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THE EVIDENCES OF CHRISTIANITY BRIEFLY STATED, AND THE NEW TESTAMENT PROVED TO BE GENUINE.
2 PETER I. 16.
It is undoubtedly a glory to our age and country, that the nature of moral virtue has been so clearly stated, and the practice of it so strongly enforced, by the views of its native beauty and beneficial consequences, both to private persons and societies. Perhaps in this respect hardly any nation or time has equalled, certainly few, if any, have exceeded our
Yet I fear I might add, there have been few ages or countries where vice has more generally triumphed, in its most audacious and, in other respects, most odious forms.
This may well appear a surprising case, and it will surely be worth our while to inquire into the causes of so strange a circumstance. I cannot now
enter into a particular detail of them.
But I am persuaded none is more considerable than that unhappy disregard, either to the gospel in general, or to its most peculiar and essential truths, which is so visible amongst us, and which appears to be continually growing. It is plain, that, like some of old, who thought and professed themselves the wisest of mankind, or, in other words, the freest thinkers of their age, multitudes among us have not liked to retain God and his truths in their knowledge; and it is therefore the less to be wondered at, if God has given them up to a reprobate mind, to the most infamous lusts and enormities, and to a depth of degeneracy, which, while it is in part the natural consequence, is in part also the just but dreadful punishment of their apostacy from the faith. And I am persuaded that those who do indeed wish well to the cause of publie virtue, as every true Christian most certainly does, cannot serve it more effectually than by endeavouring to establish men in the belief of the gospel in general, and to affect their hearts with its most distinguishing truths.
The latter of these is our frequent employment, and is what I have particularly attempted, in my discourses on the power and grace of the Redeemer, The former, I shall now, by the divine assistance, apply myself to. And I have chosen the words now before us as a proper introduetion to such a design.
They do indeed peculiarly refer to the coming of our Lord, which the Apostle represents as attested by that glory of which he was an eye-witness on the mount of transfiguration, and by that voice from
heaven which he heard there; but the truth of these facts is evidently connected with that of the gospel in general. I am persuaded therefore, you will think they are properly prefixed to a discourse on the general evidences of Christianity. And I hope, by the divine assistance, to propose them at this time in such a manner as shall convince
that the Apostles had reason to say, and that we also have reason to repeat it, “ We have not followed cunningly-devised fables.”
I have often touched upon this subject; but I think it my duty at present to insist something more largely upon it. You easily apprehend, that it is a matter of the highest importance, being indeed no other than the great foundation of all our eternal hopes. While so many are daily attempting to destroy this foundation, it is possible, that those of you especially who are but entering on the world, may be called to give a reason of the hope that is in you.
I would therefore, with the Apostle, be concerned, that you may be ready to do it. It may fortify you against the artifices by which the unwary are often deceived and insnared, and may possibly enable you to put to silence their foolishness. At least it will be for the satisfaction of your own minds, to have considered the matter seriously, and to be conscious to yourselves, that you are not Christians merely by education or example, as (had you been born elsewhere) you might have been Pagans or Mahometans; but that you are so upon rational evidence, and because, as the sacred historian expresses it, you know the certainty of those things in which you have been instructed.