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A BREVIATE OF THE HELPS OF FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE.
A BREVIATE OF THE PROOF OF SUPERNATURAL REVELATION, AND
THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIANITY.
1. TIMOTHY iii. 16.
Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness : God was
manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached to the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received
These are the creed, or six articles of the gospel which the apostles preached.
Sect. 1. I. God manifested in the flesh of Jesus, is the first and great article. Believe this, and believe all. No wonder that believing Jesus Christ is the Son of God is so often made in Scripture, the description of saving faith, the title to baptism, and pardon, and salvation, the evidence of the Spirit, &c. He that truly and practically believeth that God came in flesh to man, and that Christ is the Father's messenger from heaven, must needs believe that God hath a great value for the souls of men, and for his church, that he despiseth not even our flesh; that his word is true, and fully to be trusted; that he who so wonderfully came to man, will certainly take up man to him. Who can doubt of the immortality of souls, or that Christ will receive the departing souls of the faithful to himself, who believeth that he took man's nature, and hath glorified it now in heaven, in union with the divine? Who can ever have low thoughts of God's love and mercy who believeth this? and who can prostitute his soul and flesh to wickedness, who firmly believeth that he took the soul and flesh of man to sanctify and glorify it? Vol. II.
Sect. 2. II. The Holy Spirit is the justification of the truth of Jesus Christ. He is Christ's advocate and witness to the world. He proveth the gospel by these five ways of evidence : 1. By all the prophecies, types, and promises of Christ in the Old Testament, before Christ's coming. 2. By the inherent impress of God's image on the person and doctrine of Christ; which, propria luce, showeth itself to be divine. 3. By the concomitant miracles of Christ : read the history of the gospel for this use, and observe each history. 4. By the subsequent gift of the Spirit to the apostles and other Christians, by languages, wonders, and multitudes of miracles, to convince the world. 5. By the undeniable and excellent work of sanctification on all true believers through all the world, in all generations to this day. These five are the Spirit's witness, which fully testifieth the certain truth, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
Sect. 3. Quest. But how are we sure, who, ourselves, never saw the person, miracles, resurrection, ascension of Christ, that the history of them is true?
Answ. i. We may be sure that the spectators were not deceived. ii. And that they did not deceive them to whom they reported it. iii. And that we are not deceived by any miscarriage in the historical tradition to us.
Sect. 4. i. It was not possible that men that were not mad, that had eyes and ears, could for three years and a half, believe that they saw the lame, the blind, the deaf, and all diseases healed, the dead raised, thousands miraculously fed, &c., and this among crowds of people that still followed Christ, if the things had not been true. One man's senses may be deceived at some one instance, by some deceitful accident: but that the eyes and ears of multitudes should be so oft deceived, many years, in the open light, is as much as to say, no man knoweth any thing that he seeth and heareth.
Sect 5. ii. That the disciples who received the apostles' and evangelists' report of Christ, were not deceived by the reporters, is most evident.
For, 1. They received it not by hearsay, at the second hand, but from the eye and ear witnesses themselves, who must needs know what they said.
2. They heard this report from men of the same time, and age, and country, where it was easy to examine the case, and confute it, had it been false.
3. The apostles appealed to crowds and thousands of witnesses, as to many of Christ's miracles, who would have made it odious, had it not been true.
4. They sharply reproved the rulers for persecuting Christ, which would provoke them to do their best to consute the apostles for their own justification.
5. Christ chose men of no great human learning and subtlety, but common, plain, unlearned men, that it might not be thought a deceit of art.
6. Yea, he did not make much more known to them before his death, than the bare matters of fact which they daily saw, and that he was the Christ, and moral doctrine ; his death, resurrection, ascension, and kingdom of heaven, they knew little of before ; but experience, and the sudden coming down of the Spirit, suddenly taught them all the rest.
7. They taught not one another, but were every one personally taught of God.
8. And yet they all agreed in the same doctrine when they were dispersed over the world, and never differed in any one article of faith.
9. They were men that had no worldly interest, wealth, or dominion to seek.
10. Yea, they renounced and denied all worldly interest, and sealed their testimony by their sufferings and blood; and all in hope of a heavenly reward, which they knew that lying was no means to obtain.
11. Had they plotted to cheat the world for nothing, the sin is so heinous that some one of them would have repented and confessed it, at least, at death; which none of them did, but died joyfully, as for the truth.
12. Paul was converted by a voice and light from heaven, in the presence of those that travelled with him in his persecuting design.
13. But yet it is a fuller evidence, that the doctrine which they delivered, as from God, beareth a divine impress; that, as the light, it is its own evidence.
14. And for the more infallible conviction, they that testified of Christ's miracles, did the like themselves to confirm their testimony. They spake with tongues which they never learned; they healed all diseases; even the shadow of Peter, and the clothes that came from Paul, did heal men; they raised the dead; and they that in all countries converted the nations by their own miracles, attesting the miracles and resurrection of Christ, must needs compel the spectators to believe them.
15. Yet, more than all this, those that believed them were presently enabled to do the like in one kind and degree or other. The same extraordinary gift of the Spirit fell upon the common multitude of believers, by the laying on of the apostles' hands; so that Simon Magus would fain have bought that power with money. And when men witnessed Christ's miracles, and wrought the like themselves; and those that believed them had and did the like, either healing, tongues, prophecy, or some wonder, it was, sure, an infallible way of testifying.
16. When wrangling heretics quarrelled with the apostles, and would draw away disciples to themselves, by disparaging them, they still appealed to the miracles wrought by these disciples themselves, or in their sight; as Gal. iii. 1, 2, 3, 5. And as Christ, when the Jews said he did all by Beelzebub, when he cast out devils, asked them, “By whom do your children cast them out ?” Which, had it been false, would have turned all the people from them.
17. Their adversaries were so far from writing any confutation of their testimony, that they confessed the miracles, and had no shift, but either to blaspheme the Holy Ghost, and say that they were done by the devil, or else, by persecution and violence, to oppress them. As if the devil were master of the world, and could remedilessly deceive it against God's will ; or God himself would send or suffer a full course of miracles remedilessly to deceive the world, which is to make God like the devil : or, as if the devil were so good, as by miracles to promote so holy, and amiable, and just a doctrine, as
that of Christianity, to make men wise, and good, and just, and kill their sin. So that this blasphemy of the Holy Ghost makes Satan to be God, or God to be Satan.
18. All the cruelty, powers, learning, and policy of their adversaries was not able to stop the progress of this testimony, much less to prevail against it.
ü. It is then most certain, that the first witnesses were not deceived by Christ, nor believers after deceived by them. The next question is, whether we be not deceived by a false historical tradition of these things? Had we seen them all ourselves, we must needs have believed; but at this distance we know not what misreports may intervene. What eyesight and hearing was to them, that tradition is to us. Now the question is, is it certainly the very same fact and doctrine which they received, and which we receive?
And here, let it be premised, that there is no other way of assurance, than that which God hath afforded us, that the reason of man could have desired.
1. If we would see God, and heaven, and hell, this is not a way suitable to the state of probationers that live in flesh on earth. Angels live by vision, and fruition of glory; and brutes, by sense, on sensible beings; but reasonable travellers must live by reason, and by believing certain revelation.
2. If God will send his Son from heaven to ascertain us, and we will believe no more than we see ourselves, then Christ must dwell on earth, to the end of the world, and he must be in all places of the earth at once, that all may see; and he must die and rise again before all men in all ages; and how mad an expectation is this !
3. Or if all that deliver us the history must work miracles before our eyes, or else we will not believe them, it is still most absurd. Will you not believe that the laws of the land are genuine, or that ever there were such kings as made them, unless he that tells it you work miracles? Shall not children believe their parents, or scholars their tutors, unless tlrey work miracles !
4. I must premise that there are three sorts of tradition, I. Such as depends on the common wit and honesty of mankind. And this is very much to be suspected, wickedness, folly, and lying being grown so common in the world.