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November 1, 1718.
The Gospel openly published.
ACTS xxvi. 26.
This Thing was not done in a Corner.
T might be hoped, that in a country, where is
and established by a law, m
profeffed, but interwoven into the civil frame, truth of Chriftianity might, at all times, be taken for granted; and that the minifters of Chrift might have nothing to do, but to build on that foundation, and be ever employed in exciting men to a practice fuitable to their profeffion, and to "adorn the doctrine of "of our God and Saviour in all things," Tit. ii. 11 But, alas! the frequent and daring attempts of infidelity, that interrupt us in our course, make it neceffary for us to lay again the foundation" (as
(as the apoftle speaks Heb. vi. 1.) and to apologize for Christianity, just as it were now in its infant ftate, and newly fetting forth in the world.
God forgive them, who put us upon this unwelcome tafk!-In the mean time we, I'm fure, were not to be forgiven, should we appear lefs folicitous to fupport and vindicate that faith, into which we were baptized, and to the preaching of which we are peculiarly dedicated, than fome men are to undermine and deftroy it. And of all the circumstances which add a particular ftrength to the evidence given for the truth of the gofpel, there is none more advantageous to it, than the consideration of that fair, open and illustrious manner, wherein it was proved and propagated by Chrift and his apoftles. There was no affectation of privacy in what they said, or did; their doctrines were preached, and their miracles wrought, in broad day-light, and in the face of the world; in the most frequented places, before thoufands and ten thoufands of witneffes: "This thing," fays St. Paul in his admirable apology before Agrippa and Feftus, was not done in a corner.
I fhall briefly open and illuftrate this truth, in order to (what I chiefly intend) the drawing from thence fome useful Obfervations and Improve ments, which it will naturally afford us.
First, When our Saviour began to publish the gofpel of his kingdom, he did not, as deceivers ufe to do, vent his new doctrines, or pretend to perform his wonders (the evidence of his divine miffion) in places where there was no body fit to oppofe the one, or to difprove the other. From
the first moment he entered upon his office, he appeared publicly, he taught, he converfed, he did miracles publicly [not gaining upon mankind by ftealth, not opening his pretences darkly at firft, and to a few, and then, by their means, drawing in others, and going on thus under-hand to form an intereft and to establish a party, which, as foon as he should make his public claim, might, immediately come in to him, fupport, and own him. No] he broke out upon the world all at once, came into the midft of men without any Partifans, or followers, prefently opened his commiffion, and took upon himself the character of an Ambaffador from heaven.
Throughout the whole courfe of his ministry, he addreffed himself conftantly to multitudes, lived chiefly in great towns and cities, and in the moft frequented parts of them, the streets, the market-places, the temple, and the fynagogues; where his life and doctrine, and miracles might, by his profeffed enemies, be narrowly obferved and examined. And if at any time he withdrew into the defert, and did wonders there, it was not in order to fly the eyes of men, but that he might have room, by that means, to manifeft his divine power, and preach his heavenly truths to yet greater numbers. [Accordingly we find with him in the wilderness three thousand witneffes of a miracle, at one time, and even five thousand at another]. And therefore, when the high priest queftioned him concerning his difciples and his doctrine, he made this reply; "I fpeak openly "to the world, I ever taught in the fynagogue, and in the temple whither the Jews always A 2 "refort;
"refort; and in fecret have I faid nothing: Why "afkeft thou me? Afk them which heard me, "What I have faid unto them; behold, they "know what I faid."
The beginning of miracles that Jefus did was before much company, at a marriage feaft; and the laft he wrought were in the midit of Jerufalem, where the whole nation of the Jews were then affembled to celebrate the paffover. And when ever he manifefted his divine miffion by the chief feal and evidence of it, his raifing any one from the dead, he took care at that time efpecially to be furrounded with numbers.
He pitched upon fuch perfons for the fubjects of his miraculous cures, whofe infirmities and difeafes were notorious, and of a long ftanding; One, who had been blind from his very birth; another difeafed with an iffue of blood twelve years; and a third, troubled with a palfy for thirty-eight years; fo that there could be no poffible confederacy in a cafe, where the perfon cured was known to have laboured under that diftemper fome years before our Saviour was born.
He fo ordered the matter, that fome of thofe he healed fhould immediately repair to the Phari Jees and Priests, his inveterate and powerful enemies, and give them an opportunity of detecting the fraud, if there were any; That others fhould be foon after called before the Sanhedrim itself, and ftrictly questioned about the reality of their cure, that fo thefe facts might have the earliest and ftrongest confirmation poffible from the fruit lefs enquiry and oppofition of thofe, who were moft loth to believe them. At least, when he healed