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and at last, in the cause of that salvation which he preached, and for which alone he lived, “humbling himself to death, even the death of the cross.” Let us hear him, when he sends forth his apostles to preach the gospel to every creature, saying to them, “he that believeth, and is baptised, shall be saved, and he that believeth not, shall be condemned.” And let us follow these apostles, who have given up everything of this world, that they might preach every where “the unsearchable riches of Christ,” as they spread themselves through Syria, Phænicia, the populous provinces of Asia Minor, and of Macedonia and Greece, comprehending the cities of Antioch, of Lystra and Derbe, of Thessalonica and Philippi, of Corinth and Ephesus, of Athens and Rome; and, if we should believe tradition, visiting even Spain, and the shores of Gaul and Britain. Like their Master, they are willing to spend and to be spent,” in the work ; and they “ account all things to be but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ ;" for the privilege, as widely as possible, of extending it over the earth ; and, like their Master, every one of them dies in the cause ; and most of them, the victims of their fidelity in it. Suppose, then, that our religion had not given to us any very definite expressions of the religious and moral state of those, who were living in heathenism and false religion. Must not their condition, I would ask, have been most deplorable, to have excited this sympathy, this interest, stronger than death, in their recovery ; to have led to this wonderful plan, in God's moral providence, and to these wonderful means, for their rescue, their salvation? Can it then be a question, what is the interest, the
earnestness, which we should feel, in the cause of diffusing the knowledge, the spirit, and the blessings of our religion ?
But the language of our Lord and of his apostles, in reference to the religious and moral condition of those who are without the gospel, is not equivocal. Interpreted as they should be, by the import which his own, and the conduct of his apostles have given to them, the expressions, surely, are full of most solemn and affecting meaning. “ The Son of man came, to seek, and to save, that which was lost.” Again,“ God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life : for, God sent not his Son into the world, to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” Again; “ They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Again ; “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth in me, may not abide in darkness, but may have the light of life.” And, in conformity with this language, the apostle of the gentiles represents them as “ without God in the world,” and without any rational hope. He says to them, “ye were darkness; but now are ye light in the Lord.” “Ye were far off;" but now are “made nigh by the blood of Christ.” But instead of quoting detached expressions on this subject, let me refer any one, who would conceive rightly of it, to the three first chapters of the Epistle to the Romans. Here is a picture of degradation, of sin and misery, which will prepare any one, who has read the evangelists with any serious attention, for the inference of the author of this epistle. “We have proved both of Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin.”
Our Lord, indeed, uttered no denunciations against the mere offerers of a false worship; nor did his apostles, great as was their zeal for the conversion of men, pronounce anathemas against them, merely as idolaters. But our religion contemplates idolatry, and all false religion, even in their best state, and least corrupting influence, as a delusion, from which God in his mercy would rescue those who are living under them. It also brings idolatry and false religion before us, as the history of all time represents them, as the prolific mothers of all the vices and crimes, that can debase our nature and disqualify for heaven. In the view of Christ and his apostles, the world was worshipping, “they knew not what.” Men were not only in darkness, but were “ loving darkness better than light, because their deeds were evil.” They were immortal beings; yet " alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that was in them;" “ given up to uncleanness, and to vile affections;” degraded from the condition, and lost to the purposes, for which God designed them. Let it be admitted then, that there were those, both among Jews and Gentiles, who, before they had heard the teaching of our Lord and of his apostles, were prepared to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. Still, the records of the evangelists, of the apostles, and of profane history, alike assure us, that offences both against piety and virtue, which are not to be named among Christians, were not only established by usage, but were sanctioned by all the authority, which the opinion and example of the master spirits of the age could give to them. We do not violate charity, when we say of the decidedly virtuous heathen in the time of our Lord, that they were few; that they shone as stars, appearing here and there in a night, when heavy and black clouds had gathered, and were rolling tumultuously through the air, accumulating in their progress new elements of a storm, which was threatening to burst with tremendous violence upon the earth. And I would ask, has any important change, since that time, been made in the character of heathenism, and of false religion ? If not, what should be our sentiments of them ? And, what are our obligations in regard to those, who know not God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent ?
“ While Paul waited at Athens,” as we are told, “ his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given up to idolatry.” This translation of the words of the evangelist, however, expresses but feebly the emotions, which were excited in the mind of the Apostle, when he saw everywhere about him the images, that were worshipped by the Athenians. So zealous, indeed, as is well known, were the Greeks, and especially the Athenians, for this species of worship, that, not satisfied with the number of deities, which had come down to them from their fathers, they not only often consecrated new ones of their own invention, but freely adopted also the gods of other nations. Nay, so careful were they not to omit the acknowledgment of any divine power, whether celestial, terrestrial, or infernal, which they even suspected might claim their homage, that they erected altars to unknown gods; until they had no
less than thirty thousand objects of worship.* Paul, therefore, saw the city, not only given up wholly to idolatry, but full of the images of the gods of Greece. He saw the city most renowned in the world for the triumphs of art, the most splendid on the earth in its temples, the proudest in its schools of philosophy; the city, to which even imperial Rome sent the most distinguished of its youth, to train them for the forum, and to qualify them to be instructers at home, filled with idols. He saw the city, which was the centre of the learning of the world, lying in the darkness of utter ignorance of the one true God. He saw the human mind, there, at once exalted by every earthly attainment, and depraved and debased by the most licentious and corrupt superstition, He saw those immortal beings prostituting the highest powers of their nature to the lowest and vilest services; and dishonoring alike themselves, and God their Maker. Not only therefore was his spirit “ stirred within him;" but his was at once, a mingled emotion of indignation against those, who, “professing themselves to be wise,” had closed their minds against the knowledge of God, and were blind leaders of the blind; of pity towards the miserably deluded multitude; of zeal for the cause of God and of human nature ; and of earnestness for the reformation, and the salvation of men, so lost in ignorance and sin. It was the excitement of a mind, which was enlightened and sanctified by christian conceptions of God, and by christian sentiments of the worship and duty, which man owes to his Maker. It was the action of a mind, under the influence of chris