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The singular method, which Jesus took, to convince Paul of the truth of the gospel, was not out of partial favor to him, for surely he had done nothing to recommend himself, but rather out of a general benevolence to mankind; for this man was à chosen vessel-a suitable instrument to convey Christ's name among them. Jesus miraculously appeared to him to make him a minister of the goipel, and a witness of those facts by which its truth is supported. And having furnished him for his work, Jesus sent him forth to publish the doctrines, and display the evidences of the gospel among the people of the Jews, and among the Heathen na. tions.
The words teach us, that "the Apostle Paul was a notable and illustrious instrument in spreading the knowledge and confirming the truth of the religion of Christ.” Such he appears from the his. tory given of him in the Acts of the Apostles, and from the writings which he himself has left for the use of the church.
My design is to give a summary view of the evidences of Christianity, and particularly to illustrate the evidences derived from the conversion, preaching and writings of this eminent minister and winess.
The Christian religion does now exist, and for many ages it has existed in the world. To account for its existence, without admitting its truth, it is impossible: For it did not take place by the influence of human authority, or the terror of military power, but by familiar instructions and ob. vious miracles. The credit of it depends on these plain facts--that about eighteen hundred years a. go, there arose in Judea an extraordinary person, called Jesus of Nazareth, who declared himself to be divinely sent into the world, as an instructor, reformer and savior of men-that he lived a most virtuous and holy lifc--that he taught a religion in
fome respects new, in many refpe&ts more perfect than had ever been taught before, and in all resa pects pure and excellent--that he wrought many great and astonishing miracles—that he foretold many things, humanly improbable, which were verified in event—that he suffered death by a public crucifixion, and, on the third day, rose again, and appeared to many in different times and place es, not only to single persons, but to companies, and to more than five hundred at once, and free quently to those who had most intimat ly known him before his death, and who consuquently could not mistake another person for him that after a. bout forty days, he, in the presence of a large concourse of disciples, visibly ascended on high, and disappeared from the admiring spectators-that, soon after this, according to his previous promise, the disciples whom he had chosen to be the witnesses of his works and the ministers of his word, were endued with extraordinary gifts, qualifying them to go forth and proclaim his religion in the world.
If such facts as these did really exist, the religion of the gospel is indubitably true. They who dirbelieve the gospel, must deny that there ever was such a man, or that he ever wrought such miracles, and died and rose again in the manner alledged.
Miracles, which are effe&s produced above the common powers, and in a way different from the Itated course of nature, plainly discover God's im. mediate interpofition. From the goodness and ve. racity of God, we may conclude, that he never will immediately interpose to give such credibility to a falsehood, that men, inquiring honestly, and judging rationally, must receive it as a truth.
The miracles of Christ, (admitting, for the prelent, the Christian history to be true) were great and numerous; and he constantly appealed to them as evidences of the divinity of his million and doc.
trines. To fuppose, that, in fuch a cafe, God should enable an impostor to perfotın these marvellous works, 'which are related of Jesus, is contrary to all our ideas of the divine character.
They who saw Christ heal the fick, raise the dead, čaft out devils, and fill the storms—they who faw him yield himfelf to death, and then, exactly aca cording to his predi&tion, 'return from the
grave, afcend into heaven, and shed down on his disciples the promised gifts of his fpirit-especially they who félt thếmselves partakers of these wonderful gifts, could not doubt, but that he was, what he declared himself io be, the Son of God and the Savior of men, and that his religion was a heavenly infti: fütion.
The disciples of Jefus, (állowing that there were fuch persons) were credible witnesses of these facts for they related them as matters which fell under their own observation. That which they saw and heard, they declared to the world. Whether they really saw the dead arife, the sick and lame restored to health and foundness, thousands fed with a few small loaves ; whether they themselves were able to work miracles and speak with divers tongues whether Jesus, who was crucified, actually arose and appeared to them; whether they converfed with him, :saw his wounds and heard his inftruc. tions; were facts in which they could not be deceiv. ed. If, then, their relation was not true, they must have intended to deceive mankind.
But it is not conceivable, that they should have such a difhonest intention : For by their teftimony to the miracles and resurrection of Christ, they ex posed themselves to poverty, reproach, misery and death. And it cannot be imagịned, that a number of men should deliberately associate to facrifice every thing that is dear in life, and even life itself, for the sake of imposing on the world a falsehood, which never would do mankind or themselves any
good--that they fhould persevere in this design after they began to feel its consequences--that they should perlift in it until death--that never a single man should desert the cause and discover the fraud. This would surpass all miracles.
If their design had been a fraud, it might, in the time of it, have been easily detected and supe prelled.
The fa dts, which they relate, they declared, were done publicly and recently, and that they were known and remembered by many then liying. If there had been no such person as Jesus Chrift, or if he had performed no such miracles as are ascrib. ed to him; no credit would have been given to their report.
The disciples of Jesus had enemies who wished to confound them. The Jewish rulers spared no pains to fuppress the Christian cause. Their en. mity to it would have excited them to convict the witnesses of falsehood, if they had not known that the facts asserted were indisputable. If they had discovered any fraud, they would immediately have made it public, As they never denied the facts, but only ftudied to evade the conclufion drawn from them, they must have been convinced, that the facts themselves were undeniable.
These witnesses have left a written testimony which has come down to us with
degrable circumstance of credibility.
There are four men who have professedly written distina hilories of the life, ministry and works. of Jesus Chrift. Two of them, Matthew and John, were his attendant disciples from the beginning to the end of his public life. The other two, Mark and Luke, were contemporary and conversant with his disciples. Four others, Peter, James, Jude and Paul, have written epidles to particular focieties of Christians, or to Chrillians in general. In these epift!cs, they recognize the character, affert or als lude to the miracles, and teach the doctrines of Jesus, in substance, as they are related by the before mentioned historians. Three of these letter writers ' were Christ's disciples. The last was a contempo rary Jew, a man of uncommon zeal, learning and ability; much conversant in public affairs ; for a while an enemy to Christianity, but afterward converted to the belief of it. So that the Christian history stands on the credit of eight different persons, most of them difciples, and all of them contemporaries of Christ. They wrote separately, on different occasions, without any appearance of concert; and yet they all substantially agree. These writings were received as genuine in the time when the authors lived, and in the next succeeding age, and from age to age, ever since, down to the prel. ent time. There is no ancient history extant, which is so completely authenticated.
The conversion, minifry and epistles of the A. postle Paul afford strong and undeniable evidence of the truth of the Christian religion. To these I shall now pay particular attention.
The account, which we have of him, is given by Luke in his history of the Acts of the Apostles. This Luke appears to have been a man of learn. ing; such his writings fhew him to be. He was an esteemed and eminent physician-co Paul calls him. He was admitted to an acquaintance with men of the first distinction; as appears by the dedication of his works to the most excellent Theophilus. He was highly regarded among the Chriftians of his time, and his praise, for the gospel which he wrote, was in all the churches. He was an intimate companion of St. Paul, and accompanied him for a confiderable time in his travels. From him we have particular information concerning Paul's early life, remarkable conversion, and subsequent conduct: And every thing related by