Page images
PDF
EPUB

quiry, as to the degree of credit which they justly demand. It is, therefore, expedient for every one who receives the system of doctrine which these writings disclose, to satisfy his own mind, whether they are to be admitted in their full and literal interpretation ; whether we must allow them the same extent of authority, as if they had come from the pen of the divine Teacher ; or whether we may interpret them, with some degree of latitude, as the testimony of men who, notwithstanding they had a predominant regard to truth, were yet liable to error, and might have been deceived in some particulars: and if so, whether we may not, lawfully, select certain parts of these records, as our rule of faith, and adjust them to our own conceptions, of what is fit and reasonable ; whilst we reject other parts, as not approving themselves to our private judgment. And such an inquiry is, in some respects, become necessary, as several professors of Christ's religion have. entertained, and taught, various opinions upon this important subject.

Whilst some regard the writings of the apostles and evangelists, as the inspired

[ocr errors]

and infallible word of God, which we must receive, in its full and literal meaning; there are others, who speak of the authors of these writings, merely as the attendants of Christ in his public ministry ; as men who, having seen his works, and heard his doctrines, declared the things that they had seen and heard, with candour and openness, and, to the best of their ability, with accuracy and truth.

And this they are acknowledged to have done, with such sincerity of zeal, and conviction of the certainty of their report, that they hesitated not to lay down their lives in confirmation of their testimony.

But, at the same time, these publishers of the Gospel, and founders of the Christian church, are represented as persons of mean acquirements, ignorant and unlearned, and, as they candidly acknowledge, of like infirmities with ourselves. And these defects and infirinities, it has been maintained, affected their ministry and doctrine ; so that, without impeaching their integrity, we may fairly doubt of the accuracy of their testimony, in certain particulars, and bring their doctrine to the test of private judg

[ocr errors]

ment. From this view of the subject has arisen that system which assumes to itself the title of rational christianity.

But, if this notion of our sacred records --this controul of human reason, over their divine authority-be admitted, it must follow, that the faith of Christians stands in the wisdom of men ; whereas St. Paul contends, that it should not stand in human wisdom, but in the power of God. And I trust that, upon due consideration, we shall

agree

with the apostle; and' shall acknowledge, that the history and doctrines of the New Testament resolve themselves into plain declarations of the will, the power, and ordinance of God, made under the direction of his Holy Spirit; and are, therefore, to be received in their genuine import, without variation or abatement.

For, in the first place, it will be admitted, that our Lord chose his apostles as authorised vouchers for what he did and taught; and that, when he departed from the world, and ascended to the Father, he committed to them the superintendance of his visible church. And, whatever the natural infirmity of these apostles, or their personal dis

advantages, may have been, one fact is clear, namely, that it was the will of Christ that his Gospel should not be published by : vague report, or proclaimed by any missionaries who were not fully competent to the task.

This precaution, so necessary to the establishing of an unshaken faith in the truth of the Gospel, and so essential to the very being of a Christian church, appears upon many occasions. Thus we find him continually charging those men,

,

upon whom he had wrought the miracle of healing, that they should tell no man what he had done for them. The intent of these prohibitions must have been, that there might ,' be no premature, or in perfect rumour of his actions, till his great plan should have been completed, and he should have brought forth judgment unto victory. These men, indeed, published everywhere the great things that Jesus had done for them ; but this publication was without commission, and against the express command of their divine benefactor.

In like manner our Lord declares that, in the office of his public ministry, he was

D

not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (Matt. xv. 24.) This house alone had an opportunity of discerning and recognizing, in his person, the character of their expected Messiah. They were the heirs of the promise which God had made to their fathers, saying unto AbrahamIn thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. They were the children of the prophets. Amongst them were publicly read, and with professed reverence and devotion, those predictions which foretold the mission, and described the character of Christ. They were also under a particular covenant of works, the terms of which they could not fulfil; and therefore waited for their justification, by the perfect obedience of him, concerning whom it was written, in their own Scriptures, that he coming to fulfil the will of God. And, at this very time, they were earnestly looking for his appearance.

When, therefore, Christ was sent to the House of Israel, he was sent to a people who might be expected to have a right apprehension of his character and office. This people, seeing the miracles which he did

was

.

« PreviousContinue »