Page images
PDF
EPUB

Jerufalem till they had received power from on high, to qualify them to be witnesses of Christ's resurrection, not only in Jerusalem, and Judea, and Samaria, but to the utmost parts of the earth.

And this I still believe to be the case of those many nations of the world, that are yet under the violent, and almost invincible prejudice of education in another religion. That which may reasonably satisfy us who are brought up in the Chriftian religion, is not likely to be effectual enough to convince them; and therefore I think it still very credible, that if persons of sincere minds did go to preach the pure Christian religion, free from those errors and superstitions which have crept into it, to infidel nations, that God would still enable fuch persons to work miracles, without which there would be little or no probability of success. For as the wisdom of God is not wont to do that which is superfluous, fo neither to be wanting in that which is necessary; and though the morality of the Christian religion be admirable, and very apt to recommend itself to the reason of mankind, yet the doctrine of the death of the Son of God would be such a stumbling-block, as would be hard for them to get over; and the relation of ancient · miracles would not easily be admitted, by those who are utterly strangers to our histories of former times ; and consequently not so fit to judge of what credit and value they are.

It is not good to be confident where we are not cer tain; but this I piously believe, that God would extraordinarily countenance such an attempt by all fitting allistance, as he did the first publication of the gospel ; because the reason and necessity is plainly the same in this case, as it was at first. For if God did not think the apostles naked testimony, unless it were armed with miracles, sufficient for the conviction of the world, concerning the resurrection of Christ, of which thenselves had been eye-witnesses, much less can we expect to gain credit, who only carry the relation of these ancient matters of fact, attested by histories to which they are wholly strangers.

And I do strongly hope, that there still remains 2 great barvest among the Gentiles, yet to be gained to

Christianity

Christianity before the end of the world; and that the providence of God will, in his own appointed time, make a farther step in the conversion of the infidel nations; and that more of the kingdoms of the earth shall become the kingdoms of the Lord, and of his Chrift; and yet, that before the end of all things, the light of the gospel fhall be displayed in a glorious manner, not only in those vast empires of Tartary, and China, and Japan, and Indoftan, and other great kingdoms of the east, but in the large and dark regions of the new-difcovered world; for that solemn promise which God made to his Son, Pfal. ii. 8. Ask of me, and I will give thee the Heathen for thine inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for thy posession, seems to be very far from being yet fully accomplished ; and fince this is like to be the work of some ages, the time perhaps is not far off when it shall begin: and though I see no sufficient grounds from scripture to believe the perfonal reign of Chrift upon earth for a thousand years; yet it feems to be not improbable, that some time before the end of the world, the glorious kingdom of Christ, I mean, the prevelancy of the pure Christian religion, fhould be of as long continuance, as the reign of Mahomet and Antichrift have been, both which have now lasted about a thousand

years. For it is clear, that the fulness of the Gentiles is not yet come in, because the Jews still continue dispersed over the world, which is the mark our Saviour hath given of the call and restitution of the Jews, Luke xxi. 24. They Jhall fall by the edge of the fwor.), and shall be led away captive into all nations ; and Jerusalem Jhall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the time of the Gentiles be fulfilled: .ind thus St Paul explains to us this prediction of our Saviour, Rom xi. 25. I would not, brethren, that you shoald be ignorant of this mystery, that blindness in part is happened unto Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.

So that this we have reason to expect, and this let us pray for, That the knowledge of the Lord may fill the earth, as the waters cover the sea'; that his ways may be known upon earth, and his saving health among all na

C G 3

tions

tions ;' and with St Paul, let our hearty de fire and prayer for Israel be, that they may be saved ; that there may come out of Sion a deliverer, and he may turn away unrighteousness from Jacob; especially since St Paul hath given us reason to hope, that this would be of so

great

bes nefit and advantage to the Gentile world, Rom. xi. 12. If the fall of the Jews be the riches of the world, and the diminution of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? and ver. 15. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world; what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? Intimating, that as the rejection of the Jews was the occafion of publishing the gospel, that doctrine of reconciliation, to the world, as the same apostle doth elsewhere call it; so the receiving them to favour again should be life from the dead; that is, a kind of resurrection to the remainder of the Gentile world, who had so long lain in darkness and the shadow of death. Which the God of peace; who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, the great Mepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, grapt in his due time may be accomplished ; that those other Sheep, which are not yet of this fold, may hear his voice, and be brought in, that there may be one fold, and one shepherd; and

all the ends of the earth may fee the salvation of our God.

SE R.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

ACTS xxvi. 8.
Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you,

that God should raise the dead?

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

T

HE resurrection of the dead is one of the great

articles of the Christian faith; and yet so it

hath happened, that this great article of our religion hath been made one of the chief objections 2gainst it. There is nothing that Chriftianity hath been more upbraided withal, both by the Heathens of old, and by the infidels of later times, than the impossibility of this article. So that it is a matter of great consideration and consequence, to vindicate our religion in this particular. For if the thing be evidently imposible, then it is highly unreasonable to propose it to the belief of mankind.

I know that some, more devout than wise, and who; it is to be hoped, mean better than they understand, make nothing of impossibilities in matters of faith, and would fain persuade us, that the more impoffible any thing is, for that very reason it is the fitter to be believe ed; and that it is an argument of a poor and low faith, to believe only things that are possible ; but a generous and heroical faith will swallow contradictions, with as much ease as reason assents to the plainest and most evident propositions. Tertullian, in the heat of his zeal and eloquence, upon this point of the death and resurrection of Christ, lets fall a very odd passage, and which must have many grains of allowance to make it tolerable: Prorfus credibile eft, faith he, guia ineptum

count.

eft ; certum eft, quia impoffibile : “ It is therefore very

credible, because it is foolish ; and certain, because “ it is impoflible:” And this, says he, is necesarium dedecus fidei, that is, “ it is necessary the Christian faith • should be thus disgraced, by the belief of impossibili; " ties and contradictions.” Í suppose he means, that this article of the resurrection was not in itself the less credible, because the Heathen philosophers cavilled at it, as a thing impossible and contradictious, and endeavoured to disgrace the Christian religion upon that ac

For had he meant otherwise, that the thing was therefore credible, because it was really and in itself foolish and impossible; this had been to recommend the "Christian religion, from the absurdity of the things to be believed ; which would be a strange commendation of any religion to the sober and reasonable part of mankind.

I know not what some men may find in themselves ; but I must freely acknowledge, that I could never yet attain to that bold and hardy degree of faith, as to believe any thing for this reason, because it was impoffible : for this would be to believe a thing to be, because I am sure it cannot be. So that I am very far from being of his mind, that wanted not only more difficulties, but even impossibilities, in the Chriftian religion, to exercise his faith upon.

It is true indeed, Abraham, when he was offering up his fon Isaac, is said, against hope to have believed in hope : But he did not believe against a plain impossibility; for the Apostle to the Hebrews exprefly tells us, that he reasoned that God was able to raise him from the dead. But had he believed this impossible, he could not have reconciled the command of God with his promise ; the com. mand to sacrifice Ifaac, with the promise which he had made before, that in his feed, which was Ifaac, all the nations of the earth should be blessed. So that, though God was pleased to try his faith with a great difficulty, yet with no impoflibility.

I premise all this, to fatisfy men how necessary it is to vindicate the Christian religion from this objection, of the impossibility of any of its articles. And whatever Tertullian might say in a rhetorical rant, it is very

« PreviousContinue »