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persons would be able to understand ten words the preacher might utter, much less pay the least attention to them ? And yet, only thirty years after the resurrection of Christ, we find a heathen historian of acknowledged veracity asserting that prodigious multitudes of Christians were tortured and massacred by Nero in his capital, which was at the distance of two thousand miles from Jerusalem! And what, let us further ask, did these Christians suffer and die to prove? The truth of that which they knew nothing or but little of? Of that religion which they were conscious was false ? What! when life was offered, if they would abjure their new worship, would they not accept it? No; then it follows they did not die for what they knew to be a falsehood and an imposture, but for what they believed and knew to be the truth ; and if they believed this truth to be what the apostles and disciples maintained and preached, then also had they reason through eye and ear for their faith.
People, it is true, may for a time give into an imposture, but they do not die for an untruth, knowing it to be so, when life and even honours are offered for a recantation. Men will, possibly, support an untruth, when it is to benefit themselves, but never do they submit to death for their belief, knowing that belief to be false. What then so strengthened this belief? The having been eye-witnesses and hearers of those works of the Saviour, which were such wonderful signs of his divine power, that no doubt whatever could exist; works which were done in towns, villages, cities, and even the principal city
of a great kingdom, before so many persons, that they certainly could not be disputed.
But might not these works be deceptions ? It is possible that some wonders mentioned by the evangelists might have been considered unfounded : such as that two men known to be dead, as Moses and Elijah, should come down and talk to any one ; that the one spoken to should be transfigured to glory and lustre; that the voice should have descended from heaven at the baptism of the Saviour; nay, I will go further, and say, that we might choose to think Christ might not have had any part in the cure of the centurion's servant who was at a distance from him ; neither in that miracle of the substituting of wine for water. These facts, and one or two more, might be considered unfounded, if they stood alone recorded ; but, when we reflect that men from all parts of a kingdom, and in great numbers, crowded round, many on purpose to cavil, and to convict him who had been generally talked of as a worker of wonders ; when they saw persons whom they knew to have been born blind, restored at once to sight; ten men, at one instant, cured of leprosy; several raised from death to life; some with withered limbs made quite perfect ; others with palsy, and unable to move, restored to health and vigour; above five thousand one day fed with a pittance hardly enough for a dozen, and above four thousand, another day, fed in like manner, with a quantity nearly as small, from which the broken victuals that were gathered when the meal was over were in much greater quantity than the original provision; when we consider all these miracles, with the
many others recorded, equally wonderful and equally positive, we can no more withhold our conviction to the whole of the miracles, than we can deny the truth of any piece of history whatever.
But the strongest testimony to the reality of Christ's miracles is this, that no one of his enemies, Jew, or Pagan, denied them by proving that they were never performed; on the contrary, all his enemies admitted the facts of the miracles, but attributed them to some evil agency. The Pagan ascribed them to magic ; the Jew to a partnership and co-operation with Satan.
To see the force of this remark, let us suppose a man in our days travelling from town to town, and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness, and working miracles of every kind, not on one person here and there, but on multitudes and vast numbers in every province and county. The blind, lame, deaf, paralytic, are not put on a course of medicine, and then left to recover slowly, but are restored to perfect health by a word. We can travel to the spot or send a trusty person, and pronounce at once, whether the act be done or not done. If it be an imposture, and that sick of any kind, much less men born blind, deaf, or lame are presented for cure, and are not healed, should we not hurry back, and without delay publish the cheat ? And would not others go upon the same errand, and at length make it universally known, that no such miracles were wrought in this, and that, and other places, as had been reported by the followers of the man? And, above all, when the circumstances happened among a people, whose priests and rulers had it deeply at heart to affix the charge of imposture
to these wonders, would they not most willingly have rewarded any witnesses who might have come to prove that no miracle was ever known to be done as described, in one or other place?
Were such depositions ever made ? Why, then, were they not produced ? Perhaps the rulers were afraid? They were not afraid to crucify the very man whose miracles they did not, because they could not deny, but ascribed them to wicked interposition. The Jews, were they possessed of proofs, had gloried in shewing them to the world! but they had none, consequently they gave a tacit acknowledgment to the world that the miracles did take place. And if so, then is the christian religion true : for the works were to support the doctrines ; and the doctrines are true, because God alone could perform the miracles in support of them.*
• Upon the whole, then, we may perceive, that the several things wbich the prophets had foretold of the promised Messiah, were fulfilled in the person and actions of our blessed Saviour ; but then there is something farther to be considered in this matter, and that is, the visible interposition of an overruling providence, in tbe completion of these predictions. For that our Lord should be born of a virgin, contrary to the known laws of nature, at the city of Bethlehem, when he was conceived at Nazareth and under the declension of the Jewish polity, as it was predicted ; that upon the cruelty of Herod he should be carried into Egypt, upon the succession of Archelaus return into Judea, and settle his abode in the obscure country of Galilee, whence no good thing, much less so eminent a prophet could have ever been expected to come; that the judge who pronounced bim innocent should deliver bim to death, and to the death of the cross, who (had he been guilty) must by the law of the land have been stoned; that he who had so many enemies should be betrayed by one of his disciples ; and
FAITH IN PRACTICE.
“ BY WORKS A MAN IS JUSTIFIED AND NOT BY FAITH ONLY.”
“A MAN MAY SAY, THOU HAST FAITII AND I HAVE WORKS : SHEW ME THY FAITH WITHOUT THY WORKS, AND I WILL SHEW THEE MY FAITH BY MY WORKS.” “ AND NOW ABIDETH PAITH, Hope, CHARITY, THESE THREE ; BUT THE GREATEST OF THESE IS CHARITY.”
Thus have I attempted to run through the groundwork of our religion, of which a belief firm and true, in all its bearings, doctrines, precepts, and revelations, is faith. In the Faith of a christian are bound
by a disciple who carried the bag, and consequently all his master's riches, for a vile sum of money; and that this money, the price of blood, should be employed in a work of charity, to buy a field to bury strangers in; that he who spent all his time in doing good should be doomed to suffer among thieres and malefactors, and the multitude who were wont to pity dying criminals, should insult and deride him in his greatest misery; that in the division of his clothes, they should cast lots for his coat, and, contrary to the usage of the country, in the midst of his agonies give him vinegar to drink; that, contrary to the practice of the Romans, be that was crucified should be permitted to be buried, and althougb he died among malefactors, have persons of the first rank and character joining together in his honourable interment. these, and several other particulars that might be produced, are so very strange and surprising, that they must needs strike every pious and devout soul with a profound sense of the unspeakable wisdom, as well as goodness of God, in accomplishing in Jesus what he had promised and foretold of the Messiah, by ways and