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III. The difficulty of practising it, intimated by these words, “if it be possible,” and “as much as lieth in
288 We are allowed to stand up in defence of our fortune or good name, where violent encroachments are made
- 289 And in defence of the honour of God, and the interests of virtue
ib. But still, as war has its rules and restraints, within which
its cruelties are bounded; much more in these cases
IV. The best helps to the practice of this duty are, 1. To regulate our passions
290 2. To moderate our desires, and shorten our designs,
with regard to the good things of life 3. To have a watchful eye upon ourselves in our first entrance upon any contest
291 4. Always to guard against the intemperance of our
tongue, especially in relation to that natural proneness
it has towards publishing the faults of others 5. To keep ourselves from embarking in parties and factions
292 6. To study to be quiet, by doing our own business in our proper profession or calling
ib. 7. Add prayer to the Author of peace and lover of concord, for the fruits of his Spirit, which are love, joy,
ibi An exhortation to the practice of this doctrine on the
present occasion ; viz., the choice of a lecturer : 293
PREACHED AT WESTMINSTER-ABBEY,
NOVEMBER 1, 1718.
THE GOSPEL OPENLY PUBLISHED. This thing was not done in a corner.-Acts xxvi. 26. It might be hoped, that in a country, where the religion of Christ is not only publicly professed, but interwoven into the civil frame, and established by a law, the truth of Christianity might, at all times, be taken for granted ; and that the ministers of Christ might have nothing to do, but to build on that foundation, and be ever employed in exciting men to a practice suitable to their profession, and to adorn the doctrine of our God and Saviour in all things, Tit. ii. 11. But, alas ! the frequent and daring attempts of infidelity, that interrupt us in our course, make it necessary for us to lay again the foundation, (as the apostle speaks Heb. vi. 1.) and to apologize for Christianity, just as if it were now in its infant state, and newly setting forth in the world.
God forgive them, who put us upon this unwelcome task ! In the mean time we, I'm sure, were not to be forgiven, should we appear less solicitous to support and vindicate that faith, into which we are baptized, and to the preaching of which we are peculiarly dedicated, than some men are to undermine and destroy it. And of all the circumstances which add a particular strength to the evidence given for the truth of the Gospel, there is none more advantageous to it, than the consideration of that
fair, open, and illustrious manner, wherein it was proved and propagated by Christ and his apostles. There was no affectation of privacy in what they said, or did ; their doctrines were preached, and their miracles wrought, in broad day-light, and in the face of the world ! in the most frequented places, before thousands and ten thousands of witnesses : This thing, says St. Paul in his admirable apology before Agrippa and Festus, was not done in a corner.
I shall briefly open and illustrate this truth, in order to (what I chiefly intend) the drawing from thence some useful observations and improvements, which it will naturally afford us.
I. First, When our Saviour began to publish the Gospel of his kingdom, he did not, as deceivers use to do, vent his new doctrines, or pretend to perform his wonders (the evidence of his divine mission) in places where there was no body fit to oppose the one, or to disprove the other. From the first moment he entered upon his office, he appeared publicly, he taught, he conversed, he did miracles publicly [not gaining upon mankind by stealth, not opening his pretences darkly at first, and to a few, and then, by their means, drawing in others, and going on thus under-hand to form an interest and to establish a party, which, as soon as he should make his public claim, might immediately come in to him, support, and own him. No] he broke out upon the world all at once, came into the midst of men without any partisans, or followers, presently opened his commission, and took upon himself the character of an ambassador from heaven.
Throughout the whole course of his ministry, he addressed himself constantly to multitudes, lived chiefly in great towns and cities, and in the most frequented parts of them, the streets, the market-places, the temple, and the synagogues; where his life and doctrine, and miracles might, by his professed enemies, be narrowly observed and examined. And if at any time he withdrew into the desert, and did wonders there, it was not in order to fly the eyes of men, but that he might have room, by that means, to manifest his divine power, and preach his heavenly truths to yet greater numbers. [Accordingly we find with him in the wilderness three thousand witnesses of a miracle, at one time, and even five thousand at another]. And therefore, when the high-priest questioned him concerning his disciples and his doctrine, he made this reply: I speak openly to the world, I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple whither the Jews always resort ; and in secret have I said nothing : Why askest thou me? Ask them which heard me, what I have said unto them; behold, they know what I said.
The beginning of miracles that Jesus did was before much
company, at a marriage-feast; and the last he wrought were in the midst of Jerusalem, where the whole nation of the Jews were then assembled to celebrate the passover.
And whenever he manifested his divine mission by the chief seal and evidence of it, his raising any one from the dead, he took care at that time especially to be surrounded with numbers.
He pitched upon such persons for the subjects of his miraculous cures, whose infirmities and diseases were notorious, and of a long standing; one who had been blind from his very birth; another diseased with an issue of blood twelve years; and a third troubled with a palsy for thirty-eight years; so that there could be no possible confederacy in a case, where the person cured was known to have laboured under that distemper some years before our Saviour was born.
He so ordered the matter, that some of those he healed should immediately repair to the pharisees and priests, his inveterate and powerful enemies, and give them an opportunity of detecting the fraud, if there were any; that others should be soon after called before the sanhedrim itself, and strictly questioned about the reality of their cure, that so these facts might have the earliest and strongest confirmation possible from the fruitless inquiry and opposition of those, who were most