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of proportion between the effect and the cause, between the work which was wrought, and the instruments which wrought it; and therefore we may and must conclude, that a divine invisible power went along with them at every step, and miraculously blessed their endeavours.
Bishop Atterbury's Sermons-1662. We should pause to consider who where the men singled out by our blessed Lord for the purpose of diffusing His religion through the world ; that is, for the singular purpose of persuading men to relinquish the religion of their ancestors, the principles they had imbibed from their infancy, the customs, prejudices, and habits, the ways of thinking which they had for a long course of years indulged, and to adopt in their room a system of thinking and acting, in many respects directly opposite to them; a religion exposing them to many present hardsbips and severe trials, and referring them for their reward to a distant period and an invisible world. Would not a charge such as this require agents of a superior class, of considerable influence from birth, wealth, and station in life, men of profound erudition, of the brigbtest talents, the most consummate koowledge of the world and the human heart, and the most commanding eloquence? Were then the Apostles of this description ? Quite the contrary. They were plain, humble, uppretending men, of low birth and low occupations, without learning, education, or any ex. traordinary endowments, natural or acquired ; without any thing, in short, to recommend them, but their simplicity, integrity, and purity of manners. With what hopes of success could men such as these set about the most difficult of all enterprises-the reformation of a corrupt world, and the conversion of it to a new faith? Yet we all know that they actually did accomplish these two most arduous things, and that, on the foundations they laid, the whole superstructure of the Christian Church has been raised, and the divine truths of the Gospel spread through all parts of the civilized world. How then is this to be accounted for ? It is utterly impossible to account for it in any way, but that which Christ himself points out in his charge to the apostles, Matt. x. 8. “Ileal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils.” Here is the explanation of the whole mystery: it was by the powers with which they were invested, the
miracles they were enabled to perform, that they made such multitudes of converts. The people saw that God was with them, and that therefore every thing they taught must be true.
Bishop Porteus. The persons whom our Lord chose for his partners and companions in establishing the Gospel were of the lowest class, as well in station as in abilities. Such persons were in many respects most difficult to be dealt with, but no unfit instruments for the purpose for wbich they were then designed; namely, to testify what they had $0 often seen and heard ; and on all accounts most proper to afford the best and most unexceptionable evidence to futurity. They were persons wbo could by no means be supposed able either to conceive a scheme so great as that of reforming the world, of altering all its customs and opinions; or to entertain the least hope of accomplishing it, whenever suggested to them : persons who wanted both courage and conduct to attempt this vast and truly original design, with any prospect of success: persons, too, who were to be suffered often to doubt and dispute with our Lord; to distrust, desert, and even deny Him; in order to convince after-ages that they were such as could not, with the least show of reason, be suspected of having at first concerted all this of themselves, or carried it on afterwards among themselves, or effected what they did of it by any methods merely human.
With such as these did Christ hold conversation during the wbole course of bis ministry, affectionately complying with their weakDess, patiently enduring their perverseness, in order to cure them both; to strengthen and increase their faith by degrees, and free them from all superstitious fears ; to open their eyes and enlarge their understandings so far, that at length they might even of themselves judge what was right, and teach the same to others. To these, and by them lo the world, he sets a perfect pattern of true heroism, namely, bumility and resignation to the will of God; of meekness and the most extensive benevolence to man; demonstrating to what a height virtue may be carried under the most disadvantageous cir. cumstances, and showing the practicableness of each part of our duty, in the greatest difficulties.
The word of God, which grew from very unpromising beginning so mightily, and prevailed so speedily over the unbelieving world, was manifestly propagated in opposition to the united force and cunning of men and devils, by a power eminently superior to both, and therefore most certainly divine. This wonderful propagation of the Gospel, with such incredible success, and by methods so very extraordinary and peculiar, should ever be contemplated with just wonder, and ought always to be esteemed a most illustrious proof of the truth of Christianity; so that, if no otber miracle had been wrought in support of it, this alone would have been sufficient to establish its truth. For, that a doctrine so unacceptable to flesh and blood, so irreconcileable with the secular interest, as well as the corrupt inclinations of mankind, so violently opposed by all the force and malice of men, should irresistibly persuade both Jew and Gentile, and draw the whole world after it by cords so strong, and yet so easy, without any outward compulsion, or prospect of advantage or reward, except what was future and invisible, but with the present and visible terror of the greatest bardsbips and sufferings; this, if all other tokens had been wanting, must have been owned to be the effect of a power truly divine. And bereby the Christian Religion stands remarkably distinguished from all religious impostures, whose rise and growih bave always manifestly been owing to the plausibility and agreeableness of the doctrines taught, or to the subtlety and artifice of the teachers, or to the last and strongest argument of a bad cause, menace and coaction. Such was the introduction of Mahometism into the world, which is a scheme of religion compounded out of all other religions, that it might recommend itself to some of all, and it is dressed up with a good deal of art and cunning, and admirably suited to the palate of the most sensual, and yet with all those plausible coverings, it was forced to hew out its way with the sword, and it is supported to this day by the same method of violence. Whereas the Christian Religion, stripped of all these advantages and aids, and clogged with all possible disadvantages and impediments, found a way unforced, and prevailed by its own dative efficacy, and even by suffering ; baffled and subdued all the boisterous rage and cruelty of its most inveterate
enemies, so that we may well believe it, what it has distinguished itself to be the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Again, since the Gospel has from the beginning prevailed so mightily, and triumphed so remarkably over all opposition, we rely upon the same divine power and wisdom, by which it hath been hitherto supported, that it will still prevail, still increase and advance, conquering and to conquer! for we may comfort our. selves in this, that the Christian faith bath already been engaged in all sorts of conflicts and trials, but has always risen superior : bath been opposed (but always in vain) by arts and arguments, and artillery of all sorts, so that no modern engine can now be played upon us, no subtle stratagem invented, but what have been anciently used, and often baffled.
The glorious Gospel of the blessed God is given to us, to teach us the
way of salvation through a Mediator. Well may it be called "glad tidings of great joy;" for it reveals a glorious Saviour, proclaims salvation to a lost world, and sets before us a new and living way to the Father! It opens a door of life to the dead, and a door of hope to despairing sinners; it invites the greatest sinner to return, and offers
grace and glory. The Gospel informs us, that redemption's work is done, and salvation finished. All things are ready, and God waiteth to be gracious. Sinners are invited to drink of the waters of life freely; and whosoever cometh unto Jesus, he wil) in no wise cast out; but will give unto all that receive him, "power to become the sons of God.” Such is the language of the Gospel.
all Fee wilent
The Gospel takes man where it finds him, in a state of sin and ruin; condemned by the law of God to final perdition, and incapable of justification by his own righteousness. In this situation it announces to him a Saviour, divinely great and glorious, divinely excellent and lovely; assuming his nature, to become an expiation for his sins ; revealing to him the way of reconciliation to God, and inviting him to enter it and be saved. The acceptance of this expiation it announces from the mouth of God himself. The terms on which we may be reconciled, it discloses with exact precision and
perfect clearness ; so that he who runs may read; so that beggars and children may understand and accept them. . Faith in the Redeemer, repentance towards God, and holiness of character, involve them all. They are terms reasonable in themselves, easy to us, and productive of incomprehensible good to all who embrace them. To overcome the stubbornness of our hearts, Cbrist has commissioned the Spirit of grace to sanctify us for himself, to draw us with the cords of his love, to guide us with his wisdom, to uphold us with his power, and to conduct us under bis kind providence to the heavens. In this scheme is contained all that we need, and all that we can rationally desire. The way of salvation is here become a highway, and wayfaring men, though fools, need not err therein.
Dr. Dwight. The revelation made of Christ, in the blessed Gospel, is far more glorious, more excellent, and more filled with rays of divine wisdom and goodness, than the whole creation, and the justest comprehension of it attainable, can contain or afford. Without the knowledge hereof, the mind of man, however priding itself in other inventions and discoveries, is wrapped up in darkness and confusion.
Dr. Oroen. The Gospel glory is, that it is the ministration of the Spirit. The great privilege of believers is, that the Lord manifests himself to them as he doth not to the world; when he manifests his authority in the command, it is then powerful; when he manifests his goodness and truth in his promise, it is full of sweetness; when he manifests his wrath in the threatenings, it awes the soul; when he manifests his glory in the face of Cbrist, it is ravishing, reforming, attracting!
Halyburton. It does not demand the sword of the magistrate, the aid of philosopby, the charms of eloquence, in what its adversaries term," the foolishness of preaching.” Some of the ministers employed in dispensing the Gospel, are indeed eminent in gifts and graces compared with their fellow-men; they are not inferior, either in natural or acquired abilities, to the most respectable characters; but, compared with the greatness and importance of their office, the most