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would think it their greatest
PROP. things, they resolve to be guided in all their actions
by whatever rule shall at any time be well proved to them to be the will of God. And when they have put themselves into this temper and frame of mind, then let them try if they can any longer reject the evidence of the gospel. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God. (John vii. 17.) For, them that are meek, God will guide in judgment; (Ps. xxv. 8.) and such as are gentle, them he will teach his way.
Indeed, men that are of this good disposition, willdisposition ing to be governed by reason, and not prejudiced
by lusts and vicious appetites, could not but give their assent to the doctrines of Christianity, upon ac
count of the very intrinsic excellency and reasonwisdom to ableness of the things themselves, even though the be truly religioue, external evidence of their certainty had been much even tho less than it at present is. Nay, were there hardly dences of any other evidence at all, than barely the excellency religion and reasonableness, and natural probability of the much less great truths of religion, together with the considerthan they ation of the vast importance of them ; yet even in
that case it would be infinitely wisest and most agreeable to reason, for men to live according to the rules of the gospel. And though their faith extended no
· further than only to a belief of the possibility of the truth of the Christian revelation, yet even this alone ought in all reason to have weight enough to determine reasonable creatures to live soberly, righteously, and godly. For is it not plainly most reasonable, as an ancient writer expresses it,* if each of the opposite opinions were equally doubtful and uncertain, yet by all means to embrace and entertain that which brings some hope along with it, rather than that which brings none ? For on one side of the question there is no danger at all of incurring any
* Non purior ratio est, ex duobus incertis et in ambigua expectatione pendentibus, id potius credere, quod aliquas spes ferat, quam quod nullas? In illo enim periculi nihil est, si, quod dicitur imminere, cassum fiat et vacuum ; in hoc, damnum est maximum (id est, salutis amissio,) si, cum tempus advenerit, aperiatur hoc fuisse mendacium. - Arnob. adv. Gentes, lib. 2.
calamity, if that which we believe and expect should PROP. at last prove false; but, on the other side, there is the greatest hazard in the world, the loss of eternal life, if the opinion which unbelievers rely upon should at last prove an error. And again :* What say ye, O ye ignorant men, ye men of miserable and most deplorable folly ? Can ye forbear fearing within yourselves that at least those things may possibly prove true which ye now despise and mock at? Have ye not at least some misgivings of mind, lest possibly that which ye now perversely and obstinately refuse to believe, ye should at last be convinced of by sad experience, when it will be too late to repent. Nor is this the judgment of Christian writers only, but also of the wisest and most considerate heathens. We ought to spare no pains, saith Plato,t to obtain the habits of virtue and wisdom in this present life; for the prize is noble, and the hope is very great. And Cicero :f They have gained a great prize indeed who have persuaded themselves to believe, that, when death comes, they shall perish utterly: What comfort is there; what is there to be boasted of in that opinion ? And again : If after death, saith he, as some little and contemptible philosophers think,|| I shall be nothing, yet there is no danger that when we are all dead those philosophers should laugh at me for my error. But this is not our case.
God has afforded us, as has been largely and particularly shown in the fore
* Quid dicitis, O nescii, etiam fletu et miseratione dignissimi? ita non tam extimescitis, ne sorte hæc vera sint, quæ sunt despectui vobis et præbent materiam risus? nec saltem vobiscum sub obscuris cogitationibus volvitis, ne, quod hoc die credere obstinata renuitis perversitate, redarguat serum tempus, et irrevocabilis pænitentia castiget ?-Id. ibid.
* Xρή πάντα ποιείν, ώστε αρετής και φρονήσεως εν τω βίω μετασχεϊν καλών γάρ το άθλον, και η ελπίς μεγάλη.-Plato in Phed.
# Præclarum nescio quid adepti sunt, qui didicerunt se, cum tempus mortis venisset, totos esse perituros. -Quid habet ista res aut lætabile aut gloriosum ?--Cic. Tusc. Qu. lib. 1.
|| Sin mortuus, ut quidam minuti philosophi censent, nihil sentiam, non vereor ne hunc errorem meum mortui philosophi irrideant.
Cic. De Senect.
Of the au
PROP. marks of truth, as this concerning the doctrine and
works of Christ.
And here, by the way, it is to be observed, that thority of the peculiar authority which we attribute to the of Holy
books of Holy Scripture contained in the New TestaScripture ment, is founded in this ; that they were written or
dictated by the apostles themselves. The apostles were indued with the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost, at Pentecost: And this not only enabled them to preach the doctrine of Christ with power, but also effectually secured them from making any error, mistake, or false representation of it. And the very same authority, that by this singular privilege was added to their preaching, it is manifest, ought, for the same reason, to be equally attributed to their writings also. Now, all the books of the New Testament were either written by the apostles ; or, which is the very same thing, approved and authorized by them. Most of the books were uncontrovertedly written by the apostles themselves, St Paul having been made one of that number by a commission from heaven, no less visible and sensible than that which was granted to the rest at Pentecost. And those books which were written by the companions of the apostles were either dictated, or at least approved and authorised by the apostles themselves. Thus, Eusebius expressly tells us, that St Peter reviewed and approved the gospel of St Mark, and that* it was this approbation that authorised it to be received by the churches. And Irenæus ; that what St Mark wrote was dictated by St Peter ;t and that the gospel of St Luke was only a transcript of St Paul's preaching.f And Tertullian in like manner ;|| St Mark was only Șt Peter's scribe, and
* Κυρώσαί τε την γραφήν εις έντευξιν ταϊς εκκλησίαις.-Euseb. Histor. 1. 2. c. 15.
+ Marcus, discipulus et interpres Petri, quæ à Petro annuntiata erant, edidit.-- Iren. lib. 3. 0. l.
#Lucas, sectator Pauli, quod ab illo prædicabatur Evangelium, in libro condidit.-Id. ibid. Vide et Tertullian. adv. Marcion, lib. 4.
|| Licet et Marcus quod edidit, Petri adfirmetur, cujus interpres Marcus ; nam et Lucæ digestum, Paulo adscribere solent.--Tertull. adu. Marcion. lib. A
St Luke St Paul's. And Eusebius; that St John* PROP.
XIV. also reviewed the Gospels of St Mark and St Luke, and confirmed the truth of them. And, to mention no more, the same historian tells us, that (besides some smaller reasons drawn from some mistaken passages in the book itself) the chief reason why the authority of the Epistle to the Hebrews was questioned by some, wast because they thought it not to be written by St Paul himself.
XV. Lastly; They who will not, by the arguments and proofs before mentioned, be convinced of the truth and certainty of the Christian religion, and be persuaded to make it the rule and guide of all their actions, would not be convinced, (so far as to influence their practice and reform their lives,) by any other evidence whatsoever; no, not though one should rise on purpose from the dead to endeavour to convince them.
From what has been said, upon the foregoing that the heads, it is abundantly evident that men are not evidence called upon to believe the Christian religion without has affordvery reasonable and sufficient proof; much less are ed us of
the truth theyf required to set up faith in opposition to reason ; of our relior to believe any thing for that very reason, because gion is a. it is incredible. On the contrary, God has given us sufficient
. all the proofs of the truth of our religion, that the nature of the thing would bear, or that were reasonable either for God to give, or men to expect. And unless God should work upon men by such methods, as are wholly inconsistent with the design of religion and the nature of virtue and vice, which we are sure he will never do, nothing could have been done
* "Ηδη δε Μάρκου και Λουκά των κατ' αυτές ευαγγελίων την έκδοσιν πεποιημένων, Ιωάννην αποδέξασθαι μεν φασίν, αλήθειαν αυτούς επιμαρτυρήσαντα -Euseb. Hist. l. 3. c. 24.
* Τινές ήθετήκασι την προς Εβραίες, προς της Ρωμαίων εκκλησίας ως μη Παύλε εσαν αυτήν αντιλέγεσθαι φήσαντες.-Ιd. lib. 3. c. 3.
+" Αλλοις δε, όση δύναμις, αποδεικτικώς οι ερωτήσεων και αποκρίσεων προσερχόμεθα: Ουδέ λέγομεν, (το μετά χλεύης υπό τα Κέλσου ειρημένον) ότι Πίστευσον, δν εισηγούμαι σοι, τούτον είναι υιον Θεού, κάν ή δεδεμένος άτιμότατα, ή κεκολασμένος αισχιστα- "Ουδέ φαμεν, ταύτη και μάλλον πίστευσον. -Orig. advers. Cels. lib. 1.
That God may re
PROP. going discourse, many and certain proofs of the trutn XV. of our religion ; even as certain as any matter of
fact is capable of having. And we now exhort men to believe, not what is barely possible, and excellent and probable, and of the utmost importance in itself, but what moreover they have all the positive evidence and all the reason in the world to oblige them to believe.
To conclude: No man of reason can pretend to
say but God may require us to take notice of some take notice things at our peril, to inquire into them, and to conof certain sider them thoroughly. Any pretence of want of things, and to inquire greater evidence will not excuse carelessness or uninto them reasonable prejudices, when God has vouchsafed us er them, at
all that evidence which was either fit for him to our peril. grant, or reasonable for men to desire; or indeed
which the nature of the thing itself to be proved was capable of.