« הקודםהמשך »
Acts of the
judgment on all mankind, and decide the final doom of happiness or misery for ever. These are the momentous truths, on which the gospels principally dwell.
The Acts of the Apostles continue the 39. history of our religion after our Lord's as
cension; the astonishing, rapid, and miraculous propagation of it by a few men of low condition and humble qualifications throughout almost every part of the world, by demonstration of the Spirit and of power, without the aid of eloquence or of force, and in opposition to all the authority, all the power,
all the influence of the opulent and the great. Epistles. The Epistles, that is, the letters addressed 40. by the Apostles and their associates to dif
ferent churches, and to particular individuals, 41. contain many admirable rules and directions
to the primitive converts, many affecting exhortations, expostulations, and reproofs, many explanations and illustrations of the doctrines delivered by our Lord, together with constant references to facts, circumstances, and events, recorded in the Gospels and the Acts; in which we perceive such striking, and yet such unpremeditated and undesigned coincidences and arguments be
tween the narratives and the Epistles, as form one most conclusive argument for the truth, authority, and genuineness of both.
The sacred volume concludes with the Revelation of Revelation of St. John, which, under the 42. form of visions and various symbolical representations, presents to us a prophetic history of the Christian religion in future times, and the various changes, vicissitudes, and revolutions it was to undergo in different ages and countries to the end of the world.
Besides the Scriptures of the Old Testa- Apocrypha. ment, which are universally acknowledged 43. to be genuine, and inspired writings, both by the Jewish and Christian church, there are several other writings, partly historical, partly ethical, and partly practical, which are usually printed at the end of the Old Testament, under the appellation of the “Apocrypha;” that is, books not admitted 4+. into the sacred canon, being either spurious, or at least not acknowledged to be divine. The Jews, who were strict in their examination of the inspired works, did not admit them to be such ; and Jesus Christ, who often censured the Jews on their traditions, never alluded to the Apocrypha.
Having thus given you a summary account 45. of the different books contained in the Bible,
it will next be requisite to say something of their authenticity, although I trust that you will never require such proofs to be laid before you to strengthen you in the doctrines of your Saviour. Yet as you mix in the world, you will find persons ever ready to doubt their truth; it is, therefore, necessary that you, and every good Christian, should be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in
you, and that you should bear witness boldly to the truth; "For blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me." (Matt. xi. 6.)
The truth of the Christian doctrines will or seripture be sufficiently evinced, if the matters of fact history and recorded of Christ, in the gospels, are proved
to be true; for his miracles, if true, establish
Proofs of the troth and
nessed their performance. So that the stress of this cause will depend upon the proof of the matter of fact.
With a view, therefore, to this proof, let 47. us proceed—
I. To lay down such marks as to the truth of matters of fact in general, that where they
such matters of fact cannot be false.
II. To show that they do all meet in the matters of fact of Moses and of Christ; and did not meet in those reported of Mahomet, and of the heathen deities ; nor can possibly meet in any imposture whatever.
I. The marks are these :
1. That the fact be such, as men's out- 48, ward senses can judge of;
2. That it be performed publicly in the presence of witnesses;
3. That there be public monuments and actions kept up in memory of it; and
4. That such monuments and actions be established and commence at the time of the fact.
The first of these marks make it impos- 49. sible that any false fact can be imposed upon men at the time when it was said to be done,
man's senses would contradict it. For example, suppose I should pretend that yesterday I divided the Thames, in the presence of all the people of London, and led the whole city over to Southwark on dry land, the water standing like a wall on each side. It would be morally impossible for me to convince the people of London that this was true, when every man, woman, and child could contradict me, and affirm that they had not seen the Thames so divided, nor had been led over to Southwark on dry land, It is then taken for granted (and, we apprehend, with the allowance of all the deists in the world) that no such imposition could be put upon mankind, at the time when such matter of fact was said to be done.
“But the facts might have been invented when the men of that generation, in which it was said to be done, were all past and gone; and the credulity of after ages might be induced to believe, that things had been performed in earlier times, which had not."
From this the two latter marks secure us, as much as the two first in the former case : for whenever such a fact was invented, if it were stated that not only public monuments