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SERMON CCXXXIV.

THE EVIDENCES OF THE TRUTH OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION.

But 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.

IN discoursing on these words, I have begun to shew, how those who heard the doctrine of the gospel immediately from our Saviour, might be satisfied concerning his Divine authority; and I mentioned four ways by which such persons might receive full satisfaction.

I. By the agreement of the prophecies and promises of the Old Testament to our Saviour.

II. By the testimony of an immediate voice from heaven.

III. By the power of working miracles.

IV. By the gift of prophecy, proved and made good by the accomplishment of his own predictions.

In discoursing of the first of these, I proceeded by these steps:

1. That the prophecies of the Old Testament did fix a time for the coming of the Messias, and gave certain marks and signs whereby it might be known when the Messias would come.

2. That the time fixed by those prophecies for the coming of the Messias is already past.

3. And consequently, that the Messias is already come. Thus far I have gone; and now add,

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4. The prophecies and promises of the Old Testament concerning the Messias, do all exactly, both as to the time and all other circumstances, agree to Jesus Christ, that was born at Bethlehem, who gave himself out to be the Messias, and whom we Christians own to be so.

1 . The time specified in those predictions agree to him. When he came into the world, the government was departed from Judah; for they were then in subjection to the Romans; and Herod their king, who was put into the government by the Romans, was an Idumæan. He came into the second temple, which, notwithstanding its being re-edified by Herod, might justly be accounted the same, it not having been again destroyed by any enemy, but only pulled down in order to the beautifying and enlarging of it; notwithstanding which Josephus every where calls it the same temple; for he reckons but two temples—the one, that which Solomon built, which continued till the captivity of Babylon; the other, that which Zerubbabel built, and that he says continued till the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, And not long after our Saviour’s death, the city of Jerusalem and the sanctuary were utterly demolished, and “the end thereof was with a flood;” there was a total devastation of them; which plainly shews the seventy weeks did also expire about that time, wherever we fix the beginning of them; because the prophecy of Daniel tells us plainly, that towards the expiration of them, the city and the sanctuary were to be destroyed; which was fulfilled with a great deal of severity, as if there were some extra ordinary cause of those fearful judgments which came upon them. And indeed we find, that after they had committed the great sin “of crucifying 444the Lord of life,” they gave up themselves to all manner of wickedness, “filling up the measure of their sins, that wrath might come upon them to the uttermost;” insomuch, that Josephus tells us, “That he did verily believe, that if the Romans had not come at that time to destroy them, either the earth would have swallowed up their city, or a flood have overwhelmed, or thunder and lightning, or fire from heaven, would have consumed them, like Sodom and Gomorrah; for (says he) this generation was much more wicked than they were.”

And, which is a very considerable argument to the Jews, he came at the time when their whole nation were in expectation of the Messias; and, indeed, the whole world were about that time in expectation of a prince out of Judea. That the Jews did expect the Messias about this time, appears by the famous saying of one of their greatest rabbies, Elias, that there should be two thousand years be fore the law, two thousand years the law should last, and two thousand years should be the time of the Messias: and, according to the most exact chronology, it was much about the four thousandth year of the world that Christ was born. That a great part of the world besides were at that time in expectation of a prince to spring out of Judea, appears from those known testimonies of Suetonius and Tacitus: Percrebuerat toto oriente vetus et constans opinio, esse in fatis, ut Judea profecti rerum potirentur, saith Suetonius; and Tacitus to the same purpose. Both agree in the words of this prophecy, which seem to be taken out of the prophecy of Micah, speaking of Bethlehem, in the land of Judea; “Out of thee shall come a governor.” And Suetonius tells us farther, that the belief and 445expectation of this among the Jews was so great at that time, that this was the cause of their rebelling against the Romans. A just judgment of God upon them, that those who had rejected the true Messias, should be deluded to their own ruin by the hopes of a false one.

2. All other circumstances of those promises and prophecies, are exactly answered in the history and relation which the gospel gives of him. He was emphatically “the seed of the woman,” according to the first and very obscure promise made to our first parents, (Gen. iii. 15.) “The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head:” I say, he was emphatically “the seed of the woman,” being, as our books of the gospel tell us, born of a pure virgin, which never knew man. He was the seed of Abraham, according to the second promise of him made to Abraham, (Gen. xii. 3.) “In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” He was “a prophet like unto Moses,” being a great worker of miracles above any of the prophets, as Moses also was; and by whom God gave a new law, as he did by Moses, according to the other famous promise of him, (Deut. xviii. 15.) “A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you, like unto me.”

He was of the tribe of Judah, and of the seed of David, as it was foretold the Messias should be; therefore he is called in the gospel, “the Son of David;” and the apostle to the Hebrews (chap. vii. 14.) appeals to the Jews concerning this, as a thing clear and acknowledged among them, “It is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah,” which he would not have affirmed to the Jews without proof, if it had not been granted by them.

For the other, that he was of the seed of David, 446the Jews will by no means admit as a thing at all evident from the history of the gospel concerning him: for, say they, if that appear any where, we should find it in his genealogy; but there we find no such matter; there indeed we have the genealogy of Joseph very differently related by the two evangelists, Matthew and Luke: but what is this to the genealogy of Christ, when the Christians themselves avowedly declare, that Joseph was not his father? It is granted that Joseph was of David’s line; but to prove that Christ was really descended from David, instead of the genealogy of Joseph, they should have shewn Mary’s.

This is a very malicious and spiteful objection, and the Jews insist very much upon it: but yet I think it is capable of a very satisfactory answer, in which I shall proceed by these steps.

(1.) We will grant, that both the genealogies of our Saviour, that in Matthew and that in Luke, are intended to shew that Joseph was of Abraham’s and David’s line, and that neither of them is the genealogy of Mary. Some indeed have thought so, but it seems to me with very little probability: I in cline much rather to Grotius’s excellent conjecture about it, that Matthew’s genealogy gives us an account of the succession of the royal family down as low as Joseph, and that in St. Luke the direct series of Joseph’s ancestors.

(2.) The Jews grant that it hath been an ancient tradition among Christians, that Joseph and Mary were of the same family, and that Mary was Virgo, ἐπίκληρος, one that had no brethren, an heiress, or co heiress, and so according to the Jewish custom she was bound to marry in her family; which the Jews were especially careful of in the family of David, 447to preserve the succession of the royal line, of which the Messias was to come.

(3.) The Jews have nothing to object against this which shews it improbable.

(4.) If so, that they were of the same family, then the genealogy of Joseph, though not directly and expressly, yet by consequence, was the genealogy of Mary; and consequently, those genealogies in the gospel do sufficiently shew that Christ was the Son of David.

(5.) It cannot be imagined that the evangelists should have omitted the genealogy of Mary, if it had not been included in that of Joseph, especially St. Matthew, who in his genealogy expressly tells us, that he intended to shew that he was the Son of David, and also denies Joseph to have been his real father.

(6.) If there had been any question, whether Mary was of the line of David, the Jews would certainly in that time have rejected him from being the Messias, upon that very account; nothing more plausible for them to have said than this that he pretended to have no father, al d to be born of a virgin, who was not of the line of David, how could he then be the Messias, who was to be “of the seed of David?” But that he was always owned by the Jews to be of that seed, appears by the title so frequently given to him of the Son of David.

It was prophesied that the Messias should be born in Bethlehem of Judea, (Mic. v. 2.) which you find accordingly fulfilled, (Matt. ii. 6.) the providence of God so ordering it, that Augustus should then lay a general tax, which occasion brought up Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem; not only that she might be delivered there, but that their names being 443there entered, their family might be ascertained, and there might no doubt afterward arise, but that they were of the line of David.

It was foretold he should be “born of a virgin,” (Isa. vii. 14.) which you see accordingly fulfilled, (Matt. i.) That this is not the primary, but the mystical sense, of that place in Isaiah, I think may without prejudice be granted to the Jews, who in innumerable places of the Old Testament, do, besides the first and literal sense, allow of a mystical one; and if it be objected that this is only the saying of us Christians, that Christ was born of a pure virgin; to them it is easily answered, that if this be foretold of the Messias, whoever he be, that he shall be born of a virgin, as the Jews generally grant, we have as much assurance of this, as they can have, or imagine to have of theirs, whenever he should come. For it is not any report or tradition that can give credit to so strange a thing, but the unquestionable miracles which he wrought, which prove him to come from God, and consequently to be no impostor, but to be all that he pretended he was.

It was foretold of him that he should be a great prophet and teacher; (Deut. xviii, 15.) “A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you, like unto me.” (Isa. lxi. 1.) “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor,”&c. (Ezek. xxxiv. 23.) “And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd.” And, (chap xxxvii. ver. 24.) “And David my servant shall be king over them, and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them.” And this was eminently 449fulfilled in that he foretold several future contingents; as, his own crucifixion, Peter’s denial of him, the destruction of Jerusalem, the rising of false Christs, and false prophets, (which I shall particularly consider hereafter,) the descending of the Holy Ghost, and the admirable success of the gospel in the world; in that he preached so pure and perfect a doctrine to the world, and with so much authority; a doctrine so excellent and reasonable, so suitable to the necessities, and agreeable to the reason of mankind; a doctrine which tendeth so much to the perfecting of human nature, and to the peace and happiness of human society, above any other institution in the world.

It was foretold that he should do many and great miracles, and such as should be beneficial to men, (Isa. xxxv. 5, 6.) “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing.” And was not all this eminently accomplished in Jesus Christ? What greater, or more public, or more frequent and numerous, or more beneficial miracles, canal most be imagined, than Christ did? So that we may say to the Jews, as some of them did to the pharisees in our Saviour’s time, You talk of a Messias to come; “yet when he is come, will he do greater works than this man hath done?”

It was foretold of him, that the people should receive him with joy and triumph when “he came riding upon an ass to Jerusalem,” (Zach. ix. 9.) which we find fulfilled, Matt. xxi.

It was prophesied that he should suffer many things, and be rejected, and despised of men. (Psal. xxii. 6.) “But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach 450of men, and despised of the people.” (Isa. liii. 3.) “He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief: and we hid, as it were, our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Which we find fulfilled all along in the history of the gospel.

It was prophesied that he should be sold for thirty pieces of silver, (Zach. xi. 12.) which we find fulfilled, Matt. xxvii. 9. That when he who was “the shepherd was smitten, the sheep should be scattered,” (Zach. xiii. 7.) which was accomplished, Matt. xxvii. 56. “All the disciples forsook him and fled.” That he should be scourged and buffeted, and spit upon, (Isa. l. 6.) “I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spit ting;” which you find punctually accomplished, Matt. xxvii.

It was foretold that he should die a violent death, (Isa. liii. 8.) “He was cut off out of the land of the living.” (Dan. ix. 26.) “Messfas the Prince shall be cut off.” That he should undergo all these sufferings with the greatest patience, (Isa. liii. 7.) “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he was brought as a lamb to the slaughter; and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.” That he should suffer all these things not for himself, but for sinners, (Isa. liii. 5.) he “was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.” And, (ver. 6.) “The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” And, (ver. 8.) “For the transgression of my people was he stricken.” And, (ver. 10.) “His soul was 451made an offering for sin.” And, (ver. 12.) “He bare the sins of many.” And, (Dan. ix. 20.) it is said, “the Messias should be cut off, but not for himself.”

It was foretold that his hands and feet should be pierced, (Psal. xxii. 16.) He should be “numbered with the transgressors,” (Isa. liii. 12.) And accordingly he was condemned as a malefactor, to suffer with malefactors, “being crucified between two thieves.”

It was foretold that he should have “gall and vinegar given him to drink,” (Psal. lxix. 21.) that he should be derided in the midst of his sufferings, (Psal. xxii. 7, 8.) “All they that see me, laugh me to scorn; they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the Lord, that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in. him.” And this was most punctually accomplished, (Matt. xxvii. 39. 43.) “And they that passed by, reviled him, wagging their heads, and saying, He trusted in God, let him deliver him now, if he will have him.”

It was foretold that he should cry out under his sufferings, (Psal. xxii. 1.) “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? That he should pray for his wicked persecutors, (Isa. liii. 12.) that “he made intercession for the transgressors:” and so he did most affectionately, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” That they should cast lots for his garment, (Psal. xxii. 18.) All, or most of which predictions, were by the ancient Jews, understood of the Messias, and were exactly fulfilled in Jesus Christ, as appears fully out of the history of the gospel.

And then for the circumstances of his burial. 452It was foretold, that he should “make his grave with the rich,” (Isa. liii. 9.) which was accomplished, in that he was put into Joseph of Arimathea’s own tomb.

His resurrection was foretold to be “after three days,” (Hos. vi. 2.) as several of the rabbies understood that place; however, that he should rise again, may be plainly urged from these texts, where it is said “that his kingdom should have no end;” and (Isa. liii. 10.) where it is said, that, after his death, “He shall see his seed, and prolong his days; and that the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.” But most expressly, (Psal. xvi. 10.) “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.”

And his “sitting at the right hand of God,” which supposeth his ascension into heaven, (Psal. ex. 1.) “Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.”

The wonderful success of the gospel, and the universal spreading of it through the world, was fore told, Gen. xii. 3. “In thee shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;” which implies, that the blessing of the gospel, which the Messias brought to the world, should be universally diffused. (Gen. xlix. 10.) “To him shall the gathering of the people be.” (Psal. ii. 8.) God promiseth there to give Christ “the heathen for his inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for his possession.” Besides several other places of the Psalms and prophets, too many to be reckoned up.

Now the accomplishment of all these prophecies happened in their days who saw our Saviour, and conversed with him; so that they were capable of receiving full satisfaction concerning his Divine authority, 453and that he was a person sent of God to teach the world, and assure them that he was the Messias, foretold and prophesied of in the books of the Old Testament, which being by them received as of Divine inspiration, did consequently assure them that he was from God.

If. The second way whereby we may be satisfied concerning the Divine authority of a person, is by the testimony of an immediate voice from heaven; and this testimony Christ had twice given to him: the first publicly before a great assembly of people at John’s baptism, which was just before he began his public ministry, (Matt. iii. 16, 17.) “The Holy Ghost descending upon him like a dove, as he came out of the water; and there was a voice from heaven, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” The same voice was heard by Peter, James, and John, at his transfiguration on the mount, as you may see, Luke ix. 35. And this St. Peter mentions, as a considerable argument of Christ’s Divine authority, (2 Pet. i. 16-18.) “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.”

Indeed he makes this testimony to be such an argument, as, concurring with that which I mentioned before, is sufficient to persuade one that Christ was sent from God; but he does not make it to be equal to that which he adds at the 19th verse: “We have 454also a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto you do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place,” &c. Intimating, the prophecies of the Old Testament were greater confirmation, than this single testimony of a voice from heaven does amount to.

III. I proceed to the next evidence, which those who lived in our Saviour’s time had of his Divine authority, viz. the power of working miracles, which he was endowed withal; and this is the highest testimony that can be given to any person, that he is sent from God. And in this respect chiefly is the gospel called “the light of the glorious gospel of Christ,” because of those glorious miracles whereby the gospel was confirmed. This is, as it were, the broad seal of heaven, which is sufficient to give confirmation to any doctrine which does not evidently contradict the perfections of the Divine nature: and it is not credible, that the providence of God is so little tender of the concernments of mankind, as to communicate this power to any person that will abuse it to the confirmation of a lie. I deny not but the devil may do many strange things, and such as we cannot distinguish from some sort of miracles;1414   Of this see more, Sermon CCXXVIII. &c. p. 348. of this volume. and where men, by some great precedent provocation, have made it just for God “to give them up to strong delusions to believe lies, because they would not believe the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness;” there God may permit the devil to work strange wonders, as it is foretold, (2 Thess. ii. 9.) that the coming of antichrist “shall be after the working of Satan, with all power and signs, and lying wonders, and all deceiveableness of unrighteousness.” 455But in this case, there will remain two ways, whereby impartial and considerate men, and such as are not blinded by prejudice or their lusts, may sufficiently discover that this is not from God.

1. By the absurdity of the doctrine which those wonders are brought to confirm: and such were the lewd, and filthy, and senseless doctrines of the gnostics, to which Simon Magus pretended to give a confirmation by the wonders that he wrought, and this, very probably, may be that which the apostle refers to in this chapter. And such, likewise, are several of the doctrines of popery: such as the ado ration of the Virgin Mary, of saints and images, and the doctrine of transubstantiation; for the confirmation of which, they pretend a great many wonders have been wrought.

2. By the contrariety of the doctrine to that which hath had the confirmation of far greater miracles. Therefore, if we should grant to the papists, that several of those miracles which they brag of were really wrought, (which, considering the infinite cheats and impostures which have been practised by them in that kind, and have been discovered, we have no reason to grant;) yet, because the doctrine, which they pretend to confirm, is absurd and unreasonable, and contrary to the doctrine which they themselves own to have had a far greater confirmation, by miracles far greater, and more unquestionable, more publicly done, and in such a manner, and with such circumstances, as do free them from all suspicion of imposture; I say, for this reason, we cannot admit those doctrines to be of Divine authority; because the confirmation which is given to them by those wonders, is overpowered by a 456greater and more Divine testimony; as the magicians of Pharaoh, though they did many odd feats, yet were plainly mastered and conquered by the greater miracles which Moses wrought.

The sum is this: That wherever any person is endowed with an eminent power of working miracles, such as are of the first rank, great and unquestionable, and many and publicly wrought, this is one of the highest evidences we can have of the Divine authority of any person or doctrine. Therefore Nicodemus does upon this ground very reasonably conclude, that our Saviour was sent from God, (John iii. 2.) “We know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do those miracles which thou doest, except God be with him.” And our Saviour himself insists upon this frequently, as the great proof of his Divine authority, (Matt. xi. 3, 4.) When John the Baptist sent two of his disciples to him, to be satisfied whether he was the Messias, he bids them report to John what the doctrine was which they heard him preach, and what miracles they saw him work for the confirmation of it: “Go and shew John those things which you do see and hear; the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, and the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached unto them.” John v. 33, 36. our Saviour there tells the Jews, that “John bare witness of him;” and that might satisfy them, because they looked upon John as a prophet: “But (saith he) I have greater witness than that of John; for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.” (John xv. 24.) “If I had not done among them the works which no other man did, 457they had not had sin.” This was the great aggravation of their unbelief, that they resisted the evidence of so great miracles, such as no man in the world ever wrought.1515   See more of this, Sermon CCXXI. p. 225, of this volume.

I should now briefly run over the chief of those miracles of our Saviour, which we find recorded in the history of the gospel; and shew, that they have all the advantages that miracles can have, to give satisfaction to men concerning their reality. But this I reserve for my next discourse.

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