Imágenes de páginas

(who as Apoftle to the Gentiles would naturally be most observant of whatever concerned Them) thought it necessary to speak to him. Or it is possible, however improbable, that, through a weakness in his character, the apparent influence

. of his example might be too flattering to his difposition, and prevent him from attending properly to the ill consequences it might in the end have been the occasion of producing. And should the Author upon this be disposed to reply, That it is not to be supposed a person employed by the fpecial providence of God, could ever be left expofed to the influence of any such human weakness, as might lead him to do, what might at all retard the spreading of a true knowledge of that Gospel he was employed to preach; (which is the Author's objection ;) I must take leave to ask, in return, by what means he is enabled to point out exactly, what the wisdom of God may permit in such a case, and what it may not? I must ask, upon what principles he can prove, that if God of his pure goodness employs any one to deliver a special message to mankind; he is obliged at the same time fo wholly to over-rule his natural freedom, as to prevent the accidental influence of any human weakness, which may at all remotely affect the spreading of his Gospel? If he can prove this, let him inform us, how God can, as ħe most notoriously does,grant eminently fuperiour natural and acquired endowments, to many, who by making an ill use of those peculiar advantages, have greatly contributed to lessen the influence, and retard the progress, of Natural Religion, and Moral Virtue? Can God be less concerned for the progress of Moral Virtue, than for that of any particular Revelation, which he may graciously make to mankind, principally for the sake of promoting Natural Religion, and Moral Virtue? If

the goodness of God is, as it manifestly is, consistent with one of these dispensations, much more must it be with the other likewise.

But besides, I must ask yet again, whether all the inconveniencies which could possibly have arisen from Peter's conduct in this instance, had not Paul interposed, were not as effectually prevented by the interposition of Paul, as they could have been by the due observation of Peter himself ? And why therefore might not the wisdom of God permit the weakness of Peter; if it was weakness; to appear as it did, and be corrected in time by the vigilance and prudence of Paul; as well as prevent Peter's

weakness from appearing by a previous secret influence from above? Nay, was not the comprehensive nature of the Gospel Scheme, as opposed to the confined peculiarity of the Jews, rendered even much more conspicuous at that time, by this public interposition of Peul, thus watching over it, than it would have been, if this occasion for Peul's public interfering with Peter had not been permitted to arise ? To all which it should be added, in the last place, that perinitting this public dissension, as far as it may be properly stiled a dissension, to take place between the Two leading Apostles ; to One of whom was committed in a more distinguished manner, the Converfion of the Jews, and to the Other that of the Gentiles ; must have afforded at that time, when the real circumstances of the case were notorious, a strong circumftantial proof, that the Apostles were not Deceivers, jointly carrying on a concerted imposture; but sincere and honest Revealers, in their leveral provinces, of that Gospel they were both divinely commissioned to preach.

As to the Author's assertion, “ That this inci4 dent made a considerable breach between Bar

[ocr errors]


nabas and Paul * ," all that need be said to it is, that the affertion is absolutely falfe. Paul and Barnabas, we are expressly informed, continued still together, preaching the Gospel at Antioch t; and were still so good friends, that Paul proposed to Barnabas, after this had happened, that they should set out together to visit all the places where they had planted the Gospel I.

Nay, we are explicitly informed, that the diffenfion which arose between Them, was wholly owing to a quite different cause ; to Barnabas's choosing to take Mark with them, when Paul thought him improper to be taken; on account of his having left them in a manner Paul disapproved upon a former occasion ||.

And what now must we be forced to think of our Author, as a Rational Inquirer, but more especially as a Rational Christian, who in order merely to vilify the Apostles, has boldly asserted as true, what the passage referred to explicitly tells him is utterly false. Happy would it be for him, if, in this instance, either bis Christianity, or even his Morality was fecure from just fufpicion, or reproach.


The Author's Argument drawn from Peter's

Denial of Jesus, considered.

ETER and Paul being so eminent among

the Apostles, it is no wonder the Author, as a professed disclaimer of all Divine Revelation properly so called, should use his utmost endeayours to destroy Their Pretensions in particular,

* P.


+ Acts XV. 35 || Acts xv: 37-41.

| Aets xv. 36.

to Divine Inspiration. Accordingly he has tried his utmost, in framing a tedious invective against Peter, for several pages together , on account of his Denial of Jesus on the night before his Crucifixion ; from which particular the conclusion he would persuade us to draw is, That the same Peter who thus denied Jesus, could not be under the fuperintending influence of the Spirit, when he afterwards preached the Gospel.

But the falsehood of all that the Author has impotently urged upon this point, must appear at once from this single consideration; That neither Petex, nor any of the Apostles, were inspired, or had any occasion to be inspired *, till the very time, when they were actually to enter upon the discharge of their commission to preach the Gof

pel; ☆ From p. 323, to p. 331.

* It is true indeed that the Apostles were sent out long before Jesus's death : but all they were then sent to preach was, That the kingdom of heaven awas at hand; (Matth. x. 7.) and that men should repent ; (Mark vi. 12.) and so likewise the Seventy were sent out with exactly the same Commiflion ; (Luke X. 9, 11.) in order to excite the attention of the people, and prepare the way for Christ's personal teaching: (Luke x. 1.) For this reason they were all empowered to work Miracles, in confirmation of the single truth they were to preach, That the kingdom of heaven was at hand; but as they were not sent at that time to explain to the Jews, what the nature of that Kingdom was, fo neither were They Themselves then inspired with any just conceptions of it ; nor till they were intended to preach it to the Jews after Jesus's Ascension. And though while they were out executing this Commission, they were endued with Miraculous Powers to answer the intent of it; we must believe them to have returned, when it was ended, to the state in which they were, before they were sent out upon it; fince we do not find that they performed any Miracles after they were come back to Jesus ; Nay, on the contrary, we find JESUS telling them, fo late as even just before he left them, that they fnould receive powers, meaning Miraculous Powers, afrer the Holy Ghost was come upon them; (Acts i. 8.) from which it is manifeft, that even at the time of his saying this, they were neither poffeffed of any fuch powers, nor inspired by the Holy


pel; which was not till ten days † after Jesus's ascension.

It is evident, both from the nature of the thing itself, and every page of the Gospels, that the Apostles, Judas alone excepted, were chosen out by Jesus for his constant companions, in order to make them competent witnesses of his life and actions ; that so when, after his death, they should be inspired with a complete knowledge of that will of God, which he came to reveal to mankind, their testimony to the Divine Character which he alsumed, and to the miracles which he wrought in its support, might be a proper and ample foundation for the faith of mankind.

To allege Peter's Denial of Jesus therefore, while Jesus was yet alive; in order to lessen his authority as an inspired Apostle of Christ, after Jesus's Ascension, and when the time was at length come, at which his Gospel was actually to be preached; is in other words to argue, That Peter could not be inspired, when the time came for executing his commission to preach the Gospel ; because he was not inspired, before the period arrived, at which it was intended he should preach the Gospel : that is, That God must have inspired him, before he sent him upon any employment which required inspiration; if he really did inspire him, when at length he employed him upon a business that did require it.

Ghost. And from hence; as well as from the question they aked at his Ascension, (Acts i. 6.) it should feem, that his words, Receive ye the Holy Ghoft; (John xx. 22.) accompanied with the action of Breathing on them, were meant only of the more ordinary affiftances of the Holy Spirit ; of which, probably, he at that time imparted to them a larger share, than they had before enjoyed.

† Compare Matth. xxviii. 19, 20, with Luke xxiv. 49; and Acts i. 3,5


« AnteriorContinuar »