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and breadth of our land. Decency, and order, and harmony, and peace, delightfully prevail. But need you be reminded, brethren, that all these things may be where true scriptural religion is not? That the gospel, by its collateral effects, may civi. lize, and reform, and polish a whole community, while it directly evangelizes and saves only a very small remnant? That (to use the language of Luther) it may produce Reguluses and Fabriciuses, upright and righteous men according to man's judgment, and yet have nothing in it of the nature of genuine righteousness before God? And is it not true, at this moment, that the prevailing tone of Christianity has so subsided into a good-natured quietness, a plausible profession of individual humility slily praising itself, while, at the same time, it affects too much diffidence to find fault with any other; and an indiscriminate charity, which kindly implies that all creeds are equally safe at last? I repeat, is not the prevailing tone of Christianity in this country so infected with the atmosphere of this fashionable liberality, that any thing approaching the spirit, and fire, and zeal, and faith of primitive piety, is denounced as fanaticism; as unholy, because unhumbled impetuosity, or, at least, shrunk from and shunned as enthusiasm, needlessly. offensive, and therefore exceedingly injudicious ? And is not this the secret of the great apparent increase of religion among us? The church has relaxed in both her doctrine and practice. She occupies a lower and
broader platform than is meet; and having laid aside, as ultra and unnecessary, much of what is forbidding to the carnal mind; she has enticed multitudes to join hands with her, whose hearts are not right with her Lord, and who would never have made a show of joining her, had she adhered to the faithfulness of her Lord's truth, and the holiness of her Lord's example. It is not so much that genuine Christianity has increased; as that a spurious mixture, diluted down to the palate of the world, is passing current for the true.
But granting the full extent of what some contend for, as to the increase of true religion in England; still, it cannot be maintained that Christianity has been progressive, acquiring and retaining influence over the families of the earth. And in reference to the promise of universal blessedness, the fulfilment of which is anticipated under this dispensation, it is worthy of remark, that the inspired description of what all the families of mankind shall be, is not yet applicable (neither has it ever been) to even one single family in the most favoured city or village of Christendom: so that in order to complete the glorious work, the effects produced must not only be enlarged in degree, but also become different in kind.
I do not say that these considerations contain a proof of this dispensation not being the final one: but I certainly think that they are, at least, calcu- . lated to excite in unprejudiced minds a suspicion
that it may not be: and that when compared with the histories of former dispensations, they supply strong presumptive evidence that it will not. At least, they should prevent any intelligent man from rejecting, à priori, and without examination, the opinion that it will not.
What say the scriptures, then,
I. As to the design of this dispensation ?
I. When the gospel made progress among the Gentiles by means of the preaching of Paul and Barnabas ; that is, at the commencement of this dispensation, and when a controversy arose at Antioch respecting the circumcision of the Gentile · converts; a council of the apostolical church was
called together at Jerusalem, to consider and determine the point in dispute. In that council Peter referred to the special revelation by which he had been led, some time before, to go and preach in the house of Cornelius the Gentile centurion ; upon which James made the following remarkable comment : “ Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles TO TAKE OUT OF THEM A PEOPLE FOR HIS NAME.” (Acts xv. 14.) Now if we believe (as we profess to do) that this is not merely the opinion of the apostle, but that he spake these words as he was moved by the Holy Ghost; then we have here a distinct declaration of God himself
that the design of this dispensation is to take and save a people out of the Gentiles, which is certainly a very different thing from converting and blessing all the families of the earth. On this point, proofs may be multiplied from the experience, the number, and the character of the real disciples of Jesús Christ, as largely described in the New Testament.
Concerning the experience of true believers under this dispensation, we read, 2 Tim. iii. 12, “ All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution ;” Matt. v. 11, “ Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake;" also, John xv. 19, “ If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you;” Luke xii. 51–53, “ Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth ? I tell you nay, but rather division : for from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father ; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother-in-law against the daughter. in-law, and the daughter-in-law against the motherin-law ;” Matt. x. 36, “ And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.”
Concerning the number of true believers, we read, Matt. xxii. 14, “ Many are called, but few are chosen ;' Matt. vii. 13, 14, 21, 22, 23, “Enter ye in at the strait gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat : because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils ? and in thy name done many wonderful works ? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you, depart from me ye that work iniquity.”
Concerning the character of true believers, we read, 1 John ii. 15, “ Love not the world, neither the things of the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him ;" James iv. 4, “ The friendship of the world is enmity with God, whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world, he is the enemy of God;" 2 Cor. vi. 17, “ Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord.” “ And I beseech you by the mercies of God," saith the apostle, “ that ye be not conformed to this world.” (Rom. xii. 1, 2.) · These passages of scripture avowedly belong to this dispensation. They have applied in every age,