Page images

prediction, which had led to those precautions, he arose from the dead; and after being seen and fully recognised by his disciples, during a period of nearly six weeks, whilst in the act of blessing them, he ascended upwards, and was hid from their sight. He had previously assured them that he was going into heaven-into the presence of God: and that, if they tarried at Jerusalem for a time, he would send down unto them his Holy Spirit, by whom they should be endued with power from on high. They did wait, the Spirit did come, the powers were granted, they spake in languages which they had never learned, but which (unlike the pretences of modern fanatics) were perfectly understood ; and they healed the sick by the name of Jesus, not only in Judea, but all over the world. His disciples, now become apostles, went every where, preaching the facts of which they had been eye and ear-witnesses. For this they suffered the loss of all things, even unto death. They uniformly maintained that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God, the Saviour of the world, and that he died for the sins of men: and they called on all men to repent of their sins against God, and to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ that they might be saved. Such doctrine was accounted foolishness by the intellectual infidels of Greece, and became a stumbling-block to the self-righteous bigots of Judea. Yet such was the irresistible power which attended its simple preaching, even in that first generation, when all those alleged facts were capable of thorough investigation, and when witnesses were still living, that Christian churches were planted over the known globe ; and by the end of two centuries more the empire of the world had become, professedly, Christian. That religion of the Lord Jesus Christ, so begun and established in the world, has, amidst many abuses, heresies, hypocrisies, apostasies, and almost extinctions, survived to this day : there is still a true church of Christ, holding the religion of Christ purely; consisting of those who abide by the facts and doctrines contained in his holy word. Faith, practice, and worship, grounded on these, we call the religion of Christianity.

II. Christianity, in its written and recorded form, is a revelation from God. Our religion is based upon the Bible, the word which he hath given us for that end ; and we know and are sure that it came from him, and may be trusted as true and infallible in itself. The following principles may serve to illustrate our faith in this matter.

We hold it as clear and undeniable that God has power to communicate his mind or will to his creatures in any matter that may seem good to him.

We have the power of mutual communication amongst ourselves as creatures; and surely the Creator, from whom we have received it, hath the same power, and in a higher degree.

We also hold as an evident principle, that God can reveal or communicate his mind to us infallibly and truly, so that we shall know that it is he indeed who speaks, and none other. We can so enable our fellow-men, by certain evidence, to identify us in our communication; and surely He, who out of creative fulness has invested us with such ability, hath it in a perfect degree himself.

We further maintain that he hath at his disposal all the modes of communication which his creatures can employ; for from him they have derived those modes, and the ability to use them. Speech, writing, representation, suggestion dictation, are as certainly at his command as at ours: he may use one or all of them as he pleases, and, in such use of them, he can as certainly show that he is the Author or Agent, as we could in any one or all of those modes.

We add to this the assertion, that Almighty God hath an indisputable right so to make known his will to us. When it seems good to him, and by whom it seems good to him, or in whatever matter seems good to him, he has a right to declare to us, his mere creatures, his sovereign will.

Nor can it be denied that it is most desirable that God should, in his great goodness, exercise this his right in any accessible mode, by making known to us his mind in certain matters to us most interesting and important. All men in all ages, who have spoken or written freely the workings of

their souls, have admitted their need of larger and surer knowledge than man could attain on many subjects which God only could reveal. Yea, all serious and reasonable men are, in the weightiest matters connected with their present happiness or future destiny, craving and groping after greater certainty than either their own reason or human wisdom alone can furnish. What conscientious man is there who does not desire intensely, at times, some revelation in regard to the justice and mercy of God? whether he will be reconciled to those who have done evil? how a sinner may be accepted before God ? what is the future state that awaits him ? what is the standard of obedience? what is the right mode of worship? what is true happiness, and where it is to be found ?

Now Christianity is that revelation, so needful and so desirable for fallen man. Where the sun, moon, and stars —where reason, conscience, and imagination have failed, the Scriptures shine forth. Our almighty, wise, and gracious God, having constant access to the inmost souls of his creatures, being able to exercise a sure control over min is which were his own production, was pleased to raise up, and inwardly inspire by his Holy Spirit, certain men of old to write the several parts of Scripture, according to the ends which he had in view. They, acting under a secret Divine power, (which no man can comprehend but he who felt it, and no man can disprove, although he may deny it,) composed those several books of the Old and New Testament which are now amongst us. The former of these Testaments contains a revelation of a preparatory kind, given first to the Jews to prepare for the coming of Christ into the world ; it was to Christianity as the dawn is to sunrise,-the same light, but differing in form and degree. In the New Testament we have Christianity itself, in all its fulness and completeness as a revelation; there we have unfolded the religion of our Lord Jesus Christ, as the Son of God and the Saviour of the world. In the gospels of Christ, the Acts of his apostles, the Epistles to the churches, and the prophetic book of the Apocalypse, we have all that we hold to be Christianity. By this as Christians do we abide; we maintain nothing as essential to our religion which is not directly or virtually there : on this we build all our hopes, to this would we conform all our practice; and being able by the clearest evidence, historical in testimonies, external in its seals, internal in its character, and experimental in its power, to identify God as its Author, we glory in Christianity as a revelation from God. It is not our present object to state our evidence, but our faith, and of this we may say that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness," 2 Tim. iii. 16; and that, whilst we use it as such, we do so discover and behold God in his own truth, just as we daily see and know the sun in its own light, that we can no more doubt in the former case than in the latter.

III. Christianity, as to its substance, is that way of salvation which Almighty God has ordained and revealed to man for his acceptance; so that a true Christian is a saved person.

That evil exists in man, and over the whole world, is universally admitted.

That a perfectly good Being must hate evil, and that a righteous Governor ought (with reverence be it spoken) to mark it for punishment, and to repress it, is self-evident.

That if evil in our nature or in our practice be a violation of God's law, then God, against whom sin is committed, alone can forgive; and it is for him to say whether he will forgive, and on what terms; this is his clear right.

That if man's moral constitution has become so deranged by evil introduced into it, that it is his very nature and habit to sin, then it is needful that his constitution be regenerated, and his habits radically broken up by a change of moral nature ; and that none can effectually accomplish this regeneration in us but that God, in whom we live, and move, and have our being, who framed our constitution, and who is the alone Source of good : this also in principle and experience we hold to be true and plain.

That such salvation from evil, both in its punishment and in its power, is unspeakably desirable, it is almost unnecessary to assert.

It is also a matter of experience and observation, that all means devised or pursued by men for accomplishing those ends, that is, for securing the pardon of sin and a change of moral nature, have failed; they have been insufficient in the outset, because they were not appointed or approved by God, in a matter in which we have chiefly to do with him, as in the pardon of sin ; and they are found to be insufficient in the result, for they have not brought the power to regenerate man, they have not removed the penalties nor the source of evil.

But Christianity is a method of salvation exactly suited to this state of things, meeting man's whole case in theory, and found to be effectual in practice. For,

1. We act on Divine authority. We are not left to invention, conjecture, or experiment, but we have the testimony of God himself to rest upon; “ Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth,” Isa. xlv. 22. He who alone can forgive, says he will forgive ; he who alone can save, says that he will save ; and he from whom we have departed, himself invites us to return. Therefore have we confidence at the outset.

2. Grace is the grand principle of this salvation, and therefore it is suited for the unworthy and the helpless. “ God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son,” John iii. 16; “ God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” Rom.

By grace are ye saved," Eph. ii. 8. As it is impossible for a sinner to merit salvation, this scheme of grace demands no price; so that a sinner, as such, can embrace it and be saved ; and the greatest sinners may be saved by grace as well as the least transgressor.

3. This grace is exercised through a Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is called “ The Saviour," because on him is devolved the office of saving us. He being the Son of God, became also the Son of man, by uniting himself with true humanity. By a gloric as contrirance of Divine wisdom

V. 8.

« PreviousContinue »