« PreviousContinue »
gospel, as clearly as possible. Those who object against sentimental preaching generally do it, to prevent their errours from being exposed and refuted and condemned. The present mode of preaching is perfectly suited to unite and please all, who wish to bring about a coalition between the orthodox and heterodox. While preachers omit to preach the doctrines of the gospel and insist only on the duties of it, all denominations can agree, and unite in their christian fellowship and communion. It is the cardinal and essentia trines of the gospel, concerning which professor ligion most widely and irreconceably differ. They cannot therefore, be united in the truth, until they are united in these doctrines. To preach these plainly is the only proper and safe way of uniting christians.
6. It appears from the nature and tendency of heresy, that sinners at this day, are in the most dangerous situation. They are surrounded by errorists and hereticks on every side. They naturally love darkness rather than light, and errour rather than truth. And when they imbibe errour, they always imbibe it as truth. Of course they go on highly pleased with their own delusions, crying to themselves peace and safety, until they are undeceived, beyond recovery. Heresy is the most easy and deceptive path to destruction. And heresy is rapidly creeping in among us. But why? That they who are approved may be made manifest. Let those who are approved, now manifest themselves, by raising the strongest barriers against heresy. Let them study the scriptures-labour to understand and defend the peculiar doctrines of the gospel-and avoid seducers. These are the most proper means of preventing errorists from destroying themselves and others.
ACTS, xvii. 2.
And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbathdays reasoned with them out of the scriptures.
PAUL was a chosen vessel to carry the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles in various and distant parts of the world. For this great and arduous work he was eminently qualified. He was a man of genius, learning, eloquence and piety. Longinus, a learned heathen, ranks Paul of Tarsus among the most eminent of the Grecian and Roman orators; and christian writers have not been sparing in their encomiums upon his piety and eloquence. But from some motives or other they have seldom celebrated his reasoning powers and the use he made of them in preaching the gospel. The inspired writer of his life, however, more frequently mentions his reasoning, than his declaiming on the doctrines he taught. Speaking of Paul and Silas passing through Amphipolis, and Apollonia, and coming to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews, he says, "And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath-days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ." The truth, which here lies upon the face of the text, and which is proposed as the subject of the ensuing discourse is this:
That Paul usually proved the truth of the doctrines, which he taught.
I shall first show that he did this; and then why he did it.
I. We are to consider, that Paul usually proved the truth of the doctrines, which he taught. He did not desire his hearers to believe any thing, which he asserted, without evidence. It seems by what is said in the eleventh verse of the context, that he commended the noble Bereans, for searching the scriptures, to see whether the doctrines, which they heard him preach, were agreeable to that infallible standard. He usually preached on the great and essential doctrines of the gospel, which he knew ought to be proved, by plain and conclusive reasoning. To reason fairly is to draw fair consequences from true premises, or to adduce clear and conclusive arguments in support of truth. In order to reason clearly and intelligibly upon the truth of a proposition, it is often necessary, in the first place to explain it; in the next place to produce arguments in support of it; and lastly to answer objections against it. By Paul's proving the doctrines, which he taught, we are to understand his reasoning upon them in this manner. And if we now examine his general mode of preaching, we shall find, that he usually proved the particular doctrine which he preached, by explaining it; if it needed explanation; by bringing arguments to support it, if it needed to be supported; and by answering objections, if he supposed any would occur to the mind of the hearer. This will appear in respect to a variety of subjects upon which he preached.
When he preached upon the existence of God, he reasoned plainly and forcibly upon the subject. Hear his arguments in support of this first and fundamental doctrine of all religion. Speaking of the Pagans, who deny the existence of the only living and true God, and neglect to worship him, he says, "The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse." But he argued more largely upon
this doctrine, in his discourse to the Epicurean and Stoick philosophers at Athens. "Then Paul stood in the midst of. Marshill, and said, ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious, for as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God, that made the world, and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and hath made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us; for in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said: For we are his offspring. For as much then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think, that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device." This clear, concise, and conclusive reasoning was perfectly adapted to prove the being and perfections of God, and the indispensible duty of the Pagans to know, to love, and to serve him.
Paul reasoned as plainly and forcibly upon the doctrine of divine sovereignty in electing and saving some and not others. "What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he
hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou, that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say unto him that formed it, why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?" Here Paul stated or explained his subject, proved his subject, and answered the most plausible objection that could be made against it.
Paul taught the doctrine of total depravity, and proved it, by plain and conclusive reasoning. He first proved this doctrine from a long and particular account of the character and conduct of all the heathen world, and then from the authority of the old testament, in which the total depravity of the Jews is plainly asserted. He says, "What then? Are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved, both Jews and Gentiles that they are all under sin; as it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one," &c.
When Paul preached to the Jews and Greeks at Thessalonica, he undertook to prove, that Christ had come into the world, suffered, and died, and risen from the dead. This is related in our text and context. "And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath-days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, opening and alleging," that is, explaining and proving, "that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead: and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ. Paul, in his preaching, not only asserted, that Christ was the long expected and promised Messiah, that he had suffered and died, and that he had risen from the dead, but he proved these points, and so demonstrated, that Christ was the only and all-sufficient redeemer.
In treating on the resurrection and future state of the righteous, Paul reasoned with great perspicuity and energy. Some of the Corinthians denied this doctrine, which made it necessary to prove it, which he did in this long and forcible train of reasoning. "Now if