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without the gospel of Christ, and the teachings of his Spirit : And then, after that, in the wisdom of God, the world by wise dom knew not God, it pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe. And when the gospel came to prevail first without the help of man's wisdom, then God was pleased to make use of learning as an handmaid. So now learning is at a great height at this day in the world, far beyond what it was in the age when Christ appeared ; and now the world, by their learning and wisdom, do not know God ; and they seem to wander in darkness, are miserably deluded, stumble and fall in matters of religion, as in midnight darkness. Trusting to their learning, they grope in the day time as in the night. Learned men are exceedingly divided in their opinions concerning the matters of religion, run into all manner of corrupt opinions, and pernicious and foolish errors. They scorn to submit their reason to divine revelation, to believe any thing that is above their comprehension, and so, being wise in their own eyes, they become fools, and even vain in their imaginations, and turn the truth of God into a lie, and their foolish hearts are darkened. See Rom. i. 21. &c.
But yet, when God has sufficiently shown men the insufficiency of human wisdom and learning for the purposes of religion, and when the appointed time comes for that glorious outpouring of the Spirit of God, when he will himself by his own immediate influence enlighten men's minds.; then
may we hope that God will make use of the great increase of learning as an handmaid to religion, as a means of the glorious advancement of the kingdom of his Son. Then shall human learning be subservient to the understanding of the scriptures, and to a clear explanation and a glorious defence of the doctrines of Christianity. And there iş no doubt to be made of it, that God in his providence has of late given the world the art of printing, and such a great increase of learning, to prepare for what he designs to accomplish for his church in the approaching days of its prosperity. And thus the wealth of the wicked is laid up for the just, agreeable to Prov. xii. 22.
HAVING now shown how the work of redemption has been carried on from the fall of man to the present time, before I proceed any further, I would make some APPLICATION.
1. From what has been said, we may see great evidence of the truth of the Christian religion, and that the scriptures are the word of God. There are three arguments of this, which I shall take notice of, which may be drawn from what has been said.
(1) It may be argued from that violent and inveterate opposition there has always appeared of the wickedness of the world against this religion. The religion that the church of God has professed from the first founding of the church after the fall to this time, has always been the same. Though the dispensations have been altered, yet the religion which the church has professed has always, as to its essentials, been the same. The church of God, from the beginning, has been one society. The Christian church which has been since Christ's ascension, is manifestly the same society continued, with the church, that was before Christ came. The Christian church is grafted on their root: They are built on the same foundation. The revelation on which both have depended, is essentially the same : For. as the Christian church is built on the holy scriptures, so was the Jewish church, though now the scriptures be enlarged by the addition of the New Testament; but still it is essentially the same revelation with that which was given in the Old Testament, only the subjects of divine revelation are now more clearly revealed in the New Testament than they were in the Old. But the sum and substance of both the Old Testament and New, is Christ and his redemption. The religion of the church of Israel, was essentially the same religion with that of the Christian church, as evidently appears from what has been said. The groundwork of the religion of the church of God, both before and since Christ has appeared, is the same great scheme of redemption by the Son of God ; and so the church that was before the Israelitish church, was still the same society, and it was essentially the same religion that was professed and practised in it. Thus it was from Noah to Abraham, and thus it was before
the flood. And this society of men that is called the church,
So that the opposition which has been made to the church
That the church of God has always met with great opposition in the world, none can deny. This is plain by profane
history as far as that reaches ; and before that, divine history gives us the same account. The church of God, and its religion and worship, began to be opposed in Cain's and Abel's time, and was so when the earth was filled with violence in Noah's time. And after this how was the church opposed in Egypt ! And how was the church of Israel always hated by the nations round about, agreeable to that in Jer. xii. 9.
Mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird, the birds round about 'are against her.” And after the Babyloņish captivity, how was this church persecuted by Antiochus, Epiphanes and others !'And how was Christ persecuted when he was on earth! And how'were the apostles and other Christians persecuted by the Jews before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans"! How'violent were that people against the church ! And how dreaäfül was the opposition of the Heathen world against the Christian church after this before Constantine! How great was their spíte against the true religion ! And since that, how get more violent, and spiteful, and cruel, has been the opposition of Antichrist against the church !
There is no other such instance of opposition. History gives no account of any other body of men that have been so hated, and so maliciously' and insatiably pursued and pesecuted, nor any thing like it. No other religion ever was so maligned age after age. The nations of other professions have enjoyed their religions in peace and quietness, however they have differed from their neighbors. One nation has worshipped one sort of gods, and others another, without molesting or disturbing one another about it. All the spite and opposition has been against this religion, which the church of Christ has professed. All other religions have seemed to show an implacable enmity to this ; and men have seemed to have, from one age to another, such a spite against it, that they have seemed as though they could never satisfy their cruelty. They put their inventions upon the rack to find out torments that should be cruel enough ; and yet, after all, never seemed to be satisfied. Their thirst has never been satisfied with blood.
So that this is out of doubt, that this religion, and these scriptures have always been malignantly opposed in the world. The only question that remains.is, What it is that has made this opposition ? Whether or not it has been good or bad? Whether it be the wickedness and corruption of the world, or not, that has done this? But of this there can be no greater doubt than of the other, if we consider how causeless this cruelty has always been, who the opposers have been, and the manner in which they have opposed. The opposition has chiefly been from Heathenism and Popery ; which things certainly are evil. They are both of them very evil, and the fruits of the blindness, corruption, and wickedness of men, as the very Deists themselves confess. The light of nature shows, that the religion of Heathens, consisting in the worship of idols, and sacrificing their children to them, and in obscene and abominable rites and ceremonies, is wickedness. And the superstitions, and idolatries, and usurpations of the church of Rome, are no less contrary to the light of nature. By this, it appears that this opposition which has been made against the church of God, has been made by wicked men. And with regard to the opposition of the Jews in Christ's and the apostle's times, it was in a most corrupt time of that nation, when the people were generally become exceeding wicked, as some of the Jewish writers themselves, as Josephus and others, who lived about that time, do expressly say. And that it has been mere wickedness that has made this opposition, is manifest, from the manner of opposition, the extreme violence, injustice, and cruelty, with which the church of God has been treated. It seems to show the hand of malignant infernal spirits in it.
Now what reason can be assigned, why the corruption and wickedness of the world should so implacably set itself against this religion of Jesus Christ, and against the scriptures, but only that they are contrary to wickedness, and consequently are good and holy? Why should the enemies of Christ, for so many thousand years together, manifest such a mortal hatred of this religion, but only that it is the cause of God? If the scriptures be not the word of God, and the re