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SERMON of man, if he be pleased to let it forth
against us. To him, but not to us, it belongs to restrain it at pleasure. Whereas, when we are placed under his protection, all human wrath is divested of its terrours. If He be for us, who, or what, can be against us ? Let us pursue the measures which he hath appointed for obtaining his grace, by faith, repentance, and a holy life, and we shall have no reason to be afraid of evil tidings; our hearts will be fixed, trusting in the Lord. When the religious fear of God possesses the heart, it expels the ignoble fear of man, and becomes the principle of courage and magnanimity.' The Lord is a buckler and a shield to them that serve him. When he ariseth, his enemies shall be scattered as smoke is driven away, and as chaff before the wind. He giveth strength and victory to his people ; be clotheth them with salvation. The wrath of man shall praise kim, cind the remainder of wreth shall be restrain,
the IMPORTANCE of Religious
[Preached before the Society in Scotland for Propagating
· Christian Knowledge.].
ISAIAI,· xi. g.
mountain ; for the earth shall be full of
THIS passage of Scripture, is under- SERMON
I stood, by all Christian interpreters, to refer to the days of the Gospel. The Prophet describes, in the context, the auspicious influence of the Messiah's reign, as. extending over all nature, and producing universal felicity. The full accomplish-:
N ment of this prediction is yet future, and
respects some more advanced period of the kingdom of God, when true religion shall universally prevail, and the native tendency of the Gospel attain its entire effect. In the prospect of this event the prophet seems to rise above himself, and celebrates that happy age in the most sublime strain of Eastern poetry. He opens a beautiful view of the state of the world, as a state of returning innocence. He represents all nature flourishing in peace; discord and guile abolished; the most hostile natures reconciled, and the most savage reformed and tamed. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard lie down with the kid ; and the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The lion shall cat straw like the ox ; and the suckling child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his band on the cockatrice den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my boly mountain ; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.
Upon reading these words, we must immediately perceive the great encouragement which they give to all good designs for SERMON promoting religion in the world. When we XV. engage in these, we have the comfort of being engaged, not only in a good cause, but also in one that shall undoubtedly be successful. For we here are assured by the Divine promise, that truth and righteousness shall at length prevail, and that the increasing influence of religion shall introduce general happiness. It is a pleasing and animating reflection, that, in carrying on such designs, we act upon the Divine plan ; and co-operate with God for advancing the kingdom of the Messiah. We have no reason to be discouraged by any unfavourable circumstances which at present oppose our pious endeavours. Though the ignorance, superstition, and corruption, which now fill so great a part of the world, have a dark and mysterious aspect, it is not beyond the power of that Supreme Being, who brings light out of darkness, to clear up those. perplexing appearances, and gradually to extricate mankind from the labyrinth of ignorance and errour. Let us consider how improbable it seemed, when the Gospel was first published, that it should extend so far,
GERMON and overthrow so much established superstixv.
tion, as it has already done. There is nothing in the present state of the world, to render it more unlikely that it shall one day be universally received and prevail in its full influence. At the rise of Christianity, the disproportion was, at least, as great, between the apparent human causes, and the effect which has actually been produced, as there is in our age, between the circumstances of religion in the world, and the effect which we farther expect. The Sun of righteousness having already exerted its influence in breaking through the thickest darkness, we may justly hope, that it is powerful enough to dispel all remaining obscurity; and that it will ascend by degrees to that perfect day, when healing shall be under its wings to all the nations. A little one shall become a thousand ; and a small one a strong nation. I the Lord will hasten it in its time*. . .
Besides the prediction which the text contains of the future success of religion, it points out also a precise connection be
* Ifaiah, Ix. 22.