« PreviousContinue »
that will constitute us Christians. Our lives must attest the sincerity of our faith. If good actions alone will not save us, much less can we be saved without them. They are pleasing and acceptable to God (says our article) in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively faith, insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit. The clearest doctrine of the Gospel is this, that we must practise its precepts. If ye love me, (says our Saviour) keep my commandments. May this injunction be always present in our minds, and binding upon our consciences : and we shall infallibly feel that joy which true Christianity is designed to inspire ! A joy not confined to our own bosoms, but of the most diffusive and comprehensive kind; anxious to impart itself not only to all Christians of every denomination, but extending its sympathy to the whole human race. A joy, not casual and transient, but constantly filling our hearts with the satisfaction of knowing, that we are endeavouring at least to perform our duty to God and our fellow-creatures. A joy, which will survive every other joy which this world can afford, by cheering that solemn hour when
we must all leave it, with the bright prospect of eternal happiness in the world to come.
Let us embrace then the present opportunity of affording a proof both of our faith and obedience. Let us approach the table of our Lord, and there at once renew our vows of fidelity to him, and of peace and charity with each other! Let no light, or trivial cause, or groundless apprehension, interfere with this sacred duty! If we are conscious that our faith is neither so firm, nor our conduct so pure, as they might be; let us pray at the altar of our God for grace to invigorate the one, and to amend the other! Above all, let us not select the day upon which we celebrate the nativity of our Lord, for disobeying this his almost last injunction-Do this in remembrance of me.
MATTHEW xi. 3.
Art thou He that should come, or do we look for
What was the object of the Baptist in pro posing this question to Jesus, is not quite certain.
Whether it were to satisfy his own doubts, or those of his disciples, does not dis+ tinctly appear. But into these considerations; (though they are neither uninteresting nor unprofitable,) it is not my present purpose to enter. My intention is to regard the text in a different point of view, to bring it more immediately home to ourselves, to treat it as a topic of present enquiry ; and to see what answer our reason and consciences, aided by the light of the Scriptures, and the experience of eighteen centuries will enable us to return to it. If, as preliminary to the question, whether Jesus were the promised Messiah;
another should be asked; namely, was the advent of such a person a matter of expediency or necessity ? I should reply in the words of Paley, that “I deem it unnecessary to prove . that mankind stood in need of a Revelation, because I have met with no serious person who thinks that, even under the Christian dispensation, we have too much light, or any degree of assurance that is superfluous !.” Taking it for granted then, that there were at the time of the advent of our Saviour, and but for that advent, there would be now some things highly important for us to know, but absolutely beyond our faculties to discover; I shall enquire, whether the light which he has thrown upon those vital, but perplexing subjects, be not sufficient (independently of the direct proofs which we have,) to render it in the highest degree probable, that he was that Person, whose appearance the Baptist, in common with his countrymen, at that time expected ?--The answer returned by our Lord to his question, is well known. He referred to his miracles, and to their beneficent character, and to the fact that his Gospel was preached to the poor :
1 Evidences, vol. i. p. 1.
that is, that it was addressed to all mankind, (for if it was intelligible to the humblest classes of society, it must of necessity be so to those of more elevated condition)—he referred to these things as proofs that he was commissioned by a Being of boundless power and goodness, to proclaim religious truth to the world!
It was formerly much more the custom than it is at present, to insist upon the principles of what is called natural religion. Many very able and excellent men have employed much learning, ability, and ingenuity, in treating of this topic : amongst whom I know of none more distinguished and more successful, than a writer of the last century, Mr. Wollaston ; yet, even in his profound and admirable reasoning, there lurks this fallacy—That it proceeds from a mind thoroughly enlightened by the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, and by all the deductions which, in a long course of ages, have been established upon their foundation. However just, therefore, his arguments may be, it remains to be proved, whether they could be invented by any one who was totally uninformed of the doctrines of Revelation : . and whether, in fact,