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Although Christ, as a preacher, was less successful than his Apostles, yet we learn from the Scriptures, that several hundreds, and, if I mistake not, that in all probability thousands, believed his word. The importance of this event needs no explanation, so far as the salvation of these believers only is considered. But there is another point of view, in which this subject demands an explanation at the present time. The persons, converted by the preaching of Christ, were themselves the only Preachers of the Gospel, whom at his ascension he left behind him in the world. From his preaching they derived their own conversion, and their qualifications for the business of converting others. The existence of these Preachers, since all Christians become converts by means of the truths, contained in the Gospel, was absolutely necessary to the conversion of their fellow-men; and the preaching of Christ was equally necessary to the conversion of themselves.
When we remember, that in the number of the Preachers of the Gospel the Apostles are included, the importance of this article will appear in its proper light. . To them the whole Christian world, throughout the past, present, and future, ages of time, confessedly owes its redemption from Spiritual darkness, and its introduction into the marvellous light of Christ's kingdom.
But it is only indebted to them in the immediate sense. Ultimately, this immense blessing is owing to the preaching of the Redeemer himself. The importance of his preaching, therefore, may be fairly estimated from the greatness of the blessing.
VI. It was necessary that Christ should preach the Gospel, for the purpose of furnishing important evidence of its divine origin.
Interesting evidence of the divine origin of the Gospel is derived from the fact that it was preached by Christ; and that in two ways.
ist. It cannot be rationally supposed, that a mere man, educated as he was without any advantages, beside those enjoyed by the poor people of the Jewish nation, generally, could have devised the Gospel by the strength of his own mind.
The Jews, asked, with the utmost good sense, this question concerning our Saviour: How knoweth this man letters, having never learned ? John vii. 15. The only rational answer to this inquiry is, that what they meant by letters, viz. the wisdom which he taughi, he received immediately from God. It is plainly impossible, that he should have devised this wisdom, had he been ever so advantageously educated, either from the frivolous and superstitious doctrines of his countrymen, or from the vain, gross, erring, and selfcontradictory philosophy of the Heathen. Scarcely any thing can be imagined more unlike the Gospel of Christ, than the instructions, given by both these classes of men. But Christ was not thus educated. On the contrary, he was in the proper sense an unlearned man. That, which he taught, sprang up, therefore, originally in his own mind. But no other such mind ever appeared in this
world. Nor was such wisdom ever taught, here, by any man, whether learned or unlearned. That it should be taught by a man unlearned, as he was, from the mere force of his own mind, is a far more improbable counteraction of those laws, which regulate, and limit, the nature of man, than a Revelation from God can be, of any supposable laws of nature.
2dly. Christ proved the Gospel to be from God by his life and miracles.
Christ asserted his Doctrine to be derived immediately from God. To prove the truth of this assertion he wrought a multitude of wonderful miracles; and appealed to them, as decisive evidence, that it was true. A miracle can be wrought by none but God; for no other being can suspend, or counteract, that infinite power, which is unceasingly employed in bringing events to pass, according to those which are called the laws of nature. But God cannot work a miracle, to support a falsehood: for this would be no other than a declaration, that the falsehood was true. The miracles of Christ, therefore, were an unquestionable proof that his Gospel is a Revelation from God.
The holiness of his life is another proof of the divine origin of the Gospel: a proof not less solid, although, perhaps, less frequently allowed its full force. No miracle is a more palpable contradiction to the laws, which respect the nature of man in this world, than the perfect holiness of Christ. At the same time, this char
, acter forbids, as absurd and contemptible, the supposition, that he was capable of uttering a known falsehood.
But Christ declared that his Gospel was from God. Coming from such a person, the assertion cannot, without perfect irrationality, be called into question.
Had not these proofs of the divine origin of the Gospel been furnished by Christ, the evidence on this subject would undoubtedly stand on very different ground, and want not a little of its present strength and completeness.
VI. It was necessary that Christ should preach the Gospel, in order to the fulfilment of numerous prophecies, which foretold this part of his character.
One of these, contained in Isaiah lxi. and applied by Christ to himself, Luke iv. 18, 19, may stand in the place of all others. The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind; to set at liberty them that are bruised; to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. The predictions of the Scriptures were not written, merely that they might be fulfilled; but, when they were written, it became indispensable, that they should be fulfilled. The prophetical character of Christ was predicted, because it was an event determined on by infinite Wisdom cause of its own intrinsic importance, and utility to the universe;
and because the prediction itself, also, was in many respects useful and important. After it was once written, those who hear me, will without the aid of an explanation discern with a glance, that its fulfilment became indispensable.
For all these reasons, and some others which we can comprehend, and undoubtedly for others, which lie beyond our reach, it was necessary that Christ should assume, and execute, the office of a preacher of the Gospel. It is hoped that this attempt to elucidate a subject, so interesting in itself, of such magnitude in the scheme of redemption, and yet so rarely an object of investigation, or even of attention, will not be unedifying to those persons, who regard the Mediation of Christ with reverence and complacency.
CHRIST A PROPHET.-HIS PERSONAL PREACHING.-THE THINGS
WHICH HE TAUGHT.
John vii. 46. The officers answered, Never man spake like this Man.
In the last discourse, I proposed to consider the Character of
I. The Necessity of his preaching the Gospel :
The first of these subjects I discussed at that time. I shall now proceed to an Examination of the
II. Viz. The Things which he taught.
In the context we are informed, that the Sanhedrim sent officers to take Christ, as he was preaching in the temple, and bring him before them. When they returned without him, they were asked by the Sanhedrim, why they had not brought him. They answered in the words of the text: Never man spake like this man; (that is) “ The things which he said, and the manner in which he said them, were such, as never before were exhibited by any human being.”
These words were uttered by Jews, his enemies; by officers and dependents of the Sanhedrim, his most bitter enemies; by those officers, when commissioned to seize him for trial and punishment; by those officers, therefore, when under the strongest motives to take him, as being exposed to danger and punishment, if they did not take him; and, finally, are uttered, as containing the only reason why they did not take him. All these facts teach us, that the things which Christ spoke, and the manner in which he spoke them, were singularly excellent and impressive; so excellent and impressive, as to induce these Jews to allege it as the only reason why they had not performed their official duty. It is not easy to conceive how a more convincing testimony could have been given to the unrivalled excellency of Christ's preaching. Particularly will this appear, if we remember that the doctrines and precepts of Christ violated all the prejudices of the human heart; especially of Jews ; and that there was nothing in his manner, of the kind which is usually called popular; or calculated to catch, for the moment, the applause of his audience, and produce a favourable bias towards the Speaker. In the consideration of this and the following heads, we shall have opportunity to examine, in some measure,
how far the things, recorded of Christ, will warrant us to entertain
Among other things taught by Christ, I shall mention
The Mosaic system consisted of three great parts; the Moral, the Judicial or Political, and the Ceremonial. All the peculiarities of this system belong to the two last; the first being in its own nature applicable to mankind, generally, in all circumstances. That these peculiarities were one day to be abolished was often indicated by the prophets of the Old Testament, from the days of Moses down to those of Malachi. This seems to be sufficiently indicated by our Saviour himself in his discourse to the disciples, going to Emmaus. Luke xxiv. 25, &c. Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the Prophets have spoken. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, he expounded unto them, in all the Scriptures, the things concerning himself. The things concerning Christ are here asserted to have been spoken by Moses and all the prophets : viz. his life, death, and exaltation. But with these, we know, was interwoven a change in the Mosaic system; a change, therefore, more or less exhibited by Moses, and all the succeeding prophets; by some of them expressly; by others only in hint, allusion, or inference.
St. Paul, who informs us, that Christ hath blotted out his handwriting of ordinances, which was against us, and contrary to us ; taken it out of the way, and nailed it to his cross, who declares that Christ hath made both Jews and Gentiles one; and broken down the middle wall of partition, abolished in his flesh the enmity between them, even the law of commandments, contained in ordinances ; argues this fact, also, at length, as declared by the Prophet Jeremiah. For, saith he, if that first Covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. But finding fault, he saith, Behold the days come, saith the Lord, when I will complete a new Covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, &c. By saying A new Covenant, he hath made the former old. Now that which decayeth, and waxeth old, is ready to vanish.*
See Jer. xxxi. 31, &c. Heb. viii. 7, &c.
The Mosaic system, therefore, was originally designed in part, (viz. that part of it, which consisted of the commandments contained in Ordinances) to be abolished, at some future period. It was also to be abolished, when the New Covenant was to be completed; the Covenant, originally published to Abraham, but completed under the Christian dispensation.
That it was to be abolished by Christ is indicated in the prophecy concerning him, dwelt on so largely in the preceding dis
I will raise up unto them a Prophet like unto thee, that is,