« ПредишнаНапред »
put the children of Israel into the possession of the land which God had given them. The religion of Moses forbade the people of God to wage offensive wars against any of the heathen nations, whom God himself had not commanded them to destroy. The religion of Christ has always had the same peaceful influence upon those who have professed to embrace it. While the Roman empire remained heathen, they carried war and desolation among all the nations whom they were able to conquer, for the sake of power and plunder. But after it became Christian, and Constantine possessed the supreme government of the empire, they professedly ceased to wage offensive wars. The truth is, that the enemies, and not the friends of true religion, have always been the principal disturbers of the peace of nations, and spread misery and destruction among the inhabitants of the world. Infidels have had the effrontery to charge christians with the guilt of somenting wars, and spreading misery and desolation through the earth ; but all history, sacred and profane, refutes this unjust and malignant reproach.
3. It appears from what has been said, that all false religion is only a corruption of the true. The true religion was revealed to Adam. It was preserved and kept alive until the days of Noah. He was a perfect and upright man, while the rest of the world apostatized from God and became totally corrupt. He understood, believed, and maintained religion, while in the ark, and after he resettled ihe world. His sons Shem and Japheth, and their children, believed and practiced true religion, until the children of Ham renounced the true God and true religion, and became idolaters. These gradually spread infidelity and every species of false religion among the other branches of Noah's family. But if true religion had not first been revealed and practiced, there is no reason to think that mankind, who are born like the wild ass's colt, and dead in trespasses and sins, would ever have thought of any such thing as any kind of religion. Though they are formed capable of knowing that the world must have been created, that the Creator of it must possess almighty power, perfect wisdom, and universal goodness, and therefore is worthy to be loved, feared and obeyed; yet they would not have gained this knowledge unless they had been first taught by God himself. This knowledge God taught Adam and the patriarchs, who conveyed it down to their posterity by mere tradition, without a divine written revelation, until the law was given by Moses at Mount Sinai. But this tradition was gradually corrupted, and became the source of all the false religions that were in the world till the law was given. And though this was given to the Jews, yet they, by their wars and intercourse with surrounding na
tions, spread some knowledge of God and divine things among them, which prevented the total loss of all knowledge of God and religious worship. And the spread of Christian knowledge has had the same tendency, to prevent the heathen nations from becoming entirely destitute of all religious notions, and modes, and forms of religious worship. It is, therefore, clearly evident that all false religion is but a corruption of the true; and had it not been that God in various ways taught mankind, there would not have been religion of any kind in the world. Deists pretend that they have discovered natural religion, independently of all divine revelation, which is entirely rational, and free from the superstition, enthusiasm, idolatry, and all the errors of both heathens and christians. But all history, both sacred and profane, refutes their vain and false pretensions. They, as well as all the heathen world, are indebted to divine revelation for all their boasted knowledge of any religion, whether natural or traditional. The heathens are indebted to the Jews, and the deists are indebted to the christians, for all the knowledge they have of either natural, traditional or revealed religion. All that is true or important in Deism, Paganism, Mohammedanism, or any false religion, has been derived from the true revealed religion; which proves that all religious errors are but so many corruptions of religious revealed truth contained in the Bible.
4. It appears from what has been said, how much easier it is to spread any false religion in the world, than the true religion. “A few bold, wicked, rebellious children of Ham, were the first corrupters of all nations of the earth, who had been educated in the true religion. Shem and Japheth were the most numerous, and best instructed branches of Noah's family, who had every advantage to maintain and preserve the true religion in the world ; and had they been as zealous to promote it, as Nimrod and his followers were to corrupt it, they would have preserved and handed it down through all nations until the days of Abraham, and the time of Moses, when a written revelation was given. So that the name of heathens would never have been known in the world. But all men, like the Jews, were bent to backsliding; and loved error better than truth, and a false religion better than that revealed from heaven. The same love to errors and delusions still reigns in the hearts of both the heathen and Christian world; which renders it so extremely difficult to maintain true religion where it is known and professed, and to carry and establish it where it is not known. All the nations from Adam to this day, have always had opportunities of knowing God and the way to eternal life, if they had only loved light more than darkness, and truth more than error and falsehood, respecting divine and eternal
things. To this cause Christ ascribed the spiritual blindness and ignorance of mankind. By their feelings and conduct towards the gospel, they are every where proving the truth of that religion which they either deny or reject. They act out that depravity on which the gospel is founded, and which the gospel is designed to remove, and thereby demonstrate the necessity of divine revelation.
5. It is a strong evidence in favor of the religion contained in the Bible, that it has been so long preserved in the world, notwithstanding all mankind could do to destroy it. Every nation united their exertions against it, all the while it was preserved by tradition, which was till the days of Moses; when God planted his church in Judea, in the midst of the nations, who viewed it as a speckled bird, and flocked around it to destroy it, until the Christian church was erected; and ever since that day, Jews and Gentiles have been combined against it. But though the flames of persecution, from age to age, and from time to time, have been kindled around it, and threatened to destroy it, yet it has never been consumed. It still lives, and flourishes, and spreads. This is the Lord's doing, and ought to be marvellous in our eyes. For it is a visible evidence that it came at first from God, and has been preserved by his constant care and powerful protection. The friends of Zion have always had occasion to say to God, as David did : “ If it had not been the Lord who was on our side when men rose up against us, then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us: then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul. Blessed be the Lord, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth.” Though other religions have been devised and propagated by the power of the sword and arm of government, yet they have died one after another ; but the Christian religion has lived, and spread, and triumphed over all opposition ; which cannot be accounted for by mere human means. It bears the stamp of a divine signature, and carries its own internal evidence with it to the understandings, and consciences, and hearts of all, who have candidly and impartially considered it. It is out of the power of learning, and reason, and criticism, to raise a solid objection against it.
6. We learn from what has been said, the deplorable state in which mankind in general have been involved for ages, and are still involved. A part of Europe, all Asia and Africa, and part of North and South America, are still sitting in the region and shadow of death, and perishing for the want of the gospel. About two thirds of the whole human race are now involved, either in the darkness of Paganism, Mohammedanism, Judaism,
or Popery, and destitute of a part, or the whole of the Bible. None
a of them have the free use of the New Testament, which plainly contains the gospel of divine grace, which is able to make men wise unto salvation. Though some, in some of these nations, have well cultivated minds and a large share of human knowledge, yet they either know not God, or have false conceptions of his nature, perfections and designs. They have no conceptions, or false conceptions, of the way of finding favor with God, and securing the salvation of their souls, which are infinitely precious. Though they feel pleased with their religious errors and delusions, and fondly hope they will secure their happiness in a future state, if there be such a state; and though they are without excuse for their moral blindness, ignorance and prejudices, yet they are to be pitied; for they are undoubtedly yet the nations that forget God, and must be cast off and perish, unless the gospel shall be carried to them, and they cordially embrace it. It is indeed a dark mystery, that God has suffered them so long to walk in their own way, without using such effectual means to enlighten and save them as he always has had power to use. But we have good reason to believe that he will yet bring light out of their darkness, holiness out of their blindness, and happiness out of their misery.
7. This subject shows the great reason that christians have to expect, desire and pray for, a better state of things in the world. They know that God has promised to give the Gentiles, as well as the Jews, to Christ for his inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for his possession. They have reason to expect, therefore, that God will fulfil his promises to his Son, and bring all nations into cordial subjection to him. They have the same reason to desire, as to expect, that Christ will reign from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth. For there is nothing but his reign, or the prevalence of his religion, that can remove the natural and moral evils which surround, depress and destroy the great majority of the human race. Neither civilization, nor learning, nor the arts of living, can meliorate the moral state of the world. These means have been tried in the most enlightened and refined parts of Europe and America, and failed of success. As nations have increased in these things, so they have sinned. Tyranny and oppression, wars and bloodshed, have prevailed as much in civilized, as in uncivilized nations, and produced as great natural and moral evils. Nothing but the pure gospel of Christ, has been an effectual remedy to reform, purify, and save any of the children of men. But so far as the gospel has had its genuine influence upon the hearts of men, it has never failed to transform them into the moral image of God, and prepare them to promote peace, liberty, holiness and happiness, to the extent of their power. There is reason to expect that the gospel will sooner or later spread over all the earth, remove all tyranny and oppression, idolatry and delusions, and every species of vice and immorality, and cause this dark, depraved world to become holy, peaceful and happy. And is not this as much to be desired, as expected? And if to be desired and expected, is it not to be prayed for? Christ has taught all his disciples to pray for it daily, by sincerely praying to his Father, “ Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” But what will expectations, desires and prayers do, without correspondent exertions? All christians in every part of the world ought to exert themselves, to promote the melioration of the natural, moral and religious state of the ignorant, and deluded, and miserable nations, with whom they are surrounded and connected.
Our free, civilized, and gospelized nation has unhappily and sinfully been connected with the nations of Africa. We have, in violation of every humane and religious principle, traded in the souls of men, bought thousands and thousands of Africans, brought them from their native country to this, and here subjected them to the hardest labor, the meanest drudgery, and most absolute slavery. Their sighs and groans have entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, and cried for mercy and deliverance to themselves, if not for vengeance on their oppressors. Though none of us, perhaps, have been personally concerned in this great iniquity, yet our nation has been, and is concerned in it. We cannot excuse ourselves, if we do not openly disapprove of it, condemn it, and use all proper means to put an end to it. A scheme has been devised and a society formed, gradually to emancipate those who were once held in bondage, but have been freed, and are desirous of being transported back to their native country, relatives and friends, with a view to enlighten and civilize others, and to put a final stop to the slave trade on the African coast. This is a most humane and benevolent design; and it is hoped it will be approved and promoted by individuals at present, and soon by the national legislature. Realizing the freedom, the civilization, and the blessings of the gospel, which we have long and fully enjoyed, can we forbear to throw in our mite, to promote such a humane, important and benevolent purpose? If the design be accomplished, it will give the fairest opening and prospect of not only breaking the rod of oppressors, but of spreading the glorious gospel among a large portion of the human race who are perishing in their ignorance and guilt; while it will wipe off a foul blot from our national honor, humanity and religion. These are motives which must sink deeply in every benevolent heart.