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Sermon I.

WRITTEN IS THE YEAR 1801.

The Reason of the Hope of a Christian, which he ought always to give to him who asketh it of him.

I Peter, iii. 14, 15. And be not afraid of their terror, neither be ye troubled; but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.

THE apostle Peter had a special commission to preach the gospel to the Jews, which did not exclude a regard to the uncircumcised Gentiles. He therefore writes this epistle to the Jews who were dispersed from the land of Israel, into various places in the Lesser Asia, and had embraced Christianity; with whom the Gentiles are included, who had become Christians, and had joined with the believing Jews. In consequence of their becoming Christians, they were hated, and suffered persecution by the unbelieving Jews and idolatrous Gentiles; who were disposed to inflict on them all the evils which were in their power; especially the former, who exercised the same ill will towards them which Paul had and acted out before his conversion, and which they manifested towards the apostles and all Christians; of which we have the history in the Acts of the Apostles.

The Apostle, in this epistle to them, mentions many things to support and comfort them in their afflicted, suffering state, and encourage and animate them to persevere in the profession and practice of Christianity, to whatever reproaches, worldly losses and persecutions they might expose themselves hereby; and gives them 2many directions for their conduct in all circumstances, and towards all persons; especially in the present state of things. Of the latter we find an instance in the words now before us. The Apostle here alludes to the words of Isaiah in the eighth chapter of his prophecy. When the inhabitants of Judah were threatened with an invasion by the neighbouring nations, he tells them not to be afraid of them, but to sanctify the Lord of Hosts, and make him their fear and their dread. So the apostle tells Christians, when threatened with the greatest evils that the enemies to Christianity could inflict, not to be afraid of their terror, neither be troubled, but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts. To sanctify the Lord in their hearts was to love him supremely, and trust in him alone, desiring that he might be exalted and glorified above all creatures forever. The same word in the original is translated hallowed, which is here rendered sanctify. “Hallowed be thy name:” that is, may thy sacred name and glorious character be made known, displayed and glorified to the highest degree, by all things that take place.

“And be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you the reason of the hope that is in you.” Christians are directed to be always able, ready and willing to give the reason of their hope, to every one who asketh it of them. This must be understood with some limitation. By every one who asketh, is meant every one who asketh in a proper, decent manner, and with an apparent, professed desire to know what reasons Christians can give for their hope. If any asked them to do this, with an apparent design to ridicule and mock them, and to get some advantage, and matter of accusation against them, which would expose them to suffering; they were not obliged to answer such, as it would be contrary to the command of Christ: “Give not that which is holy to dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rent you.”

“With meekness and fear.” Christians are not to be haughty and insolent in giving the reason of their hope, nor cuter into ostentatious and angry disputes with unbelievers. They must not despise and treat them with contempt for their unreasonable disbelief; but pity them, and treat them with condescension, tenderness and benevolence, not shewing or having any angry resentment for any injurious treatment they may have received from them; but suffering and bearing all injuries with a meek and quiet spirit and behaviour. All this is implied in meekness. Fear is here put for Christian humility, in opposition to high-mindedness, and self-confidence, boasting of their privileges and character, by which they are favoured and distinguished from those who are in a state of darkness and unbelief. It implies a sense of their own exceeding unworthiness, and utter insufficiency in themselves to defend and maintain the honour of the Christian cause, without constant support and assistance from divine grace; and continual liableness to fail of their duty, and dishonour Christ, by not speaking and behaving as becomes their Christian calling and profession. This fear is essential to the Christian character, and becomes Christians at all times. The apostle Paul exhorts Christians “not to be high minded, but fear; to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling,” and tells the Christians at Corinth, that he was among them in fear and much trembling.

The subject proposed to be considered, in a further improvement of the words before us, is, the hope of Christians, and the reason they have to give, and ought always to be ready to give, for this their hope, when properly required of them.

I. It is to be considered what is included in the hope of Christians.

This hope indeed implies and comprehends more than words can express, or the most enlarged mind on earth can conceive. The greatest Christians do in this state comprehend and know but a small part of what is contained 4in this hope. And they depend on the enlightening influences of the Spirit of Christ, for the increasing knowledge of this which they may and ought to obtain in this life. Therefore the apostle Paul prays for the Christians at Ephesus, “that God would give unto them the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; the eyes of their understanding being enlightened, that they might know what was the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.” Christians may be assisted in their meditations on this pleasing and important subject, by attending to the following brief and scanty representation of their hope, taken from the holy scriptures.

Jesus Christ is the Christian’s hope. What is contained in his person and character; in what he has done and suffered; in the manifestations he has made of the divine perfections; in his revealed designs and promises to his church, and to every believer, is all the Christian can hope for, or can desire, and far, infinitely far, exceeds his highest expectations, and the utmost stretch of his conception and imagination. Jesus Christ has an infinite fulness for sinners. He has all they want, and they cannot conceive or wish for any greater or other good. And he gives himself, and all he has, his infinite fulness, to every believer.

Christians hope by Christ to obtain the free pardon of all their sins, however many and great they are, and to be delivered from the curse of the law of God, even eternal destruction and misery, and from all evil. As the children of God, they hope for his kind protection to defend them from all real evil while in this world; that what is in itself evil shall be made to them a real good, so that all things shall conspire to promote their greatest good. They hope, in the best way and manner, and the most proper time, to be delivered from all sin and moral depravity, and made perfectly holy, by Christ their Saviour; and that their salvation shall be for the glory of God and the Redeemer forever; otherwise it would be no salvation to them. They trust in 5the wisdom and goodness of Christ to order the time and manner of their death so as shall be most for his glory and their good. They hope that when they drop their bodies into the grave they shall immediately enter Into a world of light and complete happiness, being wholly transformed into the moral likeness of Christ; and in the enjoyment of him, and of his favour and love, and beholding his glory; and in the happy society of the redeemed, shall enjoy uninterrupted, increasing felicity without end.

The Christian’s hope includes in it an assured and pleasing prospect that Christ will destroy the works and kingdom of the devil on earth, and set up his own kingdom, and give his people the possession of the world, tor at least a thousand years; which happy time for the meek, the saints, to possess the earth, and delight in the abundance of peace and happiness, shall commence and continue in a time and manner most agreeable to Infinite Wisdom and Goodness. And the Christian expects the set time will come, and is hastening on, when Christ will come to judgment, raise the dead, and assemble all the children of Adam before him, when he will sentence the impenitent wicked to everlasting punishment, and invite and bring his friends into the possession of his eternal kingdom, to enjoy perfect and progressing happiness forever; and that they shall see, and have a most pleasing and eternally increasing conviction, when all the enemies of Christ are put under his feet, and all things are adjusted and brought to their proper and designed issue, that all events which have taken place, even all the evil, sin and misery which has been, and will exist for ever, are included in the divine purpose and plan, which was in the highest wisdom and goodness fixed and ordained from eternity, and are necessary, in the most proper and desirable manner, and to the highest possible degree, to promote the glory of God in the most clear manifestation and brightest display of the divine perfections, and produce the highest happiness and glory of the eternal kingdom of God. 6This will be contemplated forever, and will be a source of growing entertainment, and part of the happiness which is included in the Christian’s hope. The work of redemption by Christ is so grand, wonderful and complicated, the effect of infinite power, wisdom and goodness, exercised in the most astonishing condescention, grace and mercy, truth and faithfulness, to infinitely guilty, lost and miserable sinners, in a way honourable to a holy, righteous God, his law and government, and suited to humble and save sinful rebels, and raise them to the highest honour and happiness; and is attended with such infinitely great, important, glorious, eternal consequences; that the redeemed must enjoy unspeakably great and increasing happiness in searching into the wonders of this work, and loving, praising and adoring God and the Redeemer forever.

Every true Christian hopes to enjoy all this, and more, which no tongue can utter, or heart conceive; and he shall actually possess it forever. He will stand at the right hand of Christ at the day of judgment, and enter with all the redeemed into eternal life and happiness, and enjoy the company and friendship of a most lovely and happy society, all sweetly united in love to Christ and to each other, under the best advantages to enjoy God, in the assurance of his favour and love, and to be happy in friendship with each other, and make rapid advances in knowledge, holiness and happiness forever.—But the theme is endless, and it is time to stop.—This is the hope of a Christian!

II. The reason which Christians have to give for this hope which is in them, or entertained by them, is to be considered.

This involves two particulars, which are in themselves really distinct, though implied in each other; and therefore it is proper to consider them separately. They are these: The reason they have to believe and be sure that the Christian scriptures, the foundation of all their hopes, are a revelation from God, containing infallible truth, without any error, in matters of faith and practice, 7 and therefore to be relied upon with the greatest confidence and safety; and the reason of their hope that they are real Christians, and interested in all the blessings promised in the gospel to true believers in Christ.

First, The Christian, in giving the reason of his hope, must tell what evidence he has that Christianity is a divine institution, and that the scriptures which contain a revelation of it were written by the inspiration of God.

Here Christians are introduced to speak for themselves, and give the reason of placing their hope in Christ and the gospel. They have the following answer to give to those who ask them.

1. We feel the want of a hope of some good and happiness which cannot be obtained and enjoyed in this life, and in this world. We find ourselves possessed of those mental capacities and desires which cannot be filled and satisfied with the enjoyment of any or all the things of this world, the objects of time and sense. We know we have a capacity of enjoying a higher and better good than this world affords, and a good which is unfading, and will last to be enjoyed without any end; and we feel strong desires, which we cannot suppress, of existing forever, in the enjoyment of objects which will render us completely happy. This has excited us diligently to search and inquire whether and where any ground and good reason can be found for a hope of enjoying the good and happiness which is answerable to our capacity and desires.

2. If the Bible be excluded, upon the most diligent and extensive search we have been able to make, no sufficient reason has been found, or can be given, for a hope of a good adequate to the capacity and desires of man. The heathen who have not enjoyed the Bible, even the wisest among them, have not discovered any certainty of a future state. And all their conjectures about it, and ideas of happiness to be enjoyed after death if there be a future state, are so vague, uncertain and absurd, that they can give no satisfaction to a rational mind, but tend to the contrary. They have obtained 8no true notions of the character of the true God; so far from it, that they represent their gods in a ridiculous and shameful light, and as practising horrible vices. None of them, even their greatest philosophers, have been able to find out what true happiness is. They are indeed, and always have been, without the true God, and without a reasonable hope in the world.

And this is true of the Mahometans. They profess indeed to believe in one God, which Mahomet taught them with a number of other things, who learned them from the Bible, with which he was in some measure acquainted; but they have no correct, consistent notions of the divine character, especially of his moral character. They do not know of any reasonable way for sinners to obtain pardon of their sins, and the favour of God; and consequently cannot have any reasonable hope of this. The most ignorant and vicious men among them have a promise of their prophet that they shall go directly to heaven, if they die fighting for his cause and their religion, or if they perform certain prescribed actions and ceremonies. And the heaven they hope for they think consists, not in holiness and in the enjoyment of the true God, and the mental happiness implied in this, but in those sensual delights and gratifications, more suited for beads than men; which are the objects of aversion and abhorrence, and not of hope, to a good and pure mind.

The Infidels, Deists and Atheists who live in that part of the world called Christian are really without hope. The latter are professedly so: they have no belief of a future state, and have no hope of any good which they cannot enjoy in this life, which to every discerning mind is nothing but vanity and vexation of spirit. These choose to view and place themselves in such a low state of existence that they have no pre-eminence above the beasts, except that they are capable of suffering more pain and misery than the brute creation.

As to the Deists, they profess to believe there is a God; but do not appear to worship him, or derive any enjoyment from their belief. Many of them, with 9Atheists, do not believe there is any future state; but say they expect to die as the beasts, and have no further existence. Others of them consider it as a matter of uncertainty whether they shall exist in a future state or not; and they who profess to believe they shall exist after death, can give no satisfactory account of the happiness they shall enjoy, nor any reason of their hope of happiness in the forgiveness of their sins and the favour of God, whom they have offended. For reason, on which they depend, affords no evidence that God will forgive them; but rather that they must fall under his displeasure, and be miserable forever. They can have no hope from the god they profess to believe exists. Having renounced the God revealed in the Bible, they are wholly at a loss about the character of their god. Some of them ascribe no moral character to him; and they who do, cannot agree in what it is; and none of them can tell whether, or how far, men have any concern in it, so as to have any influence on their conduct or happiness. So that they are all without any reasonable hope, having renounced the true God.

Therefore, if the Christian hope be not founded upon reason and truth, but must be given up as fabulous and mere delusion, we are left without hope, and we must sink into the most gloomy darkness and despair. But,

3. We find in the Bible an exhibition of that good which is suited to make us completely and forever happy, containing all that we can desire or hope for. It reveals a most agreeable and wise way for the pardon of sinners, and their reconciliation with God, and to enjoy his favour as much, and to an higher degree, and be much more happy, than if they had never sinned. It contains repeated and abundant promises of deliverance from all evil, and the everlasting enjoyment of the best and highest good of which we are or ever shall be capable. All this is offered and bestowed as a free gift on every one who is willing to receive it, and asketh for it. We will not enter into more particulars here in description of this hope. They have been represented in the 10former part of this discourse, and will of course come into view under the next head. We will only observe here, that the infinite good comprehended in the redemption of sinners, which is the subject of the revelation in the Bible, is the only proper and complete object of hope that can be conceived of or imagined by a reasonable and good mind, if it be true, and there is evidence that it is indeed a revelation which is given to men from God, Which leads us to say,

4. There is clear, most satisfactory and abundant evidence, fully answerable to the nature and importance of the subject, that the Bible is true, and contains a revelation from God.

But before we enter upon the short and summary detail of this evidence which we propose to give, the following things will be mentioned.

Though the evidence of the truth of divine revelation is sufficient to convince the understanding and judgment of those who will seriously attend to the subject, though they have had hearts, and do not really love the truths it contains; yet they cannot have that satisfactory assurance that it is from God, and indeed a divine revelation, which those of upright and good hearts have, though their understandings and mental powers be not so bright and strong; as those of others whose hearts are not good.

It may also be observed, that truths and objects of a moral and spiritual nature may be the objects of as great certainty, yea greater, than those objects and things whose existence is known only by our bodily senses; so that a man of an honest and good heart, and right taste and discerning, would doubt of the truth of the latter, rather than of the former, if one must be doubted of and given up as not true.

We would further observe here, that if it were possible that the Christian hope is a mere delusion, which we know is not true, and is impossible; yet we should lose nothing by entertaining it. We shall in the issue be as well off as those who have no hope, if we should cease 11to exist at death, or in whatever state we should be, we should not be in a worse state than others, or than we should be had we not been Christians. We have a high enjoyment in our hope now, which will continue as long as we are in this world. It is constantly better to us than all worldly enjoyments, and we should be great losers by exchanging it with the most happy worldly man, for all his enjoyments. Our hope is a constant source of high enjoyment, which unspeakably more than counterbalances all the uneasiness and sufferings which are occasioned by it, be they ever so many and great. Therefore unbelievers, if they knew we were deluded, which they do not know, and never will, would act an unreasonable, injurious and cruel part, to take our hope from us, if they could, or even to attempt it; for if this could be effected, it would deprive us of more happiness than they ever did or can enjoy, which is better to us than all this world. And we should sink down into the most gloomy state of despair and misery, which they who never had the Christian hope cannot feel or suffer while in this world.11   1. Cor. xv. 19, “If in this life only we have hope Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” These words have been understood by some in a sense which may be thought inconsistent with the sentiments expressed in the above paragraph. But on a careful examination, they will doubtless appear in perfect unison. To hope in Christ only in this life, is really to give up the Christian hope, and Christianity itself, as a groundless fable; and consequently to be deprived of all the enjoyment and happiness derived from Christianity, and the Christian hope, by which they have an unspeakably higher enjoyment, and greater degree of happiness, than unbelievers can have. And as they feel the vanity of all things in this world, their loss is irreparable, and they must feel themselves wretched, and sink into gloom, despair and misery: while the men of the world, by their ignorance, delusion and a worldly mind, knowing no greater good than they have or hope to obtain in the enjoyments of this life, are eagerly pursuing and fondly hoping for worldly good; by which they are, at present, prevented failing into that despair and misery, which will certainly come upon them, when this life shall end.

We now return to the point proposed, to speak of the reason we have of our hope, grounded on the evidence that the gospel is from heaven, which amounts to 12as great demonstrative certainty as there is or can be of any proposition which was ever proposed or thought of. We have read the Bible over and over again, and with much more care and attention than we bestowed on any other book. And the more we have read it, and attended to and understood the truths contained in it, the more clear and certain has the evidence appeared of its divine original, and the greater pleasure we have had in the things which it reveals.

When we enter on this theme, it is not easy to determine where to begin, or where to end. There is so great a multiplicity of evidence that the scriptures contain a revelation from God, and the number of particulars from which this is proved is so great, that it would take more time than we now have, to mention all of them. We can only give a summary view of this evidence now, which we are sure is a sufficient reason of our hope, of which we shall never be ashamed.

It is common and proper to distinguish the evidence that the Bible has a divine original, into that which is called external, and that which is internal, consisting in the doctrines, truths and duties which are revealed and inculcated therein. We shall endeavour to consider these separately, though they will naturally, and perhaps to the best advantage, be, in some instances, in a degree blended together. Certainly the honest mind will view them together, and at once, as strengthening each other, and amounting to a clear demonstration of this truth.

The external evidence consists in the manner in which the Christian scriptures have been made, and given to the world; the men and their character who wrote them, and the manner of their writing; the miracles which have been wrought in confirmation of the truth of the facts related, and the doctrines and commands made known, and that they who spoke and wrote were inspired by God to speak and do what they did; the numerous predictions of things and events which should come to pass, many of which were accomplished soon, 13others have come to pass long since they were predicted, and many are fulfilling now before our eyes, in the revolutions which are taking place, and the present state of the nations and of the world; the spread of Christianity among the nations, by the men who were the principal instruments of propagating it, and the preservation and continuance of it in the world to this day, notwithstanding the great and constant opposition to it which has been made.

These are the chief, but not all, the external evidences of the divine original of the Bible; which must be more particularly considered. The men by whom it was written appear to be men of good natural abilities, sensible, honest and serious, as men really inspired by God to write would be. They were not a number of men who lived at the same time, and could consult together, and lay a scheme what to write; but lived in different ages, the last above a thousand years after the first who wrote. They do not appear selfish, proud and vain, to seek their own worldly honour or interest, but the contrary. The manner of their writing is inimitable, and differs from the writings of all other men* This has been observed and illustrated by many authors, and is needless for us to repeat. They write an orderly history of the world from the beginning of it to the time of those last events which relate to the subjects on which they wrote. And this history is carried on by them to the end of the world by their predictions. This is the most ancient, well authenticated, consistent, important and useful history, that was ever formed by uninspired men, or ever will or can be. It exhibits one grand scheme and plan of events, all uniting and conspiring to bring all things to the most happy issue, worthy of the infinite Being who is infinitely powerful, wise and good. It is as really impossible that any uninspired man or number of men, especially who lived in such distant ages of the world, should make the writings which we find in the Bible, as it is for them to contrive and make the visible world: and we have as satisfying 14evidence that the scriptures contained in the Bible were written by the inspiration of God, as we have that the sun, moon and liars, and all the visible world, were made by him; especially if we take into view the facts which we are now going to mention.

Moses, who was the first writer, gave abundant proof that what he wrote, said and did, was by the inspiration, command and direction of the true God, by the numerous miracles which he wrought, and the predictions he made, which were fulfilled directly, or in the time of his life, and have been since fulfilled. And here we would observe, that prophecy, when it is fulfilled, is a real miracle, as absolute, independent prescience is an incommunicable attribute of God; and when a man has ability to know and foretel events that are future, this is as much above what are called the laws of nature, as the ability to work any miracle whatever, and is an evidence of divine inspiration. Therefore miracles, and prophecy which comes to pass, may be considered together, as they are frequently united in the same event in the scriptures. Thus most of the miracles wrought by Moses in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness, during forty years, were accompanied by predictions of the miraculous event before it took place, though the latter was instantaneous with the former, and both were of the nature of a miracle. And so were all the prophecies of Moses which have since been fulfilled, by which, and by all the miracles done by him, his divine mission was fully confirmed, in the view of the whole nation of Israel; and this has been handed down through all ages since in the church, and been increasing by the fulfilment of many of his prophecies, and the discovery of the import and design of the institutions which he appointed, which he declared he received from heaven. And, indeed, all or most of the ordinances instituted by Moses contained predictions, pointing out the character of the Saviour who was to come into the world, and what was to be done and suffered by him for the redemption of man, which were 15exactly fulfilled in him, together with all the predictions of him by the prophets who arose after Moses. All the mosaic institutions, and all the miracles he did, and predictions he uttered, all the miracles and prophecies by the prophets after Moses, with all the events which took place, were designed and suited to prepare the way for that event, the incarnation of the Son of God; so that divine design and wisdom is to be seen, by those who will properly attend, superintending through the whole. It is impossible it should be a mere human contrivance. At the very time which was pointed out and fixed by the prophets hundreds of years before, when there was consequently a general expectation of the appearance of the promised Saviour, and the Hate of the Jews and of the world was made ready for such an event, the expected Messiah came, in a character and in just such circumstances as were described and foretold long before by the prophets. He wrought many miracles, by which he proved that he was the Son of God, the very person predicted by the prophets, and taught the most important truth, in a manner which was never done by any mere man. He was a perfect example of humility, meekness, uprightness, benevolence, wisdom and piety, and taught, both by precept and example, the nature and properties of true religion, and the only excellent and perfect morality.—But now we have insensibly run into what properly belongs to the next head, of internal evidence.

He instructed his disciples into the meaning of those prophecies which related to him; and from this, and acquaintance with him, his doctrines and precepts, and the miracles he wrought, they believed with all their heart that he was the Son of God, who was to come into the world. The body of the nation of Jews, especially their teachers and leaders, the scribes and pharisees, were so sunk into depravity and ignorance, their hearts were so very bad and vicious, that they did not understand the prophecies concerning him; nor could they approve of his person, character and doctrines, all 16which condemned them; but they hated them with a hatred which could not be satisfied till they had put him to a cruel and ignominious death, which he had repeatedly foretold, and the consequent destruction of that nation, to his disciples, and the ancient prophets had predicted. He also said that he should rise from death on the third day. But his enemies had no expectation or belief of this, but were disposed to reject all the evidence that could be given of such a fact. And even his disciples and friends did not understand the prophets nor the words of Christ on this point, and knew not what to think of his being put to death as he was, and were wholly in the dark as to the consequence, till the evidence that he was risen from the dead was irresistibly forced upon them.

When he had given incontestible evidence of his resurrection to a sufficient number of chosen, competent witnesses, who could not be deceived, and conversed with them a considerable time, and given them proper instructions, they declared that they saw him ascend towards heaven in a cloud till out of their light; and that two angels appeared to them, who told them he was gone to heaven, and would return again at the day of judgment. They retired, and waited till, as he had promised them, they received from heaven miraculous power to bear witness of his resurrection, and proclaim salvation to sinners upon believing in his name. They were soon endued with power, and enabled to work miracles to prove the truth of their testimony that Christ was risen from the dead, and gone to heaven, and had commanded them to preach the gospel to the world, and that in this they said nothing but what was contained in the writings of Moses and the prophets. They went forth, and, contrary to all human probability and expectation of the success of such a small number of poor, low, illiterate men, with such a message, so contrary to the strong prejudices and prevailing customs both of Jews and Gentiles, and to the lusts and evil propensities which naturally reign in the hearts of all men, 17they made numerous converts to Christianity, from among the Jews and the idolatrous heathen.

It is impossible that these facts should take place, unless Christianity were from heaven, and the apostles were assured that what they related concerning Christ was true. That, in their then circumstances, they should undertake to propagate Christianity, without any worldly motives, and in the prospect of poverty, disgrace and suffering, which they knew was as contrary to the natural inclinations of men as any thing can be, cannot be accounted for, unless on the supposition they knew that what they declared was true, and most important to themselves and others, and that they could depend upon the promise of Christ to support and succeed them. And it appears to us that their success in propagating Christianity, and being supported in the midst of opposition. and suffering, till they had collected a number of churches, is a demonstration that divine power upheld them, and changed the hearts of men so as to dispose them to attend to and receive the gospel. This was as far above all mere human contrivance and efforts as is the production of the natural world, and cannot be accounted for without supposing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that the apostles were enabled to do those great and wonderful things by his assisting power, agreeable to the relation given of this matter in the Bible.

And that the gospel has spread among the nations, and Christianity has been continued to this day, notwithstanding the constant and strong opposition which has been made to it in so many ways, is, as we may say, a constant miracle, and a clear evidence that it has a divine original; and is a demonstration that it is of God, according to the test proposed by the good sense of the learned Gamaliel. If this counsel, or this work, had been of men, it would have come to nought long ago: but since it has continued to this day, and men, with all their cunning and power, with which they have in all ages attempted it, have not been able to overthrow it, its divine original is demonstrated, and it must be of 18God. And we are certain that all they who do oppose Christianity, and attempt to overthrow it, are fighting against God, and will be disappointed and confounded.

We will finish this head by mentioning the state in which the Jews now are, and have been since the destruction of Jerusalem and their temple; and the present state of the world -, which are agreeable to the predictions in the Bible. The state into which the Jews have fallen in consequence of the crucifixion of Christ by that nation, who wished that the guilt of his blood might fall on them and their posterity, is agreeable to the prophecies of Moses and the other prophets; to the predictions of Christ and the apostles; and are, in this view, a standing evidence of the truth of Christianity: which might be illustrated by a number of particulars, had we time to mention them. Their continuing a distinct people in their dispersion among the nations of the earth for so many ages, which is a sort of public, continual miracle, holds them in a situation in which they are prepared for the visible accomplishment of those many predictions and promises, which we find in the Bible, of mercy in store for them, by their being made willing to submit to Christ, and come into his fold, the Christian church, with the Gentiles: which is a confirming evidence of the truth of the gospel, and that this happy event will take place. And that the time is not far distant appears from other prophecies, and the present state of the world.

This leads us to observe, that the state of the Christian church from the days of the apostles to this time, and to the end of the world, and the state, changes and revolutions of the nations of the world, especially so far as they have any relation to the church, are foretold in the prophetic part of scripture, particularly by the prophet Daniel, and in the revelation given to the apostle John; which have been exactly fulfilled so far as they relate to the past and present time. And we may hence rely upon the accomplishment of the predictions of the events which are yet to take place. 19The great apostacy which has taken place in the church of Christ, by Antichrist or the Pope, by which the church of Rome is become a corrupt, false church, was particularly foretold, with many particular circumstances relating to its character, and treatment of true Christians, &c. the rise of it, and the time of its continuance, and final overthrow. Many things predicted of this false church have already come to pass, which are publicly known, and needless for us now to mention. It is evident that this false church, which in scripture is called a harlot, with those who support her, and all her appendages, are on the decline, and hastening to the destruction predicted. Five vials of the wrath of God, predicted in the sixteenth chapter of the prophecy by John, have already been poured out on her, and the sixth vial is now running, under which Antichrist is to sink, and the way be prepared for his final overthrow; which is now taking place in sight of the world. While this is doing, according to the prophecy, the spirits of devils are to be let loose in the Christian world, as they never were before, and under their influence all orders of men are to become exceeding corrupt and wicked, more generally, and to a greater degree, than ever before, and own themselves in opposition to God and the Redeemer. And do we not see this representation fall fulfilling from year to year? Is it not known that infidelity, Deism, Atheism, and all kinds of gross error, and of vice and wickedness, which are the genuine fruits of these, are rapidly spreading, and prevail every where? Surely all must be sensible of this who can discern the signs of the times. Let who will shut their eyes, and live in ignorance, it appears to us a striking evidence that the events of this time are a fulfilment of the above mentioned prophecy; and that, after the accomplishment of the events predicted under the seventh vial, the millennium, or prosperous and happy state of the church on earth, so much the subject of prophecy, both in the Old Testament and the New, will commence.

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Having, as briefly as we could, stated the leading things in which the external evidence that the Bible contains a revelation from heaven consists, we proceed to mention what we call the internal evidence of the same truth. This, we think, is more than answerable to the fair and promising outside, if we may so call it, which we have been considering, and is suited to establish every honest and good heart in assurance that the gospel is of God.

The Bible reveals the being, perfections, works and designs of God, and sets them in a more grand, important, rational and desirable light, than ever has or could be discovered by uninspired men, or has been conceived by any man who is not acquainted with the Bible. God is here represented as without beginning to exist, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, infinitely and unchangeably wise and good, just, true and faithful; as the Creator of all things, and constantly upholding, directing and governing them in all their revolutions and motions; all which are included in a most wise plan of operation, which has been fixed by him from eternity, is endless, absolutely perfect, and immutable; that he exercises a most perfect and wise moral government over all his rational creatures, to whom he gives a natural capacity of moral action, and obedience to all his laws, which are perfect, just and good. The law of God respects and requires a perfectly right disposition and exercises toward him and all fellow creatures; to love him with all the heart, and our neighbour as ourselves. It assures favour and happiness to the perfectly obedient, and curses the disobedient, with a curse which implies endless destruction. In short, the Bible reveals such a God as must be most pleasing and desirable to every perfectly innocent and good mind. Such have all they can desire or wish for in such a God, such a law and moral government; therefore to them he is the only true God, and their chosen portion and happiness; while they know that all the notions that have been entertained of the Divine Character and his law by those who have not taken them from the Bible, and are not consistent with it, are erroneous, foolish and wicked.

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The Bible gives a particular and rational account of the creation of this visible world, which is no where else to be found; and of the creation of man, by making one man and one woman, from whom all mankind descended. It relates the sin and apostacy of these first: created parents of the human race, and how, by this, total moral depravity and sinfulness came upon all their children, by which they are all, in their natural state, under the curse of the law of God. That all men are by nature depraved and sinful, is a fact evident to all who attend to the matter; but how and in what way they are become so, none have been able to give any good reason, who have not been acquainted with the Bible, or have rejected the account that gives of it, which appears rational, consistent and satisfactory to those who have an upright and good heart, and even to the sober reason of all who examine it without a great degree of prejudice and pride.

But the Bible reveals that which is infinitely more important to us, and to mankind, which never could have been known or thought of by any creature, had not God revealed it. This is the great design and work of the redemption of man by Jesus Christ, the Son of God; which is the great subject: of revelation, as the whole has reference to this, and would be needless in any other view. This fixes a divine stamp on the whole, as it makes a more clear, full and wonderful manifestation and display of the divine perfections, power, wisdom, holiness, goodness, justice, truth, grace and mercy, than otherwise could have been done; which cannot be known by those who never heard of this revelation, or who reject it as not coming from God.

In the gospel all mankind are represented as sinners, transgressors of the law of God, and under the curse of it. And a way is opened by which sinners may be delivered from this curie, and be recovered to holiness, the favour of God, and eternal life, consistent with maintaining and honouring the law of God, and displaying his justice and truth, his hatred of sin, and disposition to 22 punish it. This has been effected by the incarnation of the Son of God, who is really God manifest in the flesh; who by his suffering unto death in the flesh, and paying perfect obedience to the law, for man, and in his stead, has so honoured the law, both the precepts and penalty of it, that God may be just, according to the true spirit and design of it, and pardon and justify sinners who approve of the character and works of the Mediator, and trust in him. This is the sum of the matter, which might be enlarged upon, and illustrated without end. But we shall only say now, that to us the wisdom and all the perfections of God are displayed in the gospel; that this is the true God and eternal life, and that with good reason, and with the most perfect safety, we may place our highest hopes on this sure foundation.

The disciples of Jesus appear to give a fair and honest history of what he said and did, and of the treatment he received. They neither give him or themselves any praise, encomiums or flattering titles. They only relate facts respecting him, themselves and his friends and enemies, without making any reflections in his or their own favour, or against his enemies. They relate their own faults, without offering any palliation or excuse. No uninspired writer ever did, or could, or ever will, write a history of any particular person, or of so many important and extraordinary events, in which he is as much interested, as those who wrote the historical part of the New Testament were in the facts which they relate, in the manner in which they have written. Christ uniformly spake and acted with a dignity, condescension, seriousness, wisdom and prudence which became a person of the character which he sustained, and the work he came into the world to perform. He never erred or made the lead mistake in all he said and did.

Christ taught the most sublime, important and pure doctrines, respecting God and the state of man, the way of his recovery to the favour of God, to holiness and true happiness, and in what these consist. He taught that God was sovereign and independent in bestowing 23his mercy on men; that he had mercy on whom he pleased, for which men depend wholly on him; that all men were so wholly depraved and wicked at heart, that they refused to come to the light when set before them; that they hated the light; yea, that they hated him and God his Father, and continued to do so, till they were born again of the Spirit of God, by which a new, obedient heart was given; that previous to this they did not understand or see the things of the Spirit and kingdom of God; therefore all who come to the knowledge of the truth, and embrace the gospel, are taught of God; in which he has mercy on whom he will have mercy, making the distinction according to the dictates of hi$ wisdom and goodness, what will be best to promote the highest good of the universe, which cannot be done by the salvation of all. This is clearly and concisely expressed by Christ: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” This recommends the gospel to us as true and from heaven, as consistent and most excellent; as no man or set of men, uninspired, would have represented mankind in so bad a light, and so dependent on God for a new and better heart; or that every thing and circumstance relating to the salvation of men is under the direction of Infinite Wisdom and Goodness; all which is clearly taught in the Bible.

This leads us to say, that the gospel appears tons evidently of divine original, and we are sure that it is not of man, because it represents man as so infinitely guilty, odious and ill-deserving, that he cannot recommend himself to the least favour by any thing he can do or suffer; and that it is unbecoming the holy and just God to pardon and save him out of respect to any thing good and deserving in him, but purely on the account of the atonement, righteousness and infinite worthiness of a Mediator, to whom the unworthy sinner is united by faith: so that the salvation of men, from the foundation to the top-stone, from beginning to the end, is of mere sovereign. wonderful mercy and grace, by which 24 man is thoroughly abased and humbled, and his salvation must be ascribed, not in the least to himself, but wholly to the undeserved, sovereign grace of God. This is perfectly agreeable to the law of God, and the sinful, guilty state of man; and there is no other possible way in which he could be saved, consistent with the divine law, and the guilty state of man. It is impossible that this should be the contrivance of man, as it is directly contrary to his thoughts and reigning disposition, and is the principal reason of the opposition men make to the gospel, and why none will cordially embrace it till they have a new heart, a heart to confess their sins, and humble themselves in the sight of God, and receive offered mercy as a free, undeserved gift to the infinitely guilty and wretched, and with pleasure ascribe all the honour and glory of their salvation to God alone; by which they are prepared to enjoy true happiness, of which they were before wholly ignorant and destitute.

We have another all-convincing evidence that the gospel is true, and has a divine original, from the duties and the nature of the religion taught and enjoined by Christ and his apostles, which are different from any thing of this kind recommended by men not inspired, and in many respects contrary thereto. The Bible teaches that all true religion has its beginning in the heart of man, in the fear of God, and consists in supreme love to him, and unreserved devotedness to his honour and interest in all our exercises and conduct, which implies constant devotion in prayer and praise, and a religious acknowledgment of him at all times, and in the proper seasons of public and social worship, as well as that which is more private and secret. Christ said, men must deny themselves, and forsake all they had, for his sake, in order to be his true disciples; that they must be humble, meek, upright and benevolent, even towards their worst enemies; do them all the good in their power, and pray for them: forgive those who injured them, and indulge no disposition to retaliate and avenge themselves; but be harmless, and injure no man. In sum, 25the religion and morality taught in the Bible, especially by Christ and his apostles, is as much superior, in its reasonableness and excellence, to any thing of the kind which has been taught by men who have not derived their sentiments from revelation, as light is to darkness, and is perfectly suited to make those who heartily embrace it and conform to it happy in this world and forever. And we must further observe, that the religion and morality inculcated in the Bible is urged by the strongest motives, not only as most reasonable, and tending to render society happy in this world; but as it is enjoined by divine authority, with the promise of eternal happiness to all who obey, and an awful threatening of endless punishment to all others; in which opposite states all shall be fixed at the great day of general judgment.

We have now, in a summary way, given the reasons of our belief and assurance that the Bible contains a divine revelation, and of our hope in Christ. We see enough in him to satisfy us, even all we can wish, or hope for, or desire; enough to make us happy, beyond our present conception, in his eternal kingdom; and not us only, but all that shall believe on him, which we would earnestly urge on all those to whom we have access; knowing that all who believe shall be saved, and all who do not believe on him shall be damned.

We are sensible that Christianity has been greatly opposed in all ages since its institution, and much has been written, and many objections have been made, against it, by men of great parts and learning, which have been fully and abundantly refuted by Christian writers, some of whole writings we have seen. We know also that infidelity has greatly increased of late, and is now increasing; and that many, who profess to believe Christianity to be true, are rejecting the most essential doctrines of it, and there are many others who do not cordially embrace it, or live answerable to the precepts of it. But this is so far from making us hesitate, or abating our belief and confidence of the truth of it, that 26 we consider it as a confirmation that it is from God. For if mankind be so corrupt and wicked as to be enemies to the true God, which the Bible asserts, and is proved by their general conduct, then they must dislike and be enemies to all the manifestations of his character, and whatever he requires as most agreeable to him. Besides, the Bible relates many instances of this opposition to the truth, and predicts that the gospel would be opposed and rejected by men. Christ says to his disciples, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves, and ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.” And the Bible says, “The time will come, when men will not endure sound doctrine; and shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” And it has been observed, that the present infidelity and wickedness which prevail in Christendom is particularly predicted in the Bible. Notwithstanding all this, we know the truth of the gospel is great, and will overcome; and that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Finally: We know that the Bible could not be invented and forged by dishonest, wicked men; for this is for many reasons not only improbable, but impossible. And we know that no honest, good men would have any hand in it, if it were a forgery. It follows that the very existence of it, in the form in which it is, is a demonstration that it came from God, and was written by divine inspiration. We have as great and full evidence of this, yea, greater, than we have of the existence of the visible world, or of any thing which we perceive by our bodily senses.22   The above evidences of the truth and divine origin of Christianity, it is supposed every Christian is, or ought to be, able to produce on all proper occasions. Others are omitted, together with answers to the objections which are made to the Bible, because every Christian may not be supposed able readily to exhibit them. A more ample and able vindication of Christianity is contained in Dr. Trumbull’s Twelve Sermons on the Divine Origin of the Holy Scriptures, and Mr. Fuller’s treatise entitled, Christianity its own Evidence, &c; both which are recommended as worthy of the perusal of all.

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