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visited one of these mysterious and awful retreats of the ancient Druids. Here" he saw a vast stone or altar, on the face of which a cavity was scooped out, so shaped as just to receive an extended human body." In this cavity, it is likely multitudes of human victims have been stretched, and their life blood spilled. It is evidence of the horrible nature of the superstition here described, that the Romans, who were proverbially tolerant toward the different species of idolatry practised in their provinces, were excited to vengeance by the cruelties of the Druids, and attempted to put an end to them by force.
Do we shudder, my brethren and friends, in view of the abominations and cruelties which have been here described? Let us bear in mind then who were their authors, and to whom they belonged. It was not to a stranger, but to our natural ancestors-thefathers and mothers from whom we are lineally descended. Yes, my friends, in tracing back our genealogy but a few centuries, we arrive at the very -scenes which have been described, and may behold our own progenitors partakers in them! We may behold our own father lifting the bloody knife, and plunging it into the heart of his victim; or sinking perhaps himself beneath the stroke of a Druidical priest! We may behold him kindling the fire which is to consume a trembling prisoner to ashes; or himself confined in the "wicker cage," involved in smoke, and flames, and death!!-Who, my brethren, extinguished these awful fires? What angel of mercy cut down these unhallowed groves, overturned the bloody altars, and put an end to these horrid, superstitious rites? What rescued our fathers, and through them saved us, from terrors and woes such as have been described ?—It was, my brethren, the Bible, the gos
pél. It was the benign and saving influence of the Christian religion.
Hence, our second general inquiry must be an interesting one; How did our fathers become acquainted with this heavenly religion? When, and by what means, were they brought to a knowledge of Christianity?
The precise time of the introduction of the gospel into England, is unknown. It is thought by some to have been preached there by the Apostle Paul, or by those who had received instruction from him, during the first century of the Christian era; but this is not sufficiently ascertained. We have conclusive evidence however, not only of its existence, but of its having made considerable progress, in the second century. So far as appears, it continued to be cherished and propagated, particularly in the Southern parts of the island, so long as the Romans retained possession of the country. But when the Roman garrisons were withdrawn in the fifth century, and England was invaded, first by the Scots and Picts from the north, and afterwards by the Saxons from the continent, all of whom were inveterate idolaters, Christianity suffered a dreadful repulse, and was even well nigh extirpated. Nevertheless it soon began to triumph over its Pagan invaders and enemies, and those who had sought its overthrow became its avowed supporters and friends.-About the commencement of the sixth century, forty preachers were sent to England from Rome. The labors of these men were eminently successful, and by their means Christianity gained such an ascendancy, that it could be shaken no more. It was long, however, before idolatry and heathenism were entirely rooted out. So late as the tenth century, the worship of idols was
continued in some parts, and was prohibited by the laws.
As to the manner in which our forefathers became acquainted with Christianity, there can be no dispute. It was through the labors and sufferings of Missionaries. The first Ministers of the everlasting gospel among them must have been Missionaries to the heathen; and the forty preachers, who in the beginning of the sixth century were sent from Rome, were of the same class. They where not Pastors, for there were neither parishes nor Churches over which they could be established,-but Missionaries, sent forth to scatter the light of truth in regions of deep and awful darkness.
That our forefathers received their knowledge of Christianity through the efforts of Missionaries, is certain from the nature of the case. They could have received it in no other way. Their lot was cast at a great distance from Jerusalem, where the gospel was first promulged. Immense regions of spiritual darkness and death lay between them and the rising light of heaven. How was this intervening darkness dispelled? How were these wide spread regions of idolatry penetrated? How did the light of truth reach their distant and benighted abodes in the West of Europe? It must have been by the efforts of Missionaries. The Churches already established must have made it their object, not only to preserve religion among themselves, but to extend its heavenly blessings to others. Missionaries in great numbers must have been raised up and sent forth into the field of spiritual conflict. Conquest after conquest was gained; Church after Church was planted; the star which rose in the East scattered its rays farther and farther to the West, till at length it beamed on German and British
tands. Paul, and the Missionaries who were prepared under his immediate inspection, accomplished much in this benevolent work; they were followed in it by others of a similar spirit; and thus the standard of the cross became unfurled, not only in Greece, and Italy, and Spain, and Gaul, but in more distant England, the land of our ancestors.-England therefore, which was then "a land of darkness and of the shadow of death," and which was literally "full of the habitations of cruelty," Missionaries were honored as the instruments of enlightening and reclaiming. Not by tortures and punishments, but by the saving, humanizing influence of the gospel, they quenched the fires, and overturned the altars, and destroyed the groves of the murderous Druids, and rescued those from whom we derived our being, and in effect saved us, from all the horrors of heathenism, here and hereafter.-How great then our indebtedness to the work of Missions? How great our indebtedness to the gospel of peace?
I proceed, thirdly, to consider and enforce some of the duties which the preceding review is fitted to impress upon us. And,
1. It becomes us to adore the sovereign grace of God, as manifested in the circumstances of our existence. Why was our lot cast in this favoured period of the world, and in this highly favoured portion of it? Why were we not doomed to an age of bondage and darkness, an age of Druidical superstition and cruelty? Why were we not left to worship the oaks of our forests, or the work of our own hands; and to the forlorn hope of appeasing by human sacrifices the dreaded wrath of imaginary gods? Why were we not consigned, with others who have lived before us, to a state of barbarism, without Bibles, without
ordinances, destitute alike of rational enjoyments in this world, and a hope of glory beyond the grave ? Are we better than our fathers? Who then has made us to differ from them? And why are we thus highly and happily distinguished ?-We can solve questions like these, my brethren, only by referring them to the sovereign pleasure and the sovereign grace of God. It hath pleased him to distinguish us from all the generations which have been before us, by loading us with greater mercies, and putting into our hands a richer price to get wisdom. May we have hearts to adore his sovereign grace, and to render again according to the blessings we have received. We should remember too that our responsibility increases with our privileges; and that if, after what has been done for us, we fail of the grace of life, our doom in the other world must be peculiarly dreadful. It must in that case be more tolerable for our poor pagan ancestors-yea, more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of Judgment," than for us.
2. We see from what has been said, that we ought very highly to value the gospel.-Compare Old England, or New, at the present time, with what they were previous to their being visited with the light of the gospel; and how great, how happy the change! Instead of unmeaning ceremonies and barbarous, murderous rites; the God of heaven is worshipped in the way of his own appointment; the consolations of the gospel are felt; and its Divine Institutions are known and observed. Instead of terror and bondage in this life, despair in death, and darkness and wretchedness beyond the tomb; the pleasure of the infinite Creator is revealed and understood, and by all who truly seek him, his love.