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enlarge on this point, having before dwelt at length on it. See chap. iii. We here however take the tem preaching the Gospel, in a large sense, as including the circulation of the Scriptures, the diffusion of pious books and tracts, the religious education of children, visiting and instructing the poor, and all those vanet and invaluable means by which the truths of the Gospel are now brought before the human mind.
There are promises distinctly pointing out this as the means of accomplishing the hope of the church. The reason why all nations shall flow unto the house of the Lord is this, for out of Zion shall go forth the Law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem ; (Isa. ii, 2,) at the time of the end, it is predicted, Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. Dan. xii, 4 Before the hour of God's judgment, and before Babylon falls, the Apostle says, I saw another Angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting Gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every
and even raising the many who have rejected it, into a better system of moral opinions. It is to preaching that Christianity owes its origin, its continuance, and its progress; and it is to itinerating preaching, however the ignorant may undervalue it, that we owe the conversion of the Roman world from Paganism to primitive Christianity; our own freedom from the thraldom of Popery, in the success of the Reformation; and the revival of Christianity at the present day, from the depression which it had undergone, owing to the prevalence of infidelity and of indifference. Books, however excellent, require at least some previous interest on the part of the person who is to open and to peruse them; but the preacher arrests that attention which the written record only invites, and the living voice and the listening numbers, heighten the impression by the sympathy and enthusiasm which they excite; the reality which the truths spoken, possess in the mind of the speaker, is communicated to the feelings of the hearers, and they end in sharing the same views, at least for the moment, and in augmenting each other's convictions."
ration, and kindred, and tongue, and people. Rev. xiv, 6. 'he words are remarkably full and express, as to the universal preaching of the Gospel through all the earth, and are supposed by judicious commentators, to have especial reference to the means to be used for the evangelizing of Papal and Heathen countries.
(2.) THE REMOVAL OF THE TEMPTATIONS OF OUR SPIRITUAL ADVERSARY. Now Satan has, by means of false religion and error, immense sway in every land: he is still the Prince of the power of the air, the Spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. Eph. ii, 2. He is full of activity and vigour, and full of diligence and exertion. He goeth about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 1Pet. v, 8. Every word here is expressive of his indefatigable efforts to destroy us. He is called the God of this world, (2 Cor. iv, 4.) a tremendous description of his power. He is the great leader of all enemies that oppose Christians in diffusing the Gospel. Eph. vi, 12. But all this power shall come to an end. Our Lord, with the eye of prophetic joy, exults in this-I beheld Satan, as
* Preaching will be the only effectual overthrow of Popery. It was the main engine of the Reformation. Take away preaching, and an immense advantage is given to Popery. The Romish worship, with all its shew, pomp, and pageantry, has, in its best attire, infinitely more attractions to the senses than the Protestant. Their gilded crucifixes, their beautiful pictures, their fine images, their splendid vestments, their long processions, and the various orders clothed in their respective dresses, all strike the eye and with it is often found the most exquisite sacred music, and every thing calculated to move and influence the natural man. The power of the preached Gospel, which alone meets the true, the deepest, the spiritual wants of man, and affords rest to his burdened conscience, as it is God's own and only plan, so it can alone adequately and with success contend with, and triumph over such attractions, and dispel "the fascinations of the Romish Charmers."
lightning, fall from heaven; (Luke x, 18.) and his Ape tles record the promise, The God of peace shall bruis Satan under your feet shortly. Rom. xvi, 20.
But in the last book of the Holy Scriptures, we have a more express prediction on this subject. St. Johr says, I saw an angel come down from heaven, having th key of the bottomless pit, and a great chain in his hard. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that hi should deceive the nations no more, till a thousand year! be fulfilled. Rev. xx, 1–3. This can mean nothing less than a peculiar, and effective, and general restraining of his power, over the whole earth, infinitely beyond any thing yet given to the church. O who can tell all the evil that will be thus restrained; all the devices and snares, by which men have been deceived and blinded. that will thus be removed; and all the good that will thus have free course!
(3.) But we freely allow, without a farther means, the difficulties which have been named could not be removed. There is a farther assistance yet promised to the church, THE GENERAL EFFUSION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, which shall give effect to the preaching of the Gospel, and overthrow Satan and his temptations, and furnish life, and strength, and holiness, for every good and perfect work. However the word of God may be as a fire, or like a hammer to break the rock in pieces; (Jer. xxiii, 29.) we see by many instances of those who live under the most faithful exhibition of that word, that it does not necessarily, and invariably, produce spiritual benefit. The hammer requires a hand to wield it; the fire requires to be applied; the Holy Spirit alone makes the Gospel efficacious-Thy people shall be willing in the
lay of thy power. Psa.cx, 3. Admit to the full extent he power of our spiritual adversary, and that being now opposed he now especially rages; but still shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him; (or as it is in the margin, shall put him to the flight.) Isa. lix, 19.. Admit that the church is now in a low and desolate state, it is only until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness shall be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be counted for a forest : then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field, and the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness shall be quietness and assurance for ever. Isa. xxxii, 15-17. (See also Isa. xliv, 2, 3; Ezek. xxxvi, 25-27.) So our Lord promises. to send the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, and declares, When he is come, he will reprove (or rather, as in the margin, convince) the world (not a few individuals, but, in the result, the world,) of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. Johu xvi, 8. 9.* This effective and almighty worker is promised in especial reference to the object which we are considering-the universal diffusion of divine knowledge in the last days: It shall come to pass, in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. And on my servants,
By judgment here seems especially intended our sanctification by victory over our spiritual enemies. See ver. 11, and Matt.xii, 20. In Usher's Twenty Sermons, fol. p. 139, and 158, this passage is explained,
and on my hand maidens, I will pour out in those day of my Spirit, and they shail prophesy. Acts ii, 17, 19 We see in the primitive church the divine beauty and vigour of this gift in its first communication, and the promise belongs to all that are afar off, as many as Lord shall call. Acts ii, 39. And with this promis whatever difficulties may appear to the eye of eye of faith discerns them all surmounted, and, like the divine Author of faith, calleth those things which be not. as though they were. Rom. iv, 17.
Let these means be fully accomplished, and how mighty and extensive must be the conquests of divine truth!
Such being the means by which difficulties shall be removed, it may be again asked, Have we any immediate interest in these things? may they not be events far distant? are there any evidences that the means by which difficulties shall be removed are now in more extensive operation? We reply, We have a direct and present interest in these things. There are SIGNS OF THE TIMES, and means now in operation, which may lead us to the most cheering hopes, and call upon us, Look up, and lift up your heads. Luke xxii, 28.
Let us then briefly advert to one or two of the signs which distinguish the present day. Every Christian should discern the signs of the times. Our Lord strongly reproved those who neglected to do so. Because the Scribes and Pharisees disregarded this duty, they rejected and crucified the Lord of glory; and we too may lose our advantages and incur great guilt, if we disregard the present state of the world, and the prospects held forth to us in the Holy Scriptures.
The SIGN OF PROPHECY is, perhaps, the most important of all, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed,