« AnteriorContinuar »
a watch before his mouth, and keep the door of his lips," lest he should offend in tongue, either against justice, or against mercy or truth. He put away all lying, falsehood', and fraud; neither was guile found in his mouth. He spake evil of no man; nor did an unkind word ever come out of his lips.
8. And, as he was deeply sensible of the truth of that word, "Without me ye can do nothing," and, consequently, of the need he had to be watered of God every moment; so he continued daily in all the ordinances of God, the stated channels of his grace to man: "in the Apostles' doctrine," or teaching, receiving that food of the soul with all readiness of heart j ih "the breaking of bread," which he found to be the communion of the body of Christ; and "in the prayers" and praises offered up by the great congregation. And thus, he daily "grew in grace," increasing in strength, in the knowledge and love of God.
9. But it did not satisfy him, barely to abstain from doing erH. His soul was athirst to do good. The language of his heart continually was, "My Father worketh hitherto, and t work." My Lord went about doing good; and shall not t tread in his steps? As he had opportunity, therefore, if he could do no good of a higher kind, he fed the hungry, clothed the naked, helped the fatherless or stranger, visited and assisted them that were sick or in prison. He gave all his goods to feed the poor. He rejoiced to labour or to suffer for them; and wherein soever he might profit another, there especially to "deny himself." He counted nothing too dear to part with for them, as well remembering the word of his Lord, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matt. xxv. 40.)
IX). Such was Christianity in its rise. Such was a Christian in ancient days. Such was every one of those, who, when they heard the threatcnings of the Chief Priests and Elders, "lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and were all filled with the Holy Ghost. The multitude of them that believed, were of one heart and of one soul." (So did the love of him in whom they had believed, constrain them to love one another!) "Neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common." So fully were they crucified to the world, and the world crucified to them !" And they continued steadfastly with one accord in the Apostle's doctrine, and in the breaking of bread, and in prayer." (Acts ii. 42.) "And great grace was upon them all; neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses, sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the Apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man, according as he had need." (Acts iv. 31—35.)
II. 1. Let us take a view, in the Second place, of this Christianity, as spreading from one to another, and so gradually making its way into the world: For such was the will of God concerning it, who did not "light a candle to put it under a bushel, but that it might give light to all that were in the house." And this our Lord had declared to his first disciples, "Ye are the salt of the earth," "the light of the world ;" at the same time that he gave that general command, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matt. v. 13—16.)"
2. And, indeed, supposing a few of these lovers of mankind to see "the whole world lying in wickedness," can we believe they would be unconcerned at the sight, at the misery of those for whom their Lord died? Would not their bowels yearn over them, and their hearts melt away for very trouble? Could they then stand idle all the day long, even were there no command from him whom they loved? Rather would they not labour, by all possible means, to pluck some of these brands out of the burning? Undoubtedly they would: they would spare no pains to bring back whomsoever they could of those poor "sheep that had gone astray, to the great Shepherd and Bishop of their souls." (1 Pet. ii. 25.)
3. So the Christians of old did. They laboured, having opportunity, " to do good unto all men," (Gal. vi. 10,) warning them to flee from the wrath to come; now, now to escape the damnation of hell. They declared, "The times of ignorance God winked at; but now he ealleth all men every where to repent." (Acts xvii.30.) They cried aloud, Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; "so iniquity shall not be your ruin." (Ezek. xviii. 30.) They reasoned with them of temperance and righteousness, or justice, of the virtues opposite to their reigning sins, and of judgment to come, of the wrath of God which would surely be executed on evil doers in that day when he should judge the world. (Acts xxiv. 25.)
4. They endeavoured herein to speak to every man severally
as he had need. To the careless, to those who lay unconcerned in darkness and in the shadow of death, they thundered, "Awake, thou that sleepest: arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light:" but to those who were already awakened out of sleep, and groaning under a sense of the wrath of God, their language was, "We have an Advocate with the Father; he is the Propitiation for our sins." Meantime, those who had believed, they provoked to love and to good works; to patient continuance in well-doing; and to abound more and more in that holiness, without which no man can see the Lord. (Heb. xii. 14.)
5. And their labour was not in vain in the Lord. His word ran and was glorified. It grew mightily and prevailed. But so much the more did offences prevail also. The world in general were offended, "because they testified of it, that the works thereof were evil." (John vii. 70 The men of pleasure were offended, not only because these men were made, as it were, to reprove their thoughts :—" He professeth," said tbey, " to have the knowledge of God; he calleth himself the child of the Lord; his life is not like other men's; his ways are of another fashion j he abstaineth from our ways, as from filthiness; he maketh his boast, that God is his Father:" (Wis. ii. 13—16:)—but much more, because so many of their companions were taken away, and would no more run with them to the same excess of riot. (1 Pet. iv. 4.) The men of reputation were offended, because, as the Gospel spread, they declined in the esteem of the people; and because many no longer dared to give them flattering titles, or to pay man the homage due to God only. The men of trade called one another together, and said, "Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth. But ye see and hear that these men have persuaded and turned away much people. So that this our craft is in danger to be set at nought." (Acts xix. 95, &c.) Above all, the men of religion, so called, the men of outside religion, "the saints of the world," were offended, and ready at every opportunity to cry out, " Men of Israel, help! we have found these men pestilent fellows, movers of sedition throughout the world." (Acts xxiv. 5.) "These are the men that teach all men, every where, against the people, and against the law." (Acts xxi. 28.)
6. Thus it was that the heavens grew black with clouds, and the storm gathered amain. For the more Christianity
tread a beaten path: the stiH increasing corruptions of the succeeding generations have been largely described from time to time, by those witnesses God raised up, to show that he had "built his Church upon a Rock, and the gates of hell should not (wholly) prevail against her." (Matt. xvi. 18.)
III. 1. But shall we not see greater things- than these? Yea, greater than have been yet from the beginning of the world. Can Satan cause the truth of God to fail, or his promises to be of none effect? If not, the time will come, when Christianity will prevail over all, and cover the earth. Let us stand a little, and survey (the Third thing which was proposed) this strange sight, a Christian World. Of this the Prophets of old inquired and searched diligently: (1 Pet. i. 10, 11, &c.:) of this the Spirit which was in them testified: "It shall come to pass in the last days, that the Mountain of the Lord's House shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it. And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn Avar any more." (Isa. ii. 1—4.) "In that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, which shall stand for an Ensign of the people. To it shall the Gentiles seek, and his rest shall be glorious. Aud it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again to recover the remnant of his people; and he shall set up an Ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah, from the four corners of the earth." (Isa. xi. 10—12.) "The wolf shall then dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. They shall not hurt nor destroy, saith the Lord, in all my holy mountain, For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." (Isa. xi. 6—9.)
2. To the same effect are the words of the great Apostle, which it is evident have never yet been fulfilled. "Hath God cast away his people? God forbid." "But through their fall salvation is come to the Gentiles." "And if the diminishing of them be the riches of the Gentiles, how much more their fulness?" "For I would not, brethren, that yc should bo ignorant of this mystery, That blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in; and so. all Israel shall be saved." (Rom. xi. 1, 11, 25, 20.)