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are a rebellious house) yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them."* And our Lord directs the seventy disciples, upon their departure from any city which refused to receive them, to declare, "notwithstanding, be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you." The thing intended in both these passages is, that which is expressed in the text by the word "witness." And all of them together evidently suggest thus much, that the purposes of Providence are carried on, by the preaching of the gospel, to those who reject it, as well as to those who embrace it. It is indeed true, "God willeth that all men should be saved;" yet, from the unalterable constitution of his government, the salvation of every man cannot but depend upon his behaviour, and, therefore, cannot but depend upon himself; and is necessarily his own concern, in a sense in which it cannot be another's. All this the Scripture declares in a manner the most forcible and alarming: "Can a man be profitable unto God, as he that is wise may be profitable unto himself? Is it any pleasure to the Almighty, that thou art righteous? or is it gain to him, that thou makest thy way perfect? If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself: but if thou scornest, thou alone shall bear it. He that heareth let him hear: and he that forbeareth, let him forbear." And again, "he that hath ears to hear let him hear: but if any man be ignorant, i. e. wilfully, let him be ignorant." To the same purpose are those awful words of the angel, in the person of him. to whom "all judgment is committed.** He that is unjust, let him be unjust still and he that is filthy let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work
Ezek. ii. 5, 7. § Prov. ix. 12. **John v. 22.
† Luke x. 11.
|| Ezek. iii. 27.
Job xxii. 2, 3.
T1 Cor. xiv. 38.
The righteous government of the world must be carried on; and, of necessity, men shall remain the subjects of it, by being examples of its mercy, or of its justice. "Life and death are set before them, and whether they like shall be given unto them." They are to make their choice, and abide by it; but whichsoever their choice be, the gospel is equally a witness to them; and the purposes of Providence are answered by this witness of the gospel.
From the foregoing view of things we should be reminded, that the same reasons which make it our duty to instruct the ignorant in the relation which the light of nature shows they stand in to God their Maker, and in the obligations of obedience; resignation, and love to him, which arise out of that relation, make it our duty likewise to instruct them in all those other relations which revelation informs us of, and in the obligations of duty which arise out of them. And the reasons for instructing men in both these, are of the very same kind as for communicating any useful knowledge whatever. God, if he had so pleased, could indeed miraculously have revealed every religious truth which concerns mankind, to every individual man; and so he could have every common truth; and thus have superseded all use of human teaching in either. Yet he has not done this: but has appointed, that men should be instructed by the assistance of their fellow creatures in both. Further: though al knowledge from reason is as really from God, as revelation is, yet this last is a distinguished favor to us, and naturally strikes us with the greatest awe, and carries in it an assurance, that those things which we are informed of by it, are of the utmost importance to us to be informed of. Revelation, therefore, as it demands to be received. with a regard and reverence peculiar to itself, so it lays us under obligations, of a like peculiar sort, to communicate the light of it. Further still it being an indispen
* Rev. xxii. 11, 12.
Eccles. xv. 17.
sable law of the gospel, that Christians should unite in religious communities, and these being intended for* repositories of the written "oracles of God," for standing memorials of religion to unthinking men, and for the propagation of it in the world; Christianity is very particularly to be considered as a trust deposited with us in behalf of others, in behalf of mankind, as well as for our own instruction. No one has a right to be called a Christian, who doth not do somewhat in his station towards the discharge of this trust; who doth not, for instance, assist in keeping up the profession of Christianity where he lives. And it is an obligation but little more remote, to assist in doing it in our factories abroad; and in the colonies to which we are related, by their being peopled from our own mother country, and subjects, indeed very necessary ones, to the same government with ourselves; and nearer yet is the obligation upon such persons, in particular, as have the intercourse of an advantageous commerce with them.
Of these our colonies, the slaves ought to be considered as inferior members, and therefore to be treated as members of them, and not merely as cattle or goods, the property of their masters. Nor can the highest property possible to be acquired in these servants, cancel the obligation to take care of their religious instruction. Despicable as they may appear in our eyes, they are the creatures of God, and of the race of mankind, for whom Christ died; and it is inexcusable to keep them in ignorance of the end for which they were måde, and the means whereby they may become partakers of the general redemption. On the contrary, if the necessity of the case requires, that they may be treated with the very utmost rigor that humanity will at all permit, as they certainly are; and, for our advantage, made as miserable as they well can be in the present world; this surely heightens
* Page 219–222.
our obligation to put them into as advantageous a situation as we are able, with regard to another.
The like charity we owe to the natives; owe to them in a much stricter sense than we are apt to consider, were it only from neighborhood, and our having gotten possessions in their country. For incidental circumstances of this kind appropriate all the general obligations of charity to particular persons, and make such and such instances of it the duty of one man rather than another. We are most strictly bound to consider these poor uninformed creatures, as being in all respects of one family with ourselves, the family of mankind; and instruct them in our 66 common salvation;"* that they may not pass through this stage of their being like brute beasts, but be put into a capacity of moral improvements, how low soever they must remain as to others, and sc into a capacity of qualifying themselves for a higher state of life hereafter.
All our affairs should be carried on in the fear of God, in subverviency to his honor, and the good of mankind. And thus navigation and commerce should be consecrated to the service of religion, by being made the means of propagating it in every country with which we have any intercourse. And the more widely we endeavor to spread its light and influence, as the forementioned circumstances, and others of a like kind, open and direct our way, the more faithful shall we be judged in the discharge of that trust which is committed to us as Christians, when our Lord shall require an account of it.
And it may be some encouragement to cheerful perseverance in these endeavors, to observe, not only that they are our duty, but also that they seem the means of carrying on a great scheme of Providence, which shall certainly be accomplished. For "the everlasting gospel shall be preached to every nation : and the kingdoms of
* Jude 3.
† Page 175.
Rev. xiv. 6.
this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ."*
However, we ought not to be discouraged in this good work, though its future success were less clearly foretold; and though its effect now in reforming mankind, appeared to be as little as our adversaries pretend. They indeed, and perhaps some others, seem to require more than either experience or Scripture give ground to hope for, in the present course of the world. But the bare establishment of Christianity in any place, even the external form and profession of it, is a very important and valuable effect. It is a serious call upon men to attend to the natural, and the revealed doctrine of religion. It is a standing publication of the gospel, and renders it a witness to them; and by this means the purposes of Providence are carrying on, with regard to remote ages, as well as to the present. "Cast thy bread upon the waters for thou shalt find it after many days. In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand; for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good." We can look but a very little way into the connexions and consequences of things: our duty is to spread the incorruptible seed as widely as we can, and leave it to "God to give the increase." Yet thus much we may be almost assured of, that the gospel, wherever it is planted, will have its genuine effect upon some few; upon more, perhaps, than are taken notice of in the hurry of the world. There are, at least, a few persons in every country and successive age, scattered up and down, and mixed among the rest of mankind: who not being corrupted past amendinent, but having within them the principles of recovery, will be brought to a moral and religious sense of things, by the establishment of Christianity where they live; and then will be
Rev, xi. 15.
Eccles. xi. 1. 6, 1 Cor. iii. 6.