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us; yet of them were true, they effectually overthrow all others; for God cannot contradict himself; and on this ground these several pretences come within our inquiry. This reasoning may be good; but then it goes effectually to exclude all these pretences; for the voice of nature is the voice of God, and therefore cannot be contradicted by God : no revelation therefore can be considered which contradicts any one plain principle of natural religion ; and there is not one form of those alluded to, that does not split on this rock: but farther, which of them all so much as pretends to the essentials necessary to constitute a law, human or divine ? Take the instance of Rome : what was Numa ? a king, and therefore submitted to in religious innovations: but what mark of a divine commission can be produced ? Still it may be urged, that the many pretences to inspiration which have been admitted, are so many instances of the inability of men to distinguish between true and false in the present case : how can we trust our judgment, when so many, who thought they acted rationally, have been mistaken! Why, then, should we expose ourselves to almost certain error by following the steps? Whatever force there is in this argument, it must recoil on natural religion ; on many points of which men in all ages have grossly and universally erred: what security have we that we shall not commit the same mistakes? Even the errors of the heathen are chargeable on this blindness and ignorance of nature ; had she done her part, men could not have been imposed on by such gross superstitions.

What is it now that discovers to us these impostures, which were not seen before? What, but that true sense of reason and nature which is newly kindled and lighted up in the mind by the gospel ? the want of which darkened the old world: it is therefore absurd to suppose that we are in the same danger of being deceived by pretended revelations : for ask any one, who makes this objection, if he thinks

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one of the heathen forms of worship could be imposed on himself.

From these pretences, then, let us turn to the true revelations of the same period, and see how far they relate to the present case : those given to particular men on particular occasions are of course omitted : the law of Moses considered: this must be viewed on different principles by the Jews and by us: to them it was given and declared ; they are under its obligations; and they are concerned to inquire, not only about the truth of a subsequent revelation, but whether it abrogates their law, or is to subsist with it; as also whether their law has precluded them from receiving any farther revelations. With us the question is, how we are concerned with the law; for it is plain that no revelation can oblige those to whom it is not addressed: and in the very promulgation of the law of Moses we find it confined to the people of Israel — Hear, O Israel: and this was known to be the case under the law : Deut. iv. 8. Ps. cxlvii. 19. 20. The law of Moses then has no claim to our obedience, farther than the moral part of it, when understood, will oblige every rational being : this however is not the obligation we are now considering. But the law affords to us abundant evidence for the truth of the gospel.

But what alteration happened after the coming of Christ to unsettle our judgments in this important matter ? Many instances of pretenders to revelations in history; but all vanished and were forgotten: the want of general promulgation shows that God had no hand in them, and therefore absurd to instance them.

So the case stood, and the gospel had no competitor till the successful impostor Mahomet arose : he pretended a commission to all the world, found means to publish his pretences, and asserted his authority on the strength of revelation. With respect to this instance, it is not very likely to bias our choice. Go to natural religion : lay before her Mahomet and his disciples arrayed in armor and blood, &c. Show them to her in their retirement, the slaves of lust, &c., which they justify by

divine commission-then show her the blessed Jesus, humble, and meek, and doing good to all men ; injured, but not provoked; and praying for his very enemies in the agony of death : when she has viewed both, ask, which is the prophet of God ? But we have already had her answer from the lips of the centurion at the cross-Truly this man was the Son of God.

SHERL.

VOL. I.

H

DISCOURSE IX.

JOHN, CHAP. XX.—VERSES 30, 31.

And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disci

ples, which are not written in this book. But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

These words stand towards the close of St. John's gospel, and are by some thought to be the last of his own writing. They give us an account of the nature of his gospel, and of his end and design in publishing it to the world. The Apostle does not pretend his gospel to be a perfect and complete narrative of all that our Lord did whilst he conversed among men, not even of all the miracles and wonders which he wrought in confirmation of his doctrine : Many other signs truly did Jesus-which are not written in this book.' He adds farther, that the signs omitted in his account were done ' in the presence of his disciples,' and were consequently of as good authority as those related by himself. This was but a necessary piece of caution ; for St. John wrote his gospel late, towards the end of his life, after the Apostles and disciples of Christ had spread the gospel far and near, and had both by preaching and writing published the great works and signs done by their Master. To prevent therefore the suspicions which some might be apt to entertain of their teachers, when they found the great evidences insisted on by them not mentioned by St. John, who, being the last writer of the Apostles, would naturally, for that reason, be supposed to be the most accurate; he declares that he had not recounted all the signs done by Jesus, but that there were many others, which, having

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been wrought in the presence of the disciples, might very well be taught and published by them, though omitted by himself.

But why does St. John, speaking of the miracles of Jesus, take notice only that they were done in the presence of the disciples ?' whereas in truth they were done in the face of the sun, in the most open and public manner, in the sight of friends and foes; which is so advantageous a circumstance, and which adds so much to the credibility of the signs, that it ought ever to be remembered. St. John knew this having in the course of his gospel often taken notice of this very thing : particularly in the story of Lazarus, he tells us,

that many Jews were with Martha and Mary to comfort them concerning their brother,' who followed Jesus to the grave, and saw Lazarus come forth to life on his call : ‘many of which,' says St. John, chap. xi. 45, 46. “ having seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him: but some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.' But the reason why this is not insisted on in the text is, that it was not to St. John's purpose : he is there speaking of the authoritative promulgation of the gospel, as is evident from the last verse, “These things are written that ye might believe:' and this led him no farther than - to observe that the preachers and publishers of the gospel were eye-witnesses of the things they attested, and therefore unexceptionable witnesses. This is the true foundation of the Apostles' authority considered as promulgers of Christianity; which depended on what they themselves had seen or heard, and not on what others had seen or heard, whether friends or foes. Other circumstances may be good collateral evidence; but the testimony of the Apostles rests on this, that they themselves saw and heard what they have reported. And therefore the same Apostle in his first Epistle sets forth this evidence in the very same manner : * That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked on, and our hands have handled, of the word of life--that which we have seen and heard, declare we unto you, that

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also may have fellowship with us.'

You have also the reason assigned which moved St. John to publish his gospel, which extends likewise to all the other writ

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