« AnteriorContinuar »
"that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, "and bringing into captivity every thought to the "obedience of Christ." Jesus himself appeared as a poor man, "not having where to lay his "head:" having been educated, not in the schools of learning, but in the cottage, nay in the carpenter's shop of Joseph; without wealthy or powerful connexions; and despised and opposed by all those who possessed learning, authority, rank, or influence, and those who were invested with the priestly character. He chose his immediate followers, and the ministers of his spiritual kingdom, the commanders in this holy warfare, from the fishing-boats of Galilee, or the receipt of custom. He paid no court to the great and noble, but "preached the gospel to the poor;" which was an additional reason of the opposition of the Jewish rulers to his claims, and continues to be so to this day. "He went about doing good," in the midst of all kind of opposition, contempt, reproach, and contradiction; and, when his numerous and stupendous miracles so affected the common people that they wanted to make him a King, and to enlist under his banners as a temporal leader; he decidedly resisted or evaded their attempts, Having spent some years in constantly preaching the word of life; exhibiting all the time a spotless example, performing innumerable miracles of mercy, patiently suffering all hardships and injuries, and employing his hours of retirement in fervent devotion; he was at last. "led as a lamb to the
12 Cor. x. 4, 5.
slaughter;" nailed to the cross as a deceiver and blasphemer; and expired amidst the cruel insults of rulers and people, of Jews and gentiles.
At this crisis his cause appeared hopeless, and his followers almost despaired. But behold! in less than two months after his crucifixion, his apostles, unarmed, unlettered, and obscure men, began boldly to preach the crucified Jesus as the Messiah, the Saviour, and Judge of the world," the "Lord of glory" and the "Prince of life: charging the rulers of the Jews with having wickedly murdered him: attesting his resurrection from the dead, and ascension into heaven; and calling on all to believe in him, as they would escape the wrath of God, and obtain salvation; and appealing to the ancient prophets that" thus it was written " and thus it must be."
In this most perilous, and apparently hopeless service, which could not but give intolerable offence to all the rulers, and priests, and teachers, who had condemned Jesus; they had not the least protection, except from the power of God; and as the miracles which they wrought combined with their dignified and mild courage, to overawe their superiors, and impress favourably the multitude. They, however, stood their ground; and did not so much as flee from Jerusalem, or shrink from the most public testimony, after repeated imprisonments. It would be tedious to enter into a further detail. They engaged in what must have appeared to the wise men of this world, a desperate attempt. They undertook (going forth" in the strength of
JEHOVAH, and proclaiming his righteousness,") to prevail against all the vice and the proud virtue,
the religion and the irreligion, the ignorance, and the learning, and the philosophy of the whole world; and all the rooted habits, and customs, and supposed interests of every nation; with no other weapons than faithful, argumentative, persuasive preaching; holy and exemplary lives; fervent prayers; patient and constant sufferings, even unto death; and miracles of mercy and beneficence. If the reader would see a masterly delineation of their ministry, let him carefully consider the apostle's description of his own conduct. Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be "not blamed: but in all things approving ourselves "as the ministers of God; in much patience, in
afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, "in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in "watchings, in fastings; by pureness, by know"ledge, by long-suffering, by kindness, by the "Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned: by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of "righteousness on the right hand and on the left:
through honour and dishonour; through evil re"port and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; "as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, "yet behold we live; as chastened, but not killed; "as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet "possessing all things.” 1
To preach, as the Saviour and Judge of the world, and the Lord of all, the very person whom Pontius Pilate, by the earnest request of the Jewish rulers, priests, scribes, and people, had
1 2 Cor. vi. 3-10.
crucified between two robbers; to preach this in an enlightened age, and among the most enlightened nations; to preach this, under such circumstances, successfully and triumphantly: for such men as the apostles were, to accomplish this, to so great a degree as before their death to fix the foundations of Christianity on so firm a basis, and to prepare the way for such future successes, by far inferior instruments; that Christianity should effect the revolutions which it has effected, and continue and prevail, during so many centuries, amidst such persecutions, and so many internal corruptions and traitors, even to this day, with clear and opening prospects of still greater triumphs: this, I say, is the grand wonder of the world! But it was "not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of "hosts." Every thing combined to crush Christianity in its infancy and childhood, except as it was protected and prospered by Omnipotence.-Its triumphs during those ages, when, being exposed to persecution, no weapons but those above described were used, prepared the way for its subsequent successes. Other weapons, which were afterwards adopted, if they seemed to effect any thing, more than counterbalanced it, by disgracing the cause. To this day, all the valuable success of Christianity has been, and is effected, by the same weapons (miracles excepted,) which the apostles and primitive evangelists employed; and by those exclusively. And in the same way there seems an opening prospect of such increasing success as shall fulfil the prophecy, (Dan. ii.) of "the stone cut out of the mountain without
"hands, becoming a mountain, and filling the "whole earth."-" When the enemy came in like
a flood," in the late inundation of infidelity and atheism," the Spirit of God lifted up a stan"dard against him." The different Societies for promoting the cause of Christianity, are honoured as standard-bearers; but I must consider the British and Foreign Bible Society as the principal standard-bearer of them all.
Now contrast the means by which Mohammed obtained his triumphs.
The first step of Mohammed's emerging from obscurity was his marrying a rich widow, whose affairs he had successfully conducted and it appears that, when he aspired to the office and honour of a prophet, she was his first disciple; and then some of her relations joined his cause. But he laboured by preaching, and other methods of that kind, with very discouraging success, for several years; and indeed was exposed to much opposition and persecution from his idolatrous countrymen. He at length, however, by paying court to the wealthy, who probably became sensible that his views might be rendered subservient to schemes of rapacity and ambition; of conquest, plunder, and dominion; acquired several powerful associates and ere long he found himself placed at the head of an army, well appointed, and eager for conflict, victory, and rapine. The very nature of his religion, to those who really credited it, supplied powerful incentives to the carnal mind to fight resolutely in promoting it: while the abundant acquisitions made by the surviving combatants most powerfully allured numbers to