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world, should agree in the belief of a and misery, vice : but it is not the happithing, which never existed. For though ness of a splendid station, but of a peacedoubts have arisen concerning this gene- ful mind ; nor is it the misery of low cirral belief, yet it is now pretty well ascer- cumstances, but of a guilty conscience. tained, from the accounts of travellers, The things of this world are not, in their that no nation hath yet been discovered, own nature, connected either with happiamong whom some traces of religiousness or misery. Attended sometimes by worship have not been found.
one, and sometimes by the other, they are Be it so, says the objector; yet still we merely the ineans of trial. One man is fiud single persons, even in civilized coun- tempted with riches, and another with tries, and some of them men of enlarged poverty; but God intends neither an elecapacities, who have not only had their vated, nor a depressed situation as the uldoubts on this subject, but have proclaimed timate completion of his will. aloud their disbelief of a Divine Being. Besides, if worldly prosperity even was
We answer, that it is more than pro- the indication of God's favour, yet good bable, no man's infidelity on this head was men may have failings and imprudences ever thoroughly settled. Bad men rather enough about them to deserve misfortune; endeavour to convince themselves, than and bad men virtues, which may deserve are really convinced. But even on a sup- success. Why should imprudence, though position, that a few such persons could be joined with virtue, partake of its reward? found, what is their testimony against so Or the generous purpose share in the pugreat a majority, as the rest of mankind ?
nishment, though connected with vice? The light of the sun is universally ac- Thus then we see the being of a God knowledged, though it happens, that now is the universal creed of nature. But and then, a man may be born blind. though nature could investigate the simple But since, it seems,
there are difficulties truth, she could not preserve it from error. in supposing a divine Creator and Preserver Nature merely takes her notions from of the world, what system of things does what she sees, and what she hears, and the Atheist suppose attended with fewer? hath ever moulded her gods in the likeness He sees the world produced before him. He of things in heaven, and things on earth. sees it hath been created; and is preserved. Hence every part of the creation, animate Some account of this matter must be given. and inanimaie, hath, by turns, been an If ours displease him, let us have his. object of worship. And even the most re
The experiment hath been tried. We fined nations, we know, had gross conhave had many atheistical creeds; none ceptions on this head. The wisest of them, of which hath stood the test of being indeed, by observing the wonders of crea. handed down with any degree of credit tion, could clothe the Deity with wisdom into future times.
and power : but they could go no farther. The Atheist's great argument indeed The virtues of their heroes afforded them against a Deity, is levelled at the apparent the highest ideas of perfection : and with injustice of his government. It was an these they arrayed their gods; mixing objection of ancient date; and might have also with their virtues, such vices as are had its weight in heathen times; but it is found in the characters of the best of one of the blessings, which attends Chris. men. tianity; that it satisfies all our doubts on For just notions of the Deity, we must this head; and gives us a rational and have recourse then to revelation alone. easy solution of this poignant objection. Revelation removes all these absurdities. What if-we observe an inaccurate dis- It dispels the clouds of ignorance; and tribution of the things of this world! unveils the divine majesty, as far as it can What if virtue be depressed, and vice tri- be the object of human contemplation. umphant! It is nothing, says the voice The lax notions of libertinism, on one of religion, to him who believes this life hand, which make the Deity an inobserto be an inconsiderable part of his being: vant governor; and the gloomy ideas of a point only in the expanse of eternity: superstition, on the other, which suppose who believes he is' sent into this world, him to be a dark malignant being, are merely to prepare himself for a better. equally exposed. Here we are informed This world, he knows, is intended neither of the omniscience and omnipresence of for reward nor punishment. Happiness God. Here we learn, that his wisdom and xoquestionably attends virtue even here, power are equalled by his goodness; and
that his mercy is over all his works. In quired into : for Christianity had brought short, we learn from revelation, that we religion into great disuse. The markets are in the hands of a being, whose know. were crowded with victims; and scarce a ledge we cannot evade, and whose power purchaser came near them. we cannot resist; who is mercifuland good These writers afford us sufficient testi. to all his creatures; and will be ever ready mony, that Jesus Christ lived at the time to assist and reward those, who endeavour we assert; and that he was the author of a to conform themselves to his will: but new religion. They had opportunities of whose justice, at the same time, accom- being well informed; could have no inpanying his mercy, will punish the bold terest in falsifying; were no converts to and careless sinner in proportion to his the new sect; but talk of Christ, only as guilt.
they would of any singular person, whom $ 101. On the Creed, continued--the Be. timony therefore is beyond cavil.
they had occasion to mention. Their teslief of Jesus Christ.
Let us now proceed a step farther, and After professing our belief in God, the examine the scripture evidence of Christ, creed proceeds with a profession of our which proves pot only his existence; but belief in Jesus Cbrist, his Son, our Lord.” that he is our Lord, or the Messiah-and
A person celebrated as Jesus Christ not only that he was the author of a new was, we may suppose, would naturally religion; but that this religion is true. find a place in the profane history of his Upon examining the grand scripture times. It may not be amiss, therefore, to evidence on this head, we find the greatest introduce the evidence we are about to stress laid upon miracles and prophecies : collect, with the testimony of some of the both of which are direct appeals to God, more eminent of the heathen writers, by a claim to supernatural power. And who have mentioned him. They will at though both these modes of evidence are least inform us, that such a person lived calculated, as well for us who live in reat the time we assert; and that he was moter times, as for those who lived in the the author of a new religion.--I shall quote earliest ; yet the evidence from miracles only Suetonius, Tacitus, and Pliny. seems more particularly addressed to them;
Suetonius* tells us, that “the emperor as that from prophecy is to us. They Claudius drove all the Jews from Rome, were the eye-witnesses of the miracles of who, at the instigation of one Christ, were the gospel, of which we have only the continually making disturbances.”
evidence at second hand. Whereas proTacitus +, speaking of the persecution phecy is a mode of evidence, which' in. of Christians, tells us, “ that the author of creases through every age. The early Christhat name was Christ, who was put to tians had it in part; but to us this amadeath by Pontius Pilate, in the reign of zing web is still more unfolded; and more Tiberius.”
of its wonderful texture displayed. Let us Pliny's # testimony is more large. It examine each in its order. is contained in a letter, written to the Among the eye-witnesses of the gospel emperor Trajan, desiring his instructions miracles, were many learned men, as well with regard to Christians. He blames as unlearned. their obstinacy in refusing to sacrifice to nity and abilities to examine the works bethe Roman deities—but from their own fore them: to trace out fraud, if any such confession can draw nothing, but that they were latent; and did unquestionably reassemble, on a certain day, before sun-rise ceive them with all that circumspection
- that they pay divine honours to Christ which was due to such wonderful exhibias a God—that they bind themselves by a tions, before they embraced the Christian sacrament not to steal, nor to commit adul. faith; while the most ignorant spectator tery, nor to deceive-and that, after the was a competent judge of matter of fact; performance of these rites, they join in and many of our Saviour's miracles were one common meal. Nay, he examined, he such as could not possibly, from the nature says, two of them by torture: yet still he of the facts themselves, be coloured with finds nothing obnoxious in their behaviour, fraud. except their absurd superstitions. He It had a strange sound to the prejudices thinks, however, the matter should be in- of mankind, that a crucified malefactor
The former had opportu
* In vita Claud. Cæs.
+ Lib. 15.
was the Saviour of the world; and we hundred years before the birth of Christ; cannot suppose, that any man, much less and had been all along in the hands, not that a multitude of men, would embrace only of the Jews, but of all men of letters. such a belief without clear conviction, es- The Old Testament had been early transpecially as no worldly advantage lay on lated into the Greek language; and rethe side of this belief; and the convert ceived into the politest libraries of those even renounced the world, and embraced times. a life of persecution.--Let us consider the With these ideas, let us open the New single miracle of Christ's resurrection. Testament, and it is obvious that no picJesus had frequently mentioned it before ture can be more like its original, than his death; and the thing was so far in these prophecies of Christ in one Testageneral credited, that the sepulchre was ment, are to his history in the other, sealed, and an armed guard appointed to Here we see that extraordinary virginwatch it, We may well suppose, there- birth unravelled.--Here we see a life fore, that his favourers would naturally, spent in turning the hearts of the disobeupon this occasion, reason thus: “ Jesus dient to the wisdom of the just.-Here hath now put bis pretensions upon a fair we find the prince of his people, a man of issue. He hath told us, he will arise from sorrows, and acquainted with grief.the dead on the third day:-here then let Here we see the Lord of righteousness us suspend our judgment, and wait the re- numbered with transgressorswe see his sult. "Three days will determine whether hands and his feet pierced -- we see him he be an impostor, or the real Messiah.” made an offering for sin—and we see re
- It is very natural to suppose, that the alized that extraordinary idea of death favourers of Jesus would reason, after his without corruption. death, in a manner like this: and it is be- It were an easy matter to carry this yond credibility, that any of them would comparison through a more minute detail have continued his disciples, had they of circumstances; but I mean only to trace found him falsifying in this point. But the outlines of this great resemblance. To we know they did continue his disciples complete the picture would be a copious after this. We know also, that many pro
work. selytes, convinced by this very event, em- Besides these predictions, which related braced the Christian religion. We have immediately to the life and death of all the reason in the world therefore to be- Christ; there were many others, which lieve, that they were fully satisfied. His deserve notice. Among these, the two miracles were to them a sufficient proof of great leading prophecies were those of the his pretensions, All candid men wonld calling of the Gentiles, and of the disperhave acquiesced, as they did; and in their sion of the Jews. belief we have a very strong foundation for The calling of the Gentiles was one of our own.
the earliest prophecies of the Old TestaAgain, with regard to prophecy, we ment. The Jews were distinguished in observe, that the writers of the Old Testa- appearance, as the favourite people of ment seem, in various parts, to characterize God; and they were sufficiently elated some extraordinary person, who was in upon that distinction, But if they had atprocess of time to make his appearance in tended closely to their prophets, they might the world. The marks are peculiar, and have discovered, that all the prophecies can neither be mistaken por misapplied. which described the happy state of the “He was to be born of a virgin-he was church, had evidently a more distant pros. to turn the hearts of the disobedient to pect, than to them. Those early promises, the wisdom of the just-though dignified in particular, which were repeated to the with the characters of a prince, he was to patriarchs, were not merely confined to be a man of sorrows, and acquainted with their posterity; but included all the nagrief-though described to be without sin, tions of the earth*.”- And when the later he was to be numbered with transgressors prophets, as the great event approached, - his hands and his feet were to be pierced spoke a plainer, and a more intelligible - he was to be made an offering for sin language, the whole nation might have —and was never to see corruption."- understood, as Simeon, and some of the These prophecies were published many wisest and most intelligent of them did
* See Gen. xii. 3. xvii. 18. xxii. 18. xxvi. 4.
understand, that “a light was sprung up malefactor, were all the parade, with which to lighten the Gentiles."
this religion was ushered into the world; The prophecy of the dispersion of the and all the human assistance which it had Jewish nation is also very ancient, being to boast. And yet this religion, which attributed by Moses to the patriarch Jacob. opposed the strongest prejudices, and was
“ The sceptre shall not depart from Ju- opposed by the greatest princes, made its dah, until Sbiloh come.” Whatever may be way in a few years, from a remote corner, the precise meaning of the word . sceptre' through the whole Roman empire. Thus in the original; and though it may not per- was our Saviour's prophecy, in opposition haps properly signify that idea of regal to all human calculation, exactly fulfilled. power, which it conveys to our ears; yet The least of all seeds became a spreading it certainly means some badge of autho- tree; and a church was established, which rity, that implies a formed and settled go. could not be destroyed by all the powers vernment. And as to the word • Shilch, of hell. all commentators, Jewish as well as Chris. But although the church of Christ could tian, explain it to mean the Messiah-The not be destroyed, it was corrupted ; and sense therefore of the prophecy is plainly in a course of years fell from its genuine this that the Jews should continue in purity. This corrupt state of it--the dethe form of a society, till the time of the lusions of popery-the efforts of reformaMessiah. Accordingly we find that soon tion, and various other circumstances reafter Christ's death, the sceptre did de- lating to it, are not unreasonably supposed part from Judah: the Jews lost all form to be held forth, in the prophetic parts of of a political society; and are a singular the New Testament. instance of a people, scattered over the But I forbear to dwell upon prophecies, whole earth, preserved to this day separate which are not obvious enough to carry from all other people, and yet without a general conviction; though many of them settlement any where.
have been very well explained by those*, Our Saviour's prophecy of the growth who are versed in the histories to which of his church, is likewise among the more they allude. Futuretimes will, in all probaremarkable predictions. He told his dis-bility, reflect a stronger light upon them. ciples, that “ his religion was like a grain Some of the great prophecies, which we of mustard-seed, which was the least of have just considered, shone but with a feeall seeds; but when it grew up it should ble ray, during the times they were fulfilbecome a great tree, and the fowls of the ling, though they now strike us io so forair should lodge in the branches of it." cible a manner.
Gilpin. He told them also, that “the gates of hell should never prevail against it.”
$ 102, The Creed continued --Conception The Jewish religion was continually
and Birth of Christ, &c. enforced by the idea of a jealous God, We have now shewn upon wbat founwatching over it, and threatening judg. dation we believe the second article of our ments from heaven upon every transgres- creed; let us next consider the remaining şion. The divine authority was stamped articles the history of Christ, as deliveropenly upon it. The people trembled and ed in Scipture, and the benefits which he worshipped.
procured for us--the assistance of the Holy When the impostor Mahomet set up for Spirit-the remission of our sins--and a reformer, he could not indeed enforce everlasting life. his religion by divine judgments; but he First, then, we believe that Christ was did it by temporal. He drew his sword, “ conceived of the Holy Ghost, and born and held it to the breasts of his opposers; of the Virgin Mary." The manner of while he promised to the obedient a full this miraculous conception we inquire not gratification of their passions.
into. It is a point not only beyond the liBut in the Christian religion nothing of mits of human inquiry; but to us at least this kind appeared. No temporal judg- a point very unimportant. We believe ments threatened on one hand i no sensual just the Scripture account of it, and assure indulgences allured on the other. A few ourselves, that if it had concerned us, it desponding ignorant mechanics, the dis- would have been more plainly revealed.ciples of a person crucified, as a common One thing, however, we may observe on
* See Bishop Newton's Dissertations ; and Bishop Hurd's Sermons on Prophecy.
this head, that nothing is said in Scripture it that need shock our reason? It was a of paying divine honours to the Virgin wonderful event: but is not nature full Mary. Those rites are totally of popish of wonderful events ? When we seriously origin.
weigh the matter, is it less strange, that a We farther believe, that Christ“ suf- grain of corn thrown into the ground fered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, should die, and rise again with new vegedead, and buried; and that he descended tation, than that a human body, in the into hell,”—that is, we declare our be- same circumstances, should assume new lief of the Scripture account of the cir- life? The commonness of the former cumstances and the reality of Christ's makes it familiar to us, but not in any death.
degree less unaccountable. Are we at all To make an action clear, it is necessary, more acquainted with the manner in which first, to establish its date. This is usually grain germinates, than with the manner done by ranging it under the magistrate in which a body is raised from the dead? who then presided, the time of whose And is it not obviously striking, that the government is always registered in some
same power which can effect the one, public record.— Thus we believe that may effect the other also ? - But analogy, Christ's death happened when Pontius Pic though it tend to convince, is no proof. late was governor of Judea. We believe Let us proceed then to matter of fact. also, with regard to the manner of his death, That the body was dead, and safely that he was crucified; that he died as really lodged in the tomb, and afterwards conas any mortal ever died; and that he was veyed out of it, was agreed on, both by buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arima- those who opposed, and by those who thea*.
favoured the resurrection. In the cirThe “ descent into hell" is undoubtedly cumstances of the latter fact, they differ a more obscure expression than might be widely. wished in a creed, and was not indeed
The disciples tell their story-a very added till many ages after the creed was plain and simple one-that scarce first composedt. But as creeds are human pecting the event, notwithstanding their compositions, we believe this, and every master had himself foretold it, they were other difficulty, only as consistent with surprised with an account that the body Scripture. Now the sense which seems was gone—that they found afterwards, to most agreeable to Scripture, is, that his their great astonishment, that their master soul remained till his resurrection in that was again alive - that they had been seveplace (whatever that place is) where the ral times with him; and appealed for the spirits of the blessed rest: and the expres. truth of what they said to great numbers, sion seems to have been added, only that who, as well as themselves, had seen him we may the more strongly express our be- after his resurrection. lief of the reality of his death.
The chief priests, on the other side, dedo, when we express our belief of the se- clared the whole to be a forgery; assertparation of his soul and body. “ He was ing that the plain matter of fact was, the buried,”—and “ descended into hell.” disciples came by night, and stole the body The first expression relates to his body, away, while the soldiers slept. which was laid in the grave; the second Such a tale, unsupported by evidence, to his soul, which passed into the place of would be listened to in no court of justice. departed spirits.
It has not even the air of probability. We farther believe, that “ on the third Can it be supposed, that the disciples, who day he rose again from the dead.” The had fled with terror when they might have resurrection of Christ from the dead is a rescued their master's life, would venture, point of the utmost importance to Chris- in the face of an armed guard, to carry off tians. On the certainty of Christ's re- his dead body?-Or is it more probable, surrection depend all hopes of our own. that they found the whole guard asleep; On this article, therefore, we shall be when we know, that the vigilance of cenmore large.
tinels is secured by the strictest discipline? And, in the first place, what is there in Besides, wbat' advantage could arise
* Isaiah foretold he should “make his grave with the rich.” And St. Matthew tells us, that ψίας γενομένης ηλθαν ανθρωπος πλουσιος. Matt. xxvii. 57. Isajab, lüi. 9.
+ See Bingham's Antiquities, vol. jii, c. 3.