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should desert the cause and discover the fraud. Such a combination, so executed, was never known, or heard of, nor is human nature capable of it. And,
3. If they had been disposed to deceive mankind in these facts, it was not in their power to do it, nor could it be in their thoughts to attempt it. The facts which they relate, and the doctrines which they deliver, are so great and wonderful, that it is absurd to suppose a number of men should frame them out of their own invention. Had not the things which they declare been true, they could not have maintained that uniformity and consistency which appear in their testimony: Much less could such a number of persons have been consistent with one another. And if their testimony had not been true, it was, in the time of it, easy to detect the fraud and prevent it from spreading. The facts which they relate they declared were done publickly; in the view of the world; and then very lately. And had there been no such miracles, there would have been no credit given to their report. The disciples had enemies who wished to confound them. The Jews, especially their rulers, spared no pains to suppress the christian cause. Their enmity to it would have prompted them to convict the disciples of falsehood, if they had not known, that the facts related were indisputable. Had they discovered any im. posture, they would immediately have made it pub lick. And since they never denied the facts asserted by the apostles, but rather denied the consequen. ces of them, they must undoubtedly have been convinced, that they were real, and not fictitious.
Had not the miracles, said to have been wrought by Jesus and his disciples, been real, the gospel never could have gained so extensive credit, as in fact it did; and if it had not been then received, it would have been more difficult to introduce it, and give it a spread afterward: For it is always more
casy to establish a scheme when it is new, than to revive it, after it has been rejected and proved to be false.
The sacred writings carry in them an air of honesty and impartiality. They are of a holy nature and beneficial tendency. The pious and exemplary lives of the apostles proved them to be un-der the influence of the religion which they taught; and their dying in defence of it shewed, that they firmly believed it to be divine. Its wonderful success, without the support of human power, demonstrates, that it was patronized by heaven. The gospel history comes down to us with the passport of all former ages, and with every circumstance of credibility that can possibly attend any history.
There are four men, who have professedly written memoirs of the life of Jesus Christ. Two of them were his attendant disciples; the other two were contemporary and conversant with his disciples. Four others have written epistles to particu lar societies of christians, or to christians in general. In these epistles they recognise the character, assert or allude to the miracles, and teach the doctrines of Jesus, as they are related in those memoirs. So that this history stands on the credit of eight different persons, most of whom were the immediate disciples of Jesus, and all of them his contemporaries. They wrote separately, on dif ferent occasions, without the least appearance of concert or collusion; and yet all substantially agree. To some of the principal facts there is the concur rent testimony of heathen writers. These memoirs and epistles were received as genuine, in the apostolick and next succeeding age, and from age to age down to the present time. In short the gospel history, if considered merely as human, is better authenticated than any other ancient history extant. If we doubt its truth, we must doubt the truth of
all history, and believe nothing, but what we see with our own eyes. I proceed to observe,
III. Though the evangelists have not written every thing which Christ did and taught, yet, they have written as much as is necessary to the establishment of our faith. Saint John says, Many other things truly did Jesus, which are not written in this book, but these are written that ye might believe. He says afterward, There are many other things which Jesus did, which, if they should be written, every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. A particular narrative of every thing which Christ did and spake, would have swelled the sacred volume beyond bounds. Few or none would have found ability to procure it, or time to read it. So that it would have been much less useful to the world, than the concise, summary account which is now given us. They who can reject the gospel, after all the evidence which arises from the miracles written, might as well reject it, if the number were ten times as great. And though every discourse which our Saviour delivered is not given us at full length, yet we have a summary view of all the doctrines which he taught. Though many things which he spake are omitted in the history, yet no essential and important truth is suppressed.
The observation here made, may be applied to the works and sermons of his apostles. It is not necessary to suppose, nor indeed is it probable, that the New Testament contains all their transac tions. It is certain that we have only a summary account of the sermons which they preached; and, in some instances, there is only mention made of their preaching at such a place, without any particular detail of the matters on which they spake. Nor is the supposition unreasonable,
that they might write many epistles, on one occa sion and another, which, are not transmitted to us. But then we have, in the sacred volume, all the doctrines fully taught, which we could have had, every sermon preached, and every letter written by the apostles, had been given us at full length. As they wrote to different churches, they would undoubtedly write many of the same things repeatedly. We find this to be in some measure the case with many of the epistles which we have. There is a great similarity between that to the Ephesians, and that to the Colossians. There is almost no sentiment in the one but what occurs in the other, and often in nearly the same expressions. The epistle to Titus contains little, but what we find in those to Timothy. There is a great resemblance between Jude's 'epistle, and part of the second epistle of Peter.
A repetition of the same things, especially of the more important truths and duties of religion, is of great use. It helps us to a better understanding of them; it tends to impress them on the mind; it serves to fix them in the memory; it shews what the inspired writers esteemed the most weighty matters, and were most solicitous to inculcate. It is attended also with another important advantage. It secures the scriptures from the possibility of material corruption. If the religion of the gospel had been written systematically; and the same doctrine, or precept, had been only once expressed; evil minded men, by altering a single passage, would have erased an essential point, and changed the substance of the system. But now, as the same things are interspersed in various parts, the corruption of a single text, will affect none of the great truths of religion, because the truth contained in the text so corrupted, is to be found elsewhere. In order to blot out any of the doctrines
of religion, the scriptures must be altered in so many places at once, that every reader would immediately observe and reject the corruption. From this one circumstance, we may be absolutely certain, that the sacred scriptures have never suffered any material or essential alterations, either from the carelessness of transcribers, or the artifice of impostors.
But though it seems necessary, that there should be frequent repetitions of the same things, yet it is by no means necessary, that every thing which Christ did and spake, or which the apostles preached and wrote, should be conveyed to us; for so many things could not be contained within the compass of a volume adapted to common use.
From the miracles recorded, we have all the evidence of the divine authority of the scriptures, which we could have from a thousand more. And from the writings transmitted to us, we have all the instructions concerning our faith and duty, that we should have had, if every sermon delivered by Christ and his apostles, and all the letters which the apostles wrote, had been conveyed to us at large. For as the sermons were delivered, and the letters were written to different persons, at different times, they were doubtless in substance similar to those which we now possess: So that the scriptures are perfect, and fully adapted to their end, though, in the days of inspiration and miracles, many things were spoken and done, which are not contained in this book.
What was the great end for which the scriptures were written, the apostle teaches us;
IV. In the fourth place. These things are written that ye might believe.
Faith is the great principle of religion. The scriptures teach us, what is that evidence on which their divine authority is founded, and point out VOL. II. C