labouring “ in season and out of season—compel “ them to come in that my house may be filled!”

Oh words of everlasting importance to the whole Christian world! Oh words of unspeakable joy to all the sons of men—but to us especially, whose lot niay be truly said to have been cast among the highways and hedges in those remote parts of the earth, which never till lately heard the divine call of the Gospel; and to which its joyful sound did at length reach, in consequence of the gracious commission given in the text; which will, therefore, be a very proper subject of our further meditations on this day!

We are assembled to introduce our Liturgy and Public Worship, in that form, and with those alterations, which the change of our civil condition, and other local considerations, appear to have rendered necessary, according to the sense and determination of the representative body of our Church from a number of these United States; and our hope and prayer to Almighty God is that the same, as now offered, and as it may be further improved; may by His Grace and Holy Spirit, become instrumental, through all the rising states and future empires of this American world, in compelling many to come into the sheepfold of Christ and be saved. I shall, therefore, consider the text in a twofold view; First negatively, in respect to those means which it will not justify in the propagation of Christianity; and then positively, in respect to those means which it not only justifies but clearly commands.

And first, although the words, “ go out and compel them to come in,” be strongly authoritative;

yet, unless we contradict the whole tenor of Christ's Gospel, which is all meekness and love, we cannot explain them as justifying any sort of outward violence or persecution, to bring men to embrace the true Faith. What is here translated “ compel” is elsewhere understood for strong entreaty or persua. sion. Thus in the 24th chapter of this Gospel, Jesus is said to have been constrained (or compelled] to tarry at a certain village. Lot also is said to have constrained the angels to stay with him; Jacob to have constrained Esau to accept his presents; the sons of the prophets to have urged Elisha to send a number of men to look for the body of Elijah, till he was compelled to comply with their request, although he had refused them before and knew their journey to be in vain, having, with his own eyes, seen his master taken up into heaven. St. Matthew says the Kingdom of Heaven may suffer violence, and the violent take it by force; and St. Paul tells the Corinthians that he had become a fool in glorying, but that by their deportment, to him, they had compelled him to it, &c.

It is impossible, therefore, to believe that the same Scriptures, which enjoin every man “ to be

persuaded in his own mind and ready to give a “ reason for the hope that is in him," should, at the same time, enjoin a tyranny to be erected over mens'. reason and conscience; or direct their bodies to be injured or destroyed, for the conviction or illumina. tion of their minds. Every man must answer for himself at the great tribunal of his judge, and therefore every man is enjoined to prove his own work,



and then he shall have rejoicing in himself alone and not in another.

The mind of man, notwithstanding its present degeneracy and corruption, even in the most unenlightened savage, maintains so much of its native freedom, dignity and glory, as to spurn from it all violence and force. It shrinks back with abhorrence and indignation from all tenets and opinions, obtruded upon it by external pains or penalties.

Witness, ye noble army of Saints and Martyrs of every age, that no man's judgment was ever convicted by stripes, by imprisonments, by racks or by flames! Nay witness, even ye unenlightened tribes of Mexico and Peru, that the murder of millions, for the pretence of religion, hath served for nothing more than to rivet the unhappy survivors still deeper in their tenets, whether of Truth or of Error; and to convince them that a good and gracious God could never be the author of that religion which can sanctify such enormities and barbarities! Whatever

may be the pretence, all such methods as these, dishonour our master Christ, whose whole Gospel breathes only the spirit of Love; and it is as repugnant to this spirit, to persecute the most erroneous as the most sound Believer!

How long, O merciful Father of the human race, how long!—But I forbear_Blessed be God, the Church, of which we are members, hath not so learned Christ. Nay all churches, in the present philosophic and enlightened day, are approaching nearer to each other in Christian Charity; and those garments

[ocr errors]

which were once rolled in blood, are now undergoing a daily and silent ablution!

But besides this external compulsion, of which we have been speaking; there is also an internal compulsion attempted by many, which is alike unjustifi. able; namely, the dressing out the pure religion of the Gospel in a way that offers salvation without obedience to its moral precepts; and strives to persuade men that they may become Christians on easier terms than Christ hath appointed. And, under this

ad, I cannot but mention those who, in order to draw or compel numbers to their party, enter the houses of weak and unstable persons; flatter their particular passions or prejudices; lay the stress of religion on some favourite Tenets or Shibboleths; neglect to make known the whole counsel of God; and seek to preach themselves, more than their master Jesus Christ.

But turn we from all such methods as those which the Gospel will not justify; and come we to a more joyous and important subject-the consideration of those methods which it not only justifies but com. mands; whereby all of us, both clergy and laity may be instrumental, through the help of God, in compelling others to the profession of the Gospel, and the practice of its Divine Precepts; and this we may do

1st. By special instruction and exhortation;
2dly. By living example; and

3dly. By the decency, devotion, fervency and solemnity of our forms of public worship, and by

embracing every opportunity for their further improvement.

First, concerning instruction and exhortation; although the laity ought on all proper occasions to invite and persuade men to the practice of true religion, as it is in the Gospel; yet I shall consider this duty chiefly as it concerns the Clergy, who are those servants more particularly addressed in the text, and commanded to go forth, as special messengers, not barely to instruct and exhort, but vehemently to urge and to press, and by all just and Christian methods to compel others to come in; displaying to them, with faithfulness and unwearied zeal, the whole counsel of God—the terrors and judgments of the law, as well as the marvellous grace and rich mercies of the Gospel—the duties of Love and Evangelical Obedience, as well as the divine virtues of Faith and Heavenly Hope!

A preacher of the gospel, truly animated with these exalted subjects, impressed with the weight of eternal truth, glowing for the good of his fellow-creatures, and convinced of the immense value of their immortal souls, has noble opportunities of touching the hearts of men, and even of constraining, or comvelling them to the love of God.

To describe aright that unbounded goodness which created this world; to trace the ways of that Providence which directs all events in it with unerring wisdom; to show forth the patience and longsuffering of the Almighty with his fallen and sinful creatures, through the various ages of the world, and

« VorigeDoorgaan »