« ПредишнаНапред »
as the Lord gave to every man ? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth ; but God that giveth the increase," chap. iji. 5–7. These things have I in a figure transferred to myself, and to Apollos for your sakes; that you might learn in us, not to think of men above that which is written," chap. iv. 6. “ Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy," 2 Cor. i. 24; “ for we preach not ourselves but Christ Jesus the Lord ; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake," chap. iv. 5.
I might refer you to the appeals they have made theinselves upon some occasions in behalf of their integrity; some of which at least are such as would not have been made, had they not been fully persuaded of their own sincerity, and that the persons to whom they made them could give no proofs to the contrary, nay, must have such evidences of it before them as were undeniable.
« For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward,” 2 Cor. i. 12. “ But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated at Philippi; we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of Christ," 1 Thess. ii. 2. “ Neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness, God is witness. Neither of men sought we glory, nor of you, nor yet of others,” ver. 5. “ Ye are witnesses and God also, how holily and unblamably we behaved ourselves among you that believe,” ver. 10. A greater regard may be had to these appeals, because there were in most of the churches different parties, some judaizing christians and their teachers; and if there could have been any exceptions against them, it would have been in vain to make them.
But there are some other appeals of the apostle Paul, which we may certainly lay a great stress upon, considering the occasion of them, the persons to whom, and the places in which they were made, and which must absolutely vindicate him in particular from all suspicion of baseness, and from selfish and worldly views in this design of spreading the gospel. In Acts xx. 18, 19, in his parting speech to
, the elders at Ephesus: “ Ye know from the time that I came into Asia," i. e. that part of Asia which was then properly called by that name; " after what inanner I have been
6 with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many fears and temptations.— I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel ; yea, you yourselves know that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and unto them that were with me,” ver. 33, 34. In Acts xxi. xxii, is an account of the seizing of Paul, by a multitude of Jews, in the temple at Jerusalem; of his being taken out of their hands by the chief captain, who came with a band of soldiers, and bound him with chains; and when Paul was going up into the castle, followed by a great crowd, and had obtained leave to speak to the people, he spoke to them in the Hebrew tongue : “ Men, brethren, and fathers.-I am verily a man which am a Jew of Tarsus; yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day; and I persecuted this way unto the death ;-as also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders, from whom also I received letters, and went unto Damascus, to bring them which were there, bound unto Jerusalem to be punished." Then he proceeds to relate the extraordinary appearance he saw in the way, which was the ineans of his conversion. Now is it conceivable, that under such circumstances, when he was in the bands of the chief captain, the people of Jerusalem incensed and clamorous against him, he should give this account of himself, of the name of the person by whom he was educated in that city, and who was also living at that very time; appeal to the high priest himself, and the body of the elders, and tell them what was the real cause of his conversion; if in all this there had been any falsehood, and if there had been any ill conduct in the former part of his life, for which he had been thrown off by his party, or if he had met with disappointment in any pretensions which might be matter of lasting disgust, had it not been easy to convict him ? and would not a falsehood delivered by him at this time, have been much to his disadvantage ? But nothing of this appears; there was no falsehood in it; they heard him patiently, till in the course of his speech, he comes to mention a design of God, to send him from hence to the Gentiles. “ They gave him audience to these words:" but the bare mention of any favour of God to the Gentiles, threw them into a rage that excluded all thought and consideration; then they cried out; “ Away with such a fellow from the earth, for it is not fit that he should live.” This was the account be gave of himself upon
” many occasions; we find it in bis speech to Agrippa : “ My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among
my own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews, which knew me from the beginning, (if they would testify,) that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a pharisee.”. See Acts xxij. 1; Phil. iii. 4, 5; and Gal. i. 13, 14. These are appeals which would not have been made, if they could have been refuted.
It is a strong proof of their integrity, and that they had no selfish designs in spreading a new set of religious principles, that they did not endeavour to accommodate the principles they delivered as from God, to the corrupt taste of Jews or Gentiles. It was not a religion made up partly of the one and partly of the other, modelled and contrived and adjusted so as to please all parties. The Jews were implacably incensed, yet they made no composition with them in favour of their temple, their sacrifices, or their priesthood. When the Jewish converts had a zeal for some part of the Mosaic law, and they were somewhat indulged as to themselves, yet they could never lay unnecessary dens upon the Gentiles, or oblige them to submit to any of the distinguishing rites of that institution. This was the determination of the apostles and elders in a full assembly at Jerusalem. Paul every where declares against the necessity of circumcision : and Peter had given his judgment clearly on the same side, though in a particular instance he was guilty in his practice of an improper compliance. As for the Gentiles, there was no favour shown to any of their gods, or their rites; no indulgence to apply to them as objects of worship, or as mediators and intercessors; but they declared, notwithstanding the vast number of gods which were the objects of general devotion, that there was but one God, and one mediator between God and man; no indulgence to any vicious disorders, no relaxations of the strictness of their rules of life, in behalf of the most general customs, or the strongest inclinations; the preaching of the cross proved a scandal, (though unjustly, and without reason) to many, was to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness; yet still they taught Christ crucified, as the wisdom of God, and the power of God. They preached repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, to Jews and Gentiles; exhorted the one not to depend upon their privileges, and the others to turn from their vanities to the living and true God.
The freedom they used towards those who were converted to christianity, is another argument of their sincerity. They connived at no disorders among them ; nor did they use flattering words, but charged them to “ walk worthy of the Lord, who had called them into his kingdom and glory," 2 Cor. xii. 20, 21. Blaming even their backwardness and slow progress in christian knowledge and virtues. " And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ; I have fed you with milk, and not with meat-for ye are yet carnal; for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions; are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again, which be the first principles of the oracles of God, and are become such as have need of milk and not of strong meat,” 1 Cor. iii. Would any man have talked at this rate, spoken in this manner, who was ambitious to be at the head of a numerous party, when the persons they treat thus, must be under very strong temptations from this world, and perhaps some likewise from their own inclinations, to return to the more splendid, and yet more general religions of Judaism, or Gentilism, which they had lately forsaken?
Lastly. As to this point, it is a proof they were not influenced by worldly views in this design, since they persisted in it notwithstanding the very fierce opposition they met with from the Jews, and the scorn and contempt that was shown them by the generality of Heathens; and when in the churches they planted, and among those who had given the most favourable reception to them, there were many who received their principles but in part, and did not submit to all their rules of life in their full force; when some, who had accompanied them in this work, forsook them, loving this present world, others gave way to seducers, and denied them that little authority they claimed, which they desired them to show no other mark of, than by adhering to the principles they had confirmed among them by undeniable evidence ; certainly they were animated by other, by higher considerations than worldly motives and inducements; for of these they met with none; and they must have been quite discouraged, and (for ever) have abandoned their design, if they had not looked more “ at the things which are not seen, which are eternal, than at the things which are seen, which are temporal.”
These are as strong proofs of men's integrity as we can desire, as convincing as can be given.
10. We may reckon it an argument of the credibility of this account, that the writers of it, and the persons engaged in the first publishing the gospel
, and who were the witnesses of the main facts upon which the whole depends,
do appear to be free from enthusiasm ; that is, they did not believe because they believed, nor act by impulse and inclination; but they were influenced in their belief and conduct, by reason and evidence, not by a strong imagination : their own faith was founded upon evidence and reason. “ That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled of the word of life; this declare we unto you," 1 John i. 1. And what they professed to others, they proved by reason and argument. That they were not of an enthusiastic spirit, appears in the accounts given in the public preaching of our Saviour. He referred the Jews to the scriptures they read daily, and whose authority they owned:
he appealed to his works. “ If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not,” John x. 37. I might refer you, as a proof of this character, to such exhortations as these. “ Prove all things, hold fast that which is good," 1 Thess. v. 21. “ Believe not every
v spirit, but try the spirits, whether they be of God," 1 John iv. 1. “ Judge ye what I say," 1 Cor. x. 15. Their offering all things to a fair trial and examination.
The full conviction of the apostles themselves, of the divine character of our Saviour, seems to be owing to his resurrection from the dead, and the pouring out of the Holy Ghost upon themselves. And stronger evidences could not be given of a commission from heaven.
The speeches we have preserved in the Acts and in the epistles they wrote, are full of reasons and arguments; some points are supported by a variety of proofs: you will find a strain of excellent reasoning in the speeches of Peter, the first publisher of the gospel, after our Lord's ascension ; when, upon the apostles' making use of a vast variety of languages, in the hearing of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and of the strangers that were come thither from all parts, at the feast of Pentecost, some wondered, “ others said, These men are full of new wine: but Peter standing up, said,” among other things, " These are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day,” Acts ii. 13–15; or nine in the morning, the time of prayer to which they generally came fasting. “Ye men of Israel, hear these
. words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you, by miracles, and wonders, and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know," ver. 22. “ This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses: therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the