Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

darkness, 8c. Such was the commission which Jesus, in person, gave to Saul of Tarsus, who afterwards was called Paul ; so that, although he had not attended Jesus during his ministry, he was, in respect both of his election and of his fitness for it. rightly numhered with the apostles.

" Llere also it must be reinembered to the honour of the apostle Paul, that, being made an apostle for the purpose of converting the idolatrous Gentiles, be laboured in that department more abundantly than all the other apostles After having the gospel revealed to him by Christ, [Gal. i. 12.) and after receiving the power of working miracles, and of conferring miraculous gifts on them who should believe, [2 Cor. xii. 12, 13.] he first preached in Damascus, then went to Jerusalem, where he was introduced to Peter and James. But the Jews in that city, who were enraged against him for deserting their party, endeavouring to kill him, the brethren sent him away to Cilicia, his native country. From that time forth St. Paul spent the greatest part of his life among the Gentiles, visiting one country after another with such unremitting diligence, that at the time he wrote his epistle to the Romans, [chap. xv. 19.] from Jerusalem, and round about as far as Illyricum, he had fully preached the gospel of Christ. But, in the course of his labours, having met with great opposition, the Lord Jesus appeared to him on different occasions to encourage him in bis work; and, in particular, caught him up into the third heaven. So that, not only in respect of his election to the apostolic office, but in respect of the gifts and endowments bestowed on him to fit him for that office, and of the success of bis labours in it, St. Paul was not inferior to the very chiefest apostles, as he himself aflirms.

" I have said that Paul excelled his brethren apostles by reason of the abundance of the revelations that were given to him By this, however, I do not mean that his discourses and writings are superior to theirs in point of authority. The other apostles, indeed, have not entered so deep into the Christian scheme as he hath done ; yet, in what they have written, being guided by the same Spirit which inspired him, their declarations and decisions, so far as they go, are of equal authority with his. Nevertheless, it must be remembered, that it is St. Paul chiefly, who, in his epistles, as shall be shewn immediately, hath explained the gospel economy in its full extent, hath shewa its connection with the former dispensations, and hath defended it against the objectious by which infidels, both in antient and modern times, have endeavoured to overChrow it.

In confirmation of this account of the superior illumination of the apostle Paul, I now observe, that the greatness of the mercy of God, as extended to all mankind, was made known to him before it was discovered to the nther apostles, namely, in the commission which he received at bis conversion to preach to the Gențiles the good news of salvation through faith, that they might receive forgiveness of sin, and inheri. fance among them that are sanctified by faith. [Acts xxvi. 19.) So that he was the first of the apostles who by Christ's command, declared that faith and not circumcision was necessary to the salvation of the idolatrous Gentiles. And as St. Paul early communicated to his brethren apostles the gospel which he preached among the Gentiles, (Gal. ii. 2.] it seems to have been by him that Christ first made known to the other apostles the extent of the divive mercy to mankind. For that the apostles, besides discovering to each other the revelations which they received, read each other's writings, is plain from the character which Peter hath given of Paul's epistles. [2 Pet. . ii. 15, 16.]

“ It is St. Paul who hath informed us that sin and death were permitted to enter into the world and pass through to all men by the disobedience of ove man; because God determined, by the obedience of a greater man, to bestow resurrection from the dead on all men, and to give all an opportunity of obtaining righteousness and life under a more gracious covenant than the former procured for them by the merit of that obedience.

“ It is St. Paul who, in his learned epistle to the Hebrews, hath largely explained and proved the priesthood and intercession of Christ ; and hath shewn that his death is considered by God as a sacrifice for sin, not in a metaphorical sense, and in accommodation to the prejudices of mankind, but on account of its real esticacy in procuring pardon for penitents : that Christ was constituted a priest by the oath of God : that all the priests and sacrifices that have been in the world, but especially the Levitical priests and sacrifices, were emblems of the priesthood, sacrifice, and intercession of Christ : and that sacrifice was instituted originally to preserve the memory of the revelation which God made at the fall concerning the salvation of mankind through the . death of his Son, after he should become the seed of the woman.

“ It is this great apostle who hath most fully explained the doctrine of justification, and hath shewn that it consists in our being delivered from death, and in our obtaining eternal life through the obedience of Christ : that no sinner can obtain this justification meritoriously through works of the law ; that though faith is required as the condition thereof, justification is still the free gift of God through Jesus Christ; because no works which men can perform, not even the work of faith itself, hath any merit with God to procure pardon for those who have sinned : that this method of justification, having been established at the fall, is the way in which mankind, from the beginning to the end of time, are justified ; and that, as such, it is attested both by the law and by the prophets.

“ It is St. Paul who, by often discoursing of the justification of Abraliam, hath shewn the true nature of the faith which justifies sinners: that it consists in a strong desire to know, and in a sincere disposition to do, the will of God : that it leads the believer implicitly to obey the will of God when made known : and that even the leathens are capable of attaining this kind of faith, and of being saved through Christ. Also it is this apostle who, by penetrating into the depth of the meaning of the covenants with Abraham, hath discovered the nature and greatness of those rewards which God taught mankind, even in the first ages, to expect from his goodness ; and who hath shewn the gospel, in its chief articles, was preached to Abraham and to the Jews, nay, preached to the antediluvians, in the promise that the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent. So that the gospel is not a revelation of a new method of justification, but a more full publication of the method of justification mercifully established by God for all mankind from the very beginning.

It is the apostle Paul chiefly, who, by proving the principal doctrines of the gospel from the writings of Moses and the prophets, hath shewn that the same God who spake to the fathers by the prophets did, in the last days of the Mosaic dispensation, speak to all mankind by his 'Son : that the various dispensations of religion under which mankind have been placed are all parts of one great scheine, formed by God for saving penitent sinners : and, in particular, that there is an intimate connection betweca the Jewish and the Christian revelations ; that the former was a preparation for the latter : consequently those writers shew great ignorance of the divine dispensations, who, on account of the objections to which the law of Moses, as a rule of justification, is liable, and on account of the obscurity of the antient prophecies, wish to disjoin the Jewish and Christian revelations. But all who make this attempt, do it in opposition to the testimony of Jesus himself, who commanded the Jews to search their own scriptures, because they are they which testify of him [John v. 39.] ; who, in his conversation with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, beginning at Moses and all the prophets, expounded unto them from all the scriptures the things concerning himself ; (Luke xxiv. 27.] and who told them, verse 44, That all things must be fulfilied which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning him. The attempt is made in opposition also to the testimony of the apostle Peter, who, speaking to Cornelius of Christ, said, To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name, whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. [Acts x. 13.] The Jewish and Christian revelations, therefore, are so closely connected, that if the former is removed as false, the latter must of necessity fall to the ground.

“ It is the apostle of the Gentiles who hath set the Sinaitic covenant, or law of Moses, in a proper light; by shewing that it was no method of justification even to the Jews, but merely their national law delivered to them by God, not as governor of the universe, but as king in Israel, who had separated them from the rest of mankind, and placed them in Canaan under his own immediate government as a nation, for the purpose of preserving his oracles and worship amidst that universal corruption which had overspread the earth. Accordingly, this apostle hath proved, that, seeing the law of Moses contained a more perfect account of the duties of morality, and of the demerit of sin, than is to be found in any other national law, instead of justifying, it condemned the Jews by its curse, especially as it prescribed vo sacrifice of any real efficacy to cleanse the consciences of sinners, por promised them pardon in any method whatsoever : and that by the rigour of its curse, the law of Moses laid the Jews under the necessity of seeking justification from the mercy of God through faith, according to the tenor of the covenant of Abraham, which was the gospel and religion of the Jews. Thus, by the lights which St. Paul hath held up to us, the impious railings of the Manicheaus against the law of Moses, and against the God of the Jews, the author of that law, on the supposition that it was a rule of justification, are seen to be without foundation ; as are the objections, likewise, which modern deists liave urged against the Mosaic revelation, on account of God's dealings with the Israelites.

It is St. Paul who hath most largely discoursed concerning the transcendant greatness of the Son of God above angels and all created beings whatever ; and who hath shewn that, as the reward of his humiliation and death in the human nature, he hath, in that nature, obtained the government of the world for the good of his church, and will hold that government till he hath put down the usurped dominion which the apostate angels have so long endeavoured to maintain in opposition to the righteous government of God : that as the last exercise of his kingly power, Christ will raise the dead, and judge the world, and render to every one according to his deeds : and that when all the enemies of God and goodness are thus utterly subdued, the Son will deliver up the kingdom to the Father, that God may be over all in all places.

“ It is this great apostle who hath made known to us many of the circumstances and consequences of the general judgment not mentioned by the other apostles. For besides repeating what Christ himself declared, that he will return a second time to this earth, surrounded with the glory of his father, and attended by a great host of angels; that he will call all the dead forth from their graves; and that, by his sentence as judge, he will fix the doom of all mankind irreversibly ; this apostle hath tauglit us the following interesting particulars : that the last generation of men shall not die; but that in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, Christ will change such of the righteous as are alive upon the earth at his coming. And, having said nothing of Christ's changing the wicked, the apostle has led us to believe that no change shall pass on them, consequently that the discrimination of the righteous from the wicked shall be made from the difference of the body in which the one and the other shall appear before the tribunal, and that o particular inquiry into the actions of individuals will be needed to determine their different characters. The character of each will be shewn to all, by the nature of the body in which he appears to receive his sentence. The same apostle hias taught us, that after sentence is pronounced upon all men, according to their true characters thus visibly manifested, the righteous shall be caught up in the clouds, to join the Lord in the air; so that the wicked being left alone on the earth, it follows that they are to perish in the flames of the general conflagration. He further informs us, that the righteous, having joined the Lord in the air, shall accompany him in liis return to heaven, and there live in an embodied 'state with God, and Christ, and the angels, to all eternity.

“ It is St. Paul who hath given us the completest account of the spiritual gifts which were bestowed in such plenty and variety on the first Christians for the confirmation of the gospel. Nay, the form which the Christian visible church has taken under the government of Christ, is owing, in a great measure, to the directions contained in his writings. Not to mention that the different offices of the gospel ministry, together with the duties and privileges belonging to these offices, have all been established in consequence of his appointment.

Finally, It is St. Paul who, in his first epistle to the Thessalonians, hath given us a formal proof of the divine original of the gospel, which, though it was originally designed for the learned Greeks of that age, hath been of the greatest use ever since in confirming believers in their most holy faith, and stopping the mouths of adversaries.

“The foregoing account of the matters contained in the writings of the apostle Paul shews, that whilst the inspired epistles of the other apostles deserve to be read with the utmost attention, on account of the explications of particular doctrines and facts which they contain, and of the excellent precepts of piety and morality with which they abound, the epistles of Paul must be regarded as the grand repository in which the whole of the gospel doctrine is lodged, and from which the knowledge of it can be drawn with the greatest advantage. And therefore, all who wish to understand true Christianity, ought to study the epistles of this great apostle with the utmost care. In them, indeed, they will meet with things hard to be understood. But that circumstance, instead of discouraging, ought rather to make them more diligent in their endeavours to understand his writings, as they contain information from God himself concerning matters which are of the utmost importance to their temporal and eternal welfare,'

CHAPTER XVIII.

THE LIVES AND WRITINGS OF THE FOUR EVANGELIST8.

Introductory remark--- Matthew---his life---the date of his gospel---the language in which

it was written---to whom it was addressed---life of Mark---his gospel---when writte??--zihether an epitoine of Matthew---peculiarities in Nark---life of Luke---his gospel-:when it was written---plan of the four cvangelists---life of John---date of his gospel--his design in writing it---remarks on its last chapter---the moderation of the evangelists in speaking of our Lord's enemies---their means of information---credibility of their testimony---preaching and death of Matthew---the labours of Mark---his death--Luke writes the Acts---accounts of his death uncertain--- John writes his first epistle--evidences of its authenticity---his design in writing it---zehen and where it was written, and to whom it was addressed---who is to be understood by antichrist---remarks on the second and third of John---the apocalypse--continuation of the life of John---remarkable story of his conduct towards a young man--his death.

IN whatever point of view we consider the conduct of our adorable Redeemer, ve shall discover the most striking controversy between the spirit by which he was actuated, and the motives that influenced the most celebrated conquerors. Alexander, Cæsar, and the mighty Timur, were men formed of the same clay with ourselves, exposed to all the infirmities incident to human nature, and possessed of a legal authority over the persons

and

properties of comparatively but a few of mankind. They extended their command by acts of violence and deceit, waded through slaughter to the throne of empire, and then, in too many instances, shut the gates of mercy upon their fellows. Yet, as they fancied that there was something honorable in their crimes, they were anxious to find able and eloquent historians, who might transmit to posterity the memory of their achievments. Christ, on the contrary, though by nature he was rich, for our sakes became poor. Being in the form of God, he thought it no robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a scrvant, and was made in the likeness of men ; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. He was, indeed, a king, having an unquestionable right to universal dominion ; yet he asserted not this claim by the battles of the warrior, but hy the preaching of his word, and confirmed it by miracles of mercy, which were performed as well on his enemies as on his friends. Not one transaction of his spotless life shrinks from the severest scrutiny of impartial justice ; but as he did not wish the propagation of his religiou

« AnteriorContinuar »