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ternal disadvantages. Some may be greatly afflicted, as we have seen, .# yet be peaceful, joyful, and comfortable. Some may meet with many and long continued troubles and afflictions, who yet are not abandoned of God, but approved by him: who are sincere and upright, and persuaded of their acceptance with God. There are good reasons for such a dispensation. Valuable ends and purposes are answered thereby. Good men are improved and made better by the sufferings they endure. Others of more imperfect virtue are made more perfect, and learn from them the duty of patience and resignation. And many by observing the great examples of patience and fortitude of some good men under various trials, may be convinced and persuaded of the truth, power, and excellence of the principles of religion.
*: Young persons and others, who are disposed to seek and serve the Lord, and to walk in the way of his commandments, may be hence convinced, that they have no reason to be † and discouraged, as if they should find no pleasure, and obtain no advantages in the way of religion and virtue. I hope such will be pleased to consider seriously what has been said. For a principal design of these discourses has been to remove such a prejudice against religion, and show fully that it is false ind undless: and to persuade men to come to a speedy and immediate determination for virtue, which is really profitable for all things.
3. However, certainly, it is very fit and prudent, at first setting out in the way of virtue, and taking upon us the profession of true religion, to consider the outward disadvantages and sufferings, that may attend such a course, and do sometimes befall the sincere and conscientious. By this means we become prepared for all events. Our resolutions are unore ...!; our obedience will be the more uniform; and a good issue becomes more likely. We shall not only begin, but also finish well. The path of such will be as the morning light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.
4. It seems to be a probable truth, that the highest attainments in virtue and holiness will have the largest share of comfort and happiness in this present life. The most complete in virtue will obtain many advantages, and escape many evils, and have the best supports and consolations: for these know best how, and are |. able to trust in God. They are most resigned to his will. They have the most lively hope of an heavenly and everlasting inheritance.
They, usually, have the most comfortable persuasion of the divine favour and acceptance. Their affections are the most mortified to earthly and sensible things. They have the fullest command of their appetites and passions. They have less anxiety and solicitude about earthly things. They are best contented with their condition. }. are freest from envy, ill-will, jealousy, and other troublesome and tormenting emotions and diseases of the mind. This soundness and vigorous health of the soul cannot but have delightful effects. As then godliness is profitable for all things, the greatest attainments in piety will usually have the best portion of comfort in the life that now is, as well as the greatest reward in the life which is to come. 5. Let us not then, having begun well, be ever induced by any means to forsake the practice of piety. , Let us not take offence at the troubles and afflictions which may for a while lie upon us, or upon some others, who are sincerely devoted to the service of God. For it is a certain truth, that godliness is profitable unto all things. If we persevere and advance therein, we shall be more and more convinced of this truth, “that light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.” Let us not then be imposed upon by some specious appearances, or put in for a portion with every one, who makes a show of mirth and gaiety. Let not any thing transport us beyond the bounds of serious thought and consideration. If we weigh things carefully in an equal balance, piety will have the preference in our judgment above irreligion and wickedness. And knowing the inconstancy of our tempers, and the dangerous tendency of some worldly temptations, we shall be earnest with God to establish the good and wise purposes of our heart once seriously formed; to turn away our eyes from beholding vanity, and quicken us in his precepts. The just sentiments of the apostle in this text and context deserve our notice. He speaks lightly of o exercise, as a small matter; whilst he highly prizes, and earnestly recommends sincere piety. And he censures such as should forbid to marry, .." require men to abstain from meats, which God has created to be received with thanksgiving. It is the same which our Saviour said and taught in the hearing of all the people: “ Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man: but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man,” Matt. xv. 11. The christian religion, which is true religion only, insists not upon grievous austerities, and severe and unnecessary mortifications of the body. Christians, if they understand their religion, VOL. IX. 2 l
are free from all such yokes of bondage, or slavery, which are below ingenuous minds. And it certainly is no small advantage to be freed from burdensome impositions, and needless restraints of this kind; and to be able without scandal to partake of all the innocent enjoyments of life; provided men do not set up some other sort of orthodoxy, as vain and insignificant; equally unprofitable to those who pride themselves in it, and equally troublesome to the world around them.
6. Finally, let us exercise ourselves unto godliness. Bodily exercise profiteth little. It has no divine promise of an good thing whatever. But godliness is profitable unto all things: and has promises of life and happiness hereafter, and of ...}; and comfort here. Let us exercise and improve ourselves in this true excellence, by meditation and prayer, watchfulness and circumspection; restraining irregular appetites, purifying ourselves more and more, and adding one virtue to another, being ready to every good word and every good work, and growing daily more perfect in sobriety, meekness, patience, and every other part of true, real piety.
INTERNAL MARKS OF CREDIBILITY IN THE NEW
.Moreover, I will endeavour that you may be able, after my decease, to have these things always in remembrance. For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when tre made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord
Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses. of his majesty. 2 Pet. i. 15, 16. y
WE are setting before you the grounds upon which we receive the christian religion as true and divine. No religion can come from God which contains principles or rules of life unworthy of him; part of this |. n therefore is, to show the excellency of the principles .#. religion, and the goodness of its precepts; that they are suitable to the divine perfections, and such as may proceed from him, without any derogation to him; if not such as could come from none but God himself. Another part of the design is, to consider the miracles supposed to be wrought by our Saviour, and his apostles, and the predictions # uncertain events, as attestations of a divine commission for giving these religious instructions to mankind. But it is needful we have some satisfactory proof of the truth and reality of these. They who were eye-witnesses of any wonderful works, are satisfied by their own senses; but for us, who live many ages after the promulgation, and ..". attestation of this religion, it is necessary we consider what evidence there is of the account we have of them. There being no miracles wrought before us for the confirmation of our religion, we ought to be convinced of the truth of those that were done in the first ages of it. If it be made appear that many extraordinary works were done as proofs of a commission from heaven, that predictions were made of distant and uncertain events, which were afterwards accomplished, this will prove the divine original of the christian religion. What lies before me there is to show, that the account we have of these things in the history of the gospel, and particularly in the books of the New Testament, is credible, and such as may be received by impartial and unprejudiced persons; that Jesus Christ dwelt in Judea, and, in the name of God, taught the most pure and excellent principles of religion, worked many miracles, healing all kinds of distempers } his word, raising the dead, and the like; that he foretold many uncertain events, which afterwards came to pass;–his own death, resurrection, the pouring out of the Holy Ghost on his followers, with power to do the like, or greater works than he had done himself; the conversion of the world to his doctrine, and the destruction of the Jewish state; that he was crucified, rose from the dead, and ascended up to heaven; that his apostles and others, after this, did work many miracles by powers they received from him, and propagated in a great part of the world the doctrine he taught. The particular consideration of the miracles and predictions of our Saviour and his apostles is in other hands. What lies before us at present is, the credibility of the account we have of them, and of the rise of our religion. That it is not a forged and invented story, but a faithful narrative of matters of fact; for we have not followed cunningly devised fables, as the apostle here says, but have delivered to you only an account of what we saw done before our eyes; and he says it when he was in expectation of leaving this world in a very short time: “ Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me,” 2 Pet. i. 14. St. Luke likewise avers in the beginning of his gospel, that he had perfect understanding from the first, of the things concerning which he was about to write: and St. John says, in the beginning of his first epistle, “that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you,” chap. i. 2, 3. I propose to set before you the internal marks and characters there are of truth and probability in the account itself, the history of the New Testament. 1. I would just observe, that the books we receive this history from have the names of particular persons; and this is an argument they are genuine, when there is no particular reason to the contrary. The positive proofs which there are of their being really written by the persons whose names they bear, belong to another argument. All that I insist upon now is, that they were handed down to us in the names of the persons who take upon them this character of living at the time the things they relate were transacted. . As for the four gospels, the names of their several authors are not indeed inserted in them. Two of them, Matthew and John, were of the twelve disciples, and followers of Christ; Mark was a companion of Peter in his travels and preaching: and Luke was a companion of Paul. Some have supposed they were both of them of the seventy-two that were sent forth by our Saviour in his lifetime. In the epistles the name of the writer is inserted in the salutation of the person to whom they are sent, excepting that one of the epistle to the Hebrews, which, if written by Paul, as is generally supposed, might be omitted for special reasons. 2. These books are written in a language and in a style suitable to the character of the persons whose names the bear. The language is Greek, which obtained very o in that country, in Syria and Judea, and in Egypt, after the conquest of Kio. and the division of the countries he had subdued amongst his generals. The language is Greek, but some words are used in a different sense from what they have in the ancient writers that dwelt in Greece and its colonies, and there are some few Syriac words, and some borrowed from the Roman language, and there are phrases that have somewhat of the Syriac or Chaldee idiom. 3. Here are many characters of time inserted, which are arguments that it is a real history of facts. There was, saith St. Luke, “In the days of Herod the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia,” Luke i. 5. The time of our Saviour's birth is set down with par