Page images
PDF
EPUB

shall heaven and earth pass away than one jot or tittle of that proclamation be transmuted or withdrawn. 66 The mouth of the Lord hath spoken it; and He is not a man that He should lie, neither the son of man that He should repent. Hath He said, and shall He not do it? or bath He spoken, and shall He not make good ? His word is tried. His covenant will He not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of His lips; He remembereth His covenant for ever, the word which He spake, to a thousand generations.” Accordingly, the Gospel has been the same in all

ages.

It differed nothing under the Adamic, the Patriarchal, and the Mosaic dispensations from what it is under the present. Now, indeed, it appears more fully developed, and arrayed in a simpler garb; the darkness of prophecy, and the symbolical representations of type and shadow, have given place the clearness of historical narrative, and the more palpable significance of reality ; but still the Gospel is the same—unaltered in all its essential features-neither more nor less than what it was when first announced. In every stage of its history it has been “ the pearl of great price,” as well as now; only the baser materials, “ the beggarly elements” with which it was originally surrounded, have suffered mutation. These, gradually worn off by the friction of time and the increasing light of revelation, have long ago entirely disappeared ; and the Gospel, rid of their obscuring influence, now shines forth in all the effulgence of its meridian lustre. And thus will it continue to shine till the end of time-till its brightness shall have irradiated the world, and given light and life to the myriads whom God has appointed to eternal salvation.

We have thus seen, my friends, that the Gospel is perfectly safe, in as far as its Author is concerned—that He will neither withdraw its proclamation, nor mutilate the blessings with which it is fraught, but permit it, in its fulness and freedom, to abide for ever. Its safety, however, it may be conceived, stands in danger from an opposite quarter,-- from the determined hostility with which it is, on all sides, and at every moment assailed; for it exists in a region where every element is opposed to its operation-where every native moral power is eagerly bent on its overthrow. I therefore proceed to observe,

II. Secondly: That the Gospel, styled by the Prophet, the word of the Lord, abideth for ever in its property of endurance, or inasmuch as it is indestructible on the part of its foes.

The enemies of the Gospel, you are aware, are many as well as powerful. But however numerous and deversified they may be in external appearance, they are obviously one in nature, similar in essence; they are the same spirit of enmity against God, variously embodied, and under different characters. Satan, the arch-foe of all good, must, it is true, be branded as the prime mover of every species of opposition which is made to the Gospel. He is the primary opponent of it, as well as of its Author. But, as chief in subordination to him, and more tangible in argument, I enumerate the three

I following :-magisterial persecution, systematic infidelity, and mistaken friendship ; and observe, that despite of the influence of these, exerted more or less in every age, and sometimes with the highest vigour, the word of the Lord not only endureth, but has become more extensively established in the world, and has diminished, humanly speaking, the probabilities of its ever being extinguished.

It will readily be admitted by every unprejudiced individual, that persecution, avowed unbelief, and injudicious favour, have been, and still are the great enemies of the truth. Another foe, indeed, might justly be added to the enumeration-hypocritical profession, namely; but at present we take into account, not what is internally defective in the church, but what is externally opposed to her interests. Now, between

the hostile workings of the three we have named; between the imposition of civil disabilities, the spoliation of goods, and the wanton cruelties of the first; the insidious sophistry, bold falsehood, and drivelling witicisms of the second; and last of all, though not least, the corrupting blandishments of the third; between the hostile workings of these, we say, Christianity has often been fearfully harrassed, and compelled to struggle for her very existence. Attacked on all sidespressed down even to the very dust, she has frequently been reduced to the lowest ebb of living being, and tinged over with that livid hue, or torn by those agonizing throes which bespeak the nearness of the last solemn heave of expiring nature.

But, blessed be God! she has never been destroyed never ceased entirely to breathe and act.

She has always, through the native vigour of her own truth and the omnipotence of Heaven, proved superior to every stratagem which hellish ingenuity bas devised, and every effort which the powers of darkness have put forth to effect ber annihilation. She has not, it is admitted, always flourished; that is, been ascendant among

her rivals. But she has ever existed—nay, more, retained in full measure her inherent

and

produced, in some degree, the benevolent results projected by her Author. And it bas often been, as history proves, that when most she seemed vanquished—when the earth seemed nearly rid of her influence, and when ignorance, superstition, and vice, were every where blowing the trumpet of triumph, then, in the calm of apparent defeat, was she—not panting out her existence, as many had supposed, but, on the contrary, gathering strength, mustering her forces, and preparing herself to bound from the degradation to which she bad been subjected, to walk forth once more in her native beauty and vigour, and with a giant arm, and a giant stride, to disperse the enemies who formerly oppressed her, and trampled her in the dust.

power,

Of the truth of what I have bere stated, many illustrations might easily be adduced from the bistory of Christianity. Your time will allow only a brief adversion to two-the crucifixion of the Messiah, and the period of darkness preceding the Reformation.

Than the former of these, the crucifixion of the Messiah, no event could possibly appear more big with ruin to the Gospel. Then was the bour and the power of darkness,-the hour when all the forces of hell concentrated their energies in one mighty effort for the everlasting overthrow of the truth of God. The Pharisee, the Sadducee, and the Pagan; in plain English, the sword of bigotry, the polished shafts of unbelief, and the barbarous fury of heathen superstition ; these, however diverse in other respects, combined in this—in conspiring against the Lord and His Annointed-against the Gospel and its Author. And, by an almost unexampled determination and perseverance, the enemies of the Gospel had, in their own estimation, and to all human appearance, well nigh triumphed. They seemed for a moment to have hewed the tree by the root, and bereft it entirely of life. For He who came in the name of the Lord, as the Great Teacher of divine truth, who confessedly spake as never man spake, and who asserted Himself the grand engrossing theme of revelation, was, despite of the meekness, the unimpeachable rectitude, and the matchless benevolence of His character, dragged before the tribunal of Rome, and, in mockery of all justice, condemned, and speedily executed. Behold the Great Prophet of God, the Author of the Gospel, now pale in death ! How, it might well bave been asked, will it fare in such disastrous circumstances, with His cause? Will it long survive Him ? If there is even a shadow of hope for it, that hope must be in the constancy and zeal of His followers. But these, too, have fled, and are buried in the darkness of uncertainty and alarm ! Can, then, the Gospel still endure, despite of the death of its Founder, and the desertion of its friends ? Every thing,

grace, and

save faith in its divine original, and the immortality of its nature, must have answered in the negative. It seemed as if it were either already dead, or fast breathing its last; and all, friendly and inimical, were ready to conclude that it and its Author would soon lie equally lifeless in the same sepulchre.

But it was far otherwise. The darkness which thus hung over the prospects of the church, was merely the prelude to a glorious sunshine. Even the death of Christ itself, apparently so dark and overwhelming to His cause, was an event predicted by the Prophets, as the essence of the Christian scheme—the ground of hope to a perishing world. It formed, therefore, disastrous as it seemed, not only a necessary, but the principal part of the economy of was the fulfilment, not the subversion, of a large portion of the word of God. Accordingly, the enemies of the Messiah, in crucifying Him, so far from abolishing His religion, as they imagined, merely established it, and laid the foundation of its widest triumphs.

“ When I am lifted up upon the cross, I shall draw all men to me," was His own prediction; and subsequent events abundantly proved its truth. His religion, it is true, was for a time obscured by His crucifixion, but it revived when He burst tbe fetters of the tomb, and from that moment went forth like a giant refreshed with sleep. It now triumphed over all opposition. Persecution, indeed, raged furiously, and glutted itself with the blood of its hapless victims: martyrdom became the order of the day, and thousands of the bravest soldiers in the ranks of Jesus were forced to evince their attachment to His cause by striving to the death. But all this was in vain, for, despite of it, the votaries of the cross waxed more and more zealous, and, by the blessing of God, became more and more successful. The Word of the Lord, though pressed on all sides by opposing forces, as by a condensed atmosphere of death, “ grew mightily and prevailed." Like the three Hebrew youths in the burning fiery furnace, it walked amid the

« PreviousContinue »