Page images
PDF
EPUB

every creature ;' and it can scarce be thought, that they who had so profound a veneration for our Lord Jesus, would entirely neglect the commission he gave them. It does not appear that all the aposties of the circumcision kept together in and about Jerusalem, as he pretends, during all St. Paul's travels.' There is no proof that they were all of them together there at any one time when St. Paul came thither, not even at the council at Jerusalem. Or if they were, it no more proves that they were there continually, than St. Paul's being there at those times proves that he was always there. The only apostle that there is any reason to think resided constantly at Jerusalem is St. James, who alone is mentioned at St. Paul's being the last time at Jerusalem, Acts xxi. 18; and Luke's silence about the travels and labours of the other apostles, which this author urges, is no proof at all; since he did not intend to write down the Acts of all the apostles, but chiefly of St. Paul, whose companion he was ; and after his conversion he takes not much notice of any other. We find from Gal. ii. 11, that St. Peter was at Antioch, and from his own epistle, that he was at Babylon; whether that be to be understood of Babylon properly so called, or of Rome, as some suppose; yet St. Luke takes not the least notice of either of these ; so that no argument can be drawn merely from his silence. As to what he farther urges, “ that it is not to be supposed that these men, who were rigidly strict to the law, should thus disperse themselves among the heathen nations, where they could neither eat nor drink with any body;' he can neither prove that the apostles were so rigidly strict to the law as he supposes, the contrary to which has been shown; nor if he could, would it prove, that they would not travel among the heathen nations for their conversion. Since it is an undeniable fact, that those Jews who were most strict in the observance of the law, did yet go among the heathen to proselyte them, and did actually, from time to time, turn many of them from their idolatry. So that this writer might have spared his reflections here, except he could have brought some better arguments to support them. That Christianity made a vast progress, even in the apostolic age, is certain, not only from several passages in Scripture, * as well as in Christian writers, much elder than the fourth century,t but from the testimony of heathen writers themselves, particularlyf Tacitus with regard to the apostolic age, and of Pliny for that immediately following. And considering that

6

a

See Rom. xv. 19, Col. v, 6, 23, ii, 1, 1 Peter i, 1, v. 13. + I shall mention particularly that of Justin Martyr, who fourished in a little more than a hundred years after the death of our Saviour. In bis dialogue with Trypho, upon occasion of that text in Malachi, chap. i. after having observed, that though the Jews were much dispersed, yet there were some nations among whom pone of them'erer yet dwelt; he adds, ουδε έν γαρ όλως εστί το γένος άνθρωπων είτε βαρβάρων είτε en nvwv, &c. .There is no nation of men, whether barbarians or Greeks, or by whatever name they are called, &c. among whom prayers and thanksgivings are not offered to the Father and Maker of all things, through the name of a crucified Jesus.' Allowing these expressions to be a little hyperbolical, they show that Christianity had then made a very wide progress in different parts of the world.

Tacit. Annal. lib. 15. Plin. Epist. lib. 10. Epist. 97, ad Trajan.

it had no worldly advantages to attend it, that it had the artifices and influence of the priests, the bigotry and superstition of the vulgar, the inveterate prejudices both of the Jews and Gentiles, and the vicious appetites and passions of men engaged against it; and considering the weakness and meanness of the instruments by whom it was first propagated, and the persecutions to which the professors of it were exposed, it is impossible to account for the amazing progress it made, without supposing the truth and evidence of those facts on which it is founded, and especially of the extraordinary gifts poured forth in the apostolic age; among which that of tongues was very remarkable, and particularly fitted to promote the spreading of Christianity in different nations. And if all these apostolical gifts had been no more than frantic fits of enthusiasm, and the primitive Christians were such a parcel of madmen as this writer thinks fit to represent them, I am persuaded that Christianity and its professors would soon have sunk into the same obscurity with the French prophets, to whom he is pleased to compare them. I had observed, that among other gifts of the apostolical age, one was the gift of wisdom and knowledge, whereby they had their minds extraordinarily enlightened in the knowledge of spiritual and divine things, and that it cannot be pretended that this was one of those gifts that were capable of being abused to propagate error and falsehood ; 'since it is a contradiction to suppose, that any person should, by the exercise of this gift of divine wisdom and knowledge, that is, by the very actual exercise of the knowledge of truth, and by declaring and imparting to others the knowledge he himself had of the truth, promote and propagate false doctrine and error.' Our author makes himself very merry with this, and thinks it is not possible for any man to read it and forbear laughing.' But the ridicule turns upon himself. The supposition he had made in his former book, concerning the extraordinary gifts in the apostolic age was this, that those that were endued with those gifts might make either a good or bad use of them, as much as of any natural faculties or talents ;' where he evidently runs a parallel between natural faculties and talents and the apostolical gifts, and supposes them to be alike in this, that they were equally capable of being applied to good or ill purposes. This will easily be allowed with regard to natural faculties and talents. For when a man uses those talents, e. g. his judgment, fancy, sagacity, eloquence, to promote error and vice, he as really uses his faculties and talents, as if he employed them in the cause of truth and virtue, only he makes a wrong or bad use of them. But the case is different with regard to some of the apostolical gifts. They were not like natural faculties, which may be really used and exercised, and in that use and exercise be applied to promote error as well as truth ; but they were of such a nature, as if really used and exercised at all, could only serve the cause of truth. Of this kind I reckoned the gift of divine wisdom and knowledge, which included the illuminating of their minds with the actual knowledge of divine truth. Now it is manifest, that whenever this gift was really exercised, it could only serve the cause of truth. Knowledge may be used to promote error, but the knowledge of truth cannot. Ånd the contrary supposition is absurd and self-contradictory.

P. 235, he allows that the power of working miracles was not a permanent abiding habit to be exercised at any time, and at mere will and pleasure ; that it was not constant, but occasional; yet he asserts, that whenever they had this power and could exercise it, as they were free agents in it, they might make a good or bad use of it, as much as of any natural power they had, and in the exercise of which they were free,' p. 236. But if the apostles did not work miracles by their own power, but by the immediate impulse and agency of the Divine Spirit, and could never perform those miracles at any time but when he thought fit to enable them to do them ; it is absurd to the last degree to suppose that they could exercise that power for such purposes as they themselves pleased, contrary to the mind of the Spirit by whom they were at that time enabled to exercise it. If therefore they should have attempted at any time to work such miracles in confirmation of falsehood, they must have immediately failed in the attempt; except we suppose the Spirit himself, by whose influence these miracles were wrought, and on whose will it depended when they should work them, intended to confirm falsehood, and lent his power for that purpose. To suppose which of a good Spirit, which is the present supposition, is a manifest inconsistency. As to his insinuation, p. 235, as if the efficacy of the miracles depended on the faith of healing,' which he thinks 'madmen and lunatics might have in a higher degree than others, as they had the greatest force of imagination ;' I would know when the dead were raised, as Eutychus was by the apostle Paul, and Dorcas by St. Peter, whether the faith and imagination of these dead persons did also co-operate to their being raised again? Or, did the faith of the impotent man that had been lame from his mother's womb, i. e. his belief that the apostles would give him money, for this was all he expected from them ; did this imagination of his enable them in an instant, by a word speaking, to restore him to the perfect use of his limbs ? Acts in. 4–8. But I shall say no more of this here, having taken notice of it before ; and besides, our author is pleased afterwards to own, p. 236, that

the cure of a fever, or any common distemper, by a touch or word of command, must be allowed to be very extraordinary and miraculous.'

485

CHAPTER XI.

The Author's attempt to vindicate what he had said concerning the Apostle's preaching

different Gospels, shown to be vain and insufficient. His censures on the Apocalypse considered. The doctrine of Christ's satisfaction farther vindicated against bis exceptions. His concluding attempt to prove that there are plain marks of imposture in the law of Moses, and particularly that it was calculated to advance the carnal worldly interest of the politician, and that it gave a large indulgence to personal intemperance, and the lusts of uncleanness. The strange representations he makes of the law of jealousy. The injustice of his reflections upon it shown. The Conclusion.

This writer had, in his former book, made a mighty noise about the different gospels preached by the apostles. He had given a formal account of the Jewish gospel, which he pretends was taught by all the apostles but St. Paul. This pretended Jewish gospel was shown to be entirely his own fiction.* It highly concerned him, therefore, since he had laid so great a stress upon it, to vindicate what he had offered on this head, if he had been able to do it. And he assures us, in the contents of his ninth section, which I am now going to consider, that he has proved that there was a real separation between Peter and Paul, occasioned by the different gospels they preached. One would, therefore, have expected here some vindication of his Jewish gospels, but nothing of this appears. He crys out, as his custom is, against systems and school divinity, which to be sure is very pertinent to the point in debate. And then he answers all that I had said by asking a few questions, which he supposes must take me three or four volumes more to answer.' One of them relates to the long and warm debates in the Jerusalem council; but how this will prove a difference among the apostles is hard to see; since it appears that there was an entire harmony among them, and that they all concurred in condemning the false Judaizing teachers, as subverting men's souls, and in absolving the Gentiles from the observation of the law of Moses. He next mentions Paul's withstanding Peter to the face, and charging him with prevarication and inconsistency. But this doth not prove that they preached different gospels. On the contrary, it appears evidently, from that very passage, that St. Peter did not believe the absolute obligation of the ceremonial law more than St. Paul; that the difference between them was not about any point of doctrine ; but because Peter, for fear of giving offence to some of the Jews that came from Jerusalem, declined eating openly with the Gentiles as he had done before; for this he was blamed by St. Paul. And this apostle, in what he saith to him on that occasion, proceeds upon it as an uncontested truth, in which

[ocr errors]

* See Div. Author, pp. 231-232.

6

he and St. Peter were agreed; that we are justified, not by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ,' Gal. ii. 15, 16. Our author's next question supposes, that James 'sent down his Jewish zealots to Antioch, after the decree of the council, to insist upon circumcision and obedience to the whole law. But this cannot reasonably be supposed, since we find that James himself was one of the principal of those that in the council of Jerusalem argued for exempting the Gentiles from those things, and joined in branding those as troublers of the churches, and subverters of men's souls, that insisted upon it. And afterwards we find him representing it as a fixed point, agreed and concluded upon, that the · Gentiles should observe no such things, Acts xxi. 25. Our author's following questions go upon these suppositions : 'that Peter and Paul broke upon this, and a schism in the church happened upon it during the whole apostolical age;' the absolute falsehood of wbich was clearly and fully shown in my former book, to which he has not been able to make the least reply.* That St. Paul, 'long after this, in his Epistle to the Galatians, mentions Peter personally, and by name, five or six times, as the head and ring leader of those Judaizers ; and that he openly and plainly charges the Judaizing apostles and teachers,' by which this writer means all the apostles of our Lord, except St. Paul himself, -as false apostles and teachers, and for usurping the ministry, which had been wholly left to him. All this is purely fiction, since, on the contrary, it is evident from the account St. Paul himself gives, that there was an entire harmony and agreement between him and the other apostles, of whom St. Peter was one of the chief. That they approved his doctrine, and owned his divine mission; and he plainly distinguishes between the apostles, and those whom he calls · false brethren,' who came in privily to spy out their liberty,' Gal. ii. 2--10. Thus I have gone through the author's questions, which, with the invectives he is pleased here to bestow very plentifully upon me, and which it is neither worth my while nor the reader's to take the least notice of, is all that he offers to show that the apostles preached different gospels; and must pass for a full answer to the clear and direct proofs I have brought to the contrary.

He goes on, p. 240, &c., to say something again about the Jerusalem council, and repeats what he had said in his former book, that the Jerusalem council enjoined the law of proselytism upon the heathen Gentile converts ; and this law of proselytism he explains to be a total absolute separation from the rest of the world, with regard to eating, drinking, cohabitation, intermarriages,' &c. He should have told us from what memoirs he comes to know that the Jerusalem councils enjoined this upon the Gentile converts. For it is certain there is no mention of any such injunction in the account given us of that council, in the Acts of the Apostles, nor of the difference and schism between them and St.

6

* See Div. Author, pp, 236, 248, 249.

« PreviousContinue »