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once, sword in hand, to forestall his commands, and brought back from the thickest of the enemy, in their helmets, that blood-bought water which their sovereign had barely longed after. And the history of every age is full of illustrious examples of obedience and loyalty, in which the severest labours have been undergone, and the most appalling dangers encountered, in execution of commands, the motives of which have been but imperfectly known, or the policy of which has been even more than doubted. Let but the professed followers of God and His Son entertain the same desire to please their Lord which was displayed by Abishai and his comrades ; let but the professed believers in Christ exhibit the same trust in His wisdom and deference to His authority, which is claimed by every public man from his soldiers and subordinate functionaries, and we may be assured that the attempt to communicate a knowledge of the truth to the Gentiles will be no longer neglected or opposed as an unauthorized or chimerical labour.
If, indeed, that be true, which no professing Christian will gainsay; if the religion of Christ be acknowledged as that form of doctrine which most of all represents God as He is, and in that sublime and amiable character which the awful Judge, the mighty King, the most merciful Father of all, maintains with His subjects and His offspring; if it teaches men to reject all erroneous and degrading notions of God, and to serve Him in the manner most worthy of and most acceptable to Him; it is really hard to say, by what process of self-deception a man can be led to suppose that he himself loves and honours the Almighty, who yet is indifferent or averse to the vindication of His name and attributes among his fellow-creatures. Of this feeling we are all abundantly sensible where our own honour, or the honour of any person whom we really value is implicated. And I appeal to all who hear me, whether, if even a tenth part of those absurdities and abominations were asserted of an earthly friend, an earthly pareat, an earthly sovereign or benefactor, which the heathen around us, in their ignorance and superstition, assert and believe of God Most High, our best and most perse
vering endeavours would not be employed to do justice to the misrepresented friend, and undeceive the blinded calumniator.
Nor is this obligation weakened by the objection which is frequently brought forward, (sometimes against the truth of the Christian doctrine itself, and sometimes against the necessity of proclaiming that doctrine to the Gentiles, that if God were really displeased with the varieties of religious faith which exist among mankind, or if He were really so desirous as we suppose Him to be, for the universal adoption of any one religious system, He has means in His hand for at once accomplishing His purpose, without waiting for the tardy feet of those human agents, whose office it is to bear the good tidings of salvation.
Of this objection, as employed against the truth of Christianity itself, I know not that, in the present place, I am bound to take any notice. It is not my present business to discuss the evidences of our faith ; and, while addressing a congregation of Christians, I am justified in reasoning on Christian principles only, and taking for granted the data on which all Christians are agreed, that our religion is true, and that it is the best and most perfect which the Almighty has ever made known to His creatures. the notion to which I have alluded is at the bottom of very much of the avowed or lurking infidelity which we meet with, I
may be excused for observing, that the objection against the Divine origin of the Gospel, which is taken from the pretended narrow limits within which the Gospel has been yet received, is alike unfortunate both in the facts which it assumes and in the arguments which it founds on them.
The adducers have, in the first place, misrepresented or misconceived the general purport of our Saviour's prophecies, in which, though the final triumph of His cause is often foretold, its immediate reception or rapid progress among men is never so much as intimated. The direct contrary is, indeed, implied in all comparisons of His Church and its privileges, to treasure hid in the ground, which escapes
the search of careless or superficial inquirers; to leaven buried in a bushel of meal, whose secret
and pervading influence should make itself felt at length, and by degrees, through the whole of the mass which concealed it; of corn sown in a field, over which many moons must wax and wane ere first its green and tender shoots, its golden ears next, and lastly, its overflowing and manifold harvest, alleviate the anxiety and reward the labours of the husbandman. The contrary is, lastly, implied in the many predictions of our Lord while on earth, which prepare His disciples to encounter opposition, persecution, and contempt from the world in which they were to labour; and that many generations of offence, of dissension, of opposition, yea, and of apostacy, were to intervene before the Tabernacle of God was to be finally erected among His people, and the knowledge of the Lord should cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.
Nor can it be accounted reasonable to object to the claims of a prophet to Divine inspiration, that the sect which He founded has not met with a more favourable fortune upon earth than He Himself, in the first instance, promised and foretold.
Nor is this the only fact connected with Christianity, which has been ignorantly or wilfully misrepresented. Its actual
progress among men, and the number of its external professors have been almost systematically depreciated and diminished, while, by an opposite mistake, the probable amount of the Mussulman and Gentile inhabitants of our planet have been exaggerated in a five-fold proportion. But, if assuming the latest and most accurate estimate, which I have met with, (and that from no friendly hand) of the comparative population of the different sects among mankind, we estimate the amount of those who at present are called by the name of Christ at 200,000,000, V or a fourth part of mankind ; if we recollect that, within these limits are included all the most improved and improving portion of the world, the most powerful in arms, the most skilful in arts, the most distinguished in every branch of moral and natural philosophy, the most industrious, the wealthiest and the wisest among the sons of men; if we bear in mind that to them the entire old world is immediately or indirectly tributary; and that, in the
new world, to which their genius has led the way, they have found an almost vacant, and a little less than boundless field for the occupation and dominion of an innume. rable and believing posterity; if we consider that, however slow the progress
of Christianity may have been, it is now and has been always progressive; it may seem that the enemies of our creed have been somewhat rash in their exultations over its failure. It niay require no mighty measure of faith'to believe that “ the Lord is not slack as men count slackness; that the word which hath gone forth from his mouth shall in no wise return unto Him empty ; and that He who hath thus far conquered will go on to fresh conquests still ; till the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of God and His Christ; till His Church, afflicted first and militant still, shall become universal, and at length triumphant; and till the material world itself shall make way for a nobler and happier creation, and a great voice shall be heard of much people in Heaven, saying, “ Allelujah, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth."
Those objectors, indeed, who would revile the Christian faith, because in the course of 1800 years it has not yet converted the world, have forgotten the analogy between the moral and material universe, and how universally, in the latter, those changes which are beneficial, are, in comparison, slow and gradual. The desolation of a province by an earthquake or a volcano, may be the work of a single hour ; but months, and years, and ages have been necessary, ere the gradual deposition of alluvial soil has clothed the rocky valley of the Nile with the harvests and fertility of Egypt, or produced Bengal from its parent Ganges. And those who infer that God does not will the eventual triumph of His name, and the eventual and complete felicity of His creatures, because His providence works by the agency of secondary causes, and through the imperfection of human labourers, may as well reason from the existence of vice that God does not delight in virtue, and are blasphemers against the religion of nature, as well as against that of revelation and prophecy.
The honour, then, of God, and His will as declared in
Scripture, are of themselves sufficient reasons to engage the zeal, the affections, the faith, and energies of Christians in the endeavour to disseminate His truth among those who still sit in darkness. Now, if much remains to be done ere the victory of the cross shall attain its full completion, if many nations still dishonour, by superstition, the glory of Him who made us all, and if the mightiest, and wisest, and best of beings is still unknown or misrepresented among the greater proportion of those who bear His image, the result on our minds should be no other than a greater ardour of exertion, in proportion as its necessity is greater, a more exalted zeal for His name, in proportion as that name is ignorantly dishonoured.
But it is not our duty to our Maker and Redeemer alone which should urge us to the dissemination of His Gospel; our love of man no less constraineth us to communicate to our neighbours and brethren the same inestimable blessings, which we have ourselves freely received from the Giver of all good things. It was not for the glory of God alone that the Son of God descended from on high, but in order that peace and good will to man might be manifested in that illustrious condescension. And it must be, to say the least of it, either a very inadequate notion of the nature and extent of the benefits conferred on mankind by a knowledge of and belief in Christianity, or a very lamentable coldness and indifference to the happiness or misery of our fellow creatures, which can make us backward, much more averse, to lend our aid, to our power and in our pro. per station, to the progress of the true religion among the heathen.
For, let us recollect, that it is not wisdom alone, it is not the more perfect knowledge of God and His nature and attributes, it is not a mere freedom from idle or injurious superstitions, it is not a pure and holy law of life and morals only; nor yet the many and various advantages of a civil and political character, the improvement of the human intellect, the extension of secular knowledge, the acquisition of fresh fields of enterprise and mental enjoyment, and the perfection of those many arts and sciences which an enlargement of the understanding brings with it, it is not