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The noxious waters of error may too often have defiled the streams of that river wbich makes glad the city of our God; but never, even in the darkest and most corrupt ages of the Church, has the world been without witnesses to the truth as it is in Jesus. In primitive times their ashes were not extinguished, till others came forward to be baptized for the dead. From one of its lone islands in the West, the Word of the Lord sounded forth upon this benighted land, by the preaching of the Caldees. When Europe slumbered amidst the darkness of Popery, there were those in the vallies of Piedmont, who counted not their lives dear to themselves, so that they might finish their course with joy, and the ministry they had received of the Lord Jesus; and when, in later times, Prelacy would have bound the yoke of intolerance upon the neck of our ancestors, a band of faithful and devoted men, whose hearts the Lord had touched, and united in the bond of Christian brotherhood, failed not to give testimony to the Word amidst the mosses and moors of Scotland, even whilst a price was set upon their heads. The cause is his own, and it will prosper. He holds in his right hand the seven stars, and they, for him, whilst sun and moon endure, shall hold forth the Word of Life. Man may die, but the Lord lives. The martyr may perish at the stake, but bis blood will be the seed of the Church. The pastor may be taken from his flock, and where now are many of those who from this pulpit lifted up the standard of the Spirit in the testimony of the Word ? They are gone-their tongue is silenttheir Alesh bas seen corruption. “ All flesh is grass, and all the glory of man is as the flower of the grass ;
grass withers, and the flower fades; but the Word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the Word which by the gospel is preached unto us.”
The ministry of the gospel, Christ has been pleased not only wonderfully to perpetuate, but still more remarkably to
bless. He here accompanies it with Divine power; and this is evident in two ways.
First. In the conversion of sinners. Conversion, in the Scripture sense, denotes a change from sin to holiness, a turning from Satan to God. This change, as we have seen in the first ages, was not produced by the witnessing of miracles. Many saw the miracles, and did not believe. Nor was it the result of worldly might, or reasoning, or eloquence, but of a simple statement of gospel truth, generally from the lips of fishermen-men who were patronized by no court, and educated in no college. But to this change, was their simplestatement adequate ? No! All experience, as well as all Scripture, testifies, that the power which at first created, is alone able to renew the soul. A supernatural influence accompanied the Word-casting down every imagination-dispelling every prejudice-controlling every passion-spiritualizing every desire-and bringing every thought into captivity to Christ.
Such results still accompany the preaching of the Word; and to the man who is the subject of it, conversion is itself an evidence that the gospel is from heaven. If the understanding is enlightened—if the will is renewed-if the affections are elevated and sanctified-if in a heart where sin, and every earthly, sensual, and devilish passion reigned—there is that love which is the end of the commandment, and the very essence of the gospel ; then the individual thus changed has a testimony within himself that the Word is true. He needs not any man should testify of this. With the man whose sight was miraculously restored, he can say—“ This I know, that whereas I was born blind, now I see."
This is testimony sufficient for himself, and in his life he gives evidence of these to others. “ Ye are our epistle,” said the Apostle to the Corinthians, “known and read of all menwritten not with ink, but with the Spirit of God-not on tables of stone, but on the fleshly tables of the heart.” And yet of these Corinthians he could once say—“Be not de
ceived, neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor drunkards, nor covetous, shall inherit the kingdom of Godand such were some of you ;—but ye are washed—but ye are justified—but ye are sanctified, in the name of Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” Now, what can be a stronger testimony to God's Word, than that here exhibited ? If the drunkard become sober—if the profane swearer set a watch upon his lips—if the avaricious man become open as day to melting charity-if they who have been accustomed to do evil learn to do well-here is a moral miracle-here is the finger of God-here is testimony to the gospel which even the infidel may appreciate. “The Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom : but we preach Christ crucified-to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness, but to them who believe, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” Thus the gospel effects what nothing else can-the conversion of the soul. Philosophy, science, civilization, moral suasion, and such like; all have been tried, but in vain. But the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; and a cloud of witnesses, some on earth, and many in heaven, can attest its efficiency. Hence it has been compared to a fire that burns, and a hammer that breaks, and a two-edged sword which pierces the heart.
Secondly. The power of the gospel is witnessed in the restraint it imposes on sinners. We mistake much if we imagine that the gospel influences those only who have felt its saving power. There are few, perhaps there are none, where it is preached, whose character is not in some measure influenced by it. They may reject it, they may despise it, with Gallio, they may care for none of those things ; but they are surrounded with those who do; and to the moral decencies of life, if not altogether abandoned, they are in a measure shut up by the indirect influence of Christianity. And still the suspicion that the gospel may be true, fails not to haunt
the godless man. He may endeavour to persuade himself, willing as he is to believe it, that Christianity is only priestcraft--that Christ was an impostor--that his apostles were his associates in crime-that God regards not sin, and that he will not punish iniquity; and he may rise from his bed every morning without prayer to God-and retire again to sleep, which is the image of death, without acknowledging the hand that guided him during the day—and the Sabbath, in a different sense from that intended by the Poet, may to him shine no holiday—and the walls of a church he may not enter from year's end to year's end-and at His Table the Saviour may wait for him, but wait in vain-and, in the meantime, he may console himself with the reflection, that the gospel is a fable. But it will not avail, for conscience will sting notwithstanding and the prospect of death will disquiet notwithstanding—and the fear of hell will often tempt him to wish that he did believe the Bible, and that be were in the place of those whose religion be affects to despise. Think you, that those whom you witness on a Lord's day morning, preparing to spend its hours in forbidden pleasure-think you they are not restrained by the gospel ? Surely they are--surely they are ashamed of their pleasure ; and it is not till they have reached some distant village, or until they are intoxicated, that they set the rest and decency of the Sabbath utterly at defiance.
With what difficulty again do many force themselves into the circle of infidelity! What misgivings, what remorse does it cost them! Take the poet Burns, for instance, of wbose genius as a nation we are proud. That man was religiously educated, and though to ridicule the gospel through the feelings of its professors was to him a continued source of amusement, yet, convinced as he never was that Christianity was a fable, it seems to have embittered his reflecting, and possibly his dying moments, that he had made the Bible pander to the humour of the profane and the licentious. With what difficulty must such a man have burst the restraints of early impressions, and with what excess in depravity might not his life have been stained, but for the indirect influence of the sacred volume! And so, upward from him that has no profession to him that has, but who walks unworthy of it, the faint resolution and the partial amendment under the preaching of the gospel, are evidence of the power of God's word, as much as the remorse that drives to suicide for what is past, or the despair that is occasioned by what is to follow. When Paul preached of righteousness,
. and beneficence, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and he spake of a more convenient season. Did that season ever come ?
Herod for a time heard John gladly: What was the end of Herod : Even when it does not convert, the word of the law is quick and powerful, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart,
4th, By the death of his people, God gives testimony to the word of bis grace. We are born to die, and the gospel was given to teach us to live well, that we may die happy. What is it to die? We cannot tell. It is to leap from a yet untrodden brink—it is to drink from a yet untasted cup-it is to pass through a dark valley, and to cross a deep, cold, and as yet unforded river. To die has something in it to nature awful and mysterious, and we ourselves must drink from the bitter cup, ere we can tell what it is to die. Yet death comes near to us; near enough for us to contemplate it. Enter that apartment: stand by that couch; it is the death bed of an infidel. There lays the man who without God lived, and without hope is dying. Alas! Where now is the sneer and the scoff? The last fibre of life is parting, eternity opening, the Bible ridiculed, Christ rejected, and the soul lost. I will not attempt to describe the scene. Many, oh ! how many are living the life of Voltaire: may God forbid they should die his death! Look again upon
the death-bed of the Christian—" Mark