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proof of Christianity, so far as that religion depends upon matter of fact, comparable to the highest miracle.
Every lie is weak, and he that promulges a lie, knowing it to be so, is naturally diffident and fearful. But so invincible a persuasion possessed the disciples of the truth of what they asserted, that it bore them above the highest contumelies, the greatest hardships, and the sharpest persecutions. Acts iv. 20, We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. They spoke, as it were, by a necessary impulse, whether they would or no.
Neither were they naturally such resolute persons, that this hardiness of theirs might be reputed an effect of their temper and complexion : for it appeared, upon several occasions before, that they were men of a timorous and a poor spirit. How did they cry out when they saw Christ walking upon the sea! thinking that they had seen a spirit, Matt. xiv. 26. And last of all, when Christ was apprehended, they all forsook him, and fled, Matt. xxvi. 56. And Peter, who was the boldest of them, yet how cowardly did he deny his master! for the baseness of that action could be resolved into nothing but his fear.
But after the diffusion of the Holy Ghost, we find that no opposition could quell them; no terror affright, nor any prison or torment silence them. And therefore when Christ commanded them to stay at Jerusalem, and expect the gift of the Holy Ghost, Luke xxiv. 49, he very properly tells them, that they should be endued with power from on high ; that is, with such a gift of resolved con
stancy and courage, as should make them superior to all fears within, or oppositions without.
In a word, the Holy Ghost so furnished and enabled Christ's disciples to testify of him, that they were the most qualified witnesses of the truth of what they avouched, that ever appeared upon the stage of the world ; nor was any doctrine or religion besides the Christian ever attested with such illustrious proofs, and such unexceptionable reasons of credibility.
I suppose a full reflection upon what has been delivered cannot but furnish us with an infallible rule, by which to try men's pretences of the Spirit. It is comprised in this short interrogatory : Do they testify of Christ ? Does their doctrine only transcribe what stands already written in the word? Otherwise, if they invent and substitute something in the room of gospel; if they find not only comment, but text also, and plead the spirit in defiance of the letter ; it is not the Spirit of God that acts them, but the spirit of darkness and desolation, that ruins government and subverts kingdoms: and if it had not been for such a kind of spirit, this day had not been by a third part so much a festival as it is.
For had not the king been driven out of his dominions, he could not have been so gloriously restored; and had it not been for the furious spirit of enthusiasm, those confusions, the fatal cause of his expulsion, had never happened. For was not the prime leader and artificer of this successful villainy the professed father of enthusiasts ? Did he not still plead inward instigations, in opposition to express commands ? And were not all his legions possessed
by the same spirit; by whose teachings they thought themselves sufficiently discharged from the abrogated precepts of allegiance? But since it is our duty not to violate the memory of our oppressors, but silently, thankfully, and forgetfully to accept the oppression; we will commemorate only the king's restitution.
And this I think may not improperly coincide with the very business of the day, which is to celebrate the sending of the Holy Ghost; who also must be acknowledged the cause of this great transaction: so that we may with a peculiar emphasis and propriety express the king's restoration in those words of the prophet, Zechar. iv. 6, Not by might, nor by strength, but by my spirit, saith the Lord.
For the king returned not a conqueror, but a conquered person, borne upon the backs of his conquerors; and brought in by a body of men, who at that very time wanted neither force nor will to have devoured him; but by a strange surprise and infatuation upon their spirits, were prevailed upon to do they knew not what, nor why.
It was an action, that carried in it such bright testimonies of a supernatural power, so much above, nay against the means and actors visibly appearing in it; that I know no argument from metaphysics or natural philosophy, that to my reason proves the existence of a Deity more fully, than the consideration of this prodigious revolution : which, if it does not leave lasting impressions of gratitude in men's minds, manifesting itself in the returns of a pious life, truly the delivered persons will be yet a greater wonder than the deliverance.
But whether or no it has had this effect, and
whether many have not returned rather hardened than reduced by their afflictions, and brought out of the furnace with them that dross which first cast them into it; God knows, and their own consciences know, and their lives in a great measure testify.
It is a sad and a fearful consideration, but too obvious to escape any observing mind, that atheism, obscenity, and a professed scorn of religion, has so wrought itself into the behaviour, the discourse, and the very genius of the times, that if God can be provoked again, they carry in them the threatening presages and dismal prognostics of an impending national judgment, which God of his infinite mercy avert. And since nothing less will do it, may he continue to preserve us by a greater miracle of goodness, than that by which he first restored us.
Trinity Sunday. Now, though (as I have already shewn) the chief subject of the text was the Holy Spirit; yet, as if it carried in it a conjunction of two great festivals, it seems to point both at the Pentecost and the Trinity.
For in the words we have,
3. The person from whom he is said to proceed, which was the Father.
So great a mystery have we lying in so small a compass; that which neither the heaven of heavens can contain, nor the grasp of human reason comprehend, we see here wrapt up and represented in one period of this sublime evangelist.
But you will say, Does not our creed tell us,
that the three persons of the Godhead are coequal? How then comes the Son to send and employ the Holy Ghost, which argues a distance and superiority ?
I answer, that their equality is to be understood only in respect of their nature; and an equality of nature hinders not an inequality in point of order and office, especially being voluntarily undertook : in respect of which, the Spirit may be properly said to be sent by the Son, though otherwise as to the divine nature they are absolutely coequal.
We have here the three persons, as it were, met in council about the grand affair of man's salvation. The Father contriving, the Son ordering, and the Spirit performing. One would almost think, that it were lawful for man to be proud, when it is thus made the interest of Heaven to look after and to promote the concerns of his happiness. It is like the sun, that vast and glorious body, wheeling about the earth to give warmth and influence to a poor plant or a little flower.
God is pleased to make it his business that we should be saved. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are all employed, and every person has shared out to himself a distinct office in the management of that great action; and that with such a stated order, that the manner of doing is as admirable as the thing done. The Father could have transacted the whole business of man's salvation by himself; but he was pleased to honour the work with a mystery, and by allotting to each person his part, to recommend order to our imitation.
In short, from this whole passage, by way of deduction, we may collect and learn these two things: