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Christ. With the death of John the first century, called by Christians the " age of inspiration," closed. At this period the Church of Christ extended from Macedonia to Alexandria, from Antioch to Rome. Its life, however, was gone with the last of the apostles, and though it had grown in size, it found itself too weak and insignificant amidst the awful gloom which still surrounded it, and could not yet count upon having secured a firm ana lasting footing. Heresies also
sprang up within the Church, while outside it were thou. sands of men who, though they had abandoned their belief in idolatry, did not embrace the religion of Christianity, and, with sceptical recklessness, indulged in all the extravagances of sensual gratifications, Yet, however, the infant Church lived to fulfil its mission, and slowly and steadily advanced in power, For two centuries, down to the time of Constantine, the history of Christianity shows gradual progress, extension, and development. This was also the age of fierce persecution ; for, in the religious world, progress and persecution go hand in hand. Had it not been for the fiery ordeal through which Christianity had to pass in those days, its glory and greatness would have been things unknown to us. It was the long series of relentless persecutions to which a succession of tyrannical and heartless Emperors subjected it, that tried its worth and established it more firmly than ever. Ecclesiastical history mentions ten principal persecutions of the time, and portrays the horrid and diabolical atrocities whioh characterized them. The first of these was perpetrated by that most inhuman and ruffianly Emperor, Nero, who, after setting all Rome in a blaze, sought to avert all suspicion, and laid the whole guilt on the shoulders of the Christians, against whom he ch
rished fiendish hate. Many a Christian was exposed to most excruciating tortures, and barbarously put to death. But Nero only began the bloody work. Persecution was renewed by the Emperor Domitian, and continued by several of his successors, thus completing that picture of Christian suffering and martyrdom which forms at once the most painful and glorious chapter in the history of Christianity. (Hear, hear.) It makes one's hair stand on end to read the records of the sufferings endured by the early Christian martyrs. Their trials electrify the whole heart and rouse its enthusiasm. Their fortitude and patience, their meekness and firmness, their fidelity to truth and resignation to the will of God, stand before us in their majestic reality, and inspire us with holy zeal. (Cheers.) Not only stout-hearted men, but even tender-hearted women, undauntedly confronted assembled hosts of enemies, endured the most agonizing torments, and sacrificed their lives unto the glory of God. It is such examples of martyr devotion which are calculated to dispel from our minds all cowardice, fickleness, and inconstancy, and to make us feel that truth is dearer than life itself. (Applause.) No doubt it is martyr blood that has nourished the precious seed of divine truth planted by Jesus, till it has become a mighty tree, whose wide-extended branches overshadow a vast extent of the habitable globe, and whose fruits are enjoyed by myriads of men and women in various parts of the world. (Cheers.) Honour, all honour to Jesus, who so nobly set the example of self-sacrifice for truth, and to that devoted band of martyrs who, by imitating his example, extended the kingdom of truth and conferred lasting benefits on the world. (Applause.)
The sufferings of the Christian Church lasted till the time of Constantine, who, by an imperial edict,
granted full toleration to the Christians. Christianity now became the established religion of the state, and was spread over the whole Roman empire. Thus, after years of struggle and hardship, tossed on the waves of indescribable sufferings, and beaten by storms of persecution, the vessel of Christianity triumphantly entered the harbour of peace, decked with all the honours of imperial patronage.
Although the religion of Jesus had now reached the farthest limit of the then known world, its diffusion was, to a great extent, superficial, and its prosperity outward gloss. There was no internal life. The heart of Christendom was becoming perverted. Heresies and corruptions became rife, and the very leaders and guides encouraged the same by their life and example. The bishops of some of the Churches strove to usurp supreme authority, and quarrelled for earthly honours, under the impulse of avarice and cupidity. The corruption increased till it culminated in the debasing system of Popery. The Bishop of Rome called himself supreme father, papa or Pope, and arrogated to himself absolute authority in controlling and deciding all matters relating to the theology and discipline of the Church, and thus established a system of superstition, priestcraft, and immorality which it is awful to contemplate. But corruption cannot last for ever in God's kingdom ; sooner or later it must be counteracted by a strong reaction. The sale of indulgences was the culminating point of this wicked system of Popery, and drew the mighty Luther on the stage. Again a light was needed, for the Christian Church was covered with darkness, and threatened with annihilation. The stream of Apostolic Christianity had become defiled by base admixtures in its downward course through various generations and nations; and it was necessary to
restore primitive Christianity. For this great work Providence raised up Luther, and to him the world is indebted for its emancipation from the errors and absurdities of Popery. (Hear, hear.) By his spirited protests, in the midst of the assembled potentates of Europe, and in the face of furious opposition, against the galling despotism of the Romish Church, and his fearless advocacy of the primitive truths of the Gospel and the rights of private judgment, he pulled down the huge fabric of corruption that had been built up, revived the drooping energies of Christendom, and once more established the glory of Christ. Since the Reformation almost new life was infused into Christianity, and several circumstances nspired to facilitate its dissemination. Its more ardent followers, inflamed with holy zeal, have gone about in all directions to preach the religion of the cross to their benighted brothers and sisters in remote countries. They have braved all hazards, crossed oceans and deserts, surmounted insuperable difficulties, and with patience, perseverance, and self-denial, have planted the cross in many a land. (Cheers.) Through their labours Christianity has penetrated the farthest extremities of the globe, and has made proselytes among nearly all races of men. Many a country where barbarism and bestiality prevailed has now become the abode of civilization, refinement, and
many a nation, long immersed in the mire of idolatry and immorality,
has been reformed and purified. The stream of Christianity, which first flowed westward, has wheeled round towards. the East, and has diffused the blessings of enlightenment from China to Peru. East, west, north and south, on all sides we behold the glory of Christ. (Hear, hear.) His Church has been planted in
peace ; and
Greenland, British Guiana, the West Indies ; West Africa, East Africa, Cape Town, Madagascar ; Turkey, Arabia, Persia, India, Tartary, Japan, China; the Indian Archipelago, Australia, Polynesia, and New Zealand. There are now three hundred millions of Christians in the world, or threetenths of its entire population. It has been said, with some truth, that on Sundays Christian service is held every hour of the day in some place or other,
Let us come nearer home, and see what has been done in our country. So far back as 1706, a few Danish missionaries came out to India to establish a mission. The scene of their labours was Tranquebar, in South India. In 1786, one Mr. John Thomas came out to Bengal as a surgeon, and after making some desultory attempts to preach Christianity among the Natives, returned home. He again in 1793, accompanied by the celebrated Mr. Carey, and settled near Maldah. Shortly after, two other missionaries, the well-known Messrs. Marshman and Ward, reached Serampore. Here they were soon joined by Mr. Carey, and here they organized that system of missionary labour which in its progressive development has produced such striking results. (Hear, hear.) Christian missionaries have since gradually multiplied, and Christian Churches have been founded in all parts of the country. The total number of native concerts to Christianity has been estimated at 154,000. There are thirty-two Missionary Societies engaged in Indian evangelization, of which twelve are British, four Continental, nine American, and seven devoted to educational purposes. The number of foreign missionaries in India is 519, and the sum annually spent on missions is £250,000.
Such has been the gradual progress of Christian