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An INTRODUCTORÝ SERMON on the EviDENCES
of the Gospel
ACTS xxvi, 16, 17.
I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister
and a witness both of those things which thou hast seen, and of those in which I will appear unto thee, delivering thee from the people and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send ihee ;
PAUL, in the preceding versės, declares before Agrippa the time and manner of his conversion to the faith of Christ, and the extraordinary circumstances which attended it. And, in the words now read, he subjoins an account of the commission, which he received from Christ, to preach his gospel among the Jews, and especially among the Gentiles.
The singular method, which Jesus took to convince Paul of the truth of the gospel, was not out of partial favor to him, for surely he had done nothing to recom. Vol. III.
mend himself, but rather out of a general benevolence to mankind; for this man was a chosen vessela suit. able instrument to convey Christ's name among them. Jesus miraculously appeared to him to make him a minister of the gospel, and a witness of those facts by which its truth is supported. And having furnished him for his work, Jesus sent him forth to publish the doctrines, and display the evidences of the gospel among the peuple of the Jews, and among the Heathen nations.
The words teach us, that “the Apostle Paul was a notable and illustrious instrument in spreading the knowledge and confirming the truth of the religion of Christ.” Such he appears from the history given of him in the Acts of the Apostles, and from the writings which he himself has left for the use of the church.
My design is to give a summary view of the evidences of Christianity, and particularly to illustrate the evidences derived from the conversion, preaching and writings of this eminent minister and witness.
The Christian religion does now exist, and for many ages it has existed in the world. To account for its existence, without admitting its truth, it is impossible: For it did not take place by the influence of human authority, or the terror of military power, but by familiar instructions and obvious miracles. The credit of it depends on these plain facts-that about eighteen hundred years ago, there arose in Judea an extraordinary person, called Jesus of Nazareth, who declared himself to be divinely sent into the world, as an instructor, re. former and Saviour of men that he lived a most virtuous and holy life--that he taught a religion in some respects new, in many respects more perfect than had ever been taught before, and in all respects pure and excellenr-that he wrought many great and astonishing miracles-that he foretold many things, '
humanly im. prohable, which were verified by events-that he suffered death by a public crucifixion, and, on the third day,
rose again, and appeared to many in different times and places, not only to single persons, but to companies, and to more than five hundred at once, and frequently to those who had most intimately known him before his death, and who consequently could not mistake another person for him--that after about forty days, he, in the presence of a large concourse of disciples, visibly ascended on high, and disappeared from the admiring spectators-that, soon after this, according to his previous promise, the disciples whom he had chosen to be the witnesses of his works and the ministers of his word, were endued with extraordinary gifts, qualifying them to go forth and proclaim his religion in the world.
If such facts as these did really exist, the religion of the gospel is indubitably true. They who disbelieve the gospel, must deny that there ever was such a man, or that he ever wrought such miracles, and died and rose again in the manner alledged.
Miracles, which are effects produced above the common powers, and in a way different from the stated course of nature, plainly discover God's immediate interposition. From the goodness and veracity of God, we may conclude, that he never will immediately interpose to give such credibility to a falsehood, that men, inquiring honestly, and judging rationally, must receive it as a truth.
The miracles of Christ, (admitting, for the present, the Christian history to be true) were great and numerous; and he constantly appealed to them as evidences of the divinity of his mission and doctrines. To suppose, that, in such a case, God should enable an impostor to perform these marvellous works, which are re. lated of Jesus, is contrary to all our ideas of the divine character.
They who saw Christ heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out devils, and still the storms they who saw him yield himself to death, and then, exactly according to