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equivocally bespoke his eternal
hold his missionary labours among the heathen, and the success with which they were attended; and if ecclesiastical history does not deceive us, I might add, let us behold, at this moment, the ultimate effects of his exertions in our own island, where he is supposed to have come, for the purpose of preaching, for the first time, to our pagan forefathers, that Saviour who, when thus exhibited in all his holy doctrines and precepts, was to draw all men after him.
From Scripture we might turn to the evidence of daily experience to prove that the exhibition of "Christ crucified," is the most powerful instrument for the conversion of mankind. If we look around in the world, we shall discover, that in proportion as the Cross of the Redeemer is displayed in its native simplicity, unentangled with vain philosophy and scholastic jangling, and unincumbered by the pomp and pride of the human heart; the consciences of men are awakened, their hearts are subdued, their affections are captivated; they become, in a word, new creatures in Christ Jesus. Let us go to the hardened profligate, and see if the moral suasion of the schools, if a cold lecture on the "beauty of virtue," and the "dignity of man," and "the eternal fitness of things" will touch his bosom with that compunction which is often excited by a simple display of the affection, the grace, the mercy of Him "who loved us and gave himself for us;" in order that by his stripes we might be healed. Let us go
to the couch of an expiring sinner, and see whether any thing will attract his attention and touch his heart like the doctrine of the Cross of Christ. We may discuss the ethics of heathenism, and we shall but chill and disgust him; we may preach the terrors of futurity, and we shall, perhaps, but affright him; we may urge penances, and tears, and austerities, and we shall but repel him. But let us tell him
of the Cross of a Saviour; let us point him to that great High Priest who offered up himself a willing and all-sufficient sacrifice for our sins; let us exhibit in its sacred benignity the character of the expiring Redeemer; and by the Divine influence accompanying the word preached, we shall melt his soul, we shall bring the tear of penitence down his cheek, we shall attract him to the arms of that blessed Saviour, who hath said, "Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out." The very words that have been mentioned intimate the constraining effects of the doctrine of "Christ crucified." It is not said, I will alarm men into repentance, I will terrify them into submission; but I will draw them after me; I will so mould their will, so influence their affections, so secure both their judgment and their hearts, so make them feel their own need and my power to supply it---their own weakness and my strength, their own sin and my salvation-that I will attract them by my influences: they shall willingly embrace my cause, enrol themselves as my disciples, conquer by my power, and, at length, enter into my glory.
Men are never described in Scripture as mere machines." My people," it is said, "shall be WILLING in the day of my power." The Apostle remarked, "knowing the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men." And our Lord's description of the way in which he should gain converts is of a similar character. He would attract them by the exhibition of his love and mercy in dying for them;--by his appeals to their own happiness and welfare (for he died that they might live); by setting before them the blessedness of submitting to his government, as well as the eternal misery attached to a course of sin. The exhibition of a crucified Saviour is at once an appeal to our reason and our feelings, to our hearts and to our understandings.
It shews us the guilt of sin; the awfulness of the Divine displeasure; the need of an atonement; the duty of conversion to God; the necessity of repentance, and of faith in this efficacious Sacrifice; and thus by example, by precept, and by the most touching appeals, it "draws" men to the Redeemer. The experience of every Christian congregation, and even of every in dividual Christian, would confirm this fact. In vain do we exhort men to repent, in vain do we urge them to reform, unless also we exhibit the doctrines of the Cross of the Saviour, and teach them thereby both how they may be pardoned for the past, and how they may hence. forth live to the praise and glory of him who died for their trans gressions, and rose again for their justification,
Thus we perceive that both Scripture and the daily facts that come under our inspection, combine to prove, that the doctrine of the Cross of Christ is the great instrument for the conversion of mankind. But the argument would be still more forcibly displayed were we to advert to the case of heathen countries. We have heard so frequently of this stupendous system of Redemption, that it be comes too often as "a tale that is told." We cannot realize it; or, if we realize it, we cannot feel the full magnitude and weight of the transaction. Yet even under these circumstances, where the theme is ever before our minds, and there is nothing of novelty to attract attention, we find that the preach ing of the Cross of Christ is not in vain, and that sinners are thereby converted from the error of their ways and brought to the knowledge and faith of the Redeemer. But among the heathen, who have never heard of the name of the Saviour, what must be the sensation when first told of those glorious truths which we daily hear with indiffer ence, and daily forget in the multitude and pressure of far les
important concerns. To be informed for the first time of the primæval innocence and fall of man, of his guilt and misery, and then to be pointed to the Son of God who came to expiate that guilt, and take away that misery, by his voluntary submission to a cruel and ignominious death, must surely affect the hearts of the heathen. And no wonder; for even the angels desire to look into these things. They will constitute the admiration of eternity!
The experiment is said to have been once tried by the Jesuit missionaries in China, of exhibiting the Redeemer, not as lifted up upon the cross, but simply in his glory; and this for fear of fending the prejudices of the natives, by acknowledging a despised Saviour. But did the experiment succeed? No: the Gospel never penetrated that country; while many other countries where it was exhibited in its purity, and where the Redeemer was truly lifted up as crucified for our transgression, have become long since united to the Christian church.
It is indeed astonishing to behold what an effect the simple preaching of the Cross of Christ, under the blessing of the Holy Spirit, often produces upon heathen nations. Upon a race of half clad uncivilized barbarians, our abstruse Divinity, our works of moral suasion, would have little or no influence. The mere evidences of Christianity, however ably stated, would be unable to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God." Many of the best and most learned writings of the Christian church would be lost upon them. But the Cross of Christ is an all-powerful argument; an argument easily understood and deeply felt in every clime and by every people. None are so civilized as not to need it; none so barbarous as not to comprehend it. It is the key to every heart; as well as the medicine for
every spiritual sickness. It supplies what nothing else can supply, a cure for a wounded conscience. Man by nature often feels his sin and guilt; but Paganism affords no adequate remedy. With what joy,therefore, must the heathen hear of that Saviour who "died, the Just for the unjust, to bring us nigh unto God." It is a well-known circumstance, that when that apostolic missionary of the venerable Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, the late lamented and revered Mr. Swartz, was once preaching to the heathen in the East, from those impressive words, "The blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin,” a Hindoo pilgrim who had been condemned to travel several hundred miles with spikes in his sandals to expiate some crime, came faint and weary to the spot; and, hearing these blessed words of eternal life, eagerly exclaimed, That is what I want!-and instantly, throwing away his instruments of torture, became the faithful convert of the Redeemer.-Numerous other instances of a similar kind might be detailed, from the narratives of Christian missionaries in every age. One, perhaps, may suffice as a concluding proof. I shall give it as related in a sermon preached at one of the earlier anniversaries of the Church Missionary Society. Johannes, a North-American Indian, was the first of his tribe whose heart was religiously impressed by the exertions of certain faithful servants of Christ who settled as missionaries in his vicinity. From being an eminently wicked man, distinguished for his evil conduct, and even rendered a cripple for life by his sinful practices, he became both a consistent Christian and a useful fellow-labourer among the congregation which was gathered from the heathen. At a religious meeting, in which the best means of preaching to the natives was considered, he made the following striking remarks:---" Brethren, I have been a heathen, and
John v. 39. Search the Seriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me.
THE duty mentioned in the text is one so plain, so easy, and so fully acknowledged by all who profess and call themselves Christians, that we might at first sight imagine there could be little need to enforce it by any arguments or motives. But when we consider how frequently it is either entirely omitted, or, at best, slightly performed by a large body of professed Christians, it becomes highly necessary to explain and enforce it by the considerations mentioned in the text.
In so doing we learn, first, a most important duty enjoined; "Search the Scriptures:" and secondly, the powerful reasons on which that duty is founded; "in them we have eternal life, and they are they which testify of Christ."
And while we reflect upon this highly important subject, may He, who at first indited the Scriptures by his holy inspiration, and who still, by his Divine influences, renders them effectual, for the conversion of sinners, and the correction, instruction, and edification of true believers, so open our hearts to receive and embrace his blessed word, that we may continue in the devout and edifying study of it to the end of our lives, and at length find all the blessings which it records realized unto us in the eternal world.
I. We learn then, first, a most important duty. This duty extends to persons of all classes and professions of all ages and stations in life; none are too wise to be exempted from it, none are so ig norant that they may not find benefit in its performance.
If we begin with those of an early and tender age, we find them especially commanded to "remember
their Creator in the days of their youth;" and how can they so well understand his character, or what he has done for their happiness and salvation, as by a constant perusal of his holy word? Saint Paul records with admiration of Timothy, that "from a child, he had known the holy Scriptures, which were able to make him wise unto salvation, through faith that is in Christ Jesus." What an interesting picture was this! to behold a child in years truly acquainted with his Saviour, and delighting to peruse his blessed word; retiring, we may conceive, from the vanities of childhood to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the things that belonged to his eternal peace. Had Timothy been called upon to leave the world at this period of life, how greatly must he have rejoiced that he had been inclined thus early to become acquainted with the Divine records of salvation. What affection also, and gratitude must he have felt towards those parents and teachers, who, having themselves known the value of the Scriptures, had thus brought him up in "the nurture and admonition of the Lord," and taught him, from his infancy, to make the book of God his study and delight. To this his early knowledge of the Scriptures, under the blessing of the Sacred Spirit, must be ascribed, that deep piety, that "growth in grace," and that youthful proficiency in the knowledge of his Redeemer, which rendered him while still young in years, fit to become, not only a minister, but a bishop in the Church of Christ, which he had purchased with his most precious blood. He doubtless, studied the Scriptures, because he really valued them, and his chief reason for valuing them must have been because they taught him how he might be happy, both here and hereafter; pointing out, on the one hand, his own sinfulness and guilt, and leading him, on the other, to that crucified Redeemer, that "Lamb of God," who came
expressly to take away the sin of the world.
But it may be said in reply, "True: it is a duty for children, diligently to learn to read and understand the Scriptures; their season of life, which affords them leisure, and renders them open to impression, makes them peculiarly capable of being benefited by such an employment; but how can it be expected that persons more advanced in life, and who are busily engaged in their temporal concerns, can give up much of their time to this duty? Besides, having frequently read the Scriptures in their childhood, may they not be supposed to retain them sufficiently in their memories for every practical purpose; or, at all events, does not an attendance on public worship sufficiently make up the deficiency?"
In reply to this objection, it will be shewn, that the obligation to read the Scriptures extends, as before remarked, to every age and station of life, without exception or limitation. If it be a duty in very young persons, still more is it a duty in those who, from their understanding being more enlarged, have less semblance of excuse for disobedience to the Divine command, and who are themselves conscious that, before long, they must appear at the tribunal of God to give an account of the deeds done in the body.
In the first place, with regard to the poor or ignorant man; what is the excuse which he has to urge against complying with the duty commanded in the text? He will, perhaps, reply, that he has very little time to spare; that he is in a dependent station, where he can. not act as he would desire; and that God, he trusts, will not therefore require much at his hands. Besides, he is afraid that he should not be able to understand what he reads, and thinks it sufficient, as was just remarked, that he attends public worship where he can learn whatever is necessary without CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 204.
perusing the Bible for himself.Each of these excuses admits of an easy answer. With regard to the
first, it is not much leisure, but a willing heart, that God requires; and were it but a short psalm, or even a single verse, that we have opportunity to peruse, before we proceed in the morning to the labours of the day, and after we return in the evening to take our repose; yet this short portion, if meditated upon with earnest prayer to God for his blessing and instruction, would not be in vain. This remark also is an answer to another of these vain excuses; for where the Almighty bestows a desire to learn what is necessary for salvation, he himself will deign to become our teacher: so that, "whoso will do the will of God, shall know of the doctrine" which our Saviour taught. To the humble and sincere person, however scanty his leisure, or mean his abilities, the word of God shall not be a sealed book; for the way of wisdom, intricate and arduous as it may appear to human reason unenlightened from above, is yet so clearly revealed in the Divine word that "the wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein." And to allude to the only remaining objection that has been mentioned, the public worship of God does not exempt us from private duties indeed, it is always the case, that in proportion as we really love either, we shall learn to love and attend to both. He who does not delight in the word of God can have little relish for Divine worship, and certainly has not profited either by the word preached, or the prayers which he professes to offer. It is, indeed, a great and inestimable blessing to possess the public means of grace; and such is the scriptural character of the services of our church, and so great the portion of the sacred volumes which is interwoven into them, that the most illiterate Christian, could he obtain 5 I