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1. Though I confine myself to the writings of the evangelists in this disquisition, yet it should be remembered, that whilst our Lord was visibly conversant with men, he did not ordinarily discover the whole system of his doctrine in express: terms. He spoke to the multitude, for the most part, in parables, a and was not forward to pro-, claim himself the Messiah upon every occasion. And, even in his more intimate discourses with his disciples, he taught them with a wise and gracious accommodation to their circumstances and weakness. The full explanation of many things, he referred to the time when, having accomplished his wish, and returned victorious and triumphant into heaven, he should send down, according to his promise, the Holy Spirit, to enlighten and comfort his people. Then, and not before, they fully understood the meaning of all they had seen and heard while he was with them.
2. The doctrine of the Gospel is not like a mathematical problem, which conveys precisely the same degree of truth and certainty to every one that understands the terms. If so, all believers would be equally enlightened, who enjoy the common privilege of the written word. But there is, in fact, an amazing variety in this respect. Where this doctrine is truly understood, though
a Matt. xiii. 10, 11.
b Ch. xvi. 20. c John xvi. 12. 25. Our Lord taught his disciples gradually; their knowledge advanced as the light, or (according to his own beautiful simile) first the blacle, then the ear; first green corn, then fully ripe. He considered their difficulties, he made allowarice for cheir, infirmities. It is to he wished his example was followed by all who teach in his name. Some are so hasty, they expect to teach to others in one discourse or interview, all that they have attained themselves by the study and experience of many years.
d Mark ix. 10.; John ii. 22.,
in the lowest degree, it inspires the soul with a supreme love to Jesus, and a trust in him for salvation. And those who understand it best have not yet received all the evidence, comfort, and influence from it which it is capable of affording. The riches of grace and wisdom in this dispensation are unsearchable e and immense, imparted in 'different measures, and increased from time to time, according to the good pleasure f of the Spirit of God, who furnishes his people with light and strength proportioned to their exigencies, situation, and the services or trials he calls them to notwithout respect to the degree of their diligence, obedience, and simplicity in waiting upon him. For these reasons, it is not to be expected that every one who serves God with his spirit in the Gospel of his Son, should have exactly the same views of this sublime subject. Neither do I presume to think myself capable of displaying it in its full light and beauty. I desire, therefore, to write with candour, and entreat a candid perusal, as conscious of my infirmities, and the imperfections necessarily attending the human mind, in this present state of things. Yet I am not afraid to express my just confidence, that I shall advance no principle, as a part of the Gospel doctrine, which does not assuredly belong to it.
I now proceed to explain and confirm the definition I have given of the Gospel.
1. It is a divine revelation, a discovery of truths which, though of the highest moment, could have been known no other way. That God will forgive sin, is beyond the power of unassisted reason to prove.
The prevailing custom of sacrifices is, indeed, founded upon such a hope ; but this practice was, without doubt, derived from reve
e Ephes, iii. 8.
f 1 Cor. xii. 11.
lation, for reason could not have suggested such an expedient. And those among the heathens, whether priests or philosophers, who spoke of forgiveness of sin, knew but little what sin was. Revelation was needful, to discover sin in its true nature and demerit; and where this is known, the awakened and wounded conscience is not easily persuaded that a just and holy God will pardon iniquity. So likewise the immortality of the soul, after all the fine things said upon the subject, remained a problematical point among the heathen. Their best arguments, though conclusive to us, were not so to themselves, When they laid aside their books, and returned to the common affairs of life, they forgot the force of their own demonstrations. But the Gospel of Christ is an express, complete, and infallible revelation, as he himself often assured his hearers.ba
And as the subject-matter of the Gospel contained in the New Testament is a revelation from God, so it is only by a divine revelation, that what is there read or heard can be truly understood. This is an offensive assertion, but must not be omitted, when the question is concerning the marks and characters of Christ's doctrine. Thus when Peter made that noble confession, “ Thou art Christ the Son of the living God," our Lord answers, “ Blessed art thou, Simon, “ for flesh and blood hath not revealed this to
thee, but my Father which is in heaven,” If Peter could read, and had the Scriptures to peruse, these were advantages derived from flesh and blood, from his birth, parents, and teachers; advantages which the Scribes and Pharisees, our
8 Cicero frankly confesses this. Nescio quomodo, dum lego, assentior; cum posui librum, et mecum ipse de immortalitate animorum cæpi cogitare, assentio omnis illa elabitur. Tusc. Quest. Lib. i.
John, vii. 16.; viii. 26. Matt. xvi. 16, 17,
Lord's most inveterate enemies, enjoyed in common with him. The difference lay in a revelation of the truth to his heart. As it is said in another place, k “ Thou hast hid these things from the “ wise and prudent, and revealed them unto 66 babes.”
2. It is a revelation, in the person of Jesus Christ. As a revelation, it stands distinguished from all false religions; and as revealed in the person of Jesus, it is distinguished from all former dispensations of the true God, who, in time past, had spoken by the prophets, but was pleased, in those last days, to speak unto us by his Son. The law was given by Moses, both to enforce the necessity of a universal sinless obedience, and to point out the efficacy of a better mediator ; but grace and truth, grace answerable to the sinner's guilt and misery, and the truth and full accomplishment of all its typical services, came by Jesus Christ. All the grand peculiarities of the Gospel centre in this point, the constitution of the person of Christ. In the knowledge of him standeth our eternal life. And though our Lord, on some occasions, refused to answer the captious questions of his enemies, and expressed himself so as to leave his hearers in suspense; yet, at other times, he clearly asserted his own just rights and honours. and proposed himself as the supreme object of love, trust, and worship, the fountain of grace and power, the resurrection, life, and happiness of all believers.
That he vindicated to himself those characters
k That babes should be admitted to this knowledge, and express a certainty, where the wise are all perplexity and darkness, is extremely mortifying to human pride. But are not these the words of Christ? How arrogant, how dangerous must it be, to be displeased with that dispensation at which he rejoiced !
Col, ii. 3.9. :John, xvii, 3 .
and prerogatives which incommunicably belong to God, is evident from the texts referred to. He was a judge of the thoughts and intents of the heart. He forgave sins. He adopted the style of supreme majesty." His wonderful works were proof of an almighty power. He restored sight, health, and life, with a word.• He controlled the elements, P and showed himselfLord of quick and dead, angels and devils; and both his enemies and his friends understood his claim. The Jews attempted to stone him' for making himself equal to God; and he received from Thomas the most express and solemn ascription of Deity that can be offered from a creature to his Creator. S
Yet all this glory was veiled. The word was made flesh; he assumed the human nature, and shared in all its infirmities, sin excepted. He was born of a woman, he passed through the states of infancy, childhood, and youth, and gradually increased in wisdom and stature. He was often, yea, always afflicted. He endured u hunger, thirst, and weariness. He sighed, he wept, he groaned, he bled, he died; but amidst
m Matt. ix. 2, 3.
n John, viii. 98.; John, xiv. 9. - He that hath seen m “ hath seen my Father.” Which of all the creatures of God dare use these words! God, in the strict sense, is invisible and inaccessible; but he communicates with his creatures through Christ his Son, without whom he cannot be seen or known at all. We cannot enjoy any spiritual, clear, and comfortable views of God, unless our thoughts fix upon the man Christ Jesus; he is the door and the veil to the holy of holies, and there is no coining to the Father by any other way. • Matt. viii. 3. ix. 30.; John, iv. 53. P Matt. xiv. 25. ; Mark, iv. 39. 9 John, xi. 23. 44.; Liike,iv. 84,; Matt. iv, 11.; Luke, x. 17. r John, v. 18. ; X. 83. John, xx, 28. Luke, ii. 52. " Mark, xi. 12.; John, iv. 6, 7.
Mark, vii. 34.; John, xi. 35. 38.; Luke, xxii, 44.