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plicable, at all times, and under all circumstances. It is trammelled by no enactments which, as to the essence at least of their observance, are not easily practicable, in any climate, in any condition of society, or under any equitable mode of human government. It has no party-spirit or national predilections to gratify, nor antipathies and prejudices to indulge. It will be with the most perfect preservation of all the civil interests of mankind, all the rights of nations, all the noblest ends of government, and all the felicity of private persons, that “ the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.”
The events of the last forty years seem to announce that we are now approaching, with accelerated pace, to that grand period; the sabbath of the world, the emancipation of our race from the usurpation of cruel errors and abominable idolatries, the day of peace and holiness, for which the true church, from its beginning, has been sighing and travailing in pain, together with the whole creation thus subjected to vanity and abuse. It is scarcely possible to mistake these signs of our time. Heathen and Mahometan people have given many demonstrations that those signs are seen and heard even by them, in their dark seats of supine abjectness; and the wicked among ourselves, the Christians by courtesy, the persons most habitually insensible to the movements of Almighty Providence, have sufficiently shown, that their apathy or disbelief can, with difficulty, sustain itself.
The portentous heavings of all nations; the fears, the rage, and the serpentine evasions of those who long have preyed upon the earth; the new activity of the church of Christ, in all the communions of its faithful members; the living machinery, scarcely imagined by our fathers, of social co-operation; the almost simultaneous projection of education, civilization, and science, of the Bible, and of Christian missions, into so many remote regions of every quarter of the globe, which, for time beyond memory, had been the undisturbed seat of Satan's craft and power; and the delightful fact that many, though they be but the first-fruits, have come from the east and the west, and the north and the south, to worship in the temple of God and the Lamb;—these are occurrences which, taken singly, cannot but infuse awful expectancy and delightful hope; and, considered in their wonderful assemblage, they seem to be angels raising the veil of Apocalyptic vision, and summoning us to join their adorations: 66 A voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants,
, and ye that fear him, both small and great.
And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia : for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him : for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.”
Religion, as it exists in its great original and pattern, the moral attributes of God, or as it is disclosed to us objectively in the records of creation
and revealed truth, can admit of no accession from
It possesses all
all perfection in itself; and in its disclosures it can receive no improvement, except by new impartation from its Author, the Father of lights. But, subjectively, in the perceptions, experience, and obedience, of the faithful, it is capable of being strengthened, and spread forth in activity and enjoyment, to an indefinite extent, and to a duration unlimited as the heavenly immortality. In all its progress hitherto upon earth, and in its best actual state, throughout the purest churches and their most sanctified members, our religion presents not an appearance of healthiness and vigour, correspondent to its divine birth and its heavenly nutriment.
But we are sending forth our religion to the world. The impulse of the Omnipotent will not allow it to lie longer hidden in the closet, or to operate only within the boundaries of our particular communities. It must be presented to the nations, in its honours, or in its weakness and poverty; and we may reasonably expect that, not merely its essential nature, but its special qualities also, as derived from us, will be impressed upon those who receive it. What a view of responsibility rises here before
It is not allowed us to glide through life, and pass into the presence of our Judge, laden merely with our own burden; to answer for the weakness of our faith, the torpor of our religious affections, and the comparative sterility of our practice: and then to have no other account to render.
Awful as must be our personal concerns at that tribunal, we must appear there with a weighty increase of ame
nableness. Persons whom we have never known, who speak barbarous tongues, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the earth; children of men yet unborn; yea, whole tribes and nations; will have deduced the mould and stamp of their religion from the visible character of ours. O, how desirable that we should be able to say, with the highest degree of conscientious sensibility, “ Be of us, as even we are of Christ !"
In some respects, indeed, we possess the marks of great and evident advantage. Let us gladly acknowledge what the Spirit of grace hath wrought. Some of the ancient forms of bigotry have become obsolete. Few genuine Christians now confine their recognition of excellence, their esteem and their cordial love, within the circle of their own communion. The smaller matters that concern discipline, order, and modes of worship, are not now very generally considered as of equal importance with the belief of the weightiest truths, the sanctification of the Spirit, the life of faith upon the Son of God, and the great characters of holy practice. Men who are very conscientiously of different ecclesiastical persuasions, cultivate each other's friendship, meet and deliberate and act upon the grounds of their common and most holy faith, cordially pray together, and consecrate their single and their associated talents to their one Lord; and they do all this without any sacrifice of principle, or compromise of duty.
On this topic, may we be allowed to pause for a moment; as the mariner, safely standing on some noble promontory, can survey the rocks, and quick
sands, and spots of fearful memory, where many a noble vessel has gone to ruin !—The eloquent lamentation of that great man, Richard Baxter, who laboured far above many, a century and a half ago, for holiness, peace, and love, may well find a place here; both to stimulate our gratitude, and to administer a still very requisite admonition.
" I would that our Protestant churches had not too great a number of such men as are far short of the schoolmen's subtilty, but much exceed them in the enviousness of their zeal, and the bitterness and revilings of their disputes; more openly serving the prince of hatred against the cause of love and peace. O how many famous disputers, in schools, pulpits, and press, do little know what spirit they are of; and what reward they must expect of Christ, for making odious his servants, destroying love, and dividing his kingdom ! How many such have their renown, as little to their true comfort, as Alexander's and Cæsar's for their bloody wars !-Cease your proud contendings, O vain-glorious militant clergy! Learn of the Prince of peace, and the holy angels that preached him, to 'give glory to God in the highest,' who giveth peace on earth,' and well-pleasedness in men.' Did Christ, or his apostles, make such work for Christians as you do? The great Shepherd of the flock will take your pretences of order, orthodoxness, or truth, and piety, for no excuse for your corrupting order, faith, and practice, by your tyranny, self-conceitedness, blind zeal, and superstition; and for using his name against himself, to the destroying of that love, and concord, and unity, which he hath bequeathed to