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epistles make references to many of the facts set forth. The difference of style, manner of expression, method and way of arguing upon some facts, sufficiently assure us they did not all come from one hand; nay, the omissions of some things in one gospel, mentioned by another; the different order in which matters are related; the seeming contrarieties in some lesser matters may satisfy us that the three former evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, are three independent witnesses ; as for St. John, indeed there are reasons to suppose he was acquainted with, and had seen the other gospels, before he wrote his. The smaller differences in some circumstances of little or no moment, are so far from rendering the whole less credible, that they really add strength to it, by preventing all suspicion of concert. The agreement is, upon the whole, so great, that it is lrardly possible for four persons to write a history of so many considerable things; to deliver an account of so many discourses, parables delivered on various occasions, so many miracles, so many precepts, rules, reflections, as the history of our Saviour contains, with a greater harmony and agreement than is here done, unless they had met together, or corresponded together for the performance of the work; and as it appears from the difference before mentioned, there was no concert, so far from being a diminution, they are a confirmation of their truth and credibility. The design and tendency of the apostles preaching, is conformable to the doctrine delivered by our Saviour in his lifetime, in the main: he did not indeed address himself to Gentiles, in his ordinary preaching, it is true.
When he sent forth the twelve in his lifetime, he commanded them, saying, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles : and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, Matt. x. 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 plainly 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 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 internal 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 they bear. 3. Here are characters and notes of times, as, that such a thing happened when Herod was king of Judea, or when Pilate was governor. 4. The design of this history, and of the first peaching 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
and agreement in these facts between divers independent witnesses, who did not write in concert and correspondence together.
These particulars are suflicient 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
is a harmony
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 any 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?
THE MODERATION OF CHRISTIANS TO BE KNOWN TO ALL MEN.
Let your moderation be known unto all men.-Philip. 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 meaning, 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 yoke-fellow, help those women which laboured with me 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 supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.”
In our language, the word “ moderation” may denote moderate affections 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 płeading 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 wouldst 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 moderation, 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 • atmost 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 certainly make you amends for all your condescensions, and reward all
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 clamourous 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 usuage 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 scrip. tures; 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 bé 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. ij. 24, 03.
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 behaviour. The Jewish people scorned subjection to heathen magistrates ; and there was danger that Christians would follow their example. Some Christian servants were ready to despise their heathen masters: which is the reason of divers exhortations in the apostolical epistles. « Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work: to speak evil of no man, to be gentle, showing all meekness unto all men. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient,” Titus iii. 1-3. 6. Servants, obey in all things your masters, according to the flesh,” Col. iii. 22. “ Servants, be obedient unto them which are your masters, according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as unto Christ,” Eph. vi. 5.
It is also a part of gentleness to do good to all men in distress, whether agreeing in sentiment with us, or not: considering them as sharers with us in the same human nature, though they do not partake in the same spiritual privileges with ourselves. As St. Paul's directions are: “ And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men ; especially unto them who are of the household of faith,” Gal. vi. 9, 10.
This is one branch of moderation, equity and mildness; to carry it well toward enemies, and those who are of other sentiments in things of a religious nature, and do good to them if they are in any respect indigent and necessitous.
There are other branches of moderation and equity relating to those who are of the same religion with us: who believe in one God, as we do, and are servants and followers of one Lord, even Jesus Christ.
“ Give no offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God," 1 Cor. x. 32.
The equity and moderation to be practised by the strong and weak Christians, one toward another, is a point largely and particularly treated by the apostle in the fourteenth and fifteenth to the Romans, and in some chapters of his epistles to the Corinthians. “ Him that is weak in the faith receive you, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another who is weak eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth,” Rom. xiv. 1-3. This is mildness, this is moderation in matters of small moment.
There is another branch of mildness recommended by St. Paul, to be practised upon occasion of some falls, or actions plainly contrary to the Christian doctrine and profession. Such persons, if they are not hardened, are to be treated with gentleness. “ Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted,” Gal. vi. 1. “If any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed-Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother," 2 Thess. iii. 14, 15.
And the Corinthians, who had offended so greatly, the apostle directs to be received and comforted upon repentance. “Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. So that ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest such an one should be swallowed up with over-much sorrow." 2 Cor. ii. 6, 7.
There is a mildness to be shown to our brethren from whom we received some injuries, or who are defective in some regards due to us. “ Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another: if any man have a quarrel against any. Even as Christ forgave you, so do ye,” Col. iii. 13.
And to the Corinthians St. Paul writes in this manner : « Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, no not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren ? For brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong?
Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded ?" 1 Ep. vi. 5—7. Such instances as these there are of moderation and mildness toward one another, or our Christian friends and brethren.
Carrying it well toward each other, notwithstanding a different sentiment and practice in matters of lesser moment:
In case of falls, or transgressions against plain precepts of the gospel, and the just rules of all true religion ; receiving such upon repentance :
Reproving and admonishing those who offend, in some instances with mildness :
And submitting to some loss and damage, if it be of no great consequence; without occasioning a great deal of disturbance about small matters.
And that is one thing included in this direction : moderation toward many persons; and persons of different characters and relations to us: those who are not of the same religion, and on that account are, in some respect, our enemies, and averse to us : and to those who are of the same religious sentiments in the main.
2. Another thing included in this direction may be, practising moderation upon a great variety of occasions. Indeed this has been already shown under the former particular; for I have mentioned various instances of mildness, both toward unbelievers and to believers.
But all occasions for the practising of equity can scarce be enumerated; however, a man of a mild and equitable principle will be ready to show it, when the circumstances of things require it: he will be slow to wrath, backward to judge and censure: he will remember the Lord's command; “ Judge not, that ye be not judged :" and St. Paul's direction ; « Judge nothing before the time:" he will not be over-ready to receive charges against any, or credit disadvantageous reports and surmises. Equitable persons have also a respect to the stations and characters of men, agreeably to that direction of St. Paul to Timothy, “ Against an elder receive not an accusation but before two or three witnesses,” i Ep. v. 19. This is another thing included in this direction : Let your moderation be known unto all men, show it, and practise it upon many occasions.
3. Show moderation in every circumstance, not only when you are in adversity and affliction, but also when you are in prosperity and honour; not only when you are few in number, and weak in comparison of others who differ from you, but when you are in power and are the most in number. If in change of circumstances you are not changed, nor your outward conduct altered, it will
your minds are governed by some reasonable principle of action : but if men who were once, to appearance, meek and quiet under afflictions, become arrogant and imposing, upon their being exalted, their former submission and peaceableness will be imputed to fear and an abject mind, not unto mildness of temper, or a serious regard to the rule of right.
And as change of circumstances for the better is very apt to affect men's minds, good men need directions and cautions in such a case. The gentiles who received the word of the gospel from the apostles of Christ, were doubtless at first much pleased with the kind regard shown them, and thankful for the privileges vouchsafed them : but yet, when their numbers increased, and their freedom from the law of Moses was better established, they soon began to show some tokens of scorn and disdain that were not becoming. St. Paul perceived it, though himself the apostle of the gentiles, and the great patron of their liberty; and therefore inserted that argument in the epistle to the Romans : “ And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou a wild olive wert grafted in among them,-boast not against the branches ; but if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.-Be not high-minded, but fear," Rom. xi. 17, 18, 20,
4. The moderation or mildness of Christians, or any other people, will be conspicuous and known to all men, when it is a prevailing temper, and is general among them, in men of every relation, and every condition.
When they who teach the principles of religion, strive not to act with a high hand, and advance their authority, but recommend and enforce their doctrine and their admonitions by reasons and arguments, and renew and repeat their instructions for the sake of those who are not so tractable, or so acute and ready as others : labour, both in season and out of season ; behave not as lords of other men's faith, but helpers of their joy, and their servants for Christ's sake, to assist their proficiency in knowledge and virtue; and as St. Peter's expressions are, “not as