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(as the apostle speaks Heb. vi. 1.) and to apologize for Christianity, just as it were now in its infane ftate, and newly fetting forth in the world:
God forgive them, who put us upon this unwelcome talk !-In the meantime we, I'm sure, were not to be forgiven, should we appear less solicitous to support 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 destroy it. And of all the circumstances which add a particular strength to the evidence given for the truth of the gospel there is none more advantageous to it, than the confideration of that fair, open and illustrious manner, wherein it was proved and propagated by Christ and his apostles. There was no affectation of privacy in what they faid, 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 thoutands of witnesses: “This thing, fays St. Paul in his admirable apology before Agrippa and Feftus, 'was not done in a corner.'
I shall briefly open and illustrate this truth, in order to (what I chiefly intend) the drawing from thence some useful Observations and Improvements, which it will naturally afford us.
First, When our Saviour began to publish the gospel 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 mission) in places where there was no body fit to oppose the one, or to disprove the other. From
the first moment he entered upon his office, he appeared publicly, he taught, he conversed, he did miracles publicly (not gaining upon mankind by stealth, not opening his pretences darkly at first, and to a few, and then, by their means, drawing in others, and going on thus under-hand to form an interest and to establish
which, as soon as he should make his public claim, might, immediately come in to him, support, and own him. No] he broke out upon the world all at once, caine into the midft of men without any Partisans, or followers, presently opened his commission, ard took upon himself the character of an Ambassador from heaven.
Throughout the whole course of his ministry, he addressed himself constantly to multitudes, lived chiefly in great towns and cities, and in the most frequented parts of them, the streets, the market-places, the temple, and the synagogues ; where his life and doctrine, and miracles might, by his profeffed enemies, be narrowly observed and examined. And if at any time he withdrew into the desert, 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 manifest his divine power, and preach his heavenly truths to yet greater numbers. [Accordingly we find with him in the wilderness three thousand witnesses of a miracle, at one time, and even five thousand at another). And therefore, when the high priest questioned him concerning his disciples and his doctrine, he made this reply; “I speak openly “ to the world, I ever taught in the fynagogue, ss and in the temple whither the Jews always
" resort; was
“ resort; and in secret have I said nothing: Why "askest thou me? Ask them which heard me, “What I have said unto them; behold, they « know what I said."
The beginning of miracles that Jesus did . before much company, at a marriage feast; and the last he wrought were in the midst of Jerusalem, where the whole nation of the Jews were then assembled to celebrate the paffover. And when ever he manifested his divine mission by the chief feal and evidence of it, his raising any one from the dead, he took care at that tiine especially to be surrounded with numbers.
He pitched upon such persons for the subjects of his miraculous cures, whofe infirmities and diseases were notorious, and of a long standing : One, who had been blind from his very birth; another diseased with an issue of blood twelve years; and a third, troubled with a pally for thirty-eight years ; so that there could be no poffible confederacy in a case, where the person cured was known to have laboured under that diftemper fome years before our Saviour was born.
He to ordered the matter, that some of those he healed should immediately repair to the Phari, Jees and Priests, his inveterate and powerful ene. mies, and give them an opportunity of detecting the fraud, if there were any That others should be foon after called before the Sanhedrim itself, and strictly questioned about the reality of their cure, that so these facts might have the earliest and strongest confirmation possible from the fruit, less enquiry and opposition of those, who were moft loth to believe them. At least, when he
healed any person in priyate, without thus dinect ing him to notify the cure he then enjoined fem crecy to him, on purpose to obyiate all poftible fufpicions of art and contrivance.
As he had lived, so be died in public; expired upon a cross, in the top of an eminence near Jen rufalem. When buried, he had a public guard set upon his grave, and he arose from thence in the presence of that very guard, and to their a, stonishment. He appeared afterwards to five hun, dred brethren at once, to the twelve disciples fre, quently; eat, drank and conversed with them for forty days, and was at last taken up into hear ven in their fight, by a flow and leisurely afcent,
In all respects and circumstances, the gospel of Chrift fhewed itself to proceed from the great Father of Lights, in whom is no darkness at all; is was established upon proofs, as authentic, public, and folemn, aş can well be imagined; bright, evią dent, and powerful, as the fun at noon day. As its Founder once appealed to his disciples, and said, Handle me, and fee; for 4 fpirit hath nat flejo and hones, as ye fee me have; Luke xxiv. 39. fo may the doctrine itfelf make a like challenge to its enemies, and say ; “ Handle me, and see; for « delusion and impofture hath not such substantial “evidences, fo open, ocular and sensible a de. “ monstration to boast of, as I have." -This thing was not done in a corner.
I. Secondly, Having thus briefly explained and illustrated the truth contained in these words, I shall now apply myself to (what I chiefly intended) the drawing from those several useful observations,
and improvements with which it will furnish us. And the
1. First Use I will make of it, shall be, to shew from thence, how great an advantage the Chriftian religion hath, on this account, over all on ther religions, whether true or false! not excepto ing even the dispensation of Mofes.
"is true, scarce any religion ever fet up in the world, without pretending, fooner or later, to derive its authority from miracles
But then, either those miracles (as they are called) have been acted confeffedly in fecret; or, if they are said to have been done in public, yet the account, which Was given of them, came too late to deserve credit, or to leave room for a disproof. And in hotb these cases the pretence to them is very suspicious.
Thus, in the first instance, Numa's nightly conferrences with a goddess, was á figment, for which the people of Rome had his word only ; the truth of the whole transaction was resolved into his fingle teftimony. And such was Mahomet's vain boast of his receiving several chapters of his Alcoran from the angel Gabriel ; for he wrought no public miracle to enforce this private one; nor did he, that we can learn, pretend to the power of working any. On the contrary, when miracles were demanded of him, he at firit (as his followers have done ever since) appealed to the Alcoran itself, as to the greatest and most convincing miracle; which was written (he faid) in such a manner, as to care ry upon it the plain stamp and evidence of its own divine authority. And this was the only way in