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Ephesus, Colosse, Thessalonica, Philippi, Smyrna, Laodicea, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Crete, Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, and many other places; in so much that one of the apostles could say, that Christ had so wrought by him, to make the Gentiles obedient, not only in word or profession, but in deed too, that from Jerusalem, even round about to Illyricum, he had fully preached the Gospel of Christ, or, as the word imports, had accomplished the purposes of it.-And there is a great deal of reason, both from the nature of the thing, and from the testimony of ancient history, to believe, that others of the apostles had considerable success elsewhere: so that Paul might with reason apply to them and their doctrine, what is originally spoken of the luminaries of heaven, and the instruction they communicate, “ Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” ..
So great was the number of those who were proselyted to Christianity, by the preaching of the apostles; and we have all imaginable reason to believe, that there were none of all these proselytes, but what were fully persuaded of the truth of the testimony they bore ; for otherwise, no imaginable reason can be given for their entering themselves into such a profession. The apostles had no secular terrors to affright them, no secular rewards to bribe them, no dazzling eloquence to enchant them: on the contrary, all these were in a powerful manner pleading against the apostles; yet their testimony was received, and their new converts were so thoroughly satisfied with the evidence which they gave them of
their mission, that they encountered great persecutions, and cheerfully ventured estate, liberty, and life itself, on the truth of the facts they asserted; as plainly appears from many passages in the epistles, which none can think the apostles would ever have written, if these first Christians had not been in a persecuted condition.
Nor will it signify any thing to object, that most of these converts were persons of a low rank, and ordinary education, who therefore might be more easily imposed upon than others: for (not to mention Sergius Paulus, Dionysius the Areopagite, or the domestics of Cesar's household, with others of superior stations in life), it is sufficient to remind you, as I have largely shown, that the apostles did not put their cause on the issue of laboured arguments, in which the populace might quickly have been entangled and lost, but on such plain facts as they might judge of as easily and surely as any others; indeed on what they themselves saw, and in part too, on what they felt.
Now I apprehend, this might be sufficient to bring the matter to a satisfactory conclusion. You have seen, that as there is no reason to believe, that the apostles, who certainly knew the truth, would have attempted a fraud of this kind ;-—so, if they had attempted it, they could not possibly have succeeded ;-nevertheless they did succeed in a very remarkable manner;--whence it plainly follows, that
;what they testified was true. And the reasonableness of receiving the Gospel, on admitting the truth of what they testified concerning Christ, is an easy consequence.
ADDITIONAL EVIDENCES OF CHRISTIANITY, AND
REFLECTIONS ON THE WHOLE.
As I had before proved the books of the New Testament to be genuine, I proceeded in my last discourse, to argue from thence the certain truth of the Christian revelation; and we have made some considerable progress in the argument.
The matter in short stands thus: The authors of the New Testament certainly knew whether the facts they asserted were true or false; so that they could not themselves be deceived:- Neither can we think they would attempt to deceive others, since they appear by their manner of writing to have been persons of great integrity and goodness : and it is likewise evident, they could have no temptation to attempt a fraud of this nature. However, if they had attempted it, we cannot imagine they could have gained credit in the world, if the facts they asserted had not been true: nevertheless they did gain credit in a very remarkable manner; from whence it plainly follows, that those facts were true.--Now I am to show farther, to complete the proof of our grand proposition,
6. That admitting the facts which they testified concerning Christ to be true, then it was reasonable for their contemporaries, and is reasonable for us, to receive the Gospel which they have transmitted to us, as a divine revelation,
The great thing they asserted was, that Jesus was the Christ, and that he was proved to be so, — by prophecies accomplished in him,--and by miracles wrought by him, and by others in his name.-Let us attend to each of these, and I am persuaded we shall find them no contemptible arguments; but must be forced to acknowledge, that the premises being established, the conclusion most easily and necessarily follows: and this conclusion—that Jesus is the Christ,--taken in all its extent, is an abstract of the Gospel revelation, and, therefore, is sometimes put for the whole of it.
The apostles, especially when disputing with the Jews, did frequently argue from “ the prophecies of the Old Testament;" in which, they say, many things were expressly foretold, which were most literally and exactly fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth. Now, greatly to the evidence, confirmation, and advantage of Christianity, so it is that these prophecies are to this day extant in their original language; and this in the hands of a people most implacably averse to the Gospel. So that an attentive reader may still, in a great measure, satisfy himself as to the validity of the argument drawn from them.
On searching these ancient and important records we find, not only in the general, that God intended to raise up for his people an illustrious deliverer, who, amongst other glorious titles, is sometimes called the MESSIAH, or the Anointed One; but we are more particularly told, that this great event should happen before the government ceased in the tribe of Judah, while the second temple was standing; and a little before its destruction, about 490 years after a command given to rebuild Jerusalem, which
was probably issued out in the seventh year of Artaxerxes Longimanus, or, at least, within a few years before or after it.-It is predicted, that he should be of the seed of Abraham, born of a virgin of the house of David, in the town of Bethlehem; that he should be anointed with an extraordinary effusion of the Divine Spirit, in virtue of which, he should not only be a perfect and illustrious example of universal holiness and goodness, but should also perform many extraordinary and beneficial miracles ; nevertheless, that, for want of external pomp and splendour, he should be rejected and insulted by the Jews, and at length be cut off and slain by them. It is added, that he should arise from the dead before his body should be corrupted in the grave; and should be received up to heaven, and there seated at the right hand of God: from whence he should, in a wonderful manner, pour out his Spirit on his followers; in consequence of which, though the body of the Jewish people perished in their obstinate opposition to him, yet the Gentiles should be brought to the knowledge of the true God, and a kingdom established ataongst them, which, from small beginnings, should spread itself to the ends of the earth, and continue to the remotest ages.
Besides these most material circumstances, there were several others relating to him, which were either expressly foretold, or at least hinted at'; all which, with those already mentioned, had so evident an accomplishment in Jesus, (allowing the truth of the facts which the apostles testified concerning him) that we have no reason to wonder that they should receive the word with all readiness, who searched the