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events in this particular manner? When his gospel has become established in any place, why not suffer it to remain? Why must it be taken from one nation, to be given to another? I answer confidently-on account of the great wickedness of those who have enjoyed it.* Nor does it appear, that the vices of those, from whom it has been taken, have been in themselves more gross than those of the nations to whom it has been given; but their vices have been peculiarly aggracated, in having been committed against the light of truth. There is no evidence, that during some of the first centuries of the Christian era, the West of Europe was not as deeply sunk in superstition and vice, as the West of Asia. But the vices of Asia had this dreadful aggravation attending them, they were committed against the clear light of the gosp
It is a fearful thing, my friends, to sin under the gospel, and against the gospel. The light which it sheds, necessarily places all who enjoy it in a solemn and critical situation. If they improve it, it will be attended with everlasting blessings; but if they slight and abuse it, it will render their guilt and doom many fold more aggravated and dreadful.
6. If the sinfulness of wrong actions is in proportion to the light against which they are committed; then in falling into the mistakes and defects of our fathers in regard to several religious subjects, we shall be altogether more inexcusable and guilty than they.-A veneration for worthy ancestors is highly commendable; and no people, I think, have ever had more reason to venerate their ancestors, than ourselves. Still we are not bound to copy their defects; and especially in regard to those subjects wherein we are blessed with a vastly clearer light.
-For instance, some of the fathers of New-Englandcannot well be cleared from the charge of indulging a persecuting spirit; but with our superior light relative to religious liberty and rights, should we follow them in this respect, we should be vastly more inexcusable and criminal than they.-A similar remark may be made in regard to revivals of religion. When Whitefield and the Tennents passed over this country, and revivals followed them; they were opposed, in some instances, even by pious Ministers and Christians. Their conduct in opposing them was certainly criminal, and it may be curses have followed it; still I do not think opposition to revivals at that period was any thing, compared with such opposition The truth is, revivals then were little known, and little understood; and hence, the origin, nature, and permament good effects of them were the more liable to suspicion. But this cannot be pleaded in extenuation of those who oppose revivals of religion now. Such do it, and must incur the responsibility of doing it, in opposition to the clearest light; and they are in great danger, as it seems to me, of committing that sin unto death, which hath never forgiveness.
The same view may be taken relative to exertions and sacrifices, for the universal prevalence of the Redeemer's kingdom. This is a subject which our fathers did not properly understand, and consequently did not feel. The light in respect to it was not exhibited; and they remained in a measure insensible of their obligations, to pray, and labour, and contribute, and make sacrifices, for the spread of the gospel among the heathen. Of course, they neglected their duty in this matter, with less criminality than we can neglect ours. The subject of Missions begins now to be known and felt. More light has
been thrown upon it within the last twenty or thirty years, than within a thousand years previous. If we close our eyes upon this light, and refuse to walk according to it; our guilt must be peculiarly aggravated. We cannot now neglect prayer, in concert, in public, and in secret; we cannot neglect all reasonable exertion; nor can we neglect contributing,
as God hath prospered' us, for the spread of the gospel, and the salvation of heathen souls, without incurring a fearfully aggravated condemnation.-It will not answer for us to think of doing no more for these objects than our fathers did. The truth is, we know more of the importance of them than they did, and hence are under obligations to do more than they. Had they lived in our days, and enjoyed the light which we enjoy; we are bound to believe they would have felt and conducted differently.
7. If the guilt of wrong actions is in proportion to the light against which they are committed; then those among us, who now turn away from the light of the gospel, and perish in their sins, must inevitably sink very low. The present may be termed an "era of light," in respect to the gospel. Many of its doctrines are, I think, better understood, and more closely urged, than they have been at any time since the days of the Apostles. And our country is emphatically a land of light, and of religious privileges. How many privileges we enjoy, of which multitudes, even in some Christian lands, are destitute? And what a refulgence of heavenly light is shining upon us, and all around us, compared with the thick darkness of the miserable heathen? But let us remember, my friends, that our superior light and privileges lay us under an awful responsibility; and that if, in present circumstances, we reject the
gospel, we do it at our peril.-You have heard, on a previous occasion, that "the end of heathenism is eternal death"-or that "the great body of those, who live and die without the gospel, perish forever." (See Discourse xviii.) But he, who thus awfully punishes the benighted heathen for their sins; what may he not be expected to inflict upon those, who persist in wickedness, and finally perish, from under the meridian blaze of the gospel? He, who measures the guilt of sin, and proportions its punishment, according to the light against which it is committedif he has adjudged the heathen to be "worthy of death;"" of how much sorer punishment shall they be thought worthy, who have trodden under foot the Son of God, and counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing, and done despite unto the Spirit of grace?"
Perhaps it may be objected, If the heinousness of our sins is in proportion to the light against which they are committed; then it had been better to have dwelt in darkness. It had been better to have lived at some dark period, or in some dark quarter, of the world. And instead of endeavouring to enlighten the heathen, it is better to suffer them to remain as they are. But Christ, my friends, did not think
as you do. If he had, he would never have appear
ed and labored as he did, to teach and enlighten a dark world. Nor did the Apostles think as you do. If they had, they never would have traversed sea and land, exposed themselves to such dangers and sufferings, and visited so many barbarous countries, for the purpose of promulging the light of the gospel.Every increase of light does indeed increase our responsibility. The heinousness of our sins is in proportion to the degree of light against which they are
committed. But we are not to infer from this, that light and knowledge are undesirable. We ought to prize light; and so to improve it, that it may be to us a blessing. We have no right to sin against it. We ought to do all we consistently can to disseminate it, and to persuade our fellow men to improve it, and live. Thus shall we be followers of the wise and benevolent in all past ages; shall answer the great end for which life was given us; and shall be received hereafter to unsullied and eternal light, in the kingdom of our God.