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them. Thus Europe is commonly called the Isles of the Gentiles, (Gen. x. 5. Isa. xlix. 1.) because those parts of it which lay nearest to Judea were the Archipelago, or Grecian Islands. And those nations which lay next to Judea, eastward, include in the prophetic language, all beyond them, or the wbole of Asia. Thus the dromedaries of Midian and Ephuh, all they from Sheba, the flocks of Kedar, and the i ams of Nebaioth, denote the accession of the Eastern world to the church of God. On the other hand, the isles waiting for him, and the ships of Tarshish bringing the sons of Sion from far, denote the accession of the Western world. Thus all shall be gathered together in Cbrist, and become one holy family. O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his wuys past finding out !
One great cause of the mercy bestowed on the western part of the earth, was the Roman conquesta, wbich, whatever were the motives of the conquerors, were overruled for the introduction of the gospel among European nations. And who knows but the British conquests in the East, whatever be the motives of the conquerors, may be designed for a similar purpose ? Even that iniquitous traffic, which we and other nations, have long been carrying on in the persons of men, I have no doubt, will eventually prove a blessing to those miserable people, though it may be a curse to their oppressors. At this day there are many thousands of negroes in the West India Islands, who have embraced the gospel, while their owners, basking in wealth, and rolling in debauchery, will neither enter into the kingdom of God themselves, nor suffer others who would enter in. God is gathering a people in spite of them. Bebold the goodness and justice of God! Men, torn from their native shores and tenderest connexions, are in a mauner driven into the gospel net; the most abject and cruel state of slavery is that by means of which they become the Lord's freemen. Their oppressors, on the other hand, who lead them captive, are themselves led captive by the devil at his will, and under the name of Christians are heaping up vrath against the day of wrath. O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! Howo unsearchuble are his judgments, and his ways past finding out ! Vol. VIII,
: From the whole, we are led to consider the sovereignty of God, not as a capricious, but as a wise sovereignty. While those who are saved bare nothing to boast of, those who perish, perish as the just reward of their own iniquity. Jacob will bave to ascribe 10 distinguishing grace all he is more than Esau; wbile Esau, having lost the blessing, has to recollect that he first despised it.
· ON THE BEATITUDES.
Matt. y. 1-12.
VER. 1, 2. We have already had a general account of our Saviour's ministry (iv. 23.); but here the Evangelist informs us of his doctrine. Of this, the sermon on the mount is an important specimen. Observe, First : The occasion of this sermon—it was on seeing the multitudes that he betook himself forthwith to a convenient place to instruct them. Christ never beheld a multitude of people without sentiments of compassion. It was on seeing the Samaritaps coming down the hills to hear the word, that he told his disciples, the fields were white already to harvest, and like Abrabam's servant, refused to eat bread till he told his tale. Secondly : The place-He went up into a mountain Mountains were commonly covered, at least in part, with wood. Hence they afforded secresy and retirement. In, or among these mountain woods, the defeated forces of the five kings found shelter. (Gen. xiv. 10.) Thither also the spies fled and hid themselves three days, when they departed from the bouse of Rahab the harlot. (Josh. ii. 22.) The object of our Saviour was retirement. Seeing multitudes of people who wished to hear bim, be drew them away from the in. terrupting concerns of cities and towns, into a place where all was still, solemn, and impressive. Thirdly! The posture-He sat and taught them. This is said to be the usual posture of eminent teachers among the Jews. It certainly was befitting the majesty of this Teacher, who taught as one having authority ; as a judge, rather than as a counsellor. Fourthly : He spake in the hearing of all, but with a special respect to his disciples. Not that our Saviour confined his preaching to believers ; but this discourse seems to bave been principally addressed to them. Having lately called his disciples, it was his intention to instil into their minds, at the outset, right sentiments. At the same time, if the multitudes mixed faith in hearing, they would be no less profited by it than if it had been immediately addressed to them..
Our Saviour begins bis sermon, by declaring who were blessed ; and considering him as the future judge of the world, an extraordipary importance attaches to his decisions. It is observable in general, that the characters which he pronounces blessed, are not those accounted so by the world : on the contrary, they are such as the world hate, despise, and persecute. On this account, all these beatitudes possess the air of paradox. It is observable, that it was our Saviour's manner of preaching, to exbibit marks, or signs of grace, and to pronounce those, and those only who possess them, in a blessed state. The offer of salvation was made to every creature : but the blessings were promised only to believers. Some have pretended that marks and signs are no certain evidences of grace ; and that this is a legal and dangerous way of preaching, as tending to lead men to look into themselves for comfort: but so far as comfort proceeds from the evidence of our interest in the divine favour, it must imply a consciousness of our being the subjects of those spiritual dispositions to which the promises are made. It is true, the first genuine comfort which the soul possesses, is by directly believing in Christ; or from a view of what he is, ra' er than from any thing in himself: for it is impossible that he should be conscious of any good in himself, till he has believed in him. I may add, it is equally true, that the richest consolations to a believer are derived from the same
source; pamely, from beholding the glory of Christ, and of salvation through his dame. But there is no contradiction between this and his knowing himself to be interested in that salvation, by an habitual consciousness of his possessing those dispositions, or suspaining those characters to which it is promised. Hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assuré our hearts before him, If our hearts condemn us of hypocrisy, much more will the allsearching eye of God: but if our hearts condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. 1 John. iii. 19-21.
Ver. 3. The first of these beatitudes is pronounced on the poor in spirit.—Many seem to think, that because they are poor in circumstances, or great sufferers in this world, therefore they shall be blessed in another : but this will prove a fatal mistake. Nor is every kind of poverty of spirit that which the Lord approves. The Laodiceans were censured for being poor; and the same censure falls on multitudes in the present day. It is not what we are, but what we are in our own estimation, that is here intended! To be poor in spirit, is the opposite of being proud in spirit, or rich and full in our own eyes. He who trusts in his own righteousness, his own wisdom, his own strength, or his own inherent graces, has this lesson yet to learn: and let me add, it is a lesson that none can learn but he that is taught of God. A lowly spirit is one of the most difficult things in the world to assume, where it is not possessed.--The blessing pronounced, is suited to encourage them under the contempt of the present world, and to teach them to bear it with patience. An everlasting kingdom awaits them; and even in the present state they have received a kingdom that shall not be moved.
Ver. 4. The next blessing is on the mourner.– The mourning to which Christ promises comfort, must be restricted to that which is spiritual ; as mourning on accouut of our own sins, or the sins of others, or for any thing by which the name of the Lord is dishonoured, or his cause injured, or impeded. We are hereby taught, First : The folly of measuring the profitableness of preaching by the degrees of comfort which it affords us. We may not go
to bear in a condition for the gospel to comfort us. Conviction · may be more necessary for us than comfort. If the gospel comfort
those that mourn, that is all which it professes to do. Secondly : The connexion between godly sorrow and gospel joy. We have heard much of the gospel containing comfort for the mere sinner; and if, by the mere sinner. be meant one that has nothing to plead but the mercy of God, tbrough the atonement, like the publican in the parable, it is to such, and only such, that the gospel contains consolation. But if, by the mere sinner, be meant the impenitent, though distressed sinner, it has no comfort for such in their present state. * Repentance is necessary to forgiveness, in the same
* On this observation, a Constant Reader addressed some Queries to Mr. Fuller, :u the Missionary Magazine of September, 1806, pp. 378-380. To this communication Mr. Fuller replied as follows:
The Queries put to me, with so much candour and kindness by a Constant Reader, are such as I feel no difficulty at all in answering And I do it with the greater pleasure, because it is not the first time of my being misunderstood on this subject: and I might add, in one instance, largely misrepresented. Your correspondent then will give me credit, when I assure him, that I should never think of addressing an awakened sinner in the way in which he supposes I should not ; but in the way in which he supposes I should. If he be still at a loss how to reconcile this acknowledgment with the passage he calls in question, I must request him to consider, whether there be not a manifest difference between comfort being held out in a way of invitation to induce a sinner to return to God by Jesus Christ, and its being given in a way of promise on the supposition of his having returned. The wicked is invited to forsake his way, and the uprighteous may his thoughts, and to return unto the Lord ; and all this while he is wicked. Mercy also, and abundant par. don are promised him, not, however, as wicked, but as forsaking his way, and. his thoughts, and as returning to the Lord. The weary and heavy-laden, by which I understand sinners considered as miserable are invited to come to Jesus with their burdens; but it is as coming to him, and as taking his yoke, that rest for their souls is promised to them. All the comfort contained in the gospel is to be presented to the sinner in a way of invitation ; but no comfort is afforded him in a way of promise, but as repeating and believing the gospel. Say ye to the wicked, it shall be ill with him,—There is no peace, saith my God, unto the wicked.
Now, it requires to be noticed, that the beatitudes which I was expounding, are not invitations to believe, but promises to believers. lu saying, “ The gospel has no comfort for impenitent, though distressed sinners in their present state," I meant, It promises no mercy bul on supposition of their coming off from that state to Jesus Christ. My design was not to direct the attention