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trance, when he saw the partition wall broken down, and the gates of mercy thrown open to the Gentiles; the miracles wrought in the name of Jesus by the first delegates of his spiritual authority; the last extraordinary appearance of Christ at Damascus; the preternatural conversion of Paul, his fiery zeal, his unparalleled exertions, his hairbreadth escapes, his wonderful services to that holy cause, whose followers he had once persecuted to the death.— This is a rapid and imperfect sketch of what we learn from the book of Acts.
But, beyond all this, that book is invaluable to us, as embodying, in one brief authentic record, the history of the first propagation of Christianity, and shewing, by what inadequate and utterly disproportionate means, had not the finger of God been there, a faith that opposed all the passions and prejudices of men; triumphed over every obstacle that prejudice or passion could create. That evidence of divine truth, which physical miracles could afford only to those who saw them, is, in their absence, supplied to us by the great moral miracle here presented to our view ;-the only kind of miracle, of which the lapse of ages cannot weaken the effect. In Christianity we behold a religion, originating in the lowest of mankind, in a small band of poor ignorant fishermen; we behold it standing aloof from all compromise, disdaining all the arts by which plausible errors are sustained,ushered in by no pomp, save that of prophecy,
cemented by nothing but the blood of its Founder, and the martyrdom of His Apostles : and, anon, we behold it, in a few short years, striking its deep roots in every direction, spreading from Palestine through all the provinces of Asia, upturning all the idols that heathen prejudice or policy had consecrated, conquering, at last, the conquerors of the world, and making Rome's haughty emperors bend before the crucifix, till the banners of the cross, which it had been death to own, were fearlessly waved over the palaces of the Cæsars, and floated in triumph on the top of the Capitolium! When we compare the cause with the effect,—the vast result with the insignificant beginning,—the ingenuity of scepticism seems baffled in the attempt to account for it by any ordinary means; nor does it easily appear how a candid mind can escape the inference, that this success was ordained, against all human probabilities, under the direct influence of that Power, who had decreed to reveal his intentions to mankind.
On the above considerations, which have been often urged by divines, it is not my wish to dwell further now; but rather to turn your thoughts to an inquiry that naturally springs out of them, namely, by what appointed means, under the divine blessing, these great ends were accomplished. This problem is readily solved by a perusal of the Book of Acts, as well as by the beautiful Epistles of St. Paul. The few specimens of the Apostolic addresses which it contains, are so many sacred relics of undefiled Christianity, from which we may learn what kind of preaching may best hope to be crowned by the divine favour. Jesus Christ dying for our sins, and rising again for our justification, and the grace of the Holy Spirit given to all true believers, to regenerate their corrupt nature, and purify it unto good works, on these great and simple truths is founded all the preaching of the Apostles, and by these alone they prevailed “in demonstration of the Spirit and in power.”
This, my brethren, is the meaning of the emphatic words which I have this day selected as the text of my valedictory address. They are taken from Paul's farewell speech to the elders of the church which he had founded at Ephesus, a place endeared to his recollections as the scene of his early labours, and of the first triumphs of the faith, when the temple of Diana was converted into a Christian chapel, and the heathen oracles bewailed their deserted shrines. His ministry had been blessed in such a signal manner as none other ever can, and he ascribed it to one cause only : I have not shunned, said he, to declare to you ALL THE COUNSEL OF GOD. And well had that holy man kept his word. In hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness, in watchings and weariness and fasting, in perils from robbers, in perils from Jews, in perils from the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among
false brethren,-the cross, the glorious cross, was for ever beaming before his eyes; the vision of Damascus was never out of his sight; Christ was there, cheering him through every trial; and wherever he went, the great message which he delivered, whether to peasants in their huts, or to monarchs in their palaces, was “ to know but this, Christ Jesus, and him crucified !”
Yes, my brethren, that was the foundation of all he had done, and that foundation must still be laid, until the day when all hearts shall be revealed, by every Christian teacher who wishes that himself and his hearers may be saved, and who would “ have a man so account of him as of a minister of Christ, and a steward of the mysteries of God.”
And, oh! how wide a range is spread before him ! The great Jehovah is before him, the Ancient of Days, with all His immeasurable attributes, with all His majesty and power,—the God of truth,—the God of glory,—the God of justice, --the God of mercy,—the God of terrors,—the God of love! And wide nature is before him, with the choral hymn of praise, which her million voices sing to the bountiful Creator. And the heart of man is before him, with all its littleness, and all its greatness; with its purity in conception, and its corruption in practice; with its vast reach of intellect, and its clouds of prejudice; with its low wants, and its high desires ; with its sensual lusts, and its lofty aspirations,
now equal to the angel, and now beneath the brute. And conscience is before him, with her innate theology ;--conscience, the vicegerent of God on earth,—the monitor that speaks when all else is silent, and that is silent when all else speaks ! And the world is before him, with its passions, and its pride, and its sophistries, to combat; its false laws of honour; its false constructions of moral duties ; its false judgments on others; its uncharitable perversion of motives; its plausible excuses for fashionable crimes. And the light of prophecy is before him, that glorious torch, successively seized and transmitted from seer to seer, that total darkness might never prevail, until He, whom they foreshadowed, should appear, and kings come to the brightness of His rising. And the patriarchs are before him in all the majesty of antiquity, the types and the forerunners of Christ. And the hallowed lyre of David is before him, that will still respond truly, when touched by a pious hand. And the glorious company of the Apostles is before him, and the goodly fellowship of the Prophets, and the noble army of martyrs, and the holy church throughout all the world. And Christ is before him, the man of sorrows, bruised for our sins, and wounded for our iniquities. And Christ is before him, the Lord of Glory, coming in the clouds to be our Judge, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords. And Religion is before him, with all her mercies,--and the Spirit, with all its blessed influ