« ForrigeFortsæt »
any congregation, city, or country: for indeed "the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, " and temperance."
Should we advert to the state of religion more at large, we should find that the remnant which professes the leading truths of Christianity, and appears to be influenced by them; is lamentably divided into parties, about subordinate points of doctrine, or matters of discipline and government. So that, if we could collect together the whole company of real believers, we should find them very discordant in their sentiments, and disposed to magnify the importance of their several particularities and it would be extremely difficult, if not wholly impossible, to unite them in religious services, or in the same plan for promoting the common cause. On the contrary, it would hardly. be practicable to exclude subjects of doubtful disputation; or to prevent such contests and mutual censures as only serve to furnish the enemies of the gospel with plausible objections. Alas, this is an evident proof, that, as the apostle expresses it, we" are yet carnal," however orthodox our creed may be, or how zealously soever we contend for it! 66 Hereby," says our Lord, "shall all men "know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love. "one for another."
But, when "the Spirit shall be poured upon us "from on high," all "who love the Lord Jesus in.
sincerity" will "love one another with a pure "heart fervently." The pride and selfish passions
1 1 Cor. iii. 3, 4.
which occasion disputes will be mortified; the minds of Christians will be more fully illuminated; the harmony of scripture will be better understood; the comparative value of every part of religion will be more clearly ascertained; and men will be rendered more humbly sensible of their fallibility, and more disposed to candour and patience. Thus, while a most desirable progress will be made, in regulating every thing according to the standard of truth, Christians will be delivered in great measure from the propensity to judge or despise their brethren; and will learn to "receive one another,
even as Christ receiveth them, to the glory of "God." The pouring out of the Spirit will effect what acts of uniformity, conciliatory schemes, or philosophical candour can never accomplish: for it will bring Christians, through whole countries, "with one mind and one mouth to glorify God;" to form one Church, professing the same fundamental doctrines, harmoniously joining in the same worship, and the celebration of the same ordinances, and zealously concurring to promote the conversion of Mohammedans, Jews, and Pagans, to scriptural Christianity.
These happy effects are predicted by the prophets, under various significant representations; of which it may suffice at present to produce a single specimen. "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the "kid; and the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead "them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; "their young ones shall lie down together; and "the lion shall cat straw like the ox: and the
"sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, " and the weaned child shall put his hand on the "cockatrice' den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth "shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as "the waters cover the sea.'
These are some of the effects which will proportionably follow, whenever the Spirit is poured out upon the church. Many others might be mentioned, did brevity permit; and some of them will come before us in the subsequent part of the subject.
III. Then we proceed to make some remarks on the emphatical word, "Until."
A variety of plans are continually proposed and adopted, to ameliorate the condition of mankind, and to guard at the same time against tyranny in the rulers, and turbulency in the multitude. No doubt something may be done in this way to render the state of the world more tolerable than it would otherwise be: for, while civil government in general is " God's ordinance," the peculiar arrangement of it is left in great measure to human prudence; and it may therefore be also called "the "ordinance of man."2 But too sanguine expectations are formed, when changes take place, or when supposed improvements are made; and speedy disappointment is the consequence. The world after all remains full of oppression or sedition: the rulers and people generally continue unchanged in character, whatever external changes take place and selfishness produces its effects,
'Isai. xi. 6-9. xli. 18-20. xliv. 3-5.
2 Rom. xiii. 2. 1 Pet. ii. 13.
after all the efforts which are made to counteract it; even as poison retains its destructive efficacy, in whatever form it is administered. This will in great measure continue to be the case, "until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high," to renew men's hearts to the divine image in holy love: and then, they will delight in equity, goodness, mercy, and peace, after the example of our holy God; which will render human society as happy, as it is now too often miserable.
Again, the earth hath in every age been a field of blood; and the vast proportion of our race, which has perished by the sword, almost exceeds credibility or calculation: nor can the compassionate mind reflect on the subject without horror and amazement. The causes of this deplorable fact have been sought for in the different forms of government; and in the ambition of men distinguished by certain titles, or invested with authority in some peculiar manner. Yet the disposition "to delight in war" seems to have been common to governors of all descriptions: and the sacred writers, characterizing the ungodly, say, "Their "feet are swift to shed blood." Universal history is the best comment on this text: all the genius of mankind, however diversified, has combined to celebrate successful warriors. The original murderer has appeared in this respect especially to be the god of this world: Mars, Bellona, and even Minerva, (the poet's emblem of prudence in.war,) are the names under which polite nations have worshipped him: and unnumbered millions of human victims have been immolated at his shrine, by his renowned priests, who have emulated his
ambition and malignity, and shared the adoration which he received. Thus it will be in a great measure," until the Spirit be poured upon us from " on high." Ambition, resentment, rapacity, and interfering interests will continue to excite mankind to war: and both the mighty and the mean will, in general, deem this one of the most honourable and desirable of employments; till those happy times arrive, which are predicted in the scriptures, when "the nations shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; " and they shall learn war no more." But every degree of that sacred influence will, in the mean time, produce proportionably the same happy con.sequences.
It is likewise grievous to reflect on the severities, which are necessary to maintain peace and order in the community: on the numbers deprived of life, immured in dungeons, and banished to remote and desolate regions, that others may live in security while the silent ravages of licentiousness appear even still more dreadful, to those who have the opportunity, or are under the painful necessity, of investigating them. The wisdom and assiduity of men are well employed in attempting to abate these dire mischiefs: but no effectual remedy will be applied "until the Spirit be poured upon us "from on high." Then the divine law will be written in men's hearts; and justice, benevolence, and universal temperance, implanted in the soul, will infallibly rectify these disorders, which are incurable by all other means.
We cannot reflect on the condition in which the nations remain to this day, without lamenting that