Imatges de pÓgina

But one of the apostles, Judas by name, 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, they acted not by the direction of the Holy Ghost, for he was not yet given to them, but merely by the dictates of human prudence, which, on that occasion, seems to have carried them too far. No man, nor body of men whatever, could, by their designation, confer an office, whose authority bound the consciences of all men, and whose duties could not be performed without the gifts of inspiration and miracles. To ordain an apostle belonged to Christ alone, who, with the appointment, could also give the supernatural powers necessary to the function. Some time, therefore, after the election of Matthias, Jesus himself seems to have superseded it, by appointing another to be his apostle and witness in the place of Judas.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 the 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, after their manner, would endeavour to overthrow the gospel by argument; whilst the magistrates and priests laboured to destroy it, by persecuting its preachers and abettors. The difficulty and danger of preaching to the Gentiles being so great, the person who engaged in it certainly needed an uncommon 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 attempted 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 being a violent 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 his resurrection to the Gentiles, together with the doctrines of the gospel, which were to be made known to him afterwards by revelation : Saying to him, Acts xxvi. 16. I have appeared to thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness, both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee ; 17. Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee; 18. To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness, &c. Such was the commission which Jesus in person gave to Saul of Tarsus, who afterwards was 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 of his fitness for it, rightly numbered with the apostles.

II. The apostles being ordered to tarry in Jerusalem till they were endowed with power from on high, they obeyed their master's command : and, on the tenth day after his ascension, which was the day of Pentecost, happening to be assembled in one place, with other disciples, to the number of about an hundred and twenty; Acts, ij. 2. Suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a mighty rushing wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues, like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them : 4. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. The Spirit manifested his presence with the disciples, by enabling them to speak fluently a variety of foreign languages, of which, till then, they were utterly ignorant. By this, his first gift, the Holy Ghost prepared our Lord's witnesses to preach his sufferings and resurrection to all nations, agreeably to their commission, without being obliged to wait till they learnt to speak the languages of the nations to whom they were sent. By this gift, likewise, the disciples were enabled immediately to publish those farther revelations of the gospel doctrine which the Spirit was afterwards to make to them, according to Christ's promise.

Although on the memorable occasion above mentioned, all the hundred and twenty disciples were filled with the Holy Ghost, his gifts were bestowed more abundantly on the apostles, VOL. I.


who had accompanied Jesus during his ministry on earth, and who were made his witnesses, for the purpose of testifying his sufferings and resurrection, and of preaching the gospel to all nations. These, by their commission and illumination, being authorized to direct the religious faith and practice of mankind, it was of great importance to the world to know, with certainty, who they were to whom that high honour belonged. To give us, therefore, full assurance in this matter, three of the writers of our Lord's history, by the direction of the Spirit, have not only recorded his election of the twelve to the apostolic office, but each hath given a separate catalogue of their names and designations.

It is to be remarked, however, that, notwithstanding the highest measures of inspiration and miraculous powers were bestowed on the apostles, they did not all possess these gifts in an equal degree. This we learn from Peter, one of the number, who tells us, 2 Peter iii. 15. that Paul wrote his epistles according to the wisdom given to him. This Paul likewise has insinuated, by calling Peter, James and John, pillars, Gal. ii. 9. and chief apostles, 2 Cor. xi. 5. xii. 11. Add, that if all the apostles possessed the gifts of inspiration and miracles in an equal degree, it will be difficult to understand how it has happened that only six of the twelve have written the revelations which were made to them, and that, while the preaching and miracles of those who are called chief apostles, are recorded by Luke, in his history of the Acts, nothing is said of the preaching and miracles of the rest; which is the more remarkable, as the miracles and preaching of some of the inferior ministers of the word, such as Stephen and Philip, are there particularly related. The apostles, it would seem, had different parts assigned to them by Christ, and were qualified, each for his own work, by such a measure of illumination and miraculous power as was requisite to it. May we not therefore suppose that the work allotted to the apostles, who have left nothing in writing concerning our religion, was to bear witness to that display which their master made of his own character as the Son of God, by his miracles and resurrection; and to publish to the world those revelations of the gospel doctrine which were made to them in common with the other apostles? So that, being favoured with no peculiar revelation, which merited to be committed to writing, they discharged the apostolical office both honourably and usefully, when they employed themselves in testifying to the world Christ's resurrec

tion, together with the things they had heard him speak, and seen him do, while they attended on him : especially if, as tradition informs us, they sealed their testimony concerning these matters with their blood.

The apostles having received their commission to preach the gospel to all nations, and, being furnished with inspiration and miraculous powers for that purpose, went forth and published the things which concern the Lord Jesus, first in Judea, and afterwards among the Gentiles: and, by the miracles which they wrought, persuaded great multitudes, both of the Jews and of the Gentiles, to believe the gospel, and openly to profess themselves Christ's disciples, notwithstanding by so doing they exposed themselves to sufferings and to death. It is evident, therefore, that the world is indebted to the apostles for the complete knowledge of the gospel scheme. Yet that praise is due to them only in a subordinate degree; for the Spirit, who revealed the gospel to the apostles, and enabled them to confirm it by miracles, received the whole from Christ. He therefore is the light of the world, and the Spirit who inspired the apostles shone on them with a light borrowed from him. So Christ himself hath told us, John xvi. 13. When the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth; for he shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear, that he shall speak, and he will show you things to come. 14. He shall glorify me ; for he shall receive of mine, and shull shew it unto you. 15. All things that the Father hath are mine ; therefore, said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you,

But here it must be remembered, to the honour of the apostle Paul, that being made an apostle for the purpose of converting the idolatrous gentiles, he laboured in that department more abundantly than all the other apostles. After having the gospel revealed to him by Christ, (Gal. i. 12.) and after receiving the power of working miracles, and of conferring miraculous gifts on them who should believe, (2 Cor. xii. 12, 13.) he first preached in Damascus, then went to Jerusalem, where he was introduced to Peter and James. But the Jews in that city, who were enraged against him for deserting their party, endeavouring to kill him, the brethren sent him away to Cilicia, his native country. From that time forth, St. Paul spent the greatest part of his life among the Gentiles, visiting one country after another with such unremitting diligence, that, at the time he wrote his epistle to the Romans, (ch. xv. 19.) from Jerusalem, and round about as far as Illyricum, he had fully preached the gospel of Christ. But, in the course of his labours, having met with great opposition, the Lord Jesus appeared to him on different occasions, to encourage him in his work; and in particular caught him


into the third heaven. So that, not only in respect of his election to the apostolic office, but in respect of the gifts and endowments bestowed on him, to fit him for that office, and of the success of his labours in it, St. Paul was not inferior to the very chiefest apostles, as he himself affirms. I may add, that, by the abundance of the revelations that were given him, he excelled the other apostles as much as he exceeded them in genius and learning. He did not, it is true, attend our Lord during his ministry; yet he had so complete a knowledge of all his transactions given him by revelation, that, in his epistles, most of which were written before the evangelists published their histories, he has alluded to many of the particulars which they have mentioned. Nay, in his discourse to the elders of Ephesus, he has preserved a remarkable saying of our Lord's, which none of the evangelists have recorded. Upon the whole, no reasonable person can entertain the least doubt of St. Paul's title to the apostleship. As little can there be any doubt concerning that high degree of illumination and miraculous power which was bestowed on him to render his ministry successful.

III. Because the author of the christian religion left nothing in writing for the instruction of the world, the apostles, and others, who were eye-witnesses of his virtues, his miracles, his sufferings, his resurrection and ascension, and who heard his di. vine 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 (who, I doubt not, were of the number of the hundred and twenty on whom the Holy Ghost fell at the first) wrote, under the direction of the 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. And because their master's character as the Son of God was most illustriously displayed in the conclusion of his ministry, when he was arraigned before the highest court of judicature in Juclea, for calling himself the Son of God, and was put to death as a blasphemer for so doing,

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