THE BLESSI GS OF THE GOSPEL REV. J.
' And I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ." — Romans, xv. 29.
The opinions which have been formed by men in different ages respecting the system of Christianity, have in Various ages, and are still now very different in degree. Some have rendered to the system a heart-felt homage, as possessing the very highest authority, and as comprehending in it those principles which are the one rule of duty, and the one source of happiness. Some again have accorded to it a loose and general approbation, from which the fervour and the feeling of personal piety have been absent, and which has been associated with practical carelessness, aad practical neglect. Some have again denounced it as a system all whose pretensions are erroneous, and all whose results are pernicious to the general interests of mankind. Here are perhaps not a few by whom any controversy with regard to the merit of tliese different conclusions would be regarded as trifling and insignificant ; but I trust that none are now in the presence of God, who do not at least theoretically admit, that a just estimate of their different merit must be regarded as of transcendant importance, especially as the reception or rejection of Christianity must lead to our eternal happiness or torment in a future state of being. The writer from whose language it is our intention this evening to address you was led to form for himself such a system of Christianity, or of Gospel truth, and to commend, at the same tijne, the same system to others, who acknowledge it the one governor of the heart, and the one great blessing of the human suul. That system we are prepared to state, and you doubtless are prepared to agree, from unimpeachable evidence must be regarded as perfectly conclusive and right. It arose from the direct agency of the Spirit of God on his soul ; it was secured by the same agency on the minds of the persons who went out as companions with the Apostle that they might be the devoted champions of tlie Christian cause in the world, and it must be by all men as essential to whatever is tormenting in misery, and delightful in felicity. There are, perhaps, i\'w portions in the writings of the apostle Paul, in which the majesty of the revelation of Christianity are moi'e beautifully vindicated than in the chapter from which we now address you ; and there are few expressions in which more of the value of Christianity can be regarded as comprised than the expression at the close of the verse on which your attention is to be directed — " I am sure that \*hen I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of tl.j * For the Irish Evangelical Society.
198 Tii£ BLESSI GS OF THE GOSPEL. Gospel of Christ." Tt is our intention, my friends, tliis evening, to request youi pious and your patient attention, wiiilc we present some general propositions with regard to the Gospel, which, while they will assist to promote the ohject for which we are ostensihly convened here, at the same time will commend tliemselves to the best affections your hearts can render. First we observe, that the Gospel originates in a source of supreme elevation ; secondlv, that the Gospel is fraught witli abundant blessings to the world; and thirdly, that the ministry has been specially appointed as the instrument for conveying the blessings of the Gospel. And let it be our individual and fervent prayer, that for ourselves we may possess the " fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ." First, it is observed from tliese words, that the gospel originates from a SOURCE OF SUPREME ELEVATIO . You are of course aware, that men are naturally apt to forui their opinions as to the character of existing systems, by referring to tlie character of the founders from whom they are ascertained to have been derived. The absence, for example, of dignity and wortli in the founders of systems, is always converted into an argument against the principles they have propounded; and on the other hand, the real or imagined possession of that dignity and Morth is considered as an argument of no common strength for rendering to those principles couuucndation and favour. This mode of reasoning is, of course, liable to great and continued abuse; but, my brethren, if it be applied without prejudice, fairly and impartially, we have reason to think it cannot be impeaclied. If it be applied aright to the Gospel, and to the character of Him who is its founder, it will be discovered as possessing every claim on the human mind to what that mind can render of reverence, of admiration, and of love. You will remark, that to the being possessing the emphatical and memorable designation of " Christ," the gos])el is indebted for its existence : aiid hence in the text the association of his name — " the Gospel of Christ." Christ unfolded its promises and principles; Christ established its essential laws ; Christ performed its confirnuitory miracles ; Christ bestowed its inherent and intrinsic efficacy ; and Christ constituted those various arrangements, by which it was to be propagated in the world, and throughout the lapse of interminable ages. There are some admitted facts in the history of Christ when lie was dwelling upon earth, that seem to connnon view, to separate him entirely from what we are accustomed to denominate " greatness," and to assign to him a state of humiliation, and to constitute what is emphatically called in Scripture, " a stumbling block," on account of which many are disposed to deny and disown him. He associated M'ith men in the most despised circles of society ; he selected his
companions from those ranks on which men are especially accustonu>d to look with fear or contempt. Thus, prompted by the impulses of Almighty mercy and love, he trod perpetually on the very confines of poverty and want. He was fmallv seized and tried on two separate charges of sedition and blasphemy, was convicted as a guilty malefactor, was condennied to die, and did die, the painful death of the cross. If these facts stood alone, we shall at once admit tliey would be startling and forbidding; but you are aware they arc to be explained in such a M'av that they do augment and redound to the splendour of his glory. And then, mv brethren, there are truths with regard to bin), vvbich render to
THB BLESSI GS OP THE GOSPEL. 199 bim a cliaracter of high and matchless elevation. The first truth is, he was v'ithout sin. There was not a deed, there was not a word, there was not a thought on which there did rest, or on which there could rest, even the slightest shadow of a stain : in the emphatic language of Scripture, " He was without sin ; and no guile Mas found in his mouth:" he was "holy, harmless, uudefiled and separate from sinners." The second truth is, that the human nature ivhich he tvore was invested with an especial appointment from God the Father, because all the offices which he performed as Alediator between God and man arose from the important fact, tJiat he was the Messiah, or the Christ ; that is, the set apart and the solemnly anointed of God. The third truth is, that besides the possession ofsuchahumau nature, he was essentially and eternally divine, the second person in the co-equ;;! and coeternal Jehovah; the divine and human nature being nnited by a miraculous and mysterious union in one incarnate beiug. I'herefore we read that he was " Imnianuel, God with us;" that, " In tlie beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the \V^ord was God;" " that by Him were all things made," whatever was created throughout the extent of the universe ; that " the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth ;" that " being in the form God, he thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, took upon him the form of a servant, and Mas found in fashion as a man ;" and that, Mhile he came " of the seed of David, according to the flesh," he was " over all God blessed for ever." These three truths, to Avhich I have now briefly adverted, have, we are well aware, been contradicted, and cavilled at, and denied ; but their revelation is distinct, and their authority is final, and our duty and our privilege is to receive them, and delight in them, as combining to represent the great Author
of the Gospel as one M'hom the seraphs of heaven may well adore and obey, who niei'its all possible ascriptions of blessings and praise, and who is yet infinitely higher than the practical ascriptions of both. Besides the elevating and dignifying truths with regard to the person and the character of Him who is the founder of the Gospel, we might further direct your attention, and at considerable length, to those facts which revelation has recorded, with regard to his existence as Mediator subsequently to the accomplishment of his ignominious death on the cross, and Mhich, in fact, that d-ath purchased and secured. As, for instance, his resurrection from the dead ; his ascension to our Father and to his Father, to our God and to liis God; and his glorified session as the triumphant Mediator at the right hand of the Majesty on high. But the time would fail us did we attempt to enter, even superficiallv, into the developement of this great mystery of godliness, that " God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the Morld, received up into glory ;" and therefore we at once call your attention to the amazing dignity which the Gospel receivrs in consequence of its association with such a Being as its founder and its source; and at the same time \ve must remind you practically of the solemn and imjx'rious claim which the Gospel, by reason of its connexion with him, possesses on the profound reverence, the implicit faith, and the uniform obedience of mankind. Tlie apostle of the Gentiles forms precisely the same conclusions from precisely the same premises, when, after having, in the most sublime strains of his
200 'Hi: J'.i-essings op 'fiiB tiosi'icr,. rloquem-e, aimouircoil tlic divinity of our I^ord, in tlie first chapter of tlie Hebrews, Ik; tlieu proceeds to mark tlie solemn and the devout cdnclusioii, " Therefore we ought to give the more earnest lieed to tiie things which we have*heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and di3(.)bedience received a just recompence of reward, liow shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; wliich at the first began to he spoken by the Lord?" Living, my dear hearers, as is the case with ourselves, under the fairest form of a system emanating from such a source, take heed that ye render that "more earnest' •tttcntion to the Gospel wliich in this manner is so distinctly and so solemnly demanded : and oh, beware, lest by your scorn, your indifference, and your neglect, you shall encounter that "much sorer punishment" which is to arise tVom the anger of Him into whose hands it is " a fearful thing to fall," and of whom it is written, " Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord." We have, my brethren, in these brief remarks, verified the first proposition arisiuf from the text, that the Gospel originates in a source of supreme elevation, it being the Gospel of Christ, who, notwithstanding his apparent
degradation and deep humiliation in the flesh, Mas without sin, Mas in his human nature invested by an appointment from the Father, and was at the same time essentially and eternally divine ; — those great truths being explained and ratified by his resurrection from the dead, his ascension into the Leavens, and his session on the right hand of the majesty on high. Supposing, then, these facts to be beyond the reach of controversy, let u« now proceed secondly to observe, that the gospel is fraught with ABU DA T BLESSI GS TO THE WORLD. It may be observed, that the very import of the term "Gospel," sufficiently verifies (he proposition which is now made, as there are but few who are not perfectly aware, that the M'ord "Gospel" signifies "glad tidings." As for instance; when the angels appeared to the shepherds, for the purpose of announcing this to the world, he who came down as the first herald said, " Behold I bring you glad tidings of great joy, •which shall be to all people:" and then, as if that very term or announcement had given new energy to the raptures and the harmonies of heaven, " there was heard" a multitude of the heavenly hosts praising God, and saying. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-M'ill towards men." The meaning of the term emidnyed by the Apostle is expressly and most emphatically intended to set forth the fact on wliich mc now intend to enlarge — " the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ." It may perhaps be known, that the strengtli of the expression, " the fulness of the blessing" arises from the genius of the Hebrew language ; and that if m e were to say, "I shall come in the very impulse of the abundant blessings of the Gospel of Christ," this would be the manner of expressing the idea as M-e are now accustomed to speak. I must request you to render liere your devout regard while we notice the blessing.s which the Gospel is able to impart, and the extent to which it is intended that blessing shall be difi'iised. Fir.st, we propose to notice /fie nature of the hh-ssinifs wliich the Gospel is fil/lr to iiiipurt. And here, my lirethren, we scarcely know where to commence ;;n(l where to close. When we s])rak of the blessings of the Gospel, we seem as though we stood at the entrance of a fair and beauteous gmden, within wliobC
Tllii fs-iioSl GS OF THE GOSPEL. 201 limits we cannot stir a step witliout plucking flowers, and belolding fruits en the trees of life, whose very " leaves are for the healing of the nations. ' All that we can now do is to make a brief selection of its prime blessings, which you will find however to extend themselves over the wide sphere of life and immortality.
You will remark that the Gospel imparts to man a knowledge of God nnd of all spiritual truth. This knowledge, in consequence of the state to which men have become reduced by their own voluntary and williil depravity, would, apart from Christianity, have been entirely and utterly impossible. Moral revelations of truth, my brethren, were afforded to men in the early ages of the world ; they were afforded to the patriarchs — the fathers of the nations ; and they were afforded, in a subsequent time, under the economy of Moses, to the people of the Jews : but the nations have, in process of time, changed the truth of God into a lie, and have plunged themselves into the deepest abysses of tite foulest systems of idolatry. The Jews, in their traditions, had perverted tlie commandments of God, so that it became of none effect : and had it not been for the advent of new and brighter disclosures, men would have remained enshadowed in a midnight darkness, from whose horrors no finite influence, however gigantic, could have relieved them. ow the Gospel came, in consequence of the plan of eternal mercy, that it might supply the deficiencies, that it might remedy the evils, that it might impart the appropriate boon: and you are aware that it throws a bright and steady lustre over the otherwise impalpable realities of the world that is to come, lighting up every truth pertaining to the government and character of God, and to tlie duties and the destinies of the men, in such a manner that no verity is hidden which it is important for man to know. The communication of this knowledge is especially mentioned by the Apostle in the cha])ter subsequent to the one from which we have selected the text; as when he speaks of " the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith." It will be remembered again, that the Apostle speaks of the same manner of communicating these blessings as when in 2 Corinthians, iv., he says, " For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give tlie light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." And thus, also, in the 2 Timothy, i. he thus speaks of the purpose and grace of God, which was " given us in Christ Jesus before the world began ; but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel." It would not be consistent with the general design of this discourse to enter into a full and ample detail of those doctrines which we conceive to be made known to men in the range of spiritual verity, by the instrumentality of tlie Gospel ; we merely observe the general and the important fact ; and those doctrines which have been noticed are borne out bv the general spirit and genius of the whole. We consider the communications of spiritual knowledge as a secondary boon only to religion. It is essential to all real dignity: it is essential to all moral worth ; and it is essential to the introduction of man into that state by which alone he can be prepared ' for future and everlasting
liappiness, of which we read that " that which is in j)art sJiall be done away,
202 THE Bl>ESSI (iS OF THE GOSPEL. and where " uc shall know even as also we are known." Here, then, in tlie communication of the knowledge of God, and of spiritual truth, is ouc department of the fulness of the hlessing of the Gospel of Christ. IJut agiiiu ohserve, that the Gospel imparts to man a deliverance J'roi/i l/ie guilt and the pmver of sin. Man is everywhere to be viewed as a guilty, polluted sinner against his God. 'I'his view of hun)an nature permit me, my friends, to put forth with all possible distinctness and solemnity. Man is everywhere to be viewed as a guilty and polluted sinner against his God, universally exposed to the curse of the divine law, and universally exposed to those threatcnings of the divine law which are finally to inflict their penalties in the interminable torments of futurity. ow the main design of the Gospel as a system of blessings and benefits is to present and develope the existence of a provision, the embrace of which by man, and the application of wliich to man, ohall be the means of averting the perils by which he is surrounded, restoring Ijim to the enjoyment of acceptance and favour with God, and causing him to wear his image, that he may be morally prepared and made ready for his glory. The, great provision that we have referred to, is that which has been secured by the death of our Lord Jesus Ciirist. My brethren, when he died upon the cross he quenched that fire which had been lighted up to desolate, which had run along the surface of the earth, finding fresh fuel in every folly and every crime of man, and which, had it not been for the interposing power of his Maker, would have reduced the habitations of our race to ashes, and would have wrapped the universe in flames. I'he death of Christ must be regarded as the propitiation and atoning sacrifice for the sin of the world, the application ot which to man, through the appointed instrumentality and medium, is to effect every thing that can be desired for the well-being and restoration of the soul. If I speak to any who may have undervalued, or who may have denied the doctrines to which we have nowreferred them, we can but appeal to the testimony of that Word by which we must always consent to abide. We are told in the previous part of this epistle, that men, who have " all sinned, and come short of the glory of God," are to be " justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God ; to declare, 1 say, at this time, his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." How beautiful my brethren, is this doctrine of reconciliation by the sacrifice and atonement of Christ opened in its application both to Jews and Gentiles. In Ephcsians ii. says the Apostle, reminding them of wiiat they M'cre in their natural condition, " Ye were without Christ, being aliens from the
commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, ye who sometimes were afar off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace," (that is, he is the author of our peace) " who hath made both one," (that is, both Jews and Gentiles) " and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us ; having abolished in his flesh" (that is, by the sutTerings endured in his flesh) " the enmity, even the law of connnandments contained in ordinances ; for to make himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that lie might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby ; and came and preached peace to you which Mcrc afar oil', and to them that are nigh." And thus again : '* It pleased the Faliier
THE BLESSI GS OF THE GOSPEL. 203 that, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him he would reconcile all things to hi!iiself ; liy him, I say, whether they are things in earth, or things in heaven. And you that were sometimes alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblamable and unreprovable in his sight." And do you not read elsewhere, that " the blood of Christ" is for cleansing " from all sin?" And do you not read elsewhere, that " he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours onlj', but for the sins of the wJiole world ?" ow, my brethren, the belief of the testimony which God has given concerning his Son is the appointed instrument for applying to man, in state ajid in character, the whole benefit of the provision of the atonement. Faith is the appointed instrument of imputing the righteousness of Ciirist, for the sake of which there is granted the blessings of justification or acceptance before God ; and faith is the appointed instrument for overcoming the world, purifying the heart, so that men are made personally meet to be the partakers of the inheritance of the saints. Will any one in the presence of God compare the difference between a state of condemnation on the one hand, and of justification on the other ; a state of pollution on the one hand, and a st<ate of purity and holiness on the other; and not at once perceive, that here are given, through the Gospel, blessings so vast that no intellect can compute them, so boundless that no fancy can conceive them ? Oh, my brethren, if the Gospel did not communicate forgiveness through the atoning sacrifice of which we now speak, its other communications would amount absolutely to nothing ; and the sound of its glad tidings would be hushed and die away into the stillness of one final and everlasting silence. But the Gospel, having communicated blessings like these, has invested the sphere of human destiny with a bright and imperishable grandeur, and must already inspire those deep songs of joy, whose high and rapturous harmonies are to resound through the temples of heaven for ever. For what, my brethren, are the raptures of immortality, except in the pouring forth of
thanksgivings on the part of the ransomed for the fulness and the triumpliant Cilicacy of the atonement : " Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred and tongue and people and nation, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father: salvation to God who sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb." But again, it must be observed, that the Gospel of Christ imparts ahundmit consolation and supjjort amidst all sorrow. It would be but a truism to remind you, that the present life is a scene of continued sorrow and distress; that sorrow is tlie portion of persons who have received an interest in the power of ♦ he everlasting Gospel, and that, in fact, they are the persons on whom oftentimes the tempests of worldly persecution pours the fury of its most deadly and most bitter storms. But the very fact of the consciousness of an interest in the atoning sacrifice of Christ, is of itself like a cordial and balm to the spirit, whatever the nature of tlie sorrows and the agonies it may be conipelled to endure. And there arc sources of consolation arising from these communications of evangelical mercy, which remove the sting from all sorrow, and which render sorrows in all respects but blessings in disguise. Tlie power of the Gospel to administer consolations like those to which we have referred have been abundantly exemplified in the experience of millions. Observe the lang-iage of Paul himself contained in^^the fifth chapter of this epistle : s.peaking of
204 THR BLB85T Cffi OP THE GOSPEL the delightful anticipation which himself and his companions enjoyed in the prospect of tliC divine glory, he says, " We rejoice in hope of the glory of God." ow it is not extraordinary for a man to rejoice in the hope of glory, nor in the prospect of peace and of perfect felicity ; therefore Paul proceeds still further, as if exhihiting a still greater marvel and mystery iu the achievements of that wondrous religion of which he was the advocate and champion: "And not only so"' — as if to say to "rejoice in the hope of the glory of God" were only an inferior attainn)ent of Christianity — " And not only so, hut we glory in trihulation also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope^ and hope inaketh not ashan:ed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." And on other occasions, you remember how he speaks with regard to those around him, as if sorrow had no effect, and were altogether deprived of its sting : " AVe are troubled on every side, yet not distressed ; we are perplexed, but not in despair ; persecuted, but not forsaken ; cast down, but not destroyed ; alwavs bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory : while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things wiiich are seen are temporal ; but the things which are not seen are etern:il."
My brethren, have not these consolations been felt by the captive in his dungeon, .and by the martyr in the flames ? And speak I not to many in the j)resence of God to-night, who can say by their omu personal experience, that oftentimes they have felt them themselves? Yes, my brethren, have you not felt them bene;.th the pressure of poverty, when worldly sources of supply and contentment seem to be withdrawn and withered? Have you not felt them when you have endured obloquy and persecution and scorn for your attachment to tiie name and cause of your Redeemer? Have you not felt tliem when you stood by the bed of sickness, and watched the languid and failing eye and the quivering lip, and the List convulsive agony of those on whom your attachment lias been accustomed to repose, and when you followed in the dreary march of the funeral train, and committed them to the noiseless tomb, tlie house appointed for all living? Have you not felt them when disease and infirmily have invaded your own frame, when the sentence of death seemed to Iiavc been rankling like noxious poison within your vitals, and when you thought yourselves ready to become the prey of loathsome reptiles. Oh yes, you are the living witnesses that they have "strong consolation" who have "fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before them in the Gospel ;" you can testify, and you can rejoice while you testify, how perfect is the balm which the power of the Gosj)el gives, and already are you panting with intense gratitude and fervour for the arrival of the time when you shall praise and laud him worthily in the temple of that state from which sorrow and death are excluded, and which bears over its portal the letters of the promise, " Thou shalt weep no more." 'I'hese, my brethren, are ])erhaps to he regarded as the main classification of the blessings imparted by the gospel (if Christ. We nuist now briefly notice, as we proposed, secondly, on this part of the subject, the extent to which it is fleslgned that these blcssi/igj are to be diffiisttt. Ytiu doubtless are prepared for the assertion, that a great |)ortion of the value of the blessing depends upon its cxtellt ; that on the one hand contracti >n
THE BLESSI GS OP THE GOSPEL. 205 leasers it, and that on tlie other the power of diffusion augments it. ow, if the Gospil had possessed but a restricted and confined constitution, if it had erected barriers and obstacles to tlie communication of its mercies among the race of mankind, and if it had been so restricted as by implication to pass a sentence of outlawry on any portion of the hunmn family, even the vilest and most degraded, you would perceive there would be a vast subtraction from the positive amount in value, and that whatever might have been the intrinsic nature of its blessings, still, if these wanted diffusiveness, they would have been but ultimately of a secondary and inferior kind. We, therefore, have to remember with pleasure tliat in the Gospel there is nothing at all which is sec-
tarian or peculiar, there is nothing whatever which causes it to be governed or limited by the character of governments, the character of climates, the influence of civilization, of knowledge, or of art; but that it goes forward freely and fully, without a manacle, and without a fetter, and without a restriction, intended to bear the charter of its mercies to every kindred, every clime, and every tongue. You are aware that prophecy speaks of this expansiveness in the communication of the coming blessings. It was indicated during the personal existence of our Redeemer : it was indicated by his parables, it was indicated by his instructions, it was indicated by his example ; it was indicated expressly by those series of commissions which he gave to his Apostles, as the regulation for the continual and future exercise of the ministry of his word ; for he taught them that " it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day. and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem ;" and said as his last words, " Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature." The general evidence, my brethren, beyond this it may not now be needful for us to mention ; we have only to observe comprehensively (and vastly indeed is the value of the Gospel augmented by the fact,) that this Gospel is the religion of mankind, and that it is the religion of the world. We can only, in our statements on this part of our subject, make a brief reference to the intentions of Jehovah with regard to the Gospel in future ages of the world. Its operations have been yet imperfect and incomplete; many nations on the surface of the earth have yet heard no call of the Saviour's voice, and have not had even a glimpse of the Saviour's glory. We have not yet seen all things put under his feet ; though we have distinct and positive testimon}', that there is \et to arrive an era in the history of this long-prostrate and apostatizing world, when the Gospel shall become the property of our race. And what, my brethren, saith the voice of prophecy ? " Ask of me," saitli the Father to the Son, " and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession." Again : " The knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth, as the waters cover the channel of the sea." Again : " The Lord will make bare his holy arm amidst the. nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God." And again : " The mountain of the Lord's house shall be established upon the hills, and exalted above the mountains, and all people shall flow unto it ; there shall be one Lord over all the earth, and one King, and his name one: the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our God and his Christ, and they shall reign for ever and ever." 1 enter not here into controversy as to the mode by which this grand expaii -
206 THE BLESSI GS OP TUB 008PEL.
sion sliiiU take place. There are some wlio suppose tliat it will take place not under the constitution of the Gospel, but as tiie result of the personal advent of our Saviour to reign upon t!ie earth : opinions from which, respectfully, but most firmly and decidedly, 1 do dissent : for we conceive that all tiiese promises are intended most distinctly to refer (as we might prove at length did our time permit) to the establishment of the Gospel as it now exists in the last economy of the grace .and mercy of God. But, my brethren, so replete shall be the then weight of joy and blessing, when the groaniugs of creation shall have been hushed, when its travailing shall have been terminated, and when peace and liberty and joy shall have become the charter of our free and emancipated race, that, then, my brethren, will "the wolf 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. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play upon the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand upon the cockatrice's den." Tlie battle of the warrior, M'ith confused noise, and garments rolled in blood, will be known no more ; men will beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." Then the light of immortality will shed its splendours around this once darkened and wretched globe, and the testimonies of the presence of God will everywhere be enjoyed by men obeying one Saviour, walking in one path, trusting to one atonement, and seeking one heaven : then, when the mystery of God shall be finished, when the mighty angel coming doM-n from lieaven shall lift up his hand, arid swear by him that liveth that time shall be no longer, and when the splendours of immortality shall close all the scenes of probation and of time, then shall be consummated and totally verified the title of the Gospel, by which it is presented as " the fulness of the blessings of the Gospel of Christ." We must now refer, finally, to the proposition, that the ministry is the APPOI TED I STRUME T FOR CO VEYI G TIIE BLESSI GS OF TIIE GOSPEL TO MA KI D. It will be remarked, that the Apostle in this verse is speaking to the believing Romans as one engaged in the exercise of the ministry of the word ; that is, set apart for the purpose of orally declaring in divers ways the great principles of the Gospel, as the only method of man's redemption and man's salvation. You will observe, in the twenty-eighth verse he says, " When I have performed this" — a certain benevolent work connected with the contributions for the poor saints at Jerusalem, at that time sutTering persecution — " When therefore, 1 have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain. And I am sure that, m hen 1 come unto you, I shall come in " the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ." I, as
a minister enjoying the fulness of evangelical blessings myself, shall come in accordance with the great object of that ministry — the conniiunicating and establishing still further, the possession of the sanic fulness of the blessings of the Gospel of Christ to you. It must be clear that there is here a connexion instituted between the ministry find the power and the eilicacy of the Gospel. I speak not, doubtless, amongst persons addicted to mystic theories, on the one iiand, or wr<ipt in profound and
THE BLESSI GS OP THE GOSPEU 207 Ignoble ignorance on the other, and the fact to which our attention is now called will not require very particular illustration. The connexion of the ministry of the Gospel as an institution of Christ, is most beautifully illustrated in the wellknown passage occurring in the tenth chapter of this Epistle : " For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are them that preach the Gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the Gospel. For Esaias saith. Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God " Thus also at the close of the 2 Cor. ch. v. : " All things are of God, who hath reconciled us unto himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them j and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. ow then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." These statements sufficiently indicate the truth, that the ministry of the Gospel, the oral and the public teaching of the truth as it is in Jesus, is to be regarded as the great instrument of imparting and applying this Gospel to the world, until the world shall be evangelized and the office of Chiistiaaity shall be (lone. I cannot relinquish this part of my subject without observing, that this truth cannot be too much enforced; a most important and solemn application of it must be rendered by all persons who are in any way engaged professedly in the ministry of the Gospel. I know not whetlier I speak to any fellow labourers in the cause of Christ within these walls to-night, but if I do you will permit me, my brethren, Avith respect and simplicity of heart, to remind you, that if the ministry be thus connected with the impartation of the " fulness of the blessings of the Gospel of Christ," to the world, there is a solemn call on us diligently and accurately to study the constitution of the Gospel, and to ascertain and to acquire a perfect and mature knowledge of its contents. And there is at the same time a solemn and most imperious call on us, having
ascertained the nature of the Gospel office, freely and faithfully, to declare it to our fellow men. If there is one truth more than another on which we are called to dwell, it is that delightful theme of reconciliation by the merit of the atoning sacrifice, the prominence of which causes the Apostle to speak of the ministry of the Gospel as " the ministry of reconciliation." And if we jire at any time compelled to lead you by the thunders of Sinai — if we are compelled to open the volume of the decalogue, and remind you that " God spake all these words" — if we are compelled to bring you to the torments of futurity, and show you the region where spirits writhe and are lost in torments — every statement of whatever order, even apparently the most remote and disconnected, must be observed to concentrate and converge, as in one common centre, around these doctrines of the cross. And, my brethren in the ministry, let me remind you that if ever there Avere time for more close ardent earnestness in the exercise of this Avork, that time is noAv; and that the aspect of the times, from the mutual relation of the Avorld and the church, and from the gigantic efforts Avhich are making by the adversaries of truth to strengthen them in the impious warfare, piling
208 THE BLESRIVfiS OP THR rrORPEt>. mountain npon mountain, until perchance tlic)' shall he cnahled to scale the height and vanquish the Omnipotence of heaven — that all these things are urging on us to stand forth, as with a mighty and more flaming zeal, hetween the living and the dead, and hold np the cross with faithfulness and with uniformity, calling upon men to hehold Him who taketh away tiie sins of the world. " I charge thee," saith the Apostle, " before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word; be instant in season and out of season ; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and doctrine. Watch thou in all things ; do the work of an Evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry." And let our motto ever be, in the simple poesy of modern times : — " Careless- --ourselves but dying men— Of dying men's esteem ; Happy if God, our God, approve, Though all beside condemn." And then, my brethren, there is also a soleum call from this fact on those persons who are .accustomed to attend upon, and listen to the ministry. The call on you, my hearers, is to honour the ministry ; not by granting to us tlie privileges which might be claimed by an au)bitious and tyrannical priesthood ; not by attemjiting to elevate us to the high places and opulence of worldly men; but by giving "earnest heed" to the things which you hear from us, remembering, that he that despiseth us, despiseth not man but God. " Let a
man so esteem us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God." And the call further is to apply the purport of the ministry to ourselves : we watch ibr souls ; we travail in birth for souls ; we desire to have souls who shall be to us our joy and our crown of rejoicing in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ at his coming. It is your part to examine, whether these anxieties for you are to be in vain ; whether these anticipations for you are to be in vain ; and whether you Mill stand at a more remote distance at the latter day, in order to render an account, the result jof Mhich shall be the transmission of your spirits to hell. My hearers, the ministry is exercised amongst you now ; and although lie who now speaks to you is a stranger to you, after the flesh, yet it is with the freedom, and the faithfulness, and the earnestness, which the testimony of this Gospel justifies and demands, that I tell you, " I am an ambassador for Christ, as though God did lieseech you by me ; I pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled unto God." My brethren, I have endeavoured to com])lete, witiiin the limits of your time, an exposition of this nujst delightful testimony of the inspired Word of God. We have shewn you that the Gospel originates in a source of supreme elevation, being ascribed in its excellence to the Lord Jesus Christ. We have shewn you, that the Gospel is fraught witli abundant blessings to the world : it imparts a knowledge of God and of spiritual truth ; it imparts a deliverance from the power and guilt of sin ; it imparts an abundant consolation and peace amidst all sorrow and distress : and these blessings, in place of being restricted to a confined and narrow compass, are intended to be finally diffused throughout all the kindreds and nations of the earth. The ministry of the Gospel, the oral teaching of the truth, is tlie appointed instrument for conveying these blessings to mankind, involving a solemn call upon the study and fidelity of those who
THE BLESSI GS OP THE GOSPEL. 209 professedly preach the Gospel, and a call to honour the ministry, and personally to apply it, on the part of those who listen to it. In conclusion, let ine remind you of the awful danger that will be incurred on your part by the rejection of the Gospel. Is it possible that you will reject the Gospel? Just consider what is involved in those simple words — "Reject the Gospel !"* — the medicine that will cure your diseases, the light that will dissipate your darkness, the balm that will soothe your sorrows, the refuge that will shield you from peril, the life that will save you from death, the heaven that will save yon from hell. Reject the Gospel ! My hearers, if there be one amongst you who is yet inclined to depart from these walls as a rejector of the Gospel, I remind thee that there will be a term in that tremendous futurity to which thou art recklessly hastening, the equal of which cannot be imparted to
any one dwelling among the darkest places of the earth : " He that knew his Lord's will, and prepared not him&eif, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes ; but he that knew not his Lord's will, and did commit things worthy of stripes shall be beaten with few stripes, for unto whon>6oever much is given, of him shall be much required." Ask yourselves whether you are prepared to encounter that far " sorer punishment" which God is to render against those who have trampled the blood of the covenant under tlieir feet as an unholy thing. And, finally, let me remind you, having yourselves a part in the Gospel, of your duty to assist in its propagation. My brethren, the calls of many voices are around you, urging you yet to consider the wants and the miseries of men ; shew them that tlie Gospel is the ordained instrument for preventing their misery and promoting their welfare. Are you not called on as men, as philanthropists, and as Christians, to strive your utmost that tlie Gospel may be carried to the ends of the earth? It is my lot and my privilege to plead the cause of the institution for which your charitable contributions are now to be freely rendered, the cause of " The Irish Evangelical Society;" a society formed for the propagation of the Gospel in Ireland. You, my friends, may be aware, that at this moment, according to ordinary computation, there is a population of no less than six millions in that interesting and important part of our empire, devoted to what must be called the follies and the crimes of Popery. The " Irish Evangelical Society" has been formed for carrying the Gospel there, not by means of the reading of the Scriptures only, but by that specific instrumentality which has been referred to this evening, even the oral teaching, or ministry of the Gospel ; directing their exertions to the three provinces where Popery almost entirely abounds. There is one feature in the character of this institution that may be mentioned as generally urging its claims — it is not a sectarian institution ; it was formed for the purpose of combining the exertions of Evangelical ministers of the Established Church, as well as the various denominations of Dissenting churches who hold the Head, even Christ. And, my friends, if there be persons of different denominations here, it ought to be remembered by them, they are giving to what is strictly a catholic institution, designed to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, and without sowing divisions in the Church, to help the conquest of the world. Between fifty and sixty agents are employed by the society ; and many of the statements, which, under some circumstances, I might perhaps have been able to read to you this evening, witii regard to the work of God, are cheering and delightful. There is one other circumstance VOL. I. p
210 THE BLESSI GS OF THE (jOSPKI.. would mention, namely — that the treasurer is now in advance to the amount of
more than six hundred pounds : a debt which has been incurred by the necessity of answering claims which could not have been fieglected, excepting by a sacrifice of feeling which no Christian could desire to exist. With these brief remarks, I now leave the claims of this important institution in your hands, praying that you will give from a sense of your obligation to the Gospel, and from a conviction of the necessity of its propagation to secure the happiness and well-being of their souls. I have only to pray that God may cause hifl Messing both to the giver and the gift. Amen.
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