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every good and every perfect gift?,” may bless us with “ a right judgment in all
things ;” “granting us in this world know
ledge of his truth, and in the world to come “ life everlasting.” Now, &c.
9 James i. 17.
ACTS v. 38, 39. If this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it.
THE maxim here laid down as a test of religious truth derives an extraordinary portion of interest from the circumstance of its being delivered by one of the most distinguished members of the Jewish sanhedrim, in the hope of prevailing with that powerful body to relax in their persecution of the Christian faith. Gamaliel, who proposed this argument to their consideration, stands recorded in history as a man of preeminent reputation among the Jews, for learning, and sanctity, and devotion to the Jewish Law. Under his instructions St. Paul had imbibed that zeal for the Law, so strongly manifested in his vehement opposition to the disciples of Christ. The Jewish talmudists relate, that he was president of the council, and had at
tained to the highest title of distinction ever conferred upon the doctors of their Law. It is also recorded, that, upon his death, extraordinary marks of respect and veneration were paid to his memory: and even his posterity appear to have been zealous and successful in maintaining a similar reputation. These honours sufficiently attest his stedfast adherence to the religion of his forefathers.
The words of the text, however, seem to indicate something like a surmise on the part of this celebrated teacher, that the Christian religion might possibly be true. They manifest, at least, a more candid and dispassionate inclination than that of his brethren in the council, not hastily to pronounce it to be false. And the argument by which he endeavoured to restrain their vehement proceedings has long since passed into a standard rule, or maxim, by which all similar questions may ultimately be decided. Had the Jews in general, and Gamaliel in particular, acted fully up to the spirit of this maxim, it might have wrought their conversion to Christianity. But, unhappily, the advice seems to have been regarded rather as a matter of prudential forbearance, than of sincere desire to weigh the pretensions of the Gospel by this standard ; and the growing success of the Gospel, under its manifold discouragements, even sharpened their resentment against it, and rendered it so much more odious in their estimation.
But, whatever might be the inconsistency of the Jews in this respect, the argument itself is of too much value to be relinquished by an advocate for the Christian faith ; nor can we have any hesitation, when the question is rightly understood, to put the truth of Christianity upon the proposed issue: “ If “ this work be of men, it will come to nought; “ but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow “ it.”
The maxim here proposed evidently rests upon this principle;—that the Almighty will never give to any system of error or falsehood, published in His name, the sanction of His support; nor, on the other hand, will He ever withhold such support from any system of truth, which He sees fit to promulgate : it being repugnant to the moral perfections of the Deity, that he should regard the former with a favourable eye, or suffer the latter to fail in its result.
This appears to be almost an indisputable proposition. It is subject, however, to some obvious limitations. First, it can only be properly applied to cases in which the manifest interposition of the Almighty appears to