Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

the age.

world presented almost one unbroken scene of midnight darkness on all sides. A light was needed. Humanity was groaning under a deadly malady, and was on the verge of death ; a remedy was urgently needed to save it. Jesus Christ was thus a necessity of the age : he appeared in the fulness of time. And, certainly, no great man ever rose in the world, but his birth was necessitated by surrounding circumstances, and his life was a necessary response to the demands of

There can be no question that Jesus was commissioned and destined by Providence for the great work which he came to perform.

Nor can we fail to notice the wise arrangements made by Pro. vidence for the effectual performance of that work. The time was marvellously adapted for Christ's advent, not only because men were suffering from an intolerable malady, from which they demanded relief, but also because there were wonderful faci. lities for the administration of a remedy. All the nations of the then civilized world formed one vast empire, and were cemented together by common subjeotion to the central ruling power of Rome. Secondly, the Greek language was widely diffused among the educated classes of all these nations, and formed a ready and convenient medium for the dissemination of new thoughts and ideas to the remotest countries. And, lastly, the Jews, among whom the truth was first to be preached, were scattered over all the principal stations in the empire, so as to form a widespread foundation for the new religious movement.

Under such circumstances Jesus Christ was born. How he lived and died ; how his ministry, extending over three short years, produced amazing results, and created almost new life in his followers ; how

[ocr errors]

his words, spoken in thrilling but simple eloquence,
flew like wildfire, and inflamed the enthusiasm of
the multitudes to whom he preached ; how, in spite
of awful discouragements, he succeeded in establish-
ing the kingdom of God in the hearts of some at
least ; and how, ultimately, he sacrificed himself
for the benefit of mankind, are facts of which
most of you here present are no doubt aware. I
shall not enter into the details of his life and
ministry, as my present business is simply with the
influence which he exercised on the world. It
cannot be denied that it was solely for his thorough
devotion to the cause of truth, and the interests of
suffering humanity, that he patiently endured all the
privations and hardships which came in his way,
and met that fierce storm of persecution which his
infuriated antagonists poured on his devoted head,
(Hear, hear.) It was from no selfish impulse,
from no spirit of mistaken fanaticism, that he brave-
ly and cheerfully offered himself to be crucified on
the cross.

He laid down his life that God might be glorified. (Hear, hear.) I have always regarded the cross as a beautiful emblem of self-sacrifice unto the glory of God-one which is calculated to quicken the higher feelings and aspirations of the heart, and to purify the soul ; and I believe there is not a heart, how callous and hard soever it may be, that can look with cold indifference on that grand and significant symbol. (Applause.) Such honourable and disinterested self-sacrifice has produced, as might be anticipated, wonderful results; the noble purpose of Christ's noble heart has been fully achieved, as the world's history will testify. The vast moral influence of his life and death still lives in human society, and animates its movements. It has moulded the civilization of modern Europe, and

it underlies the many civilizing and philanthropic agencies of the present day. He has exercised such living and lasting influence on the world, not by the physical miracles which popular theology has ascribed to him, but by the greater miracle of the truth which he preached. If faith cannot remove mountains, I do not know what can. There is indeed a power in truth, far above the might of princes and potentates, which can work wonders and achieve impossibilities ; and it was surely with this power that Jesus triumphantly established the kingdom of God. (Cheers.) He was the son of an humble carpenter, and he laboured in connection with his ministry only for three short years,do not these simple facts conclusively prove, when viewed in reference to the vast amount of influence he has exercised on the world, that greatness dwelt in Jesus ? (Applause.) Poor and illiterate, brought up

in Nazareth—a village notorious for corruption under demoralizing influences, his associates, the lowest mechanics and fishermen, from whom he could receive not a single ray of enlightenment, he rose superior to all outward circumstances by the force of his innate greatness, and grew in wisdom, faith, and piety by meditation and prayer, and with the inspiration of the Divine spirit working within him. Though all the external conditions of his life were against him, he rose above them with the strength of the Lord, and, with almost superhuman wisdom and energy, taught those sublime truths, and performed those moral wonders, for which succeeding generations have paid him the tribute of admiration and gratitude. (Cheers.) Verily he was above ordinary humanity. Sent by Providence to reform and regenerate mankind, he received from Providence wisdom and power for that great work s

[ocr errors]

and throughout his career and ministration, and in the subsequent effects of his grand movement, we find positive evidence of that miraculous power with which inspired greatness vanquishes mighty potentates, hurls down dynasties, and uproots kingdoms, and builds up from chaos and corruption the kingdom of truth and God, of freedom and har: mony. (Cheers.)

After the death of Jesus, his disciples felt deeply the absence of their master, for hitherto they had absolutely depended upon him ; they shone in his light, and were strong in his strength. Now they were disheartened, and felt weak and destitute of self-reliance. And, as branches cut off from the trunk, they would have soon withered, did not an act of noble self-reliance and self-sacrifice rouse their sinking spirits. The martyrdom of Stephen served as the signal for them to go about and prove to the world that they were disa ciples of a great master. It scattered away all nominal followers as chaff, and bestirred the true disciples to missionary labours. They went about preaching the Gospel in the surrounding cities and villages. Thus the movement, which was hitherto confined to Jerusalem, extended to all Palestine. Its spirit also became more catholic. The baptism of Cornelius, the first Gentile convert, broke down the barrier between the Jews and Gentiles, and opened wide the catholic Church of Christ to all men without distinction. The first Gentile church was established at Antioch. It was here also that missionary enterprise, on an extensive scale, commenced. God in His wise providence selected Antioch to be the centre of mis, sionary activity, and indeed no place could have better served the purpose. A rich and stately city,

possessed of geographical advantages and of historic renown, it was a central meeting-place of the nations of the East and West, and a great commercial mart, where the representatives of all races met together. It has been justly said, that what Rome was in the middle ages, what London and New York are at the present day, that was Antioch at the time we are referring to the centre of activity and intelligence, of political and commercial movements, of reform and civilization and international intercourse. It was from this place that the stream of Gospel truth flowed on all sides, and it was here that the followers of Christ, who had hitherto been a mere Jewish sect, got the distinctive name of " Christians," and assumed the form of a distinct religious community. That name, however, which so many now bear as a badge of honour, was first given by the adversaries of Christianity as a term of contempt. St. Paul, the great apostle of the Gentiles, was the leader of this missionary movement. He undertook three journeys, in which he disseminated the precious truths taught by Jesus in several provinces of Asia Minor, in the chief oities on the opposite coast of Europe, in Macedonia and Greece, and numerous other places. He was then carried a captive to Rome, where he had long wished to preach the Gospel, and, though a prisoner, he neglected not to impart the glad tidings of the new religion to all with whom he came in contact. Besides Paul, there were two other leading missionaries Peter and John--whose operations were chiefly confined to Asia Minor. These three are said to represent three types of Christian character-faith, hope, and love ; and through their labours these three elements harmoniously combined in the infant Church of

[graphic]
« AnteriorContinuar »