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no sufferings too severe, to be undertaken or undergone for the attainment of an object so important, both to the honor of God and the welfare of man. If this was advanced even at the expense of his private honor, or so as to diminish his personal influence and respectability, still he was satisfied, as long as God was glorified. But we will not now enlarge on the possibility of this object being attained, by the overruling interposition of God, in the midst of obstructions, and by means which threatened a contrary effect; but will rather proceed in the following method :
First: Take a brief view of the nature and glory of the gospel.
I say, the glory of the gospel, for though many treat it as a stumbling-block, or as foolishness, yet it is deservedly styled “ the glorious gospel of the blessed God.” It is that by which the infinitely happy God intends to bring an innumerable multitude of miserable sinners, to partake of his own eternal blessedness. The gospel is the most complete form of revealed religion, intended to be continued to the end of time, and to be diffused universally among mankind. For it is fully authenticated, as having a divine original : it is well calculated for the widest extent: and, it will never be succeeded by any change of dispensation. news from heaven, or glad tidings of great joy.
« Blessed are they who know the joyful sound.” “Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will toward man.” It points out the only way, in which any of the human race can escape the worst of evils, and enjoy the chief good. It is suited to the true condition of all mankind, and none who hear it are forbidden to seek a share in its blessings; but are invited and commanded so to do. (Mind, I do not say, it is suited to their taste.) It is the glory of the gospel that it provides for the honor of all the divine perfections, securing the rights of deity, and magnifying the divine law, and showing sin to be infinitely evil; while yet iniquity, transgression, and sin are forgiven. It also provides for the renewal and sanctification of all who are made partakers of redemption, through Christ, and binds them strongly to new obedience. It secures the honor of their whole sal
It is good
vation to God and his sovereign grace, which is illustriously displayed in every part of the scheme of redemption. lt teaches all saints to unite cordially with each other; and inspires them with the tenderest compassion for their fellowsinners. While lastly, it gives the certain prospect of future happiness, in the everlasting enjoyment of God in glory.
SECONDLY: Notice some of the difficulties which have impeded the progress of the gospel.
Considering the excellence and glory of the gospel, how might we have expected that it would spread like lightning through the habitable globe! especially, considering, on the one hand, the means God had used to prepare the way for it, among the Jews, and by their means among the Gentiles also. And, on the other, considering the long proof which the Gentile world had had of the insufficiency of all other means to bring them to the knowledge of God's nature, will, and worship; to fix the standard of duty, and to show the possibility of obtaining pardon and immortal bliss. Yet, as the gospel did not suit the depraved disposition of men, but thwarted every vicious principle, pride, self-righteousness, and the love of sin in general, vast opposition was made to it, both by Jews and Gentiles; and to this day, its humbling and holy tendency has the like effect. Innumerable erroneous and corrupt sentiments prevailed among mankind, when it was first propagated ; and a false self-interest induced men to reject and oppose it.
Our astonishment at this opposition is increased, by considering the many signs and wonders whereby it was confirmed, in the primitive age; and yet the violence and virulence with which it was opposed, both by persecutors and sceptical philosophers. Rage and ridicule were employed to the uttermost. It is a farther ground of regret, that when nominal Christianity had an extensive diffusion, so many errors and corruptions were soon introduced : and so general and long-continued an apostacy took place, both in the eastern and western churches : image-worship, and innumerable adulterations of the gospel.
Even since the reformation from Popery, new obstacles have been encoun
tered. Not only was persecution raised against the reformed, as bloody as ever was endured from Pagans, or worse : but new errors and divisions took place among Protestants. Those that entertained orthodox opinions, have not been as closely united as could be wished. Some, laboring to enforce a rigorous submission to human authority as to the mere externals of religion, and often to the inventions of men: and others, not only justly refusing to sacrifice the rights of conscience, but yielding to temptation to indulge bitter resentment towards them from whom they separated. Even those who were real Christians, in the strictest sense, have too often indulged suspicions and jealousies, on account of party distinctions : seeming more willing to stand at a distance from their faithful brethren, because of their disagreement of sentiment on subordinate points, than to cultivate a cordial union with all those who hold the most essential truths of the gospel, and with whom they hope to spend a blessed eternity. Meanwhile, formalists, hypocrites, and insincere characters, have been mixed with all denominations, even with those who profess the strictest forms of church government; some of whom, by their apostacy, and others by unsanctified tempers, and immoral conduct, have dishonored their profession : while observing enemies eagerly catch at these things, and treat whole societies, or denominations of Christians at large, as accountable for the faults of a few, or even of an individual. Oh, how have these things checked the progress of the gospel ! Woe unto the world because of offences : woe unto that man by whom the offence cometh!” But, notwithstanding this, I would,
THIRDLY, Show the vast importance of furthering its progress.
For, after all, the gospel is the only means of bringing sinners back to God, from whom all our race have so deeply revolted.
Every man in the world stands in extreme need of the blessings revealed in the gospel.
Though God alone can effectually succeed his own gospel, yet he works by means, and has made it our duty to exert ourselves for its propagation. He has encouraged us to expect that its success shall be more extensive, and its blessings be
enjoyed by greater numbers, and in higher measures, before the end of time. Very much remains to be done, not only in the world at large, among heathens and Mahometans; but also in our own country, among our neighbours. How many around us are ignorant, careless, irreligious, and profane, living without God, without hope, strangers to Christ, and averse to the design of his coming, which was to destroy the works of the devil.
Multitudes neglect the very form of religion. And if all were disposed to attend public worship, there are few towns' where the places of worship in which the gospel is faithfully preached would contain them. Meanwhile, it is ground of great encouragement, that God has engaged to succeed his own gospel. And the existence of vital Christianity to this day, with the success of the gospel in times past, and at the present period, evinces its divine original, and God's regard for it. It is evident, that the power and wisdom of God have been displayed, not only in checking and restraining the enemies of his gospel, but even in overruling those things for its furtherance, which have threatened to hinder its progress : as the death of Stephen ; Paul's dispute with Barnabas; his imprisonment; tbe exertions of some brethren at that time, who were not ¿ctuated by the purest motives ; the death of the martyrs. (\ften has the wrath of man praised him, and the remainder has he restrained. So persecution drove the puritans to America. Even the division of Christians into different denominations may excite to emulation, and stimulate to greater exertion and watchfulness, than if all were united under one name, and exact similarity of profession. While, if all that are united in essentials would more carefully labor to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, this very consideration would tend to refute some of the suspicions of our common adversaries, and add weight to our testimony to the still more important truths in which we agree.
But though God will make his very enemies subserve his purposes, yet it will be awful to be found intentionally fighting against his cause : and it would be sad to be merely passive instruments of furthering the gospel, and yet to fall short of its inestimable blessings. I would, therefore,
Fourthly, Point out the best and most suitable means of furthering the gospel.
If we would willingly be accessary to furthering the gospel, we should be concerned to understand it. To that end we should study the Scriptures diligently, and examine all we hear by the written word. Endeavour carefully to distinguish the genuine gospel from all counterfeits ; especially let us remember wherein its glory consists; viz. that it secures the honor of God's government and grace, at one and the same time. It is strictly speaking good news; but it presupposes the truth of heavy tidings. There can be no more of grace in our salvation, than there would have been of justice in our condemnation. It humbles human pride, provides strong consolation for true believers, and binds to new obedience. Christ came to destroy the works of the devil; to save from sin, as well as from punishment; to deliver from the present evil world ; to purify to himself a peculiar people; to bring us to God. Let us show that we not only understand it, but cordially embrace it, coinciding with the whole design of the Redeemer, How can you further the gospel in such a way as to meet the divine approbation, if you do not sincerely obey it? Be careful to adorn the doctrine of God your Saviour in all things; by deep humility, by holy tempers, by attention to relative duties, show that it teaches you to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and enables you to live above the world. Be constant in your attendance on the faithful preaching of the gospel. Be willing to hear the whole truth : and hear with appropriation, or self-application; but in a scriptural order: not barely catching at an assurance of safety without evidence; but appropriate the precepts, the threatenings, the doctrines, the invitations, the promises, the warnings, the exhortations : every part.
Labor to promote the comfort, the stability, and the harmony of your brethren in Christ.
Be concerned to recommend the gospel to all around; to your own families, your neighbours, your perishing fellow-sinners. If Christians would assist in the furtherance of the gospel, they should strengthen the hands of ministers, be willing to aid in their support, and in the necessary expenses of public worship. How much