Imágenes de páginas

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 prophets ; that as every Christian is in his sphere set for the defence of the Gospel, each might, in some measure, be able to assert its truth, and, if possible, to convince gainsayers. Therefore, as we are often hinting at the chief arguments, on which this sacred cause is established, (established so firmly, that the gates of hell shall never prevail against it;) 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 dependence. And I chose the rather to do it, as these discourses 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 precepts, when they are the blessed means of quickening us to a divine life. Yet as other arguments have their use, and in some de



gree their necessity too, I shall go on briefly to pro

pose them.

I am now showing 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 I now. proceed to show,

2. 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 multiplicity 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 choose 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, therefore, 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 exceedingly evident, that the writers of the New Testament 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 hauds have handled of the word of life, that is, 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 kuow 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 eross, or not; and whether he received from him the dying charge which he records ? 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:" that is, 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 ? 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 in 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 be 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 cunninglydevised fables,--but were eye-witnesses of his majesty, when there came such a voice to him; and this voice we heard.”

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 re

, member, 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 choose, 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 God. But how unreasonable it would be to

« AnteriorContinuar »