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be suspected to favour the cause of Christianity, the learned Gamaliel in the Jewish Sanhedrim; and to him that great council agreed, Acts v. 36, &c.— Before these days rose up Theudas boasting himself to be somebody, to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves; who was slain, and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered and brought to nought. After this man rose up Judas of Galilee, in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him; he also perished, and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. And now I say unto you, refrain from these men, and let them alone ; for if this council or this work be of men, it will come to nought: but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God. And to him they agreed.'
5. But though the truth will at last prevail over error and imposture, yet it is a melancholy proof of the weakness, and superstition, and enthusiasm of mankind, that these false Christs and false prophets should delude such numbers as they did to their destruction. The false Messiahs had for a time many more disciples and followers than the true Messiah. The Christians were once
a little flock,'-- Luke xii. 32. •The number of the names together were about an hundred and twenty,'-Acts i. 15. Whereas these impostors attracted and drew away great multitudes, one of them six thousand,* another even thirty thousand.+ “With a pretence of divine inspiration, they taught the people,” as Josephus expresseth it, “ daluovąv, “to grow enthusiastically mad’,”# as if they were possessed and actuated by some spirit or demon: and indeed no plague or epidemical distemper is more catching and contagious than enthusiasm. It passeth from man to man like wild-fire. The imagination is soon heated, and there is rarely judgment enough to cool it again. The very elect,' even good Christians themselves, if they attend to enthusiasts, will be in danger of taken the infection, and be continually liable to be tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine,' - Ephes. iv. 14. if they have not (as all have not) a sufficient ballast of discretion to keep them steady. In reality enthusiasts know as little of the revelation given us by Christ, as of the reason given us by God. They are blind leaders of the blind. • Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert,' behold his power is experienced in field-preaching, 'go not forth; behold, he is in the secret chambers,' behold his presence is conspicuous in the tabernacles or conventicles, believe it not. He is best sought in his word, and in his works; and he will certainly be found by those, and those alone, who love him, not with fanaticism and enthusiasm, but in truth and soberness, so as to keep his commandments, which is the only infallible proof and legitimate issue of love. For as our Saviour himself saith, John xiv. 23,—- If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.'
* Joseph. De Bell. Jud. lib. 6, cap. 5, sect. 2. Και συμμικτος όχλος πλεισος εις Exxcoyohous. Et plurima multitudo promiscua, ad sex hominum millia. (And a very
eat mixed multitude, to the amount of six thousand.] p. 1281, edit. Hudson.
T Lib. 2, cap 13, 8ect. 5. Περι τρισμυριος μεν αθροιζει των ηπατημενων. Usque sa triginta hominum millia, quos præstigiis suis deceperat, congregavit. (He colcted thirty thousand of those whom he had deceived by his impostures.] p. 1075-6.
+ Προσχηματι θειασμα,-δαιμοναν το πλήθος ανεπειθον. Specie divini afflatus, -ναιgo to. insanirent perfuadebant [Translated in the text.] Ibid. sect 4, p. 1075.
6. Once more it is to be observed, that we must not credit every one, who cometh to us with a pretence of working miracles. For the false Christs and false prophets pretended to show great signs and wonders; and yet notwithstanding all their miraculous pretensions, our blessed Lord cautions his disciples not to believe or follow them. But then the question will be naturally asked, If we must not believe those who work miracles, whom must we believe ? how shall we know whether a person doth or doth not act by commission from heaven ? how shall we distinguish whether the doctrine is of God or of men ? Indeed, if miracles were not possible to be wrought at all, as some have pretended; or could be wrought only by God, or those who are commissioned by him, as others have argued; the reply would be obvious and easy: but that miracles are possible to be wrought is a truth agreeable to reason, and that they may be wrought by evil spirits is a supposition agreeable to scriplure: and therefore the best answer is, that reason must judge in this case as in every other, and determine of the miracles by the doctrines which they are alleged to confirm. If a doctrine is evil, no miracles can be wrought by a divine power in its behalf; for God can never set his hand and seal to a lie. If a doctrine is good, then we may be certain, that the miracles vouched for it were not wrought by the power of evil spirits; for at that rate, aecording to our Saviour's argument, Luke xi. 18,- Satan would be divided against himself, and his kingdom could not stand.' Good spirits can never confirm and establish what is evil, reither can evil spirits be supposed to promote what is good. Supposing that the miracles pretended in favour of Paganism were all real miracles, yet as they lead men to a corrupt religion and idolatrous worship, no reverence, no regard is to be paid to them, according to the com
mand of Moses, Deut. xiii. 1, &c.— If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods (which thou hast not known) and let us serve them; thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul.' In like manner we must not admit any thing contrary to the doctrines of Christ and his apostles, whatever miracles are boasted to recommend and authorize it. For the doctrines of the Christian religion are not only perfectly agreeable to reason, but moreover God hath confirmed it, amply confirmed it by miracles, and hath enjoined us strictly to adhere to it: and God can never be supposed to work miracles to confirm contradictions: and therefore allowing (what we cannot reasonably allow) that the miracles of Apollonius and other impostors were true and well attested, yet the foundation of Christ standeth firm, and cannot at all be shaken by them. Should any man, or number of men, with ever so great and confident a pretence to infallibility assert--that it is our duty implicitly to believe and obey the church : when Christ commands us, Matt. xxni. 9,– to call no man father upon earth,
is father which is in heaven;" that the service of God is to be performed in an unknown tongue; when St. Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthians hath written a whole chapter, xiv, expressly against it-that the sacrament of the Lord's supper is to be administered only in one kind ; when Christ instituted it, Matt. xxvi. and his apostles ordered it, 1 Cor. xi. to be celebrated in both-that the propitiatory sacrifice of Chiist is to be repeated in the mass; when the divine author of the I pistle to the Hebrews teacheth us, x. 10, that the body of Jesus Christ was offered once for all,' and ver. 14, that' by one offering he bath perfected for ever them that are sanctified,'--that men may arrive at such heights of virtue as to perform works of merit and supererogation ; when our Saviour orders us, Luke xvii. 10,-- after we have done all those things which are commanded us, to say, we are unprofitable servants, we have done but that which was our duty to do'--that attrition and confession, together with the absolution of te priest, will put a dying sinner into a state of grace and salvation ; when the scripture again and again declares, Heb. xii. 14, that ‘without holiness no man shall see the Lord,' and, 1 Cor. vi. 9
the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God'— that the souls of men, even of good men, immediately after death pass
purgatory; when St. John is commanded from heaven to write, Rev. xiv. 13,— Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, that they may rest from their labours, and their works do follow them,'--that we must worship images, and the relics of the saints ; when our Saviour teacheth us, Matt. iv. 10,--that we must worship the Lord God, and him only we must serve'—that we must invocate and adore saints and angels ; when the apostle chargeth us, Col. ii. 18, to let no man beguile us of our reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels'—that we must pray to the virgin Mary and all saints to intercede for us; when St. Paul affirms, 1 Tim. ii. 5, that as there is only one God, so there is only one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus'—that it is lawful to fill the world with rebellions and treasons, with persecutions and massacres, for the sake of religion and the church; when St. James assures us, i. 20, that the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God;' and when Christ maketh universal love and charity the distinguishing mark and badge of his disciples, John xiii. 35,
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another-I say, should any man assert these things so directly contrary to ceason and to the word of God, and vouch ever so many miracles in confirmation of them, yet we should make no scruple to reject and renounce them all. Nay we are obliged to denounce 'anathema against the teacher of such doctrines, though he were an apostle, though he were an angel from heaven ; and for this we have the warrant and authority of St. Paul, and to show that he laid particular stress upon it. he repeats it twice with great vehemence, Gal. i. 8, 9,- Though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any one preach any other gospel unto you, than that ye have received, let him be accursed.' Indeed, the miracles alleged in support of these doctrines are such ridiculous, incredible things, that a man must have faith, I do not say to remove mountains, but to swallow mountains, who can receive for truth the legends of the church of Rome. But admitting that any of the Romish miracles were undeniable matters of fact, and were attested by the best and most authentic records of time, yet I know not what the Bishop of Rome would gain by it, but a better title to be thought Antichrist For we know that the coming of Antichrist, as St. Paul declares, • is after the working of Satan with all power and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness,'—2 Thess ii. 9, 10:‘and he doeth great wonders in the sight of men,' accord
ing to the prophecy of St. John, Rev. xii. 13, 14, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he hath power to do.' Nor indeed is any thing more congruous and reasonable, than that · God should send men strong delusion, that they should believe a lie, because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved,'—2 Thess. ii. 10, 11.
But to return from this digression, though I hope neither an improper nor unedifying digression, to our main subject.
THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED
WE are now come to the last act of this dismal tragedy, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the final desolution of the Jewish polity in church and state, which our Saviour for several reasons might not think fit to declare nakedly and plainly, and therefore chooseth to clothe his discourse in figurative language. “He might possibly do it,” as Dr. Jortin conceives,“ to perplex the unbelieving persecuting Jews, if his discourses should ever fall into their hands, that they might not learn to avoid the impending evil.”* •Immediately after the tribulation of those days, shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.' Commentators generally understand this, and what follows, of the end of the world, and of Christ's coming to judgment; but the words, immediately after the tribulation of those days,' show, evidently, that he is not speaking of any distant event, but of something immediately consequent upon the tribulation before mentioned, and that must be the destruction of Jerusalem. It is true, his figures are very strong, but no stronger than are used by the ancient prophets upon similar occasions. The prophet Isaiah speaketh in the same manner of Babylon, xiii. 9, 10,- Behold the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay he land desolate ; and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven, and the constellations thereof, shall not give their light; the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and
* Dr. Jortin's Remarks on Ecclesiast. History vol. I, p. 75.