« PoprzedniaDalej »
which they had received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God.
Now the Apostles knew whether Christ was what he professed himself to be, so far as his Character was an object of human observation. Particularly they knew whether his promises to them concerning their life, their supernatural endowments, their Inspiration, and the power of working miracles, were fulfilled, or not. If they were not fulfilled, they could not but know, that Christ was an Impostor; and could not have failed to give up a cause, from which nothing but evil had sprung, or could ever spring. Their perseverance is therefore complete proof, that these promises were all fulfilled: that the Holy Ghost descended on them; guided them into all the truth; taught them all things, pertaining to this subject; or, in the language of St. Peter, pertaining to life and godliness; brought to their remembrance all things whatsoever Christ had said unto them; and shewed them things to come. They have, therefore, in this manner proved, that they were inspired; so inspired as to become authoritative teachers of the Will of God concerning our salvation; and as to assure us, that whatever they have taught is true, and even in so momentous a case is to be believed, and obeyed, with final safety to our well-being.
CHRIST A PROPHET.-PREACHING OF THE APOSTLES.
MARK xvi. 15, 16, 20.-And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach
the Gospel unto every creature. He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And they went forth, and preached every where ; the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.
In the preceding discourse, I proposed, from these words, to consider the following subjects :
I. The Fact that the Apostles actually preached the Gospel of Christ ; or were inspired :
II. The Necessity of their preaching the Gospel :
The first of these heads I examined largely in that discourse. I shall now proceed to the consideration of the three last.
On the II. viz. The necessity of their preaching the Gospel, I make the following observations.
Christ in his discourse to the Apostles, recorded John xvi. says, But when the Comforter is come, he shall testify of me. And ye also shall bear witness. This testimony they accordingly gave to the Messiahship and universal Character of their Master, in their oral preaching, their writings, their miracles, and their lives. All these they uniformly attributed to him. Their doctrines and precepts they declared to be derived from his instructions, and the inspiration of his Spirit; their miracles from his power; and their holiness from his grace; 'all communicated by the same divine Agent. In his name, and under the authority of a Commission given by him, they preached, wrote, and acted, as the propagators of the Gospel, and the builders of the Church. Thus every thing which they said, or did, was a testimony, borne to Christ.
That this testimony should be thus borne by the Apostles was necessary in the divine Economy of Redemption, in the
1st place, Because the Apostles had been with Christ from the beginning
It has doubtless been observed by those who hear me, that I have all along mentioned the Apostles, as if alone concerned in this busi
It is hardly necessary to remark, that under this name I mean, here, to include their inspired Coadjutors also.
The reason which I have now alleged, is given by Christ him self; and is recited in his own words, John xvi. 27. And ye shall bear witness also, because ye have been with me from the beginning.
The importance of this reason will be manifest, if we consider the nature of a great part of the testimony, which the Apostles have given concerning the Redeemer. This is composed partly of facts, and partly of discourses ; at both of which they were present, and to which they were, of course, eye and ear witnesses. The only decisive human evidence concerning facts is the evidence of our senses, customarily called Experience. This, wherever it exists in its perfection, is universally acknowledged to be decisive. In it all other human evidence concerning facts is supposed to terminate, and, whenever it is valid, actually terminates. If, then, human testimony were to be given to the mission, character, and doctrines, of Christ; it must be indispensable, that it should rest on this kind of evidence. No other persons could be valid witnesses of the life, and miracles, of Christ, but those who saw them; nor of his discourses, but those who heard them. Accordingly, St. Paul, though an incontrovertible witness to the divine origin of the Gospel in many respects, was not employed to write a history of the Redeemer; while Luke and Mark, though not Apostles, were made his historians by the Spirit of God, because, as St. Luke says of himself, they had perfect understanding of all things from the very first.
It is true, that God could, if it had pleased him, have disclosed every one of the things recorded in his Gospels, to any other Person, by an original Revelation. It is not, however, the way, established in the Divine proceedings, to furnish miraculous communications, where they are not plainly necessary; or miraculous evidence, where evidence derived from other sources is sufficient. Besides, there would have been a serious imperfection attending any such Revelation, if the facts revealed had been unattested by those in whose presence they took place. The mind would instinctively have asked, why none of those who were present had testified their existence; and why no record, no valid trace of them, had been conveyed down from the beginning. It must, I think, have been impossible, or at least very difficult, to answer these questions in such a manner, as to satisfy the mind, by which they were proposed.
The importance of this evidence, in the case before us, cannot but be manifest to every one, accustomed to investigations of this nature ; and peculiarly to such, as have been conversant with debates concerning the divine origin of the Gospel. Every such person knows, that, among the arguments on this subject, that, which is derived from the impossibility of the Apostles being deceived with respect to the great facts, which are the basis of the Gospel, as having been eye and ear witnesses, and witnesses competent and unexceptionable, has ever holden a primary place. Every man, versed in this subject, knows this to be an argument, which Infidels have never been able to obviate, and which, after the efforts of two centuries, as well as all those made in ancient times, remains immoveable, and beaten in vain by the billows of opposition.
2dly. Because the Apostles survived the Ascension of Christ.
From this circumstance many advantages were derived, of very great importance. Had Christ written the whole Gospel
, that is, all which he can be supposed to have written, and written it at the only time, when he can reasonably be imagined to have written it; not a small, nor unimportant, part of the things, pertaining to his own history and discourses, as we now find them in the Gospels properly so called, must have been lost to the world. The account must, I think, have been closed, antecedently to the institution of the Lord's Supper: for, from the commencement of the celebration of the passover preceding it, he does not appear to have had any opportunity of writing at all. Of course, the celebration of this passover; the institution of the eucharist; his washing the disciples' feet, and his instructions on that occasion ; his consolatory discourses; his intercessory prayer; his agony in the garden ; the treachery of Judas ; his trial, condemnation, death, and burial; his resurrection; his subsequent appearances to his disciples; and his final ascension to the heavens; together with all the things connected with them, could have found no place in the Gospel. But these constitute a large part of the objects of our faith, the means of our instruction, and the rules of our duty. I need not observe, that these, also, are objects of the utmost consequence to every man, who reads the Gospel ; essential parts of the dispensation without which the system would be broken and lame; without which the most important inquiries of the mind could never be satisfied; and without which the chief wants of the probationer for Eternal life could never be supplied.
Further; Christ uttered a number of predictions, which were not fulfilled during his life, nor intended to be; but which, according to the nature of his declarations, were to be fulfilled soon after his ascension. Among these, were his prophecies concerning the descent of the Holy Ghost at the day of Pentecost; the success of the Apostles in preaching the Gospel; the miracles, which they were to accomplish; the sufferings, which they were to undergo; and the extensive establishment of the Church, by their preaching, among the nations of men. All these prophecies are of such a nature, that the mind of every reader would unavoidably demand an account of their fulfilment. Had no such account been given ; as, if the Gospel had been finished by Christ, must have been the fact; the omission would have been perceived by every reader to be an unhappy chasm in the history of the Church which nothing could successfully fill up, and about which there would have arisen many doubts, perplexities, and distresses.
The Christian Sabbath was adopted as a commemoration of the resurrection of Christ from the dead. The only hint concerning it, which we find given by Christ, is contained in his answer to the Pharisees; when they asked him, why his disciples did not fast, as did their own disciples, and those of John the Baptist: The chililren of the bride-chamber cannot fast, while the bridegroom is with
them: but the days come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away : then shall they fast. Christ was taken away on the evening preceding the seventh day, or Jewish Sabbath ; and during the whole of that day lay buried in the tomb. On this day, then, he
, declares, they should fast; and in this declaration indicates, that the Jewish Sabbath should then come to an end; so far as the day was concerned, on which it was celebrated. The Sabbath is a festival; not a fast: a day of joy only, and not of sorrow. When, therefore, Christ declared, that the seventh day should be a day of fasting to his immediate disciples, he may fairly be considered, as indicating that this day should no longer be a Sabbath to them.
In conformity to this indication, the Apostles introduced the first day to Christians, for their future observance as the Sabbath, by their own adoption of it in their religious practice. In this manner, principally, it is announced to us in their writings, as the proper Sabbath for all the followers of the Redeemer. On the wisdom, displayed in this manner of introducing the Christian Sabbath, I design to discourse more particularly hereafter. It is sufficient to observe at the present time, that, had Christ completed the Gospel, it is not easy to see how this manner of introducing the Sabbath could have taken place; and it is evident, that this account of it could not have been given.
Finally; the whole history of the Church, contained in the Acts of the Apostles, would in this case, have been lost to the Christian world. No part of the Word of God is, in many respects, morc filled with instruction, or consolation, than this book. The doctrines, which it contains, are of the highest importance, for their wisdom; the precepts, for their plainness and excellence; the examples, for their number, their variety, and their adaptation to the different circumstances and characters of Christians. The history of this book, also, is of the greatest value, for its edifying and instructive nature, for the satisfaction which it furnishes concerning the state of the Church at that interesting period, for the life, sufferings and deliverances, the preaching and success, of the Apostles, the opposition which they met, and the causes which produced it; the sufferings, patience, and perseverance, the errors and faults, of the first converts ; the progress of Christianity, and the extension of the Church; together with a multitude of other things interwoven with these. How useful, how necessary, these things are, to instruct, edify, and comfort, every Christian, particularly every Minister, I need not explain; nor need I observe, that in a Gospel, written by our Saviour, they could have had no place.
3dly. Because it was necessary, that the Immediate followers of Christ in the propagation of Christianity should be clearly seen to be commissioned of God.
It will be readily acknowledged, that a body of men, so small, so uneducated, so humble, so unfriended, as the Apostles and their companions were, must have wholly failed of spreading the Gos