A DISCOURSE Concerning the CONVERSION OF THE HEATHEN AMERICANS, AND The final Propagation of CHRISTIANITY and the SCIENCES to the Ends of the Earth. IN TWO PARTS.

  • PART I. Preached before a voluntary CONVEN­TION of the EPISCOPAL Clergy of Pennsylva­nia, and Places adjacent, at Philadelphia, May 2d, 1760; and published at their joint Request.
  • PART II. Preached before the Trustees, Masters and Scholars of the College and Academy of Philadelphia, at the first anniversary Com­mencement.

BY WILLIAM SMITH, D. D. Provost of the said College and Academy.



TO The most Reverend, His GRACE, THOMAS Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, President; AND To all the honorable and venerable Members, Of the SOCIETY For propagating the Gospel in foreign Parts.


AFTER the many excellent Sermons that have been preached and pu­blished by the members of your body, on the Propagation of Christ's re­ligion, through the untutored parts of the earth, the present publication may be thought to argue some degree of pre­sumption. And this consideration, added to the difficulty of saying any thing new or interesting, on a subject so fully handled by many of the brightest ornaments of our [Page ii] church, would have deterred the author from letting the first Part of this Discourse appear in print; if, on the other hand, he had not been encouraged therein, by the express desire of his brethren who heard it, and the Hopes that his situation in America may have enabled him to place some particular points in a light, perhaps, somewhat new.

WITH respect to the second Part, it may be thought a very needless labour to attempt a proof—That the interests of Christianity will be advanced, by pro­moting the interests of Science. But it hath been the author's misfortune, in his en­deavours for the latter, to meet with men, who seeming to consider the advance­ment of Knowlege and free Enquiry as unfriendly to their illiberal System, have set themselves up, with rage almost Gothic, to stiffle the infant Sciences here. For this reason, he thought he could not do a better [Page iii] service than endeavour to shew them at large that they were, in effect, waging war, not only with every thing elegant and useful in life, but even with the extension of our Common Christianity and the best interests of our species! And if, in the prosecution of this design, he hath been led into a more particular Analysis of the sciences than some may judge needful in a discourse of this kind, he hopes the circumstances of the case will be his plea.

HE cannot conclude without taking this opportunity of expressing his gratitude to the venerable society in general, for the honor done him by their body; and to sundry illustrious Members in particular for the countenance and protection shewn him, at a time when their countenance and protection stood him in much stead.

The Author.


THAT the Thanks of this Convention be given to the Rev. Doctor WILLIAM SMITH, President of the same, for his excel­lent Sermon preached this Day before them; and that he be requested to print the said Ser­mon.


ALTHOUGH my bodily Indisposition prevented my hearing this Sermon, yet from the Account I have received of it, I heartily join with my Rev. Brethren, in their Request for printing it.



PSALM ii. 8.Ask of me and I shall give thee the Heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.

"IF you would make the soul of man great and good (says a sublime* writer) give her large and extensive prospects of the immensity of God's works, and of his inexhausted Wisdom and Goodness."

NOW, those divine attributes of Wisdom and Goodness are no where more gloriously displayed than in the Gospel-dispensation, and in those marvellous Revolutions and Workings of Pro­vidence, which the Almighty has performed, and will yet perform, for the Salvation of mankind, and the final extension of his Son's kingdom to the ends of the earth.

[Page 2] WELCOME, therefore, thrice welcome the holy Scriptures, those living oracles of God, which can lend a clue to our meditations, and conduct them, by divine Grace, thro' these awfully improving subjects. Here is the "Mystery which was hid from ages and from generations, but which God at length manifested to his Saints, with a promise that the riches of the glory thereof should be made known among the Gentiles."*

THIS latter part of the Gospel-dispensation, which relates to the final conversion of the Gentiles, even to the uttermost parts of the earth, is that which, by the words of my text, and the present occasion of our meeting, I am more immediately led to consider. And, in doing this, I shall, by divine assistance, pursue the following Method.

First, I SHALL endeavour to shew, from the general voice of Prophecy—That it is the gracious purpose of God, in his own good time, to bring the Heathen around us to the knowlege of his blessed Gospel, thro' the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Secondly, I SHALL make some remarks on the present situation of things on this continent with respect to the Gospel-oeconomy, and the probability of a speedy accomplishment of the Prophecies which relate to the final conversion of the nations.

[Page 3] Lastly, FROM this view of things, I shall offer an humble Address to you, my Brethren, who are employed as instruments in the hand of God for carrying on this great work of Conversion, by the Preaching of the Gospel in places that heretofore "sat in darkness and the shadow of death!"

YOU see here, what a large field is opened; and would to God that I were endued with gifts and powers sufficient to acquit myself therein agreeable to your expectations. But I know the vast, the glorious importance of the subjects proposed; and I feel my own weakness. I beseech you, therefore, to send forth your prayers for me to the throne of grace, that these subjects may not suffer in my hands; and that I may be enabled to speak as becomes one called to the present office.

I AM, in the First place, then, to consider the general voice of prophecy, with respect to the Conversion of the Heathen around us. And among many other illustrious predictions of this event, the words of my text, and the verses preceeding it, are full and strong.

"WHY do the Heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?—Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Sion.—Thou art my son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the Heathen for thine inheritance, [Page 4] and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession." The meaning of which is, according to all the commentators—

THOU art my son Jesus! This day have I anointed thee king over all the world, which thou hast purposed to redeem. Go on; compleat the great eternal scheme, and thereby establish for thyself a kingdom of everlasting holiness. In vain shall the nations rage. In vain shall their proud leaders, Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Pharisees and rulers of Israel, combine themselves against thee. In vain shall they seek to dethrone thee, to cut thee off from the earth, and to crush thy kingdom in its birth. My eternal purposes are fixed. The right hand of my power shall be thy strength and guide. It shall defeat all the machinations of thy enemies, and raise thee even from the habitations of the dead, to thine inheritance in the mansions of glory. There shalt thou dwell for ever, and whatever thou shalt ask of me thou shalt receive, till the Heathen become thine inheritance, and the very ends of the earth thy possession.

HEREIN we see a most striking Prediction concerning the propagation and final extension of Christ's kingdom to the very remotest nations of the world. And indeed there is a beautiful [Page 5] harmony among all the prophetic writers, relative to the same event.

THE venerable Patriarch Jacob, in blessing his son Judah, gives an early intimation thereof; and tells him that the sceptre should not depart from his family till the immortal SHILOH should come, who was to erect an everlasting kingdom, unto whom the gathering of the people was to be. *

BUT of all the Prophetic writers, the sublime Isaiah seems to have been favored with the fullest view of the Gospel-state, from the very birth of the Messiah to that glorious period, whereof we are now speaking, when the "kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ." For this reason he has been called the Evangelical prophet, and has delivered many noble predictions concerning the extension of the Gospel, and the final conversion of the nations.

"THE§ earth, says he, in a language peculiarly striking and emphatical, shall be full of the knowlege of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek, and his rest shall be glorious."

[Page 6] AND again the spirit of God, speaking by the same Prophet concerning the Messiah says, "It is a light thing for thee, [or a small part of thy undertaking] that Thou [the saviour of the world] shouldst be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel. I will also give thee for a light to the GENTILES, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth."

INDEED, the last chapters of this book are only one continued prediction of this period, and the glorious circumstances attending it.

"I AM found, says he, of them that sought me not. I said, behold me, behold me to a nation that was not called by my name."

NAY he even gives a Geographical division of the quarters of the world that were to receive the Gospel, wherein he has included the whole Four.

"I WILL send those that escape of them, says he, to Tarshish, Pul and Lud that draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the Isles afar off that have not heard my fame nor seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles.*

Now, according to our learned Commentators, Tarshish denotes the East, Pul and Lud the [Page 7] South, Tubal and Javan the North, and the Isles the West. For, in holy scripture, the Isles, the Sea, and the West are frequently put for one another; so that "the islands afar off which have not heard of God's fame, nor seen his glory," may well be understood to comprehend this American continent, or West-Indies generally so called, as the learned Dr. Lowth has observed in his accurate commentary upon this passage.

To the same purpose speaks the prophet Jeremiah, in his sixteenth chapter. Intending to reproach the Jews for their absurdity in apostatizing from the true God, after they had once known him, he tells them that, to their great disgrace, a time would come when the very Heathen themselves, who had never heard the name of God, would come to him even from the uttermost parts of the earth; and confess that the gods which they had worshipped were no gods at all, but that they and their fathers had inherited Lies from the beginning, and put their trust in things that profited not.

"O* Lord, my strength and my fortress and my refuge in the day of affliction; the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited [Page 8] lies and vanity, and things wherein there is no profit. Shall a man make gods unto himself, and they are no gods?"

LET us hear also the prophet Daniel. "The Lord God of heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall break in pieces and consume all those kingdoms (i. e. the four monarchies) and it shall stand for ever and ever. Behold, one like the son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and there was given him dominion and glory and a kingdom that all people and nations and languages should serve him."

IN like manner speaks Malachi. "From* the Rising of the Sun to the Going-down of the same, my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering; for my name shall be great among the Heathen." All which is confirmed, with the utmost solemnity by the angel's sound in the revelation, and the great voices from heaven, declaring—

"THAT the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever."§

Now, although these Prophecies may, in part, have had their completion, by the vast rapidity [Page 9] with which the Gospel spread itself into almost every known corner of the old world, soon after our SAVIOUR's Ascension into heaven, yet, methinks, it is impossible that they should ever have their full accomplishment without the conversion of the Indian Natives around us, and the propagation of Christ's kingdom to the remotest parts of this continent. We have many of the strongest arguments to induce this belief. For, in the first place, none of these Texts, which I have read, put any shorter limit to the spreading of the Gospel than the Ends of the Earth, and from the Rising of the Sun to the Going-down of the same. And secondly our Saviour himself, that last and greatest of all the Prophets, has expresly told us that "Jerusalem* shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, till the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." Now Jerusalem is still trodden down by the Gentiles, and consequently their times are not yet fulfilled.

WE believe, therefore, on the most solid principles, that there is reserved by Providence some future period or crisis in the Gospel-oeconomy, for a more remarkable and final fulfilling of the Gentiles, even to the ends of the earth; and that it is the great and gracious purpose of [Page 10] God, in that day, to manifest himself to the 'Heathen around us, and bring them to the knowlege of his blessed Gospel, thro' the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ;" which was the first thing I proposed to shew.

BUT here Infidelity usually urges the following questions, viz.

IF such be the intention of God, and so great the efficacy of his Gospel; what must become of those who have sat so long in darkness and the shadow of death? And why does he so long delay the accomplishment of his own eternal promises?

REVERENCE to the supreme Lord of heaven and earth, it might have been hoped, would have secured the advocates of the Christian Revelation against questions of such high presumption. For who shall say unto the Almighty, what dost thou? Or what man, of mortal descent, shall hope to unfold those secret reasons of divine conduct, which eternal wisdom hath not thought fit to reveal?

AS for us, we shall only reply in general that as "Those* who have sinned in the Law shall be judged by the Law, so those who have sinned without the Law [if they perish] shall perish without it." As the spirit of God hath not [Page 11] thought fit to declare how far the Satisfaction of CHRIST will be applied to those who never heard of his name, we must not presume to be wise above what is written. The nations that sit in darkness and the shadow of death must be left to God's uncovenanted Mercies, to judge them according to the measure of Knowlege and Light which they have received. The Tribunal of the Almighty is erected upon infinite Wisdom, Jus­tice and Goodness—and infinite Wisdom, Justice and Goodness cannot commit Error or Wrong!

WITH respect to the second question—"Why doth the Almighty so long delay the accomplishment of his own gracious promises?" We must answer much in the same general manner. Known unto God, and him alone, are all his counsels from the foundation of the world. Some Conjectures, however, we may humbly offer on this head, without incurring the charge of presumption.

EXCEPT in extraordinary cases, the supreme Being seems to conduct all his operations by general laws; and, both in the Natural and Moral world, the advances to Perfection are gradual and progressive. The Law and the Prophets, which were of old, were but a faint and mysterious Revelation of the will of God, compared to the [Page 12] full blaze of the Gospel, whereby his whole * council shone forth at last to mankind. The Lord spoke once in thunders and lightnings from Mount Sinai, but now leaves the conversion of nations to the ordinary methods of his providence. God did not give the Christian revelation itself, till the Roman ambition had brought almost the whole [...] to a kind of similarity of language and manners, and had opened such an intercourse between distant nations, as made that one of the most favorable periods for spreading a new Religion. Countries were now accessible that had before been unknown; and universal peace, added to universal subjection to one common Empire, gave the disciples of Christ and first preachers of the Gospel a great advantage in travelling from Clime to Clime.

NOW, who knows but almighty wisdom may have predetermined a period similar to this, in the situation of affairs in this New World, for spreading his glorious Gospel to the remotest parts of it?

AND the consideration of this leads me to the [Page 13] Second head of my discourse; which was "to make some remarks on the situation of things on this Continent, with respect to the Gospel-oeconomy, and the probability of a speedy accomplishment of the Prophecies which relate to the fulfilling of the Gentiles, and final Conversion of the Nations."

AND here what a series of remarkable circumstances claim our most devout attention? Reasoning upon moral as upon natural things, what a beautiful analogy shall we find among all the operations of divine Providence?

THE Sun, the glorious Luminary of Day, comes forth from his chambers of the East, and, rejoicing to run his course, carries Light and Heat and Joy thro' the nations to the remotest parts of the West, and returns to the place from whence he came. In like manner it doth appear that the Light of the glorious Gospel is to proceed, till it hath carried one bright Day over all the habitable world; and then will come the end of things. The inspired Writers, we have already seen, love to speak of the propagation of Christianity, under this figure; as proceeding from the Rising to the setting of the Sun; and this course we find it has pursued.

IN the primitive ages of Simplicity, the first indications of Divine▪ Will were given to the [Page 14] Patriarchs of mankind in the Eastern parts of the world, by God himself, conversing with them face to face, as they tended their flocks, or journeyed on from pasture to pasture. This was the Dawn of things. Soon afterwards followed the Law, and then the Prophets, advancing nearer and nearer to a full and perfect Revelation, till at last it broke forth in its Meridian glory, by the coming of the son of God, at that period already re erred to, when the situation of the world had prepared the way for its more effectual reception. The Wisdom of God was visible in all this; and soon did the Christian Religion spread itself Westward, till it reached the vast Atlantic ocean, and the Isles of the Gentiles, where the posterity of Japhet dwelt.

NOW among these Isles, or places on the Ocean, or Western parts, as they are indifferently phrased, GREAT-BRITAIN, our Mother-country, that ultima Thule of the ancients, bore a principal figure. Early was the Gospel preached in her, if not by the Apostles themselves, yet certainly by some of their followers, in their days, and before the destruction of Jerusalem.*

[Page 15] HERE the matter rested. This was the first State of the Gospel-progress. To the Westward of Britain the ancients seem to have known nothing. They considered these islands as the ends of the world; and extensive as the Roman empire was at our Saviour's coming, this American continent, more extensive than it all, lay entirely hid from their knowlege, and seems to have been reserved as the stage of a second remarkable period in the Gospel-progress. Not a vestige, therefore, of Christianity was pro­pagated hither, till after it had kept possession of the Old World, in various forms and under various corruptions, for at least fifteen centuries. But, at the expiration of that period, it pleased God to open the way to the discovery of new countries, which likewise opened the way to the establishment of the Gospel in them. For it is obvious to remark, that the nations, which were raised up for this purpose, were those among whom Christianity was openly professed, and consequently they carried their religion along with them. Being likewise superior to all the rest of the world in the arts of Commerce and every improvement of civil life, they were the [Page 16] fittest to explore new settlements, conciliate the affections of the natives, and push their discoveries to the greatest extent. This they did with remarkable zeal and success; and, tho' it must be confessed that they have made use of the advantages which they enjoyed, chiefly for the secular purposes of extending their Empire and Commerce, yet they have not been altogether negligent of the propagation of the sacred Religion which they profess.

IN this divine work, our Mother-country, one of the purest branches of the Christian-church, always foremost in every pious and humane undertaking, has signally exerted herself. In her, even in an age wherein Christianity hath lost much of its influence on the lives of men, many public Societies have been formed, and noble contributions made, with the glorious view of extending the Knowlege of God over this vast untutored Continent. At the head of these is justly placed that venerable society, incorporated for propagating the gospel in foreign parts, in whose service most of you, my brethren, have the Honor to be employed, and for promoting whose pious designs we are now voluntarily assembled together. This august and venerable body consists of the principal dignitaries of our [Page 17] church, sundry of the prime nobility of the nation, and many other pious persons of every degree. It has subsisted for near fourscore of years, and, by the providence of God, has been remarkably enabled to support the great and growing expence incident to such an undertaking.

TWO objects have most worthily employed the attention of this Society; the first to provide for the administration of religious ordinances among our own Colonists themselves, who have hitherto been generally too thinly settled to be able to support a regular ministry without such assistance; and secondly to win over the Heathen-natives to the knowlege of God, and a firm attachment to our national interest. These two designs, however much evil men may strive to separate them, must necessarily go hand in hand. Should the Society employ themselves wholly to the business of converting the Indian natives from Heathenism, while they suffered their own colonies to degenerate into a state little better than that Heathenism itself, the attempt would be equally vain and unjust. For it would be to little purpose for us to send out Missionaries among them to persuade them to embrace our Religion, unless the fruits and "Light of our Religion should so shine before them, that they [Page 18] seeing our good works may glorify our father which is in heaven.*"

THE support, therefore, of Christianity among ourselves, and the propagation of it among our Heathen Neighbours, are but different parts of the same undertaking; and tho' we have not hitherto had any great success in the latter, yet it is our duty to continue our best endeavours. For who knows either the particular time when, or the means by which, the Lord may be pleased to accomplish his own divine Promises?

THE Conversion of nations has often, before now, been brought about when but least expected; and by means which, to human foresight, seemed the least probable. One single Savage, fully convinced of the Truth of Christianity, and truly animated by its sublime spirit, may perhaps, thro' the power of the living God, at some future period, be rendered an Apostle to the rest, and an instrument of turning thousands from the ways of Darkness and the "power of Satan, to the marvellous light of Christ, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Him."

[Page 19] INNUMERABLE methods, besides this, are in the providence of that God, whose power who shall tell? And it is impossible but, in his own appointed time, he must give the promised blessing to the pious endeavours which are continually used for the propagation of his Gospel in this Western world.

MANY obstacles, which formerly lay in the way of this great work, seem now to be almost entirely removed. We were, heretofore, but a small people, possessing an inconsiderable spot of this Continent. Our access to the heathen nations was difficult and dangerous. Our knowlege of their country was but very limited; and the arts of our busy enemies had sown many prejudices among them to our disadvantage.

BUT now the case is much altered. We are become a great and growing people; extending, and likely to extend, our, empire far over this continent. The present war, which we short­sighted mortals considered as one of the greatest evils, is like to be productive of the best of consequences. With the deepest adoration, we behold the hand of Providence in it. A series of unlooked-for successes has blessed our arms, for which we and our posterity, throughout all generations, ought to offer up continual Hymns [Page 20] of gratitude and praise to the Giver of all victory. The Protestant interest in America has now received such signal advantages, and obtained such sure footing, that we trust neither the machinations of its inveterate enemies, nor even the gates of hell itself, shall ever prevail against it. Our credit with the Indian natives begins to stand in a high point of light. A more thorough knowlege of their country and manners is obtained than ever we had before. Strong fortifications are fixed, which will always facilitate our access to them. The attention of all ranks of men is now more turned to the prosecution of our interests on this continent than ever was known at any former period; and if it shall please God to direct the hearts of our Rulers to a Peace which may in any degree be answerable to our former successes, then will be the time when we may expect to see Christianity propagated to advantage.

BY our connexions with our Mother-country, and the productions of our own happy climate, we are the only people of all the European nations, settled in America, that are able to feed the Hungry and cloath the Naked. When our enemies shall be confined within their due bounds, we shall thus have obtained a more natural and lasting dominion over the Heathen [Page 21] natives of this continent by our Arts and Manufactures, than the Romans did over the old world by the terror of their arms. Every river, creek, inlet, lake and settlement, will be open to our Commerce; and when we stretch forth food and raiment, and practise the other arts of Humanity, to the glad inhabitants, it is hoped that we shall not be wanting to stretch forth also the bread * of life to their famished souls. The present spirit and disposition of our nation give us a well-grounded assurance that the means will never be wanting for carrying on such benevolent purposes; and when all these things shall conspire, we may trust that the promised period, for the fulfilling of the Gentiles, and thorough conversion of the Nations, even to these remotest parts of the earth, cannot be far off.

ONE circumstance more, which bears [...] most favorable aspect towards the accomplishment of [Page 22] this event, ought not escape our notice. It is the spirit which now displays itself, thro' these American colonies, for the founding seminaries of Learning and the advancement of useful Science. Such pious designs as these, aided and improved by a preached Gospel and the divine blessing, cannot fail of spreading the rays of heavenly knowlege far over this untutored continent. The consideration of this hath ever been an interesting topic with me; and, therefore, I thought it worthy of being particularly handled on a former public occasion. It would be needless to repeat any thing I then said. The* discourse delivered at that time is in your hands, and the arguments there adduced, added to those now laid before you, will be sufficient to establish the "probability of a speedy accomplishment of the prophecies which relate to the final Conversion of the nations;" which was my second Head.

I proceed, therefore, in the last place, "from this view of things, to offer an humble Address to [Page 23] you, my brethren, who are employed as instruments in the hand of God, for carrying on this great work of conversion, by the preaching of the Gospel in places that heretofore sat in Darkness and the shadow of Death."

AND this part of my subject I enter upon with that diffidence and humiliation of heart, which become one who is speaking to men of known capacities and integrity; and among whom are sundry of my seniors in the sacred office of the ministry. Besides this, a series of necessary avocations hath, for some years past, drawn a considerable part of my attention from the immediate study of that Divine Science, which both duty and inclination would induce me chiefly to cultivate; and nothing but your express injunctions, added to a persuasion that it will not be necessary for me to say much on this subject, could give me the Freedom to proceed.

IS it so, then, my brethren, that God hath chosen the British nation, above all others, to settle the most important part of this continent? Hath he prospered their arms, and extended their empire in the most signal manner, thro' a series of hazardous events? Doth he seem to have purposed through us the extension of his everlasting gospel to the ends of the world, [Page 24] and are you charged with the ministration of that blessed Gospel, and severally capable of contributing somewhat, under divine assistance, to the hastening of that happy period, wherein "the Knowlege of the Lord shall cover the whole earth as the waters cover the sea?" Are these things so; and can we ever be without the most animating motives to support and encourage us in so great a work, how inconsiderable soever the temporal advantages may be, which are annexed to the discharge of it? Considered in this light, how divinely important does your MISSION appear? Whilst others are proposing, and justly proposing, to themselves the Palm of high renown, for bravely subduing and maintaining a rich and spacious country for the name of Britain and Liberty, we may consider ourselves, even in a still higher light, as subduing it to the name of CHRIST, and adding it to his everlasting Kingdom! compared to this, the glory of temporal conquests and foundations is but unsubstantial air, and short-lived renown.

IN so noble a work, therefore, the conduct of that first of Missionaries, the great Apostle of the Gentiles, our illustrious predecessor in the business of preaching the Gospel among uncultivated nations, ought to be our rule and [Page 25] model. "When it pleased God, says he, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Heathen, immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood." This zealous servant of Christ had formed a just idea of the work he had undertaken, and considered it as a field wherein he was to encounter many difficulties, and reap but few worldly advantages. He therefore proposes to himself advantages of a more durable nature, and strives to raise himself above this world, and all its clogs and attachments. For this end, he holds daily intercourse with the Father of Spirits, and was frequent in prayer and meditation. And certainly if ever men ought to be serious, humble, abstracted from worldly embarrassments, and dependent upon divine assistance in any office or trust in this world, it ought to be in the Exercise of the Ministry, and dispensation of the glorious Gospel; for who is of himself sufficient for these things?

BUT together with Seriousness, Prayer, Meditation, and dependence upon God, an ardent Zeal and Fervor of Spirit are most necessary qualifications. In any undertaking, where the world has but few advantages to sollicit perseverance, nay where many inconveniencies must necessarily be surmounted, it is well for a [Page 26] man to have within himself a fervent principle of action. Indeed, indifference in the discharge of any duty is a great error, but in things of the highest moment it is unpardonable. It was a severe rebuke to one of the churches, that she was luke-warm; for which she was threatened to be spued out.* "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot. I would thou wert cold or hot," saith the spirit of God to her. Whoever considers the immense value of human souls; whoever is impressed with a just sense of our present degeneracy; whoever contemplates the vast goodness of God, and believes the Gospel to be the produce of the greatest Love which heaven could shew, or a corrupt world receive—must needs be inanimate indeed, not to glow with an unquenchable ardor for its universal extension to all the sons of men!

TOGETHER with zeal for Religion, "pure and undefiled before God and the father," a zeal for Civil Liberty, its inseparable companion, will be truly commendable. It is the peculiar glory of the British Nation to strive not only to enlighten, but to ennoble, the Human Race; not only to break asunder those spiritual Fetters which the Dominion of ANTICHRIST hath [Page 27] established over the Souls of men, but likewise to let the oppressed go FREE, and to strike off those bodily Fetters under which so great a part of the human Species groans.

IN so righteous a cause, it becomes the Ministers of God's Word, which is founded on Liberty both of Body and Mind, to stand among the warmest Champions; and therefore should ever another period come, when a cruel enemy is advancing to rob us of all that we account dear and sacred, let us cry aloud and spare not. Being placed on the walls of our Sion, and glowing sublimely with the spirit of Gospel-truth and Freedom, let us be earnest with our country, as we have been heretofore, warning, exhorting and animating all around us to "play the men for the people and cities of our God."*

THIS is agreeable to the injunctions of our benevolent superiors in such cases delivered to us. We are charged to enforce Loyalty, public Spirit, Submission to just government, and the Payment of necessary tribute and taxes. Designing men may insinuate, as they have done, that this is going beyond our sphere, and they may oppose and injure us by every device in their power. But ten thousand such attempts and insinuations ought not to deter us from our duty. [Page 28] Our Civil and Religious rights are inseparably connected; and whatever hurts or destroys the former, must, in the issue, hurt or destroy the latter.

BUT further, to a commendable Zeal in every thing praise-worthy, we must add Prudence and Decorum of conduct; and, above all, a generous Spirit of Forbearance, Toleration, and Charity to our Protestant brethren of other denominations. These are Duties peculiarly incumbent on the Ministers of so benevolent a Religion as that of JESUS, and so generous a Church as that of England. Matters of Conscience come not under human cognizance. The catholic and free spirit of the British Government and Protestant religion disdains to erect a tyranny over the minds of men, or to reign over uninformed zeal. Religion can be founded on nothing else but every man's private conviction. 'Tis to God, in the end, that we must all answer; and from our own consciences, in the mean time, that we must receive remorse or satisfaction. Another man cannot interfere, nor feel for us, nor judge for us, in this matter.

ONE thing further is absolutely necessary for us as Ministers of God's word; and that is great care and industry in the composition of our Sermons. We have many eyes upon us; and [Page 29] certainly it is treating a sensible audience with a very great degree of disrespect, for any man to step into a pulpit to entertain them with what bears all the marks of want of Study and Care.

"IT is an unseasonable piece of Vanity (says a learned* prelate of our church) for any preachers to offer their own crudities, till they have well digested and ripened them. I wish the Majesty of the Pulpit were more looked to, and that no sermons were offered from thence, but such as should make the hearer both wiser and better."

WE do, however, readily acknowlege that a man vitally good, much with God, rich in grace, fervent in spirit, a master of literature and expression, powerful in Eloquence, and, above all, mighty in the Scriptures, may be well warranted, as circumstances may require, to speak without any immediate study or preparation. But, in a general way, this method argues so much want of care and deference; it is withal so dangerous in its use; and these divine Gifts mentioned above fall so seldom to the share of any one man, and it is moreover so easy to mistake or substitute the wild Ebullitions of a heated Imagination; [...] [Page 30] Pharisaical Pride, in their room, that our church supposes no preaching of this sort. And whatever a man of the most extraordinary graces and talents may be able to do in an un­premeditated manner, he will certainly do much more by study, meditation and accurate composi­tion.

GREAT care is also requisite in the choice of our subjects. The whole circle of Gospel-truths is before us; but some require to be more frequently pressed home than others. Subjects of Litigation, however, and points of Controversy, are to be avoided; unless in times of extremest danger, when Fundamentals and Essentials may be attacked.

SOME men there are who, in their preaching, betray a marvellous Littleness of Genius, and Barrenness of matter. They are ever upon minute distinctions, Party-Shibboleths, per­plexing definitions, and nice modes; ten thousand of which, if put in the balance with true Religion, and the weightier matters of the Law, would not weigh a single grain, especially when attended (as they generally are) with Revilings and Cursings and Anathemas against all others differing the least in persuasion, to the [...]each of that HEAVENLY Charity, which is the [Page 31] very essence of Christ's Gospel, and height of religious perfection. We may well suspect such men to be but Smatterers in the Divine Science of Religion, much like those bold Pretenders in the other sciences, who finding it a work of hard labor to obtain a thorough knowlege of their profession, or, peradventure, not having the capacity for it, are therefore obliged to hide their own ignorance and supply the want of real skill, by arrogant pretensions to some new discovery, or an affected singularity in the treatment of some common points.

BUT not so the man of comprehensive knowlege. Not so the Preacher who has a clear and glowing view of his Master's religion in general. He will not endeavour to divide and perplex mankind by vain and insignificant distinctions, but to unite and animate them all in the exercise of true vital and evangelical piety. He will not multiply notions, or delight to dwell on triffles, that tend to sow animosities and create confusions among the same Species; but to enforce universal Virtue, and light up the lamp of heavenly Charity, to adorn and gild this gloomy vale of life.

SUCH a one will first endeavour to obtain for himself, just and elevated notions of the supreme [Page 32] Being, together with a masculine devotion of heart, by approaching in frequent acts of contemplation to the fountain of all grace; and what he himself is, he will strive to make others be. When he steps into the pulpit, he will carry no schemes or views thither with him that are short of his Master's Glory. He will appear as one standing in the presence of the great Jehovah, glowing for the good of his species, and impressed with the vast consequence of eternity. On every subject, he will speak what he feels, and strive to make others feel what he speaks.

BUT, in his more solemn addresses, when he finds it more particularly necessary to reluminate the dying spirit of Freedom and Religion here on earth; or when the glorious prospects of a better world, or the awful mysteries of Redeeming Love, are his theme, he will then be great indeed! He will seem all on fire. His very face will speak a soul of rapture. He will be borne along with a winged ardor of Genius, pouring forth a torrent of sacred Eloquence, which some will call Enthusiasm; but, if it must be called so, it will be the noble Enthusiasm of Truth and Reason—a pure and transcendent flame, bearing all down before it, and burning still clearer and stronger to the very last—

[Page 33] THE fallen and sinful estate of man; the Grace and Goodness of God; the wonders of his Love; Christ crucified; the Purity of his everlasting Gospel; Charity and Virtue; Righteousness, Temperance and a Judgment to come, together with an eternity afterwards—who, my brethren, that has these subjects before him, would stoop to any thing of trivial moment, or disgrace them by a crude and unworthy management?

MAY the God of heaven give all of us the grace of his holy spirit to manage them as we ought, and conduct us in every other part of our duty, "*for the edifying the body of Christ." May we strive, in our several spheres, with an earnest contention of soul, for the establishment of genuine piety, according to the true Gospel-simplicity. May our Lives be a convincing argument to the Heathen around us, that our Religion is something more than a name, and that we are in good earnest ourselves, concerning that which we would persuade them to embrace!

[Page 35]

PART II. Delivered* before the Trustees, Masters, and Scholars of the College and Acade­my of Philadelphia, at the first anniver­sary Commencement in that place.

PSALM ii. 8.Ask of me and I shall give thee the Heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.

A full explanation of this text, compared with sundry others, that foretel the final Conversion of the Heathen, and seem to have a particular reference to our situation on this Continent, hath been already attempted.

CHRISTIANITY, we observed, was first revealed in the Eastern Parts of the world. Like the sun, there it rose; and, like him, advancing Westward through the nations, diffused light and love and joy, wherever it came. At length, it crossed the vast Atlantic; [Page 36] and, in the settlement of these colonies, a way was opened for adding a large inheritance to the Kingdom of Jesus, in the remotest parts of the West.

'TIS true that no great progress hath hitherto been made in this work. There is yet an immense depth of this continent, whose forlorn inhabitants never had any opportunity "to hear the glad tidings of salvation;" and, of those who have been blest with such an opportunity, few, very few, have turned a listening ear to the joyful sound.

BUT "* the Promises of God in Christ are all Yea and [...]en." A careful examination of his revealed word hath thoroughly fixed our belief that the time will come, when the Heathen around us shall be gathered into his fold, under the great shepherd and bishop of souls. Nay many auspicious circumstances in the present situation of things on this continent, already enumerated, give us reason to expect that the accomplishment of this event is now not far remote. And oh! What a triumphant con­sideration is this, to those who believe the Gospel of Jesus "to be the power of God unto salvation?"

[Page 37] NOW, one of those circumstances, which was but slightly mentioned before, I have at present the most favorable opportunity of considering more at large. It is "the spirit which displays itself, through these American colonies, for the founding seminaries of Learning; and the great influence which the advancement of the Sciences has on the advancement of Christ's Gospel.

IN order to do justice to this subject, it will be necessary to give some account of the Human Sciences, as well as of the sublime Science of Christianity; to shew the subserviency of the former to the advancement of the latter, and thereby to engage your continued favour and protection of this infant seminary. And that I may proceed with the greater precision and clearness, l shall recur to first principles.

IF we consult the constitution of our nature, we shall find ourselves, in every pursuit, actuated by the desire of Happiness, and determined to account every thing more or less valuable, as it contributes more or less to that end.

HAPPINESS, however, is a complex thing, compounded of many ingredients; and the road to attain it has its labyrinths and windings, not to be travelled, but with caution and foresight. [Page 38] For man, being made up of soul and body, sustains a double relation, and is capable of a double kind of pleasure; there being a variety of objects suited to the variety of his affections, passions and tempers, when in their sound moral state. His Happiness, therefore, must evi­dently depend on making a right estimate of these objects, and maintaining this sound tem­perament of constitution; so as to pursue each of them with a degree of force commensurate to their respective values, or tendencies to give pleasure.

HENCE, then, whatever enables a man to make a right estimate of things, and to frame his conduct agreeably, must be considered as an engine of his happiness, and is to be valued proportionably. It follows, therefore, that those researches which bring him acquainted with himself, the ends, uses and measures of his several powers and movements, together with the ends and uses of the various objects with which he stands connected, must be a main spring of his happiness; and, in this view, may be denominated his true Wisdom, the first and great Philosophy; or that glorious System of Knowlege, which gives him his chief pre-heminence over the brutes, and exalts him to [Page 39] the supreme perfection and highest enjoyment of his nature!

OTHER Sciences may have their use, as matters of ornament or amusement. But whenever they interfere with this grand Science of Life and Manners, they are to be disregarded as empty triffles; subjects at best but of vain curiosity, or unavailing speculation.

I SHALL, therefore, endeavour to distinguish the True from the False, the spurious parts of Knowlege from those of genuine growth, by pointing out to you the essential branches of this great Master-science. In doing this, let us never lose sight of the fundamental principle already laid down, namely that every part of knowlege, (humane knowlege I speak of) derives its value from its tendency to inform us—

"Quid sumus, et quidnam victuri gignimur—" What we are, and whither destined; what our constitution and connexions; and what our duties in consequence thereof.

WHOEVER sets out on this enquiry will, in the first instance, be struck with the vastness of the undertaking, and the insufficiency of his own abilities. Human nature, and the various natures around it, are a copious subject. Life [Page 40] is short, and each man's own experience too scanty to trace for himself the relations and fitness of things; to examine into all Moral and Physical Qualities; and, from thence, to de­duce the Rules of Conduct, and ascertain the true Path of Happiness. Like a traveller in a strange country, he will, therefore, be glad to enquire his way of others; and make all possible use of the experience of those who, with honor and success, have travelled the path of life before him. He will endeavour to avail himself equally of the good and bad fortune of those whose course is finished, and strive to bring all Antiquity under Contribution to him for wisdom.

BUT how could this be done, if there were not some method of preserving, and possessing ourselves of, the experience of others? And here we see the use of Languages and Writing. Nevertheless an acquaintance with all sorts of languages would be almost as difficult an acquisition, as the particular examination of all sorts of things. Hence then, it became ne­cessary for the Learned to fix on some Universal Language or Languages, as the grand channel or instrument of conveying their experiences, observations and conclusions, concerning the conduct of life and the truth of things.

[Page 41] NOW Greek and Latin have been chosen for these purposes, on several substantial accounts. For, not to mention that many of the noblest productions of ancient genius were originally written in these languages, it is to be observed that dead languages are more durable, and less fluctuating, than living ones; and, besides this, living nations, jealous of each other, would think it too great a mark of distinction to chuse the language of any particular nation among them, as the grand channel of knowlege and experience.

WE see, then, that an acquaintance with what is called the Learned Languages is still justly considered as a part of liberal education, and a necessary introduction to the Sciences. For, tho' words, abstractly considered, cannot in themselves add to our knowlege, yet as the Means of Conveying and acquiring knowlege, they will be studied by all those who, to their own experience, would add the experience of those who have lived in former ages; or, living in the present, can no otherwise reader the fruits of their enquiries useful to mankind, than by Language and Writing.*

[Page 42] NEVERTHELESS, a person, who knows himself endued with reason and understanding, will not be content to take his knowlege entirely at second hand. On subjects so important as the nature and fitness of things, and the Summum Bonum of man, he will not rely wholly on a Historical knowlege, founded on the Experience and Testimony of others; how­ever much his labors may be shortened thereby. He will think it is his duty to examine for himself, and to acquire a Moral and Physical knowlege; founded on his own Experience and Observation.

THIS is what we call Philosophy in general; comprehending in it the knowlege of all things Human and Divine, so far as they can be made the objects of our present enquiries. Now, the genuine branches of this Philosophy, or great system of practical Wisdom, together with the necessary instrumental parts thereof, may be included under the following general heads; it appearing to me that the nature of things admits of no more.

1. LANGUAGES, &c. which have been [Page 43] already mentioned rather as an Instrument or Means of Science, than a Branch thereof.

2. LOGIC and Metaphysics, or the Science of the Human mind; unfolding its powers and directing its operations and reasonings.

3. NATURAL Philosophy, Mathematics, and the rest of her beautiful train of subservient arts, investigating the Physical properties of Body; explaining the various phaenomena of Nature; and teaching us to render her subservient to the ease and ornament of Life.

4. MORAL Philosophy; applying all the above to the business and bosoms of men; deducing the laws of our conduct from our situation in life and connexions with the Beings around us; settling the whole OEconomy of the will and Affections; establishing the pre­dominancy of Reason and Conscience; and guiding us to Happiness, thro' the practice of Virtue.

5. RHETORIC, or the art of masterly Composition, just Elocution, and sound Cri­ticism; teaching us how to cloath our wisdom in the most amiable and inviting garb; how to give life and spirit to our Ideas, and make our knowlege of the greatest benefit to ourselves and others; and lastly, how to enjoy those pure [Page 44] intellectual pleasures, resulting from a just taste for polite Letters, and a true relish for the sprightly Wit, the rich Fancy, the noble Pathos, and the marvellous Sublime, shining forth in the works of the most celebrated Poets, Philosophers, Historians and Orators, with beauties ever pleasing, ever new.

THIS last mentioned part of literary ac­complishment, like the first, I grant, is to be considered rather as an Instrument, than a Branch, of Science. But if the above definition be just, you will not wonder that we separate it from Languages, as being of much higher nature than they; and even place the study of it after all the other Sciences, seeing they are necessary and subservient to its perfection.

THE materials of every work must go before the work itself; and Composition, from one's own stock, can hardly be begun before Philoso­phy and the Sciences have enriched the under­standing, ripened the judgment and furnished the Materials or Topics.

WERE any further arguments necessary to justify this disposition of Rhetoric and Composi­tion, I might quote the authority of the greatest master* which antiquity can boast. In the [Page 45] beginning of his inimitable Treatise on the Sublime, he does not propose his noble precepts of fine writing to raw youths, to be read with the rules of grammar, but [...]; that is (as I understand the words) "men conversant in public life," who have laid a foundation in the Sciences, and whose business it is now become to Think, Speak, Write and Act for the General Good.

THESE are the capital branches of Human Science, as taught in every liberal institution; and were there no connexion between them and the knowlege of Christ's religion, or did we stop short at the former without bringing them home to the latter; we should then indeed be building up to ourselves structures of emptiness on foundations of rottenness. But it is im­possible that ever Sciences, so liberal as those mentioned above, tending so directly to elevate and enlarge the mind, should be at enmity to the divine Science of Christianity, and the great mystery of Godliness; that sublimest system of Philosophy, into which even the Angels them­selves desire to be further initiated! A little learning, as a great* genius expresses it, may indeed make men mad; but large draughts [Page 46] thereof sobers them again. Such an acquain­tance with the sciences, as is described above, will be so far from damping the ardor of religious knowlege, that it will be more and more inflamed thereby; which is a most con­vincing argument of the strong and immediate connexion between them.

WERE it necessary to be particular on this head, I might mention the example of the greatest and best Philosophers of every age; who have always been the most devout men. Far from being puffed up with the pride of human Learning, or "ashamed of the Gospel of Christ," they have made it their glory, and acknowlege it to contain the only infallible rules of their conduct in this life, and the only foundation of their hope in that which is to come. It is said of the great Sir Isaac Newton, that, tho' he entered further into the depths of Philosophy than ever mortal before him, yet he accounted the Scriptures of God to be the most sublime Philosophy; and never mentioned his Creator's name without an awful pause of adoration, wonder and self-abasement!

THE further we push our enquiries into nature, the more we shall be convinced of the greatness of its author, and the insufficiency of [Page 47] unenlightened Reason. We shall find many things of the utmost importance for us to know, which yet will baffle all our efforts, and elude our most eager researches. The creation and various revolutions of the world; the fall and redemption of man; the last judgment and an immortality to come; are subjects in which no human wisdom could instruct us, unless the Lord had been pleased to reveal himself concerning them.

AND yet what is all the Philosophy in the world compared to a knowlege in these points? Where is its sublimity, or what is its sig­nificancy to us, if it affords us no infallible rule of duty at present, and no ground of hope hereafter? If it leaves us in the dark concerning our own original, the means of salvation from sin and misery, and the immortal state of our souls in the untried periods of eternity?

WHAT joy, then, must it yield a sincere Enquirer, to be sufficiently informed upon these important subjects, by a revelation from God himself? Can he neglect or despise such an awful system? Or will he not rather take it to his bosom, search into its depths, and reverence it as "containing the words of eternal life," and being the richest legacy which heaven could give, or earth receive?

[Page 48] SUCH a Revelation and such a Legacy are the Scriptures of God. In all the simplicity of truth and beauties of majesty, they deliver those rules by which we are to live here and be judged hereafter. Containing doctrines the most ra­tional and exalted, precepts the most humane and important, a stile the most rich and persuasive, abounding in all the variety of tropes and figures, and "sharper than a two-edged Sword," the scriptures are calculated to seize and purify the affections; to enlighten and exalt the understanding▪ to alarm and rouse the conscience; to confirm our hopes and remove our fears; to banish superstition and cast down the idols of the nations; to mitigate lawless power and humanize the rage of barbarism; and to call men off from a vain dependence on external ceremonies to a trust in the Living God, obedience to his moral laws, repentance for past offences, an acceptable and manly devotion of heart, a longing after immortality, an union with the divine nature, and an exaltation to the life of angels and felicity unspeakable!

EVERY thing which human reason would desire to know is fully brought to light in the Gospel. Here the Origin, Connexions and [Page 49] Duties of man are amply described! Here his departure from his first Innocence and rectitude, the degradation of his nature, and all the marvellous workings of omnipotence to reclaim and save him, are distinctly recorded! Here we see the Prophets prophesying for his sake, the old world drowned, another fitted up, and last of all the Lord of Glory descending from heaven, to accomplish the amazing Plan of Redemption, and restore him to divine favour! Here also Life and Immortality are brought to light, and the Future displayed! Here the solemnity of the last Judgment, and the as­tonishing scenes of the general Consummation, are laid before us! Here Death is disarmed of his Sting, and the Grave of Victory! Here the gates of immortality are set open—and Oh! what an unutterable weight of Glory beyond—

SAY, then, ye Wise Ones of the earth! ye Sages, ye Philosophers, or by whatever other names ye would be called! say now, what is the amount of your knowlege, if it resolves you not on such subjects as these? Can an acquaintance with human Science render you indifferent to such an exalted system of heavenly Wisdom as this? Surely not. The one will only inflame your thirst for the other, and make you pursue [Page 50] it as the finishing and most durable part of the whole.

"FOR, whether there be Tongues, they shall cease; or whether there be Knowlege, it shall vanish away." This vain world itself, all its gay scenes, every thing that we account wise or curious in it, shall come to an end and please no more. But the sublime subjects of the Gospel will still be New. They will be the object of our endless enquiries, and constitute a Philosophy, the Marvellous of which eternity cannot exhaust, not the longest period of duration bring to decay.

AND now, having shewn the subserviency of Human Science to the advancement of Chris­tianity, and that a liberal education is a means of spreading a thirst for heavenly wisdom; what need I add more to bespeak your continued favour and protection of this Seminary? Surely it cannot be indifferent to us, whether the knowlege of Christ and his blessed Gospel shall be spread over this continent, or not? Surely it cannot be indifferent to us, whether our own children should be bred up in ignorance; or whether they shall shine in every moral ex­cellence, the glory of their country and a light to the world around them? We must know the [Page 51] relation in which we stand to them, and the account which we shall one day be required to give of their tender years.

FOR whatever business a man may be designed, a liberal education will not only prepare him for that, but also for a life of general virtue.—If intended for the noble Profession of the Law, to be the protectors of the innocent and the advocates of justice; the best foundation will be a love of huma­nity, and a thorough knowlege of the laws of nature, and general rights of mankind. If for the service of the state, the same will hold good. The man best acquainted with the nature of civil government, the just bounds of authority and submission, and the universal principles of equity and virtue, will always be the ablest Politician and firmest Patriot. A­gain, if intended to follow the healing art of Physic, the knowlege of Mathematics and the various branches of Natural Philosophy, will be the best introduction. If proposed for the Ministry of the blessed Gospel, every human Science ought to lend its aid, and kindle a love of wisdom.

IF other arguments were necessary to induce you to the cultivation of knowlege and the [Page 52] support of such useful seminaries as this, I might display to you the wonderful change which the Sciences have produced in the state of every country, where they have been received. Tho' they have not been able whol­ly to eradicate Tyranny, yet they have always checked and mitigated its influence; inspiring humanity, love of moral excellency, and every softer virtue.

BUT why should I bring instances from other countries, when one of the most illustrious is before our eyes? This polished and flourishing City! what was it fourscore years ago? Even its foundations were not then laid; and in their place was one depth of gloomy wilderness! This very spot, this Seat of the Muses—where I have now the honour to stand, the preaching the Gospel of Jesus, surrounded with men excelling in every valuable accomplish­ment, and youths rising after their great example—had I seen it then, what should I have found it? A spot rank with weeds perhaps, or the obscure retreat of some lawless and gloomy savage!

O GLORIOUS change! O happy day! that now beholds the Sciences planted where bar­barity was before! that now sees this Restitution [Page 53] at length brought to such perfection, as to extend the Laurel to its first worthy sons! how ought such advances in knowlege to rejoice every heart among us; but especially those whose pious labors have contributed e­minently to that end.

OH! heaven born Wisdom, and thou divine Science! proceed, still proceed! let other se­minaries such as this rise, where other desarts now extend; and, beyond these, let others and still others rise, thro' the remotest depths of this continent; till Christ's kingdom is made u­niversal, and "the Heathen be given him for an inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for a possession!"

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