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5. THE ANTIQUITY OF THE DOCTRINE
Let the antiquity, the propagation, the preservation, and the truly admirable defense of this doctrine be added—and they will afford a bright and perspicuous testimony of its divinity. If that which is of the highest antiquity possesses the greatest portion of truth," as Tertullian most wisely and justly observes, then this doctrine is one of the greatest truth, because it can trace its origin to the highest antiquity. It is likewise Divine, because it was manifested at a time when it could not have been devised by any other mind; for it had its commencement at the very period when man was brought into existence. An apostate angel would not then have proposed any of his doctrines to man, unless God had previously revealed himself to the intelligent creature whom he had recently formed: That is, God hindered the fallen angel, and there was then no cause in existence by which he might be impelled to engage in such an enterprise. For God would not suffer man, who had been created after his own image, to be tempted by his enemy by means of false doctrine, until, after being abundantly instructed in that which was true, he was enabled to know that which was false and to reject it. Neither could any odious feeling of envy against man have tormented Satan, except God had considered him worthy of the communication of his word, and had deigned, through that communication, to make him a partaker of eternal. felicity, from which Satan had at that period unhappily fallen.
The Propagation, Preservation, and Defense of this doctrine, most admirable when separately considered, will all be found divine, if, in the first place, we attentively fix our eyes upon those men among whom it is propagated; then on the foes and adversaries of this doctrine; and, lastly, on the manner in which its propagation, preservation and defense have hitherto been and still are conducted. (1.) If we consider those men among whom this sacred doctrine flourishes, we shall discover that their nature, on account of its corruption, rejects this doctrine for a two-fold reason; (i.) The first is, because in one of its parts it is so entirely contrary to human and worldly wisdom, as to subject itself to the accusation of Folly from men of corrupt minds. (ii.) The second reason is, because in another of its parts it is decidedly hostile and inimical to worldly lusts and carnal desires. It is, therefore, rejected by the human understanding and refused by the will, which are the two chief faculties in man; for it is according to their orders and commands that the other faculties are either put in motion or remain at rest. Yet, notwithstanding all this natural repugnance, it has been received and believed. The human mind, therefore, has been conquered, and the subdued will has been gained, by Him who is the author of both. (2.)
This doctrine has some most powerful and bitter enemies: Satan, the prince of this world, with all his angels, and the world his ally: These are foes with whom there can be no reconciliation. If the subtlety, the power, the malice, the audacity, the impudence, the perseverance, and the diligence of these enemies, be placed in opposition to the simplicity, the inexperience, the weakness, the fear, the inconstancy, and the slothfulness of the greater part of those who give their assent to this heavenly doctrine; then will the greatest wonder be excited, how this doctrine, when attacked by so many enemies, and defended by such sorry champions, can stand and remain safe and unmoved. If this wonder and admiration be succeeded by a supernatural and divine investigation of its cause, then will God himself be discovered as the propagator, preserver, and defender of this doctrine. (3.) The manner also in which its propagation, preservation and defense are conducted, indicates divinity by many irrefragible tokens. This doctrine is carried into effect, without bow or sword—without horses chariots, or horsemen; yet it proceeds prosperously along, stands in an erect posture, and remains unconquered, in the name of the Lord of Hosts: While its adversaries, though supported by such apparently able auxiliaries and relying on such powerful aid, are overthrown, fall down together, and perish. It is accomplished, not by holding out alluring promises of riches, glory, and earthly pleasures, but by a previous statement of the dreaded cross, and by the prescription of such patience and forbearance as far exceed all human strength and ability. "He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel; for I will shew him How Great Things he must suffer for my name’s sake." (Acts ix. 15, 16.) "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves." (Matt. x. 16)
Its completion is not effected by the counsels of men, but in opposition to all human counsels—whether they be those of the professors of this doctrine, or those of its adversaries. For it often happens, that the counsels and machinations which have been devised for the destruction of this doctrine, contribute greatly towards its propagation, while the princes of darkness fret and vex themselves in vain, and are astonished and confounded, at an issue so contrary to the expectations which they had formed from their most crafty and subtle counsels.
St. Luke says, "Saul made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and, haling men and women, committed them to prison. Therefore they that were scattered abroad, went every where preaching the word." (Acts vii. 3, 4.) And by this means Samaria received the word of God. In reference to this subject St. Paul also says, "But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; so that my bonds are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places." (Phil. i. 12, 13.) For the same cause that common observation has acquired all its just celebrity: "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." What shall we say to these things? "The stone which the builders refused, is become the head stone of the corner: This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes." (Psalm cxviii. 22, 23.)
Subjoin to these the tremendous judgments of God on the persecutors of this doctrine, and the miserable death of the tyrants. One of these, at the very moment when he was breathing out his polluted and unhappy spirit, was inwardly constrained publicly to proclaim, though in a frantic and outrageous tone, the divinity of this doctrine in these remarkable words: "Thou Hast Conquered, O Galilean!"
Who is there, now, that, with eyes freed from all prejudice, will look upon such clear proofs of the divinity of Scripture, and that will not instantly confess: the Apostle Paul had the best reasons for exclaiming, "If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost; in whom the God of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not; lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them." (2 Cor. iv. 3, 4) As if he had said, "This is not human darkness; neither is it drawn as a thick veil over the mind by man himself; but it is diabolical darkness, and spread by the devil, the prince of darkness, upon the mind of man, over whom, by the just judgment of God, he exercises at his pleasure the most absolute tyranny. If this were not the case, it would be impossible for this darkness to remain; but, how great soever its density might be, it would be dispersed by this light which shines with such overpowering brilliancy."
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