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Strong as are the ties of blood and affinity, yet there are two reasons why universal peace can never be expected to proceed from them. One is, their influence extends only to a small part of mankind. It is true, we are all akin as creatures, and as having sprung from one common ancestor : this, however, is a consideration that has but little weight among the bulk of mankind. It is only towards near relations that the attachment in question is felt. The other is, that, even with respect to that part of mankind who are nearly related to each other, there is, in general, no such attachment as to overbalance the selfish affections.
The sum is, there is not a principle in human nature from which any rational expectation can be formed of the world ever becoming materially different from what it is. It may be more enlightened; but this will present no sufficient barrier against the tide of corrupt passions, which bears along its stream the educated part of mankind, no less than the uneducated. Man may shift and change into a thousand forms, and may promise himself peace in each of them: but he will not find it. He may attribute his misery to circumstances, and flatter himself, that, if they were different, all would be well: the cause however, is in himself, and is, therefore, sure to accompany him in every situation and condition. He may "change the place, but will keep the pain." If there were no hope from a higher quarter, the world would be shut up under sin, and have nothing to expect, but to be smitten with the curse.
III. Consider THE EFFICACY OF THE GOSPEL FOR THE DIFFUSTON OF UNIVERSAL peace. That which was wrought among the Jews by the preaching of John, furnished a specimen of what should be wrought in the world at large by the same means. They who had been disobedient were turned to the wisdom of the just. Repenting of their sins, they believed in the Messiah as at hand; and, being thus reconciled to God, they became reconciled to one another: loving and being loved, forgiving and being for given.
In ascribing these effects to the gospel, we only ascribe to it that which in its own nature, it is evidently adapted to produce; that which it actually has produced, so far as it has been cordially re
ceived; and that which the tenor of scripture-prophecy gives us
1. The Gospel is in its own nature, evidently adapted to produce peace on earth, and good will to men. It may, indeed, be the occasion of contention and bitterness, in unbelievers; but this is not
its proper effect it is accidental to it, and reflects no more dishonour upon it, than the good works of its Author, which occasioned his being stoned by the Jews, reflected upon him.
We have seen already, that the root of all the discord in the world is found in mankind having forsaken God: that, therefore, which is the means of bringing them back to God, and that only, will restore concord. It is thus that the root of bitterness is plucked up, and love the plant of paradise, substituted in its place. We have seen, that wars and fightings proceed from the lusts which war in our members: that, therefore, which teaches us to mortify these lusts, removes the causes, and by so doing, removes the ef fests. Pride, self-will, and the love of money, are the great sources of those calamities which, in all ages, have deluged the world with misery; but, if we believe the gopel, they will be, in a good measure dried up, and then the current which has been fed by them must cease to flow. The work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever.
The Gospel is a system in direct opposition to selfishness. It not only enforces a benevolent disposition, but is fraught with principles adapted to promote it. It furnishes the mind with a new set of views and feelings, both toward God, and toward man. It tells us of one, who, when all other means failed, said, Lo, I come-to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart; of one who laid down his life for us, even when we were yet ene mies. Now, to imbibe this doctrine is to become in a measure, of the same mind. He that is born of God possesses the spirit of a little child. Old things are passed away, and all things are become new. Laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil-speakings, as a new-born babe he desireth the sincere milk of the word, that he may grow thereby.
The gospel also furnishes us with a centre or bond, of union. Devoid of this, men are like grains of sand, without any principle
of adhesion, and must therefore, of necessity, be divided and scattered. The physical strength of a nation is of small account in a time of danger, if they have no standard to repair to, and no leader and commander in whom they can place confidence. But a wise and patriotic prince will hold a people together, and induce them to love their country, and one another the better for his sake. Such is our Redeemer, and such the love of one another which love to him inspires. Yea, more, it teaches us to love all mankind, from a hope that they may become his friends.
Now, if such sentiments and feelings were universal, or if only the greater part of mankind possessed them, the world, from being a wilderness, would become a paradise. Instead of the thorn, would come up the fir-tree; and instead of the brier, the myrtletree
and it would be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that should not be cut off.
·2. The gospel, so far as it has been cordially received, has actually produced these effects, I say cordially received; for it has met with a kind of reception that is not cordial, and to call which believing, we must understand the term in a very restricted and partial sense. We have been asked, by unbelievers, How is it, if Christianity be that pacific system which it professes to be, that Christian nations do not live in peace? We answer, 1. Because a very large proportion of the people who inhabit those nations, are Christians only in name. When any question arises between serious Christians and avowed unbelievers, persons of this discription commonly prove themselves to be one in heart with the latter, and ought, therefore; to be classed with them: 2. Because those who believe the doctrine which they profess, and are real Christians, yet do not always act consistently with their profession. These things certainly furnish occasion for the unbelieving part of the world, who seek occasion, to stumble at the gospel hence a woe is pronounced on the world because of offences, or stumblingblocks, and a still heavier one on those by whom the offence cometh. Yet, notwithstanding these deductions, Christianity has wrought enough to establish its pacific character. We could tell of myriads who, from being persecutors and injurious, like Saul of Tarsus, no sooner embraced the gospel than they became other
men; seeking the good of all around them, even of their worst enemies. We could appeal to the pacific spirit and conduct of thousands in our own times, who influenced by the same principles, seek, by every mean in their power, to heal the divisions, and alleviate the miseries of mankind.
If the Christians scattered over bleednig Europe could have healed her, she would have been healed before now. They, as well as other men, may have been engaged in the wars; and when called for in defence of their country, it may have been their duty so to do; but they have surely hailed the return of peace; and that not for their own sakes only, but from good will to men.
Why should unbelievers load Christianity with the persecutions, intrigues, and unjust wars, which have been carried on in Christendom; when, if they were disposed to judge righteously, they must allow, not only that the same things existed, and were accompanied with much more ferocity, under the heathen governments, but that what has existed since, is not to be ascribed to Christianity, but to the want of it? It was not till the gospel was corrupted, and in a manner lost, among those who called themselves the church, that such things occurred. Instead, therefore, of their proving any thing against the pure and peaceful nature of genuine Christianity, they furnish an argument in its favour. The immoralities in the churches at Corinth and in Galatia, when they had corrupted the gospel, were a proof of its moral, rather than of its immoral tendency. Is it to Christ or to Antichrist that the blood which has been shed for the last twelve hundred years, on account of religion, ought to be imputed? Have the attrocities committed by Europeans on the shores of Africa, and in other parts of the world, been owing to Christianity, or to the want of it ? Let truth and conscience give the answer.
3. The tenor of scripture prophecy gives us to expect far greater effects than those which have yet been produced. The world, like an abandoned sinner, may go on till it is wearied in the greatness of its way; but, if we believe in God and his prophets, we must conclude that it will not be so always. It was one great end of Christ's coming into the world, to set judgment in the earth; and though he have to encounter great opposition, yet
shall he not fail, nor be discouraged, till it be accomplishnd. The present disorders of the world will assuredly issue in a peaceful and happy state of things. Of this the following, among many other passages, it is presumed, afford ample proof:
And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.—And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. The wolf also 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 eat 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. And in that day there
shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the peo ple; to it shall the Gentiles seek, and his rest shall be glorious.— The jealousy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the enmity of Judah shall be no more: Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim.—The greaves of the armed warrior in conflict, and the garment rolled in much blood, shall be for a burning, even fuel for the fire.* For unto us a child is born, unto us a sou is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called-THE PRINCE OF PEACE. Of the increase of his governmeut and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth even for ever: the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.-In his days shall the righteous flourish: and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth.-God be merciful unto us, and bless us: and cause his face to shine upon us. That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations. Let the people praise thee, O God, let all the people praise thee. O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and gov