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PREFACE TO THE EPISTLES.
untruths as these must be, if the relations which they made of these miraculous operations had been mere fictions ? This, therefore, is a farther evidence of their sincerity and truth in these relations.
3. Let us observe how the apostle treats those churches of Corinth and Galatia, respecting which he speaks most copiously of these operations of the Holy Ghost, and how they stood affected to him. The Corinthians are represented by him as schismatical; (1 Cor. i. ;) as carnal; (chap. iii. ;) as glorying in an incestuous person ; (chap. v.;) as contentious, to their own shame, and the scandal of Christianity ; (chap. vi. ;) as murmurers, tempters of Christ, fornicators, idolaters, partakers of the table of devils; (chap. x.;) as coming to the Lord's supper, not for the better, but for the worse, offending in it both against the rules of charity and temperance, and also against faith, in not discerning the Lord's body; (chap. xi.;) as guilty of emulations, schisms, and contentions, touching spiritual persons, and of vain glory in the exercise of their spiritual gifts; (chap. xii., xiv.;) and as deniers of that resurrection which was the great foundation of all the future hopes of Christians, chap. xv. In his second epistle he declares his fears that he might find among them debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings; and that he should find among them many who had not yet repented of the fornication and lasciviousness which they had committed, (2 Cor. xii. 20.) And for these things, if not reformed, he threatens he will use sharpness, and come to them with a rod, chap. x. 6; xiii. 2. He charges the Galatians with apostacy; (chap. i. 6;) and represents them as foolish and bewitched in falling from that gospel by which they had received spiritual gifts, to the beggarly elements of the law, (chap. iii. 1-16.) Now, how could the Corinthians be guilty of such emulations about spiritual persons, or such disorders in the exercise of their spiritual gifts, provided there were among them no such persons, and they had no such gifts ? How could they fear the lashes of his rod, on the account of crimes of which they neither were nor could be guilty? Why should they not be rather for Cephas, or Apollos, than for Paul, if Paul imposed upon them with false stories and sensible untruths ? Or why should not the Galatians even quit that gospel, in which he endeavoured to confirm them only by an appeal to that which they must know to be a lie? Moreover, the affections of the members of these churches were not so firm to him, and their esteem of him was not so great, as that he might securely lessen it by venturing on such arts of falsehood; for he found some of these Corinthians puffed up against him, and preferring others much before him; (1 Cor. iv. 18;) charging him with lightness and inconstancy; (2 Cor. i. 17;) and with walking according to the flesh, (chap. x. 2.) He complains that they were straitened in their bowels of affection toward him, and that the more he loved them, the less he was beloved by them; (chap. xii. 15;) that they questioned his apostleship, and even sought a proof of Christ's speaking in him, (chap. xiii. 3.) He represents the Galatians as questioning his apostleship and doctrine, or thinking him much inferior in both to others; (chap. i. ;) and as supposing he dissembled with them, and elsewhere preached himself that circumcision he condemned in them, (chap. ii.; v. 11.) Now, under these circumstances, could he hope to repair his credit with them, and to establish the apostleship they questioned, by an appeal to, and relation of, such things as both their senses and experience showed to be manifest untruths ? But,
4. If it could be supposed that these churches were so stupid and insensible that they did not, or so partially affected to the apostle that they would not, take notice of these things; these epistles inform us of other subtle and industrious adversaries, men zealous to oppose and adulterate the gospel which he preached, and desirous to find occasion to lessen the promoters of it, and to advance themselves above them; false apostles, and deceitful workers, who transformed themselves into the apostles of Christ, when in truth they were ministers of Satan ; men who corrupted the word of God, and sought to corrupt others from the simplicity that is in Christ, (2 Cor. ii. 17; x. 12, &c.; xi. 12, 13, 15.) Among the Galatians also there were evil agents, who troubled them, and would pervert the gospel of Christ, false brethren, who came in privily to spy out their liberty, and desired to ex
PREFACE TO THE EPISTLES.
clude the apostles, that they might be affected (or loved) by them, chap. i. 7; ii. 4; iv. 17. Now, if he himself had been a vain talker and deceitful worker, one who endeavoured to impose upon them with false tales, with what face could he object those things to others of which he himself was so guilty ? Or how could they, whom he confidently accused as guilty of these things, neglect this obvious reply to such an accusation, that he himself, in his appeal to the miraculous operations of the Holy Ghost for confirmation of his doctrine and apostleship, had done the very thing he laid to their charge ? We have no reason to suspect that all, or any, of these adversaries neglected any pains to search into the truth of what Paul thus offered to confirm his doctrine and magnify his office, and to vindicate himself from the aspersions which they cast upon him. Since then, we never find the truth of these relations questioned by any of those Jews who thirsted for his blood, or by those Judaizing Christians who so vehemently inveighed against his doctrine, his person, and his office; and since we are assured by the event, that if they ever made any such attempts they all proved ineffectual to impair the credit of those writings in the Christian world; it may be certainly concluded that these epistles could not be convicted of falsehood, but contained matter of unquestionable truth in these assertions, touching the powerful operations of the Holy Ghost.
Lastly. Let us consider what the apostles suffered for this testimony, and what it cost them to propagate this faith throughout the Christian world, and in what tragical expressions they are set forth in Scripture. “God,” saith Paul, “ hath set forth us, the apostles, last, as it were appointed to death; for we are made a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men,” &c., 1 Cor. iv. 9–13. See also 1 Cor. xv. 31 ; 2 Cor. vi. 4, 5; i. 8. And in the eleventh chapter he gives such a dreadful account of his own afflictions as can scarcely be read without trembling. Now, by what motive could they be actuated in the publication of that faith, for which they suffered all that wit and malice could inflict upon them, but the conviction of the truth of what they published; seeing they actually lost all in this, and could expect no blessings in another world for calling God to witness to
The moralists assure us, that it is impossible for men to act without the appearance of some good to be pursued by that action; that love of life, and a desire of self-preservation, is common to us with brutes; and it is natural both for them and us to endeavour to avoid misery and torments. If, then, the apostles did actually abandon all the enjoyments and expectations both of this and of a better life, and wilfully subject themselves unto the worst of misery and torments, in propagation of a testimony from which they could expect no profit or advantage, they must be even bereft of common sense, renounce the natural instincts of mankind, and be in love with misery and ruin. It is indeed possible for men to lay down their lives for false opinions, provided they believe them true ; but if the apostles were guilty of practising any cheat at all in this matter, it must have been of a known imposture, and they must have sacrificed their lives for what they knew to be a falsehood, that is, for a thing from which they could expect no good at all; a conduct which seems so inconsistent with the common principles of reason and self-love that it is quite incredible that any should be guilty of it. And this, it is hoped, may be sufficient to convince any reasonable person that these epistles were the genuine writings of the apostles, and that the truth of what they so copiously assert concerning the miraculous gifts and operations of the Holy Ghost, vouchsafed to the believers of these times, cannot be reasonably contested.
Archdeacon Paley, in the conclusion of his “Horæ Paulinæ,” having given a short, but comprehensive view of the evidences by which the authenticity of St. Paul's epistles is established beyond all possibility of doubt, thus proceeds: “If it be true that we are in possession of the very letters which St. Paul wrote, let us consider what confirmation they afford to the Christian history. In my opinion, they substantiate the whole transaction. The great object of modern research is, to come at the epistolary correspondence of the times. Amidst the obscurities, the silence, or the contradictirns
PREFACE TO THE EPISTLES.
of history, if a letter can be found, we regard it as the discovery of a land-mark; as that by which we can correct, adjust, or supply the imperfections and uncertainties of other accounts. One cause of the superior credit which is attributed to letters is this ; that the facts which they disclose generally come out incidentally, and therefore without design to mislead the public by false or exaggerated accounts. This reason may be applied to St. Paul's epistles with as much justice as to any letters whatever. Nothing could be farther from the intention of the writer than to record any part of his history That his history was, in fact, made public by these letters; and has, by the same means, been transmitted to future ages, is a secondary and unthought-of effect. The sincerity, therefore, of the apostle's declarations, cannot reasonably be disputed. But these letters form a part of the monuments of Christianity, as much to be valued for their contents, as for their originality. A more inestimable treasure the care of antiquity could not have sent down to us. Besides the proof they afford of the general reality of Paul's history, of the knowledge which the author of the Acts of the Apostles had obtained of that history, and the consequent probability that he was what he professes himself to have been, a companion of the apostles; besides the support they lend to these important inferences, they meet specifically some of the principal objections upon which the adversaries of Christianity have thought proper to rely. In particular, they show,
1. “That Christianity was not a story set on foot amidst the confusion which attended, and immediately preceded, the destruction of Jerusalem; when many extravagant reports were circulated, when men's minds were broken by terror and distress, when, amidst the tumults that surrounded them, inquiry was impracticable. These letters show incontestably that the religion had fixed and established itself before this state of things took place.
2. “Whereas it hath been insinuated, that our gospe.s may have been made up of reports and stories which were current at the time, we may observe that, with respect to the epistles, this is impossible. A man cannot write the history of his own life from reports ; nor, what is the same thing, be led by reports to refer to passages and transactions in which he states himself to have been immediately present and active. I do not allow that this insinuation is applied to the historical part of the New Testament with any colour of justice or probability; but I say, that to the epistles it is not applicable at all.
3. “These letters prove that the converts to Christianity were not drawn from the barbarous, the mean, or the ignorant set of men, which the representations of infidelity would sometimes make them, We leam from letters the character not only of the writers, but, in some measure, of the persons to whom they are written. To suppose that these letters were addressed to a rude tribe, incapable of thought or reflection, is just as reasonable as to suppose Locke's Essay on the Human Understanding to have been written for the instruction of savages. Whatever may be thought of these letters, in other respects, either of diction or argument, they are certainly removed as far as possible from the habits and comprehension of a barbarous people.
4. “St. Paul's history, I mean so much of it as may be collected from his letters, is so implicated with that of the other apostles, and with the substance, indeed, of the Christian history itself, that I apprehend it will be found impossible to admit St. Paul's story (I do not speak of the miraculous part of it) to be true, and yet to reject the rest as fabulous. For instance : Can any one believe that there was such a man as Paul, a preacher of Christianity, in the age which we assign to him, and not believe that there were also at the same time such men as Peter, and James, and other apostles, who had been companions of Christ during his life, and who, after his death, published and avowed the same things concerning him which Paul taught?
5. “ St. Paul's letters furnish evidence (and what better evidence than a man's own letters can be desired?) of the soundness and sobriety of his judgment. His caution in distinguishing between the
PREFACE TO THE EPISTLES.
occasional suggestions of inspiration, and the ordinary exercise of his natural understanding, is without example in the history of human enthusiasm. His morality is everywhere calm, pure, and rational ; adapted to the condition, the activity, and the business of social life, and of its various relations ; free from the over-scrupulousness and austerities of superstition, and from (what was more perhaps to be apprehended) the abstractions of quietism, and the soarings or extravagances of fanaticism. His judgment concerning a hesitating conscience; his opinion of the moral indifference of many actions, yet of the prudence and even duty of compliance, where non-compliance would produce evil effects upon the minds of the persons who observed it, is as correct and just as the most liberal and enlightened moralist could form at this day. One thing I allow, that his letters everywhere discover great zeal and earnestness in the cause in which he was engaged; that is to say, he was convinced of the truth of what he taught; he was deeply impressed, but not more so than the occasion merited, with a sense of its importance. This produced a corresponding animation and solicitude in the exercise of his ministry. But would not these considerations, supposing them to be well founded, have holden the same place, and produced the same effect, in a mind the strongest and the most sedate?
6. “These letters are decisive as to the sufferings of the author; also, as to the distressed state of the Christian Church, and the danger which attended the preaching of the gospel. See Col. i. 24; 1 Cor. xv. 19, 30–32; Rom. viii. 17, 18, 35, 36; 1 Cor. vii. 25, 26; Phil. i. 29, 30; Gal. vi. 14, 17; 1 Thess. i. 6; 2 Thess. i. 4. We may seem to have accumulated texts unnecessarily; but, besides that the point which they are brought to prove is of great importance, there is this also to be remarked in every one of the passages cited, that the allusion is drawn from the writer by the argument on the occasion; that the notice which is taken of his sufferings, and of the suffering condition of Christianity, is perfectly incidental, and is dictated by no design of stating the facts themselves ; a circumstance which adds greatly to the value and credit of the testimony. In the following quotations, the reference to the author's sufferings is accompanied with a specification of time and place, and with an appeal for the truth of what he declares, to the knowledge of the persons whom he addresses, 1 hess ii. 2; 2 Tim. iii. 10, 11. I apprehend, that to this point, as far as the testimony of St. Paul is credited, the evidence from his letters is complete and full. It appears under every form in which it could appear, by occasional allusions and by direct assertions, by general declarations and by specific examples.
7. “St. Paul, in these letters, asserts, in positive and unequivocal terms, his performance of miracles, strictly and properly so called, Gal. ii. 5; 1 Cor. ii. 4,5; 1 Thess. i. 5; Heb. ii. 4; Rom. xv. 15, 18, 19; 2 Cor. xii. 12. "Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you, in all patience, by signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. These words, signs, wonders, and mighty deeds' (onuela kal tepata, kal duvapeis,), are the specific, appropriate terms throughout the New Testament, employed when public, sensible miracles are intended to be expressed. And it cannot be shown that they are ever employed to express any thing else. Further: these words not only denote miracles as opposed to natural effects, but they denote visible, and what may be called external miracles ; as distinguished, first, from inspiration. If St. Paul had meant to refer only to secret illuminations of his understanding, or secret influences upon his will or affections, he could not with truth have represented them as 'signs and wonders,' wrought by him, or signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds,' wrought among them. Secondly, from visions. These would not by any means satisfy the force of the terms, signs, wonders, and mighty deeds ;' still less could they be said to be wrought by him, or wrought among them; nor are these terms and expressions anywhere applied to visions. Upon the whole, the matter admits of no softening qualification or ambiguity whatever. If St. Paul did not work actual, sensible, public miracles, he has, knowingly, in these letters, borne his testimony to a PREFACE TO THE EPISTLES. falsehood; and, in some instances, has advanced his assertion in the face of those persons among whom he declares the miracles to have been wrought.
“ Here then re have a man of liberal attainments, and, in other points, of sound judgment, who had addicted his life to the service of the gospel. We see him, in the prosecution of his purpose, travelling from country to country, enduring every species of hardship, encountering every extremity of danger, assaulted by the populace, punished by the magistrates, scourged, beaten, stoned, left for dead; expecting, wherever he came, a renewal of the same treatment and the same dangers; yet, when driven from one city, preaching in the next; spending his whole time in the employment, sacrificing to it his pleasures, his ease, his safety; persisting in his course to old age, unaltered by the experience of perverseness, ingratitude, prejudice, desertion; unsubdued by anxiety, want, labour, persecutions; unwearied by long confinement, undismayed by the prospect of death. Such was St. Paul. We have his letters in our hands; we have also a history purporting to be written by one of his fellow-travellers, and appearing, by a comparison with these letters, certainly to have been written by some person well acquainted with the transactions of his life. From the letters, as well as from the history, we gather, not only the account which we have stated of him, but that he was one, out of many, who acted and suffered in the same manner; and that of those who did so, several had been che companions of Christ's ministry, the ocular witnesses of his miracles, and of his resurrection. We moreover find this same person referring in his letters to his supernatural conversion, the particulars and accompanying circumstances of which are related in the history, and which accompanying circumstances, if all or any of them be true, render it impossible to have been a delusion. We also find him positively, and in appropriate terms, asserting that he himself worked miracles, strictly and properly so called, in support of the mission which he executed; the history meanwhile recording various passages of his ministry which came up to the extent of this assertion. The question is, whether falsehood was ever attested by evidence like this? Falsehoods, we know, have found their way into reports, into tradition, into books; but is an example to be met with of a man voluntarily undertaking a life of want and pain, of incessant fatigue, of continual peril; submitting to the loss of his home and country, to stripes and stoning, to tedious imprisonment, and the constant expectation of a violent death, for the sake of carrying about a story of what was false, and of what, if false, he must have known to be so ?”—Hore Pauline, chap. xvi. pp. 405–426.
Such are some of the incontrovertible arguments which have been urged in proof of the truth of Christianity; arguments which all unprejudiced persons must acknowledge to be perfectly conclusive ; and which, at the same time that they evince its truth, demonstrate its infinite importance, and the indispensable obligation which lies upon all to whom it is proposed to receive it in faith, love, and sincere obedience; persuaded that those who do not will assuredly meet with the punishment they have deserved, “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,” 2 Thess. i. 7–9. For if the Gentiles were given up to “vile affections and a reprobate mind” only for sins committed against the dim and uncertain light of nature ; if the Jews received just punishment for “every transgression of the law,” delivered by Moses to them, “how shall we escape if we neglect this great salvation which at the first was spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed by them that heard him, God bearing them witness with signs and wonders, and divers miracles and distributions of the Holy Ghost ?" b