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against justice, or against mercy or truth. He put away al} lying, falsehood, and fraud; neither was guile found in his mouth. He spake evil of no man; nor did an unkind word eyer come out of his lips.
8. And, as he was deeply sensible of the truth of that word, “ Without me ye can do nothing,” and, consequently, of the need he had to be watered of God every moment; so he continued daily in all the ordinances of God, the stated channels of his grace to man. In the Apostles doctrine or teaching, receiving that food of the soul with all readiness of heart, in the breaking of bread, which he found to be the communion of the body of Christ, and in the prayers and praises offered up by the great congregation. And thus, he daily“ grew in grace,” increasing in strength, in the knows ledge and love of God.
9. But it did not satisfy him, barely to abstain from doing evil. His soul was athirst to do good. The language of his heart continually was, “ My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” My Lord went about doing good; and shall not I tread in his steps? As he had opportunity, therefore, if he could do no good of a bigher kind, he fed the hungry, clothed the naked, helped the fatherless or stranger, visited and assisted them that were sick or in prison. He gave all his goods to the poor. He rejoiced to labour or to suffer for them; and wherein soever he might frofit another, there especially to “ deny himself.” He counted nothing too dear to part with for them, as well remembering the word of his Lord, “Insomuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."'*
10. Such was Christianity in its rise. Such was a Christian in ancient days. Such was every one of those, who, when they heard the threatenings of the Chief Priests and Elders, “lift up their voice to God, with one accord, and were all filled with the Holy Ghost. The multitude of them that believed, were of one beart and of one soul.” (So did the love of him in whom they had believed, constrain them
Matthew wxv, 40.
to love one another!) “ Neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things in common.” So fully were they crucified to the world, and the world crucified to them! “ And they continued steadfastly with one accord in the Apostles' doctrine, and in the breaking of bread, and in prayer. 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 he had
II. 1. Let us take a view, in the second place, of this Christianity, as spreading from one to another, and so gradually inaking 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, and 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." +
2. And, indeed, 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 had died? Would not their bowels yearn 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.”I
3. So the Christians of old did. They laboured, having
* 1 Pet. ii. 25.
* Acts iv. 31-35. VOL. VII.
+ Matt. v. 13-16.
opportunity,“ to do good to all men,"* warning them to flee from the wrath to come ; now, now,
escape the damnation of hell. They declared, “ The times of ignorance God winked at; but now he calleth all men every where to repent.”+ They cried aloud, “ Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.”# 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 evil doers in that day when he should judge the world.
4. They endeavoured herein to speak to every man severally as he had need. To the careless, to those who lay unconcerned 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 to abound more and more in that holiness, without which no man can see the Lord.”)
5. And their labour was not in vain in the Lord. 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." 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 :"**) But much more, because so many of their com
* Gal. vi. 10. + Acts xvii. 30. Ezek. xviii. 30. Acts xxiv. 25. | Heb. xii. 14. I John vii, 7.
** Wis. i. 13-16.
panions were taken away, and would no more run with them to the same excess of riot, * 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 craft is in danger to be set at nought.”+ 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.”+ « These are the men that teach all men, every where, against the people, and against the law."'s
6. Thus it was that the heavens grew black with clouds, and the storm gathered amain. For the more Christianity spread, the more hurt was done, in the account of those who received it not; and the number increased of those who were more and more enraged at these “ men who thus turned the world upside down;"| insomuch that they more and more cried out, “ Away with such fellows from the earth; it is not fit that they should live,” yea, and sincerely believed, that whosoever should kill them would do God service.
7. Mean-while they did not fail to cast out their name as evil: 1 so that this sect was every where spoken against."** Men said all manner of evil of them, even as had been done of the prophets that were before them.tt And whatsoever any would affirm, others would believe. So that offences grew as the stars of heaven for multitude. And hence arose, at the time fore-ordained of the Father, persecution in all its forms. Some, for a season, suffered only shame and reproach; some, 6 the spoiling of their goods; some had trials of mocking and scourging, some of bonds and imprisonment : and others resisted unto blood."*,
1 Pet. iv. 4. + Acts xix. 25, &c. # Acts xxiv. 5. Acts xxi. 28. | Acts xvii. 6. I Luke vi. 22.
** Acts xxviii. 22. ++ Mat. v. 11.
8. Now it was that the pillars of hell were shaken, and the kingdom of God spread more and more. Sinners were every where “ turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God." He gave his children, “ such a mouth, and such wisdom, as all their adversaries could not resist.” And their lives were of equal force with their words. But above all, their sufferings spake to all the world. They “ approved themselves the servants of God, in afflictions, in necessities; in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours ; in perils in the sea, in perils in the wilderness ; in weariness and in painfulness, in hunger and in thirst, in cold and nakedness.”+ And when, having fought the good fight, they were led as sheep to the slaughter, and offered upon the sacrifice and service of their faith, then the blood of each found a voice, and the heathen owned, “ He being dead, yet speaketh.'
9. Thus did Christianity spread itself in the earth. But how soon did the tares appear with the wheat! and the mystery of iniquity work as well as the mystery of godliness! How soon did Satan find a seat, even in the temple of God! “ Till the woman fled into the wilderness, and the faithful were again minished from the children of men.” Here 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 shew that he had “ built his Church upon a Rock, and the gates of hell should not (wholly) prevail against her."
(III.) 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 over 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
* Heb. x. 34.-xi. 37, &c. + 2 Cor. vi. 4, &c. Matt. xvi. 18.