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of religion. The benevolent design, and holy tendency of the gospel, in all its doctrines and precepts, render it worthy of our belief and accept
Besides this internal evidence, God has been pleased to give it the sanction of his own testimony.
The miracles, which Jesus performed, were, to his first disciples, a complete demonstration of the truth of his doctrines. The history of his life, miracles, death and resurrection, delivered on the testimony of these disciples, is to us a sufficient evidence of the same. For, as they conversed with him, and saw and heard the things which they relate, they could not themselves be deceived. The innocence and integrity of their lives, and their self-denials and sufferings in their master's cause, secure them from the suspicion of a design to deceive others. The numerous adversaries to the Christian cause among the learned men and ru lers of the Jews and Gentiles, rendered it impossible, that these disciples, had they been ever so crafty and dishonest, should impose a fraud on the world. They confirmed their testimony and doctrines by miracles performed in their master's name. They appeared to live and act under the influence of their own doctrines; and thus gave practical evidence of their sincerity in preaching them. They resigned every worldly interest in support of the sacred cause, in which they were engaged; and thus made it manifest to all, that the motives which governed them were not the interests and honours of this world; but a belief of, and regard to that solemn futurity, which they, with such confidence, proclaimed to mankind.
In consequence of their preaching, the gospel gained footing, and spread to a great extent in the world; which it never could have done, if the facts alledged by them, had been only fictions of
their own heads. If there never had been such a man as Jesus of Nazareth, who publickly preached, and wrought miracles in Judea; who was tried and condemned by the Jewish council, and sentenced to crucifixion by the Roman governor, and who, within three days after his death and burial, rose again and appeared to many; a few men, combined together, could never, by any artifice or contrivance, have persuaded the world to believe these things; because the contrary must have been universally known. That christianity did gain credit, and spread in the world, and has, for several ages continued, even down to this time, we all know. This fact is an undeniable evidence of its truth and divinity. For it did not take place and prevail, either by secret fraud or open force, as impostures usually have done; but by the testimony of a few men to plain matters of fact, to which they appeal as well known, and which, had they not been real, could easily have been disproved.
Errors have sometimes been introduced and propagated by the artful reasoning of interested men. But christianity rests not on the basis of human reasoning, or a subtile, intricate train of ar. gumentation: It stands on the ground of plain facts, of which every man is able to judge. The life, miracles, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth are the facts which support it. If these did really take place, the gospel is true. Whether they did or not, men of common abilities were as competent to judge, as men of the profoundest learning.
We, who live in the present age, have not, in every respect, the same evidence of the truth of the gospel, as they had, who were eye witnesses of those facts. But we have their testimony, in the most authentick manner, conveyed to us. Some advantages we have, which they had not. We
have the examination of preceding ages. We see christianity still supporting itself against all the opposition of the world. We see the unwearied attempts of its enemies to subvert it, rendered fruitless and vain. We see many of the predictions, contained in these records, already verified; and others, to all appearance, hastening on toward an accomplishment. These things amount to a full proof that the gospel is divine. We are to regard it then as a credible report.
4. It is an interesting report.
Those reports, which, in our social interviews, are the more usual topics of discourse, are, in comparison with this, of small importance. Some of them relate to peace and war; the success and defeat of armies; the policies of kingdoms; and the progress of arts and commerce. Some of them respect the affairs of families; the conduct of par ticular persons; contentions and lawsuits between neighbours; the folly of one man, and the wisdom of another. Many of them are altogether trifling, and introduced to supply the want of thought, and fill up the vacuities of conversation. But the re. port, which we have from heaven, is infinitely im portant and equally concerns every son of Adam. If other reports engage the attention of some, this demands the regard of all.
From the gospel we learn, that the human race have, by transgression, fallen under the divine dis pleasure. This report corresponds with our own experience and observation. We see death reign ing over the sons of men. That death entered into the world by sin, is a reasonable supposition; and it is an express doctrine of revelation. Death is not all that the sinner has to fear. Conscience apprehends something more awful than this; and the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. These are
alarming reports. Whether there be any remedy for our unhappy condition; how we shall obtain deliverance from the wrath to come, are serious and important inquiries.
The gospel brings us a joyful message. It proclaims peace and good will to men. It discovers a sacrifice offered for our sins by Jesus the Son of God, who was manifested in human flesh. It assures us that God is in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses. Pardon here, and glory in heaven, it promises without dis tinction, to all who repent, and do works meet for repentance.
How interesting are these reports? Our exist ence here is short. All our worldly possessions and prospects we must soon resign. Shall we have nothing in exchange? To think that our existence terminates with death, is shocking to nature. To look for a miserable existence beyond death is more tremendous still. How joyful then is the information, that there is before us an existence, which, will be lasting without end, and may also be happy beyond conception, that the most guilty may be pardoned, and the most unworthy may obtain a blessed immortality.
In other cases, we readily receive a report which favours our interest, and corresponds with our wishWe easily believe an ill report of an enemy, or a good report of a friend. We eagerly attend advice which agrees with our previous resolutions; and we, with little suspicion embrace, as our friend, the man who promises to serve our interest. The gospel report is then most worthy of our acceptance. This shews us how we may be great and happy! It points out to us our real interest, and instructs us how we may secure it.
5. This is a publick report. It is what we have all heard, and heard often.
Some reports are cautiously whispered froin one friend and confident to another. However interesting they may be, there are many, who have no opportunity to take the benefit of them. If there is a report of great profits to be made by a particular article of commerce, of a great demand for some of the necessaries of life in a certain place, of a great scarcity of some useful commodity likely to happen soon; they who first hear this report, will keep it to themselves; or communicate it only to a few select friends, who may assist them in the monopoly.
But the report, of which we are now speaking, is common. All have the same opportunity to make use of it. None can say, they have never heard it. "The sound has gone forth into all the earth;" as the apostle observes; "and the word to the ends of the world."
If we fail of those blessings, which the gospel offers, we cannot plead in our excuse, that the report of them never had reached us; or that others had first engrossed them. They are published and proposed to all. How many soever have obtained a share in them, enough still remains for us. The report is, "Ho! every one that thirsteth, come to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money, and without price."-" Whosoever will, let him come and take of the water of life freely."
Finally, this is an ancient report. It was made ages ago. Our fathers heard it, and have told it to We heard it in our childhood; and hear it still. It is often repeated in our ears, and importunately urged on our consciences. If we despise it, soon will be verified that part, which we are most reluctant to hear; "He who believeth not, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth an him."