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And that we who are already gone forth in the armies of the Son of God, and that they who have even now, in spirit, devoted themselves to His service, may be strong in the day of trouble, and humble in the hour of success; that we may be enabled hereafter to give a joyful account of our ministry ; that the Lord of the harvest may send forth a perpetual succession of faithful and diligent labourers ; and that our Church, which, like the house of Recab, cleaves firmly to the institution of our fathers, may, like that house, never want a man to stand before the Lord for ever, let me entreat your humble and earnest prayers on our behalf, on theirs, and on your own, to Him who is the Governor, the Guide, and Guardian of Christ's family; who is to be sought for by faith, and whose presence, even unto the end of the world, is promised to His faithful ministers, the Holy Ghost, the Comforter.
To Him, with the Father and the Eternal Son, be, now and ever, all praise and glory!
THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THE POOR.
[Preached before the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge,
at St. Paul's Cathedral, in June, 1823.]
Luke vii. 22.
To the poor the Gospel is preached.
It was observed by the prophet Isaiah as one of the principal marks by which the Messiah, when He came, should be known; and it was urged by our Lord to the disciples of St. John, as an argument that He was in truth that Divine Person whom the ancient prophets had foretold; that the Gospel of Salvation, in the widest meaning of the term, with all its component mysteries, its accompanying lessons, and its gracious consequences, was preached by Him (as He afterwards provided that it should be preached in His name) to the humbler orders of society.
The desire of knowledge is natural to man; and, as it is mercifully so contrived by our Maker, that the communication of knowledge is also, under ordinary circumstances, attended with pleasure, it might have been, perhaps, anticipated that no single religion could have laid claim to such a cir
cumstance as a peculiar and distinctive character; but that all sects alike would have been anxious to communicate to all those arguments, by which they were themselves convinced; those doctrines, which they themselves received as sacred; and that a more than common care would have been expressed by the mighty and the wise, to impart a knowledge of their duty, and of those principles by which its practice was enforced, to those on whose virtue was built the tranquillity of the world, while, by the difficulties and privations to which they were exposed, their virtue (even more than the rest of mankind) might seem in danger.
The truth however is, (and it is one, which no Christian can recollect without abundant gratitude for the far different spirit, by which his own Divine Teacher was animated,) that, before the coming of our Lord, and, at this day with very few exceptions, in those countries where the light of the Gospel is as yet unknown, this duty of enlightening and improving the bulk of mankind was a duty of which the obligation was not perceived at all, or which, if perceived, was very imperfectly practised even by those, who professed themselves most concerned for the honour and welfare of the human race, and who had themselves obtained the least imperfect view of the hopes, the duties, and destinies of humanity.
I do not only mean that the possessors of a persecuted and dangerous truth were, among the heathen nations of antiquity, disposed to confine
its knowledge to a few confidential disciples; I do not only mean that the purer deists of Greece and Rome had avowedly an outer and an inner school, of which the latter was by far the least numerous. The ancient philosopher, however bright his views might seem amid the surrounding darkness of his countrymen, had not that clearness of hope, nor that fulness of conviction, nor that assurance of the approbation and protection of an all-bounteous Master, which alone can be ordinarily sufficient to induce men to struggle against the madness of nations, and which, in the case of the early Christians, converted martyrdom into a crown. But I would more particularly urge on your notice, that the few thus selected were such, generally, as paid the highest for admission ; that gratuitous instruction was, in few instances indeed, accorded by the moralists of Paganism; that Socrates himself, (the most disinterested of philosophers), was, in point of fact, chiefly attended by the richest and noblest of the youth of Athens; and that even the religious systems, such as they were, which were patronised by the state, and, on the belief of which by the multitude, the public tranquillity, the public honesty, the sanction of oaths, and the security of every man's prosperity and life depended, were never, or in no effectual manner, communicated and enforced to the great bulk of those who, it was expected, were to be swayed by them.
Of the stupendous fabrics, which, in the youth and vigour of superstition, the genius of abomina
tion and idolatry, erected on the shores of the Euphrates, the Tigris, or the Nile, enough may yet be traced amid their ruins to inform us that the systems, which they were intended to uphold, were made up of exclusion and mystery. A long and painful initiation, which the man of leisure could alone command; a succession of expiatory sacrifices, which the poor man could not supply; a peculiar and inconvenient habit, which the laborious man could not adopt, determined, without any further or more express limitation, the numbers and situation in life of the Chaldean and Assyrian aspirants in theology. In Egypt the profession and attainment of divine knowledge was, for many ages, restricted to a single tribe; and with how much care that priesthood concealed their institutes from the general eye, their continued and almost exclusive employment of a character known to themselves alone is, in itself, a sufficient evidence. The Greeks and Romans (however communicative of other science,) in these respects followed the example of their Coptic and Chaldaic masters : and it is no less true than strange, that for the diffusion of the most accredited doctrines, for the elucidation of the most popular and honoured superstitions, for the persuasion to the most sacred and acknowledged duties, it does not appear that, so far as the poor and the populace were concerned, any provision was made in the wisest republics of antiquity; or that such provision was supplied, in any single instance, by