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better face dispute, whether the writings ascribed to Homer, Demosthenes, Virgil, or Cæsar, be in the main such as they left them, than he could question it concerning those of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, James, and Paul, whether they are in the main so.
I say, in the main, because we readily allow, that the hand of a printer, or of a transcriber, might chance in some places to insert one letter or word for another, and the various readings of this, as well as of all other ancient books, prove, that this has sometimes been the case. Nevertheless those various readings are generally of so little importance, that he who can urge them as an objection against the assertion we are now maintaining, must have little judgment, or little integrity; and indeed, after those excellent things which have been said on the subject by many defenders of christianity, if he have read their writings, ke must have little modesty too.
Since then it appears, that the books of the New Testament, as they now stand in the original, are, without any material alteration, such as they were, when they came from the hands of the persons whose names they bear, nothing remains to complete this part of the argument, but to shew, 5.“ That the translation of them, now in your hands, may be
depended upon, as in all things most material, agreeable to, the original.”
This is a fact, of which the generality of you are not capable of judging immediately, yet it is a matter of great importance: It is therefore a very great pleasure to me to think, what ample evidence you may find another way, to make your minds as easy on this head, as you could reasonably wish them. I mean, by the concurrent testimony of others, in circumstances in which you cannot imagine they would unite to deceive you.
There are, to be sure, very few of us, whose office it is publicly to preach the gospel, who have not examined this matter with care, and who are not capable of judging in so easy a case. I believe you have seen few in the place where I now stand, that could not have told you, as I now solemnly do, that, on a diligent comparison of our translation with the original, we find that of the New Testament, and I might also add, that of the Old, in the main faithful and judicious. You know indeed, that we do not scruple on some occasions to animadvert upon it ; but you also know, that these remarks affect not the funda.nentals of religion, and seldom reach any farther than the beauty of a figure, or at most the connection of an argument. Nay, I can
confidently say, that, to the best of my knowledge and remembrance, as there is no copy of the greek, so neither is there any translation of the New Testament which I have seen, whether ancient or modern, how defective and faulty soever, from which all the principal facts and doctrines of christianity might not be learnt, so far as the knowledge of them is necessary to salvation, or even to some considerable degrees of edification in piety. Nor do I except from this remark, even that most erroneous and corrupt version, published by the English jesuits at Rheims, which is undoubtedly one of the worst that ever appeared in our language.
But I desire not, that with respect to our own translation of the New Testament, a matter of so great moment as the fidelity of it should rest on my testimony alone, or entirely on that of any of my brethren, for whose integrity and learning you may have the greatest and justest esteem. I rejoice to say, that this is a head, on which we cannot possibly deceive
if we were ever so desirous to do it. And indeed in this respect, that is our advantage, which in others is our great calamity, I mean the diversity of our religious opinions. It is certain, that wheresoever there is a body of dissenters from the public establishment, who do yet agree with their brethren of that establishment in the use of the same translation, though they are capable of examining it, and judging of it; there is as great evidence as could reasonably be desired, that such a translation is in the main right; for if it were in any considerable argument corrupted, most of the other debates would quickly lose themselves in this: And though such dissenters had all that candour, tenderness, and respect for their fellow-christians, which I hope we shall always endeavour to maintain, yet they would, no doubt, think themselves obliged in conscience to bear a warm and loud testimony against so crying an abomination, as they would another day appear free from the guilt of a confederacy, to poison the public fountains, and destroy the souls of men. But we make no complaint on this subject ; we all unite in bearing our testimony to the oracles of God, as delivered in our own language. Oh that we were equally united in regulating our doctrine, and our discipline, our worship, and our practice by them!
You see then, on the whole, how much reason there is to believe, “ that the books of the New Testament, as they are now in your hands, were written by those whose names they bear, even the first preachers and publishers of christianity." This is the grand point; and from hence it will follow by a train
of easy and natural consequences, that the gospel is most certainly true : But that is a topic of argument, abundantly sufficient to furnish out matter for another discourse. May God command his blessing on what has been already laid before us, that through the operation of his Spirit, it may be useful for establishing our regard to the scripture, and for confirming our faith in that Almighty Redeemer, who is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last* ; Whom to know is life everlastingt, and in whom to believe is the great security of our eternal salvation! Amen.
POWER AND GRACE OF CHRIST.
The Evidences of Christianity, deduced from the Nero
Testament, allowed to be genuine.
2 Pet. i. 16. -We have not followed cunningly devised Fables.When we are addressing ourselves to an audience of professing christians, I think, we may reasonably take it for granted, in the main course of our ministry, that they believe the truth of the gospel, and 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 prophetst; that as every christian is in his sphere Set for the defence of the gospeli, each might in some measure be able to assert its truth, and, if possible, to Convince gainsayersg. Therefore, as we are often hinting at the chief arguments, on which this sacred cause is established, established, I trust, so firmly, that The gates of hell shall never prevail against illl; 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 dependance. And I chose the rather to do it, as these sermons 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
1 Pbil.i, 17.
* Rom. xii, 1.
+ Numb. xi. 29.
with grace*; for we are then most secure from the danger of forgetting God's preceptst, when they have been the blessed means of quickening us to a divine life. Yet as other arguments have their use, and in some degree their necessity too, I shall go on briefly to propose them.
I beg therefore, that you would renew your attention, while I resume the thread of my discourse, in an entire dependance on the blessed Spirit, by whom the gospel was at first revealed and confirmed, to add success to this humble attempt for its service, and for your edification.
I am now shewing 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 without repeating what I said in confirmation of it, I now proceed to shew, II. “That from allowing the New Testament to be genuine, it
will certainly follow, that christianity is a divine revela. tion.”
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 chuse 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 there
* Psal. cxix. 93.
* Heb. xii. 9. VOL. II.