Imatges de pàgina
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'THE Lord Jesus before his death informed his apostles, (John xvi. 12,) that he had “ many things

to say to” them which they could not then bear; but that “when the Spirit of truth was come, he would guide them into all truth,” or rather, “ into all the truth," as Elç magav onu aanbelav properly signifies, namely, the whole truth comprehended in the gospel dispensation. From this it is evident, that Jesus, while he was on earth, did not declare, at least clearly and fully, all the doctrines of the gospel, all that was necessary to be believed and practised by mankind; but left many things to be revealed by the Holy Ghost, to the persons who, after his departure, were to make them known to the world. In this method of revealing the gospel, as Dr. Macknight has justly observed, “ there was both dignity and propriety. For the Son of God came from heaven, not [chiefly] to make the gospel revelation, but to be the subject of it, by doing and suffering all that was necessary to procure the salvation of mankind. But although it was not our Lord's intention to make a complete revelation of the gospel in person, he occasionally delivered many [indeed, most] of its doctrines and precepts in the hearing of his followers, that when the persons commissioned by him to preach the gospel in its full extent, executed their commission, the world, by observing the perfect conformity of their doctrine with his, might entertain no doubt of their authority and inspiration, in those further discoveries which they made concerning the matters of which Christ himself had spoken nothing."

One of the apostles, namely, Judas, having fallen from his office by transgression, the eleven judged it necessary to supply his place; and for that purpose chose Matthias, by lot. In this, however, some think they acted, not by the direction of the Holy Ghost, for he was not yet given them, but merely by the dictates of human prudence, which, on that occasion, they suppose, carried them too far; no man, nor body of men whatever, having power by their designation to confer an office whose authority was to bind the consciences of all men, and whose duties could not be performed without the gifts of extraordinary inspiration and miracles. To ordain an apostle, they say, belonged to Christ alone, who, with the appointment, could also confer the supernatural powers necessary to the function. Some time, therefore, after the election of Matthias, Jesus himself, they think, superseded it, by appointing another to be his apostle and witness in the place of Judas.“ In the choice of this new apostle, Jesus had a view to the conversion of the Gentiles; which, of all the services allotted to the apostles, was the most dangerous and difficult. For the person engaged in that work had to contend with the heathen priests, whose office and gains being annihilated by the spreading of the gospel, it was to be expected that they would oppose its preachers with an extreme rage. He had to contend, likewise, with the unbelieving Jews living in heathen countries, who would not fail to inflame the idolatrous multitude against any one who should preach salvation to the Gentiles without requiring them to obey the law of Moses. The philosophers too were to be encountered, who, no doubt, laboured to destroy it by persecuting its preachers and abetters. The difficulty and danger of preaching to the Gentiles being so great, the person who enaged in it certainly needed an uncom1.on strength of mind, a great degree of religious zeal, a courage superior to every danger, and a patience of labour and suffering not to be exhausted, together with much prudence, to enable him to avoid giving just offence to unbelievers. Besides these, natural talents, education, and literature were necessary, in the person who endeavoured to convert the Gentiles, that he might acquit himself with propriety when called before kings, and magistrates, and men of learning. All these talents and advantages Saul of Tarsus possessed in an eminent degree; and, having been a violent PREFACE TO THE EPISTLES.


persecutor of the Christians, his testimony to the resurrection of Jesus would have the greater weight, when he became a preacher of the gospel. Him, therefore, the Lord Jesus determined to make his apostle in the room of Judas; and for that purpose he appeared to him from heaven, as he journeyed to Damascus to persecute his disciples. And having convinced him of the truth of his resurrection, by thus appearing to him in person, he commissioned him to preach it to the Gentiles, together with the doctrines of the gospel, which were to be made known to him afterward by revelation. See Acts xxvi. 16–18. Such was the commission which Jesus, in person, gave to Saul of Tarsus, afterward called Paul; so that, although he had not attended Jesus during his ministry, he was, in respect both of his election to the office and his fitness for it, rightly numbered with the apostles.”—Macknight.

The apostles, having received their commission to preach the gospel to all nations, and being endued with divine inspiration and miraculous powers for that purpose, went forth and published the things which concerned the Lord Jesus, first in Judea, and afterward among the Gentiles; and, by the reasonableness of their doctrine, the holiness of their lives, the greatness of their sufferings, and the miracles which they performed, persuaded great multitudes, both of the Jews and Gentiles, to believe and obey the gospel, and openly to profess themselves Christ's disciples, notwithstanding, by so doing, they exposed themselves to sufferings and death. In is evident, therefore, that the world is indebted to the apostles, under God, for the complete knowledge of the gospel. Under God, it must be observed; for the praise of enlightening mankind is due only to them as instruments, the Divine Spirit communicating unto them that knowledge of the truths of the gospel wherewith they were to enlighten others, and confirming those truths by signs and wonders, and miracles innumerable.

Because the Author of the Christian religion left nothing in writing for the instruction of the world, the apostles and others, who were witnesses of his holy and benevolent actions, his miracles, his sufferings, his resurrection and ascension, and who heard his divine discourses, besides preaching these things to all nations, have taken care that the knowledge of them should not be left to the uncertainty of a vague tradition, handed down from age to age. Four of these witnesses wrote, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, histories of Christ's ministry, to which the name of gospels hath been given ; being the same which are in our possession at this day. In these excellent writings, every thing relating to the Lord Jesus is set forth in a plain, unadorned narration, which bears the clearest marks of authenticity. In like manner, that the revelation of the gospel doctrines, which was made to the apostles by the Spirit, and which they delivered to the world, in their discourses and conversation, might not be left to the uncertainty of tradition, but be preserved uncorrupted to the end of time, the Holy Ghost moved certain of these divinely-inspired teachers to commit their doctrine to writing, in epistles; some of which they addressed to particular churches, others to particular persons, and others to believers in general; all which are still in our possession.

Inasmuch, then, as in the four gospels and in the Acts, we have the history of our Lord's ministry and of the spreading of the gospel in the first age, written by inspiration; and, seeing that, in the apostolical epistles, the doctrines and precepts of our religion are set forth by the like inspiration, these writings ought to be highly esteemed by all Christians, as the rule of their faith and practice; and no doctrine ought to be received as an article of faith, nor any precept acknowledged as obligatory, but what is contained in them. With respect, however, to the gospels, and the Acts of the Apostles, let it be remarked that, while the greatest regard is due to them, especially to the gospels, because they contain the words of Christ himself, we are not in them to look for a full account of the gospel scheme. Their professed design is to give, not a complete delineation of our religion, but the history of its Founder, and of that illustrious display which he made of his glory, as the Son of God and Saviour of the world, together with an account of the spreading of the gospel after our Lord's ascension. The gospel doctrine is to be found complete only in the epistles, where it is exhibited



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