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LUKE iv. 18, 19.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath
anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor ; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. Nothing is more important in estimating any moral or religious design, than to trace out its general tendencies. This has always been a favorite study with contemplative and pious minds. They dwell not so much on immediate appearances or partial difficulties, as on the bearings of a system upon the whole, under a variety of circumstances, after a long series of years, and when acting against more or fewer impediments.
Christianity has never declined any candid enquiries of this class. She quits not, indeed, her direct
evidences. These remain the firm pillars of her faith, whether her internal excellency be at first discerned or not. But as her direct evidences would be received with more attention, if the beneficial tendency of the entire Revelation on the immediate as well as remote interests of mankind were more fully recognized, she assents to the suggestion. She stands forth with all the marks of benevolent design. She exhibits the impress of God, and her adaptation to the state and wants of man. She presents the universal religion. A thousand minute objections have no force, in the midst of her actual good effects and her benevolent tendencies. Her mysteries of course, remain in many respects beyond our comprehension-which is only supposing us to be finite creatures—but as these mysteries have the most direct bearing, as we shall hereafter see, on all the beneficial ends of the gospel, the belief of them for these purposes, on the authority of our Almighty Creator, is one of the purest exercises of right reason. And indeed as these very mysteries involve a stupendous display of Divine love in the recovery of man from a state of guilt and misery, they augment, instead of obscuring, the benevolent character of the whole religion.
To delineate, then, in a series of discourses, some of the chief features of Christianity in this view ;' in her mysteries—in the application of them to the human heart”_and in their effects on the Christian life and conduct and to describe the consummation towards which Christianity is, as we trust, advancing in the conversion of the world,“ is my present design. With which I shall connect as I go on, the references to the general beneficial tendencies of our divine
I Sermons I. to VI.
2 Sermons VII. to XII.
Religion, and some saggestions for the guidance and consolation of those who reside in Heathen and Mohammedan lands.
On entering upon ThE FIRST DIVISION of our whole subject, we propose to consider the most obvious and general character of the gospel as apparent in our Lord's discourse delivered in the synagogue of Nazareth. No one can read the words of my text without exclaiming, This religion must be from God -an impression which will be confirmed, whether we consider the first promulgation of Christianity; or its subsequent progress; or the principles and advances towards a wider dissemination which are now at work.
I. The remarkable words before us refer to the Mosaical institution of the fiftieth year,
“ the Jubilee,” as it was termed; "the year of release," "the acceptable year.” “ Ye shall proclaim liberty through. out all the land,” said the Lord by Moses, “the fiftieth year”-“in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land"“ it shall be a jubilee unto you”-“and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and
shall return every man unto his land”. ye shall not oppress one another.”
Accordingly, spiritual deliverance, rescue from guilt, sorrow and moral bondage; and the restitution of our lost heavenly heritage, are the grand blessings of the gospel, proclaimed by our Lord.
The general description of these benefits is contained in the first branch of the description, “ He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor,” that is, to declare the glad tidings of salvation to the great mass of mankind, to that vast population which had lain almost entirely neglected and despised by all preceding teachers. The heathen philosophers had little or nothing to communicate valuable to
man; and that little they confined to the higher orders of society. But our Lord introduced a benevolent and universal dispensation. Nineteen-twen, tieths of the human race first came into consideration at his call. He opened the door of grace to the immense multitude. He began by pouring light into the mind of man, of all men, of the poor more especially
He sounded the silver trumpet, if we may so speak, in allusion to those blown in the jubilee, 5 and made known the good news of one God and Father, the Maker, Benefactor and righteous Governor of all—and one only—the infinite Potentate, the most just, holy, true, merciful and eternal God.
He blew the trumpet again, and revealed the one equitable, undeviating rule of moral duty, the holy, wise and good law of this supreme Legislator.
Again it sounded, and the glad news of a Savior and Redeemer for man a sinner, in the person of the only-begotten Son of God and by the grace of the Holy Ghost, re-echoed through the world.
Once more was it heard, and universal offers and invitations of mercy were proclaimed, by an order of men appointed as its heralds, to every heir of guilt and sorrow.
This was the gospel indeed, glad tidings" to the poor"—they were level to all capacities, they met the case of the uninstructed and ignorant, they came down to the lowest depths of poverty and vice. They tended to raise and ennoble man, without taking him out of his proper sphere or filling him with conceit; which no other system but Christianity ever did.
And they are all the consequence and expansion of the one fundamental blessing of the forgiveness of sins by the sacrifice of the Son of God.
5 The trumpets were of silver. Numb. x. %.