« AnteriorContinuar »
trine of the resurrection has been justly accounted one of the most mysterious, taught in the scriptures. Yet nothing can be more plain and intelligible, than the declara. tion of our Lord; “The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall come forth; they, that have done good, to the resurrection of life; and they, that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”* The doc. trine is indeed mysterious; but the mystery lies altogether in the mode, the time, and other circumstances; concerning which men may reason and conjecture forever without increasing, and it is well, if they do not thus diminish the consoling and practical influence of the doctrine. All, that is necessary for the security of this influence, is a clear understanding, and a cordial belief, of the simple truth the plain declaration, the dead, both just and unjust, shall rise. These observations might be applied with equal force and propriety to every principal doctrine and precept of the gospel. Indeed nothing, but a spiritual mind, is necessary to discern the things of the Spirit. Nothing, but an open heart, is requisite for the reception of the truth, as it is in Jesus. Nothing, but a teachable disposition an obedient will, is essential to the acquisition of real, Christian knowledge. “If any one will do the will of God," said the Saviour," he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God.”+-With confidence therefore we repeat the observation, that Christianity is a religion, adapted to the various capacities, situations, and condi. tions, of all mankind; and thus calculated to become the religion of the whole world.
It is true, in some Christian countries, the modes of religious worship, and the rules of ecclesiastical proceeding, have been prescribed by law; so that the religion • John v. 28, 29. † John vii. 17.
itself seemed to a superficial observer not only connected with the form, but dependent on the authority, of civil government. But all these prescriptions are the offspring of human policy ; they constitute no part of the Chris: tian religion. When our Saviour said, “my kingdom is not of this world,”* he said in effect, what all its laws and sanctions fully illustrate, that it acknowledges no affinity with earthly powers, nor any dependence on worldly policy. Prescribing no form of civil government, but enjoining obedience to all legitimate authority, Christianity easily accommodates itself to the civil institutions of all nations. That it has sometimes been closely connected with these institutions, and often incorporated with them in constitutions of civil government, furnishes therefore no objection to our argument. Nor will this circumstance, though it may seem to retard, ultimately prevent, the propagation of the gospel, among the nations and tribes of the earth.
It is true likewise, that the special ordinances of the gospel are sometimes administered in a manner, which would be impracticable, or at least extremely inconvenient, in some parts of the world. Thus the use of wine has been common in administering the ordinance of the Lord's supper; and we surely have reason to believe, that it was used, when this commemorative feast was instituted. Still however wine is not essential to the ordinance ; for it is not designated either by our Lord, or his inspired apostles. Where therefore it could not be obtained, a substitute might be found, to supply its place in the cup of blessing, without perverting the ordinance, or violating even the letter of the precept, by which it was instituted.—Thus too some have adopted
* John xviii. 36.
a mode of baptism, which in some climates would be impracticable through the largest portion of the year, and which is always dangerous to invalids. But although we admit, that neither this, nor any other, mode of administering the ordinance is expressly forbidden ; yet we are certainly authorized to say, that neither this, nor any other, mode is so definitely prescribed, as to constitute the essence of baptism, or be necessary to the acceptable discharge of the duty.
Indeed all that variety in modes of worship and forms of ecclesiastical government, which exists in the Christian church, and which may seem at first view to oppose a barrier to the general diffusion of the gospel, is the effect of human invention, In some instances perhaps these modes and forms, prescribed by man, are not only innocent, but convenient; yet they are certainly not es. sential to Christianity, and therefore furnish no real objection to our argument.
II. We observe that the manner, in which the Christian religion was introduced and established, as well as its progress in the world in opposition to power and prejudice, is a proof, that it is designed to become universal, and a pledge of its future triumphs over “the rulers of the darkness of this world,” over“ spiritual wickedness in high places,” over“ principalities and powers,” and every thing which opposeth itself to truth and righteousness. Its first converts, comprehending men of different nations and various ranks in society, were made, not by force, but by persuasion-hy convincing the understanding and changing the heart. It has withstood the opposition of wit and learning, policy and power. Though the gates of hell have uniformly resisted its progress, they have never been able to prevail against it. It is true, its progress has
not been uniform, nor without partial and temporary interruption. Sometimes the gospel has spread with great rapidity; and sometimes it has seemed for a season to be stationary, or even retrograde. Particular churches have risen and fallen. Different regions have been enlightened with the rays of the Sun of righteousness, and again covered with thick darkness. Vital religion has alter. nately revived and declined. The church has frequently been persecuted; but the blood of the martyrs has proved to be the seed of the church. She has been de . pressed and covered with sackcloth; but she has soon arisen from the depression, and “put on her beautiful gar
She has been in the midst of the fire; but the fames have not kindled upon her-like the burning bush, she has remained unconsumed. She has been driven into the wilderness, and hid for a season in the caves of the mountain ; but she has not been lost-she has come forth again in all her glory and splendor, "fair, as the moon; clear, as the sun; and terrible, as an army with banners." Thus the establishment, preservation, and gradual advancement, of Christianity in the world, notwithstanding the number, subtlety, and persevering industry, of its enemies, is a proof, that it was designed to prevail; and a pledge, that it will ultimately prevail through the earth. But after all, for convincing proof and conclusive evidence of the truth of our general proposition, we must resort to the sure word of prophecy.
III. Therefore we observe, that the prophecies of the Old Testament and New-prophecies, accompanied with the clearest credentials-prophecies, delivered by "holy men, as they were moved by the Holy Ghost”-prophecies, a part of which have already been accomplished, and thus been demonstrated to have proceeded from the
Spirit of truth ;--that these prophecies in various connexions, under different figures of speech, again and again, teach, illustrate, and confirm our doctrine. Thus in Isaiah, where the Messiah is spoken of under the dignified names and titles of “Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of peace,' it is said; “ Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.”* Among a multitude of other express declarations to the same effect, by the same prophet, it is added; “ The earth shall be full of the knowl edge of the Lord, as the waters cover the seas.”+ Thus too the Psalmist, uttering a prophecy concerning Christ, says; “His name shall endure forever; his name shall be continued, as long as the sun; and men shall be blessed in him; all nations shall call him blessed.” Again in language, similar to our text, he says; " He shall have dominion also from sea to sea ; and from the river to the ends of the earth.”I Thus likewise, according to the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream by the prophet Daniel, the kingdom, which was to comprehend the na. tions, included in the four successive empires of the East, is finally to be extended over the whole earth, and continue to the end of time ;-" The stone, which smote the image, became a great mountain ; and filled the whole earth.”Ş The same truth is taught by the same prophet, in his prediction, founded on the vision of the four beasts. These are the concluding words of the predic
“And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High ; whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; and all dominions shall serve and obey him.”|--Thus moreover, • Is, ix. 6a
| Is. xi. 9. # Ps. lxxii. & 17. $ Dan. 2. | Dan. 7.