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by Jesus Christ; who, when the world was in darkness, “ brought life and immortality to
light by the Gospel.”. Of the diffusion of this heavenly Light, we shall notice three distinct Eras.
I. The first Era is that of the Promulgation of the Gospel by Christ himself.
II. The second is the Era of the REFORMATION; when, after that the Christian world had again sunk into darkness, and passed a long night of SUPERSTITION, the beams of truth broke forth with renewed splendor. III. A third Era of Light is the PRESENT
The Reformed Church, after preserving its purity as long, perhaps, as the primitive Church, began to suffer a general declension, and was in danger of being utterly overthrown by INFIDELITY. A decorous external profession was indeed observed; and, in our own Church, " the form of sound “ words” was retained; but the spirit and power of religion had very generally departed. By many persons the spiritual influence of the Gospel was not even acknowledged, The effusion of the Divine spirit was not believed to exist in any measure or degree, but was considered as something which was confined to the first age of the Church. But now the vital spirit of our religion hath revived, and is producing the fruits of the first century. Christianity hath assumed its true character, as “the Light of the world."
The Holy Scriptures are multiplying without number. Translations are preparing in almost all languages; and Preachers are going forth into almost every region, “ to make the ways of “ God known upon earth, his saving health among
all nations." I. We are first to review that grand Era of Light, when the Sun of Righteousness” himself appeared.
The period of this event has been observed as an epoch of time by almost all the civilized nations of the world; and with good reason; for the world was in darkness till Christ came. The Spirit of God, indeed, moved upon the face of the earth; and to the Patriarchs and Prophets an intimation was given that a Light WOULD come; yet it was true that, with the exception of the chosen people, who were themselves the harbingers of the Light, « darkness covered the earth, and gross dark“ness the people.” This was the state of mankind even in the brightest periods of Greece and Rome. Those nations had made some progress in natural science, and in human learning; but they were utterly ignorant of That science which is chiefly worthy of an immortal creature; namely, the knowledge of their Creator, and of their being's use and end. Such was the state of the moral world, when HE came, who is called “ the DESIRE of ALL “ Nations.” (Haggai ii. 7.)—It was not unlike the state of the natural world, at that period of creation when “ the earth was with< out form, and void; and darkness was upon " the face of the deep.” But while mankind were involved in this spiritual obscurity, “ The " WORD was made flesh,” That eternal Word, “ by whom all things were made, and without “ whom was not any thing made that was “ made,” John i. 3.;-by whom “ God made " the worlds," Heb. i. 2.; that same Almighty word which spake at the first creation, said a second time, 5 LET THERE BE LIGHT ?” and there was Light. “ I am come,” said our Saviour, “a Light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide “ in darkness.” (John xii. 46.) Christ came to reveal“ the MYSTERY which was kept “ secret since the world began, but now is “ made manifest; and by the Scriptures of “ the Prophets, according to the command.
ent of the Everlasting God, made known " to all Nations.” Rom. xvi. 25. What then was this Mystery which Christ came to reveal?
He revealed the Love of God the FATHER. “ God so loved the world, that he gave his was only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth
« on Him, should not perish, but have ever“ lasting life.” John iii. 16.
He revealed the ATONEMENT of God the Son, in assuming the human nature, and offering himself up a sacrifice for the sins of men. “ My flesh,” saith he, “ I will give for the life c of the world.” John vi. 51.-" A BODY hast “thou prepared me. Lo, I come to do thy “ will, O God.” Heb. x. 5.
He revealed the INSPIRATION of God the Holy Ghost; which was now to descend from heaven, and to " abide with men FOR EVER ; (John xiv. 16.) even the spirit of truth which should « reprove THE WORLD of sin, and of
righteousness, and of judgment;" John xvi. 8.; the Holy Spirit, which should “ be
given by our heavenly Father to them that
ASK HIM.” Luke xii. 11. These were the doctrines which were to give light to the world. They are comprehended by the Apostle Peter in one sentence. He addresses 'be. lievers as being “ elect, according to the fore
knowledge of God the Father, through sanc" tification of the spirit unto obedience; and ૮૦
sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” 1 Pet. i. 2.
These doctrines our Saviour embodied in a short Commission or Charge, which he delivered, after his ascension into heaven, to one of his Apostles. It was given to that Apostle, whom our Lord called “ the CHOSEN VESSEL, 6 to bear his name to the Gentiles.” Acts ix. 15. For when Paul was proceeding on his way to Damascus, “ a ligbt above the bright“ness of the sun shone around him;" and our Saviour spoke to him from heaven in the following words: “ I send thee to the Gentiles “ to open their eyes, and to turn them from “ darkness to light, and from the power of “ Satan unto God; that they may receive & forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among " them which are sanctified by faith, which is « in me.” Acts xxvi. 18.
This Charge our Lord delivered after his ascension into heaven, expressly for the instruction of his Ministers, in regard to the DOCTRINE they were to preach, and the EFFECTS which should follow. It may therefore be considered as a summary of the doctrine of the four Gospels; and every Minister of Christ ought to engrave it on the tablet of his memory, and comprehend it well; whether he preach" to Greek or to barbarian, to learned “ or to unlearned, to bond or to free.”
Here is first established that fundamental truth, which ought ever to be present with us in all our counsels concerning the promulgation of the gospel, That the Gentiles are “ under the power of Satan.”-" I send 5 thee," saith our Lord, “ to the Gentiles,