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“ Men and brethren, and whosoever among you feareth God, unto you, unto you is the word of this salvation sent. -Through Jesus Christ is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins : And by him all who believe are justified from all things from which ye cannot be justified by the law of nature, nor could the Jews be justified by the law of Moses. Beware therefore lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets, “Behold, ye despisers, and wonder and perish.” For saith the Almighty “ I work a work in your days, a work which ye will in no wise believe, though a man de. clare it to you.
The guilt and danger of unbelief will be mo fully represented in another discourse.
The Guilt and Danger of Unbelief.
ISAIAH, liii. 1.
Who hath believed our report ? THESE words are a prophetick complaint of the incredulity and disobedience of those, to whom the gospel should be preached by Jesus in person, and by his disciples after him.
We have already considered, what kind of report the gospel is.-We have seen, that, in every view, it is worthy of our most serious regard.
Let us now,
II. Consider, whether a proper attention is paid to this report among those to whom it is sent, or who have an opportunity to hear it.
The complaint in the text is, “Who hath believed our report?”
The prophet speaks in the person of Jesus Christ, and his apostles. He foretells, that under their ministry, there would be many unbelievers : And so the event has proved.
As it was in their day, so it has been since.
The gospel, which to some is a savour of life un. to life, is to others a savour of death unto death.
There are many nations, which have not believ. ed the report.
The words of the Psalmist, concerning the works of nature, Saint Paul applies to the preachers of the gospel.“ Their sound is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard."
The commission which Christ gave to his apostles was, that they should preach the gospel to all nations. This commission they executed with fi. delity. They travelled into various parts of the world. Many nations they personally visited. Wherever they went, they preached in places of publick resort. And where they found a competent number of believers, they planted churches ; and in every church they ordained stated elders. To the churches which they had planted they wrote many letters, which were publickly read, as well in other churches as in those to which they were immediately directed. They performed miracles in the presence of multitudes, and in the most conspicuous manner. The doors of the houses, in which they preached, were opened to all, to heathens and unbelievers, as well as to christians. And they, as occasion required, spake in all the various languages of the people who assembled to hear them. They might therefore properly be said to preach the gospel to all nations. Many, from all the nations comprehended within the Roman empire, heard their doctrines and saw their miracles ; and these would naturally carry to others information of the things which they had seen and heard. Probably there were few or none within the empire, but who, in the apostle's time, either heard the gospel, or heard such report concerning it, as
ought to have awakened their attention to it. The intercourse of the Romans with other nations could not fail to convey the report beyond the bounds of the empire. Nor was the ministry of the apostles, and the primitive preachers confined within these limits. Their labours occupied a larger sphere. The work which they began, was, in the next age, still pursued, and carried to a wider extent. In short, it may be doubted, whether there is any nation in the world, which has not at one time or another had the offer of the gospel. If it has not been actually preached among them, yet the knowledge of it has been conveyed to them in such a measure, as might justly have led them to enquire into its nature and evidence. The true reason why they have it not, is their indifference to it when they hear it, and their rejection of it when it is of. fered.
If there were, among mankind, the same atten. tion to the concerns of religion, as there is to the interest of the present world, the gospel, before this time, would have overspread the earth. The valuable arts and manufactures of one country are soon introduced into all commercial countries, and from thence conveyed to places more obscure. The produce and works of China and the Indias are circulated through Europe, and all the civilized parts of America : And many of them are not unknown even among the savages of America, and the barbarians of Africa. If a useful or curious discovery is made in one nation, it soon is commu. nicated to others. The use of the loadstone and the compass, of gunpowder and firearms did not long rest with the first inventors. "If mankind felt the same solicitude to improve 'in virtue and goodness, as to increase in wealth and power-the same concern to spread the knowledge of religion, as to promote arts, manufactures and com
merce, christianity had long since been the religion of the world. But such is their stupidity with regard to their most important interests, that it is still confined to much the smaller part of our fallen race.
Among those, to whom the gospel is preached, there are many, who avowedly reject it; and of those who profess to believe it, there are many, who in works deny it.
The opposition of the heart to the practical design of the gospel, is considered as unbelief. The apostle says of the Jews, “ They have not all obeyed the gospel, for Esaias saith, Who hath believed our report?
The gospel is not a dry system of speculative o. pinions, designed for our amusement, but a wise collection of doctrines and precepts, intended for the government of our lives. And the faith, which it requires is not merely an act of the understanding in assenting to it as true, but an exercise also of the will in embracing it as good. It is believing with the heart, and receiving the love of the truth. He, who does not in heart receive, and in practice obey, the truth, is guilty of unbelief
. His faith, in divine estimation, is of no value, because it has no influence, and produces no effect. The apostle commends the faith of those," who when they heard the word, received it as the word of God, which effectually works in them that believe.” As he says of circumcision, we may say also of faith—, It verily profiteth, if we obey the gospel ; but if not, it then becomes unbelief. Of the wicked servant who smites his fellows, and drinks with the drunken, our Lord says, “ His portion shall be appointed to him with unbelievers.” His vicious life ranks him with infidels. Elsewhere it is said, portion shall be with hypocrites,” with those, who, in practice contradict what, in words, they profess to believe.