Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

Saviour are not physically impossible, the competency of the witnesses, their moral character, the object which they might have in view, and the circumstances in which they declared their convic. tion of the reality of what they saw, and the truth of what they heard, must be all taken into account, in judging of the credit to which they were entitled.

These witnesses were incapable perhaps of accurate logical discussion; but men of plain common sense, some of them undoubtedly shrewder than othe ers, but all of them sufficiently, qualified to judge of the reality of any fact, that came under their observation. They were not accused of deceit, and their moral character was never impeached by their most virulent enemies. They published their tes timony to the miracles of Jesus, and invariably adhered to it, in the face of the most unexampled, cruel, and persevering opposi tion. They opposed all their own national and educational prejudices, by supporting a religion, which was to be established on the ruins of Judaism. Their testimony was never contradicted, even by their persecutors: thousands and tens of thousands, on its evidence, embraced the faith, which it confirmed: and multitudes sealed their adherence to it with their blood. Nor let it be forgotten, that the primitive Christians, and the apostles in particular, suffered martyrdom, not for matters of opinion, but for their attestation of facts: a circumstance unparalleled in the history of the world,

nical and persecuting power, until within a few years past, when it has grown more tolerant.

There can then be little doubt, but that Germany must undergo a great change in her government, before the general spread of pure Christianity. It is probable from many circumstances, that France will be an instrument of effecting this change. Perhaps a leading blow has been struck already.

(To be continued.)

SHORT REMARKS ON OUR SA-
VIOUR'S MIRACLES.

THAT Such events as are recorded in the gospel, as the restoration of sight to the blind, of speech to the dumb, of life to the dead, &c. are physically possible, we cannot deny, without setting bounds to the Omnipotence of God. That they are probable, we cannot, however, affirm, unless we consider the purposes which they are intended to serve. If it is possible for God to give a revelation of his will to men: if it is probable from their condition, that he will do so; and if we are informed that he has actually done so ; there is a considerable presumption that some marks of supernatural interposition will accompany the giving of this revelation.

That universal experience is contrary to the supposition of miraculous interference, is a gratuitous and unfounded assertion. The satisfactoriness of testimony does not depend on the nature of the facts attested, unless they are physically impossible; but on the credibility of the persons, who affirm that they have witnessed them.

On these grounds we rest the credibility of the gospel hisIf then the miracles of our tory; the certainty of our Sa

viour's miraculous power, and consequently the truth of his religion.

But besides this, the miracles of the gospel are peculiarly distinguished from all pretended miracles.

1. Christ did not, like the champions of popery, who wished to establish some monstrous opinion, or give celebrity to some particular sect, assemble the mul titude to witness his miracles, and by the arts of eloquence or the aid of superstition, prepare their minds for something unexpect ed and extraordinary. He fixed no stated hour for the cures which he performed. It was in the ordinary course of his ministry, when he went about doing good, that he wrought "the works of Him that sent him" without ostentation or parade.

2. None of his miracles were unsuccessful and none of them incomplete. Every one that came to him was healed. The diseases which he rebuked, were in every instance perfectly removed.

3. The greater number of these cures evidently transcend ed the power of natural means; some of them were effected by means which in themselves were not only inadequate, but even adverse; and those of them, over which medical prescriptions might have had some influence, were supernatural, as to the manner in which they were performed: for,

4. They were always instantaneous frequently effected without the intervention of any natural means by a word, a look, or a touch.

amined them in order to detect the supposed fraud, they totally failed in their object. Yet, it is more than incredible, that acute examinators, assisted by every passion, which could render them more acute, should have considered such a multitude of extraordinary effects, said to be supernatural, without in a single instance discovering the least appearance of fraud: unless we suppose, that these effects were indeed really produced.

6. The end for which the miracles of Christ were performed, was worthy of them. It was not to illustrate any obscure, absurd or licentious doctrine; to confirm any foolish or fluctuating opinion; to encourage one sect and subvert another; or to sup port the prejudices, and superstition of the people; but to confirm the truth of a religion, as sublime in its conceptions of God, as benevolent in its regards to man, as interesting in its doc. trines, as pure in its precepts, as solacing in its promises, as it is possible to conceive. Surely then, this was an object worthy of the greatest display of divine power, worthy in all respects of that astonishing series of mira. cles, which the history of the Saviour records.

5. If any of the Jews imagined them to be impostures, and ex

Christianity is founded on a "rock;" and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Beware then, my brother, of attacking either secretly or openly, by any of the weapons of infidelity, this impregnable fortress. Canst thou resist Omnipotence? No! thy soul must perish in the attempt. D. D.

April, 1805.

That their apostasy was owing to SURVEY OF CHURCHES. the want of personal religion, is

evident from the words of the aposIn the intended survey of our tle John. They went out from us, churches, it will be natural to be- but they were not of us. For if they gin with the character of the in- had been of us, they would have dividuals of whom the churches continued with us. But they went are composed. They, who be- out, that they might be made manilong to Christ's church, ought to fest, that they were not of us. be his disciples. The scripture The fatal errors and vices, which represents them, as saints ; as appeared in the Asiatic churches, persons born again, and entitled originated in the bosom of hyto a heavenly inheritance; as pocrisy. There were

a few children of the light and of the even in Sardis, who had not defilday; as crucified to the world, ed their garments. But the and alive unto God; as the salt reigning character of the church of the earth ; as the city, and the was corrupt. Many of the memtemple of God, in which he gra- bers, probably the greater part, ciously dwells. It is granted, were destitute of saving religion. that the visible church, in its Members of that description inpurest state, has contained many, jured the cause of Zion, not only whose character has not, in any by their own conduct directly, but degree, answered this high de- also by the hurtful influence scription. But it evidently ap- they had on the character of real pears, what is the nature of saints. The holy zeal of sincere Christ's church, and what should Christians was damped, their be the character of all its mem- faithful exertions encumbered, bers. If the church contains and their usefulness diminished those who are essentially defi- by their connexion with the uncient in their religious character, sanctified. Thus it came to passy it is proportionably corrupt. that the church, though it had a When irreligion becomes pre- name to live, was dead. In the dominant, the church loses its same way the Laodicean church proper character, its influence, was reduced to a state of culpable and its blessedness.

lukewarmness. In the sanie All the disorders, which crept way all the churches of Asia into the Old Testament church, were corrupted, and finally ruinall the evils, which afflicted and ed. The apostles judged frewasted it, were occasioned by the quent and most solemn warnings general impiety of its members. necessary to guard the disciples Their personal unholiness led to against the dangerous influence idolatry, and all other national of false brethren. abominations. In the first age Neither scripture, nor atten. of Christianity, many, who had not tive observation gives us liberty the Spirit of Christ, united them- to suppose, that the church at the selves to his church. Persons of present time is any more free such a character, after maintain: from a mixture of bad characters, ing for a time, some appearance than it was at the time of the of goodness, were gradually ali- apostles. The parables of the enated from the cause of Christ. wheat and tares, and of the ten In the time of trial they fell away. virgins, with other parables and

a

prophetic declarations of the same import, are as applicable to the church in these ages, as at any former period. Multitudes of wicked men assume the form of godliness, and join in profession with the people of Christ. Now although such a state of the church will be overruled by Heaven for wise purposes; yet the nature of things conspires with experience to show, that it is the unfailing source of numberless evils. It is as undesirable, as for noxious weeds to mingle with the fruits of a garden, or for tares to spring up and grow in a field with wheat.

Christian character, as any vice whatever. Of how many may it be said, that although they cannot be charged with any particular sins, their habitual conduct towards the church and the world clearly manifests the want of grace. Of how many others must we, at best, entertain very uncomfortable doubts. In what various ways do men, without open irregularities, render their piety justly suspected. How many, whose deportment is commonly blameless, show, on discriminating occasions, that they have not the love of God in their hearts. By professing Christians in general, the holy morality of the gospel is little regarded. If we judge them by their fruits, and their fruits by the precepts of Christianity; we must conclude, that vital religion is in a very low state in our churches, and that a proportion of their members, greater than we would willingly name, have at most, the form, without the power of godliness.

We may, secondly, infer this lamentable truth from the inadequate and false opinions of religion, which many nominal Christians entertain. At present these opin ions will be only hinted at, as proof of the fact under consideration. There are errors, which the inspired writers consider, as a perversion of the gospel, and as exposing every one, who embraces them, to the censure of the church and the heaviest anathema of the Bible. Such errors, without doubt, are found in our churches. Indeed, they could not have obtained such currency; they could not be avowed with such boldness, and defended with so much success,

With these remarks in mind,

let

us survey the churches through the Commonwealth, These churches in general consist of few members. It is no violation of the rules of candour to believe, that a considerable part of those few are destitute of Christian holiness. "Would to God," says Doddridge, "there were reason to hope, that the Christian church were so equally divided, that five of ten in it had the oil of divine grace in their hearts, to render them burning and shining lights." We may, with propriety, adopt the same pious wish respecting our New England churches.

The reasons which lead to such an apprehension are many. Some of the most obvious will just be mentioned.

The first and most weighty is, the practice of nominal Christians. Some are notoriously immoral. Dishonesty, Sabbath-breaking, and intemperance are often seen in those, who name the name of Christ. How many discover a worldly, selfish, or revengeful spirit, as inconsistent with the

without the concurring agency which flow from it, must be exof large numbers. These pre. pected to remain. It is often valent errors are the fruit of an remarked by judicious writers, unchristian spirit, and a direct that civil society can never enjoy proof, that many church mem- permanent tranquillity and happibers are destitute of gospel faith. nese, while the civil principles

The inadequate opinions, which and moral character of its memare generally held respecting the bers are corrupt. It is certainly nature of saving religion and the as true, that peace and prosperi. requisite qualifications of church ty can never be enjoyed by the nembers, lead us in a different church, while the religious princi. way to the same conclusion. It files and moral conduct of its memis to be presumed, that men will bers are unchristian. The body act according to their sentiments. cannot be in a healthy vigorous When they disbelieve the scrip- state, while its constituent parts ture doctrine of regeneration, and are unsound and decaying. consider no moral change neces

As far as this radical evil exsary to prepare them for the vis. tends in our churches, it preible kingdom of Christ; we may vents them from answering the expect that their conduct will be great end of their Founder. agreeable to such opinions, and While made up, in a considerathat they will unite themselves ble degree, of ungodly members, to the church in an unrenewed how can it be imagined that they state. Multitudes, who profess will adorn the doctrine of God religion, think it weakness, to their Saviour, or show forth his inquire after any evidence, that praises, by the abounding fruits they are born of God. When of holiness? How can they be such principles govern men in the salt of the earth, if they lose entering into the church, and the savour of religion, and parthe church in receiving them, it ticipate in the corruptions of the is easy to see, of what charac- world? Can churches be lights, ters the church will be composed. to illuminate the surrounding

These observations must not multitude, when they themselves be applied, without many favour- are enveloped in moral darkness? able exceptions. The unadulte. Will men contend earnestly for rated faith and practice of prim- that faith, which they have not itive Christianity are not yet ex- cordially received? Will they pelled from our churches. But recommend to others that gosafter all the exceptions, which pel, which they practically retruth admits and candour re. ject? Will they faithfully mainquires, we have great reason to tain that discipline, which is an fear that large numbers of unwelcome restraint to their own nominal Christians among us guilty passions? In short, will are not washed from their sins. they uniformly support the char

This, we apprehend, is the acter, while they want the temradical evil. Without removing per of saints ? or lessening this, other evils,

PASTOR.

[blocks in formation]
« VorigeDoorgaan »