« PrécédentContinuer »
the will. Its origin is clear, its progrefs gradual, and its proof fatisfactory.
Examine, by this criterion, the faith of the founders of Christianity. It is the peculiar character of enthusiasm not to be confcious of the weakness of thofe proofs to which it appeals, it therefore employs no difguife to conceal their weakness, but perpetually betrays itself by the very nature of the evidence which it adduces in its fupport. We may therefore examine the account which the apostles have given of the origin of their faith, fecure that if it was founded on the delufion of fanaticism, that delufion will appear in the whole tenor of the gofpel history.
The faith of the apostles in their Lord, at its first origin and progrefs, was founded not on the delufions of enthufiafm, but on rational proofs.
IT is peculiarly important to trace the first origin
of any opinion, because this frequently decides its permanent character. When therefore the twelve apostles first followed their divine Mafter, was it from the power of enthusiastic caprice? Confider
our Lord's entrance on his miniftry. John was baptizing in the river Jordan, at noon-day, furrounded by multitudes," from Jerufalem and “all Judea, and all the region round about ;" the humble Jefus approaches-for thirty years m had he lived in retirement-no fame" of private miracles or fecret inspirations had been spread abroad, to inflame public expectation or deceive vulgar credulity; he had practised no religious austerity° to excite veneration; he had collected no partizans to fupport his authority; he approaches as a young man, alone and undistinguished, modeftly defiring to partake of the baptifm of John-but undistinguished he did not long remain, the prophet difcerned and acknowledged his fuperior dignity: nor was internal perfuafion the only proof of the truth of this acknowledgment-no,-a fenfible and awful miracle established the veracity of the prophet, and the dignity of our Lord for "the heavens were opened, and he "faw the Holy Ghoft defcending like a dove, and lighting upon him, and lo-a voice from heaven
1 Matt. iii. 5.
m Luke, iii. 23.
n This is put beyond difpute, by the manner in which St. John fpeaks of the miracle of water turned into wine." This beginning of miracles did Jefus in Cana of Galilee.”—John ii.
• This was the cafe not only before the commencement, but during the whole course of our Lord's ministry. Vid. Newcome's Obfervations on our Lord's Conduct, p. 347, on our Lord's temperance. Dublin edit. 1782.
P Matt. iii. 17.
faying, This is my beloved Son in whom I am "well pleased."
Thus affured of the divine miffion of our Lord, the Baptist naturally pointed him out to the attention of his disciples. As he stood and looked upon Jefus, he faith to two of them, "behold the Lamb of God," and they followed Jefus. Thus they were directed to his acquaintance, but they only abode with him one day; they afterwards, as was most natural, brought to him fome of their nearest relatives and most intimate friends, but it does not appear that any of them became his permanent followers till after many additional opportunities of listening to the wifdom of his inftructions, and viewing the wonders of his power. He convinced Nathaniel that he was the "Son of God, the king of Ifrael," by revealing to him the fecret] thoughts of his heart.-At Cana of Galilee, by the miracle of water turned into wine; "he manifefted forth "his glory, and his difciples believed in him". In
9 John i. 35-39. Newcome's Harmony, § 18.
John i. 45.
f John ii. 11. Newcome's Harmony, § 19. This miracle is fully vindicated from the objections of unbelievers, by Archbishop Newcome, in his view of our Lord's character, p. 2. ch. 1. 5.-P. 347. By Bifhop Law, in his reflections on the life and character of Chrift, annexed to his theory of religion, p. 284. note kk. Alfo in Stackhouse's history of the bible, vol. 5. p. 356. Alfo in the miracles of Jefus vindicated, fuppofed to be written by Dr. Pierce, bishop of Rochester, 2d edit. Lond. 1729, part iii. p. 22.
Jerufalem, when the whole nation was affembled to celebrate the paffover, our Lord afferted his facred dignity, and proved it by the ftupendous miracles he wrought-"even on the feast day many "believed in his name when they faw the miracles "which he did."
To this public manifeftation of his power his difciples muft furely have been attentive witneffes,
Nor were thefe public miracles the only proofs afforded to thofe whom he meant to felect for his apostles; their gracious Lord condefcended to work fome particular miracles for their particular conviction and advantage. The fupernatural draught " of fifhes, of which Peter and Andrew, James and John, were the astonished witneffes, prepared them to leave all things that they might follow and obey his facred call. The fincere faith of Peter was rewarded and confirmed by the miraculous restoration of his mother from the bed of death; and his house was the scene, around which crouds affembled and fupplicated the all-powerful interpofition of our Saviour's mercy to heal their various difeafes, and all received his gracious aid.
t John ii. 23. Newcome's Harmony, § 20, p. 28. u Mark i. 16-20. Luke v. I-II. Newcome's Har
mony, 26. p. 38, notes, p. 13.
Matt. viii. 14-17. Mark i. 29-34. Luke iv.38-41, Newcome's Harmony, $ 28, p. 40, notes p. 14.
Thus the faith of his followers was originally founded, not on blind credulity, but on rational conviction-not on internal perfuafion alone, but on clear and ftupendous miracles, proofs fubmitted to their fenfes and approved by their reason,
* In ftating the facts which it seemed neceffary to notice, I have followed the order adopted by Primate Newcome in his Harmony, and have with him supposed the ministry of our Lord to have held during three years, or more. But though 1 am perfuaded of the truth of this hypothefis, I think it 'expedient to remark, that its truth is no way essential to my argument; if we adopt the opinion of Dr. Mann, and Dr. Priestly, that our Lord's miniftry terminated in a year and a few months, and follow the order of events which this hypothefis requires; ftill the main series of facts on which my reafonings are founded remains unchanged.-The apostles had the fame causes to attract their attention at first, and strengthen their conviction in every step of its progrefs; the only difference is that on the latter fyftem the events are united together more closely-they exhibit the fame caufes, but in fomewhat a more rapid fucceffion producing the fame effects.-In proof of this I refer my reader to Dr. Prieftly's Harmony, § 10, on the order of the events-and the calendar of our Saviour's miniftry annexed to the harmony-he makes a greater number of miracles precede the felection of the twelve, but fewer intervene between that felection' and their firft miffion.
y Newcome's Preface to his Harmony, p. 5. "Previously "to the call of the four apoftles, Mark i. 16-28. Andrew "had been the Baptifts difciple, and had received his testi"mony to Jefus (probably alfo St. John, according to the best
commentators on John i. 35) Peter had been brought to Jesus "by Andrew, his brother, and Jefus had fhewn more than hu
man knowledge, and more than human power, which pro "bably had fallen within the experience of thefe difciples, or, "at least, muft have gained their belief on the firmest