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POWER AND GRACE OF CHRIST.
Additional Evidences of Christianity, and Reflections on the
2 Pet. i. 16. -We have not followed cunningly decised Fables. 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 these facts were true.—Now I am to shew 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 per. suaded 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 Nazaretht. 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 onet : But we are more particularly told, that this great event should happen, before the government ceased in the tribe of Judahş; 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 the seed of Abraham**, born of a virgin, of the house of David+t, in the town · of Bethlehemii ; that he should be anointed with an extraordinary effusion of the divine Spirit$$, in virtue of which, he should not only be a perfect and illustrious example of universal holiness and goodness||II, but should also perform many extraordinary and beneficial miracles (1 ; nevertheless, that, for want of external pomp and splendour, he should be rejected and insulted by the Jews***, and at length be cut off and slain by themttt. It is added, that he should arise from the dead before his body should be corrupted in the grave11f ; and should be received up to heaven, and there seated at the right hand of God $; from whence he should in a wonderful manner, pour out his Spirit on his followers|||||| ; in consequence of which, though the
* Acts viii. 37. ix. 22. xvii. 3. xvii. 5. 1 John ii. 22. v. 1. + Acts ii. 25-31. iii. 18-25. vii. 37. viii. 35, X. 43. xiii. 23, 27, 32437, 40, 41. xvii. 2, 3. xxvi. 22, 23, 27. xxviii. 23. Dan. ix. 25, 26. Psal. ii. 2. § Gen. xlix. 10. || Hag. ii. 7, 9. Dan. ix. 25–27. ** Gen. xii, S. xviii, 18. xxii, 18. ++ Isa. vii. 14. xi. 1. Jer. xxiii, 5, 6. #1 Mic. v. 2. § Isa, xliii. 1. Ixi. 1. W Isa. xlii. 1, 4. liji 9. Psal. xlv. 7. TG Isa. xxxv. 5, 6. *** Jsa. liii. 24. +++ Isa. liii, 7–9. Dan ix. 26. 1+1 Psal. xvi. 9, 10, Isa. xxvi. 19. liii. 10-12. $$$ Psal, xvi. 11. cx. 1. UM Joel ij. 28, 29.
body of the Jewish people perished in their obstinate opposition to him*, yet, the Gentiles should be brought to the knowledge of the true Godt, and a kingdom established amongst 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 scriptures daily, whether these things were so predicted there, as the apostles affirmedg. For I am persuaded, that no wise and religious person could iinagine, that God would permit an impostor to arise, in whom so great a variety of predictions, delivered by so many different persons, and in so many distant ages, should have an exact accomplishment.
When the apostles were preaching to heathens, it is indeed true, that they generally waved the argument from prophecy, because they were not so capable judges of it: But then they insist on another, wbich might as soon captivate their belief, and as justly vindicate it, I mean, “ the miracles performed by Christ, and those commissioned and influenced by him.” Many of these were of such a nature, as not to admit of any artifice or deceit: Especially, that most signal one of his resurrection from the dead, which I may call a miracle performed by, as well as upon Christ; because he so expressly declares, that he had himself a power to resume his life at pleasurel. The apostles well knew, this was a fact of such a nature, that they who believed this, would never doubt of the rest : They therefore often single this out, and lay the whole stress of their cause upon it. This they proved to be true, by their own testimony miraculously confirmed ; and in proving this, they establish christianity on an impregnable rock. For I may safely refer it to any of you to judge, whether it is an imaginable thing, that God should raise the dead body of an impostor ; especially when he had solemnly appealed to such a resurrection, as the
Isa. vi. 9, 10. xxix. 10. xlix, 4, 5. liji. 1. Ixv. 2. + Psal. ii. 8. xxi. 27. Ixxxvi. 9. Isa. ii. 2, 3. xi. 10. xlii. 1, 4, 6, 7. xlv. 29. xlix, 6-12. Mal. i. 11. Dan. ii. 44. vii. 13, 14, 27.
$ Acts xvii. 11. | John X. 18. q Acts ii. 24–32. ii. 15. iv. 10.
v. 30, 32. x. 40, 41, xiii. 30-39. xvii. 31. xxvi. 23. Rom. 8. 9. 1 Cor, xv, 3–8, 18-29,
grand proof of bis mission, and had expressly fixed the very day on which it was to happen*.
I persuade myself you are convinced by all this, that they who on the apostles' testimony believed, that the prophecies of the Old Testament were accomplished in Jesus, and that God bore witness to him by miracles, and raised him from the dead, had abundant reason to believe, that the doctrine which Christ taught was divine, and his gospel a revelation from heaven. And if they had reason to admit this conclusion, then it is plain, that we, who have such satisfactory evidence, on the one hand, that the testimony of the apostles was credible, and on the other, that this was the substance of it, have reason also to admit this grand inference from it, and to embrace the gospel as A faithful saying, and as well worthy of all acceptationt. This is the thing I was attempting to prove ; and here I should end the argument, were it not for the confirmation it may receive from some additional considerations, which could not properly be introduced under any of the preceding heads. I add, therefore, 7. In the last place, “ that the truth of the gospel has re
ceived farther, and very considerable confirmation, from
and on the other, the methods which its enemies have been taking to destroy it. (1.) Consider “what God has been doing to confirm the gos
pel since its first publication,” and you will find it a farther evidence of its divine original.
I might here argue at large, from its surprising propagation in the world ;—from the miraculous powers, with which not only the apostles, but succeeding preachers of the gospel, and other converts were endowed ; from the accomplishment of prophecies recorded in the New Testament ;—and from the preservation of the Jews as a distinct people, notwithstanding the various difficulties and persecutions through which they have passed.
I might particularly urge, in confirmation of the truth of christianity, “ the wonderful success with which it was
Mat. xxvü. 63. John ü. 19, 21,
4 1 Tim. i. 15:
attended, and the surprising propagation of the gospel in the world."
I have before endeavoured under a former head to shew you, that the gospel met with so favourable a reception in the world, as evidently proved, that its first publishers were capable of producing such evidence of its truth, as an imposture could not admit. But now, I carry the remark farther, and assert, that considering the circumstances of the case, it is amazing that even truth itself, under so many disadvantages, should have so illustrious'a triumph; and that its wonderful success does evidently argue such an extraordinary interposition of God in its favour, as may justly be called a miraculous attestation to it.
There was not only one of a family, or two of a city taken, and brought to Zion*; but so did The Lord hasten it in its appointed time, that a little one became a thousand, and a small one a strong nationt. And as the apostles themselves were honoured with very remarkable success, so this divine seed was propagated so fast in the next age, that Pliny testifies, “ he found the heathen temples in Achaia, almost desertedt:” And Tertullian afterwards boasts, “ that all places but those temples were filled with christians ; so that were they only to withdraw, cities and provinces would be depopulated f.” Nor did the gospel only triumph thus within the boundaries of the Roman empire; for long before Tertullian was born, Justin Martyr, in his dialogue with Trypho the Jew, which seems to have been written not much above one hundred years after Christ's death, declares, “ that there was no nation of men, whether Greeks or Barbarians, not excepting those savages, that wandered in clans from one region to another, and had no fixed habitation, who had not learnt to offer prayers and thanksgivings to the Father and Maker of all, in the name of Jesus who was crucifiedll.”
# Jer. ii. 14.
# Isa. lx. 22.
Plin. Epist. x. 97. Hesterni sumus, & vestra omnia implevimus, Urbes, Insulas, Castella, Municipia, Conciliabula, Castra ipsa, Tribus, Decurias, Palatium, Senatum, Forum; Sola vobis relinquimus Templa :-Potuimus & inermes, nec rebelles, sed tantummodo discordes, solius divortii invidiâ adversus vos dimicasse ;-suffudisset dominationem vestram tot amissio civium, & ipsa destitutione punisset.
Tertul. Apolog. Cap. xxxvii. Η Ουδε εν γαρ ολο; ει το γενος ανθρωπων, είτε Βαρβαρων, είτε Ελληνων, ελε απλως ωλενιαν ονομασία προσαγορευομενων, η Αμαξοβιων, η Αρικων καλεμενων,