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approve, or which it can reject without doing violence to itself? Is there in this respect any objection against the Christian religion, but what is and must be equally an objection against all natural religion ? Consider the gospel with respect to its new doctrines, its articles of belief: you will find them all assigned to support and encourage true religion, and to preserve the world from falling again into that confusion of idolatry and superstition, which for many ages held it in darkness. This might be shown in the several particulars of the gospel dispensation : but I shall confine myself to those specified in the text.
St. Paul teaches us to wait for the Son of God from beaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.'
To wait for the Son of God from heaven,' signifies to continue with patience and well-doing, in expectation of the coming of our Saviour and Judge; which sense is completely expressed, Philip. iii. Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so, as ye have us for an ensample --for our conversation is in heaven ; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.'
The expectation of Christ coming to judge the world is peculiar to Christians; and it is supported by the belief of the resurrection of Christ, that great and main point of faith which the Apostles were commissioned to teach and establish in the church of God: for which reason, when an Apostle was to be chosen in the room of Judas, the qualification required in the person to succeed was, that he should be one capable of bearing testimony of the resurrection of Christ. Take the account in St. Peter's own words: Of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out amongst us, beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection :' Acts i. 21. 22. And in the next chapter St. Peter, vindicating to the Jews the miraculous gift of tongues bestowed on the day of Pentecost,
renders this account of the work and ministry of the apostleship: • Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did, by him, in the midst of youHim, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowlege of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain :'ver. 22. 23. • This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses :' ver. 32. To the same purpose again, in the third chapter, 'Ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead: whereof we are witnesses :' ver. 14. 15. In the fourth chapter an account is given of the courage and boldness of the Apostles in preaching Christ to the rulers, and of the success of their ministry among the people : the sum of it we have in these words : · With great power gave the Apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus; and great grace was on them all :'ver. 33. In the fifth chapter the Apostles are called again before the council : the high priest charges them with disobeying the injunctions given them not to preach in Christ's name : St. Peter and the rest answer him and the council, by opening to them the commission and authority by which they acted, and the doctrine which they taught :: We ought,' say they, to obey God rather than man. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree : him hath God exalted with his right hand, to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him :' ver. 29. 30. 31. 32. From these passages of Scripture, taken together, it plainly appears how much the Christian religion, considered as a distinct system from natural religion, depends on the belief of the resurrection of Christ. The Apostles were ordained to be witnesses of this article : this article is the foundation on which they build all the hopes and expectations peculiar to Christians : if they preach repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins, it is in his name, whom God raised from the dead : if they turn to the Gentiles with offers of peace and reconciliation, it is still in his name, whom God raised from the dead, and ordained to be the Judge of quick and dead.
When St. Paul preached at Athens, they thought him an introducer of some new deities, he talked so much of Jesus and the resurrection :' Acts xvii. 18. Which doctrine of a resurrection he afterwards fully expounded to them, together with the consequents belonging to it: “Now,' says the Apostle, God commandeth all men every where to repent, because he hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead :' v. 30. 31. This
of St. Paul gives a very plain account of the concern to propagate and establish the article of Christ's resurrection. The resurrection of Christ was designed to be an evidence and assurance to the world of God's intention to judge the world in righteousness. This new article was introduced to be a new evidence of a future state of rewards and punishments, and to support the sinner's hopes of pardon and reconciliation through the promises of Christ, whom God had appointed to be his Judge.
You see then the use of this great article of Christian faith. Let us consider now whether we are beholden to the gospel, and how much, for this new evidence of a life to come; and what there is in this article, and the doctrines grounded on it, that any sober Deist, or professor of natural religion, can justly blame.
Natural religion pretends to support itself on the expectation of future rewards and punishments: it considers God as Governor and Judge of the world. Christian religion stands on the same foundation, and admits for genuine all these hopes and fears of nature. Thus far there is no difference. The question is, which brings the best proof, and most fitted to persuade the world of this great truth? Natural religion appeals to conscience, and that sense which all men have of their being accountable for their actions. The Christian religion embraces all this evidence, and whatever else can be suggested by reason to render the hopes of futurity probable or certain : to these evidences it adds the express testimony and assurance of
God given to mankind in the resurrection of his beloved Son Jesus Christ.
But what need, you will say, of this new evidence ? Were not the arguments which natural religion affords, sufficient to support the belief and expectation of a future judgment ? If so, to what purpose is it to call men from a dependence on their reason, to rely on the evidence of men for the truth of a fact so uncommon, and in the nature of it so surprising, as not easily to gain admittance to our belief? a fact, which had we seen ourselves, we might perhaps have suspected the report of our own senses, and cannot therefore easily refer ourselves to the senses of others, in a matter of so great moment and consequence ?
Whoever, in answer to this difficulty, endeavors to weaken and enervate the natural arguments for a future state, is, I think, very ill employed : to me they appear so convincing, that I cannot, so amiable, that I would not lessen your opinion of them: but then it is certain that they require more thought and speculation to place them before the mind in their true and strongest light, than the generality of men are capable of exercising. And whether this be so or no, is a matter fitter to be determined by the evidence of history, than by reasoning on
We are very ill judges, under the light we now enjoy, how far the generality of men could go by the mere strength of reason, without the assistances we have. A right notion of God is the foundation of all true religion ; and who is there that thinks himself obliged to any thing but his own reason for this notion ? and yet, if this be the case, the world is mightily improved in reason these last ages : for we certainly know many ages past, when the true notion of God was hardly to be found in any nation, commonly to be found in none. Since the publication of the gospel the darkness has been dispelled, and reason sees and approves the truths which were before in great measure hid from her eyes. The case is the same with respect to the natural arguments for a future state : the arguments duly proposed and considered are of great weight: but yet it is evident they had little weight in the world for many ages together. The natural notion was so buried under superstitious fables and absurd representations, that it yielded no comfort or satisfaction ; was so liable to be exposed and ridiculed for the extravagant representations which attended it, that it afforded no certainty, or even probability, to support the hopes of virtue: the vulgar had no ability to reason much on the case; and the learned, who did, were full of doubts and uncertainties, and found no sure ground to stand on. To remedy this evil, God has proposed a new evidence to the world : he called his Son from the grave,
and showed him before chosen witnesses for many days : who were sent into the world to publish his resurrection, as an evidence of a future general resurrection of all men, and to seal the truth of their doctrine with their own blood.
Now, as to this evidence, it is in the nature of it the properest for the generality of men; it requires no abstracted reasoning, no refinements, to show the force of it: nay, were the wisest man to choose an evidence for himself of the certainty of a resurrection, I know not what he could desire more than to see one rise from the dead.
As to those who pretend to be real and true Deists, I cannot see what there is in this evidence to offend them : the main thing we prove by it they acknowlege to be true, that God will judge the world. Since then the Christian religion has no private design to serve by this evidence, but produces it in confirmation of the general sense of nature which all true religion does admit, why should it be suspected of deceit?
Besides, the belief of a future state, supported by the evidence of the resurrection of Christ, is applied to no other purposes in the Christian religion, than every wise and good man would desire it should be applied to, were it a matter to be submitted to his choice. Let us see: the gospel labors to assure us of the certainty of our resurrection to eternal life; and not content with the common evidence of reason for a future state, has given us a new proof from the very
hand and immediate power of God: there is such a concern showed in the gospel for fixing and establishing this proof, that we may be sure this proof was provided for the sake of carrying on the great end and design of the gospel, whatever it is : so that if there is any thing amiss, any delusion or deceit in the gospel, we may certainly find it leaning on this article of the resur