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This day is published, the CHURCH OF ENGLAND MAGAZINE, Vol. VIII., price 58. cloth, with Frontispiece of Canterbury Cathedral. The previous Volumes may still be had in uniform cloth binding. Each Volume will in future have an elegant Frontispiece and other Illustrations.
THE MANIFESTATION OF CHRIST TO THE principles by which man is actuated to reveGENTILES.
rence, love, and obey the eternal Jehovah.
They were, in fact, aliens from the commonBY THE Rev. Thomas BISSLAND, M.A.
wealth of Israel, and strangers from the coRector of Hartley Maudytt, Hanis.
venants of promise, having no hope, and The state of the Gentile world, when our without God in the world; seeking to work blessed Lord took man's nature upon him, all uncleanness with greediness. What a may be gathered not only from the accounts humiliating picture does their state represent of their own historians, but from the testi- of the utter inability of man to direct his mony of holy writ; and no doubt can re- steps aright, to arrive at a knowledge of main upon the mind, that--notwithstanding the truth, without a direct revelation from on the very high degree of civilisation at which high! How painful to reflect, that, becoming many of them had arrived, their advance- vain in their imaginations, and their foolish ment in literature and science, and in the hearts hardened, they should have worcultivation of those arts which tend to the shipped the creature rather than the Creator; comforts and happiness of life-their state that they should have unhesitatingly indulged was fitly described as a state of darkness, or in vices, the disgrace and bane of human naeven a state of death. Feeding on ashes, as ture; and that, freed from all moral restraints, the prophet expresses it, and turned aside by they should have given an unbridled license a deceitful heart, with all their knowledge, to the indulgence of depraved appetites : and they knew nothing of the true character of yet such was the case. The wretchedness of God. The great and fundamental doctrine man's condition, when he knows not God as of one supreme Creator was effectually sub- revealed in the Bible, when he is suffered to verted. They were utterly ignorant of his follow reason as his sole guide, is confirmed nature, character, attributes, and dispensa- by daily experience, by the most authentic tions ; the grossest polytheism and idolatry statements of the fearful depravity, of the every where prevailed. They seem to have sensuality, cruelty, and ungodliness of heabeen destitute of the knowledge of the great thens, even at the present time,-statements and important ends for which man was cre- made by men of the most unquestionable ated. They were in entire ignorance of those veracity, and too often without any reference consoling truths revealed in the volume of to their moral and spiritual improvement. inspiration, and which, though too frequently Is it not remarkable, that with this striking made void by vain traditions, and lost sight fact within their knowledge, men should yet of amidst the accumulated mass of error-the be found presumptuously daring to cast disnatural result of man's blindness and weak- credit on the religion of the Saviour-to imness—had yet a beneficial effect on the minds pugn the veracity of those who set forth a of the Jews, and in many particulars raised declaration of those things most surely bethem infinitely above the surrounding na- lieved by the early disciples? Is it not tions ; and they were dead to those holy remarkable, that allowing, as they must VOL. VIII, -NO, CCII.
(London: Robson, Levey, and Franklyn, 46 St. Martin's Lane.]
allow, the superiority of those nations even to serve the living God; when converts were where Christianity is but nominally pro-found not in Jerusalem only, but in Athens, fessed, they should yet derogate from the Rome, Corinth; and when the power of true authority of that volume, the sacred truths of religion was manifested by an entire converwhich, when they enter the soul, do indeed sion of the soul to God, and the apostle could give light; that they should not perceive address them in the language of commendathat all that is healthful, and vigorous, and tion, as manifestly declared to be the epistle beautiful, in the human character, is to be of Christ, known and read of all men. Alas! ascribed to the influence of the Sun of righte- too many sat not at the apostles' feet as ready ousness ? that they should not at once ac- listeners. The humbling doctrines of the knowledge Jesus to be both Lord and Christ; Gospel struck too deep at the root of human and be content, with the wisest and best of self-sufficiency to be universally received ; men, to sit as humble disciples at the feet of its pure precepts required too great a sacrithat divine Teacher, who spake as never man fice to become the universal rule of conduct. spake, whose doctrines can alone shed com- Men loved darkness rather than light, because fort amidst the vicissitudes and trials of life, their deeds were evil. “The Jews require a can animate to the zealous discharge of every sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom ;" duty? We indeed can conceive but faintly of but wherever the Gospel was cordially rethe fearful character of man, when left en- ceived, wherever its salvation was thankfully tirely to follow the dictates of his imperfect embraced, it became "the power of God unto reason that reason of which he is prone so salvation.” There was a marked, a decided much to boast, and to the level of which he change of character ; a translation from darkwould too often wish to reduce the great ness to light, from the power of Satan unto truths of religion ; ever the slave of unbri- God; a mighty transformation of the whole dled licentiousness, the fear of God is not man, which, as it did not escape the notice, before his eyes. But the expressions em- so did it excite the indignation of those who ployed in the sacred Scriptures sufficiently would not come to the Saviour for life. prove that character to be utterly degraded; How interesting and delightful to trace the to be in many particulars little removed from gradual enlightening of the nations by the the beasts that perish; and powerfully illus- beams of the Sun of righteousness; to mark trate the grace and condescension of the the diffusion of Christ's salvation among the Almighty in delivering man from such a con- Gentiles! How painful is the reflection, howdition of darkness, in raising him from such a ever, that the knowledge of the Divine will state of moral degradation, and in qualifying was too often perverted; that the enemy too him, by his grace and Spirit, for an admission often sowed tares among the good seed; that to the kingdom of glory, for the companion- the waywardness of the human heart led to ship of pure and sinless spirits, for the en- the rejection of the truth; and the natural joyment of his own blessed presence through proneness to sin induced men to cast off the eternity.
yoke of the Saviour. How painful the reThe great purpose for which our Lord flection, that even now, eighteen hundred Jesus Christ took man's nature upon him years since the manifestation of Christ to the was, to enlighten the Gentiles, and to be not Gentiles, millions of the human race should only the messenger of salvation, but the pro- never have heard the glad tidings of his salcuring cause of salvation, even to the ends of vation; and that even in lands where his the earth. Jesus was the true light that came religion is professed, there should be but few down from heaven, emphatically styled the fulfilling their Christian duties, living in sublight of the world. Jesus procured salvation jection to their exalted Lord ; that with the for man by his one sacrifice, oblation, and vast majority of those who name the name of satisfaction made for sin upon the cross ; Jesus, there should be but little desire for and in proportion as his doctrines were made the furtherance of his glory, for the extenknown, and his salvation proclaimed, igno- sion of his kingdom on the earth! rance, error, with their concomitants, ini- This admission of the Gentiles to the priquity, and avowed and reckless rebellion vileges of the children of God, though disagainst God, gradually disappeared. Ob-tinctly foretold, was a stumbling-block to the serve the marvellous change produced by the Jews. Regarding themselves as the peculiar preaching of the Gospel on the hearts and favourites of heaven, and counting all other lives of some of the most abandoned votaries nations as utterly abominable in God's sight, of heathenism, when, in obedience to their and beyond the limits of his mercy, there adorable Master's commission, and resting on was no doctrine which they were more unhis promise of continual assistance, the apos- willing to admit than that the Gentiles should tles boldly proclaimed salvation through his have any participation in the blessings resultname, and besought men to turn from idols ing from the Messiah's advent. This feeling
is strikingly manifested in their history. It forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among was referred to by our Lord himself in his them that are sanctified by faith that is in conversation with the woman of Canaan, Christ Jesus. He is styled, by way of diswhen he declared it to be unfit to take the tinction, the apostle of the Gentiles, for there children's bread and cast it to the dogs; and he had the most encouraging fruits of his it was strikingly illustrated even in St. Peter, ministry; and the many Churches to which when, though enlightened by the Spirit of his epistles are addressed afford convincing truth, he presumed to regard the Gentiles proofs of the energy with which he laboured as excluded from the promise, until taught in proclaiming the salvation of the Gospel, , by the vision of the sheet.
And yet, as
of the blessing which accompanied his lawe have said, their admission to the rights bours, and of the mighty transformation in and privileges of the Gospel-dispensation his character, when from a bloody persecutor was distinctly foretold. The promise given he became a humble disciple, zealous for to Abraham was, that in his seed all the the propagation of the faith he once sought nations of the earth were to be blessed. to destroy; when, feeling the value and imThe promise was vouchsafed (Isaiah, xlix. portance of a knowledge of Christ and him 6) that the Messiah should be a " light crucified, be sought to plant the banner of to the Gentiles," " salvation to the ends the cross in every land, to erect a throne for of the earth ;" and the prophetical writings the Saviour in every heart, to raise the blazabound with the most eloquent passages, ing torch of revelation, as a guide to them illustrative of the unlimited extent of the that sat in darkness and in the region and Messiah's dominion, the universal partici- shadow of death. pation of the blessings which he should There are few subjects better calculated to bestow ; and, as such, were fully under- call forth feelings of devout gratitude to God stood by the aged Simeon, as is obvious than his determination to give his Son a light from his prayer that he might " depart in for the Gentiles, " that he might be for salvapeace."
tion to the ends of the earth;" that Son who This admission of the Gentiles to the pri- was anointed to "preach good tidings unto the vileges of the Christian dispensation was dis- meek, to bind
the broken-hearted, to protinctly revealed in the manifestation of the claim liberty to the captives, the opening of infant Jesus to the wise men from the East, the prison to them that are bound, to prowho came to worship—the event that the claim the acceptable year of the Lord.” Man Church, more particularly at this season, having forfeited the Almighty favour by wilcalls us to commemorate. In their humble ful disobedience, deserved nothing at his adoration, their costly presents, their devout Creator's hand save his severest displeasure ; acknowledgment of the claims of the holy and had his purposes of mercy been designed Babe, were shadowed forth the homage which with reference only to a portion of the fallen should one day be offered by men of every race, his justice would have been unimpeachkindred, and nation, and tongue; when "all able. “But God, who is rich in mercy, for kings shall fall down before him, all nations the great love wherewith he loved us, sent shall serve him; when prayer shall be made his Son into the world, that whosoever beto him continually, and daily shall he believeth in him should not perish, but have praised.” And though our Lord himself de everlasting life." Of a truth, to use the words clared that he was sent to the “lost sheep of of St. Peter, “God is no respecter perthe house of Israel;" confined his ministra- sons:" his offers of salvation are freely made tion to his own countrymen ; and in the first to all ; his gracious invitations are addressed instance sent forth his apostles to preach the to all. Under the mild dispensation of the Gospel of the kingdom among them,-before Gospel, he is represented as the almighty his ascension he gave these servants a more Father, graciously reconciled by the blood of extensive commission, to go forth into all the his Son; and that Son's ambassadors, to world, to baptise all nations, to preach the whom has been committed the ministry of Gospel to every creature ; and it was in obe- reconciliation, are commanded to go forth dience to this comma
mand, that they confined and to beseech men in general to be recontheir labours no longer to the land of Judea, ciled to God. How inestimable the privilege of but, after many fruitless efforts to bring their being born within the sound of the Gospel, of fellow-countrymen to the knowledge of the having our lot cast where the light of Christ's truth, declared their resolution to “turn to Gospel is shining ! Be it our care to improve the Gentiles."
these privileges to the uttermost. If the The commission of St. Paul was to open light of Divine truth is shining around, we the eyes of the Gentiles, and to turn them must pray earnestly to God that we may be from darkness to light, and from the power enabled to walk as children of light, and not of Satan unto God, that they might receive close our eyes to that glorious effulgence
which emanates from the word of the Eter- | that his labour shall not be in vain ; and bear. nal. Let not year after year pass over us, ing in mind tbat, amidst the vain speculations and find us still immersed in spiritual dark- of human reason, the purposes of God stand ness, and all attempts to enlighten us prove for ever sure-his purposes of mercy to man; abortive and vain. If the sound of salvation of which one of the most glorious is, that he has reached us, let us not shut our ears will give his Son for “a light to the Genagainst it, but gladly listen to the voice of par- tiles, that he may be for salvation to the doning mercy. Jesus is a Saviour; there is ends of the earth.” none else. No condition can be more fearfully alarming, no state of mind can be more painfully distressing, than that of the man
Biography. who walketh on still in darkness, while all
THE LIFE OF WILLIAM WILBERFORCE, ESQ. around is light; to whom the message of
of Divine grace is peculiarly exemplified, salvation is proclaimed in vain--that mes.
when those on whom the world has smiled are consage which would be hailed with transport
tent to disregard its smiles, and to lay their many by myriads of apostate spirits, secured in
talents at the foot of the Redeemer's cross. He who chains under darkness; the man who desires
has never been caressed and flattered, can know little not to know Jesus Christ, and him crucified
of the power of those blandishments. He whom the to whom the Gospel is the savour of death
world has frowned on, may resolve in turn to frown unto death. Such, we doubt not, is the con
upon the world. But it requires, I repeat, a large dition of many professing Christians, who
measure of Divine grace in a rich man not to glory in are dead even while they have a name to his riches, in a mighty man not to glory in his strength, live; the condition not merely of the avowed to count the honours and pleasures which almost force enemies of the truth, but even of men who themselves on his acceptance but dross, and to follow rank within the pale of the visible Church, the lowly Saviour. The little skiff that creeps closely whose morality is unimpeached by the world. by the shore may, without much difficulty, ascend the It is for us to beware lest it be ours; to pray stream ; but the vessel which stands out in the middle earnestly for such a measure of the heavenly of the flood will find very often the current well nigh guidance, that we may be directed into all truth. too strong to stem. Hence it is that the apostle de
The promises relative to the universality clares, that “not many wise men after the flesh, not of the offers of the Gospel, moreover, are
many noble are called.” Still the effectual power of calculated to confirm our belief in the ulti- God can make a way through all these obstacles, and mate triumph of Christianity over every im
we do accordingly find-and, blessed be his name, pediment which may appear likely to arrest increasingly in the present day— some of the high
and honourable of the earth ready to leave all, and to its progress. The word of God must be accomplished ; there can be no impediment tread the narrow path where they meet comparatively sufficiently powerful to hinder the purposes
few companions. Such a one was William Wilber
force, of whose most interesting life I propose to gather of Jehovah. Omnipotence is his attribute,
in this and subsequent papers a few particulars. and his arm shall ultimately prevail. The
This distinguished man was born in Hull, August comparative small portion of the world where
24, 1759, of an ancient and respectable family. The the Gospel has hitherto been made known, original designation was Wilberfoss, from a township and the still smaller where it is known in its
about eight miles from York; but this was changed by genuine purity, unalloyed by admixture of
the grandfather of Mr. Wilberforce into the modern human dross, cannot fail deeply to affect the
form. The family were in possession of very consisincere believer ; he cannot but deplore the derable property, partly inherited, and partly acquired comparatively little influence which the reli- by mercantile pursuits. His frame, from childhood, gion of the Saviour possesses over the hearts was feeble, his stature small, and his eyes weak; but of those who profess to receive it; while he his mind was always active, and his temper affectionviews with dismay whole millions of his fel- ate. At seven years of age, he was sent to the gramlow-men immersed in heathenism and its mar-school of Hull, of which Joseph Milner was shortly concomitants, sensuality, cruelty, profligacy, afterwards master. Here he attracted notice by his barbarity, as revolting as that of the nations admirable elocution. It was so "remarkable," said to whom the Gospel was in the first instance
Isaac Milner (afterwards Dean of Carlisle), “that we preached. Let him not despair, however; used to set him upon a table, and make him read but derive consolation from the assurance aloud, as an example to the other boys." He thus that God's word shall not return to him void, spent two years as a day-scholar; but, on the death of but shall accomplish and prosper in that to
his father in 1768, he was transferred to the care of which he is pleased to send it.
Let him use
an uvele, by whom he was placed at a boardingall diligence in the promotion of his Saviour's
school of but mean character-such was the standard glory, and enlargement of his Saviour's king
of education in those days-near London. His aunt dom among men. In this momentous work
was one of the well-known family of Thornton, and let hiin be stedfast and immovable, assured
• See "Life of William Wilberforce," by his Sons. 5 vols.