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the foal of an ass. And I will cut of the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off; and he shall speak peace unto the heathen ; and his Dom INIon shall BE FRox sea EVEN TO SEA, AND FRom THE RIVER Even To THE ENDs of THE EARTH.”* The first part of this prophecy an inspired evangelist expressly applies to Jesus of Nazareth;t and thus teaches us how to apply the part, selected for our text. It is evidently applicable to Jesus, the Christ; and clearly denotes the extent of his kingdom. I need not stop here to show, that the dominion or kingdom of Christ means the same thing with the kingdom of Heaven or the kingdom of God; since these phrases are indiscriminately used in the New Testament. Nor is it necessary to spend time in proving, that the figurative language of the text implies universal empire. This will incidentally appear, while we attend to the principal object of the discourse—while we attempt to prove, THAT THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION IS DESIGNED ULTIMATELY TO PREVAIL THROUGH THE WHOLE WORLD, AND HAVE A GENERAL INFLUENCE ON THE CHARACTER AND CONDITION OF ALL MANKIND. What the precise state of the world during this universal prevalence of Christianity will be, would indeed be presumption in us to pretend to determine. The prophecies, relating to this subject, are delivered in language highly figurative; and perhaps were not designed to be definitely understood, till the time of their complete accomplishment. It is even probable, that nothing, but experience, can furnish an adequate conception of the felicity of those days—that it will so far exceed the most exalted happiness, which the present condition of the world affords, as to justify us in accommodating to it this negative description of heavenly joy—as to authorize us to say, “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath . it entered into the heart of man”* to conceive, what it will be in its full extent and greatest purity. That there will be a great change in the social condition, if not in the civil institutions and political relations of the inhabitants of the earth, is however highly probable. An acquaintance with the nature of man, and the history of the human race, leads us to expect it; and it is clearly intimated by the language of prophecy. But whatever may be the state of the world in these respects, the prophets leave us no room to doubt, that peace and righteousness and felicity will be universal and abundant. These indeed are the natural fruits of Christianity, believed and obeyed. Let those, who have felt the power of religious principles, and experienced the consolations of Christian hope, consider for a moment, what must be the happy effects of a universal prevalence of these principles, and an uninterrupted enjoyment of this hope. How great must be the sum of human happiness, when all, in the exercise of Christian benevolence, seek the happiness of all ! How great too must be the increase of personal felicity to each individual Christian, when all are Christians—when his principles are continually fortified, and his hope daily cherished, by the pious example and pressing exhortation of all, within the sphere of whose influence he is placed ' If in the present mixed state of society, where the iniquity of the unprincipled aboundeth, and the love of many real Christians waxeth cold, the
* Zech. ix. 9, &c. f Matth. xxi, 5.
happy effects of Christian faith and obedience are enjoyed in a measure by all, who believe and obey the truth; what unspeakable happiness will be enjoyed, when this faith and obedience shall be perfect and universal—when none shall grieve his pious neighbour by transgression, nor discourage him in his holy purposes, and retard him in his Christian course by the influence of licentious maxims, and corrupt example—when all shall be mutual helpers of each other's joy and holiness—when those corrupt passions, whence wars and fightings among nations, and animosities and contentions between individuals, proceed; those lusts in the human breast, that war among the members, if not entirely subdued, shall at least be brought under the habitual control of Christian love— when men shall learn war no more—when there shall be none to hurt, or make afraid on the face of the earth— when, (to adopt the figurative, but intelligible, language of the prophet Isaiah) “the wolf shall 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 l’” Not, however, to extend these preliminary observations, nor pretend to form definite views of the civil, social, and political state of the world under the universal dominion of the Messiah ; let us proceed to the proof of the proposition, that his dominion is designed to be universal; or in other words, that Christianity is designed to become the religion of all mankind; and will ultimately obtain a universal belief and a general practical influence through the whole world. I. We observe, that it appears evidently to be the design of Heaven, that Christianity should universally
* Is. Xi. 6.
prevail, from a view of its nature and tendency—its provisions and institutions. In its nature it is benevolent, in its tendency purifying, and thus is it adapted to the wants of all mankind. It provides for the pardon of sinners, the reconciliation of rebels, and the redemption of slaves—for deliverance from the power and condemnation of sin—for restoration to the love of holiness and the practice of virtue; and thus is it accommodated to the state of an apostate world. Its leading doctrines furnish motives, which are equally efficacious in every age and country. Its general precepts are equally applicable to men in every state of society and every condition of life. Its institutions may be observed with equal propriety and convenience in every region of the earth. It contains indeed nothing local—nothing temporary— nothing, which can limit it to any particular age or country, which can connect it exclusively with any peculiar form of civil government, which can render it dependent on any state of civilization, or exclude it from any climate, where man can dwell. Whether Greeks or Jews, Barbarians or Scythians, bond or free—whether living in an age of learning, or at a period of literary darkness— whether connected in society by civil ties of more or less constraint—whether inhabiting the cold regions of the poles, or the warmer portions of the earth, men may be Christians—may be animated by the hopes of the gospel—may obey the precepts, and observe the institutions of Christianity—may imbibe the spirit, and follow the example, of Christ—may find in our religion a guide to holiness and felicity, adapted to their common nature, and accommodated to their peculiar circumstances. We do not say, that all parts of the Christian scriptures are equally intelligible in every age, nor equally
well understood by all Christians in the same age. Though we are authorized in extending the observation of the apostle, concerning the Old Testament, to the
books of the New—though we may affirm, that “all
scripture is given by inspiration, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness;”* yet we readily admit, that some portions of the inspired writings are more directly applicable at some periods of the church, than at others; and better understood by some Christians, than by others. But we do say, that the great doctrines and leading precepts of the gospel are so often repeated and in such various connexions, that all, in every age, may understand enough to render them good Christians. So plain is the Christian's path, that the way-faring man, though a fool according to the estimation of worldly wisdom, is under no necessity of erring therein. Indeed practical and experimental Christian knowledge depends neither on brilliancy of talents, nor literary acquirements. In the school of Christ the learned have no preeminence above the unlearned. Although learning and talents are important qualifications in religious teachers; since they enable them to enforce truth, remove difficulties, answer objections, and convince or silence gainsayers; yet they are by no means necessary to constitute a real Christian; nor do they afford much assistance in acquiring a correct, practical knowledge of Christianity. The doctrines of this religion are simple truths, and the precepts plain directions. A child may understand many of the propositions, in which these truths and directions are stated, and repeatedly stated in the Bible.—A single example will be sufficient to illustrate this observation. The doc
* 2 Tim. iii. 16.