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SERMON I.

Acts xxvi. 28.
Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me

to be a Christian.
IT is St. Peter's advice and command to all Chris-
tians, that they should be ready always to give an
answer to every man that asketh a reason of the
hope that is in them, with meekness and fear a.
Nothing could be more necessary in his age, when
Christians were surrounded by men of other reli-
gions, (Jewish or heathen,) who would certainly,
upon every occasion, be apt to inquire of them, why
they had forsaken the religion of their country and
their forefathers, in which they had been educated,
to embrace this new religion of Jesus of Nazareth,
which was then every where spoken against b. But
as this was necessary on the one hand, it was also
easy on the other. The proofs of Christianity were
open and evident; and if men would but see with
their eyes, and hear with their ears, the miracles
which were wrought, and the prophecies which were
fulfilled at that time, they could not be at a loss to
give an answer, and a very satisfactory one too, to
every humble and serious inquirer. These Chris-
tians had all been either Jews or heathens; and it
is unreasonable to think they would change their re-
spective religions, when there was every thing to

2

1 Pet. iii. 15.

b Acts xxviii. 22.

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deter them from making such a change, withou such clear proofs of Christianity, such prevailing ar guments of its truth, as they were not able in rea son, and with a good conscience, to resist. So that for them to give an answer to such as asked a reason of their faith, was only in effect to relate the motives of their own conversion. But length of time, and difference of circumstances, have made some alteration in this point. We are now, though not born Christians, yet generally made so before we are capable either of giving or understanding any reasons at all, upon the stipulation and engagements of others for us; which, when we come to age, we are bound to fulfil, not so much because they promised for us, as because the things are antecedently reasonable, and our duty. As we grow up, and begin to know any thing about religion, we find that of Christ in possession, established by our laws, and professed by our fathers; and, as we discern nothing but what is excellent and holy in this religion, nothing but what is worthy of God and beneficial to mán, many of us, it may be, carry our inquiries no further, but embrace Christianity without any particular examination into the evidences of its truth. And I am far from disparaging such a faith as this, provided only that it be accompanied with integrity of heart and life:

But when this is said on one side, it is also to be remembered on the other, that further information on a subject of this consequence may be useful at all times, and must be highly expedient in the present; when certain adversaries are risen up, who treat all revelation as needless, and all pretensions to it as imposture. In this situation it is incumbent upon

us to lay before you, with all sincerity and plainness, the proofs that our religion came from God: and in this most important debate, (the most interesting that can possibly be brought before you,) we ask no more than an attentive hearing and an honest heart, while we appeal, in behalf of Christianity, to the consciences and common sense of mankind.

The argument which had so much weight with king Agrippa, as to make him declare in the text, that St. Paul almost persuaded him to become a Christian, was principally the relation of that apostle's own miraculous conversion. Saul, who was afterwards called Paul, was a bitter enemy to the religion of Christ, and a zealous and active persecutor of all that called upon his name. Not content with making havoc of the church which was at Jerusalem, entering into the houses of Christians, and haling men and women to prison, breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord; not content, I say, with doing this at Jerusalem, he got letters from the high priest to go to Damascus, about one hundred and sixty miles, that if he found any Christians there, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem, in order there to have them punished with the utmost severity. Surely this man was in earnest; and resolved, if possible, to extirpate the very name of Christianity from the earth. In the height of his fury, armed as he was with authority and commission from the chief priests, and in this very journey to Damascus, as he drew near to the city, At midday, O king, I saw, says he, a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And

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