« הקודםהמשך »
and consequently of their divine commission, which is immoveable, and which could not, in the same degree, be discerned by their cotemporaries.
4thly. Because many preachers were necessary for such an extensive establishment of the Church, as that which actually took place ; the great body of whom needed, for a time, to sustain the same character.
On this subject it will not be necessary to dwell. If the preceding arguments be allowed to prove the point, for which they were alleged, it will undoubtedly be also conceded, that Inspiration was as necessary for some, at least, of those, who preached in one place, as for any, who preached in another. It may, perhaps, be objected, that this is proving too much; and alleging inspiration in a wider extent, than has hitherto been pretended.
To prevent any misconceptions on this point, I will state my own views of this subject, a little more particularly than I have hitherto done. The inspiration of the Apostles I suppose to have consisted in the following things.
1. That they received immediately from God every part of the Christian dispensation, which they did not know by other means.
2. That in the same manner they were furnished with a foreknowledge of future events.
3. That in things which they did 'otherwise know partially, the deficiencies of their knowledge were in the same manner supplied.
4. That those things which they had once known, and which were parts of the Christian dispensation, were by divine Power brought distinctly, and fully, to their remembrance.
5. That they were directed by the Holy Spirit to the selection of just such things, and such only, and to precisely such a manner of exhibiting them, as should be true, just, most useful to mankind, and most agreeable to the Divine wisdom.
6. That each one was left so far to his own manner of writing, or speaking, as that the style was strictly his own ; and yet that the phraseology, used by him in this very style, was so directed, and controlled, by the Holy Spirit, as to lead him to the most exact, and useful, exhibition of Divine truth : his own words being, in this important sense, words not devised by human wisdom, bul taught by the Holy Ghost, and,
7. That each inspired man was, as to his preaching, or his writing absolutely preserved from error.
All these particulars cannot be applied in the same degree, and some of them cannot be applied at all, to all the inspired Preachers. But, in my own view, every such Preacher enjoyed the benefits of Inspiration so far, as he needed them to enable him to preach the Gospel truly, and usefully, to mankind; so far, as to preserve him from false narratives, erroneous doctrines, and unsound, or useless, precepts. That this was equally necessary for every preacher, before the written Canon furnished mankind with an unerring standard, with which they might compare the things which were preached to them, so as to determine their soundness or unsoundness, will, I suppose, be granted by all those, who ac. knowledge the necessity of Inspiration to any preacher.
5thly. Because it was necessary, that Christ should appear to act, and to control the affairs of his Church, after his Ascension.
The Apostles preached, wrought miracles, spoke with tongues, and executed all the parts of their ministry, under the authority, in the name, and by the power, of Christ. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth I command thee to arise and walk. Æneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole. Christ, having received the promise of the Father, hath shed forth this, which ye see, and hear. If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain, I can do all things through Christ strengthening me. Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ. This is the language, which, in substance, the Apostles use on every occasion, when the subject comes into view. At the same time, they inform us, that their commission was given them by Christ; and that in his name, and by his mission, and in no sense of themselves, they went forth to preach the Gospel, and to evince its divine origin by miracles. The power, by which they acted in all their wonderful works, the wisdom, which they preached, and the grace, by which they were sanctified and sustained, they ascribe wholly to him. Beyond this, they declare, that, while he resided in this world, he promised them all these things; and that he continually, and exactly, fulfilled this promise. His presence with them on various occasions, whenever it was demanded by their circumstances, and bis interference on their behalf, whenever it was ne
cessary, they testify in the amplest and most decisive manner. Thus, in every thing, which they taught, or did, He is the fountain, whence every stream proceeded. He, according to their own declarations, is the Agent; and they are merely Instruments in his hand. · But this agency of Christ on earth, after he had ascended to the heavens, is a most important, indispensable, and glorious part of his character; important and indispensable to mankind, and glorious to himself. Evidence is furnished by it to prove, that He is in all places, and beholds all things; that he is faithful to perform every thing, which he has promised, and able to do
every thing, which Christians need; which no Unitarian, hitherto, has had sufficient ingenuity to answer, or avoid. We see him actually exemplifying in his conduct all these things to his early followers ; and are therefore certainly assured, that, so far as our necessities require, he will substantially exhibit them to us. Christians in all ages, succeeding that of the Apostles, are here furnished with the strongest proofs, that He possesses all those attributes, on which their hope may most securely repose; and the most lively incitements to center in him their evangelical confidence.
6thly. Because the Gospel, in its present form, is far more useful to mankind, than if it had been written by one person, on one occasion, and in one manner. By the Gospel, here, I mean the whole New Testament. Christ, I acknowledge, could have written it, if he had pleased, in the very form, nay, in the very words, in which it is now written. But it would have been a plain and gross absurdity for Christ to have written a history, such as the Acts of the Apostles, or such as that of the events immediately preceding and succeeding his own death, concerning facts which had not yet happened; or Epistles to Churches not yet in being, concerning business, duties, and dangers, of which no vestige had hitherto appeared to have existed. It is not, therefore, irreverent, or improper, to say, that Christ could not, so far as we can conceive, have written the New Testament in its present form, without palpable improprieties, inwoven in the very nature of the work.
In its present form, the Gospel is far more useful, than it would have been, if written in the manner, which I have supposed, in many respects. It is in a much greater degree composed of facts; unless, indeed, the same facts had been communicated in prediction. In the historical form, in which they now appear, they are much more easily and strongly realized; more readily believed ; more capable of being substantiated by evidence; and more powerfully felt; than if they had been only predicted. The Epistles are also, in a great proportion of instances, written on subjects of real business ; and for that reason are more easily proved to be genuine ; are far more interesting, and far more instructive, than would otherwise have been possible. Their different dates continue the indubitable history of the Church through a considerable period; and furnish us with a number of very important facts, which we could not otherwise obtain. Their direction to Churches in different countries presents us, also, with the extension, and state, of the Church, in different parts of the world at that time. The business, concerning which they were written, occasions a display of the difficulties, doubts, errors, temptations, controversies, and backslidings; the faith, comforts, hopes, repentance, brotherly love, piety, and general excellence; of the Christians, to whom they were addressed. These are the peculiarly interesting circumstances of all other Christians. The instructions therefore, the exhortations, commands, reproofs, encouragements, and consolations, addressed to these Churches, are to all other Christians, as to them, the very best means of reformation, improvement, and comfort.
The examples of the Apostles, which in a Gospel, completed by Christ, could not have been recorded, are among the most edifying, as well as most interesting, parts of the sacred Canon.
The variety of form and manner, now introduced into the New Testament, is attended with peculiar advantages. It renders the Scriptures far more pleasing. A greater number of persons will read them. All, who read them, will read them oftener, and will more deeply feel their contents. It renders them far more instructive. In consequence of the various application of the doctrines and precepts to so many different concerns of mankind, clearer views are given of their extent, and comprehensiveness. By a comparison also of the different passages, thus written, with each other, as they are thus written with a various reference and application, new truths are obviously, as well as certainly, inferred from them, almost without any limitation of their number. The truths, also, which are thus inferred, are always important, and frequently of very great importance. By this variety of manner, application, and inference, the Scriptures are always new, improving, and delightful; and exhibit incontrovertible evidence of Divine wisdom in the manner, in which God has directed them to be written, as well as in the wonderful and glorious things, which they contain
I have now finished this interesting head of my discourse ; and shall proceed to the consideration of the two remaining ones; which, respecting subjects generally understood, will demand our attention but a few moments.
The III. subject proposed, was the Things, which the Apostles preached.
On this I observe in the
1st place. The Apostles have written the whole New Testament; both the things which were said, and done, by Christ, and the things which were said, and done, by themselves.
2dly. They have either originally communicated, or materially explained, many doctrines and precepts, which were either omitted, or partially communicated, by Christ.
Among these I select the following.
The connection which runs through the whole system of Redemption; the patriarchal, Mosaic, and Christian dispensations ; their mutual dependence; the absolute dependence of all on Christ; and the sameness of the manner and principles of salvation in all; the extent of the curse, and the unhappy efficacy of the Apostasy of our first parents; the parrallelism between the first and second Adam, and between the ruin and recovery of mankind; the imperfection of the Sinaitic covenant; the superior glory and blessings of the covenant of grace; the priesthood of Christ, formed after the order of Melchisedek; his Government of the world, for the benefit of the Church ; his intercession in behalf of his followers, before the throne of God; the preaching of the Gospel to Abraham, and to the Israelites; Justification by the grace of God through faith in the righteousness of Christ, founded on that righteousness as its meritorious cause; the sameness of Abraham's justification with that of all other saints, both before and after the coming of Vor II.