« ZurückWeiter »
see the religion which was established by the one operating as a blight upon useful knowledge and moral virtue, systematically cherishing the worst passions of human nature, and checking the native aspirings of the soul for freedom, are you not more than ever enraptured by the religion which was established by the other, as you see it moving like an angel of mercy through the world? Truly Christianity is the daughter of the skies. Her native element is light and love. Her errand upon the earth is to enlighten, and bless and save; and when that errand shall be fully accomplished, she will return to dwell in her native Heavens.
But while we eulogize Christianity, my friends, let us take heed that we do not live strangers to her regenerating power. While we profess to be grateful that we are surrounded by the splendours of the Sun of Righteousness, let it not be told to our confusion at last, that we have, in the most important sense, chosen darkness rather than light. If the only advantage we derive from the gospel is the melioration of our external condition, be assured the day will come when this very gospel will be to us a fierce minister of condemnation; when we shall look back upon our Christian privileges in the agony of remorse, and envy the lot of those who have perished in Mohamedan darkness. Look away to those nations sitting in the region and shadow of death, and let them have your sympathy and charity and prayers; but forget not to look inward upon your own hearts, and see if the word of truth have had its legitimate influence in making you wise and holy unto salvation.
PROTESTANT CHRISTIANITY CONTRASTED WITH
II. THESSALONIANS II. 3. For that day shall not come, except there come a falling
IN CONNEXION WITH
GALATIANS v. 1. Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
As the great Creator, when he had completed his handy work, looked forth upon it, and pronounced all very good, so our Lord Jesus Christ and his Apostles, when they had finished their work in the introduction of Christianity, beheld in the result of their efforts a system of matchless beauty and mighty power. The doctrines of the gospel were then received in their native purity; the institutions of the gospel were established in their native simplicity; the spirit of the gospel was acted out in its native loveliness; and so far as the influence of the gospel was felt, the moral waste brightened into a
field of moral beauty. That was indeed the morning of the new dispensation ; but it was a morning without clouds. That was the infancy of Christianity ; but the principle of immortal life which animated her discovered itself in bold and vigorous pulsations; insomuch that, after the lapse of more than eighteen centuries, we are constrained to acknowledge that the days of her infancy were the days of her greatness and power.
But scarcely had the Apostles to whose immediate care Christ had committed the concerns of his kingdom, followed their Master to Heaven, before a disposition began to manifest itself in the church, to alter and amend this last and noblest product of infinite wisdom. The first departure from the primitive simplicity of the gospel was so slight as hardly to be recognised as an invasion of Christ's authority, even by those who were most jealous for his honour; but you need not be told that it proved the beginning of an apostacy which has caused ages of weeping to the faithful, and from which the church has only yet begun to recover.
When the first step in the career of defection had been taken, the next was taken with the greater ease; and gradually a mighty system of corruption grew up in which the doctrines and institutions of the gospel were distorted into an unnatural and unlovely shape, and which retained scarcely any thing of Christianity but the venerable name. Within a few centuries after the apostolick age, the Christian church, which, in her beginning, was humble, and spiritual and unpretending, had become worldly, and proud and ambitious. She had invented new doctrines, and decreed new rites, in opposition to the autho rity of her Head. She had witnessed the death of her spiritual prosperity, from the blighting influence of errour and strife and superstition, and seemed to hail it as a
blessing, rather than mourn over it as a bereavement. She had surrounded herself with the insignia of temporal dominion and the splendours of worldly greatness ; and finally she became the seat of a spiritual despotism, and maintained her authority by the most desperate outrages upon the authority of Jesus Christ; and turned her hand with perfect coolness to the pious work of letting out the blood of every heart which happened not to beat in unison with her dictates. Each successive age rolled a still deeper darkness upon the world; and though there were always some witnesses for the truth, yet they were obliged to bury themselves in the deepest retirement, and even there, were liable to be found out by the searching hand of inquisitorial cruelty, and made to atone for the purity of their faith by the sacrifice of their blood.
But at length this yoke of ecclesiastical tyranny which had been worn for ages, as if men had supposed themselves made for no other purpose, became so oppressive that a long stifled sensibility began to recover itself, and here and there Reason uttered forth her dictates, and so much of the spirit of resistance presently appeared as to indicate the existence of a mighty hidden fire. In the latter half of the fourteenth century, John Wickliffe arose in England, and a few years later, John Huss and Jerome of Prague, on the continent, who ventured to attack the jurisdiction of the Pope and the corruptions of the clergy with some degree of boldness; and while the blood of Huss and Jerome which had stained the altar of martyrdom was still crying to Heaven for vengeance, the great Luther arose, and with invincible firmness put his hand to the work which his illustrious
predecessors had commenced. When he began his career, he dreamed not where it would terminate; for there were only some gleams of light let in upon his mind,
and at best he saw men but as trees walking; but, as he advanced, the light became clearer and stronger; and he saw that the system to which he had been educated had rottenness at the core; and he determined with the heroism of a martyr to prosecute the work of reformation, as God should give him light to discover where it was needed, and strength to resist the power that should oppose him. And while this bold and lofty purpose was maturing in the mind of Luther, the great Head of the Church was forming other instruments to be employed for the same end: Calvin and Melancthon, Zuingle, and Farel, and Viret, and Knox, had been in a course of training by divine Providence to become Luther's co-adjutors; and such they actually became; and their united influence was as the lightning which reacheth from one end of heaven even to the other.This new and surprising movement was met, as might have been expected, with the most desperate resistance: not only the ecclesiastics, but the kings and nobles of the earth, set themselves in array against it, professing to regard it as a rebellion against the authority of Heaven; but the cause moved forward in spite of all their efforts, and multitudes avowed themselves its friends at the hazard of a martyr's death. Within a few years from the time that Luther first publickly attacked the doctrine of indulgences, the standard of the Reformation was planted not only in Germany, but in France, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden and Britain ; and this glorious cause has been gradually going forward, not indeed without much to oppose and retard its progress, to the present hour. In nearly all the countries of Europe the Reformed church has an existence; but in several of them, as you are well aware, it occupies but a subordinate place, and is subject to extreme embarrassments.