« PoprzedniaDalej »
raising the dead to life by a word speaking; or foretelling things to come; these are the marks that God himself is with the person that does such things, that he authorizes and supports him. For no other power but his own can so alter the course of nature that he has established, or tell the things that are to be hereafter. This is the direct positive evidence, from undeniable facts, which we have of the truth of divine revelation, not to be questioned or resisted by a fair inquirer.
Moreover, the very narrative of the extraordinary divine interpositions both of the Old and New Testament, particularly of the latter, to an ingenuous inquiring mind, carries a strong presumption of its truth; from the plainness and undesigning simplicity with which things are related; from the several writers mentioning many things that would seem a disparagement and lessening to them ;Moses telling the faults of his countrymen, and of his brother Aaron and his own: the apostles, dwelling on the low condition and occupation of their divine Master, as well as their own; and not concealing also their many faults and indiscretions : from the agreement of all the collateral circumstances of time, place,
and persons mentioned in their histories, corresponding to what is found in other histories of the same period; from the good sense and sound reason which shows itself in their discourses, evident marks that they were no fanatics or enthusiasts ; and from the apparent design throughout the whole, to teach men virtue and the true knowledge of God, and bring them to this ; not only without any views of interest to themselves, but to the hazard of all that they had, and that was dear to them in this world.
I cannot omit here, what I have frequently thought right and have had occasion to intimate, viz., the perpetual mention in the Gospel-history of casting devils out of men's bodies, which has been much misunderstood in later times, has been a stumbling-block with many, and one of the chief causes that has hindered their reception of the Gospel, upon their seeing that there were now no such evil beings dwelling in men's bodies, and therefore hardly credible that ever there were any such. But it is to be observed, that this language has been proved and demonstrated in our own days to be, what it was indeed understood by some of the first Christians,
and some of their adversaries, by Celsus, the Epicurean philosopher, who wrote very early against Christianity, to be, nothing else but a description of certain violent diseases, madness and the like, which disorder and distort the human frame, and thence gave occasion to superstitious persons to ascribe them to, evil spirits. And this being the general opinion, and the popular language consonant to it, our Saviour and the sacred historians accommodated themselves to it in speaking of such diseases, and healing the unhappy objects brought before him.
In short, the evidence for the extraordinary facts of the New Testament cannot be set
argument. And therefore it follows, that God was with those that wrought them, and also that they spoke by a divine authority, in what they delivered as from him. For he would not suffer his creatures to be deceived in things of such importance to them, as relate to the knowledge of himself, and the way to obtain his favour. For the whole course of nature is in his hand; and he directs and governs all things.
Now as God did thus condescend to come and speak to men, and dwell amongst them
aside by any
Christ his messenger : so, in agreement with the language here used, and so frequent in the prophets, he may in a degree be said still to dwell with us, and to speak to us, as we have the words of Jesus faithfully preserved and handed down to us.
Of what high consequence then is it to us to study this word of God! the guide of life; our chief support and comfort under all the changes and troubles of this mortal state, and the foundation of all our hopes in a better !
Many excellent sayings are to be found in the philosophers, by which we may be excited to virtue, and become wise and good.
But as some of the best of them speak doubtfully, as well they might, of another world, and earnestly wished for some better guidance; and none of them speak directly from God, or give any certain assurance concerning him, and his benevolent design: shall we not go to Christ, who hath the words of eternal life which he received from God? that, following his directions, we may be enabled to walk in the paths of virtue, which alone can conduct us thither.
II. In what is here described by the prophet as the office of John the Baptist, who was to prepare his countrymen for the coming of Christ, we learn how we are to receive the Gospel, who are likely to embrace, and who to reject it. -“ Prepare ye
of the Lord. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth."
The immediate allusion of the prophets is to pioneers sent before a great army, to remove every thing that might obstruct it in its march.
In this beautiful figurative language, says an ancient writer, doth the prophet teach us that we are to be raised above the low and mean pursuits of sordid avarice and vicious pleasures ; and that the lofty towering thoughts of selfish ambitious men, and their violent disturbing passions, are to be brought down and subdued, before they can have any taste or relish for the Gospel, or listen to that gentle voice which calls them from the ways of vice and