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the general truth of the Gospel History. One of the leading propositions contained in that History is this, that Jesus was the Messiah, and, in confirmation and defence of their opinion, the Evangelists have detailed the miracles which they saw, the doctrines which they heard, and the prophecies which were fulfilled. The only doubt, therefore, which can possibly remain, is, whether what they had thus heard and seen, be a sufficient proof that Jesus was indeed the Christ. Having shewn that the Evangelists are witnesses as credible to us, as were his own disciples unto John, the only further question to be considered is, whether the testimony of the Evangelists be of the same conclusive character. But this is an inquiry of too extensive a nature to be comprehended within the short remainder of the present Discourse ; and I shall, therefore, conclude with a few plain and practical reflections.
Were I speaking to the natives of some distant clime-did I bear the venerable character of a Christian Apostle to the deluded votaries of Mahometism or idolatry-did I stand as a missionary upon the shores of India, where the convert to the Gospel becomes the outcast of society, despised and hated and rejected of menI might point to the animating example of the first disciples, and shew, by what Christians have suffered, what Christians are able to suffer, for the sake of their religion. But, by the blessing of God, in this happy and well-favoured land, Christianity has grown to be the religion of the state, and an essential feature in the laws of the land. Christianity too is here in its purest and its mildest form, declaring, in our Articles, that nothing is to be pressed upon the consciences of men which cannot be found in Holy Scripture, or may not be proved thereby, Here then we stand in no fear of being sacrificed to idols or slaughtered by bigotry. Benevolence is the spirit of the Gospel, and moderation the practice of our church. Here then, it may be hoped, we shall have no cause to prove the sincerity of our faith by the patience of our suffering. But still, though free from every outward harm, we have a hidden and a powerful enemy within us.
. We have still to struggle with the strength of our passions and the corruption of our nature. “The flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit ;” and thus far at least “it is through much tribulation that every man must enter into the kingdom of God.” Wherefore, that we may be the better enabled to resist our temptations, and conquer our weaknesses, and mortify our members, and triumph over the affections of our hearts, and quench within us the lusts of youth, the ambition of manhood and the avarice of
let us be clothed with the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left. But, above all, let us take unto ourselves “the sword of the Spirit,” which is the word of God; that, whilst with the hope and helmet of salvation, we guard our minds from terror and despair, with this “sword of the Spirit,” with some godly text of Scripture, rightly applied, we may cut asunder every flimsy thread of reasoning, which the ingenuity of man has perversely formed, to distract the feelings and disturb the understandings of weaker brethren. “ It is written,” said our Saviour, under his temptation by the devil; “ It is written," was all that he said, and he vanquished his adversary. Search the Scriptures with fidelity and meekness, and make the same answer in your own temptations, and you will soon learn to feel the force of the Word of God, and to confess that it is the only instrument which erring man can safely use in his great contest with the enemies of his soul.
2 TIM. III. 13.
Deceiving and being deceived."
The honesty and sincerity of the Evangelists as men, and their credibility as witnesses of the facts and doctrines which they declare that they had seen and heard, are of such primary and essential importance in every inquiry or attempt to prove the truth or divinity of the Christian religion, that I considered it as absolutely necessary to repeat, in my last Discourse, those various arguments which have been so often and forcibly urged in defence of their testimony. Upon a review of those reasonings I am unable to perceive their deficiency or inconclusiveness in any single point, or to imagine that there is any thing either in the circumstances under which their evidence has reached us, or the facts to which that evidence relates, which should disturb in the smallest degree our confidence in its genuineness, or our belief in its substance. There are others, however (God is their judge), who, coming forth before the world with pretensions to a juster mode of reasoning, and a more impartial spirit of philosophy (but, as I humbly conceive, both
deceiving and being deceived”), have ventured to pronounce a different opinion, and to affirm, that, however credible the Evangelists might be to their contemporaries, they are no longer possessed of the same authority. They assert, that the lapse of time which has passed away since the Scriptures were written, has gradually undermined the strength of their testimony; and that, even had that strength not been thus weakened by the canker of ages, it would have been insufficient to bear the weight which is imposed upon it, of assuring us of the 'occurrence of a variety of miraculous facts. Now, if in examining the principles by which these conclusions are supported, we can find that they are altogether inapplicable to the Christian writers, we shall have done sufficient to vindicate our own holy faith, and without entering at all into the general soundness of the reasoning when applied to cases of a different complexion. It shall, therefore, be my endeavour to shew that the cause of Christianity is of such a nature as to be exempt from the force of these objections, however great