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elevated to an intellectual, religious, immortal being, after each six days' interval, is a witness to the divine benevolence of Christianity.
In like manner, an order of men set apart for the instruction and comfort of all classes, and especially the poor, hospitals raised for the sick and aged, the religious education of the young, the institution of Christian marriage, consequent domestic purity and love, the elevation of the female sex, the diligence, independence and self-respect, without pride, which Christianity inculcates; the importance it attaches to the milder virtues ; its integrity and public spirit; the security of person and property, the equal jurisprudence, the truth and faithfulness, the sanctity of treaties, the peaceful intercommunity of nations which it enjoins, are all unequivocal proofs of its highly beneficial tendency. Whilst the mitigation of the horrors of warfare, especially as regards pri. soners and the abolition of slavery, is not less manifest.
All these principles, and a thousand habits flowing from them, were planted, as seeds, at the promulgation of the gospel, and continued to propagate themselves widely during the first ages of the Christian
If you ask what so lamentably stopped the progress of these blessings during the period of the dark ages. If you enquire, wherefore the discourse of our Lord in the text was not still acted upon ; wherefore, in the nineteenth century, five-sixths of the human family are in Heathen or Mohammedan darkness and captivity; whilst so large a proportion of the Christian nations have lost much of the purity, and therefore of the beneficial effects, of Christianity? I answer, that the corruptions of Christian doctrines and precepts, and the righteous judgments of God in consequence, were the main impediments to the wider diffusion of that saving truth, which Christians then no longer held themselves, and had no adequate zeal to propagate.
The sixth and seventh centuries witnessed the accumulation of those errors and superstitions which tinged it even earlier, but had not yet neutralized its virtue.
In proportion as the trumpet of the spiritual jubilee in the obedience unto death of the Son of God and the sanctifying grace of his Spirit, was silent, sympathy and tenderness for the mass of mankind were forgotten, the poor were uninstructed, the captives of ignorance and sin were left in their chains ; whilst superstition and tyranny, under the Christian name, mocked their woe.
Two things marked the decay. In opposition to divine knowledge, the inspired Bible, as the fountain of truth, was superseded by the traditions of men. In opposition to spiritual freedom, a presumptuous claim to ecclesiastical authority, beside and above the real rule of that authority, the holy Scriptures, bound on men's necks an iron yoke.
What followed ? God, affronted and provoked, gave up the Christian nations to “the strong delusion" and fearful impositions of the Eastern and Western apostacies. These, however different in other views, concurred in suppressing the holy Scriptures and in rivetting on the souls of men the chains of ignorance and sin ; Mohammedanism opposing the Deity, Popery the Mediation of our Lord.
At the blessed Reformation of religion, however, in the sixteenth century, the tendencies of genuine Christianity were again demonstrated to be as beneficial as at its first promulgation. The silver trumpet was again sounded in the heart of the Western church. The name of Christ as the only spiritual Deliverer was again proclaimed. The Bible was translated, circulated, honored, appealed to as the one source of truth. The meekness and gentleness of Christianity and its especial regard to the poor, were again asserted. The jubilee of the world was once more proclaimed, as in the text; and half Christendom our own country amongst the number-received the joyful sound.
As the Protestant nations have acquired strength and planted their colonies amongst the Heathen and Mohammedan nations, compassion for man has filled their breasts ; the word of God has been translated into almost every tongue ; and the messengers of grace despatched to proclaim the glad tidings of salvation amongst the bond-slaves of idolatry and delusion.
III. We proceed, then, lastly, to trace the principles and advances towards a wider dissemination of Christianity which are now apparently at work.
For “ the acceptable year of the Lord” was never, perhaps, so well understood and recognized in its main features, as in the present day. Its spirit was never so deeply imbibed. Its precepts of compassion and tenderness to captive man, were never so much acted upon. Whenever the two extraordinary impediments to which I have alluded, shall be removed, there is nothing to prevent Christianity from once again having "free course and being glorified" throughout the world. The gospel, once purified amongst nominal Christians, would soon resume its pristine charity and zeal; and, accompanied with the richer graces of the Holy Spirit, would diffuse itself widely amongst the nations.
So far as the Protestant communities, indeed, have begun to act more on genuine Christian prin. ciples, the preparations and advances towards a wider diffusion of the gospel are not difficult to be traced.
1. Consider the “ multitudes which no man can number,” who were once captives to sin and Satan like others, but who have heard, and are now hear. ing, “the joyful sound, and walking in the light of God's countenance.” Every such individual is a propagator of the blessing. He is led by gratitude, he is obliged by duty, he is “ constrained by the love of Christ,” he is urged by brotherly compassion, to make known the deliverance he has received. Christianity has an internal principle of diffusion within itself. Like benevolence, it exists only in imparting happiness. Let individual Christians be multiplied, and you multiply these diffusers of the gospel.
Such a process is going on, more rapidly than ever, in all parts of Christendom, as we humbly trust. England, France, Holland, Switzerland, Sweden, Prussia, Austria, Poland, Russia are sounding -though some of them faintly-yet are sounding, the “silver trumpet.”
2. The Christian nations are the only highly civilized and powerful ones; the only nations raised by their religion to degrees of prosperity and social happiness previously unknown; the only nations encircled by the confidence of the Heathen and Mohammedan people, the objects of their admiration and love. And amongst these nations our own is distinguished, both by the purity of her religion, and the prodigious empire entrusted to her hands by Almighty God, among the teaming population of Eastern Asia.
3. The governors of mankind are also compelled more and more to acknowledge the beneficial ten. dency of Christianity; and are protecting from injury and molestation the heralds of the healing message.
There are two considerations which authorize the hope that the kings of the earth will, as they un
questionably ought, more decisively promote the diffusion of the acceptable news of the gospel. The one is the mild and peaceful character of Christianity in civil society, as it is becoming more and more prominent. It is all light and purity and equity and moral freedom. It breathes deliverance to the captive in every sense of the word. It is in its grandest features the reign of mercy, pardon, peace, salvation; and in its minutest ramifications the angel of compassion and love.
The other remark is that it meddles not with particular forms of civil polity, shuns and prohibits all factious and violent innovations, goes to the support of “the powers that be” in each state; and directs men to "pray for kings and all that are in authority, that under them we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty."
This union in Christianity of a spirit of truth and purity going to the removal of every evil, whether in kings or people; with a gentle, loyal demeanor, which disturbs not the peace of human societies, stamps it for a divine religion, and ensures for it, in proportion as it becomes known, the increased support of governors and rulers.
4. Consider, further, the multiplication of Christian colonists of various classes in all parts of the heathen world, who stand ready, as religion becomes more pure and vigorous in their own hearts, to aid in disseminating the blessing to others.
5. The spirit of enquiry, also, after Western usages, learning and religion, which has of late been awakened in the native mind throughout the East, is an indication of good not to be overlooked.
6. This is to be connected with the decrepid state of the Heathen and Mohammedan religions—they lie helpless; their foundations are undermined by the mere lapse of time and progress of science; they are out of date. They were designed for a dark