« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
them: but the days come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away : then shall they fast. Christ was taken away on the evening preceding the seventh day, or Jewish Sabbath ; and during the whole of that day lay buried in the tomb. On this day, then, he declares, they should fast; and in this declaration indicates, that the Jewish Sabbath should then come to an end ; so far as the day was concerned, on which it was celebrated. The Sabbath is a festival; not a fast: a day of joy only, and not of sorrow. When, therefore, Christ declared, that the seventh day should be a day of fasting to his immediate disciples, he may fairly be considered, as indicating that this day should no longer be a Sabbath to them.
In conformity to this indication, the Apostles introduced the first day to Christians, for their future observance as the Sabbath, by their own adoption of it in their religious practice. In this manner, principally, it is announced to us in their writings, as the proper Sabbath for all the followers of the Redeemer. On the wisdom, displayed in this manner of introducing the Christian Sabbath, I design to discourse more particularly hereafter. It is sufficient to observe at the present time, that, had Christ completed the Gospel, it is not easy to see how this manner of introducing the Sabbath could have taken place; and it is evident, that this account of it could not have been given.
Finally; the whole history of the Church, contained in the Acts of the Apostles, would in this case, have been lost to the Christian world. No part of the Word of God is, in many respects, more filled with instruction, or consolation, than this book. The doctrines, which it contains, are of the highest importance, for their wisdom; the precepts, for their plainness and excellence; the examples, for their number, their variety, and their adaptation to the different circumstances and characters of Christians. The history of this book, also, is of the greatest value, for its edifying and instructive nature, for the satisfaction which it furnishes concerning the state of the Church at that interesting period, for the life, sulferings and deliverances, the preaching and success, of the Apostles, the opposition which they met, and the causes which produced it; the sufferings, patience, and perseverance, the errors and faults, of the first converts; the progress of Christianity, and the extension of the Church; together with a multitude of other things interwoven with these. How useful, how necessary, these things are, to instruct, edify, and comfort, every Christian, particularly every Minister, I need not explain; nor need I observe, that in a Gospel, written by our Saviour, they could have had no place.
3dly. Because it was necessary, that the Immediate followers of Christ in the propagation of Christianity should be clearly seen to be commissioned of God.
It will be readily acknowledged, that a body of men, so small, so uneducated, so humble, so unfriended, as the Apostles and their companions were, must have wholly failed of spreading the Gos
pel through the world by any efforts, which they could have made, independently of peculiar assistance from Heaven. Let us inquire, then, What was the assistance, which they needed? Was it the gift of speaking with tongues? What purpose would this have answered, if their minds had been ignorant concerning what they were to speak; or whether that, which they were about to speak, was the will of God, and justly demanded the faith and obedience of their hearers ? Was it the Power of working miracles ? For what purpose were their miracles to be wrought? For what purpose could they be wrought? Plainly for no other, but to prove, that that, which was spoken by those who wrought them, was true. But if they were not inspired, that which they uttered was, and could at the best be, no other than the opinions, and the remembrance, of honest men. Of course, it must, necessarily, be partially false. Their miracles, therefore, would be wrought to prove the truth of falsehood; and God, if they actually wrought miracles, would set his seal to this falsehood, and employ his power to deceive their hearers. To refute this blasphemous opinion certainly cannot be necessary.
It is plain then, that no assistance could be given to them, short of Inspiration, which would at all qualify them for the diffusion of the Gospel, and the erection of Christ's kingdom in the world. The sole end of all other miraculous powers, so far as their Commission, and their employment, were concerned, was evidently to prove them inspired with a knowledge of the divine will concerning the salvation of men, and sent to declare it to their fellow-men. Independently of this great purpose, their supernatural powers were of no other use, except to amuse and astonish mankind.
In exact accordance with this scheme, St. Paul, in 1 Cor. xii. asserts directly the Inspiration of himself, and his companions in the ministry; and in the xiv. Chapter declares the superiority of it to all other supernatural endowments for the edification of the Church. To one, he says, is given by the Spirit the Word of Wis
, dom; to another the Word of Knowledge; by the same Spirit.. To another faith; to another gifts of healing ; to another the working of miracles; to another the discerning of spirits, or doctrines. In the 31st verse he directs them to covet earnestly the best gifts. In the 39th verse of the 14th chapter, he says, Wherefore, brethren, codet to prophecy, that is, to declare the will of God by inspiration, and forbid not to speak with tongues. Greater, he says, is he that prophesieth, than he that speaketh with tongues. And again, Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by Revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine ? All these are only different words to express that Inspiration, by which they either originally received, or unerringly understood, proposed, explained, or enforced, divine truth. Without this, he declares expressly, that he should not profit the Church in its spiritual concerns at all.
Accordingly, after having directed them to covet earnestly the best gifts, he further directs them to covet the gift of prophesying, and not forbid speaking with tongues : as much as to say, “Covet to receive from God, by Revelation, divine truth ; and the gifts of unerringly explaining, declaring, and enforcing, it to others; as being things of supreme importance and usefulness : at the same lime, forbid not to speak with tongues; as being an endowment, really, though very subordinately useful.”
From these passages I think it is unanswerably evident, that a Revelation, such as Dr. Priestly, without meaning, calls particular, existed in a standing manner in the minds of the Apostles and their companions; in the latter to direct them in their preaching ; in the former, for the same purpose, and the still more important one of committing the Word of God to writing, for the instruction of all succeeding generations. So extensive, and common, was this Revelation, as to be made the proper subject of a system of directions from St. Paul to the Corinthian Church: a thing wholly inexplicable, if this fact had not existed.
From these observations it is plain, that without inspiration all the other supernatural endowments of the Apostles must, if given, have been given to no valuable end; that, on the contrary, they would only have served to establish falsehood and delusion; and that unless they were inspired, it may certainly be concluded, that they were in no other respect supernaturally endowed. Their inspiration, therefore, was absolutely necessary to prove their commission to be from God.
If it had not been made evident, that the Apostles were commissioned from God, this fact must, I think, have been fatal to the cause of Christianity. In this case, although we might have acknowledged Christ to be a divine Missionary ; yet we should naturally and unanswerably have said, "What authority did these men possess to transmit his instructions and precepts to us? What proof have we, that they understood them; remembered them; or expressed them with correctness and certainty? Why are we bound to regard what they have said, any more than the numerous Gospels written by others ? Christ wrote nothing. Had he intended to require our Faith and Obedience to his precepts, he would undoubtedly have taken effectual care, that we should receive them in such a manner, and from such persons, as would assure us, that they were his, and only his."
To us, it ought to be observed, the Inspiration of the Apostles furnishes a proof, that they were commissioned from God, which is additional to the proofs, given to those who heard them preach. In their writings they have left on record a number of important prophecies. Several of these have been remarkably fulfilled ; and others are daily receiving their fulfilment. In the fulfilment of these prophecies we have a direct proof of their Inspiration, and consequently of their divine commission, which is immoveable, and
which could not, in the same degree, be discerned by their cotemporaries.
4thly. Because many preachers were necessary for such an extensive establishment of the Church, as that which actually took place ; the great body of whom needed, for a time, to sustain the same character.
On this subject it will not be necessary to dwell. If the preceding arguments be allowed to prove the point, for which they were alleged, it will undoubtedly be also conceded, that Inspiration was as necessary for some, at least, of those, who preached in one place, as for any, who preached in another. It may, perhaps, be
, objected, that this is proving too much; and alleging inspiration in a wider extent than has hitherto been pretended.
To prevent any misconceptions on this point, I will state my own views of this subject, a little more particularly than I have hitherto done. The inspiration of the Apostles I suppose to have consisted in the following things.
1. That they received immediately from God every part of the Christian dispensation, which they did not know by other means.
2. That in the same manner they were furnished with a foreknowledge of future events.
3. That in things which they did otherwise know partially, the deficiencies of their knowledge were in the same manner supplied.
4. That those things which they had once known, and which were parts of the Christian dispensation, were by divine Power brought distinctly, and fully to their remembrance.
5. That they were directed by the Holy Spirit to the selection of just such things, and such only, and to precisely such a manner of exhibiting them, as should be true, just, most useful to mankind, and most agreeable to the Divine wisdom.
6. That each one was left so far to his own manner of writing, or speaking, as that the style was strictly his own; and yet that the phraseology, used by him in this very style, was so directed and controlled by the Holy Spirit, as
lead him to the most exact and useful exhibition of Divine truth : his own words being, in this important sense, words not devised by human wisdom, but taught by the Holy Ghost. And,
7. That each inspired man was, as to his preaching, or his writing, absolutely preserved from error.
All these particulars cannot be applied in the same degree, and some of them cannot be applied at all, to all the inspired Preachers. But, in my own view, every such Preacher enjoyed the benefits of Inspiration so far, as he needed them to enable him to preach the Gospel truly, and usefully, to inankind; so far, as to preserve him from false narratives, erroneous doctrines, and unsound, or useless precepts. That this was equally necessary for every preacher, before the written Canon furnished mankind with an unerring standard, with which they might compare the things which were preachVol. II.
ed to them, so as to determine their soundness or unsoundness, will, I suppose, be granted by all those, who acknowledge the necessity of Inspiration to any preacher.
5thly. Because it was necessary that Christ should appear to act, and to control the affairs of his Church, after his Ascension.
The Apostles preached, wrought miracles, spoke with tongues, and executed all the parts of their ministry, under the authority, in the name, and by the power, of Christ. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth I command thee to arise and walk. Æneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole. Christ, having received the promise of the Father, hath shed forth this, which ye see and hear. If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. I can do all things through Christ strengthening me. Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ. This is the language, which, in substance, the Apostles use on every occasion, when the subject comes into view. At the same time, they inform us, that their commission was given them by Christ; and that in his name, and by his mission, and in no sense of themselves, they went forth to preach the Gospel, and to evince its divine origin by miracles. The power by which they acted in all their wonderful works, the wisdom which they preached, and the grace by which they were sanctified and sustained, they ascribe wholly to him. Beyond this, they declare, that, while he resided in this world, he promised them all these things; and that he continually and exactly, fulfilled this promise. His presence with them on various occasions, whenever it was demanded by their circumstances, and his interference on their behalf, whenever it was necessary, they testify in the amplest and most decisive manner. Thus, in every thing which they taught, or did, He is the fountain whence every stream proceeded. He, according to their own declarations, is the Agent; and they are merely instruments in his hand.
But this agency of Christ on earth, after he had ascended to the heavens, is a most important, indispensable and glorious part of his character; important and indispensable to mankind, and glorious to himself. 'Evidence is furnished by it to prove, that he is in all places, and beholds all things; that he is faithful to perform every thing, which he has promised, and able to do every thing, which Christians need; which no Unitarian, hitherto, has had sufficient ingenuity to answer, or avoid. We see him actually exemplifying in his conduct all these things to his early followers; and are therefore certainly assured, that, so far as our necessities require, he will substantially exhibit them to us. Christians in all ages, succeeding that of the Apostles, are here furnished with the strongest proofs, that He possesses all those attributes, on which their hope may most securely repose; and the most lively incitements to centre in him their evangelical confidence.
6thly. Because the Gospel, in its present form, is far more useful to mankind, than if it had been written by one person, on one