ePub 版
[ocr errors]

no considerate person might be at a loss to what to ascribe the effects produced ; that the excellency of the power, to the conviction of every impartial spectator, might be of God, and not of man. There was a time, and a time of great danger too, it was in the reign of Jehofhaphat, when God by his prophet commanded his people not to be dismayed, or even to fight for the common fafety ; telle ing them, that the battle was God's ; that they needed only to stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord with them *. In like manner, when God delivered Ifrael from the Midianites, by the hand of Gideon, of an army of thirty-two thousand he permitted only three hundred to go to battle, and with so small a force totally routed an innumerable host of aliens t. But neither of these cases was according to the usual procedure of Providence. On all ordinary occasions it was the express command of Heaven to all that were capable, to fight for their brethren, their fons, and their daughters, their wives, and their houses, remembering the Lord, who is great and terrible, and confiding in him f. It is only in extraordinary cafes (such as the first promulgation of the gospel) that the ordinary means are difpenfed with. These are in part the talents which God requires us to lay out in his service.

[ocr errors]

2 Chron, xx. 14. &c. Neh, iv. 14,

+ Judg. vii. 1. &c.


There have been some who, without ate' tending to the peculiarity of the case, have rathly concluded from fome expressions in the New Testament, that learning of every kind is rather an obftruction than a help in propagating religion. But on this topic they preserve no uniformity in their manner of arguing. Who will deny, that we ought to study the language of foreigners, before we attempt to instruct them ? Yet this branch of learning was as much superseded by the gift of tongues, fo common in the apostolic church, as the other branches were by the other supernatural gifts. And they were all set aside for the same reason; not a natural unfitness, but, on the contrary, a natural fitness, for attracting respect, and producing persuasion ; fince, in consequence of this fitness, the effect might erroneously be ascribed to them; and the miraculous interposition of Heaven, to which alone it ought to be attributed, might be excluded or overlooked. In that fingular case, the battle was God's peculiarly. The people were to stand still, and fee his falvation. Nothing was to be done but by particular direction. Now he chufes to operate by the intervention of natural means, and commands us to quit us like men, affiduously to exert every talent that may with probability be profitably employed in this fervice. The common reply, 'though true, is not satisfactory, That human learning has by misapplication been greatly abused in matters


of religion : for what talent is there that has not been abused and misapplied ? But if, on account of the abuse, we were to renounce the use of a thing in itself good, all means whatever ought to be laid aside. Even preach. ing, than which nothing has been more abused, must be given up for ever.

Let it not be imagined, that what was said in regard to the use made of arts and sciences by the Popish missionaries, was with a view to condemn or discredit such expedients. It was only with an intention to show, that there were many causes to which the success of those missionaries, comparatively little, might be attributed, without recurring to miracles; whereas there was nothing that could account for the astonishing fuccess of the apostles, in whom all those advantages were wanting, but miracles alone. It was not to depretiate the wisdom of man, but to show that the foolishness of God is wiser. So far from condemning the Roman Catholics in this, I approve, I applaud their zeal, their folicitude, their perseverance. I only regret they are so much mistaken in the object; and that it is not for the simple truth as it is in Jesus, that these qualities are exercised. I exceedingly regret, that it has fared with the gospel in their hands, as it did with the Mosaic law in the hands of the scribes and Pharisees; that the precepts and glosses of men have corrupted and disfigured the word


of God; and that the traditions of the Ro. mish, as formerly of the Jewish rabbis, have, in many instances, rendered the divine commandment of none effect. If our industry were equal to theirs, we might well expect superior success from the superiority of our cause. Let us not hesitate to take example in what is praise-worthy from those whom in other respects we disapprove. Our Lord did not scruple to recommend to his disciples, as a leffon of prudence, the provident care even of an unfaithful steward : “ For the chil“ dren of this world,” says he, “ are in “ their generation wiser than the children “ of light *." The Romanists claim the high prerogative of working miracles ; yet they pursue such politic measures as show that they lay no stress upon that privilege. There are, on the other hand, enthufiafts, who, though they do not in words arrogate fupernatural power, act as if they poffeffed it, treating with contempt the ordinary and natural means. Both are in extremes. And I fhall only say of them, that if the latter speak with more honesty, the former act with more judgement.

Still however we are to be understood with this limitation, that the means employed must never be repugnant to the unalterable rule of truth and right, or to the spirit of that holy

* Luke, xvi. 8.


religion which we desire to propagate. A good end will never fanctify bad means. Men have too often, in the cause of God, as they pretended, had recourse to deceit and violence. These unhallowed instruments, fo contradictory to the precepts, and so fubversive of the spirit of the gospel, they have thought they confecrated, by christening them pious frauds, and whole fome feveritics. Let us ever remember, that it is impossible that the God of mer. cy and truth should accept fuch detestable offerings :-“Thou shalt destroy them that speak " leasing," says David. “The Lord will abhor “ both the bloody and the deceitful man *."

I OBSERVE, thirdly, and I conclude with it, that though in these days no mislions can hope for success comparable to that which attended the ministry of the apostles, this consideration ought not to discourage fuch attempts, or leffen the ardour of Christians for the advancement of the gospel. It was fitting that the ministry of the Son of God, and of his select servants, by whom the foundations of the church were laid, should be fignalized by the most glorious manifestations of divine presence and agency. This was to serve to all future ages as a proof that the commission came from God. But let it not be suspected by any, that God will ever fail to countenance the cause of his Son, the

* Psal. v. 6.




« 上一頁繼續 »