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moral duties of the gospel are but the dictates of reason and nature carried into their just conclusions: the promises of the gospel contain the very hopes of nature confirmed and made sure to us. If the gospel has promised pardon to sinners, it is but what Nature teaches all her children to seek for and if Nature teaches you to hope for mercy, is your case become the worse because God, through Christ, has promised it? Natural conscience tells us we are accountable to him who made us: is it not the same declaration made in the gospel, That God hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world?' Is not Nature ever looking out, and with unutterable groans panting after life for evermore? Has she any reason then to fly from him who hath brought life and immortality to light through his gospel ?'
Go then and learn of Nature to value these great gifts: attend to her silent voice within you: it will speak in the language of the Apostle, and tell you, This saying is worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.'
SUMMARY OF DISCOURSE LIII.
I THESSALONIANS, CHAP. I.-VERSES 9. 10.
IN the verse before the text, the Apostle tells the Thessalonians that not only the word of the Lord had sounded out from them in Macedonia and Achaia, but their faith towards God was spread abroad in every place; so that there is no need, says he, to speak of the doctrines delivered by me, and received by you the thing is well known, for they themselves show of us, &c. Hence it is evident what notion was entertained by the world of the Christian religion and its principal doctrines. The Apostle's business was well known to be, to turn men from idols to serve the living God, to give evidence of Christ's resurrection, and to raise certain expectations of his coming again with power and glory to judge the world: this common report was so just an account of the Apostle's doctrine, that there was no room left to enlarge or correct it: in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. Considering then this early account of the Christian religion, we find it to consist of two principal parts; the first relating to the service owing to the living God; the second, to our faith in Christ, and to our hope and expectation grounded on that faith. Religion, under the first head, must be natural religion, or true uncorrupted Deism: this was the original religion of mankind, of which, through abuse and corruption, hardly any sign was left at our Saviour's coming. However rightly some few might think, yet they were obliged to follow the world: few attempted, none succeeded in a reformation of the public religion; nor is there an instance of any people who
served God on the principles of natural religion: this reformation was effected only by the preaching of the gospel, which revived the true ancient religion of nature, and prepared men for its reception; and has, by the additional supports of revelation, maintained it for ages, and will probably maintain it to the end of all things. These additional supports make the second great branch of Christian doctrine: they are revived on the authority, of revelation, and stand on the evidence of external proofs: that we ought to turn from idols, and serve God, &c. are truths which any reasonable being may feel; but that we have been delivered from wrath by the Son of God, who is appointed to be judge of the dead and of the living, &c.; these are articles which no man's reason can suggest, and which, when suggested, reason cannot receive on any internal evidence, but on authority founded on external testimony. This distinction, constantly attended to, will go far to show us the true temper, genius, and ends of Christianity. The gospel, considered in its precepts and morality, and with respect to its new doctrines or articles of belief, supports and encourages true religion. This might be shown in the several particulars of the gospel dispensation: confined here to those specified in the text. The sense of the expression, to wait for the Son of God from heaven, is completely expressed in Phil. iii. 17. 20. 21. The expectation of Christ coming to judge the world is peculiar to Christians, and is supported by the belief of the resurrection, that main point of faith which the Apostles were to teach and establish in the church of God; whence arose the qualification necessary for an Apostle, viz. the capability of bearing witness to the resurrection: (Acts i. 21. 22.) And St. Peter, in the next chapter, vindicating to the Jews the miraculous gift of tongues bestowed on the day of Pentecost, renders a similar account of the work and ministry of the Apostleship. Several other passages of a like tendency quoted: from which, taken together, it plainly appears how much the Christian religion, considered as a dis
tinct system from natural religion, depends on the belief of the resurrection of Christ. The Apostles were ordained to be witnesses of this article; and on this they founded their doctrine, whether they preached to the Jews or to the Gentiles. When St. Paul preached this same doctrine at Athens, he was thought to be an introducer of some new deities, (Acts xvii. 18.) This doctrine of a resurrection he afterwards fully expounded to them, together with its consequents, (30. 31.) This new article was introduced to be a new evidence of a future state of rewards and punishments, and to support the sinner's hopes of pardon through the promises of Christ. We see then its use let us consider now whether we are beholden to the gospel, and how much, for this new evidence of a life to come; what is in it, or the doctrines grounded on it, that any sober Deist or professor of natural religion can justly blame. Natural religion pretends to support itself on the expectation of future rewards and punishments: it considers God as Governor and Judge of the world. Christianity stands on the same foundation, and admits for genuine all these hopes and fears of nature. Thus far then they differ not the question is, which brings the best proof, and most fitted to persuade the world of these great truths? This point enlarged on; showing that the one appeals to conscience, and that the other embraces all this evidence, together with the suggestions of reason, and the express testimony and assurance of God given to mankind. But what need of this new evidence? If the arguments from natural religion were sufficient to support the belief and expectation of a future judgment, why call men from a dependence on their reason, to rely on the evidence of men for the truth of a fact in its nature hard to be believed? one in which we might have doubted even our own senses, much more those of others? Whoever, in answer to this difficulty, endeavors to weaken the natural arguments for a future state, is very ill employed: they are in themselves convincing; but they require more thought than the generality of men can be
stow on them: whether this be so or no, the evidence of history must determine: under the light we now enjoy, we are ill judges how far men could go, aided only by the mere strength of reason. A right notion of God is the foundation of all true religion; for which notion each thanks his own reason and if so, the world has mightily improved in reason during these last ages; since it was not so until the publication of the gospel made reason see and approve the truths which were before in a great measure hid from her eyes. The case is the same with respect to the natural arguments for a future state: this point enlarged on. To remedy this evil, God has proposed a new evidence, resurrection of his Son, shown before chosen witnesses, who were sent into the world to publish it as an evidence of a future general resurrection of men, and to seal the truth of the doctrine with their blood. Such evidence requires no abstract reasoning, no refinements, to show its force: this point enlarged on. Those who pretend to be real Deists, cannot be offended by this evidence, as the main thing we prove by it they acknowlege to be true, viz. that God will judge the world. If then the Christian religion has no private design to serve by this evidence, but produces it to confirm that natural sense which all true religion admits, why should it be suspected of deceit ? Besides, the belief of a future state, supported by the evidence of Christ's resurrection, is applied only to those purposes which a wise and good man would desire. The gospel labors to assure us of the certainty of our resurrection to eternal life, and in addition to the common evidence of reason, has given us a new proof from the very hand and immediate power of God; for the establishing of which proof it shows such concern, that we may be sure it was provided to forward the design of the gospel; so that if there be any deceit in the gospel, it must lean on this article for its support: this point enlarged on; showing that the gospel requires nothing but what reason and natural religion