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Where, my brethren, can we find an example more worthy of our imitation? Where can we learn so much of that spirit, which ought to breathe in all our hearts, while we are endeavouring to spread the knowledge of Christ in the pagan world? We behold in this man a missionary indeed; one who is borne above those worldly and selfish interests, which too often contract our minds and paralize our exertions. We see him engaging in a service the most noble, the most arduous, and continuing in it through all difficulties and discouragements, with unabated resolution to the end. How happy would it be for us, could we light our fires at his altar, and feel something of that pure and heavenly flame which burned in his bosom.
It is intended in the following discourse to present to you more distinctly, some of the principles and motives which directed and animated the apostle in carrying the gospel to the heathen world, and which ought no less powerfully to direct and animate us.
1. Į begin by observing, that the apostle entered upon this service with a deep impression of the infinite worth of the gospel. It was to him “the unsearcha'ble riches of Christ.'
Time was when he was blind to the glory of a crucified Saviour, when Christ appeared to him as to his countrymen generally, “a root out of a dry ground,” in which was to be seen neither “form nor comeliness.” Nay, he felt a deep hostility to Christ, and persecuted his followers to prison and to death. But the Lord, even Jesus, had met him in the way, and had spoken to him with a voice of power and majes. ty, which he could no longer resist. A glorious light from heaven shone round about him, the emblem of a more glorious light, which shone into his soul, and avhich forever darkened the lustre of all terrestrial
things. Now the gospel of Christ appeared to him tha “glorious gospel of the blessed God”_full of wisdom full of mercy-full of power-forming a scheme in which all the divine attributes harmonize, and shine forth with unutterable splendour. His soul bows before the mysteries of a God incarnate--before the wonders of a Saviour crucified and raised again from the dead. The cross of Christ, a stumbling block before, is henceforth his boast and his glory. There his own guilty soul has found relief-there his foulest stains have been washed away. Was it surprising that his heart should be absorbed and even transported with such an object, and that he should feel it to be the glory of his life to unfold its riches and its beauty among the Gentiles? Especially when you reflect that he considered the knowledge of Christ and his cross as essential to their salvation. He did not believe that men were thronging the way to heaven involved in the ignorance and stained with the crimes of idolatry. He looked upon the whole heathen world, as without God, and without hope; sitting in the region of darkness and shadow of death; and he declares the object of his ministry to be “to turn many from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.” Here was the spring of his zeal in preaching the gospel, in regions where Christ was not known."
If he had regarded the gospel merely in the light of a good religion, and on the whole perhaps the best religion in the world, you would not have seen him braving all dangers, and encountering every hardship, to spread the knowledge of its sacred truths among the nations. He would have left them, as many boasting philanthropists have done, to enjoy their superstitions, in the fond hope that they might find their way to the abodes of future happiness, though
with him was quite otherwise. He considered the gospel as an indispensable mean of eternal life_that they who heard it and believed, would be saved, and that they who heard it not, or did not believe, would inevitably perish,
Such impressions of the gospel prepared him to act as a missionary of the cross, aud laid a foundation for his persevering endeavours to spread the knowledge of divine truth in every part of the world.
Our impressions of the gospel must be of the same character, if we would embark in the cause of missions with any hope of success. If we have yet to learn, that the gospel of Christ is the glorious gospel of the blessed God, exhibiting a bright assemblage of all the divine perfections, and containing in its provisions all that is requisite to make us happy through time and eternity, we know nothing yet as we ought to know, and are not prepared so much as to begin our work. May I not say indeed, that unless we are firmly persuaded that the gospel is the only appointed means of salvation, and that men will perish who die without its light, we shall never do any thing in the cause of missions worthy of its object. It is a question, therefore, which deeply concerns us all, “Have we right impressions of the gospel? Does it appear to us, as it did to St. Paul, to be the unsearchable riches of Christ? Has the glory of this world faded away in comparison of its excellence and can we say with the apostle, that we count all things as loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord?" Then shail we compassionate the heathen, who are without this know ledge; and be ready to perform any lahours, or to make any sacrifices, which are necessary, to spread the knowledge of Chisi amung them.
This will lead me to remark,
11. That the apostle entered upon the great work of evangelizing the heathen, with the strongest convictions of duty. He had no doubt that he was called of God to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. The divine Saviour had “stood by him in a vision at Jerusalem, and bid him depart out of Judea, because they would not receive his testimony, saying, I will send thee far, hence among the Gentiles." His conviction was complete, bis obedience prompt and exemplary. He waited for no human counsels-for no combination of human strength. “As soon as it pleased God to reveal his Son in him, that he should preach him among the heathen, immediately he conferred not with flesh and blood; neither went he up to Jerusalem to them that were apostles bef: re him; but he went into Arabia and returned again to Damascus." The single circumstance, that Jesus Christ had cominanded, was enough. This was paramount to every other consideration. Mountains of difficulty were instantly removed, or totally disregarded. Armed only with the word of truth and the power of the Holy Ghost, he sallied forth into the heathen world, prepared to contend with ignorance, with superstition, with the pride of philosophy, the madness of ambition, the hatred and violence of lust: in short, with all that a corrupted world, instigated by the subtlety and malice of Satan, could array against him. We do not propose him as our example, in all these respects, and without any limitation; for as his commission was extraordinary and special, so also was the path in which he was led. But we desire you to bear it distinctly in mind, that it was under a strong conviction of duty, that he commenced his arduous work; and that it was this, which kept him firm and steady in
his course, while at all times it supplied him with the testimony of a good conscience, and enabled him cheerfully to commit the event of his labours to God.
There is at least an equal necessity, that we should act under a strong sense of duty, in attempting to establish the gospel among the heathen. For if we lack conviction on this point, our exertions will be feeble, unsteady, 'and probably of short Huration. How, then, let me ask, ought this question to be viewed by us? Is there any room to doubt whether we are called to bear a part in the attempts, which are now making among Christian nations, to send the gospel to the benighted pagans?
We know it was the command of the risen Saviour to his disciples, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature;” but from the nature of the case, it is manifest that this command could not be restricted to the disciples to whom it was first given. *Here was a work too mighty to be performed by a few persons in one generation. We must consider the command as resting upon the apostles and upon their successors in the ministry of reconciliation, as is farther evident from the promise annexed to it. “Lo! I am with you always, even to the end of the world;" promise reaching to every age of the church, and showing us that the command, which is necessarily co-extensive with the promise, will never cease to be obligatory, until all men are brought to the knowledge of the truth, or until the ministry of reconciliation ends.
Besides, is it not our duty to pray for the salvation of all men, and that because “God will have all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth?” But what sincerity can there be in our prayers, where there is not a corresponding endeavour to promote the