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of easy and natural consequences, that the gospel is most certainly true : But that is a topic of argument, abundantly sufficient to furnish out matter for another discourse. May God command his blessing on what has been already laid before us, that through the operation of his Spirit, it may be useful for establishing our regard to the scripture, and for confirming our faith in that Almighty Redeemer, who is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last*; Whom to know is life everlastingt, and in whom to believe is the great security of our eternal salvation! Amen.
POWER AND GRACE OF CHRIST.
The Evidences of Christianity, deduced from the Nero
Testament, allowed to be genuine.
2 Pet. i. 16. -We have not followed cunningly devised Fables.When we are addressing ourselves to an audience of professing christians, I think, we may reasonably take it for granted, in the main course of our ministry, that they believe the truth of the gospel, and may argue with them on that supposition. To be ever laying the foundation would be the part of an unwise builder, and be greatly detrimental to your edification and comfort, and I may add, to our own. Nevertheless christians, we do not desire, that you should take it merely upon our word, that your religion is divine, and your scriptures inspired. We desire, that your faith, as well as your worship, should be a Reasonable service*; and wish, that, in this respect, All the Lord's people were as prophetst; that as every christian is in his sphere Set for the defence of the gospeli, each might in some measure be able to assert its truth, and, if possible, to Convince gainsayersg. Therefore, as we are often hinting at the chief arguments, on which this sacred cause is established, established, I trust, so firmly, that The gates of hell shall never prevail against illl; so I thought it might be agreeable and useful, on this occasion, to state them a little more largely, in their proper connection, and mutual dependance. And I chose the rather to do it, as these sermons are especially intended for young people, who in an age in which infidelity so much abounds, can hardly expect to pass through the world, if they are called to converse much in it, without some attacks on their faith; which may be very dangerous, if they are not provided with some armour of proof against them. It is indeed, as I before observed, above all things to be desired, that The heart may be established with grace*; for we are then most secure from the danger of forgetting God's preceptst, when they have been the blessed means of quickening us to a divine life. Yet as other arguments have their use, and in some degree their necessity too, I shall go on briefly to propose them.
1 Pbil.i, 17.
* Rom. xii, 1.
+ Numb. xi. 29.
I beg therefore, that you would renew your attention, while I resume the thread of my discourse, in an entire dependance on the blessed Spirit, by whom the gospel was at first revealed and confirmed, to add success to this humble attempt for its service, and for your edification.
I am now shewing you, that christianity, which before appeared in theory probable and rational, has in fact a convincing evidence: Not only that it may be, but that it certainly is true;-as it is certain, that the New Testament, as now in your hands, is genuine ; and as it may with great evidence be argued from thence, that the gospel is a revelation from God. The first of these points I have endeavoured to prove at large; and without repeating what I said in confirmation of it, I now proceed to shew, II. “ That from allowing the New Testament to be genuine, it
will certainly follow, that christianity is a divine revelation."
And here a man is at first, ready to be lost in the multiplieity of arguments which surround him. It is very easy to find proofs; but difficult to range and dispose them in such an order, as best to illustrate and confirm each other. Now I chuse to offer them in the following series, which seems to me the most natural, and perhaps may be most intelligible to you.
The authors of the books contained in the New Testament were certainly capable of judging concerning the truth of the facts they attested; their character, so far as we can judge of it by their writings, renders them worthy of regard ; and they were under no temptation to attempt to impose on the world by such a story as they have given us, if it had been false: So that considering all things, there is no reason to believe they would attempt it:But if they had, they must probably have perished in the attempt, and could never have gained credit in the world, had their testimony been false. Nevertheless it is certain in fact, that they did gain credit, and succeed in a most amazing manner against all opposition. It is certain there.
+ Psal. cxix. 93.
* Heb. xii. 9. VOL. II.
fore, that the facts they assert were true; and if they were true, then it was reasonable for their contemporaries, and is reasonable for us, to receive the gospel as a divine revelation ;
-especially, if we consider what has happened in the world for the confirmation of it, since it was first propagated by them. This is the conclusion, to which I was to lead you; and I beg, you would seriously consider each of the steps, by which we arrive at it.
1. It is exceeding evident, “that the writers of the New Testa
ment certainly knew, whether the facts they asserted were true, or false.”
And this they must have known for this plain reason; because they tell us, they did not trust merely to the report, even of persons whom they thought most credible; but were present themselves, when several of the most important facts happened, and so received them on the testimony of their own senses. On this St. John, in his epistle, lays a very great and reasonable stress: That which we have seen with our eyes, and that not only by a sudden glance, but which we have attentively looked upon, and which even our hands have handled of the word of life, i. e. of Christ and his gospel,-declare we unto you*.
Let the common sense of mankind judge here. Did not Matthew and John certainly know, whether they had personally and familiarly conversed with Jesus of Nazareth, or not? Whether he had chosen them for his constant attendants and apostles? Whether they had seen him heal the sick, dispossess devils, and raise the dead? And whether they themselves had received from him such miraculous endowments, as they say he bestowed upon them? Did not they know, whether he fell into the hands of his enemies, and was publicly put to death, or not? Did not John know, whether he saw him expiring on the cross, or not? And whether he received from him the dying charge which he recordst? Did he not know, whether he saw him wounded in the side with a spear, or not? And whether he did, or did not see, that effusion of blood and water, which was an infallible argument of his being really dead? Concerning which, it being so material a circumstance, he adds, He that saw it bears record, and he knoweth that he saith true I; i. e. that it was a case, in which he could not possibly be deceived. And with regard to Christ's resurrection, did he not certainly know, whether he saw our Lord again and again? And whether he handled his body, that he might be sure it was not a mere phantom? What one circumstance of his life could he certainly know, if he were mistaken in this?
* 1 John i. 1,3
+ John xix. 27.
# John xix. 35.
Did not Luke know, whether he was in the ship with Paul, when that extraordinary wreck happened, by which they were thrown ashore on the island of Malta ? Did he not know, whether while they were lodged together in the Governor's house, Paul miraculously healed one of the family, and many other diseased persons in the island, as he positively asserts that he did* ?
Did not Paul certainly know, whether Christ appeared to him on the way to Damascus, or not? Whether he was blind, and afterwards on the prayer of a fellow disciple received his sight? Or was that a circumstance, in which there could be room for mistake.? Did he not know, whether he received such extraordinary revelations, and extraordinary powers, as to be able, by the imposition of his hands, or by the words of his mouth, to work miracles, and even to convey supernatural endowments to others ?
To add no more, did not Peter know, whether he saw the glory of Christ's transfiguration, and heard that voice to which he so expressly refers, when he says in the text, We have not followed cunningly devised fables,—but were eye-witnesses of his Majesty, when there came such a voice to him; and this voice we heardt ?
Now Matthew, John, Luke, Paul, and Peter, are by far the most considerable writers of the New Testament; and I am sure, when you reflect on these particulars, you must own, that there are few historians, ancient or modern, that could so certainly judge of the truth of the facts they have related. You may perhaps think, I have enlarged too much in stating so clear a case : But you will please to remember, it is the foundation of the whole argument; and that this branch of it alone cuts off infidels from that refuge, which I believe they would generally chuse, that of pleading the apostles were enthusiasts; and leaves them silent, unless they will say they were impostors: For you evidently see, that could we suppose these facts to be false, they could by no means pretend an involuntary mistake, but must, in the most criminal and aggravated sense, as Paul himself expresses it, Be found false witnesses of Godf. But how reasonable it would be to charge them with so notorious a crime, will in part appear, if we consider,
* Acts xxvii. 7-9.
+ 2 Pet. i, 16, 18.
1 Cor. xv. 15.