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Ver. 36. "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ." See also ch. v. 30-32. And at the house of Cornelius at Cesarea, ch. x. 40-42. "Him God raised up the third dayAnd he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify, that it is he, which is ordained of God to be the judge of the quick and the dead." Compare this with St. Paul's discourse at Athens, Acts xvii. 30, 31. And says the same apostle, Eph. i. 18-22. "That ye may know the exceeding greatness of his power which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. And put all things under his feet, and gave him [to be] the head over all things to
Having explained this text according to the last mentioned scheme, I shall now conclude with some remarks and observations.
1. Christians ought to show moderation, and carefully maintain love and friendship with one another, notwithstanding difference of opinion about divers matters.
They should not be willing to unchristianize and anathematize any man, who professes to believe Jesus to be the Christ, and to hold him for the head of the church, and Lord and Master of it.
They should not be unwilling to hold communion one with another. If they cannot do that, they should not deny to others the character of integrity; much less admit a thought of incommoding them in their worldly interests upon account of some difference of opinion. For that is doing as they would not be done unto. And by the practice of force and compulsion when they are in power, they encourage others of different sentiments from them, when in power, to act im like manner. And according to this way of thinking, and acting, oppression and tyranny must prevail every where, and Christian people must be always at variance, devouring one another.
There always has been difference of opinion among men. There were divers sects of philosophy, before the rise of Christianity. Where there is but one opinion, there is absolute tyranny without liberty: or there is total indifference about the things of religion, without thought and inquiry.
Where Christianity is professed, if there is any freedom, the importance of the doctrine will excite thought and consideration. Thence will proceed variety of opinion, unless men's minds were quite alike: which they are not. Nor have all men the like helps and advantages. For which reasons it is not to be expected, that all should see things in the same light.
Though Christians are divided in their sentiments about a Trinity, and the person of Christ, and some other points, yet there are many things in which they agree. They all profess to receive the scriptures as the word of God, and the rule of their faith. And there are divers things, which may be easily learned from scripture, in which therefore they ought to agree.
We are there taught to think of God, as one. "Thou shalt have no other gods before me," was proclaimed by God to the Jewish people in the most solemn manner. Indeed all Christians in general agree in this, that there is but one God: however, they may seem to each other at times to multiply deities. Certainly the unity of God is a principle, which we ought to maintain whole and uncorrupted in all its simplicity.
We are likewise to conceive of this one God as eternal, all-perfect, the creator of the heavens and the earth, and the governor of the worlds, which he has made.
We should think of God as great and powerful. Else we shall not fear before him at all times: nor trust in him, in the various trials and occurrences of this life, nor seek to him, and pray to him as we ought, to approve ourselves to him: that is, unless we believe him able to hear those who seek to him, and to reward such as diligently serve him.
It is highly expedient, that we trace out by reason and scripture the evidences of the divine goodness and mercy, that we may not shun and flee from him as inexorable: that we may not be discouraged in doing our utmost to please him, though we cannot attain to an absolute and sinless perfection.
When Moses desired to see the "glory of God," and his request was not rejected, God "made all his goodness to pass before him," and proclaimed: "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth." See Exod. xxxiii. and xxxiv.
The inspired scriptures continually represent God to us, as great and amiable.
He is "of purer eyes than to behold iniquity" in any with approbation. Hab. i. 13. Yet he accepts the humble and penitent. And is as ready to forgive and accept those who return from their wanderings, as they who relent, and are pierced with a sense of guilt, can wish or desire. Is. lvii. 15. “For thus saith the high and lofty one, that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is holy," that is, sacred, great and august, "I dwell in the high and holy place: with him also, who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and the heart of the contrite." The value and importance of right conceptions concerning these perfections of God may be seen farther shown in Jer. ix. 23, 24.
These are things in which all men of every rank, learned and unlearned, rich and poor, are more concerned, than in any points of a speculative nature, that are very abstruse, and almost unintelligible. The plainest truths are the most important: not the most abstruse and mysterious, as some would persuade men to think. For religion is the concern of all, and the most momentous things ought to be obvious, that none who are not extremely negligent, or wilfully blind, may be unacquainted with them.
And herein is wisdom: to consider God as great, good, and excellent, and to act accordingly, standing in awe of his judgments, studious to gain and keep his favour, by a sincere regard to his holy laws, and doing the things that are well-pleasing in his sight.
We are also to believe, that Jesus is the promised Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world: that he acted by a special commission under God the Father, and that the doctrine taught by him may be relied upon, as containing the true way to life.
Christians must believe, that Jesus had the innocent infirmities of the human nature; that he really had grief, that he really suffered and died, and rose again, and is ascended up to heaven. Otherwise they lose all the benefit of his example.
We must remember, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. For certainly every thing, concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, was designed for the glory of God, and is actually conducive to it. By his life, doctrine, death, exaltation, and arguments taken thence, men have been turned from idols to the living and true God.
Jesus, in his person, and example, in his life, and in his death, and in his exaltation, is unspeakably amiable. And we ought to give glory and honour to him, who died for us, and rose again, and is at the right hand of God. And though we have not seen hin, we cannot but love him. Still it is not to be forgotten, that "Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father."
There has been in all times occasion for such hints as these. And those Christians are not to be justified, who instead of praying to the Father in the name of Jesus Christ, address almost all their prayers and praises to Christ, without any warrant from the New Testament, and contrary to express and repeated instructions concerning the object and manner of worship.
One of the reasons, why we ought ever to love and honour the Lord Jesus, is, that through him we have been brought unto God, and to the knowledge of his glorious perfections, and overruling providence. As St. Peter writes, 1 Ep. i. 18-21. “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish, and without spot. Who verily was fore-ordained before the foundation of the world; but was manifest in these last times for you: who by him do believe in God that raised him from the dead, and gave him glory, that your faith and hope might be in God."
2. The scheme, which has been last considered, appears to be the plainest and most simple of all. This was taken notice of formerly, and I do not intend to enlarge farther upon it now.
3. According to this scheme, the condescension and meekness, and other virtues of the Lord Jesus, are the most exemplary, and his exaltation is the most encouraging.
For he is truly of kin to us, and a fit example of faith and patience, and rightly the "captain
a Heb. ii. 11. "For both he that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one. For which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren. All of one.'
Et Evos waVTES.
Of one father, that is God.' 'Of one original ' and nature.' Whitby. Of one stock and nature.' S. Clarke. 'Have all the same origin.' Beausobre. Who goes on: all ' are of one, meaning of Adam. In order to be high priest 'for men, it was necessary, that Jesus Christ should be man. This is what renders him sensible to the sufferings of men: that which disposes him to love and help them, and which
of our salvation:" whose conduct in circumstances like ours, and under like temptations, is inviting and exemplary. Which is agreeable to divers parts of the apostle's argument in the epistle to the Hebrews, ch. iv. 14-16. "Let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest, which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities: but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." See also ch. ii. 10-18.
Our Lord's exaltation is also, in this way, most encouraging. His condescension and obedience, in acquiescing in his low condition on this earth, and in yielding up himself to death, are set before us as an example to be imitated. And it is added: "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him." This affords reason to think, that if we practise meekness, and other virtues, and are obedient to God, and promote the good of our fellow-creatures; we likewise shall be highly exalted, and greatly rewarded. But supposing Jesus to have been, before his appearance on this earth, under God, the creator and governor of the world; his glorification after death will not seem to be so much the reward of his faith and obedience here, as the reinstating him in what he enjoyed, and had a right to before. Our case is then so different from his, as to have little or no resemblance. And his glorification, or exaltation, if it may be so called, will be little or no excitement to us.
But we should preserve this quickening motive and consideration, the glory and reward of Jesus in all its force. Which, as it stands in this text, and in many other places of the New Testament, is the most animating thought that can be conceived.
As the apostle says, Heb. xii. 1, 2. "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth sa easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us: looking unto Jesus, the captain, and perfect example of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down on the right hand of God." And says our exalted Lord to the church of the Laodiceans: "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne," Rev. iii. 21.
And let us particularly remember the moving exhortation in our text. For though, because of the different sentiments of Christians in some points of a speculative nature, this, and some former discourses have been, in part, controversial, the genuine import and design of the text is throughout practical; and tends to dispose us, as occasions require, to be ready to promote the good of others, and for that end to strive to outdo each other in meekness and condescension. "If there be any consolation in Christ-fulfil ye my joy-Let nothing be done through strife, or vain glory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem another better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things: but every man also on the things of others. Let that mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." Who, though he had such peculiar distinctions on account of his high office and character, did not earnestly covet divine honour from men, nor affect external greatness, pomp and splendour, power and authority, ease and pleasure; but emptied himself, and acted as a servant, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. For which reason he has been advanced to extensive dominion and power, and great honour and glory in which all others shall share hereafter, who now have a temper and conduct resembling his.
OF THREE OF
OUR BLESSED SAVIOUR'S MIRACLES:
THE RAISING OF JAIRUS'S DAUGHTER, THE WIDOW OF NAIN'S SON, AND LAZARUS.
THE ensuing vindication was drawn up about nine months since. But it was done for my own satisfaction, without any view to a publication at that time. And when the Reverend Dr. Harris's remarks on the case of Lazarus came out, I thought the public and Mr. W. had received in a short compass a full answer to all the material objections of the discourse, with which these papers are concerned.
IN ANSWER TO THE OBJECTIONS OF MR. WOOLSTON'S FIFTH DISCOURSE ON
Nor did I determine to send them to the press, till after I had seen a passage in Mr. W's defence of his Discourses, p. 61, where he says:Whoever was the author of the aforesaid treatise, [The Trial of the Witnesses of the Resurrection of Jesus] he humbly and heartily begs of him to publish what in the conclusion of it he has given us some hopes of, the trial of the witnesses of the resurrection of Lazarus, because his Rabbi's objections to it are a novelty and curiosity, which, by way of such a reply to them, he should be glad to see handled.' I also wish the ingenious author of that performance may be at leisure to grant Mr. W's request. In the mean time, Mr. W. still expressing a particular regard for his Rabbi's objections, I thought it not amiss to send abroad this Vindication, which I had by me.'
If Mr. W. by way of such a reply, means a reply drawn up with the wit and spirit of that author, I freely own it much above my capacity, and am not so vain as to attempt it. If by way of such a reply he means a reply without abusive railing terms, or invoking the aid of the civil magistrate, I have done it in that way. I wish Mr. Woolston no harm; I only wish him a sincere conviction and profession of the truth effected and brought about by solid reasons and arguments, without pains or penalties. And in this point I agree exactly with that learned Dominican, De Maussac, who in his Prolegomena to Raymond Martini's Pugio Fidea, written against Moors and Jews, says: We must with Tertullian openly profess, that the new law does ⚫ not defend itself by the sword of the magistrate: forasmuch as it hath pleased Christ the author of it, that no man should be forced to the embracing of his law by the punishments of this life, or the fear of them, as appears from many places of the New Testament, not only of Paul, but also of John, and Luke, and Matthew. Nor is it, as the same father says at the end of his book to Scapula, a part of religion to force religion, which must be taken up freely, not upon compulsion. Who will lay upon me the necessity of believing what I will not, or of not believing what I will (as Lactantius says)? Nothing is so voluntary as religion. In which, if
the mind be averse, religion is quite destroyed. Faith is to be wrought by persuasion, not by compulsion. Severity has always done harm, and always will do harm: and our minds, like noble and generous steeds, are best managed with an easy rein; rather by reason than authority, rather by good words than by threats.'"
When, at the erecting the Royal Society, into which were freely admitted men of different religions and countries, some it is likely, were apprehensive of this free converse of various judgments, Dr. Sprat frankly asserts, That our doctrine and discipline [those of the Church of England] will be so far from receiving damage by it, that it were the best way to make them universally embraced, if they were oftener brought to be canvassed amidst all sorts of dissenters: -That there is no one profession amidst the several denominations of Christians, that can be exposed to the search and scrutiny of its adversaries, with so much safety as ours.'
Dr. Bentley, in a sermon at a public commencement at Cambridge, says, It has pleased the Divine Wisdom, never yet to leave Christianity wholly at leisure from opposers; but to give its professors that perpetual exercise of their industry and zeal. And who can tell, if ⚫ without such adversaries to rouse and quicken them, they might not in long tract of time have grown remiss in the duties, and ignorant in the doctrines of religion?'
These learned men have assured us upon the foundation of the scriptures, of the fathers, and reason, that all force on the minds of men in the matters of belief is contrary to religion in general, and to the Christian religion in particular; and that severity instead of doing good, has always done harm.
These points might be enlarged upon, but nothing new can be offered. Possibly some good men may still be in some doubt concerning the issue of admitting the principles of religion to be freely and openly canvassed. But I think that such may find satisfaction even upon this head in the passages I have quoted, provided they will be pleased to consider them. However I will add a few observations briefly upon this matter.
It is an old saying, which has been much admired and applauded for its wisdom, that truth is great, and strong above all things. There is certainly some real excellence in Truth above error. Great and important truths are clearer than others, and not likely to be mistaken, but to shine the more for examination. The Christian religion in particular, as contained in the New Testament, abounds with evidence.
These are considerations taken from the nature of things. Experience is on the same side. The Christian religion triumphed for the first three hundred years over error and superstition, without the aids of civil authority, against the veneration of ancient custom, against ridicule and calumny, false arguments, and many severe persecutions. From small beginnings by its own internal excellence, and the force of that evidence with which God had clothed it, and the industry and zeal of its honest professors, it spread itself over the Roman empire, and the neighbouring countries.
The Christian church had in the same space of time a triumph within itself over those false and absurd opinions that sprang up under the Christian name. These heresies,' Eusebius says, soon disappeared one after another, being continually changing into new forms and shapes. But the catholic and only true church, always the same and constant to itself, spread and in⚫creased continually; shining out among Greeks and barbarians by the gravity, simplicity, freedom, modesty and purity of its manners and principles.' This joint victory over Gentilism, ' and over heresies, was obtained, as he intimates, by the writings and discourses of the patrons guntur, docendo magis quam jubendo, monendo quam minando.
a Nam cum Tertulliano palam est profitendum, legem novam non se vindicare ultore gladio; quod Christo ejus auctori placuerit neminem ad receptionem suæ legis cogi hujus vitæ pœnis, vel earum metu, ut patet ex variis Novi Testamenti locis, tam Pauli, tum Joannis, tum Lucæ, tum Matthæi; quod non sit religionis, eodom teste ad Scapulam in fine, cogere religionem, quæ sponte suscipi debet, non vi. Quis mihi imponat necessitatem vel credendi quod nolim, vel quod velim non credendi? ait Lactantius. Nihil tam voluntarium quam religio; in quâ si animus aversus est, jam sublata, jam nulla est. Fides autem suadenda est, non imperanda; nocuit enim, & nocebit semper, rigor; & ingenia nostra, ut nobiles & generosi equi, melius facili fræno re
b History of the Royal Society, p. 63, second edition. Page 3, quarto edit. 1696.
d Αλλων επ' αλλαις αἱρέσεων καινοζομεμένων. ὑποῤῥεεσων αει των προτερων, και εις πολυτροπος και πολυμορφες ιδέας αλλοτε αλλως φθειρομένων. Προσῄει δ' εις αύξησιν και μεγεθος, αει κατα τα αυτα και ωσαυτως εχεσα, ή της καθόλα και μονης αλγίες εκκλησίας λαμπρότης, κ. λ. H. E. 1. 4. c. 7.
Όμως δ' εν κατα τις δηλωμενους αυθις παρήγεν εις μεσον ή αλήθεια πλείες ἑαυτης, ὑπερμάχες, 8 δι' αγραφων αυτό μόνον έλεγχων, αλλα και δι' εγγραφων αποδείξεων κατα των άθεων aigeσewv spalevojaves. Ibid.