Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

all; the devils believe, and tremble. Gal. iii. 26, Eph. iii. 17, Gal. v. 6, James ii. 17, 19.

13. Our daily bread, töv åptov TÒV TLúolov.

Bread here signifies food, as in Psalm cv. 16, or Matt. xv. 2, 26, Luke xiv. 1, 15, xv. 17; or sustenance in general, as in Prov. xxx. 8, including all things necessary for our spiritual as well as our temporal welfare, as Christ is called the bread of life, John vi. 48; this is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die, vi. 50. 'Encovolov is compounded of éni, for, and ovola, substance, condition ; so that Tòv åprov TÒV alotolov signifies “all things needful for the support of body and soul.” See Burton and Bloomfield on Matt. vi. 10.

14. What is authenticity? The authenticity of the Gospels.

A book is said to be authentic when it relates matters of fact; and its authenticity may be determined by external or internal evidence. The external evidence embraces the following questions, viz. Had the author an opportunity of knowing the facts recorded ? or did he gather his information from those who had ? Did he live at or near the time, and in or near the place where the facts are said to have occurred ? Had the writer any inducement to falsify, or to give a colour to his narrative ? If his statements have been questioned, by whom, at what time, and on what grounds ?

Internal evidences of authenticity consist in the moral character of the writers, and in the language of their narrative, as suitable to the age and circumstances in which they wrote.

Now, of the four Gospels, two are written by eye-witnesses of the facts, and the others under the direction of eye-witnesses, all within forty years of the events related. These Gospels were publicly and frequently read, from the earliest times, in every Christian church ; and all Christian churches, in every age and nation, have concurred in acknowledging these books to be the true records of the Christian religion. Thousands of martyrs have sealed their belief in them with their blood. Neither early infidels, pagans, nor Jews denied, but all explicitly allowed, the genuineness of the books; and genuineness contributes to prove authenticity.

The facts were addressed to the senses of men who could not be mistaken; numerous, but no one was ever detected as false ; important, and must have engaged friends and enemies in a strict investigation of their truth. The evangelists had no conceivable motive to misrepresent, but every inducement of self-interest, and love of life and safety, to suppress these facts. If infidels have, in later times, called the facts in question, it is through loving darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil - perhaps from the pride of opposition, or the ignorance of imperfect investigation.

The books of the evangelists have all internal marks of authenticity. They refer or allude to miscellaneous facts, to the laws and customs of the places and times of which they wrote; all in strict conformity with the accounts of other, and these unbiassed or hostile, writers: they contain no inconsistent passages; and are supported by contemporary historians. The Gospels are cited by the early Fathers, and have never been forgotten or altered in eighteen centuries: indeed, the jealousy of contending sects has preserved them pure from interpolation or alteration. They are written in Hellenistic Greek, just as Jews in the condition of the reputed authors would write, their style being mixed with Hebraisms, Syriacisms, and plainnesses. They bear no marks of exaggeration, party-spirit, or sinister design; but are the artless production of men candidly confessing their own faults, who courageously suffered every extremity, without retraction, or even a prudent silence. The narrative, if false, might have been disproved at the time of its appearance. The wonderful change it immediately wrought in the world winds up the proof of its authenticity.

All this argument in favour of the authenticity of the Gospels is independent of the inspiration under which we might maintain the evangelists wrote.

15. The chief among the publicans, Luke xix. 2.

The åpxıTelúvns was the receiver-general of taxes in a district where several inferior officers were employed. From the dislike of the Jews to publicans, and the connexion of heathen and publican (Matt. xviii. 17) in Scripture, it is likely that the chief publican was usually a Gentile ; yet it is certain that Zaccheus was a Jew, as in Luke xix. 9 he is called a son of Abraham.

The åpxıtelávac were men of great consideration in the Roman government; and among them, according to Cicero, was the flower of the Roman knighthood : “ Flos enim equitum Romanorum Publicanorum ordine continetur." --Pro Cn. Planc. cap. ix.

16. Origin of evil.

Natural evil is whatever disturbs the happiness of natural beings, according to the order of things, or the will of Providence. Moral evil is the innate corruption of the heart, and the sins into which it leads mankind. Both natural and moral evil result from the sin of Adam, who, by disobedience, tainted the root, and infected all the branches with sinfulness and sorrow. But the origin of both natural and moral evil is reconcileable to the goodness of God. God, having endowed men with reason and free agency, intended to exercise these faculties, in order to increase their happiness. Now, this exercise supposes an option to be set before them between good and evil ; and even when Adam embraced the latter, the goodness of God was displayed in the provision of a remedy,

the promised seed of the woman, who should bruise the serpent's head. When we consider ourselves as probationers for eternity (and it is His goodness who made us such); when we remember that we are free and rational agents (another gift of His goodness),-it is an unavoidable consequence, that a promise of good and a threat of evil should be set before us. For our offences, on repentance, atonement is prepared; while, as a corrective of the evil bias of our nature, spiritual influence is provided : and the goodness of God sets heaven before us,-an unlimited felicity in return for a limited and imperfect obedience. Some evils of life are unavoidable, though many are the avoidable results of sin or imprudence; and even the unavoidable evils of life become the means of good. Uninterrupted prosperity corrupts the mind, and makes men forgetful of their being here in a state of trial. But evil produces soberness, seriousness, consideration, self-acquaintance, repentance, resolution, prayer, hope ; and all these are the elements of eternal happiness. We weigh the vanities of earth against the purities of heaven; the shortness and uncertainty of life against the duration and security of eternity. If evils produce such effects as these, surely it is a Divine goodness which sends them; and we shall own this when they land us in heaven. Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth. It is good for me that I have been afflicted; for thereby have I known thy law. Our light afflictions, which are but for a moment, work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.

Now, God had power to prevent both natural and moral evil; but not in consistence with that freedom and rationality with which he had distinguished man. Without an option between good and evil, these faculties would have withered: every idea of heaven as a recompense, every idea of obedience as voluntary, would have been taken away; and by the absence of these the Divine glory would have been dimmed.

17. Proof of Christianity from the low estate of its first professors.

The low estate of the first professors of Christianity proves its divine origin, first, as being the fulfilment of a prophecy (namely, that of Isaiah), in connecting the evidence of miracles with that of the internal benevolence of the system; the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them, Isa. lxi. 1, Matt. ii. 5. The poor were neglected by all heathen religions, previous to the appearance of Christianity ; while the Pharisees kept the key of knowledge from them among the Jews. Every where false policy, to keep them in subjection, kept them in ignorance of their spiritual welfare. Had the Gospel made its first proselytes among the rich and powerful, its rapid and astonishing progress would have been ascribed by infidelity to the influence of wealth,

authority, power, learning, example; and not to the Spirit of God, acting by persuasion, and employing humble, poor, illiterate, uninfluential, and (in the common course of things) inadequate agents. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us, 2 Cor. iv. 7.

Again, all men are sinners, and the souls of all are of equal value before God. Riches are but an earthly distinction : intellectual capacity, reason, conscience, are the same in the poor as in the rich. A religion, then, which should overlook the poor, would prove its falsehood by its partiality: a religion which regards them, shews its truth. Not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called ; but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; that no flesh should glory in his presence, 1 Cor. i. 27, 29.

The first preachers of the Gospel did not rest their cause on the issue of laboured arguments, but on plain facts of which they were witnesses, and extraordinary works which they performed. Men of low rank and ordinary education were sufficient to judge of these ; and it was not till a later period, when philosophers were to be reasoned with, and men of this world induced to submit to the self-denying Gospel, that St. Paul, an educated reasoner, was called ; and by his powers, under God, Sergius Paulus, and Dionysius the Areopagite, men of consideration, were converted. But the truth required not men of consideration at first ; it could stand by itself: it wanted only honest witnesses to a fact.

Impostors would open their scheme by flattering the rich and powerful; not by declaiming against their vices ---- not by telling them they must sell all they had, to follow their new Master--not by telling them it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. By courting the rich, they might expect support, patronage, protection, authority: by turning to the poor, they knew they would provoke the powerful to persecute and crush them ; yet they did so provoke them, and such was the consequence. But under these disadvantages the new religion flourished and extended itself. By what power but that of God ?

« ZurückWeiter »