« הקודםהמשך »
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 lie had necd.” (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, indecd, 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 ycarn 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 calleth all men every where to repent.” (Acts xvii. 30.) They cried aloud, Turn yc, 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 cvil 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 unconcerved 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 lo 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. 7.) The men of pleasure were offended, not only because these men were made, as it were, to reprove their thoughts :-" He professeth,” said they, “ 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; 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. 25, &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
sprcard, the more burtivas clone, in the account of those wlio received it not; and the puber increased of those who were more and more enraged at these “men who thus turned the world upside down ;” (ilcts xvii. 6;) iusomuch that more and ore cried out, " Array writh such fellow's from the carth; it is poi fit trai they shonkil live;” yea, and sincerely believed, that whosoerer shoalú kill them would do God service.
7. Meanwhile they did not fail to cast out their name as cril; (Luke vi. 22 ;) so that this “ sect was every where spoken against.” Gilets ssriji. 22.) Men sajil all manner of evil of them, even as had been done of the Proplicts that were before them. (Matt. v. 11.) Aud ivhatsoever any would aflirmi, others would believc. So that offences grew as the stars of heaveu for multitude. And hence arosc, at the time fore-ordained of the Father, persccution in all its forms. Some, for a scason, suffered only shame and reproach ; some, “the spoiling of their goods ; ” “ some had trial of mocking and scourging; some of bonds and imprisonment;” and others “ resisted unto blood." (Heb. x. 34 ; xi. 36, &c.)
8. Now it was that the pillars of bell were shaken, and the kingdom of God spread more and more. Simers were every where “turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan ito God.” He gave his children “ such a mouili, and such wisdom, is all their adversaries could not resist :” and their lives were of cqnal force with their words. But above all, their sufferings spake to all the world. They “ approved themsel:es the servants of Ciod, in alllictions, in necessitics, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours; in perils in the sea, in perils in the wilderness, in weariness and painfulness, in hunger and in thirst, in cold and makedness.” (2 Cor. vi. 4, &c.) lud hen, having fonght the good fight, they were led as sheep to the slanghter, and offered up on the sacrifice and service of their faith, then the blood of cach found a voice, and the heathen owned, “ He being dead yet speaketh.”
9. Thus did Christianity spread itself in the carth. But how soon did the tares appear wich the wheat, and the mystery of iniquily ivork as well as the mystery of goiliness ! How soon did Satau find a scat, even in the temple of God, “ till the woman fled into the wilderness, and the faithful were again muisho from the childica of men!" llere we
tread a beaten path : the still 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.)
II. 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 orer 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 war 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 scek, and his rest shall be glorious. And 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 Ensigu 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, wbich 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 ye should be 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, 26.)
3. Suppose now the fulness of time to be come, and the prophecies to be accomplished. What a prospect is this! All is “ peace, quietness, and assurance for ever.” Here is no din of arms, no “confused noise,” no “garments rolled in blood.” “ Destructions are come to a perpetual end :” wars arc ceased from the carth. Neither are there any intestine jars remaining ; 110 brother rising up against brother ; no country or city divided against itself, and tcaring out its own bowels. Civil discord is at an cnd for evermore, and nonc is left either to destroy or hurt his neighbour. Here is no oppression to make cven the visc man mad; no cxtortion to grind the face of the poor; no robbery or wrong; no rapine or injustice; for all are “ content with such things as they possess.” Thus “rightcousness and peace have kisscd cach other;” (Psal. Ixxxv. 10;) they have “ taken root and filled the land: ”“ righteousness flourishing out of the earth,” and “ peace looking down from heaven."
1. Ind with righteousness or justice, mercy is also found. The carth is no longer full of cruel habitations. The Lord hatlı destroyed both the blood-thirsty and malicious, the envious and revengeful man. Were there any provocation, there is none that now knoweth to return evil for evil; but indeed there is none that docth evil, no, not one; for all are harmless as dores. And being filled with peace and joy in believing, and united in one body, by one spirit, they all love as bretliren, they are all of one hcart, and of one soul. “Neither saith any of them, that ought of the things which he possesseth is his own." There is none among them that lacketh; for every man loveth his neighbour as himself. And all walk by one rule, Whatever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do unto them."
5. It follows, that no unkind word can ever be heard among then, no strife of tongues, no contention of any kind, no railing or evil-speaking ; but cvery one " opens his mouth with wisdom, and in his tongue there is the law of kindness.” Equally incapable are they of fraud or guile: their love is without dissimulation : their words are always the just expression of their thoughts, opening it window into their breast, that whosoever desires may look into their hearts, and see that only luve and God are there.
6. Thus, where thic Lord Omnipotent taketh tw liimself his mighty power and reignetli, doth he “subdue all things to bimuell," cause every heart to overflow with love, and fill