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S E R M. Or they demonstrate some FacJs to be no !. Proofs os' the Truth of the Gospel, which never were intended for Proofs; and then infer, that there is no Proof of it at all: Or they dress up particular Facts or Doctrines, in ridiculous Circumstances; and then represent the Things themselves, as Objects pf Ridicule: Or they lay great Stress upon some very obscure, or more difficult Prophecy: and thence infer, that no Stress is to be laid upon Any: Or because, in the nature of the Thing, almost Any single Prophecy may possibly be imagined applicable, in some sense or other, to Some Other person; therefore all of them together, centring uniformly in Christ and in Him alone, yet are not rightly in Facl applied to Him.
The words of my Text are a particular and very remarkable Instance of Some of the Cases in the foregoing Observation. It has been supposed by Many, that this singular and miraculous Fact, of the manner of our Lord's Birth, recorded thus in the Beginning and first Entrance of the Gospel-History, both by St Matthew and St. Luke; and urged more
over by St Matthew as an unquestionable S E R M. Verification of an Antient and (at first . . . Sight) as remarkable a Prophecy, as any is to be found in the whole Old Testament : It has been supposed (I say) by Many, that This Miraculous Fač7, thus circumstantiated, and thus ushering-in the whole following History of the Gospel, must needs have been intended by the Evangelist, as a primary and fundamenal Part of the Proof of our Lord's divine Commission. Which since in reality it could not possibly be ; as being a Fact which, in the nature of things, could not itself be proved, till the Truth of Christ's Misfion and the Veracity of his Followers had first been clearly established: Hence they have endeavoured to destroy the Authority of the Sacred Writer, as insisting (at the very Beginning of his History) upon a Proof which could not possibly be of any Use towards the Convićtion of Unbelievers; and as confirming it by a Prophecy, which they think cannot be shown to be rightly applied, since the Words' may be capable of another Interpretation,
B 3 For
Serm. FoR the removing therefore of This
*, Prejudice, and to clear more fully the
^^^ Meaning and Intent of my Text, I shall
endeavour distinctly to make out the three
1. That this History of our Lord's miraculous Birth, evidently in fact was not, and in the nature of Things could not foffibly be, intended by the Evangelist in this place, as any Proof, for the Conviction of Unbelievers, either of the Dignity of Christ's Person, or of the Truth of his Doctrine, or of the Reality of his Divine Commission.
2. That yet nevertheless, in the Nature of the Thing, when a Person of such Dignity as our Lord professed himself to be, and with such a Divine Commission, was to come into the World; this one particular Distinction, the miraculous manner of his Birth, was in itself a very reasonable, proper, and not incredible Circumstance.
3 . That consequently the Sacred Writer of the Life of our Saviour, had jus reason, when assured of the Truth of the Fact from things which followed, to insert sert this miraculous Circumstance into the Sum. Beginning of his Hijlory, and, in That *' Manner and to That Purpose for which he relates it, had a just Right, and good and sufficient Grounds, to apply the Prophecy here cited, as a Prediction of it.
1. I fay, This History of our Lord's miraculous Birth, evidently in fact was not, and in the Nature of Things could not pojjibly be, intended by the Evangelist in this place, as any Proof, for the conviction of Unbelievers, either of the Dignity of Christ's Person, or of the Truth of his Doctrine, or of the Reality of his Divine Commission. That it could not pojjibly be alledged in way of Proof'of any of these things to Unbelievers, is tnost evident for This Plain Reason; because in the Nature of Things the Fact was itself incapable of being proved, till the Truth of Christ's Mission and the Veracity of his Followers had first been established. And that in sac? it was never by the Evangelist intended as such, appears no less evidently from hence; that though both by St Matthew and St Luke it be laid down as the Beginning and Foundation of .
B 4 their
Serb, their Account of the Life of Christ, yet . . in the Account they give us of his Preach
^^ ingy it is never once mentioned by Either of These very Evangelists, or by Either of the Two Other Evangelists, as ever alledged by Ckrijl in proof of his being the true Meffiah. Nor in the Book of the AcJs, is jt ever mentioned as urged by the: Apostles, in Their Preaching at any time either to Jews or Gentiles. Nor in any of the Epijiles of Paul, or of any other of the Apostles, is it ever referred to under That View. It would have been absurd to alledge, in preaching to Unbelievers, a Fact which itself presupposed the Truth of Christ's Mission; and which could not have been proved, without first taking for granted the Truth of That very Doctrine, in Proof of which This Fact was to have been alledged. But the Beginning of the History of the Life of Christ, is a very different thing from the History of his beginning to Preach the Gospel. What happened First in Time, could not but of necessity be Last in Proof: The Credibility of the Invijible Miracle of his Birth, depending entirely