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most need. And the nearer modern Missionaries can come up to his standard, and to the bright example which he has left; the greater, doubtless, will be their usefulness, and the more they will be honoredand approved of God.

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4. The subject to which we have been attending is fitted, my brethren, both to reprove and to excite If Paul was able to do so much good, it should be a humbling thought to us that we do so little. How shall we answer it at another day, that we have followed at so great a distance (if indeed we have followed at all) the examples of the primitive saints, and have made a few and feeble exertions, in promoting the cause of him whom we call our Saviour ?— May a sense of past negligence affect us deeply, and excite us to greater diligence and faithfulness in time to come. All of us, we may rest assured, have something to do. And we all have something to do, without going out of our proper sphere. There is something which our Saviour requires and expects we shall do for him, and for which he will hereafter call us to an account. It should then be our study to know definitely what this is, and our fixed purpose to do it, let it be what it may. No considerations of personal ease or indulgence should be permitted in any case to come between us, and what we feel to be our duty.

4*

DISCOURSE IV.

COMPARATIVE

ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES

OF THE PRIMITIVE CHRISTIANS, AND CHRIS
TIANS NOW, FOR SPREADING THE GOSPEL.

Rom. x. 18.

"But I say, Have they not heard? Yes, verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world."

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THIS is one of the passages, in which the Apostle speaks of the extent to which the gospel had been preached and the religion of Christ promulgated, in his own times. There are several other passages in his writings of a similar import. The gospel hath "come to you," says he to the Colossians, "as it is in all the world; and it bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you." And again; "Be not moved away from the hope of the gospel which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I, Paul, am made a Minister."-Whatever construction or limitations may be put upon these passages, it will I think be admitted by every candid interpreter, that they denote a very rapid extension of the gospel, in the earliest period of the Christian Church. At the time when they were written, the Saviour had not been crucified and the new dispensation instituted, more than about thirty years; and yet, in this comparatively short space, his religion and kingdom had been so greatly extended through the labors of his

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disciples and friends, that it could be said in truth, and in some authorized sense, that "their sound had gone into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world," and that his gospel had been "preached to every creature which is under heaven."

How shall we account, my brethren, for this rapid spread, or as it may almost be termed, this flight of the gospel in primitive times? And especially, in what manner can we account for it, considering the slow progress which the same gospel has made in most periods since; and the comparatively slow progress which it is making even now? Can it be accounted for on the ground that the primitive believers enjoyed superior advantages for spreading the gospel, compared with those which are enjoyed at present ?—To institute a comparison of these several advantages, and thereby furnish a satisfactory answer to this question, will be my principal endeavour in the ensuing discourse.

It is obvious, I think, that in some respects the Apostles had superior advantages for spreading the gospel. In the first place, they were favored with the gift of tongues. As they passed from nation to nation and from place to place, publishing the gospel of the grace of God, they were not necessitated to suspend their public labors, till they had made themselves familiar with the various languages and dialects. By a supernatural influence, they were enabled to speak intelligibly in any language, as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance. This gift of tongues was an advantage to them, not only as it saved the labor and delay of acquiring languages, but as it was fitted to excite attention and wonder, and to impress those who heard them with the truth and importance of what was delivered. "Behold, are not

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all these which speak Galileans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue wherein we were born ?" Another decided advantage, which the primitive disciples possessed over modern believers, consisted in the power of working miracles. They were able in this way, not only "to arouse the attention and overawe opposing prejudices," but to afford instant and incontestable evidence that their doctrine was conformable to the will of God.

And so far as the Apostles and their fellow laborers were under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they possessed an advantage to which Christians at the present day can make no pretensions. We are not to suppose however that they were at all times the subjects of a supernatual influence; for had they been, we should not have heard of their frequent mistakes and imperfections, and their history would have been very different from what we actually find it. Doubtless they were superna, turally directed, when it was absolutely necessary they should be; and they were sufficiently favored with a Divine inspiration, to render them acquainted with the truths which it was their business to teach, and which they were to record for the instruction of mankind.

In recounting these superior advantages of the Apostles, it deserves however to be remarked, that they are advantages of which we stand in but little need. Though Christians at the present day do not possess the gift of tongues; there are those calling themselves Christians who are capable of speaking perhaps in every tongue; and besides, the comparative ease with which different languages are now acquired, and translations made, almost removes the hindrance once so formidable, arising from the con

fusion of tongues, to the universal spread and triumph of the gospel. Though religious teachers in modern times have not the power of working miraEles in attestation of the truth of their doctrines; yet, so far as their doctrines accord with those of the Apostles, they are supported by all the miracles which the Apostles wrought. And, as an able writer has well observed, "the turning point of receiving christianity, even in the apostolic age, consisted less in having seen the miracles, than in seeing their own need of a revelation, and its adaptation to the present circumstances of humanity." The miracles of that period frequently excited wonder and astonishment; but we have no evidence that they were often instrumental, either of enlightening the understanding, or renewing the heart. In the production of these effects, "moral influence has always prevailed more than supernatural influence. The generation which literally lived on miracles and had angels' food for their daily bread, perished from unbelief in the desert; whilst their children, brought up in the loneliness of the wilderness, far from the corruptions of the surrounding nations, were ever eminent to after times, as an example of a godly nation."*-And though none at the present time can pretend to that Divine inspiration with which the primitive christians were occasionally indulged; yet we enjoy the full benefits of their inspiration. The important truths, which were suggested to them by the Holy Spirit, have all been transmitted unimpaired to us.

It may be supposed by some, that the newness of the Christian system, as propagated by the Apostles, gave them an advantage over all succeeding teachers.

*Douglas' Hints on Missions, p. 23.

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