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public' ministry, delivered truths the most sublime with an energy not to be resisted; adorned those truths by an example the most perfect and glorious, performed miracles august and stupendous, and having poured a thousand blessings on mankind, was at length put to death, in the presence of innumerable spectators, in the most cruel and ignominious manner. The sun upon this occasion withdrew his light, the earth was shaken, and the veil of the temple rent in twain. He was buried. At the exact time foretold by himself, he arose from the grave. And having been often seen by his apostles, and upon one occasion by five hundred brethren together, he ascended through the clouds into heaven; angels attending the glorious solemnity, and assuring the astonished disciples, that in like manner he would another day come to judge the world. These facts were followed by others no less extraordinary which had been foretold by Christ, and which accompanied the first publication of the gospel at Jerusalem, and its spread through the Roman empire.
Now all these events, with an infinite variety of circumstances attending them, are related in the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles with the greatest accuracy, and yet with the most artless simplicity.
The question then is, Are these facts credible? They are. Nothing is here related that contradicts itself, involves in it an absurdity, or is impossible. The persons who report these facts were eye-witnesses of them, agree in their testimony concerning them, and laid down their lives in confirmation of that testimony. The miracles of our Saviour and his apostles were not a few but many, performed not in a corner but in the face of the whole world, not in the presence of friends only but enemies. The accounts given of them in the New Testament, were published in the age and in the country where they happened, and so were appeals to the knowledge, memory, and senses of thousands of people then living. Had they been false they would no doubt have been immediately contradicted, and soon met with the fate of all idle tales, that of being lost in utter oblivion. On the contrary, profane history agrees with sacred, and the testimonies both of Jews and Pagáns, as well as the ancient Christians, confirm the leading events related by the evangelists. Nor is it imaginable that the gospel history, after having been translated into all languages, and submitted to the examination of all sorts of persons
for a series of seventeen hundred years, should be so generally received as an authentic history, and by so many wise and good men, if it were indeed a mere fiction, a cunningly devised fable.
But enough has been said to prove the credibility of the leading facts of the New Testament. And it were easy to shew, that the principles upon which their credibility has been attacked by infidels, go to the subversion of all historical evidence, and of consequence to the utter annihilation of all the knowledge we acquire in this way. :
Thus have we established our first proposition, " That the leading facts reported in these books are credible." This admitted, it follows,
2. “ That it was natural to expect that these facts, and a declaration of the true intent of them, should be committed to writing."
This proposition is so plain as to need little or no illustration. Those principles which have in all ages given existence to historical productions, would no doubt operate forcibly in this case. Every motive of curiosity and piety would induce men to wish, that a narrative of facts so extraordinary might be accurately drawn, and fully authenticated, for the use of that and succeeding ages. To suppose the contrary would be to suppose mankind different from what they have ever been, and stupid beyond all imagination.
And the same consideration whi would induce men to collect the evidence and preserve the remembrance of these facts, would also induce them to enquire into the true intent and meaning of them. For as they must have been the effect of more than human agency, and of nothing short of a preternatural interposition of divine providence, so no doubt some important purposes worthy of God were to be answered thereby. And as it might reasonably be concluded that infinite wisdom would observe a proportion between the means and the end, so it might be concluded from the stupendous nature of these facts, that the ends proposed thereby must be magnificently great and glorious. But how should these ends be satisfactorily known, even though they might in general be guessed at, without an immediate and positive revelation from God? If then the men who did these astonishing deeds, took upon
them to declare the ends for which they were performed, it was as natural to expect that such declaration should be committed to writing as the deeds, themselves.
And thus we see the grounds upon which it might be reasonably wished and expected that the two grand constituent parts of the New Testament, the historical and doctrinal, should be committed to writing. And the same may be observed of the prophetical parts of the New Testament, if it is credible, as it most certainly is, that these men did deliver predictions of future events.And this leads us to our third Proposition,
3. “ That the committing these matters to writing in such a manner as to secure the salutary ends thereby proposed, could not be effected without extraordinary divine assistance."
Whoever takes a general view of the New Testament must acknowledge, that the professed intent of the writers of it was most beneficial and important, even the making men wise unto salvation. But this end could not be attained, if the facts, doctrines, and prophecies it contains were not so stated, as that we might assuredly depend upon their truth in every particular. For however this book might in the general be true, yet a failure in any part of it would beget such doubts in a considerate mind respecting the whole, as would counteract the professed intent of it: it would stifle in the very birth all those divine principles of faith, hope, love, and devotion which constitute a real Christian. Let us apply this reasoning to each constituent part of the New Testament just mentioned, and we shall see the force of it to prove the indispensible necessity of a divine interposition in the writing this book.
(1.) As to the historical parts of the New Testament.
Although the writers of these books were eye witnesses of the facts they relate, and men of sense and veracity, yet if they had not been divinely assisted, such mistakes must have crept into their narratives as would have rendered the effect of the whole doubtful and precarious. The facts related were very numerous and took up a large compass of time. The circumstances of many of them are mentioned, as well as the time when and the place where they happened. Discourses and dialogues of a considerable length are recorded. The writers were men of different natural and acquired abilities. Their stories were not published, and it is probable not committed to writing, till some years after the events took place. They did not write in concert with each other, upon the same plan, or after the same manner.
Now all this being the case, how could it possibly have so happened, that they should be guilty of no mistake, no misnomer, no anachronism, no disagreement in their testimony; if their several productions had been the mere result of their own recollection and memory? It is not imaginable. . Let a man of the most retentive memory set himself to relate verbatim a discourse, which he heard eight or ten years ago, and of the same length with that of our Saviour's on the mount; and he will quickly feel not only the difficulty but the impossibility of succeeding.
It appears therefore from the nature of the thing, that a divine superintendency was necessary to secure the evangelists from otherwise unavoidable errors, which would have been followed with the most fatal consequences,—The same reasoning holds good,
(2.) Respecting the doctrinal parts of the New Testament.
The right understanding of the grand intent of these extraordinary events, which is what we mean by Scripture doctrine, is a matter of as great importance if not greater than the knowledge of the events themselves. This in the full extent of it could be known only to God, our information therefore on this head must come from him. And seeing he was disposed of his mercy to lay open the mystery of the gospel to our view, it was fit, it was necessary, that it should be conceived in language dictated by himself, and so with an accuracy that should preclude all suspicion of error or equivo
cation. But such accuracy could not have been expected, had the writers of the New Testament, however honest, been left to themselves in reporting to us the scheme of salvation ; and of consequence their writings could not have been an infallible test to be appealed to by Christians of every description.
If it be objected that, with all the supposed advantage of divine inspiration, there is obscurity in the Scriptures, it is to be remembered that that obscurity is no other than what arises out of the nature of some particular subjects treated of, and what God was pleased for wise ends to suffer. And it is certain, be the obscurity complained of what it may, the grand intent of Heaven in our redemption by the sacrifice and death of Christ, is held up clearly to our view, and the connection and proportion between the means and the end so plainly marked, as to reflect infinite beauty and glory upon the whole plan. This objection therefore does not at all affect the question of the necessity of a divine interference in the statement of the Christian doctrine.
Upon the whole-We see the most astonishing events take place. We ask the meaning of them. Who shall answer ? Not fallible mere men surely, but God. Conjectures here will not do. Nothing will satisfy, but a reply from him who is the great agent in the whole business—a reply that shall command our faith, and silence all objection.—The like reasoning is applicable also,
(3.) To the prophetical parts of the New Testament.
Infinite wisdom seeing it fit to communicate to the primitive Christians and to succeeding ages, certain predictions of future events, the fulfilment of which should in its gradual progress serve the purpose of a continual miraculous confirmation of the truth of Scripture, and the further purpose of cherishing our faith and devotion ; Infinite wisdom, I say, seeing this necessary, it became also necessary that these prophecies should be delivered to us, not by tradition, but writing, and not by the mere report of those to whom the prophets first delivered them, but in the immediate language of inspiration. --And now from the manifest necessity of divine inspiration in each of these cases, we go on to observe,