« PreviousContinue »
what truth there is in what he here pretends, viz. that though the one article, That Jesus is the Messiah, be mentioned “ alone in some places, yet we have reason “ to be persuaded, from the conciseness of the” scripture history, that there were, at the same time, joined with it other necessary articles of faith, in the preaching of our Saviour and his apostles.
It is to be observed, that the unmasker builds upon this false supposition, that in some places, other necessary articles of faith, joined with that of Jesus the Messiah, are by the evangelists mentioned to be proposed by our Saviour and his apostles, as necessary to be believed to make those they preached to christians. For his saying, that in some places, that “one neces
sary article is mentioned alone,” implies, that in other places it is not mentioned alone, but joined with other necessary articles. But then it will remain upon him to show,
XXXVI. “ In what place, either of the Gospels or
66 of the Acts, other articles of faith are joined “ with this, and proposed as necessary to be be66 lieved to make men christians.”
The unmasker, it is probable, will tell us, that the article of Christ's resurrection is sometimes joined with this of the Messiah, as particularly in that first sermon of St. Peter, Acts ii. by which there were three thousand added to the church at one time. Answ. This sermon, well considered, will explain to us both the preaching of the apostles; what it was that they proposed to their unbelieving auditors, to make them christians; and also the manner of St. Luke's recording their sermons. It is true, that here are delivered by St. Peter many other matters of faith, besides that of Jesus being the Messiah ; for all that he said, being of divine authority, is matter of faith, and may not be disbelieved. The first part of his discourse is to prove to the Jews, that what they had observed of extraordinary at that time, amongst the disciples, who spake variety of tongues, did not proceed from wine, but from the Holy
Ghost; and that this was the pouring out of the Spirit, prophesied of by the prophet Joel. This is all matter of faith, and is written, that it might be believed: but yet I think, that neither the unmasker, nor any body else will say, that this is such a necessary article of faith, that no man could, without an explicit belief of it, be a christian ; though, being a declaration of the Holy Ghost by St. Peter, it is so much a matter of faith, that no-body to whom it is now proposed, can deny it, and be a christian. And thus all the scripture of the New Testament, given by divine inspiration, is matter of faith, and necessary to be believed by all christians, to whom it is proposed. But yet I do not think any one so unreasonable as to say, that every proposition in the New Testament is a fundamental article of faith, which is required explicitly to be believed to make a man a christian.
Here now is a matter of faith joined, in the same sermon, with this fundamental article, that “ Jesus is “ the Messiah ;” and reported by the sacred historian so at large, that it takes up a third part of St. Peter's sermon, recorded by St. Luke: and yet it is such a matter of faith, as is not contained in the unmasker's catalogue of necessary articles. I must ask him then, whether St. Luke were so concise an historian, that he would so at large set down a matter of faith, proposed by St. Peter, that was not necessary to be believed to make a man a christian, and wholly leave out the very mention of all the unmasker's additional necessary articles, if indeed they were necessary to be believed to make men christians ? I know not how any one could charge the historian with greater unfaithfulness, or greater folly. But this the unmasker sticks not at, to preserve to himself the power of appointing what shall, and what shall not, be necessary articles : and of making his system the christianity necessary, and only necessary to be received.
The next thing that St. Peter proceeds to, in this his sermon, is, to declare to the unbelieving jews that Jesus of Nazareth, who had done miracles amongst them,
whom they had crucified, and put to death, and whom God had raised again from the dead, was the Messiah.
Here indeed our Saviour's crucifixion, death, and resurrection, are mentioned: and if they were no-where else recorded, are matters of faith; which, with all the rest of the New Testament, ought to be believed by every christian, to whom it is thus proposed, as a part of divine revelation. But that these were not here proposed to the unbelieving jews, as the fundamental articles, which St. Peter principally aimed at, and endeavoured to convince them of, is evident from hence, that they are made use of, as arguments to persuade them of this fundamental truth, viz. that Jesus was the Messiah, whom they ought to take for their Lord and Ruler. For whatsoever is brought as an argument, to prove another truth, cannot be thought to be the principal thing aimed at, in that argumentation; though it may have so strong and immediate a connection with the conclusion, that you cannot deny it, without denying even what is inferred from it, and is therefore the fitter to be an argument to prove it. But that our Saviour's crucifixion, death, and resurrection, were used here as arguments to persuade them into a belief of this fundamental article, that Jesus was the Messiah, and not as propositions of a new faith they were to receive, is evident from hence, that St. Peter preached here to those who knew the death and crucifixion of Jesus as well as he; and therefore these could not be proposed to them, 8 new articles of faith to be believed; but those matters Afact being what the jews knew already, were a good bargument, joined with his resurrection, to convince them of that truth, which he endeavoured to give them 'a belief of. And therefore he rightly inferred, from these facts joined together, this conclusion, the believing whereof would make them christians : “ Therefore let " all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath “ made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, " Lord and Christ.” To the making good this sole proposition, his whole discourse tended : this was the sole truth he laboured to convince them of; this the
faith hé endeavoured to bring them into; which as soon as they had received with repentance, they were by baptism admitted into the church, and three thousand at once were made christians.
Here St. Luke's own confession, without that “of in“ telligent and observing men," which the unmasker has recourse to, might have satisfied him again, so in relating matters of fact, many passages were omit“ ted by the sacred penmen.” For, says St. Luke here, ver. 40, “ And with many other words," which are not set down.
One would, at first sight, wonder why the unmasker neglects these demonstrative authorities of the holy pen_ men themselves, where they own their omissions, to tell us, that it is “ confessed by all intelligent and ob" serving men, that in relating matters of fact, many
passages were omitted by the sacred penmen. St. John, in what he says of his gospel, directly professes large omissions, and so does St. Luke here. But these omissions would not serve the unmasker's turn; for they are directly against him, and what he would have: and therefore he had reason to pass them by. For St. John, in that passage above cited, chap. xx. 30, 31, tells us, that how much soever he had left out of his history, he had inserted that which was enough to be believed to eternal life: “ but these are written, that ye might be“ lieve, and believing, ye might have life." But this is not all he assures us of, viz.' that he had recorded all that was necessary to be believed to eternal life: but he, in express words, tells us what is that ALL, that is necessary to be believed to eternal life: and for the proof of which proposition alone, he writ all the rest of his gospel, viz. that we might believe. What? even this: “ That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God," and that, believing this, we “ might have life through his name."
This may serve as a key to us, in reading the history of the New Testament; and show us why this article, that Jesus was the Messiah, is no-where omitted, though a great part of the arguments used to convince men of it, nay, very often the whole discourse, made to lead men into the belief of it, be intirely omitted.
The Spirit of God directed them every-where to set down the article, which was absolutely necessary to be believed to make men christians; so that that could no ways
be doubted of, nor mistaken: but the arguments and evidences, which were to lead men into this faith, would be sufficient, if they were once found anywhere, though scattered here and there, in those writings, whereof that infallible Spirit was the author. This preserved the decorum used in all histories, and avoided those continual, large, and unnecessary repetitions, which our critical unmasker might have called tedious, with juster reason than he does the repetition of this short proposition, that Jesus is the Messiah ; which I set down no oftener in my book, than the Holy Ghost thought fit to insert it in the history of the New Testament, as concise as it is. But this, it seems to our nice unmasker, is “ tedious, tedious and offensive." And if a christian, and a successor of the apostles, cannot bear the being so often told, what it was that our Saviour and his apostles every-where preached to the believers of one God, though it be contained in one short proposition; what cause of exception and disgust would it have been to heathen readers, some whereof might, perhaps, have been as critical as the unmasker, if this sacred history had, in every page, been filled with the repeated discourses of the apostles, all of them everywhere to the same purpose, viz. to persuade men to believe, that Jesus was the Messiah? It was necessary, even by the laws of history, as often as their preaching anywhere was mentioned, to tell to what purpose they spoke; which being always to convince men of this one fundamental truth, it is no wonder we find it so often repeated. But the arguments and reasonings with which this one point is urged, are, as they ought to be, in most places, left out, A constant repetition of them had been superfluous, and consequently might justly have been blamed as “ tedious.” But there is enough recorded abundantly to convince any rational man, any one not wilfully blind, that he is that promised Saviour. And, in this, we have a reason of the omissions in the history of the New Testament; which were no other