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MARK xvi. 15.
AND HE SAID UNTO THEM, GO YE INTO ALL THE WORLD
AND PREACH THE GOSPEL TO EVERY CREATURE.
“God, who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers, by the prophets," was pleased, under the last dispensation of his grace, to speak unto the world by his Son. To him, indeed, before his appearance, all the prophets gave witness, and were raised up by God, for this very purpose, to foretel the coming of the Messiah, whom God had promised from the earliest times; and by preaching the doctrine of repentance, gradually to prepare the world to receive him as the infallible Teacher, and only Saviour of men. Of him Moses spake, when he said to the fathers, “ A propbet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you, of your brethren, like unto me: him shall ye hear in all things, whatsoever he shall say unto you.” And the salvation which he was to bring to the world, was, to those who prophesied of it, a subject of their own careful and delightful inquiry. For of this salvation, as we are told by the apostle Peteret the prophets have inquired and searched diligently
* This sermon, now published for the first time, was preached by Dr. Keith, Nov. 30, 1788, the Lord's day after his inauguration, as one of the co-pastors of the Congregational, or Independent Church, in Charleston, South Carolina.
† 1 Ep. i. 10.
who prophesied of the grace which should come unte you; "searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ, which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand, the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” So that unto the people of former ages, and under the old dispensation, was the gospel preached by the ministry of the prophets.
But the revelation of this blessed system of religion, or dispensation of divine grace, wbich was made to them, and by them communicated to the people, to whom they were sent, was extremely defective and obscure, compared with the fuller measure, and brighter glory, with which it was published by Christ himself, when in the fulness of time, he appeared in the world as the Author and finisher of our faith, as well as of the eternal redemption of all who obey him. Blessed were the eyes of those who saw, and the ears of those who heard with faith, this divine Instructor, when, in the days of his personal ministry, he “ went about all the cities and villages of Judea, teaching and preaching the gospel of the kingdom of grace.” These . were the things which many prophets and righteous men of earlier ages desired to see and hear, but did not see and hear them.
Yet the divine plan of that salvation, of which he was the Author, and which was revealed by him with so much brighter evidence and glory, than the world had ever before beheld, was still only begun to be spoken by our Lord. His abode on earth was of short duration ; and his public personal ministry, was soon terminated, by the death to which, according to the divine councils, he was delivered up, and which formed an essential and
principal part of the scheme of our redemption. And having thus, in the appointed way, finished the work which was given him to do, he was then, as the due reward of his services, received up into Heaven, to sit at the right hand of God the Father, whom he had so eminently glorified on earth, and to possess forever, the glory, which he had enjoyed with the Father before the world was.
But that the knowledge and the blessings of the redemption, thus accomplished, might be effectually diffused among mankind, he was pleased, before his ascension to his glorified state, to institute the ordinance of the gospel ministry, and to commit to chosen men, the office of publishing fully and extensively to the world, the great salvation, which began to be spoken by himself. This important commission, as it was first delivered to his chosen Apostles, (together with the implied power of delegating to others, duly qualified, the same great trust) we have recorded in the words before us.
“ And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”
Before this period, as our Saviour's own ministry had been chiefly confined to the land of Judea, so when he had at any time sent forth his disciples to preach his gospel, it was only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel ; for they were forbidden to go into the way of the Gentiles, or into any city of the Samaritans. But now, the time being come, when he who was the glory of the people of Israel, might also be made known with every advantage, as a light to lighten the Gentiles; they were furnished with a new commission, or with powers vastly enlarged beyond those which had been formerly given
them. They were authorized to go into all the world, to travel into all quarters of the habitable earth, and preach the gospel of Christ to every creature ; to the Gentiles, as well as to the Jews, to every creature of the human human race capable of receiving it. Accordingly we find, that in obedience to their Lord's command, they went forth and preached every where, “the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following." Such were their diligence and success, in the execution of their office, that the vast spread, and amazing progress of the gospel, published by them, are represented by an angel flying through the midst of heaven, and preaching the everlasting gospel to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.
That the blessings of this divine religion, might not only be diffused far and wide among that generation, but be transmitted to all future generations of men; the same commission, which was originally given to the Apostles, included in it the authority or pow. er, which they accordingly exercised, of ordaining others, to assist them in carrying on effectually the great and benevolent design of their own appointment: and to them, and their regular and faithful successors, was that special and most encouraging promise of our Lord made, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
Hence it is at that you of this day, are favoured with the privilege of hearing the gospel, and that to us, your servants for Jesus sake, is committed the sacred office of preaching it to all who will attend our ministrations.
But what is to be understood by preaching the gospel ? This I shall endeavour to shew in a few instances; and then suggest a reflection or two for the improvement of the subject; and conclude the whole with a short Address to you, suited to the occasion of my entering upon the exercise of my ministry among you.
What is to be understood by preaching the gospel ? .. 1. That we carefully teach, and inculcate the great and important truths, the pure and distinguishing doc. trines of the Christian religion. The gospel, in its most usual and proper sense, signifies that eminent discovery, which God has made of his mercy and grace, through his Son Jesus Christ, to fallen man. With peculiar propriety, therefore, is it expressed in the original language of the New Testament, by a word which signifies Good News. Now by the doctrines of this dispensation of grace, we are taught to consider mankind, as by nature, in a state of alienation from God; deeply depraved, averse to holiness, and prone to sin ; and by sin exposed to innumerable afflictions in this life, to the penalty of death, and the miseries of an everlasting hell : that in this situation, God so pitied and loved the human race, as to send his only begotten Son into the world, in the character of a Saviour, that whosoever should believe in him, might not perish, but have everlasting life: that in concurrence with this benevolent design, the Son of God consented, and condescended to become man, by assuming our nature into a personal union with his own divinity; and after yielding, in this assumed nature, a perfect obedience to the divine law, which man had broken, to be deliv. ered up for us all, to the death of the cross, in order to make atonement for the sinner's guilt by his blood, or “ to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” That to become partakers of this salvation, we must believe