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The authenticity of the Chriftian Religion demonstrated from the manner of its Promulgation.
JOHN XVIII. 20.
I SPAKE OPENLY TO THE WORLD; I EVER TAUGHT IN THE SYNAGOGUE, AND IN THE TEMPLE WHITHER THE JEWS ALWAYS RESORT, AND IN SECRET HAVE I SAID NOTHING.
HE miracles of our bleffed Saviour, such as his raising the dead, his reftoring fight to the blind, and his inftantaneoufly healing the fick and the lame; were not only too great in their nature to be counterfeited, but those cures were performed upon fuch objects as were univerfally known, and many of them fuch as had laboured under their grievous infirmities for many years. When this infallible phyfician was followed by great multitudes, he would frequently heal all that made their applications to him, were they never fo many; and as fuch wonderful operations were too evident to be the effect of delufion, fo we find the scribes and pharifees, though his most implacable adversaries have not once the temerity to call in question the truth of them; but only look on him with an evil eye, and reproach him for the performance of fuch cures on the fabbath-day. And in like manner
as his actions were public, fo were the doctrines which he taught, infomuch that when the high priest queftioned him concerning them, he made the following intrepid reply. "I fpake openly to "the world; I ever taught in the fynagogue, and in the temple, "whither the Jews always refort, and in fecret have I faid nothing. Why afkeft thou me? Afk them which heard me, what I have " said unto them: behold, they know what I said.”
As the fair and open manner with which the Gospel was first promulged and propagated conveys a convincing evidence of its truth, we fhall therefore take a tranfient view of the most material acts of our bleffed Saviour and his apoftles; and fhall infift upon fuch only as were moft public, and fo well attested, that the greatest adversaries to the chriftian cause were obliged, though with reluctance, to acknowledge they were true.
It must be confeffed, indeed, that our Lord Jefus Christ has not left behind him the leaft account either of his life or doctrines under his own hand; but then his apoftles and difciples, influenced and affifted by his holy Spirit, have tranfmitted to us a true and faithful narrative of both, in the GOSPELS, ACTS, and EPISTLES: all which, collectively, are distinguished by the name or title of the NEW TESTAMENT. And that those writings are genuine and authentic, every impartial and unprejudiced reader will not hesitate to allow, when he confiders, that the composers of them were living at the fame time that the matters which they record were tranfacted, and were eye-witneffes themselves of their reality: And notwithstanding they were far distant from one another when they composed their respective accounts; yet they unanimously agree in every article of any moment or importance; and when they had finished them, they openly and boldly taught, and preached up the truths therein contained, whilst there were thousands living, who could prove the facts; nay, whilst their enemies were living who would gladly have embraced the leaft opportunity to confute them. Moreover, so zea
fous were thofe historians to justify the truths which they recorded,, . that they fealed them with their blood, in almost all parts of the world. And we read of no other compofition, no other record. whatever, though it related to the moft abfolute monarchy, and though never so many potentates and princes endeavoured to establish its reputation, that was so boldly, fo courageoufly defended. Their design was not like that of the generality of mankind, to flatter, and by that means to infinuate themselves into the good graces of fome powerful prince. For had Jesus been a mere man, they could have proposed no advantage to themselves in flattering him after his crucifixion: neither could they be perfons who wrote for gain; fince they freely parted with all that this world holds dear; nay, their very lives, in defence of their writings.
If we examine the ftyle of them, we shall find it plain, easy and familiar. Therein the divinity of Jefus Chrift is peremptorily afferted; and yet the infirmities of his humanity are no ways concealed: therein are the infirmities of his humanity acknowledged; and yet his divinity is not any ways deftroyed: therein the frailties and miscarriages of the apostles themselves; fuch as their too curious difpofition, their ambition, and the like, are faithfully recorded; and, in a word, not the least oftentation of themfelves, or pompous panegyric on their mafter is therein to be found. PETER, we are told, fhamefully fell, and denied his Lord no lefs than thrice, within the compass of a few hours. Now, why should his difciple, MARK, who compofed his gofpel by his direction, record his weakness and expofe him ?The fons of Zebedee, JOHN and JAMES, defire to fit the one on the right-hand of Jefus, and the other on his left, in his kingdom. What obligation did they lie under to publish these private mifcarriages, the discovery of which might in all human probability leffen the reputation and authority of their writings? They acknowledge, that JESUS himself was fometimes weary, fometimes thirfty, and often in tears, all which
are common infirmities incident to human nature; yet no lefs ftrenuously do they affert him to be God, and chearfully lay down their lives in defence of his divinity. But might they not have concealed these infirmities of his without the leaft prejudice to the truth ?-Doubtless, they might; and any one in the common course of thinking, would imagine, that fuch a procedure might have highly advanced the credit of the Gofpel. But they were men of deeper penetration, and were fully perfuaded, that the bright rays of his godhead would fhine forth with the greater lustre, even through the dark veil of his manhood. In a word, they fet down every minute circumftance, fuch as the time, the place, the day, the hour, the town, the house; nay, the very names of the perfons concerned. Now the more particular they were, the more liable, doubtless, they were to be detected and difcovered. Befides, they talk not in Judea of tranfactions in the Indies, but in Bethany, Bethfaida, and Jerufalem itself; they point out the very street, the gate, the pool, where such and fuch miracles were wrought before witnesses, who were then living; the blind faw, the lame walked, and the dead arofe, &c.-Now had they afferted a falfehood, how cafily had they been detected? What opportunities did they give their enemies to triumph over them ?-And yet among fo many inveterate and enraged Pharifees; among fo many people, fo ready and willing both to fay and do the utmost that the most bitter malice could prompt them to; how came it to pass, that not one should rise up in judgment against them? Since therefore spleen and ill nature are too apt to caft reflections and find fault where there is no juft occafion; and fince the most inveterate envy and hatred of their enemies, who lived in the places where those wonders were tranfacted, and at a time too, when their power and authority carried all before them, could not find the minutest circumstance mifrepresented, we muft naturally conclude, that the history of the Gofpel is unquestionably true, genuine, and authentick.