and benevolence. With his Death, all the expectations of the people respecting a temporal Sovereign must at once have vanished; but the impressions of his Character, the authority of his Wisdom, the tender remembrances of his benevolent deeds, which had met with so ungrateful a return, would remain, and during the silent hours in which he lay in the Sepulchre, would affect their hearts with the deepest remorse and sorrow. Their sous would become purified from many of their delusions, from their narrow devotion to the fame of their own nation which was now blotted with an indelible stain and the feelings of repentance would awaken them to those pure and celestial views, which their lost Teacher had been so zealous in inculcating. How reviving, then, to their afflicted spirits must have been the lofty truths which the Apostles now boldly declared to them, that the Mighty Teacher was alive, that Death had no dominion over Him, that he was now seated upon an Eternal Throne, and that, instead of being the temporary Sovereign of the little kingdom of Judea, or even of the empire of Rome, he was now the Perpetual Sovereign of all the race of men through all the succession

[ocr errors]

of ages! How animating to their hopes the additional doctrine,--that the very worst of their offences had, in the mercy of God, been the means of procuring their pardon,--that the Death of Jesus was their Salvation -- that all the dark expiations and atonements of the law, which their Scribes and teachers were unable satisfactorily to explain, were now in one moment elucidated by the authority of Heaven, that the last all-powerful Atonement was made now and for ever, and that the tears of penitence which they shed were now mingled in the sight of God with the purifying Blood of his Son!

The effect which, the history informs us, was accordingly produced by the preaching of the Apostles, is not greater than at such a moment doctrines of so powerful an efficacy were likely to produce on the minds of a penitent people. “ Ye men of Israel, (said St Peter,) hear these words : Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you, by miracles, wonders, and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know, him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain, whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that he should be holden of it ; this Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore, being by the right hand of God exalted, let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made this same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now, when they heard this, (proceeds the Sacred Historian,) they were pricked in their hearts, and said unto Peter, and to the rest of the Apostles, men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost; for the promise is unto you and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord God shall call. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized, and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved.”

I have thus endeavoured to explain, my brethren, the gradual adaptation of the truths of the Gospel to the opening minds of men, during the period of its first origin,-an adaptation which, on all the usual principles of human con


duct, could not be the result of forethought and design on the part of its Teachers, but which exactly reseinbles that greater adaptation which we may trace in the Administration of the World,-of the silent progress of events to the advancement and improvement of the human race. That large portion of the History of Christianity which still remains to be examined will suggest many similar illustrations. In the meantime, standing as we do on that wonderful point of time when the Authority which was first acknowledged by the simple peasants of Judea was now about to advance its claims throughout the Heathen World, and even to reach those who were “sitting carelessly in the isles,” shall not we who were then

no people,” but who, now under the fostering wings of the Gospel, have reached so lofty an ascendancy among the nations, be prepared to bend our souls to that gracious authority ? and to fulfil, in all their extent, the glorious anticipations of the Prophet, “ They shall lift up their voice, they shall sing for the majesty of the Lord; they shall cry aloud from the sea : they shall glorify even the name of the Lord God of Israel in the isles of the sea !"


[blocks in formation]

I am made all things to all men, that I might

by all means save some.

We cannot suppose, my brethren, that by these words the Apostle means to insinuate, that he made any improper compliances, for the purpose of gaining converts to the Religion which he taught, or that he could possibly adopt that dangerous doctrine, that the end can justifiy the means. He merely means to say, that he adapted his instructions, with a nice observance of the circumstances of their character and si

* Preached on the fourth Sunday in Advent.

« VorigeDoorgaan »