« ÎnapoiContinuați »
of our salvation :” whose conduct in circumstances like ours, and under like temptations, is inviting and exemplary. Which is agreeable to divers parts of the apostle's argument in the epistle to the Hebrews, ch. iv. 14–16. “Let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest, which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities: but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we inay obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” See also ch. ii. 10–18.
Our Lord's exaltation is also, in this way, most encouraging. His condescension and obedience, in acquiescing in his low condition on this earth, and in yielding up himself to death, are set before us as an example to be imitated. And it is added : “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him.” This affords reason to think, that if we practise meekness, and other virtues, and are obedient to God, and promote the good of our fellow-creatures; we likewise shall be highly exalted, and greatly rewarded. But supposing Jesus to have been, before his appearance on this earth, under God, the creator and governor of the world ; his glorification after death will not seem to be so much the reward of his faith and obedience here, as the reinstating him in what he enjoyed, and had a right to before. Our case is then so different from his, as to have little or no resemblance. And his glorification, or exaltation, if it may be so called, will be little or no excitement to us.
But we should preserve this quickening motive and consideration, the glory and reward of Jesus in all its force. Which, as it stands in this text, and in many other places of the New Testament, is the most animating thought that can be conceived.
As the apostle says, Heb. xii. 1, 2. “ Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so. easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us : looking unto Jesus, the captain, and perfect example of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down on the right hand of God.” And says our exalted Lord to the church of the Laodiceans: “ To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne," Rev. iii. 21.
And let us particularly remember the moving exhortation in our text. For though, because of the different sentiments of Christians in some points of a speculative nature, this, and some former discourses have been, in part, controversial, the genuine import and design of the text is throughout practical; and tends to dispose us, as occasions require, to be ready to promote the good of others, and for that end to strive to outdo each other in meekness and condescension. ** If there be any consolation in Christ-fulfil ye my joy-Let nothing be done through strife, or vain glory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem another better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things : but every man also on the things of others. Let that mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Who, though he had such peculiar distinctions on account of his high office and character, did not earnestly covet divine honour from men, nor affect external greatness, pomp and splendour, power and authority, ease and pleasure ; but emptied himself, and acted as a servant, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. For which reason he has been advanced to extensive dominion and power, and great honour and glory: in which all others shall share hereafter, who now have a temper and conduct resembling his.
OF THREE OF
OUR BLESSED SAVIOUR’S MIRACLES :
THE RAISING OF JAIRUS'S DAUGHTER, THE WIDOW OF NAIN'S SON, AND LAZARUS.
IN ANSWER TO THE OBJECTIONS OF MR. Woolston's fifTH DISCOURSE ON
THE MIRACLES OF OUR SAVIOUR.
The ensuing vindication was drawn up about nine months since. But it was done for my own satisfaction, without any view to a publication at that time. And when the Reverend Dr. Harris's remarks on the case of Lazarus came out, I thought the public and Mr. W. had received in a short compass a full answer to all the material objections of the discourse, with which these papers are concerned.
Nor did I determine to send them to the press, till after I had seen a passage in Mr. W's defence of his Discourses, p. 61, where he says: Whoever was the author of the aforesaid treatise,
[The Trial of the Witnesses of the Resurrection of Jesus] he humbly and heartily begs of him • to publish what in the conclusion of it he has given us some hopes of, the trial of the witnesses • of the resurrection of Lazarus, because his Rabbi's objections to it are a novelty and curiosity, • which, by way of such a reply to them, he should be glad to see handled.' 'I also wish the ingenious author of that performance may be at leisure to grant Mr. W's request. In the mean time, Mr. W. still expressing a particular regard for his Rabbi's objections, I thought it not amiss to send abroad this Vindication, which I had by me.
If Mr. W. by way of such a reply, means a reply drawn up with the wit and spirit of that author, I freely own it much above my capacity, and am not so vain as to attempt it
. If by way of such a reply he means a reply without abusive railing terms, or invoking the aid of the civil magistrate, I have done it in that way. I wish Mr. Woolston no harm; I only wish him a sincere conviction and profession of the truth effected and brought about by solid reasons and arguments, without pains or penalties. And in this point I agree exactly with that learned Dominican, De Maussac, who in his Prolegomena to Raymond Martini's Pugio Fidea, written against Moors and Jews, says: “ We must with Tertullian openly profess, that the new law does • not defend itself by the sword of the magistrate: forasmuch as it hath pleased Christ the author
of it, that no man should be forced to the embracing of his law by the punishments of this life, • or the fear of them, as appears from many places of the New Testament, not only of Paul, but • also of John, and Luke, and Matthew. Nor is it, as the same father says at the end of his • book to Scapula, a part of religion to force religion, which must be taken up freely, not upon
compulsion. Who will lay upon me the necessity of believing what I will not, or of not • believing what I will (as Lactantius says)? Nothing is so voluntary as religion. In which, if < the mind be averse, religion is quite destroyed. Faith is to be wrought by persuasion, not by * compulsion. Severity has always done harm, and always will do harm: and our minds, like
noble and generous steeds, are best managed with an easy rein; rather by reason than • authority, rather by good words than by threats.
When, at the erecting the Royal Society into which were freely admitted men of different religions and countries, some it is likely, were apprehensive of this free converse of various judgments, Dr. Sprat frankly asserts, That our doctrine and discipline [those of the Church
of England] will be so far from receiving damage by it, that it were the best way to make them
universally embraced, if they were oftener brought to be canvassed amidst all sorts of dissenters: •, -That there is no one profession amidst the several denominations of Christians, that can be ! exposed to the search and scrutiny of its adversaries, with so much safety as ours.'
Dr. Bentley, in a sermon at a public commencement at Cambridge, says,“ • It has pleased • the Divine Wisdom, never yet to leave Christianity wholly at leisure from opposers; but to
give its professors that perpetual exercise of their industry and zeal. And who can tell, if • without such adversaries to rouse and quicken them, they might not in long tract of time have grown remiss in the duties, and ignorant in the doctrines of religion?'
These learned men have assured us upon the foundation of the scriptures, of the fathers, and reason, that all force on the minds of men in the matters of belief is contrary to religion in general, and to the Christian religion in particular; and that severity instead of doing good, has always done harm.
These points might be enlarged upon, but nothing new can be offered. Possibly some good men may still be in some doubt concerning the issue of admitting the principles of religion to be freely and openly canvassed. But I think that such may find satisfaction even upon this head in the passages I have quoted, provided they will be pleased to consider them. However I will add a few observations briefly upon this matter.
It is an old saying, which has been much admired and applauded for its wisdom, that truth is great, and strong above all things. There is certainly some real excellence in Truth above
Great and important truths are clearer than others, and not likely to be mistaken, but to shine the more for examination. The Christian religion in particular, as contained in the New Testament, abounds with evidence.
These are considerations taken from the nature of things. Experience is on the same side. The Christian religion triumphed for the first three hundred years over error and superstition, without the aids of civil authority, against the veneration of ancient custom, against ridicule and calumny, false arguments, and many severe persecutions. From small beginnings by its own internal excellence, and the force of that evidence with which God had clothed it, and the industry and zeal of its honest professors, it spread itself over the Roman empire, and the neighbouring countries.
The Christian church had in the same space of time a triumph within itself over those false and absurd opinions that sprang up under the Christian name. • These heresies,' Eusebius says, • soon disappeared one after another, being continually changing into new forms and shapes. • But the catholic and only true church, always the same and constant to itself, spread and in•creased continually; shining out among Greeks and barbarians by the gravity, simplicity, free..dom, modesty and purity of its manners and principles.' This joint victory over Gentilism, • and over heresies, was obtained, as he intimates, by the writings and discourses of the patrons
• Nam cum Tertulliano palam est profitendum, legem guntur, docendo magis quam jubendo, monendo quam minovam non se vindicare ultore gladio; quod Christo ejus anctori placuerit neminem ad receptionem suæ legis cogi hujus b History of the Royal Society, p. 63, second edition. vitæ pænis, vel earum metu, ut patet ex variis Novi Testa
edit. 1696. menti locis, tam Pauli, tum Joannis, tum Lucæ, tum Aλλων επ' αλλαις αιρεσεων καινοτομεμενων. υπoρρεεσων αει Matthæi; quod non sit religionis, eodom teste ad Scapulam των πρπερων, και εις πολυτροπές και πολυμορφες ιδεας αλλοίε in fine, cogere religionem, quæ sponte suscipi debet, non vi. αλλως φθειρομενων. Προσγει δ' εις αυξησιν και μεγεθο, αει Quis mihi imponat necessitatem vel credendi quod nolim, vel κατα τα αυτα και ωσαύτως εχασα, ή της καθολά και μσνης quod velim non credendi ? ait Lactantius. Nihil tam volun- αληθες εκκλησιας λαμπροτης, κ. λ. Η. Ε. 1. 4. c. 7. tarium quam religio; in quâ si animus aversus est, jam sub- “Ομως δ' εν κατα της δηλεμενους αυθις παρηγεν εις μεσον lata, jam nulla est. Fides autem suadenda est, non impe- η αληθεια πλειος έαυτης, υπερμαχος, και δι' αγραφων αυτο μονον randa; nocuit enim, & nocebit semper, rigor; & ingenia eneyxwv, anna xas oi' syy pa wv ZTOSEČEwy xaTa TWY abewy nostra, ut nobiles & generosi equi, melius facili fræno re- αίρεσεων σρατευομενες. Ιbid.
c Page 3,
of truth at that time. And indeed it could be owing to nothing else but to those methods, supported by holy lives and patient sufferings.
Our own time also affords a convincing instance to all that will open their eyes to observe. The protestant states and kingdoms of Europe, as they enjoy greater liberty than others,
proportionably exceed their neighbours in the justness of their sentiments, and the goodness of their lives. Indeed there is among us protestants a great deal of vice and irreligion, which all good men observe with grief and concern, and some very bad and selfish men delight to aggravate and magnify with a view to their own evil designs; but still without vanity, if we be barely just to our circumstances, sure we have some reason to glory over some of our neighbours in this respect. Which advantage can be ascribed to no other cause so much as the liberty we enjoy. For introduce among us the tyranny they are under, and we shall be as ignorant, as superstitious, and corrupt, as they
If then men should be permitted among us, to go on in delivering their sentiments freely in matters of religion, and to propose their objections against Christianity itself; I apprehend, we have no reason to be in pain for the event. On the side of Christianity, I expect to see, as hitherto, the greatest share of learning, good sense, true wit, and fairness of disputation: which things, I hope, will be superior to low ridicule, false argument, and misrepresentation.
For ought I can see, in an age so rational as this we live in, the victory over our enemies may be speedily obtained. They will be driven to those manifest absurdities, which they must be ashamed to own; and be silent in dread of universal censure. But suppose the contest should last for some time, we shall all better understand our Bibles: we shall upon a fresh examination better understand the principles, and the grounds of our religion. Possibly some errors may be mixed with our faith, which by this means may be separated, and our faith become more pure. Being more confirmed in the truths of our religion, we shall be more perfect in the duties of it. Instead of being unthinking and nominal, we shall become more generally serious and real Christians: each one of which advantages will be a large step toward a complete and final victory.
This victory obtained upon the ground of argument and persuasion alone, by writing and discourse, will be honourable to us and our religion; and we shall be able to reflect upon it with pleasure. We shall not only keep that good thing we have received, but shall deliver it down to others with advantage. But a victory secured by mere authority is no less to be dreaded than a defeat. It may appear a benefit for the present, but it really undermines the cause; and strikes at the root of our holy profession. Will any serious and sensible Christian, in the view of a future judgment, undertake to answer for the damage thereby brought to the doctrine of his Saviour, the meek and patient Jesus? as meek in his principles, as in the example he has bequeathed us.
I might now address myself to our adversaries, and tell them, that it is a very desirable thing, that all authors should write as scholars and gentlemen, at least like civilised people: that it is a point long since determined, that in controversial writings, authors should confine themselves to things, that is, the merits of the cause, without annoying persons: that it is grievous to all sorts of men, to have those things which they respect, treated with indecency. I might tell them, that other men's reputation is as sacred as their own. I might remind them, that Christians at this time, generally speaking, are in as good temper as they were ever known to be: that some, being of opinion that Christ's kingdom is not of this world, and that it is his pleasure, that men should not be compelled to receive his law by the punishments of this life, or the fear of them, leave men to propose their doubts and objections in their own way: that others have openly declared, that they ought to be invited; and others that they ought to be permitted to propose their objections, provided it be done in a grave and serious manner. Christians have also lately shewn an instance of their moderation towards some books published in opposition to their principles. These are things, which, one would think, should have some effect on ingenuous minds; and draw them off from the design of any rudeness or indecency in their attacks on the sentiments commonly received among Christians. I might also remind our adversaries of some examples of an admirable decorum observed by the disciples of Jesus in their arguings with the Jews and Gentiles. But really one has little encouragement from some late performances to enlarge upon these particulars. And perhaps it would be judged ridiculous, to
imagine that any men should oppose the gospel with the same spirit, with which it was at first taught and propagated.
Besides, as all men are more concerned for the good conduct of their friends, than of others; so have I been chiefly solicitous on this occasion about the conduct of those who are engaged in the same cause with myself'; that it may be such as is best suited to the nature of those sublime principles they profess, and most for the lasting honour and interest of our religion. And though the things here said may be at first disagreeable to some who are, or have been in part of a different sentiment, it is not impossible, but that upon calm and cool reflection they may obtain their approbation.
A passage of Origen out of his Books against Celsus, concerning these three miracles.
I have in the Vindication prolixly shewn, that the literal histories of these miracles are rational, consistent, and credible: so that we may be safe and easy in understanding them in their literal sense, whatever any fathers or other people may say to the contrary. I shall however here set before the reader a passage of Origen written about A. D. 245, which passage I have chosen, not only as containing a testimony to the real performance of these miracles in their literal sense, and shewing, that Origen argued the messiahship of Jesus from miracles; but also as containing an excellent observation concerning the credibility of the evangelists. The reader will likewise perceive that in Celsus's time, who flourished about the middle of the second eentury, the miracles of Jesus were much talked of, and well known to the heathens: and that the Christians in the time of Celsus, or before, believed the miracles of Jesus, and argued his divine mission from them.
. But this,' says Origen, is no new thing with Celsus, when he is not able directly to oppose * the miracles which Jesus is recorded to have done, to asperse them as juggling tricks. To • which I have already often replied according to my ability. And here he makes us answer
him; that we therefore believe him to be the Son of God, because he healed the lame and the • blind. He adds; and, as you say, raised the dead. For certain we do believe him to be the • Christ and the Son of God, because he healed the lame and the blind. And we are confirmed * in it, because that in the prophets it is written: “ Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, * and the ears of the deaf shall hear, and the lame man leap as an hart.” And that he raised • the dead, and that this is not a fiction of those that wrote the gospels, is evident hence; that if it • had been a fiction of theirs, they would have related, many persons to have been raised up, and * those who had lain a long time in their graves. But it not being a fiction, there are few of • whom this is related : for instance, the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue (of whom I do * not know why he said, she is not dead, but sleepeth, expressing somewhat peculiar to her, * not common to all dead persons) and the only son of a widow, on whom he had compassion, • and raised him up, after he had bid the bearers of the corpse stop; and the third, Lazarus, * who had been buried four days.'
Και νυν δε φησιν οιονει ημάς αποκρινασθαι, ότι δια πλασμα, πανυ ευαριθμητες λελεχθαι, την τε το αρχισυναγωνε τετ' ενομισαμεν αυτον ειναι Υιον Θεα, επει χαλες και τυφλες θυγατερα (περι ής εκ οιδ' οπως ειπεν, 8κ απεθανεν, αλλα καεθεραπευσε. Προςιθησι δε και το, ως υμεις φατε, ανιση νεκρές. θευδει λεγων τι περι αυτης, ο 8 πασι τοις αποθανεσι προσης) ότι μεν Bν χωλός και τυφλες εθεραπευσε, διοπερ Χριςον αυτον και τον μονογενη της χώρας υίον. εφ' ω σπλαχνισθεις ανεσησεν, και Υιον Θεε νομιζομεν· δηλον ημιν εστιν εκ τε και εν πρυφητείαις σησας τας φεροντας τον νεκρον» και τριτον Λαζαρον. τείαρτης γεγραφθαι: Τοτε- -Ότι δε και νεκρός ανιση, και εκ εςι quepay sy tw urquerq, eyoria. Cont. Cels. 1. 2. p. 87. πλασμα των τα ευαγγελια γραψαντων" παριςαται εκ τε, ει Origen, it seems, did not then think of the reason of this, μεν πλασμα ην, πολλές αναγεγραφθαι τες αναστανίας, και της I have assigned the plain reason of it, p. 352. See also, ηδη χρονες εχοντας πλειονας εν τοις μνημειoις. επει