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strength of their own memory? Was their understanding, or the understanding of any created being, sufficient to cnable them to prescribe, and publish, the terms, obedience to which should be followed by the forgiveness of sin, and disobedience to which should prevent sin from being forgiven? Our Saviour declares, expressly, in this passage, that whose soever sins they remitted, God would remit; and whose soever sins they retained, God would retain. In other words, the very terms, which they should prescribe, as the proper foundations for the remission, or retention, of sin, would be the terms, according to which, God would remit or retain them. That this was intended in the most absolute, unqualified sense, to be fulfilled, is rendered certain by the 2d verse of the text. He that be- . lieveth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. "Here our Saviour declares, that he who cordially believes the Gospel, preached by the Apostles, shall have eternal life ; and that he, who does not thus believe this Gospel, shall not have eternal life. It will be remembered, that the Apostles alone published the Gospel to mankind. The Gospel, as published by them, therefore, is that, which is the object of belief, here referred to by Christ : for by this Gospel only do we become acquainted with the character, mission, doctrines, precepts, or even the existence, of a Saviour. Of course, the only belief, of which Christ can be supposed to speak in this passage, is the belief of the Gospel, which they have published.
On the belief of this Gospel, then, Christ has made the salvation of the whole human race absolutely to depend : that is, so far as it should be published to them. Can it be supposed, that the infinitely wise and just God, who is perfectly acquainted with the weakness of the human mind ; who perfectly knows, that many, very many, errors exist of course in the best and wisest men; who perfectly knew, that very many errors must in this very case be published by these men, if left to themselves; and that any number, even one of those errors would prove fatal, not to one only, but to hundreds, and thousands, and millions, nay, to the whole body of the human race; unless he himself should ultimately forgive sin on terms not his own, and not accordant with the dictates of his own wisdom and righteousness? Can it be supposed, that the infinitely wise and just God committed to these frail, erring beings, the incomprehensibly important business of publishing, from their own judgment and memory, the terms, on which the sins of that and every succeeding age should be forgiven, or retained? Can he have said, that, after they had published such terms, as to them appeared the proper ones, he who believed them should be saved, and he who believed them not should be damned ?
To this conclusion, however, the scheme of those, with whom I am contending, irresistibly conducts us; for the only alternative is, that Christ has here uttered an untruth. If those, who believe the Apostles in this case will not be saved, and those who believe not will
not be damned ; if the sins, which they remit, in the Gospel published by them, will not be remitted by God, and the sins, which THEY retain, will not be retained by him; then Christ has here declared an absolute falsehood, in the most solemn and important of all cases. Of course, he may be fairly presumed to deceive in every other case; and cannot deserve the confidence of mankind in any thing. This conclusion, together with the doctrine on which it is founded, is, I suppose, too horrid to be admitted by any man, who does not regard the Scriptures with absolute contempt.
3dly. The same truth is evident from the promise, given to the Apostles by our Saviour in his last discourses, of the descent of the Holy Ghost upon them.
The several parts of this promise, so far as they refer particularly to the point in question, are contained in the following passages. But the Comforter, who is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will
, send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you. John xiv. 26.
But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, who proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me. And ye also shall bear witness
, because ye have been with me from the beginning. John xv. 26, 27.
Howbeit, when he, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He shall guide you into all the truth ; and he shall shew you things to come.
He shall glorify me ; for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. John xvi. 13, 14.
In this promise are included the following things :
1. That the Spirit would certainly come to the Apostles, after the Ascension of Christ :
2. That he would testify to them concerning Christ: He shall testify of me :
3. That this testimony would be accompanied by the coincident testimony of the Apostles : and ye also shall bear witness : &c.
4. That the Spirit of truth should receive from Christ that, which was his ; viz. his truth, pleasure, or Gospel; and should declare it to the Apostles : He shall receive of mine, (of the things which are mine, Greek) and shall declare it unto you:
5. That he should glorify Christ in this communication :
6. That he should shew to the Apostles things to come, or future things : or, in other words, should endue them with the gift of prophecy :
7. That he should guide the Apostles into all (the, Greek) truth : that is, into all Evangelical truth; the truth, by way of eminence :
8. That he should teach them all things; that is, all things which they needed to be taught originally; or which Christ had not already taught them: He shall teach you all things :
9. That he should bring up to the full view of their memory the things, which Christ had taught them: And shall bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
It will be evident to the slightest attention, that the things, here promised, contain whatever is involved in the plenary inspiration of the Apostles. The testimony, given by them, was a testimony concerning Christ. It glorified Christ in the highest manner conceivable. All the parts of it were exhibited by them as parts of Christ's own Gospel ; and, united together, they are declared by them often, to be the Gospel of Christ. This testimony contains, also, a wonderful exhibition of their remembrance of the things, which Christ said, and did; such as must plainly be impossible, unless they had been divinely assisted. Further, it contains all the truih: that is, all Evangelical truth, or the whole Will of God concerning the salvation of men. Finally, it contains many wonderful predictions concerning future things, of which many have been already fulfilled in a marvellous manner.
Concerning, all these things, except one, there cannot be even a debate; and that one is : That the Apostles were guided by the Holy Spirit into all Evangelical truth. On this I shall have occasion to say more hereafter. At present I shall confine my remarks to the promise itself. Concerning this I observe, that it either was fulfilled, or it was not fulfilled. If it was fulfilled; then the Apostles wrote, and preached, the Gospel, under the plenary inspiration of the Holy Ghost; because the promise assures them of such inspiration in the amplest terms conceivable. If it was not fulfilled, then Christ was a false Prophet; because he promised that, which he did not ful6l.
4thly. The same truth is evident from the testimony of the Apostles themselves.
Dr. Priestly, in his letters to the Philosophers and Politicians of France, makes the following observation : " That the Books of Scripture were written by particular Divine inspiration, is a thing, to which the writers themselves make no pretensions.” I have often been astonished at this declaration ; especially, as coming from a Minister of the Gospel. Whether there be any foundation for it, or not, will farther appear.
1. They testify, that the Holy Ghost descended on them, in the same manner, and with the same effects, which Christ had promised.
This testimony is thus summarily given : "On the day of Pentecost, while the Apostles and their companions were together, waiting for the promise of the Father, or the descent of the Holy Ghost; a sound came from heaven, as of a rushing, mighty wind; and it filled the room, where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues, as of fire, and sate upon each of them ; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." The things which they spoke are testified by those who heard them, in these words: We do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. In this story we have a direct account of the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles and their compan
ions, exactly according to the promise of Christ. We are informed, that the Holy Ghost became to them the Spirit of Inspiration; endowing them with the supernatural power of speaking with tongues ; or languages which they had never learned; and of speaking in those languages the wonderful works of God. Accordingly, we find St. Peter, on this very occasion, addressing the assembly, whom this wonderful miracle had called together, with a new Spirit, with views of the mission of Christ, altogether new, and with an equally extraordinary knowledge of the Jewish Scriptures. Nothing was more unlike his former character, in all respects, except that he was before, as well as now, a good man. Before, he had spoken, and acted, as a child; he had now become a man, and put away childish things.
Besides, we find him, and the other Apostles, immediately afterwards, employed, not only in preaching, in the same manner, but also in performing wonderful miracles, to prove that what they preached was the truth of God.
2. They testify directly, that the Gospel, which they preached, was revealed to them by God.
A few Proofs of this nature, out of a great multitude, which can be directly alleged from the New Testament, are all, which the time will allow me to recite. In the Gospel, says St. Paul, the Righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith. The Gospel is the power of God to salvation. Romans i. 16, 17. Can either of these things be possibly said, with truth, concerning mere uninspired opinions? We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory. Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit. Now we have received, not the spirit which is of the world, but the spirit which is of God, that we might know the things which are freely given us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. Or, as the last phrase is rendered by Dr. Macknight, explaining spiritual things in spiritual words. In this passage the things, contained in the Gospel, are directly asserted to be revealed to the Apostles by the Spirit of God; to be the wisdom, even the hidden wisdom, of God; and to be freely given unto them of God. It is also asserted, that they had received the Spirit of God for this very end, viz. that they might know these things. Finally, it is declared, that Paul and his companions spoke these things to others, not in the words devised by human wisdom, but in words directly taught by the Holy Ghost; and that they thus explained spiritual things in words which were also spiritual; or if the common translation be preferred, comparing the spiritual things thus revealed with other spiritual things revealed in the Old Testament,
Again; Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God, 1 Cor. iii. 1. Ministers of Christ, here, denote those, commissioned by Christ to preach the Gospel of Christ : Stewards of the mysteries of God, those, who are entrusted by God with his own will, revealed by him, and otherwise hidden from mankind.
Again; I certify you, brethren, that the Gospel which was preached by me was not after man, (that is, devised by human reason) For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
It pleased God to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen, or Gentiles. Gal. i. 11, 12, 15, 16.
Once more; If any man think himself to be spiritual, (that is, a spiritual man, possessing the miraculous power of discerning spirits or doctrines) or a prophet, let him acknowledge, that the things which I write unto you, are the commandments of the Lord. One would think, that such, as now stand in the place of these spiritual men in the Church, viz. Ministers of the Gospel, would feel themselves bound to make the same acknowledgment.
These may serve instead of near two hundred different passages, in which, in one manner and another, St. Paul asserts, explicitly, the Inspiration of himself and his Companions in the Gospel; for these decide the point, if any declarations can.
I intended to have recited declarations, to the same purpose, from the other writers of the New Testament; but, as the time is so far elapsed, I shall omit them.
3. They declared the same thing by styling the Gospel, which they preached, the Gospel of God; and of Christ.
Quotations to prove this fact, cannot be necessary for such, as read the New Testament. I shall therefore only observe, it proves directly, that this Gospel was revealed by God: otherwise, any other human production on the same subject might be called the Gospel of God. 4. The importance, attached by them to the Gospel, is a full de
, claration that it was revealed to them.
They declare, that it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth ; a savour of life unto life; able to make men wise to salvation ; quick, or living, and powerful, &c.; piercing, &c.; a discerner, &c.
They declare, that Christ will punish with an everlasting destruction them that obey not this Gospel.
St. Paul says, Woe is me if I preach not the Gospel.
He further says, if any man, or if any Angel, preach another Gospel, (that is, another than this which he preached to mankind) let him be accursed.
He also says, God shall judge the secrets of men, at the final day, according to this Gospel.
He says also, that God shall send upon a portion of mankind