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the religions of the world. They are all local and temporary, and well they may be, for they are dependent on circumstances for their very existence. It would be a thing next to impossible to bring the Turks and the Greenlanders to exchange religions; and yet Turkey and Greenland may be made to feel the truth of God, and submit to its power. No system of false philosophy has ever been universal—no single form of paganism has established its dominion over the nations of the earth. But the Gospel is indigenous in every soil where it is planted. It is at home in every
land. It accomplishes its own appropriate work wherever it goes, for God is in it.
I would not intimate in these remarks, that different states of society may not be more or less favorable to the propagation of the Gospel ; nor deny that auxiliary agencies may be employed to unfold, diffuse, and enforce the truth of God; and least of all would I affirm that the Gospel will leave a nation as it finds it. Civilization and the useful arts of life, letters and refinement, in one word, all that can elevate man in the scale of being, promote his happiness, or adorn and beautify his social character, have never failed, other things being favorable, to follow in the footsteps of this revelation from heaven.
2. The Gospel is suited to the common wants of man.
This system was not contrived to relieve us from some factitious evils, nor to minister to our artificial wants; but it contemplates the world in its true light, and undertakes at once to mitigate, and ultimately to root out, all suffering from the kingdom of Christ.
And here we may see the difference between the Gospel and every antagonist and conflicting system. It is the difference between what is particular and what is general-between what is limited to individuals, and what is common to all men-between what is restricted to one country or one age, and what may be applied with equal propriety and practical effect to every country of the globe, or to every period from the beginning to the end of time. The Gospel overlooks, as unworthy of its high and heavenly aims, that which is circumstantial, local, and temporary; and selects, as the object of its benevolence, that which is essential, unlimited, and enduring. Among the pagans, many a deity has derived his existence from a mountain, stream, or forest. Altars and forms of worship have been called into being to avert some impending calamity, to stay the ravages of famine, to mitigate the rage of pestilence, or to turn aside the bloody scourge of war.
The form and productions of a country, the customs of domestic and social life, the prevalence of certain types of disease, the peaceful or warlike habits of a people, and an endless catalogue of like circum
stances, have not only shaped and modified, but have actually created systems of religious belief and practice.
But the Gospel is constructed upon another principle. It professes to supply what is most needful for man, upon a nobler and more magnificent scale. It never attempts, as most false religions do, to remove the trivial and incidental evils of life; to guard men against the disabilities which belong to their specific circumstances; nor to ward off disease or death by charms or talismanic power; but regarding all these as light afflictions which endure but for a moment, it settles down at once upon the common wants of men, as pilgrims on the earth and the heirs of eternity.
A few of the common wants of our dying world, for which the Gospel effectually provides, may very properly be enumerated in this place.
Man, in relation to all kinds of knowledge, is the subject of instruction; and in nothing does he more imperatively demand it than in religion. The lights of this world have become so dimmed, that he never clearly sees, nor fully performs his duties to God or his fellows, till a purer and brighter orb in heaven shines upon him. Sin has well nigh obliterated the perceptions of Goil and duty from the human mind. The world is perishing for the want of spiritual knowledge. This is seen and felt every where. Not a soul on earth can find the way to heaven without the special
interposition of God; and whether he communicates himself silently and mysteriously, in here and there a solitary case, without a written revelation, we are not informed, and it is a problem which we are not required to solve. But this we do know, for God has taught it, that the Bible is the grand source of religious instruction. The nations are in midnight without it. It is a darkness without the prospect of a dawn. It is deep, dense, central, visible; and not a star of promise has been seen in the heavens, as the harbinger of an opening day, by any telescope which nature or art has been able to construct. Without the Gospel, men are every where destitute of that knowledge necessary to the well-being of the soul; and with it, they have every thing which God himself deemed essential when their salvation was the grand object to be accomplished. This fallen world needs an infallible guide, and that guide is to be found alone in a written revelation. No decrees of popes or councils can supply its place. No tradition, though it were to descend from heaven, and emanate from the throne of God, can become a substitute. The Jew, the Pagan, the Mohammedan, the Catholic, the Protestant, all need this volume. It is adapted to the common wants of a world ; and the nation, whether refined or barbarous, that is destitute of it, is living without the sun.
But man needs not only an infallible instructer, but support under the nameless evils which sin has inflicted upon him. In every country under heaven, on every continent and every island of the sea, he is hardly less miserable than he is sinful. And yet the religion of the Savior can mingle the ingredients of comfort in every bitter cup. Passing over a long list of ills which flesh is heir to, I would fix your attention on two, to which all men are subject in whatever state of society or condition of life, and for which the Gospel provides a perfect remedy. I refer to remorse of conscience and the sting of death. These are co-extensive with the fallen race. Sin is an evil of so malignant a character, that it reveals itself in the present life : it is followed by a present retribution. Verily, there “is a God that judgeth in the earth.” The poor pagan feels this, and hence his sacrifices and his self-inflicted tortures. It is on this principle that penance and pilgrimages belong to most systems of false religion. But the Gospel alone can calm the troubled spirit, pluck away the deepseated anguish of the heart, and inspire that hope which prophesies of heaven. And not only are the great evils of life provided for by the religion of Christ, but death itself—that event every where dreaded in our world—that event which may, in itself, be considered the sum and concentration of all earthly ills—the primeval curse of God upon a world of rebels, may be divested of all its unlove