« הקודםהמשך »
event predicted long before it happened, and at a time when it was of all things the most improbable.
But the last observation I shall make on this subject, is that our religion has subsisted during the long period of almost eighteen centuries in full vigour, though its enemies have strenuously attacked it both by argument and arms. Many errours have been propagated in the world, some in one way and some in another: but after due inquiry and examination they have been detected, they have come to nought and their followers have disappeared. : What a glorious triumph for the cause of Christianity which has stood the test of ages and been found sufficient. In its infancy, while it enjoyed no protection from the magistrate, all men where allowed and even encouraged to argue against it with boldness. In free countries, even where Christianity is the law of the state, the same liberty is allowed; and every advantage has been taken of this indulgence. For no method of overthrowing the gospel has been forgotten. Both argument and ridicule have been employed. Its nature and evidence have been sifted to the bottom. But, thanks to the goodness of the cause, it has still kept its ground, and has at all times displayed a peculiar and
divine strength derived from its being built on the rock of ages against which the gates of hell shall not prevail. In a word, it is of God and nothing can overthrow it.
The greatest difficulty on this subject arises from that wonderful defection from the gospel which happened after the publication of Mahomet's doctrine to the world. This is indeed one of the darkest secrets of divine
providence. But the causes that contributed to produce this great revolution are manifest. They were plainly the vices and discords of the Christians of those times, who thereby gave
the enemies of our faith courage to attack it, put weapons into their hands, and furnished them with every manner of advantage. Christ came into the world, with the design to subdue the power and destroy the kingdom of Satan. He displayed the banner of his cross, and summoned all nations to repair to it; who accordingly obeyed the signal. But while the extremest parts of the earth were meditating a submission, while his greatest enemies were hastening to put their necks under his feet, a stop was put to their intentions and his triumphs by the mutinies and desértions of his own soldiers. Who can suffi.
ciently deplore the guilt and detest the evil influence of those vices which wrested so many kingdoms at once from the empire of Christ? They not only arrested his doctrine in its full course, and said to it hitherto shalt thou come and no farther, but made the sun of righteousness go backward as it were many degrees, and leave countries under gross darkness which had once been enlightened by the saving truths of the gospel.
Many princes since this period, with more piety than discretion, have made attempts to regain, by force of arms, that ground which Christianity lost, and, by their sword to plant anew their faith in those places where it once had possession. Such misguided zealots seem always to have forgotten the advice of our Saviour to St. Peter upon a similar occasion, put up thy sword into the sheath. This great work is not to be accomplished by crusades and holy wars, but by conflicts of another kind, which we must maintain with our own corrupt habits and vicious inclinations; not by foreign acquisitions, but by domestick victories over those impietics of Christians, which give the enemies of the gospel such advantages over it. For though the kingdon
of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force, yet the weapons of our warefare are not carnal but spiritual. When the conversations of those who bear the name of Christ, become agreeable to the purity of his doctrine; when the divisions of Christendom are healed, and the professors of our holy faith live together like men of one mind in one house, then and not till then shall the sceptre of Christ's kingdom extend itself to all the unconverted parts of the earth.
That God, ere the day of final retribution will bring this about, the scripture expressly assures us; but of the particular time, at which he will effect it, we know no more than when he will come to judgment. However, let us all, as far as lies in our power, contribute to this great event and prepare
for it. Let us, in our several places and stations, do our utmost to promote the kingdom of Christ within us, by advancing the love and practice of evangelical purity, and let us also frequently put up our request for the arrival of that happy period when the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea, and when there shall be nothing to hurt or destroy in all the holy mountain of the Lord.
Put up again thy sword into his place; for all they who take the sword shall perish with the sword.”
THE first principle in our nature is self-preservation. To gratify this principle every exertion may and ought to be made, which does not infringe the rights of our neighbour. ; To repel the blow which aims at our destruction, even by the death of the offender, when that is necessary to our safety, is lawful and commendable; because we act in obedience to this first of all principles, a desire of existence, without infringing any right of our neighbour's, for surely he could never have any right to take away our life. This principle contemplates the perservation not merely of our existence, but also of our faculties, members and rights of every kind.