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ALL TRUE LOVERS OF LIBERTY.
FRIENDS, BROTHERS, SISTERS,
AMIDST the confusion of kingdoms and empires, does progression stop, or does the period approach marked out by prophetic inspiration? Are the signs so clearly given for our warning by the beloved Messiah evidently manifesting themselves? Are men's hearts failing them for fear? Are the most subtle political arrangements crumbling into dust and exhibiting the weakness and instability of all human inventions? Are we, like the Israelites of old, turning to worship the golden calf, and saying, like the fool in his heart, There is no God? If so, surely it is a time to call back the wavering, superstitious, wandering, and infidel spirit of the age to those sublime truths which have been gradually casting the light of civilization into the world; and, from this Rock, challenge all the depths and accumulation of philosophic lore to produce any form of laws, or any code of morals, comparable with the spirit of the Gospel, or upon which the superstructure of society can be so safely and firmly based; its power extending to the present, harmonizing all institutions framed upon its pure influence, as well as holding out to individuals, both for the present and future, a larger, firmer share of spiritual hope, comfort, consolation, and reward, than ever the wit of man could even devise.
Therefore I make no apology for placing the Gospels of the four Evangelists before you in this form, the motive and feeling being the perpetual recurrence of the question,
"Why do we neglect so great salvation and knowledge?" Is it that the struggle to obtain the necessaries,
TO ALL TRUE LOVERS OF LIBERTY.
the comforts, the luxuries of life, occupy so large a share of our time?
Or that the progress and acquirement of scientific or practical knowledge precludes us from the study of our eternal concerns by the pressure for present temporal advantages?
Or that to achieve success requires the entire of our time, faculties, and memory, and so leaves not a trifling corner for that essential, sober reflection, which makes men ask themselves,
"What shall it profit me if I gain the whole world and lose my own soul? Or what shall I give in exchange for my soul?"
Shall immortal beings be content to incur the risk of losing their Souls upon the strength of excuses?
No! no! Your heavenly Father forbids ye to be so content, and says, "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light!" Seek, and ye shall find! Ask, and it shall be given you! Knock, and it shall be opened!
These reflections decided me to arrange the four Gospels in such manner as I hoped would assist the memory, induce comparison and research, interest and rouse man to the welfare of his soul, and call the attention of the indifferent or careless to some striking truths, not always obvious to those who, travelling hastily and impatiently through the pilgrimage of their earthly trials, tarry not to refresh their broken strength and spirit at the pure and delicious spring as they pass; but with a weary and discontented mind deem all vanity, vexation, and delusion, and in that feeling reject, overlook, and undervalue the gentle stream of Christian love, consolation, and resolution, which swells into everlasting life and faith. Kind Readers, may the pure and Holy Spirit of Truth guide you to the true Source, and give you power and energy to drink at it to your eternal welfare!
THE four writers of the history and doctrine of our blessed Saviour were from the earliest ages termed Evangelists, or writers of good tidings, and under the special inspiration of the Holy Ghost or Comforter, as sent by our blessed Lord after his ascension, and in conformity with his promise to his disciples-"Howbeit, when he the Spirit of Truth is come, he will guide you into all Truth." So we must deem that all things essential to be known were by them recorded for the benefit of all ages.
Though the narratives of the Gospels as to time do not appear to have that consecutive arrangement which carries with it the power of impressing the memory as a matter of simple history, yet the facts stated are each in themselves so perfect and instructive, that it seems foolish to wish the detail of our Saviour's life to have been more copious: and we should never forget what St. John says:
"And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written."
We should also feel doubly grateful that the means are so well adapted to the end. As life is short, so is the lesson of the wayfaring pilgrim clearly laid down in the discourses of our Saviour, within the comprehension of the humblest intellect, and he that runs may read.
Our Saviour declares, in confirmation of the Jewish law and commandments, that he came not to destroy, but to fulfil: and the benevolence of his mission was manifested and exalted above and beyond the Jewish covenant
by a new commandment, majestically and impressively declared by himself:
"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another: by this shall men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." This solemn command thus trebly repeated, urged by example, and frequently expatiated upon to shew its efficacy and necessity, as the first and leading point of the Christian character, cannot occupy too much of our reflection, and ought to be ever present to our thoughts.
How happy would all be on earth had this one simple command obtained the obedience due to it; and how sweet would the incense of that homage have ascended to the heavenly mind that gave it utterance, had the evil and bad passions of men been subdued to its holy power!
Reader, may this holy love possess thy spirit to its present joy and future hope; and may it urge thee in an earnest search for truth to the comforting and confirming thee in a steadfast faith in thy God and Saviour!
Although the Gospels of each of the Evangelists relate some circumstances and doctrines in common to all four, yet each will be found to have its own peculiar facts and doctrines, suited to the purposes and occasion for which it was written, and which are referred to in the short epitome of their respective biographies.
Nevertheless, there have not been wanting persons, who, regardless of the general harmony of the Gospels, their distinct agreement as to doctrine, morality, and facts, who from a cavilling spirit have pretended to find little differences: to such persons it is better to leave these foolish contentions,-praying and trusting, that, in His due season, the All-wise Disposer of events, will lift the veil from their eyes, and remove all unhappy doubts. On our parts, let us hold on firmly to that which can alone afford us contentment and peace on earth, and a good hope of eternal happiness in heaven, the tender mercy of our Creator, and the all-sufficient merit and atonement of our blessed Saviour-laying the Record of John the Baptist to our hearts.
And John bare record, saying, "I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a Dove, and it abode upon him.