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forming any conclusions, which may even seem to derogate from the perfection of these attributes.
Still however it may be allowed, that, if we limit our consideration to the visible effects of our holy faith, neither the records of history, nor the testimony of actual experience, can warrant our belief, that the reign of the Messias has yet been attended by all its predicted temporal blessings; and we are irresistibly impelled to conclude, that a far more widely extended reception of his Gospel, a far more beneficial operation of his commandments, is to be expected. The encouragement, which appears to be given by the language of holy Writ to this expectation, has indeed been often abused. Of the d theories which have been built upon it, some have been in the highest degree extravagant and mischievous, giving the reins to every inordinate propensity of the human heart, and sapping the foundations of all established authority, whether civil or re
d See Note CL. Appendix.
e See Note CLI. Appendix.
ligious; while others, though less injurious in their tendency, have partaken more of visionary speculation, than was consistent with the sober interpretation of revealed truth. But without dwelling upon the sinful absurdities, which have rendered the former class abominable in the view of every pious and intelligent Christian; or further particularizing the opinions of good and learned, though fanciful writers, who have perhaps awakened a prejudice in the minds of some, even against the truth itself, which their exaggerations have disfigured; it is an historical fact, that in every age of the Church a belief has prevailed, that a time of greater doctrinal and moral perfection was approaching; in which Christianity should shine forth with a lustre as yet unknown, and its professors should be perfectly united in faith and affection.
To such a period, the language of our Saviour in the text appears to direct our attention : "Other sheep I have, which 66 are not of this fold: them also must I bring, and they shall hear my voice;
"and there shall be one fold, and one "shepherd." May we not be allowed to paraphrase this passage thus? I have disciples whom ye yet know not: they belong not indeed to the Jewish Church or nation, but their hearts are prepared for my doctrine; and when they are called by the ministry of my Apostles and their successors, they also shall hear my voice, f “receiving the word" with gladness and "readiness of mind," and submitting themselves, in all sincerity of faithful obedience, to my directions. "Them also "must I bring;" they shall be g added to my Church and when this great work is completed, and these Gentiles are wholly brought in; then shall the influence of my Gospel be fully manifested in the harmony of its professors; and all being perfectly joined together in the profession of the same faith, and in obedience to the same form of external polity, there shall be henceforth but "one fold," as there is but "one shepherd."
f Acts xvii. 11.
g See Note CLII. Appendix.
Viewing then the text in this light, to what period in the annals of Christianity shall we look for its accomplishment? We know that when the h" blindness" which
had " happened in part to Israel," and
had closed the minds of God's once chosen people against the doctrine of salvation, obliged the Apostles to "turn to the "Gentiles," they traversed every region of the then civilized world, proclaiming the glad tidings of the Gospel; making converts, founding churches, and thus extending the spiritual dominion of the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls. We know also, how rapid was the growth of that seed which they planted; that, even under the most discouraging circumstances, it flourished and spread; until, like the * grain of mustard in the parable, it became a great tree, and nations reposed under its shadow. Still, however, this influence, so soon obtained, so widely extended, though wonderful in itself, and strongly attesting the overruling provi
i Acts xiii. 46.
h Romans xi. 25.
k. Matthew xiii. 32.
dence of him, who giveth the hearing ear and the understanding heart, fills not up the idea which the language of the text suggests. For though other sheep were brought in, and the "redeemed of the "Lord were gathered out of all lands, "from the east and from the west, from "the north and from the south;" though all agreed in acknowledging one common shepherd, even Jesus Christ, in whose name they had believed; yet when can it be said that the fold has been one? Can we trace the unity which such a declaration would induce us to expect in the contests of the first Christians, when the Jewish convert was arrayed against his Gentile brother; the one, insisting upon the burdensome ceremonies of his own abrogated ritual; the other, not only rejecting these beggarly elements," as they were styled by St. Paul, but uncharitably despising those, by whose inherited prejudices they were upheld?
Or shall we seek this unity in any par
1 Psalm cvii. 2, 3.
m Galatians iv. 9.