« AnteriorContinuar »
eyes, and look on the fields, which are white already to the harvest. Let us hear the voice of millions of our countrymen, who are calling upon us, with the utmost importunity, to raise up, and qualify, and send faithful laborers among them. Though we are, at present, weak in numbers and in wealth, and must move very slowly in our benevolent exertions, yet we may lay a firm and permanent foundation for the most beneficial and extensive effects, for years and ages to come. Our fathers spared no pains nor expense, to provide for us a learned and faithful ministry; and shall not this consideration inspire us with a pious and noble ambition to follow their example, and to do all in our power for the instruction and salvation of those who are coming after us? The God of our fathers, in answer to their prayers, has increased our numbers, our wealth, and our civil, religious and literary advantages as a nation, above all human calculations; by which he has laid us under the most endearing obligations of gratitude, to him and to them, to promote his cause, which lay the nearest to their hearts. We have come upon the stage in the most eventsul period in the history of man. The widest field for usefulness is open before us, which invites, solicits and demands our most vigorous and benevolent exertions, in the most glorious and important cause that ever engaged the attention of this, or any other nation.
While error, superstition, idolatry and infidelity have laid waste the churches of Christ in the old world, we are imperiously called upon to cherish and maintain the sinking cause of Zion, among a people who have been saved of the Lord for the very purpose, we hope, of preparing the way for the universal spread of holiness and happiness among the many millions of our guilty race, who are perishing for the lack of vision. Is it not a privilege to employ our time, our labor, our property, and our prayerful influence, in coöperating with our fellow christians, in spreading the Redeemer's kingdom, and bringing home many sons unto glory? To beg, I am ashamed; but I am bold in obedience to the apostle, to “charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us all things richly to enjoy; that they do good; that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate ; laying up in store for. themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”
AND Paul as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath daye reasoned
with them out of the scriptures. - Acts, xvii, 2.
Paul was a chosen vessel to carry the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles in various and distant parts of the world. For this great and arduous work he was eminently qualified. He was a man of genius, learning, eloquence and piety. Longinus, a learned heathen, ranks Paul of Tarsus among the most eminent of the Grecian and Roman orators; and Christian writers have not been sparing in their encomiums upon his piety and eloquence. But, from some motives or other, they have seldom celebrated his reasoning powers and the use he made of them in preaching the gospel. The inspired writer of his life, however, more frequently mentions his reasoning, than his declaiming, on the doctrines he taught. Speaking of Paul and Silas passing through Amphipolis, and Apollonia, and coming to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews, he says, " And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures; opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.” The truth, which here lies upon the face of the text, and which is proposed as the subject of the ensuing discourse is this:
That Paul usually proved the truth of the doctrines which he taught.
I shall first show that he did this; and then why he did it.
the doctrines which he taught. He did not desire his hearers to believe any thing which he asserted, without evidence. It seems, by what is said in the eleventh verse of the context, that he commended the noble Bereans, for searching the scriptures, to see whether the doctrines which they heard him preach, were agreeable to that infallible standard. He usually preached on the great and essential doctrines of the gospel, which he knew ought to be proved by plain and conclusive reasoning. To reason fairly, is to draw fair consequences from true premises ; or to adduce clear and conclusive arguments in support of truth. In order to reason clearly and intelligibly upon the truth of a proposition, it is often necessary, in the first place to explain it; in the next place to produce arguments in support of it; and lastly to answer objections against it. By Paul's proving the doctrines which he taught, we are to understand his reasoning upon them in this manner. And if we now examine his general mode of preaching, we shall find that he usually proved the particular doctrine which he preached, by explaining it, if it needed explanation ; by bringing arguments to support it, if it needed to be supported; and by answering objections, if he supposed any would occur to the mind of the hearer. This will appear in respect to a variety of subjects upon which he preached.
When he preached upon the existence of God, he reasoned plainly and forcibly upon the subject. Hear his arguments in support of this first and fundamental doctrine of all religion. Speaking of the Pagans, who deny the existence of the only living and true God, and neglect to worship him, he says, " The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse." But he argued more largely upon this doctrine, in his discourse to the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers at Athens. " Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars-hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious; for as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, To the unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God, that made the world, and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and hath made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him,
though he be not far from every one of us. For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said. For we are his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.” This clear, concise, and conclusive reasoning was perfectly adapted to prove the being and perfections of God, and ihe indispensable duty of the Pagans to know, to love, and to serve him.
Paul reasoned as plainly and forcibly upon the doctrine of divine sovereignty, in electing and saving some and not others. " What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will ? Nay but, O man, who art thou, that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say unto him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus ? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?” Here Paul stated, or explained his subject, proved his subject, and answered the most plausible objection that could be made against it.
Paul taught the doctrine of total depravity, and proved it by plain and conclusive reasoning. He first proved this doctrine from a long and particular account of the character and conduct of all the heathen world; and then from the authority of the Old Testament, in which the total depravity of the Jews is plainly asserted. He says, “ What then? Are we better than they? No, in no wise; for we have before proved, both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; as it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one,” &c.
When Paul preached to the Jews and Greeks at Thessalonica, he undertook to prove that Christ had come into the world, suffered, and died, and risen from the dead. This is related in our text and context. “ And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures; opening and alleging," that is, explaining and proving, “that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.” Paul, in his preaching, not only asserted that Christ was the long expected and promised Messiah, that he had suffered and died, and that he had risen from the dead; but he proved these points, and so demonstrated that Christ was the only and all-sufficient Redeemer.
In treating on the resurrection and future state of the righteous, Paul reasoned with great perspicuity and energy. Some of the Corinthians denied this doctrine, which made it necessary to prove it; which he did, in this long and forcible train of reasoning. “ Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you, that ihere is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen. And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God, that he raised up Christ; whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised. And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins." He goes on in this strain till he starts and answers an objection. “ But some men will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die. And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain; it may chance of wheat, or some other grain. But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.” Finally he says, “ This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.” Thus philosophically and scripturally the apostle reasoned upon the resurrection of the body, and the immortality of the soul.
When Paul preached before Felix," he reasoned” so plainly and forcibly “of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come,” that " Felix trembled.” Immediately after he was converted and baptized, he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God; and reasoned so clearly and conclusively on the subject, that he confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ. After he came from Athens to Corinth, and found a certain Jew named Aquila, he abode with him there. And we are told, that he there “reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks." He continued preaching in this manner to the Corinthians a year and six months; but at length he came to Ephesus, where he entered into the synagogue, and reasoned