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man largely proves,) that God "brought his first begotten into the world, made of a woman," by the power of the Highest overshadowing her. He was afterwards manifested to the shepherds; to devout Simeon; to Anna, the prophetess; and to "all that waited for redemp tion in Jerusalem."
5. When he was of due age for executing his priestly office, he was manifested to Israel; preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, in every town, and in every city. And for a time he was glorified by all, who acknowledged that he "spake as never man spake;" "that he spake as one having authority," with all the wisdom of God, and the power of God. He was manifested by numberless "signs, and wonders, and mighty works which he did," as well as by his whole life; being the only one born of a woman, "who knew no sin," who, from his birth to his death, did "all things well," doing continually, "not his own will, but the will of him that sent him."
6. After all, “Behold the Lamb of God, taking away the sin of the world!" This was a more glorious manifestation of himself, than any he had made before. How wonderfully was he manifested to angels and men, when he " was wounded for our transgressions;" when he "bore all our sins in his own body on the tree;" when, having by that one oblation of himself once offered, made a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world, he cried out, "It is finished, and bowed his head and gave up the ghost!" We need but just mention those farther manifestations;-his resurrection from the dead; his ascension into heaven, into the glory which he had before the world began; and his pouring out the Holy Ghost, on the day of pentecost; both of which are beautifully described in those well known words of the Psalmist; "Thou art gone up on high, thou hast led captivity captive, and hast received gifts for men; yea, even for thine enemies, that the Lord God might dwell among [or in] them."
7. "That the Lord God might dwell in them:" This refers to a yet farther manifestation of the Son of God; even his inward manifestation of himself. When he spoke of this to his apostles, but a little before his death, one of them immediately asked; Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself to us, and not unto the world?" By enabling us to believe in his name. For he is then inwardly manifested to us, when we are enabled to say with confidence, "My Lord, and my God!" Then each of us can boldly say, "The life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." And it is by thus manifesting himself in our hearts, that he effectually "destroys the works of the devil."
III. 1. How he does this, in what manner, and by what steps he does actually destroy them, we are now to consider. And, first, as Satan began his first work in Eve, by tainting her with unbelief, so the Son of God begins his work in man, by enabling us to believe in him. He both opens and enlightens the eyes of our understanding. Out of darkness he commands light to shine, and takes away the veil which the "god of this world" had spread over our hearts. And we then see, not by a chain of reasoning, but by a kind of intuition, by a direct view, that "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing o them their former trespasses;" not imputing them to me. In that
day "we know that we are of God," children of God by faith; "having redemption through the blood of Christ, even the forgiveness of sins." Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ;"-that peace which enables us in every state therewith to be content; which delivers us from all perplexing doubts, from all tormenting fears; and, in particular, from that "fear of death, whereby we were, all our life time, subject to bondage.'
2. At the same time, the Son of God strikes at the root of that grand work of the devil, pride; causing the sinner to humble himself before the Lord, to abhor himself, as it were, in dust and ashes. He strikes at the root of self will; enabling the humbled sinner to say in all things, "Not as I will, but as thou wilt." He destroys the love of the world; delivering them that believe in him from “ every foolish and hurtful .desire;" from the "desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life." He saves them from seeking, or expecting to find happiness in any creature. As Satan turned the heart of man, from the Creator to the creature; so the Son of God turns his heart back again, from the creature to the Creator. Thus it is, by manifesting himself, he destroys the works of the devil; restoring the guilty outcast from God, to his favour, to pardon and peace; the sinner in whom dwelleth no good thing, to love and holiness; the burdened miserable sinner, to joy unspeakable, to real substantial happiness.
3. But it may be observed, that the Son of God does not destroy the whole work of the devil in man, as long as he remains in this life. He does not yet destroy bodily weakness, sickness, pain, and a thousand infirmities incident to flesh and blood. He does not destroy all that weakness of understanding, which is the natural consequence of the soul's dwelling in a corruptible body; so that still,
Humanum est errare et nescire ;
Both ignorance and error belong to humanity. He entrusts us with only an exceeding small share of knowledge, in our present state; lest our knowledge should interfere with our humility, and we should again affect to be as gods. It is to remove from us all temptation to pride, and all thought of independency, (which is the very thing that men, in general, so earnestly covet, under the name of liberty,) that he leaves us encompassed with all these infirmities, particularly weakness of un derstanding; till the sentence takes place; "Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return!"
4. Then error, pain, and all bodily infirmities cease: all these are destroyed by death. And death itself, "the last enemy" of man, shall be destroyed at the resurrection. The moment that we hear the voice of the archangel and the trump of God, "then shall be fulfilled the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory." "This corruptible [body] shall put on incorruption; this mortal [body] shall put on immortality;" and the Son of God, manifested in the clouds of heaven, shall destroy this last work of the devil!
5. Here then we see in the clearest, strongest light, what is real religion: a restoration of man, by him that bruises the serpent's head, to all that the old serpent deprived him of; a restoration, not only to the favour, but likewise to the image of God, implying not barely deliverance from sin, but the being filled with the fulness of God. It is plain, if we attend to the preceding considerations, that nothing short of this
is Christian religion. Every thing else, whether negative or external, is utterly wide of the mark. But what a paradox is this! How little is it understood in the Christian world; yea, in this enlightened age, wherein it is taken for granted, the world is wiser than ever it was from the beginning! Among all our discoveries, who has discovered this? How few, either among the learned or unlearned! And yet, if we believe the Bible, who can deny it? Who can doubt of it? It runs through the Bible from the beginning to the end, in one connected chain; and the agreement of every part of it, with every other, is, properly, the analogy of faith. Beware of taking any thing else, or any thing less than this, for religion! Not any thing else: Do not imagine an outward form, a round of duties, both in public and private, is religion! Do not suppose, that honesty, justice, and whatever is called morality, (though excellent in its place,) is religion! And least of all dream that orthodoxy, right opinion, (vulgarly called faith,) is religion. Of all religious dreams, this is the vainest; which takes hay and stubble for gold tried in the fire!
6. Oh do not take any thing less than this for the religion of Jesus Christ! Do not take a part of it for the whole! What God hath joined together, put not asunder! Take no less for his religion, than the "faith that worketh by love ;" all inward and outward holiness. Be not content with any religion, which does not imply the destruction of all the works of the devil; that is, of all sin. We know, weakness of understanding, and a thousand infirmities, will remain, while this corruptible body remains; but sin need not remain: this is that work of the devil, eminently so called, which the Son of God was manifested to destroy in this present life. He is able, he is willing, to destroy it now, in all that believe in him. Only be not straitened in your own bowels! Do not distrust his power, or his love! Put his promise to the proof! He hath spoken and is he not ready, likewise, to perform? Only come boldly to the throne of grace," trusting in his mercy; and you shall find, ❝he saveth to the uttermost all those that come to God through him!"
SERMON LXVIII.-The General Spread of the Gospel.
"The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea," Isa. xi, 9.
1. In what a condition is the world at present! How does darkness, intellectual darkness, ignorance, with vice and misery attendant upon it, cover the face of the earth! From the accurate inquiry, made with indefatigable pains by our ingenious countryman, Mr. Brerewood; (who travelled himself over a great part of the known world, in order to form the more exact judgment;) supposing the world to be divided into thirty parts, nineteen of them are professed heathens, altogether as ignorant of Christ, as if he had never come into the world: six of the remaining parts are professed Mohammedans: so that only five in thirty are so much as nominally Christians!
2. And let it be remembered, that since this computation was made, many new nations have been discovered; numberless islands, particularly in the South sea, large and well inhabited: but by whom? By heathens
of the basest sort; many of them inferior to the beasts of the field. Whether they eat men or no, (which indeed I cannot find any sufficient ground to believe,) they certainly kill all that fall into their hands. They are, therefore, more savage than lions; who kill no more creatures than are necessary to satisfy their present hunger. See the real dignity of human nature! Here it appears in its genuine purity, not polluted either by those "general corrupters, kings," or by the least tincture of religion! What will Abbé Raynal (that determined enemy to monarchy and revelation) say to this?
3. A little, and but a little, above the heathens in religion, are the Mohammedans. But how far and wide has this miserable delusion spread over the face of the earth! Insomuch that the Mohammedans are considerably more in number (as six to five) than Christians. And by all the accounts which have any pretence to authenticity, these are also, in general, as utter strangers to all true religion as their four footed brethren; as void of mercy as lions and tigers; as much given up to brutal lusts as bulls or goats: so that they are in truth a disgrace to human nature, and a plague to all that are under the iron yoke.
4. It is true, a celebrated writer (Lady Mary Wortley Montague,) gives a very different character of them. With the finest flow of words, in the most elegant language, she labours to wash the Æthiop white. She represents them as many degrees above the Christians; as some of the most amiable people in the world; as possessed of all the social virtues; as some of the most accomplished of men. But I can in no wise receive her report: I cannot rely upon her authority. I believe those round about her had just as much religion as their admirer had, when she was admitted into the interior parts of the grand Seignior's seraglio. Notwithstanding, therefore, all that such a witness does or can say in their favour, I believe the Turks in general are little, if at all better, than the generality of the heathens.
5. And little if at all better than the Turks, are the Christians in the Turkish dominions; even the best of them; those that live in the Morea, or are scattered up and down in Asia. The more numerous bodies of Georgian, Circassian, Mengrelian Christians, are a proverb of reproach to the Turks themselves; not only for their deplorable ignorance, but for their total, stupid, barbarous irreligion.
6. From the most authentic accounts we can obtain of the southern Christians, those in Abyssinia, and of the northern churches, under the jurisdiction of the patriarch of Moscow; we have reason to fear they are much in the same condition, both with regard to knowledge and religion, as those in Turkey. Or if those in Abyssinia are more civilized, and have a larger share of knowledge, yet they do not appear to have any more religion than either the Mohammedans or Pagans.
7. The western churches seem to have the pre-eminence over all these in many respects. They have abundantly more knowledge: they have more scriptural and more rational modes of worship. Yet two thirds of them are still involved in the corruptions of the church of Rome; and most of these are entirely unacquainted with either the theory or practice of religion. And as to those who are called Protestants or reformed, what acquaintance with it have they? Put Papists and Protestants, French and English together, the bulk of one, and of the other nation; and what manner of Christians are they? Are they
"holy as He that hath called them is holy?" Are they filled with "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost?" Is there "that mind in them which was also in Christ Jesus?" And do they" walk as Christ also walked?" Nay, they are as far from it as hell is from heaven!
8. Such is the present state of mankind in all parts of the world! But how astonishing is this, if there is a God in heaven; and if his eyes are over all the earth! Can he despise the work of his own hand? Surely this is one of the greatest mysteries under heaven! How is it possible to reconcile this with either the wisdom or goodness of God? And what can give ease to a thoughtful mind under so melancholy a prospect? What but the consideration, that things will not always be so; that another scene will soon be opened? God will be jealous of his honour: he will arise and maintain his own cause. He will judge the prince of this world, and spoil him of his usurped dominion. He will give his Son "the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession." "The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. The loving knowledge of God, producing uniform, uninterrupted holiness and happiness, shall cover the earth; shall fill every soul of man.
9. "Impossible," will some men say, yea, the greatest of all impossibilities, that we should see a Christian world; yea, a Christian nation, or city! How can these things be?" On one supposition, indeed, not only all impossibility, but all difficulty vanishes away. Only suppose the Almighty to act irresistibly, and the thing is done; yea, with just the same ease as when "God said, Let there be light; and there was light." But then, man would be man no longer: his inmost nature would be changed. He would no longer be a moral agent, any more than the sun or the wind; as he would no longer be endued with liberty, a power of choosing, or self determination: consequently, he would no longer be capable of virtue or vice; of reward or punishment.
10. But setting aside this clumsy way of cutting the knot which we are not able to untie; how can all men be made holy and happy, while they continue men? While they still enjoy both the understanding, the affections, and the liberty, which are essential to a moral agent? There seems to be a plain, simple way of removing this difficulty, without entangling ourselves in any subtle, metaphysical disquisitions. As God is one, so the work of God is uniform in all ages. May we not then conceive how he will work on the souls of men in times to come, by considering how he does work now, and how he has wrought in times past?
11. Take one instance of this, and such an instance as you cannot easily be deceived in. You know how God wrought in your own soul, when he first enabled you to say, "The life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." He did not take away your understanding; but enlightened and strengthened it. He did not destroy any of your affections: rather they were more vigorous than before. Least of all did he take away your liberty; your power of choosing good or evil: he did not force you: but, being assisted by his grace, you, like Mary, chose the better part. Just so has he assisted five in one house to make that happy choice; fifty or five hundred in one city; and many thousands in a nation;-without depriving any of them of that liberty which is essential të a moral agent.