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who, in succeeding ages, should believe in him, were to govern themselves, it is reasonable to suppose that the same HOLY SPIRIT, which incited and enabled the Apostles to preach the Gospel, and bear witness to the resurrection of JESUS CHRIST, in every nation of the known world, should likewise incite and enable them to deliver down to posterity, in a method the least liable to uncertainty and error, that testimony, and those precepts upon which the faith and practice of aftertimes were to be established; especially, when all revelation respecting the doctrines and system of the Gospel was confined to the Apostles, and consequently ended with them (as we shall have occasion to shew.)
We cannot doubt, but that those Christians who were converted to Christianity by the first preaching of the Apostles themselves, and who were to transmit to succeeding ages, that Gospel upon which, according to their belief, the salvation of mankind depended, would be solicitous to obtain in writing from the Apostles, the evidence and doctrines of the Christian faith; and it is natural to imagine, that the persons in whose hands such sacred and invaluable treasures were deposited, would preserve and guard them with the utmost fidelity and care; would impart copies of them to their brethren, who could not have access to the originals, and see that those copies were transcribed with all the exactness possible. The same care, we may suppose, would be taken by those who should translate them into the several languages spoken by Christians of different nations, who did not understand that in which the Apostles wrote.
It appears from the works of some of the first Christian writers, that the Gospels were written by the Apostles, and dispersed as above supposed, and that the ori
ginal copies of them were preserved for ages. There is not the least reason to imagine, that these writings' were forged, for the deception must have been discovered; neither would such numbers of people have been influenced by them to the hazard of their lives and fortumes, if they had not been thoroughly persuaded of their authenticity.
Since, then, we have the greatest reason to conclude, that the Apostles and Evangelists did commit to writ ing what they knew concerning CHRIST and his doctrine, and we have no cause to doubt, but that the Gos pels which bear their names, were originally written by them, we should carefully study them; by which means we shall be convinced, that the doctrines they teach are certainly divine; for they relate to things which, without divine revelation, could not have been discovered by human reason.
But we will not enter into a particular examination of the proofs that the Gospels are genuine, as it would interrupt the thread of the history; and it is to be hoped that none, who have read our LORD's history, will ever suspect the contrary; for it is a dreadful thing to doubt, in a matter of such infinite importance to our immortal souls. Let us rather receive, with the utmost reverence and thankfulness, the evidence which GOD has graciously afforded us; remembering, that there are peculiar blessings in store, for those who have not seen, and yet have believed.
OUR LORD APPEARS TO PETER AND OTHER DISCIPLES, AT THE SEA OF TIBERIAS.
From John, Chap. xxi.
AFTER these things, JESUS shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias: and on this wise shewed he himself:
There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathaniel of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.
Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.
But when the morning was now come, JESUS stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was JESUS.
Then JESUS saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No.
And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.
Therefore that disciple whom JESUS loved, saith unto Peter, It is the LORD. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the LORD, he girt his fisher's coat unto him (for he was naked), and did cast himself into the sea.
And the other disciples came in a little ship (for they
were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits) dragging the net with fishes.
As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread. JESUS saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.
Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land, full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.
JESUS saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the LORD.
JESUS then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.
This is now the third time that JEsUs shewed himself to his disciples after that he was risen from the dead.
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS.
When all the Apostles had received thorough con viction of the resurrection of JESUS, so that not a scru ple remained on their minds, they left Jerusalem in order to go into Galilee, where he had appointed to meet them.
Simon Peter, Thomas, and the others who are mentioned in this Section, seem to have arrived there before the rest.
From this part of our LORD's history we may derive much useful instruction. In the first place we may serve, that on this occasion he appeared to his disciples when they were engaged in their worldly business, that he did not interrupt them, but through his divine power gave them miraculous assistance. From hence we are
taught to expect a divine blessing on our honest industry in the different occupations of life; for what was done for the Apostles in a miraculous way, will be done for every sincere Christian in the usual course of Providence, as far as may be conducive to his eternal happiness.
We may next remark, that the disciples, though they went a fishing at the proper hour, toiled and fatigued themselves to no purpose; but whilst they were doing so, their LORD provided a repast, and also at length crowned their labours with success.
It frequently happens in common life, that men are perplexed and disappointed, notwithstanding their utmost prudence, diligence, and skill, are exerted; and that when they have no prospect of success left, an unexpected turn of fortune throws into their laps, as it were, greater advantages than those they missed. The incident we are now considering, teaches us to attribute these happy vicissitudes, not to blind chance, but an overruling Providence. Our heavenly FATHER knoweth not only of what we do stand in need, but what we shall want; he also knoweth what we shall deserve from his hands, and the proper time to bestow it. Sometimes he gives wings to his blessings, that they may meet us even while we are performing the duty they are intended to reward; and sometimes he delays them, that our patience may be exercised, and that we may be the more sensible of his divine bounty.
Our LORD's appearance to his disciples was very seasonable, and verified the Psalmist's expression, "heavi ness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." This circumstance teaches us to hope in the midst of disappointment.
Our LORD was taken by his disciples for a stranger, and discovered himself gradually; from hence we learn,