Page images
PDF
EPUB

lently opposing attitude of the world; were so successful, that with our eye fixed upon them, we can hardly, fail of deriving a third motive to resolution, and perseverance. Matthew was a publican, or tax gatherer; and probably, had learning enough to conduct that business; but of the other apostles, some are known to have been fishermen; and there is reason to believe, that the same was the occupation of all. A portrait, large as life, is drawn of this company in St. Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty: And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are.

Those who judge after the flesh, would at once conclude that those persons would have done well to continue, the one at the receipt of custom; and the other in some place advantageous for the catching of fish. They were however, called from an employment which experience had made them acquainted with, and set to do that for which no school of science had qualified their minds.

Had the world been tractable, a good disposition in the apostles, without much ability to teach, might have served to excite attention, and thus, have prepared the way for a change of opinions, and for a new course of life. But we all know, that the world has ever been stubbotn as the oak, ạnd, that at that time, the Jews and the Gentiles, making the body of mankind, stood bristling with their prejudices, and superstitions; as the porcupine erects and points every quill to attack an assailant. Of the three great sects in religion, and philosophy, among the Jews, the pharisees, the sadducees, and the essenes, each one was hostile to the gospel and the common people who attached themselves, to one, or to another, of these sects, according to circumstances, though they panted for a deliverer, did not wish for deliverance from sin. The object held up by the apostles was very different from that upon which the eager eyes of expectation among their countrymen were fastened. Nor was there apparently more encouragement to turn to

the Gentiles. They had their idol gods under many names, whose worship, though it might require expensive sacrifices, called not for that which depraved nature opposes with all its force, the sacrifice of its own lusts and corruptions.

The history which we have, though brief, will abundantly show us the difficulty of that undertaking, in which the apostles were engaged. The same history will likewise teach us, that feeble instruments, in the mighty hand of God, effectually prostrated all the opposition which was made by an arm of flesh. Those Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and those of Cilicia, and of Asia, constituting a synagogue of Satan, were not able to resist the wisdom, and the spirit, with which even Stephen, spoke who was in office but a deacon; and that because he was full of faith, and power, and did great wonders and miracles among the people. In vain was the council convened at Jerusalem, for the special purpose of intimidating and silencing Peter, and John. Their boldness was unconquerable: thousands by their instrumentality, were brought to believe, and, such was the hold that their doctrine had taken upon the people, that the rulers were afraid to inflict punishment, and were obliged to dismiss them with only threats and prohibitions. It is true that most of God's ministering servants, in the first days of christianity, came to their death, by the hand of violence; but not until they had accomplished, as an hireling their day; not until they had sown a wide field with the good seed of the gospel. He who regards primarily, the cause which he advocates, and not his own person, will find much to encourage him in the record respecting the early spread of Christ's religion.

Thirdly. If sensible that we ought to speak, what message shall we communicate, in order to fulfil our commission, and so secure to ourselves the approbation of our own consciences and of God? Much of that which is called preaching, is, unquestionably, but the song of lullaby, dictated by him who carries on his designs most successfully, when the world lies most profoundly asleep. Here it cannot be said, that we are left to form our own opinions upon so vast a subject. We have our orders from him under whose authority we act. When the word of the Lord came unto

[ocr errors]

Jonah the second time, this was the direction which he received: Arise, go into Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. Jonah's commission was such as left him no choice of his subject; nor of the manner of handling it. When Balaam, by permission, went to Balak, he said, Lo I am come unto thee, have I now any power at all, to say any thing? the word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak. The event corresponded with the declaration. The address to Ezekiel Jimited him likewise. Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore hear the word at my mouth, and warn the people from me.

In these instances however, more particular, and direct communications, were made than in ordinary cases can be expected. Our orders are more general. We gather the sum of our duty from the following passage. And when Silas, and Timotheus, were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in spirit, and testified to the Jews, that Jesus is Christ. That this is all which it was of any consequence for him to testify, appears from the reply of our Savior to those who asked him, What shall we do that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered, and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him, whom he hath sent. If therefore, we understand, and hold forth, that Jesus is the Christ, we are able ministers of the New Testament; but if we fail in this, our preaching is vain; and their faith is vain also, who being our hearers, are led to adopt our opinions.

Three things, being all the things which are fundamental, are evidently comprised in what St. Paul testified to the Jews. The being, and character, of God, is one thing; the state of man by nature is another, and what salvation consists in, together with the way of obtaining it, is the third. If Jesus is the Christ, then is he the anointed of God, for anointed is the signification of his name; consequently, we cannot preach that Jesus is the Christ, without asserting the first, and most important of all truths, that there is a God.

Since however there have been lords many and gods many, acknowledged in name, and worshipped in ignorance,

es.

the bare persuasion, that there is a God; and, that there is but one, is not sufficient, without some just conceptions of his character. It must be apparent, that there is no rock like our God, even our enemies themselves being the judg

We have such a history of Jesus Christ; that we can discover something of all his natural, and moral, attributes; and if he is God's anointed; and the Son of God; it must be true, that in him dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

That we may learn what the invisible God is, from what we can see in the person of Christ, appears evident from the reply which Philip received from his Lord, when he said to him, Shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, hast thou not known me Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then shew us the Father. Since there is nothing to be found in the history of Christ's conversation, and conduct, but what is evidently the effect of holiness, setting aside all positive declarations which respect this affair, we have the most unquestionable premises from which to draw the conclusion, that holiness must be the nature of God. Holiness being a term which denotes moral perfection, all natural perfection may here be left out of the question, if God be holy, he must be infinitely just, and infinitely merciful. Of these two attributes, which exist together in God, and display themselves in the most entire harmony, the latter is quite acceptable to human nature; but the former is exceedingly offensive. If however, we turn away with abhorrence, from the unjust man, benevolent as his deeds of charity may bespeak him, it is certain, that justice is as essential to the glory, and consequently to the perfection, of God, as his mercy; and if we have suitable conceptions of the one, we must admit the other. The mercy of God is spoken of, in terms of high sounding applause by those who advance doctrines most corrupt in their nature, and most dangerous in their tendency; while his justice passes unmentioned or if brought into view, is considered as merely imaginary; a spectre conjured up by the cunning to terrify the weak We have not

and yet

1

so learned Christ, if so be, that we have heard him, and have been taught of him as the truth is in Jesus.

Equally important with just ideas of God, is it for us, in performing our work, to give a correct representation of the moral state of man. That there is much ignorance upon this subject, the proofs are abundant, both of ancient, and of modern date. Korah, and those who acted with him, or one speaking for the rest, said to Moses, and Aaron, Ye. take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them. Those persons must have had strange ideas of holiness, or they never could have made such an assertion. Moses thought differently, for he called them a stiff-necked people, and indeed God called them so likewise. Their conduct, of itself, proves their want of holiness. Thus the gainsaying of Core, seems to have respected, not only the authority of Moses, and Aaron, but also a fundamental doctrine of religion.

Has not the same error been obstinately persisted in from the earliest days of sin in our world to the present time? He that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. It is well known to us all, that there has been, of late a dreadful

calamity by fire, in a part of our country, lying to the south of us. Every feeling heart must throb at the recollection of that night, which witnessed the lighting up of the theatre in Richmond, when dying shrieks followed in quick succession, shouts of applause; and human bodies clinging one to another, lay in heaps, as combustibles to feed the all devouring flame. But what reflections are made upon this event by the living, who by tender ties were most intimately connected with and concerned for, the dead? One bereaved parent writes to another, and pours out his lamentations in unaffected grief, while he informs him, that those who fell victims to the fire, have gone to a happier world. A member rises on the floor of Congress, and in his place, gravely moves, that that august body go into mourning; and that each one testify his sorrow, by the usual badge of crape upon his

Let this pass for what it is worth. But the preamble to the motion contains a sentiment too much like that of Korah, for it asserts what could not be

arm.

« PreviousContinue »