« EelmineJätka »
finite, though mysterious goodness; who have given to mankind, both by their doctrine and example, the justest rules of worthy and prudent conduct in this life; and spread through the world an assurance, founded on God's express promise, (which alone could support it,) of endless felicity in a life to come! Should our accounts of them be ever so imperfect, or meanly written: should any of them appear no otherwise great, than as they were admirably good men: should their zeal have sometimes transported them beyond discretion; (though such transports were few, and always condemned by the body of Christians :) or should other and even considerable frailties be found mixed with the excellencies of some of them: yet, so long as we know, that they were and did what hath now been mentioned; we have surely cause to hold them for ever in most honourable estimation, and respect the Gospel of Christ much the more highly on account of such witnesses to its truth and efficacy.
But admiring them is nothing, unless we also imitate them, in their solicitude for its advancement, in their steady adherence to God and their duty, in their contempt of worldly advantages and pleasures, losses and punishments; in their meekness under injuries, in their resignation under pains and afflictions, in their love to their fellow-Christians and fellowcreatures, in their lively faith of a future recompence We are not called, as they were, to take joyfully the spoiling of our goods *, to suffer trouble even unto bonds, as evil doers t, to undergo shame and torture, and to die for the name of the Lord Jesus I. No temptation hath taken us, but such as is common to man 5. # Heb. x. 34.
+ 2 Tim. ii. 9. Acts, xxi. 13.
$ I Cor. 5. 13.
Ordinarily speaking, we have nothing to perform, but what conduces on the whole to every one's present benefit: and we have nothing to bear on account of our religion, but perhaps a little trifling ridicule from the vain and the vicious. Even such persecution indeed is very wicked in them; but needs not in the least be formidable to us. And if for that alone, we are ashamed to confess our Saviour before men, well may we expect that he should deny us before his Father which is in Heaven *.
Let us therefore hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering t: never do any thing inconsistent with it for temporal prospects or fears : never pay court to the irreligious, by mean compliances with their talk or behaviour, in hopes of better quarter from them; for it will be much harder to stop afterwards, than to maintain our present ground: yet never be moved either to passion against them, or uncharitableness towards them; but freely own their good qualities, while we carefully preserve an abhorrence of their bad ones; pity their unhappiness, while we condemn their sins; and earnestly pray, that they may repent and be forgiven. For thus shall we adorn the doctrines of God our Saviour in all things †; and be followers of them, who through faith and patience inherit the promises s. Matth. x. 32, 33.
+ Heb. x. 23. : Tit. ii. 10.
Heb. vi. 12.
2 TIM. III. 16, 17.
AU Scripture is given by inspiration of God: and is
profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
Man is by nature ignorant and thoughtless : and therefore wants information and admonition. He is also prone to evil, and averse from good : and therefore wants restraint from the former, and incitement to the latter. Without the assistance, which we receive one from another in these respects, we should be wicked and wretched beyond imagination. But though we should be most defective in a state of solitude, yet we are very deplorably so, even when joined to the best advantage in society. Many points of the utmost moment, relating both to our present and future condition, we either cannot discover at all, or not with certainty : many, which we might, not even the wiser, much less the greater part, have in fact known: and those, which hardly any could fail to perceive, all have, more or less, failed to regard. Most of these things are visibly men's own fault : and the rest are no imputation upon God. For unquestionably he may with justice place any of his creatures in as low a state, both of understanding and moral ability, as he pleases : provided he requires from them, as he certainly will, only in proportion to what he hath given.
And even his infinite goodness cannot oblige him to bestow on them greater favours, than his infinite wisdom sees to be proper : which it is no wonder should act upon reasons, to us unsearchable. But the less we have ground to expect, the more thankfully we ought to receive whatever notices, encouragements, or warnings, he may vouchsafe more immediately from himself.
Now we have in our hands a book, which we call the Bible : containing accounts of various communications made to mankind by their Creator from the beginning : but principally through the hands of Moses and the prophets ; of Jesus Christ and his Disciples : together with great numbers of most important consequences from thence resulting. Both parts of this book are credibly affirmed to be written by persons, who must in the main have known the truth or falshood of what they say: none of whom have given grounds to suspect their veracity; but many, the strongest possible grounds to rely on it. They support the authority of the doctrines and precepts delivered there by express prophecies and public miracles, recounted there also : which prophecies have, most of them, undeniably been since fulfilled, nor do any appear to have failed; and which miracles, though they could never have been acknowledged if they had not been real, were, so far as we can learn, denied by no one, either at the time when they were said to be done, or long after. On the contrary, the Old Testament hath always been admitted, as true and genuine, by the whole Jewish nation : and the Pentateuch in particular, used as the law of their country; though it appoints more things than one to be done, so utterly and visibly contrary to human poliey, that they must proceed from Him, whose extraordinary providence alone could make them practicable with safety; and others, too contrary to human inclinations, for men to have chosen, without being sure that God required them. And as to the writers of the New Testament, it is still more certain, that their works were published near the time and in the places, where they affirm the events, which they relate, came to pass : that they agree surprisingly well, though in general they were unlearned persons, and plainly had not concerted their story together : that they led pious and virtuous lives: that they were willing to suffer death for the sake of their testimony. And accordingly the whole Christian church from its rise embraced their narrations with a faith, which neither artifice nor persecution were able to overturn, or keep it from prevailing through the world, though contrary to the favourite notions and vicious desires of all mankind : which alone is a proof, that the facts related in them, even the most miraculous, were previously known to be true; and the doctrines the same, which had been already taught by the Apostles : else Jews, heathens and Christians must have exclaimed against the authors, as publishers of falshoods, and they could never have obtained credit. Some few of their books indeed, (but such as taught no one article that is not in the others, nor denied any one that is) were questioned in some congregations for a good while, perhaps with more caution than needed : but were then put on a level with the rest. Neither Testament is pretended to be disproved, but both are confirmed, as far as could be expected, by such heathen records as are extant : and if either had been confuted formerly by any, that are now lost, it must have sunk; which hath not been the case. Each of them furnishes powerful internal evidence in favour of itself: each adds mani