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we consider the occasion of mentioning them: namely, the subtle methods of designing persons to draw off the Corinthians, whom he had taken a great deal of pains with, from the simplicity of the gospel; their attempt to lessen him unreasonably, on account of some disadvantages in his person, and his manner of speaking; and possibly, because he had not personally conversed with Christ, as Peter and the other apostles. For this reason he relates this extraordinary favour he had had from God, which he might certainly do if a truth, if he apprehended it might be of use to retain the Corinthians in the profession of the purity of the gospel, though he does not make it the sole ground of their belief of it, for he refers them in the twelfth verse of this chapter, as well as in other places, to the miracles he had wrought." Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you, in all patience, in signs and wonders, and mighty deeds." Our apology for this passage, and the apostle, would not be complete if we omitted the manner in which he relates it. He appears to be in pain, and can hardly persuade himself to mention it, as directly relating to himself. "I knew a man in Christ, above fourteen years ago." It was not mentioned till a long while after it had happened. He tells us the danger he was in honestly of some pride and vanity: and we have reason to credit what he has here declared, in that he uses so much caution not to say any thing positively, but what he was certain of; being in doubt whether this was with his spirit, or his whole man: "whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth." Words twice used on this account.
And in behalf of these passages we may offer this general observation; that when men came with a set of religious principles, that were beyond all others for their real excellency, their reasonableness, their purity, their tendency to regulate and improve the minds and lives of men, and produced before men's eyes openly works of an extraordinary nature; if they should, upon some particular occasion, relate an account of a vision, or some uncommon appearance, and what was said unto them therein, they would deserve credit if they were persons of an unblameable behaviour, if the principles they taught were pure and holy, and their reasoning upon all occasions just and good, and they wrought miracles in attestation of their mission; this may secure their credit, and vindicate them from the charge of enthusiasm in such particulars, as we have now been considering, and that they are not under the power of an ungoverned imagination. But all this will be no vindication, or recommendation of others, who pretend to visions and appearances in behalf of trifles, and who give no sensible proofs of a correspondence between heaven and earth, and who, in their ordinary behaviour, show much greater strength of fancy and imagination, than of reason and judgment.
These two last particulars may be joined together. We suppose those matters of fact to be well attested, which we receive from persons of honest hearts and sound understandings.
11. That the apostles wrought miracles, and conferred extraordinary gifts upon many others, is apparent from their epistles, written and directed to those who had seen these works, and shared in these benefits. These epistles of Paul, and the other epistles in the New Testament, have all the tokens of genuine letters: all except one or two have the names of the persons that wrote them. Here is the name of the person or church, and place to which they were sent; salutations of particular persons sent to others by name. Here are references to the particular occasion of writing them. The second epistle to the Corinthians has respect to the success and acceptance of a former letter sent to them: in some, questions are answered, that are supposed to have been sent to the writer for solution: so that there can be no doubt of their having been really sent to the churches and persons they are directed to. I insist only on the marks and characters in these epistles themselves, that may assure us they are genuine; for I am upon internal testimonies only. Now, in these epistles, the writers take notice of the miracles that they or others had wrought among them, to whom these very letters were sent. "Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs and wonders, and mighty deeds,' 2 Cor. xii. 12. "He therefore that ministereth to you the spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" Gal. iii. 5. "For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost," 1 Thess. i. 5. "God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will," Heb. ii. 4. The writer does not labour in the proof of these things, he supposes them well known; he suspects no doubt but they were convinced these works had been done among them: the thing he is solicitous about is, that they would act suitably; and in consequence of such proofs, that they would be stedfast in the pro
fession of principles recommended by such testimonials: that they would not be moved by the artifices of persons who could not produce such works. And if we consider this, that there were some divisions in the churches; that there were some persons who were undermining the interest of the apostles among them, and endeavouring to overturn the work the apostles had begun; we can never imagine they would have expressed themselves thus, but that they knew the persons they wrote to had a conviction of the truth of what was written. Epistles are not treatises or histories, sent abroad to acquaint men of what they had not heard before: nor do these epistles. tell them of wonders wrought in other churches; but they contain references to works wroughtamong them to whom they were sent.
Yet here is somewhat more in these epistles. Here are reproofs of the mismanagement of gifts they were themselves possessed of: directions given about the better use and employment of them. Can this argument of their truth be any way evaded? "I thank my God always on your behalf, that in every thing you are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge, 1 Cor. i. 4, 5. "Therefore, as you abound in every thing, in faith, in utterance, in knowledge, 2 Cor. viii. 7. "This only would I know, received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" Gal. iii. 2. In the xii. xiii. xiv. chapters of the first epistle to the Corinthians, are reckoned up divers sorts of gifts eminent among them; not all indeed bestowed: upon one person; but some upon one, some upon another; though it should seem the apostles, and perhaps some others, had all, or most of them. He argues, that as these were all derived from one and the same spirit, into one body, they were not to foment any divisions on the account of these things; and he that had a more splendid gift, was not to despise another who had not one so conspicuous and remarkable; even as in the body, there are members more. honourable, others less honourable; but all useful and necessary; they are exhorted seriouslynot to value themselves too much upon these gifts; but though it was a privilege to enjoy them, and they were valuable and desirable, yet they should rather aim to excel in love and charity, and other internal dispositions: " But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal: to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another, the word of knowledge, by the same Spirit; to another, the gifts of healing;; to another, the working of miracles; to another, prophecy; to another, the discerning of spirits; to another, divers kinds of tongues; to another, the interpretation of tongues," 1 Cor. xii. 7-11. "God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues: are all apostles? are all prophets? are all workers of miracles? have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? -Covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I unto you a more excellent way," ver. 28-31. "Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away," ch. xiii. 8. " I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth, than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret that the church may receive edifying," ch. xiv. 5. "Let all things be done to edifying," ver. 26.. “If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at most by three, and that by course, and let one interpret," ver. 27. Almost the whole xiv. chapter relates to this one point. If there were no such gifts among them, would they have been cautioned not to overvalue them? If one had not one gift which another wanted, could there have been advices not to despise another who had not so remarkable and splendid a gift? If there had not been some disorderly use of prophecy, and the gift of tongues, would there have been so many directions earnestly urged upon them concerning the right and prudent use of them? Could they tell themselves whether they had received such gifts or not; and did not they know, whether others among them showed such gifts or not, or practised such powers? If these things had not been thus, would this method of argument have recommended the persons or the doctrine of the apostles to them, who were declining from both; would it not have exposed both to contempt and ridicule? There were then certainly supernatural and uncommon gifts bestowed on the apostles, and the first converts to Christianity, which were testimonies of a divine commission from heaven.
12. I shall mention but one particular more. It appears from the books of the New Testament, that we have the concurring testimony of divers persons. For the history of our Saviour's preaching and miracles, has the names of four different writers; and the authors of the
epistles make references to many of the facts set forth. The difference of style, manner of expression, method and way of arguing upon some facts, sufficiently assure us they did not all come from one hand; nay, the omissions of some things in one gospel, mentioned by another; the different order in which matters are related; the seeming contrarieties in some lesser matters may satisfy us that the three former evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, are three independent witnesses; as for St. John, indeed there are reasons to suppose he was acquainted with, and had seen the other gospels, before he wrote his. The smaller differences in some circumstances of little or no moment, are so far from rendering the whole less credible, that they really add strength to it, by preventing all suspicion of concert. The agreement is, upon the whole, so great, that it is hardly possible for four persons to write a history of so many considerable things; to deliver an account of so many discourses, parables delivered on various occasions, so many miracles, so many precepts, rules, reflections, as the history of our Saviour contains, with a greater harmony and agreement than is here done, unless they had met together, or corresponded together for the performance of the work; and as it appears from the difference before mentioned, there was no concert, so far from being a diminution, they are a confirmation of their truth and credibility. The design and tendency of the apostles preaching, is conformable to the doctrine delivered by our Saviour in his lifetime, in the main: he did not indeed address himself to Gentiles, in his ordinary preaching, it is true. When he sent forth the twelve in his lifetime, he commanded them, saying, "Go not into the way of the Gentiles and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, Matt. x. 5, 6; whereas the apostles did after his ascension preach to Gentiles as well as Jews, and asserted that they might be saved as well as the Jews. But the directions he gave them at first, it is plain, were not intended to be always binding. He gave sufficient hints in his discourses of this event in his lifetime, in some discourses, made in the hearing of the Pharisees and Scribes, and others, as far as he thought proper at that time, and as they were able to bear it: he spoke very plainly to the woman of Samaria, when he told her, "the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father," John iv. 21; and that the true worshippers of God, who serve him in spirit and truth, in whatever place they called upon him, would be accepted of him; and before he ascended he gave them orders to teach all nations: "Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," Matt. xxviii. 19.
These are all the particulars I shall produce on the internal credibility of this gospel history, the marks and characters of truth observable in the books of the New Testament. The points I have mentioned are, 1. These books bear the names of particular persons, except only the epistle to the Hebrews. 2. They are written in a language and style suited to the character of the persons whose names they bear. 3. Here are characters and notes of times, as, that such a thing happened when Herod was king of Judea, or when Pilate was governor. 4. The design of this history, and of the first peaching of the gospel, has nothing in it that should tempt men to forgery and invention. 5. We find here a just and natural representation of matters, with all the appearances of likelihood and probability. 6. The impartiality of this history is another mark of its truth: many things are mentioned to appearance, and in the eye of the world disadvantageous to Christ: many things to appearance, and others in reality, disadvantageous to the first disciples, and first publishers of the gospel: and many disorders and miscarriages of the first converts to Christianity. 7. The remarkable plainness and simplicity of the narration. 8. Here are many facts and circumstances related in a manner that they might easily be confuted if not true. 9. Here are evident marks of the honesty and integrity of the persons engaged in the first publishing of the gospel, who were the witnesses of the main facts here related, and on which the truth of the gospel depends. 10. Likewise that they were not persons of enthusiastic principles. 11. That miracles were wrought, and extraordinary gifts conferred upon many persons, appears from directions given in letters to persons supposed to have themselves seen these works, and shared in these benefits. 12. It appears from the books themselves, that here is a harmony and agreement in these facts between divers independent witnesses, who did not write in concert and correspondence together.
These particulars are sufficient for the making out this argument, and to satisfy us that these writers have all the characters of truth and probability, which any history can have. Perhaps no
history besides has them all in so eminent agreement: scarce any facts whatsoever are so well supported: and if they are true, we have the highest reason to rest assured our religion is true, and came from God.
This was what I was to prove; and if, in prosecution of this argument, in which I have made numerous references to passages of the sacred scriptures, I have illustrated any passage of scripture, or if any thing that has been here said, may serve to raise your attention to the writings of the New Testament, or to direct you in the making farther remarks in the course of your private reading; then another valuable end has likewise been answered.
And shall we leave this religion; Christ, who has the words of eternal life? Shall we exchange the certain proofs of a future life, for the uncertain obscure arguments of immortality in Plato and Cicero?
THE MODERATION OF CHRISTIANS TO BE KNOWN TO ALL MEN.
Let your moderation be known unto all men.-Philip. iv. 5.
THIS direction being near the end of St. Paul's epistles, where are divers exhortations put down without any very nice and exact connection with each other; the coherence may not afford much light for settling the precise meaning.
I therefore immediately proceed to consider the meaning of the word moderation. And in the next place (which will be the principal subject of our discourse) I would show what is implied in this exhortation, as addressed to Christians, that their "moderation should be known unto all men."
I. In the first place we will consider what is the meaning of the word "moderation." And though the coherence alone may not be sufficient to determine the precise meaning, yet it is not fit that we should quite overlook it. "I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. And I entreat thee also, true yoke-fellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow-labourers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord alway; and again, I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men; the Lord is at hand: be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known
In our language, the word "moderation" may denote moderate affections for worldly things, and contentedness of mind with a small portion of the good things of this life, and satisfaction in a low or middling station, or whatever the condition be which we are in, without aspiring after great things.
But that is not the direct intention of the apostle here. And there are some other places where the original word is used, which will lead us to the proper meaning of it. Tertullus pleading in behalf of the Jews against Paul, entreats the attention of the governor in this manner, as in our translation: "I pray thee, that thou wouldst hear us of thy clemency, a few words,' Acts xxiv. 4. Where the original word for "clemency" is the same, which here in the text is rendered "moderation:" and therefore we are led hereby to understand mildness, equity. Again: "Now I Paul beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ," 2 Cor. x. 1.
That therefore is the sense in which we are to take the word in this place. It is equivalent to mildness, equity, gentleness: and, it is easy to be perceived, this virtue has some respect to offences and injuries, or to such persons and things as are some way offensive and provoking.
II. In the second place we should consider what is implied in this direction, or exhortation, as given to Christians-" Let your moderation be known unto all men."
They will, I apprehend, fulfil and obey this precept, if their moderation, that is, their mildness, be conspicuous, eminent and remarkable.
And it may be supposed that the moderation, or the mildness, the equity, the gentleness of any men will be conspicuous and well known in the world, if it appear in their conduct toward many persons, upon a variety of occasions, in different circumstances, and if it be general among them: not in some few only, but in many, in all, or most of them.
1. The mildness of any body of men, or of Christians, will be conspicuous and well known, if it appear in their conduct toward many persons.
Divers particulars do here offer themselves to our observation: for we may soon perceive several branches of this virtue particularly recommended by Paul in his epistles.
And doubtless, one instance of mildness, meekness and patience, is carrying it well toward those that differ from us, and treat us as enemies, or in an unkind and unfriendly manner. As a learned interpreter says, the apostle here considers the Philippians as in a state of persecution: to which state gentleness or meekness is peculiarly suited: and therefore the meaning of this exhortation is, However you suffer, let your moderation and gentleness be conspicuous to all * men, and particularly to those at whose hands you suffer.' Or, as another writer paraphraseth the text, with its subsequent motive to obedience: Be not rigorous in insisting upon your ' utmost right, nor impatient in suffering wrong; but let your temper and composure of mind ⚫ be manifest to all sorts of people, and upon all occasions. For consider that the Judge is not far off, who will certainly make you amends for all your condescensions, and reward all your patience.
It is very likely that this is one thing here particularly intended by St. Paul, and indeed, it is what must tend to render men's mildness well known and conspicuous in the world: if they behave and carry it well under sufferings, or toward those who are injurious to them, and are the instruments of their sufferings: when they forbear opprobrious and abusive language, and keep their temper, and behave decently toward all men suitably to their several characters; whether magistrates, and others of superior rank, or toward those of mean condition: when they can express good-will toward those who persecute them for innocent opinions, which they think they have good reason to believe and profess.
If men, instead of allowing themselves the liberty of reproachful language, and loud and clamourous complaints upon such occasions, do with evident tokens of sincerity express their good-will toward those who evil entreat them, praying that they may be convinced of their mistake, and that the favours of Providence may be poured down upon them; this is a very laudable and amiable behaviour.
Farther, men's moderation will be eminent and conspicuous, if under such sufferings they show mildness and equity toward their enemies and persecutors of all sorts. We can take hard usuage better of some than of others. The same treatment is more offensive and provoking in one man than in another. It might be more grievous and afflictive to the Christians in the time of the apostles, to suffer persecution from the Jews than from the Gentiles. With the former they agreed in many points. They worshipped the same God. They received their ancient scriptures; and believed in him whom their prophets foretold: whilst the Gentiles knew not God: and the gods they worshipped were esteemed by the Christians as well as the Jews to be no gods, but idols and vanities; and one great design of their religion was, to detect the falsehood and absurdity of all idolatrous worship, and overthrow it.
It may be also more grievous and offensive to be persecuted by former friends, and the members of our own family. And to be mild and patient under injuries from them, will show great moderation.
Another branch of moderation toward such as differ from us is, mildness and gentleness in all debates and arguments for the truth of our religion: which we find recommended in the writings of Christ's apostles. Says St. Peter: "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear," 1 Ep. iii. 15. That direction seems to be addressed to Christians in general. St. Paul, speaking more especially of those who are in the ministerial office, says: "And the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves, if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth," 2 Tim. ii. 24, 25.