Page images

the will. Its origin is clear, its progress gradual, and its proof satisfactory.

Examine, by this criterion, the faith of the foun. ders of Christianity. It is the peculiar character of enthusiasm not to be conscious of the weakness of those proofs to which it appeals, it therefore employs no disguise to conceal their weakness, but perpetually betrays itself by the very nature of the evidence which it adduces in its support. We may therefore examine the account which the apostles have given of the origin of their faith, secure that if it was founded on the delufion of fanaticism that delusion will appear in the whole tenor of the gospel history,


The faith of the apostles in their Lord, at its first

origin and progress, was founded not on the delųfions of enthusiasm, but on rational proofs.


It is peculiarly important to trace the first origin

any opinion, because this frequently decides its permanent character. When therefore the twelve apostles first followed their divine Master, was it from the power of enthusiastic caprice? Consider


m had

our Lord's entrance on his ministry. John was baptizing in the river Jordan, at noon-day, surrounded by multitudes, “ from' Jerusalem and “ all Judea, and all the region round about;" the humble Jesus approaches-for thirty years he lived in retirement-no fame” of private miracles or secret inspirations had been spread abroad, to inflame public expectation or deceive vulgar credulity; he had practised no religious austerity o to excite veneration ; he had collected no partizans to support his authority; he approaches as a young man, alone and undistinguished, modestly desiring to partake of the baptism of John--but undistinguished he did not long remain, the prophet discerned and acknowledged his superior dignity: nor was internal persuasion the only proof of the truth of this acknowledgment-no-a sensible and awful miracle established the veracity of the prophet, and the dignity of our Lord '--for “ the heavens were opened, and he “ saw the Holy Ghost descending like a dove, and

lighting upon him, and loa voice from heaven

i Matt. iii. 5.

m Luke, iii. 23• n This is put beyond dispute, by the manner in which St. John speaks of the miracle of water turned into wine.-" This « beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee."- John ii.


o This was the case not only before the commencement, but during the whole course of our Lord's ministry. Vid. Newcome's Observations on our Lord's Conduct, p. 347, on our Lord's temperance. Dublin çdit. 1782. p Matt. iii. 17.

“ saying, faying, This is my beloved Son in whom I am “ well pleased.”

Thus assured of the divine mission of our Lord, the Baptist naturally pointed him out to the attention of his disciples ?. As he stood and looked upon Jesus, he faith to two of them, 6 behold the Lamb of God," and they followed Jesus. Thus they were directed to his acquaintance, but they only abode with him one day; they afterwards, as was most natural, brought to him some of their nearest relatives and most intimate friends, but it does not appear that any of them became his permanent fol. lowers till after many additional opportunities of listening to the wisdom of his instructions, and viewing the wonders of his power.-He convinced Nathanțel that he was the “ Son of God, the king of Israel,” by revealing to him the secret thoughts of his heart'.-At Cana' of Galilee, by the miracle of water turned into wine ; “ he manifested forth “ his glory, and his disciples believed in him”. In

[ocr errors]

9 John i. 35-39. Newcome's Harmony, s 18.

John i. 45. © John ii. 11. Newcome's Harmony, s 19. This miracle is fully vindicated from the objections of unbelievers, by Archbishop Newcome, in his view of our Lord's character, p. 2. ch. 1. $ 5.-P. 347. By Bishop Law, in his reflections on the life and character of Chritt, annexed to his theory of religion, p. 284. note kk. Also in Stackhouse's history of the bible, vol. 5. p. 356. Also in the miracles of Jesus vindicated, fupposed to be written by Dr. Pierce, bifhop of Rochester, 2d edit. Lond. 1729, part iii. p. 22.


[ocr errors]

Jerusalem, when the whole nation was assembled to celebrate the pafsover, our Lord asserted his facred dignity, and proved it by the stupendous miracles he wrought-s'even on the feast day many believed in his name when they saw the miracles which he did.

To this public manifestation of his power his disciples must surely have been attentive witnesses, Nor were thefe public miracles the only proofs afforded to those whom he meant to select for his apostles ; their gracious Lord condescended to work some particular miracles for their particular convic, tion and advantage. The supernatural draught" of fifhes, of which Peter and Andrew, James and John, were the astonished witnesses, prepared them to leave all things that they might follow and obey his facred call. The fincere faith of Peter was rewarded and confirmed by the miraculous restoration of his mother from the bed of death; and his house was the scene, around which crouds afsembled and supplicated the all-powerful interpofition of our Saviour's mercy to heal their various diseases, and all received his gracious aid.



John ii. 23. Newcome's Harmony, s 20, p. 28. u Mark i. 16-20. Luke v.

Newcome's Har. mony, Ø 26. p. 38, notes, p. 13. * Matt. viii. 14-17. Mark i. 29-34.

Luke iv.38-41, Newcome's Harmony, ♡ 28, p. 40, notes p. 14.



Thus the faith of his * followers was originally founded, not on 'blind credulity, but on rational conviction--not on internal persuasion alone, but on clear and stupendous miracles, proofs submitted to their senses and approved by their reason,

* In stating the facts which it seemed necessary to notice, I have followed the order adopted by Primate Newcome in his Harmony, and have with him supposed the ministry of our Lord to have held during three years, or more. But though I am persuaded of the truth of this hypothesis, I think it 'expedient to remark, that its truth is no way essential to my argument ; if we adopt the opinion of Dr. Mann, and Dr. Priestly, that our Lord's ministry terminated in a year and a few months, and follow the order of events, which this hy. pothesis requires; still the main series of facts on which my reasonings are founded remains unchanged. The apostles had the same causes to attract their attention at first, and strengthen their conviction in every step of its progress; the only difference is that on the latter fystem the events are united together more closely--they exhibit the fame caufes, but in somewhat a more rapid fucceffion producing the same effects.-In proof of this I refer my reader to Dr. Priestly's Harmony, s 10, on the order of the events and the calendar of our Saviour's miniftry annexed to the harmony---he makes a greater number of miracles precede the selection of the twelve, but fewer intervene between that selection' and their first mission.

y Newcome's Preface to his Harmony, p. 5. « Previously “ to the call of the four apostles, Mark i, 16–28. Andrew “ had been the Baptists disciple, and had received his testi“ mony to Jesus (probably also St. John, according to the belt

commentators on John i. 35) Peter had been brought to Jesus “ by Andrew, his brother, and Jesus had shewn more than human knowledge, and more than human power,


pro bably had fallen within the experience of these disciples, or,

at least, must have gained their belief on the firmest " grounds."

« PreviousContinue »