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of one only God was equally offensive to the Gentiles; mortification and self-denial, in order to a thorough reformation of manners, and in pain of eternal fire, were doctrines infi. nitely shocking to both. Ais the disciples of our Saviour were to preach up to the world a religion so very forbidding as this, it is not to be wondered at, that their Master should tell them, · Behold, I send you forth as sheep among wolves,' Matt. x. 16. · Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues,' ver. 17. And ye shall be brought before governors and
* kings for my sake,' ver. 18, Ye shall be hated of all men for my name sake,' ver. 22, 'Ye shall be betrayed both by parents and brethren, and kinsfolks, and some of you shall they cause to be put to death,' Luke xxi. 16. All this might have been expected ; but it is not a little surprising, that such men, so forewarned, should resolutely encounter these difficulties and terrors, and stand it out to the last.
It is still more surprising, that they should prevail, as they did, over a world, either so atheistical and wicked, or so bigotted to their old religions. But this also their Master prophetically promised; for he said, 'All power is given to me in heaven, and in earth. Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations. Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world,' Matt. xxviii. 18—20, 'As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you,' John xx. 21, that is, with authority and power. Besides the Jews, other sheep I have [meaning the Gentile world] which are not of this fold ; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice ; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd,' John x. 16. That the work I commit to you may not fail through your ignorance, and want of elocution,‘I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay or resist,' Luke xxi. 15, so that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church' ye shall build, Matt. xvi. 18. • And I, if I be lifted up from the earth,' or crucified, will draw all men unto me,' John xii. 32, when the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled,' Luke xxi. 24, that is, 'when the fulness of the Gentiles shall be come in,' Rom. xi. 25. *Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ; and your accuser shall be cast down, which accused you before God day and
night. And ye shall overcome him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of your testimony, and shall not love your lives unto death;' Rev. xii. 10, 11. Under your ministry, the marriage of the Lamb' with his wife the church shall be celebrated; Rev. xix. 7. • Blessed are they which are called unto his marriage-supper,' ver. 9. When he arises to chastise the infidel and guilty world, you
shall know him by his ‘vesture dipt in blood,' ver. 13. and by his names,' the Word of God,' ver. 13, 'the King of kings, and the Lord of lords; ver. 16, Out of his mouth shall go a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations,' ver. 15.
All the persecutions, thus predicted, the apostles and preachers of the gospel have already suffered. And all these triumphs, promised, they have already made. The world combined hath tried its strength upon them. Every severity, every outrage, that an ingenious cruelty could invent, hath bent its force against them, during ten long and bloody persecutions; but all in vain. They have overcome the world by the miraculous power of God, and by his
word, that sharp two-edged sword, which proceedeth out of his mouth.' According to the wise choice and purpose of God,' the foolish things of the world have confounded the wise; the weak things of the world have confounded the things which are mighty; the base things of the world, and the things which are despised, yea, and the things which are not, have brought to nought things that are, that no flesh should glory in his presence,'1 Cor. i. 27-29. The wisdom of God only could foresee an event so strange. His power only could bring it to pass. The instruments were small and weak; but the hand which wielded them, almighty. The contemptible weakness of the instruments, and the amazing grandeur of the work, demonstrate the omnipotence of the worker. He looked, and there was none to help; he wondered that there was none to uphold : therefore his own arm brought salvation, bis fury it upheld him; he hath trodden the wine-press alone,' Isa. Ixiii. 3. 5.
What now shall we say? Is not the execution of such a purpose, so good, and so great, by such agents, so ignorant, and so weak, sufficient of itself to point out the finger of God? But if this is not sufficient, surely when we consider, that all this, astonishing and almost impossible as it
may seem in prospect, was foreseen, was foretold to the world, so many ages ere it happened, this at least must convince the most incredulous. Is there an understanding so stupid, or so immured in conceit, and false learning, as to be impenetrable to this beam of piercing light, which strikes through the mind with a double exemplification ; to wit, both of infinite wisdom and power? Or, is there a heart so congealed to all sense of goodness by long habitual depravity, as not to melt at the intense warmth of that beautiful and powerful morality, which accompanies, and is mixed with, the light of this irresistible demonstration? Yes, there are still men, who, as Isaiah foretold, and our Saviour and St. Paul found by experience, can hear the prophecies, and not understand them;' can see their wonderful accomplishment, and not perceive' the evidence it inculcates; and why? because the heart of these people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed ; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and healed,' Acts xxviii. 26, 27. This prophecy, and its completion, are not less wonderful than the rest; to hear, and not hear! to see and not see! both to hear and see, and yet not to understand! No man uninspired durst have predicted a resistance to proofs, so glaringly strong, in minds not altogether destitute of sense and reason. But this prophecy is so literally verified before our eyes, that I trust, it will prove no small refreshment to our faith. We may make the same use of it, that St. Paul did, in the eleventh chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, where he observes its completion on the unbelieving Jews, and tells us, that through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles.' In this light, I cannot help looking on it as equally surprising and demonstrative.
Let us, however, leave these unhappy men to their evil hearts of unbelief;' and let us 'hold fast the faith,' together with the blessed hope of everlasting life, which God hath given us in his Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ; to whom, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, be all might, majesty, dignity, and dominion, now, and for evermore. Amen.
END OF VOL. I.
Printed by J. F. Dove, St. John's Square.