图书图片
PDF
ePub

5, 6; whereas the apostles did after his ascension preach to Gentiles as well as Jews, and asserted that they might be saved as well as the Jews. But the directions he gave them at first, it is plain, were not intended to be always binding. He gave sufficient hints in his discourses of this event in his lifetime, in some discourses, made in the hearing of the pharisees and scribes, and others, as far as he thought proper at that time, and as they were able to bear it; he spoke very |.. to the woman of Samaria, when he told her, “the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father,” John iv. 21 ; and that the true worshippers of God, who serve him in spirit and in truth, in whatever place they called upon him, would be accepted of him; and before he ascended he gave them orders to teach all nations: “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” Matt. xxviii. 19. These are all the particulars I shall produce on the intermal credibility of this gospel history, the marks and characters of truth observable in the books of the New Testament. The points I have mentioned are, 1. These books bear the names of particular persons, except only the epistle to the Hebrews. 2. They are written in a language and style suited to the character of the persons whose names the bear. 3. Here are characters and notes of times, as, that ...i a thing happened when Herod was o; of Judea, or when Pilate was governor. 4. The design of this history, and of the first preaching of the gospel, has nothing in it that should tempt men to forgery and invention. 5. We find here a just and natural representation of matters, with all the appearances of likelihood and probability. 6. The impartiality of this history is another mark of its truth: many things are mentioned to appearance, and in the eye of the world, disadvantageous to Christ: many things to appearance, and others in reality, disadvantageous to the first disciples, and first publishers of the gospel: and many disorders and miscarriages of the first converts to christianity. 7. The remarkable plainness and simplicity of the narration. 8. Here are many facts and circumstances related in a manner that they might easily be confuted if not true. 9. Here are evident marks of the honesty and integrity of the persons engaged in the first publishing of the gospel, who were the witnesses of the main facts here related, and on which the truth of the gospel depends. 10. Likewise that they were not persons of enthusiastic principles. 11. That miracles were wrought, and extraordinary gifts conferred upon

many persons, appears from directions given in letters to persons supposed to have themselves seen these works, and shared in these benefits. 12. It appears from the books themselves, that here is a harmony and agreement in these facts between divers independent witnesses, who did not write in concert and correspondence together. These particulars are sufficient for the making out this argument, and to satisfy us that these writers have all the characters of truth and probability, which any history can have. Perhaps no history besides has them all in so eminent agreement; scarce any facts whatsoever are so well supported: and if they are true, we have the highest reason to rest assured our religion is true, and came from God. This was what I was to prove; and if, in prosecution of this argument, in which I have made numerous references to passages of the sacred scriptures, I have illustrated . passage of scripture, or if any thing that has been here said, may serve to raise your attention to the writings of the New Testament, or to direct you in the making farther remarks in the course of your private reading; then another valuable end has likewise been answered. And shall we leave this religion; Christ, who has the words of eternal life? Shall we exchange the certain proofs of a future life, for the uncertain obscure arguments of immortality in Plato and Cicero?

SERMON VII.

THE MODERATION OF CHRISTIANS TO BE KNOWN TO
ALL MEN.

Let your moderation be known unto all men. Phil. iv. 5.

THIS direction being near the end of St. Paul's epistles, where are divers exhortations put down without any very nice and exact connection with each other; the coherence may not afford much light for settling the precise meaning.

I therefore immediately proceed to consider the meaning of the word moderation. And in the next place, (which will be the principal subject of our discourse.) I would show what is implied in this exhortation, as addressed to christians, that their “moderation should be known unto all men.”

I. In the first place, we will consider what is the meaning of the word “moderation.” And though the coherence alone may not be sufficient to determine the precise ineaning, yet it is not fit that we should quite overlook it. “I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. And I entreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with Ine in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow-labourers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord alway; and again, I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men; the Lord is at hand; be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and sup!. with thanksgiving, let your requests be made nown unto God.” In our language, the word “moderation” may denote moderate affection for worldly things, and contentedness of mind with a small portion of the good things of this life, and satisfaction in a low or middling station, or whatever the condition be which we are in, without aspiring after great things. But that is not the direct intention of the apostle here. And there are some other places where the original word is used, which will lead us to the proper meaning of it. Tertullus pleading in behalf of the Jews against Paul, entreats the attention of the governor in this manner, as in our translation: “I pray thee, that thou wouldest hear us of thy clemency, a few words.” Acts xxiv. 4. Where the original word for “clemency” is the same, which here in the text is rendered “moderation:” and therefore we are led hereby to understand mildness, equity. Again : “Now I Paul beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ,” 2 Cor. x. 1. That therefore is the sense in which we are to take the word in this place. It is equivalent to mildness, equity, gentleness; and, it is easy to be perceived, this virtue has some respect to offences and injuries, or to such persons and things, as are some way offensive and provoking. II. In the second place we should consider what is implied in this direction, or exhortation, as given to christians —“Let your moderation be known unto all men.” They will, I apprehend, fulfil and obey this precept, if their inoderation, that is, their mildness, be conspicuous, eminent, and remarkable. And it may be supposed that the moderation, or the mildness, the equity, the gentleness of any men will be conspicuous and well known in the world, if it appear in their conduct toward many persons, upon a variety of occasions, in different circumstances, and if it be general among them : not in some few only, but in many, in all, or most of them. 1. The mildness of any body of men, or of christians, will be conspicuous and well known, if it appear in their conduct toward many persons. Divers particulars do here offer themselves to our observation: for we may soon perceive several branches of this virtue particularly recommended by Paul in his epistles. And doubtless, one instance of mildness, meekness, and patience, is carrying it well toward those that differ from us, and treat us as enemies, or in an unkind and unfriendly manner. As a learned interpreter says, the apostle here considers the Philippians as in a state of persecution; to which state gentleness or meekness is peculiarly suited; and therefore the meaning of this exhortation is, ‘However you “suffer, let your moderation and gentleness be conspicuous “to all men, and particularly to those at whose hands you * suffer.” Or, as another writer paraphraseth the text, with its subsequent motive to obedience: ‘Be not rigorous in ‘insisting upon your utmost right, nor impatient in suffering ‘wrong; but let your temper and composure of mind be ‘manifest to all sorts of people, and upon all occasions. “For consider that the Judge is not far off, who will cer“tainly make you amends for all your condescensions, and ‘reward all your patience.’ It is very likely that this is one thing here particularly intended by St. Paul, and, indeed, it is what must tend to render men's mildness well known and conspicuous in the world: if they behave and carry it well under sufferings, or toward those who are injurious to them, and are the instruments of their sufferings: when they forbear opprobrious and abusive language, and keep their temper, and behave decently toward all men suitably, to their several characters; whether magistrates, and others of superior rank, or toward those of mean condition; when they can express good will toward those who persecute them for innocent opinions, which they think they have good reason to believe and profess. If men, instead of allowing themselves the liberty of reproachful language, and loud and clamorous complaints upon such occasions, do with evident tokens of sincerity express their good-will toward those who evil entreat them, praying that they may be convinced of their mistake, and that the favours of Providence may be poured down upon them; this is a very laudable and amiable behaviour.

Farther, men's moderation will be eminent and conspicuous, if under such sufferings they show mildness and equity toward their enemies and persecutors of all sorts. We can take hard usage better of some than of others. The same treatment is more offensive and provoking in one man than in another. It might be more grievous and afflictive to the christians in the time of the apostles, to suffer persecution from the Jews than from the Gentiles. With the former they agreed in many points. They worshipped the same God. They received their ancient scriptures; and believed in him whom their prophets foretold; whilst the Gentiles knew not God ; and the gods they worshipped were esteemed by the christians as well as the Jews to be no gods, but idols and vanities; and one great design of their religion was, to detect the falsehood and absurdity of all idolatrous worship, and overthrow it. It may be also more grievous and offensive to be persecuted by former friends, and the members of our own family. And to be mild and patient under injuries from them, will show great moderation. Another branch of moderation toward such as differ from us is, mildness and gentleness in all debates and arguments for the truth of our religion; which we find recommended in the writings of Christ's apostles. Says St. Peter: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear, 1 Ep. iii. 15. That direction seems to be addressed to christians in general. St. Paul, speaking more especially of those who are in the ministerial office, says: “And the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves, if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth,” 2 Tim. ii. 24, 25. Whether it be any just ground of offence, that others differ from us or not ; yet men are apt too often to take it amiss, that others differ from them, and yield not to the force of those arguments, which convince and satisfy themselves. It is therefore a branch of mildness, and very laudable, to bear patiently with those who differ from us in point of religion, and calmly to propose our best arguments, and be willing to renew those methods of conviction which hitherto have been ineffectual. Moreover, knowledge, or the opinion of it, puffeth up. The bare knowledge of some truths, which others are ignorant of, is made the ground of a haughty and insolent

« 上一页继续 »