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JOHN vii. 17.
If any man will do bis will, be shall know of the
doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
It is a just remark, that our holy religion has received great advantages, by the opposition that has been made to it at all times, since its first propagation, and the books that have been written against it. For these have called out its friends, to examine it more carefully, and to distinguish true Christianity from the spurious additions which weak injudicious men had mixed with it, and to separate the chaff from the wheat.
And it is no small benefit, that we at this day, as well as those who have gone
us, receive, by means of the Jews, the first opposers of the Gospel; who set themselves against our Saviour, and refused to believe in him.
Some, indeed, have drawn this into an objection to the Gospel itself ; by alleging, that if its evidence had been so obvious and powerful as is asserted, such great multitudes, who are said to have beheld the miracles themselves, would not have rejected it.
And there might be some force in this, if the Gospel had been so universally rejected at first as this objection supposes ; or if there had been any grounds to maintain, that it was then disbelieved for want of sufficient evidence.
But when we know, that it was believed by many at that first period, in contradiction to strong prejudices, and against their worldly interests; for it was by Jewish Christians in general, as well as the apostles in particular, that it was first professed: and moreover, that those who then refused to embrace it, acknowledged universally the reality of Christ's miraculous works, but rejected him and his doctrine on such frivolous pretences as these : viz, that he was not a man of deep human learning; that his miracles were wrought, not
power of God, but by a communication with evil demons; and that he could not be of God, because he wrought them on the Sab
bath-day, and the like : an opposition on such trifling grounds, becomes only a fuller confirmation of the truth it would overthrow.
But there was this peculiar benefit derived from the opposition made to Christ : that it called forth our great Master himself, to prove by various arguments, and to expatiate upon the excellency of his doctrine, and the truth of his mission from God. All which we read with great satisfaction and improvement ; but which, most probably, he would not have produced of his own accord; as, to have attempt. ed any thing of the kind, might have created a suspicion, that his doctrine wanted some such embellishments to set it off; or that the proofs of his Messiah character were deficient; and it might also have had the air and appearance of vanity, and seeming to extol himself, from which he was infinitely removed. And therefore, unless when thus challenged, and constrained in his own defence to expatiate and enlarge upon his mission from God, and the truths he delivered, we find him modestly contented with plainly delivering his heavenly doctrine, accompanied with the works of a divine power, by which it was confirmed; and
leaving it to the hearers to make their own inferences.
He was now at Jerusalem, when he made the defence of his doctrine and authority from God to which the words before us are an opening, attending the celebration of one of their religious ordinances of divine appointment for public worship, where he never failed to be present; and he always took that opportunity of teaching his divine doctrines.
Many heard him gladly; and favoured him. Another party, at the head of which were their rulers, disappointed in their worldly expectations from him, and through various other prejudices, were determined at all events to disparage his doctrine, and set aside the divine authority to which he laid claim from his miraculous works.
He had gone up privately to the present feast of tabernacles, that he might give no umbrage to the government by a crowd of attendants about him, and that he might avoid the designs of his enemies against his life; when the sacred historian tells us, in the words which are at the head of the passage I propose to make some re