remembered, that since this computation was made, many new nations have been discovered; numberless islands, particularly in the South sea, large and well inhabited: but by whom? By heathens
of the basest sort; many of them inferior to the beasts of the field. Whether they eat men or no, (which indeed I cannot find any sufficient ground to believe,) they certainly kill all that fall into their hands. They are, therefore, more savage than lions; who kill no more creatures than are necessary to satisfy their present hunger. See the real dignity of human nature! Here it appears in its genuine purity, not polluted either by those "general corrupters, kings," or by the least tincture of religion! What will Abbé Raynal (that determined enemy to monarchy and revelation) say to this?
3. A little, and but a little, above the heathens in religion, are the Mohammedans. But how far and wide has this miserable delusion spread over the face of the earth! Insomuch that the Mohammedans are considerably more in number (as six to five) than Christians. And by all the accounts which have any pretence to authenticity, these are also, in general, as utter strangers to all true religion as their four footed brethren; as void of mercy as lions and tigers; as much given up to brutal lusts as bulls or goats: so that they are in truth a disgrace to human nature, and a plague to all that are under the iron yoke.
4. It is true, a celebrated writer (Lady Mary Wortley Montague,) gives a very different character of them. With the finest flow of words, in the most elegant language, she labours to wash the Ethiop white. She represents them as many degrees above the Christians; as some of the most amiable people in the world; as possessed of all the social virtues; as some of the most accomplished of men. But I can in no wise receive her report: I cannot rely upon her authority. I believe those round about her had just as much religion as their admirer had, when she was admitted into the interior parts of the grand Seignior's seraglio. Notwithstanding, therefore, all that such a witness does or can say in their favour, I believe the Turks in general are little, if at all better, than the generality of the heathens.
5. And little if at all better than the Turks, are the Christians in the Turkish dominions; even the best of them; those that live in the Morea, or are scattered up and down in Asia. The more numerous bodies of Georgian, Circassian, Mengrelian Christians, are a proverb of reproach to the Turks themselves; not only for their deplorable ignorance, but for their total, stupid, barbarous irreligion.
6. From the most authentic accounts we can obtain of the southern Christians, those in Abyssinia, and of the northern churches, under the jurisdiction of the patriarch of Moscow, we have reason to fear they are much in the same condition, both with regard to knowledge and religion, as those in Turkey. Or if those in Abyssinia are more civilized, and have a larger share of knowledge, yet they do not appear to have any more religion than either the Mohammedans or Pagans.
7. The western churches seem to have the pre-eminence over all these in many respects. They have abundantly more knowledge: they have more scriptural and more rational modes of worship. Yet two thirds of them are still involved in the corruptions of the church of Rome; and most of these are entirely unacquainted with either the theory or practice of religion. And as to those who are called Protestants or reformed, what acquaintance with it have they? Put Papists and Protestants, French and English together, the bulk of one, and of the other nation; and what manner of Christians are they? Are th
"holy as He that hath called them is holy?" Are they filled with "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost?" Is there "that mind in them which was also in Christ Jesus?" And do they “walk as Christ also walked?" Nay, they are as far from it as hell is from heaven!
8. Such is the present state of mankind in all parts of the world! But how astonishing is this, if there is a God in heaven; and if his eyes are over all the earth! Can he despise the work of his own hand? Surely this is one of the greatest mysteries under heaven! How is it possible to reconcile this with either the wisdom or goodness of God? And what can give ease to a thoughtful mind under so melancholy a prospect? What but the consideration, that things will not always be 80; that another scene will soon be opened? God will be jealous of his honour he will arise and maintain his own cause. He will judge the prince of this world, and spoil him of his usurped dominion. He will give his Son "the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession." "The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." The loving knowledge of God, producing uniform, uninterrupted holiness and happiness, shall cover the earth; shall fill every soul of man.
9. Impossible," will some men say, "yea, the greatest of all impossibilities, that we should see a Christian world; yea, a Christian nation, or city! How can these things be?" On one supposition, indeed, not only all impossibility, but all difficulty vanishes away. Only sup pose the Almighty to act irresistibly, and the thing is done; yea, with just the same ease as when "God said, Let there be light; and there was light." But then, man would be man no longer : his inmost na ture would be changed. He would no longer be a moral agent, any more than the sun or the wind; as he would no longer be endued with liberty, a power of choosing, or self determination: consequently, he would no longer be capable of virtue or vice; of reward or punishment.
10. But setting aside this clumsy way of cutting the knot which we are not able to untie; how can all men be made holy and happy, while they continue men? While they still enjoy both the understanding, the affections, and the liberty, which are essential to a moral agent? There seems to be a plain, simple way of removing this difficulty, without entangling ourselves in any subtle, metaphysical disquisitions. As God is one, so the work of God is uniform in all ages. May we not then conceive how he will work on the souls of men in times to come, by considering how he does work now, and how he has wrought in times past?
11. Take one instance of this, and such an instance as you cannot easily be deceived in. You know how God wrought in your own soul, when he first enabled you to say, "The life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." He did not take away your understanding; but enlightened and strengthened it. He did not destroy any of your affections: rather they were more vigorous than before. Least of all did he take away your liberty; your power of choosing good or evil: he did not force you: but, being assisted by his grace, you, like Mary, chose the better part. Just so has he assisted five in one house to make that happy choice; fifty or five hundred in one city; and many thousands in a nation;-without depriving any of them of that liberty which is essential to a moral agent.
12. Not that I deny, that there are exempt cases, wherein "The overwhelming power of saving grace,"
does, for a time, work as irresistibly as lightning falling from heaven. But I speak of God's general manner of working, of which I have known innumerable instances; perhaps more within fifty years last past, than any one in England or in Europe. And with regard even to these exempt cases; although God does work irresistibly for the time, yet I do not believe that there is any human soul, in which God works irresistibly at all times. Nay, I am fully persuaded there is not. I an persuaded there are no men living that have not many times "resisted the Holy Ghost," and made void "the counsel of God against themselves." Yea, I am persuaded, every child of God has had, at some time, "life and death set before him," eternal life and eternal death; and has in himself the casting voice. So true is that well known saying of St. Austin; (one of the noblest he ever uttered ;) " Qui fecit nos sine nobis, non salvabit nos sine nobis:" He that made us without ourselves, will not save us without ourselves. Now in the same manner as God has converted so many to himself, without destroying their liberty; he can undoubtedly convert whole nations, or the whole world: and it is as easy to him to convert a world, as one individual soul.
13. Let us observe what God has done already. Between fifty and sixty years ago, God raised up a few young men, in the university of Oxford, to testify those grand truths, which were then little attended to:That without holiness no man shall see the Lord;-that this holiness is the work of God, who worketh in us both to will and to do;—that he doeth it of his own good pleasure, merely for the merits of Christ ;— that this holiness is the mind that was in Christ; enabling us to walk as he also walked ;-that no man can be thus sanctified till he be justified ;and, that we are justified by faith alone. These great truths they declared on all occasions, in private and in public; having no design but to promote the glory of God, and no desire but to save souls from death.
14. From Oxford, where it first appeared, the little leaven spread wider and wider. More and more saw the truth as it is in Jesus, and received it in the love thereof. More and more found "redemption through the blood of Jesus, even the forgiveness of sins." They were born again of his Spirit, and filled with righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. It afterwards spread to every part of the land, and a little one became a thousand. It then spread into North Britain, and Ireland; and a few years after, into New York, Pennsylvania, and many other provinces in America, even as high as Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. So that, although at first this "grain of mustard seed" was "the least of all the seeds;" yet, in a few years, it grew into a "large tree, and put forth great branches."
15. Generally, when these truths, justification by faith in particular, were declared in any large town, after a few days or weeks, there came suddenly on the great congregation,-not in a corner, at London, Bristol, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in particular,-a violent and impetuous power, which,
"Like mighty winds or torrents fierce,
And this frequently continued, with shorter or longer intervals, for several weeks or months. But it gradually subsided, and then the v
of God was carried on by gentle degrees; while that Spirit, in water ing the seed that had been sown, in confirming and strengthening them that had believed,
"Deign'd his influence to infuse,
Secret, refreshing as the silent dews."
And this difference in his usual manner of working, was observable, not only in Great Britain and Ireland, but in every part of America, from south to north, wherever the word of God came with power.
16. Is it not then highly probable, that God will carry on his work in the same manner as he has begun it? That he will carry it on, I cannot doubt; however Luther may affirm, that a revival of religion never lasts above a generation, that is, thirty years; (whereas the present revival has already continued above fifty;) or however prophets of evil may say, "All will be at an end when the first instruments are removed." There will then, very probably, be a great shaking; but I cannot induce myself to think, that God has wrought so glorious a work, to let it sink and die away in a few years: no, I trust, this is only the beginning of a far greater work; the dawn of " the latter day glory."
17. And is it not probable, I say, that he will carry it on, in the same manner as he has begun? At the first breaking out of this work in this or that place, there may be a shower, a torrent of grace; and so at some other particular seasons, which "the Father has reserved in his own power:" but in general, it seems, the kingdom of God will not "come with observation;" but will silently increase, wherever it is set up, and spread from heart to heart, from house to house, from town to town, from one kingdom to another. May it not spread, first, through the remaining provinces; then, through the isles of North America; and, at the same time, from England to Holland, where there is already a blessed work in Utrecht, Haerlem, and many other cities? Probably it will spread from these to the Protestants in France, to those in Germany, and those in Switzerland; then to Sweden, Denmark, Russia, and all the other Protestant nations in Europe.
18. May we not suppose, that the same leaven of pure and undefiled religion, of the experimental knowledge and love of God, of inward and outward holiness, will afterwards spread to the Roman Catholics in Great Britain, Ireland, Holland; in Germany, France, Switzerland; and in all other countries, where Romanists and Protestants live intermixed, and familiarly converse with each other? Will it not then be easy for the wisdom of God to make a way for religion, in the life and power thereof, into those countries that are merely Popish; as Italy, Spain, Portugal? And may it not be gradually diffused from thence to all that name the name of Christ, in the various provinces of Turkey, in Abyssinia, yea, and in the remotest parts, not only of Europe, but of Asia, Africa, and America?
19. And in every nation under heaven, we may reasonably believe, God will observe the same order which he hath done from the beginning of Christianity. "They shall all know me, saith the Lord;"not from the greatest to the least; (this is that wisdom of the world, which is foolishness with God;) but," from the least to the greatest;" that the praise may not be of men, but of God? Before the end, even the rich shall enter into the kingdom of God. Together with them will