Puslapio vaizdai
[ocr errors]

The fingular method, which Jefus took, to convince Paul of the truth of the gospel, was not out of partial favor to him, for furely he had done nothing to recommend himself, but rather out of a general benevolence to mankind; for this man was a chofen veffel-a fuitable inftrument to convey Christ's name among them. Jefus miraculously appeared to him to make him a minifter of the gofpel, and a witness of those facts by which its truth is fupported. And having furnished him for his work, Jefus fent him forth to publish the doctrines, and difplay the evidences of the gospel among the people of the Jews, and among the Heathen na


The words teach us, that "the Apoftle Paul was a notable and illuftrious inftrument in fpreading the knowledge and confirming the truth of the religion of Chrift." Such he appears from the hif tory given of him in the Acts of the Apostles, and from the writings which he himself has left for the ufe of the church.

My defign is to give a fummary view of the ev idences of Chriftianity, and particularly to illuftrate the evidences derived from the converfion, preaching and writings of this eminent minister and witnefs.

The Chriftian religion does now exift, and for many ages it has exifted in the world. To account for its existence, without admitting its truth, it is impoffible: For it did not take place by the influence of human authority, or the terror of military power, but by familiar inftructions and obvious miracles. The credit of it depends on these plain facts-that about eighteen hundred years ago, there arofe in Judea an extraordinary perfon, called Jefus of Nazareth, who declared himself to be divinely fent into the world, as an instructor, reformer and favior of men-that he lived a moft virtuous and holy life-that he taught a religion in

fome refpects new, in many refpects more perfect than had ever been taught before, and in all ref pects pure and excellent-that he wrought many great and aftonishing miracles-that he foretold many things, humanly improbable, which were verified in event-that he fuffered death by a public crucifixion, and, on the third day, rofe again, and appeared to many, in different times and plac es, not only to fingle perfons, but to companies, and to more than five hundred at once, and fre quently to those who had moft intimat ly known him before his death, and who confequently could not mistake another person for him-that after a bout forty days, he, in the prefence of a large concourfe of difciples, visibly afcended on high, and disappeared from the admiring spectators-that, foon after this, according to his previous promife, the disciples whom he had chofen to be the witneffes of his works and the ministers of his word, were endued with extraordinary gifts, qualifying them to go forth and proclaim his religion in the world.

If fuch facts as thefe did really exift, the religion of the gofpel is indubitably true. They who difbelieve the gospel, muft deny that there ever was fuch a man, or that he ever wrought fuch miracles, and died and rofe again in the manner alledged.

Miracles, which are effects produced above the common powers, and in a way different from the Itated courfe of nature, plainly difcover God's immediate interpofition. From the goodnefs and veracity of God, we may conclude, that he never will immediately interpofe to give fuch credibility to a falfehood, that men, inquiring honestly, and judging rationally, muft receive it as a truth.

The miracles of Chrift, (admitting, for the prefent, the Christian history to be true) were great and numerous; and he conftantly appealed to them as evidences of the divinity of his miffion and doc


trines, To fuppofe, that, in fuch a cafe, God fhould enable an impoftor to perform thefe maryellous works, which are related of Jefus, is contrary to all our ideas of the divine character.

They who faw Chrift heal the fick, raife the dead, caft out devils, and fill the ftorms-they who faw him yield himfelf to death, and then, exactly ac cording to his prediction, return from the grave, afcend into heaven, and fhed down on his difciples the promifed gifts of his fpirit-efpecially they who felt themfelves partakers of thefe wonderful gifts, could not doubt, but that he was, what he declared himfelf to be, the Son of God and the Savior of men, and that his religion was a heavenly infti


for they relere credible witnelles of these facts;

The difciples of Jefus, (allowing that there were fuch perfons)

for they related them as matters which fell under their own obfervation. That which they faw and heard, they declared to the world. Whether they really faw the dead arife, the fick and lame reftored to health and foundnefs, thousands fed with a few fmall loaves; whether they themselves were able to work miracles and fpeak with divers tongues whether Jefus, who was crucified, actually arofe and appeared to them; whether they converfed with him, faw his wounds and heard his inftructions; were facts in which they could not be deceived. If, then, their relation was not true, they must have intended to deceive mankind.

But it is not conceivable, that they fhould have fuch a difhoneft intention: For by their teftimony to the miracles and refurrection of Chrift, they expofed themselves to poverty, reproach, mifery and death. And it cannot be imagined, that a number of men fhould deliberately affociate to facrifice every thing that is dear in life, and even life itself, for the fake of impofing on the world a falfehood, which never would do mankind or themselves any

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

good-that they fhould perfevere in this design af ter they began to feel its confequences-that they fhould perfift in it until death-that never a fingle man fhould defert the cause and discover the fraud. This would furpass all miracles.

If their defign had been a fraud, it might, in the time of it, have been easily detected and fup preffed.

The facts, which they relate, they declared, were done publicly and recently, and that they were known and remembered by many then living. IF there had been no fuch perfon as Jefus Chrift, or if he had performed no fuch miracles as are afcrib. ed to him; no credit would have been given to their report.


The difciples of Jefus had enemies who wished to confound them. The Jewish rulers fpared no pains to fupprefs the Chriftian caufe. Their enmity to it would have excited them to convict the witnelles of falfehood, if they had not known that the facts afferted were indifputable. If they had difcovered any fraud, they would immediately have made it public, As they never denied the facts, but only ftudied to evade the conclufion drawn from them, they must have been convinced, that the facts themfelves were undeniable.

These witnelles have left a written teflimony which has come down to us with every defirable circumftance of credibility.

There are four men who have profeffedly writ ten diftin&t hillories of the life, miniftry and works. of Jefus Chrift. Two of them, Matthew and John, were his attendant difciples from the beginning to the end of his public life. The other two, Mark and Luke, were contemporary and converfant with his difciples. Four others, Peter, James, Jude and Paul, have written epifles to particular focieties of Chriftians, or to Chriflians in general. In these epiftles, they recognize the character, affert or al

lude to the miracles, and teach the doctrines of Jefus, in substance, as they are related by the before mentioned hiftorians. Three of these letter writers were Chrift's difciples. The laft was a contemporary Jew, a man of uncommon zeal, learning and ability; much converfant in public affairs; for a while an enemy to Chriftianity, but afterward converted to the belief of it. So that the Chriftian hiftory ftands on the credit of eight different perfons, most of them difciples, and all of them contemporaries of Chrift. They wrote feparately, on different occafions, without any appearance of concert; and yet they all fubftantially agree. Thefe writings were received as genuine in the time when the authors lived, and in the next fucceeding age, and from age to age, ever fince, down to the prefent time. There is no ancient hiftory extant, which is fo completely authenticated.

The converfion, miniftry and epiftles of the Apoftle Paul afford ftrong and undeniable evidence of the truth of the Chriftian religion. To thefe I fhall now pay particular attention.

The account, which we have of him, is given by Luke in his hiftory of the Acts of the Apoftles. This Luke appears to have been a man of learn ing; fuch his writings fhew him to be. He was an efteemed and eminent phyfician-fo Paul calls him. He was admitted to an acquaintance with men of the first diftinction; as appears by the dedication of his works to the most excellent Theophilus. He was highly regarded among the Chriftians of his time, and his praife, for the gofpel which he wrote, was in all the churches. He was an intimate companion of St. Paul, and accompanied him for a confiderable time in his travels.From him we have particular information concerning Paul's early life, remarkable converfion, and fubfequent conduct: And every thing related by

1. !

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« AnkstesnisTęsti »