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The gospel is farther glad tidings, because we may all see in it what we are; the picture drawn of human nature, being the exact likeness of each individual. Though the sight of sin is a dreadful sight, the sinner never feels so comfortable as when he beholds himself in all his deformity, and can say with Job, I abhor yself. With respect to this gospel it may also be added that the name is very appropriate, and significant, because it makes known the purpose of God to save sinners. If we had not this information, could we have any at all suited to our case, any good tidings; any tidings which could make our hearts truly glad? Business, or amusements, might take up so much of our time, that we should have but little leisure for the consideration of the close of life, and the consequences of leaving the world; but any enjoyment which might come in this way, ought to be accounted rather negative, than positive, rather nominal, than real. To such a case the words of Solomon would be very applicable. Even in laughter the heart is scornful, and the end of that mirth is heaviness. The criminal under the sentence of death might sing and dance but who could believe him to be happy. This gospel would be glad tidings, even upon the supposition that the salvation which it proposes could be obtained only by a few, especially if every one might hope to be included in the small number. The case however is far otherwise. Whether many or few, comparatively, will be saved, is a question which was once put without receiving any direct answer, and it is a question of vain and unprofitable curiosity. Of this we are assured, that Christ tasted death for every man, and his salvation is called both great and common. If millions of sinners have applied before me, and if my sins are more in number than the moments of my life, I still have the greatest encouragement to apply myself, and the highest authority for concluding, that no earnest application will be refused. If the doctrine of universal salvation is a doctrine of devils, being a doctrine of falsehood, it is unquestionably true, that the offer of salvation is universal; no limitation being connected with it; and the condition being in all cases the same.
According to the maxims of common prudence, we inquire what a thing will cost before we determine that we will have it; and here, to increase in our view the importance of the tidings of the gospel, let us remember, that salvation is the purchase of the Lamb of God; and that_upon all those who receive it, it is bestowed as a free gift. Those who have no money are invited to come, and buy wine, and milk, without money, and without price. Christ told the disciples of John, The poor have the gospel preached to them. The poor, the great class in the community, must despair of salvation, if like other things, it must be paid for, and the rich have a double inducement to attend to it from the consideration, that what they have they may retain; and that nothing is required of them, but a wise arrangement, and improvement. The gospel is still farther glad tidings because it tells us of a salvation which is deliverance from sin, both as to the condemnation of it, and the power. Whoever has felt like David when he said, Innumerable evils have compassed me about, mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, is sensible that no change in outward circumstances is, by any means, of so much importance, as a change of the heart; such as will constitute it new, and holy. It may be added to what has been said, that the gospel is glad tidings because salvation is the sum of good; because godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. Without a revelation we should know nothing of a future state, nor of any good but what is to be found in the visible, transitory, and disappointing, objects of the present world. Every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused if it be received with thanksgiving; but the whole creation would be nothing to him, who should have nothing better for his portion.
The second thing which we have to consider is the kingdom, for the gospel here spoken of, to characterise it still farther, is called this gospel of the kingdom.
In every kingdom we expect to find a king, and, in ordinary cases, we can know his name, his parentage, his place of residence, and his general character. There is a king at the head of this kingdom concerning which we are
now inquiring, and we can say something about him from the information which he has imparted to us. The king is God himself, known under many names, all having some appropriate signification. Time would be unnecessarily spent at present in collecting these names; though they well deserve our serious attention. Mysterious as it may be to us however, we must not forget, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, are among the names which belong to the one true God. Though we can trace the parentage of other kings, this King is without father, without mother, without descent; having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; self-existent, and everlasting. Kings have their royal cities, and their palaces, built at great expense, and abounding with decorations; but the King of kings dwells in the highest heavens, and is present every where. Kings are usually arbitrary, despotic rulers, proud of their authority, and regardless of the rights of their subjects; but this king is the high and holy One of Israel; and the sceptre of his kingdom is a right sceptre.
Kings have subjects, more or less numerous, and of different descriptions; the honorable, and the vile. The subjects of this king are a multitude which no man can number; and though they are not all alike, they differ only as one star differeth from another star in glory. Cherubim, and seraphim, are names given to the high orders of holy beings, but we can have no very clear and distinct idea of their meaning. We talk sometimes of archangels, though it is doubtful whether this is proper, because the bible mentions only one of this name, who is the angel of the covenant, the Son of God. What is especially interesting for us to know is, who of our race, will be allowed to be subjects of this kingdom. It is no uncommon thing for men of the world, when speaking of the death of their friends, to say, without any regard to their character, that they are gone to heaven. But the Bible is the only standard by which we can form a correct judgment. Let us then appeal to it. Know ye not says St. Paul, that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind; Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor
drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
If we had only this passage upon the subject, persons not chargeable with any gross immortalities, might draw up a conclusion too favorable with respect to themselves. But there are other passages in abundance, and they ought all to be consulted. Our Savior's discourse with Nicodemus, recorded in the third chapter of St. John's gospel, contains so much, that we need look no farther for information. If a man cannot see the kingdom of heaven without being born again, we deceive ourselves, if we expect to become subjects of that kingdom in any other way.
Kingdoms have their laws, the character of which depends upon the state of society, being in some cases little else than the will of an unlimited monarch; and in others discovering that the welfare of the community has been consulted by those who enacted them. But whether more or less arbitrary, they operate only as external regulations, and they are considered as obeyed when the conduct is in accordance with them. The kingdom of God has its laws, and God is the sole author of them. Who hath directed the spirit of the Lord, or being his counsellor hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and showed to him the way of understanding? Yet though God, in the laws which he has given, has regarded his own glory as the ultimate object, the good of the intelligent universe, and of every individual, is secured, only, by obedience to them. All these laws have this peculiarity, that in addition to conformity in outward things, they require, and primarily, the conformity of the heart. Love only can fulfil the laws of God, for he requires of each one, love supreme to himself, and subordinate to all intelligent beings.
In every kingdom, and in every community, men have their occupations, differing according to their capacities, and circumstances, but in the kingdom of God, the same employment engages all; and that is the praise of God; for as for the natural world there is a natural body; so for the spiritual world there is a spiritual body. Thus the whole
man becomes a pure spirit; and what he has to do is to be done with spiritual faculties, and in a way of spiritual exercise.
Kingdoms have their location and boundaries. The kingdom of God ruleth over all. It is in heaven, and it is set up in this world, for every one of Adam's race who is ever received, must be received while an inhabitant of this world.
We mention as the last particular, under this head, that while other kingdoms have their beginning, and their termination, this kingdom is everlasting. No convulsions can overturn this kingdom which is built upon the rock of ages.
We learn from the text in the third place, that this gospel of the kingdom is to be preached in all the world. Though so much was done in the early days of christianity that this prophecy might be viewed as then fulfilled, it is necessary, that the work be done over again; for generally speaking, darkness now covers the earth and gross darkness the people. The success which attended the preaching of the gospel at first, is to be accounted for from that miraculous power which was conferred upon the apostles. But the days of miracles are past; and what we look for now is from the blessing of God upon the ordinary operation of second causes. It is easy then to sketch out with some particularity, how this business will proceed.
Ever since the language of men was confounded, at the building of Babel, there have been different languages in the world, and so different as to greatly embarrass the intercourse of different nations. Hence it is apparent, that wherever the gospel shall be preached, with any considerable advantage, it must be translated into the language of those to whom it is addressed; for the progress must be slow if nothing could be communicated but through an interpreter. Schools must likewise be established, that as many as can, and especially the young, may be taught to understand the language of those who preach the gospel to them. These are the measures already adopted, and with great encouragement, in all places where missionary labors have been performed..