« PreviousContinue »
very good ones, should labour to undervalue what they call historical belief; and to treat it as something quite different from what the Scriptures recognise under the term faith. I own that I cannot perceive the soundness or the utility of this distinction
That a mere formal declaration of assent to the truth of Christianity, without suffering it to have any influence over our lives, is not Scriptural faith, I readily admit. But neither is such conduct consistent with a sincere and conscientious belief of it. Nor can it be denied, that Christians unhappily deduce very different creeds and very different doctrines from the same Scriptures; but still, whatever be their creed or their doctrines, and whether they have much or no effect upon their conduct, the Christian revelation is strictly historical; and our belief in it must be founded in our conviction of the veracity of those who have handed it down to us.
But although it is undoubtedly a matter of history, it is discriminated from all other histories by circumstances altogether peculiar and important. And first by that which our services, at this time particularly, force upon our attention; that it is a history of events
would now make of this passage is to prove, that those parts of the Old Testament, which we consider to be prophetical, were always so considered. And when we reflect
their number, and the variety of minute particulars which they contain; all of which (to say the least) may, without any very forced construction, be applied to the person and the history of Jesus Christ, it raises a very strong presumption, that they have rightly been so applied. But when we consider the great body of evidence that we have, of the genuineness and authenticity of the New Testament; and what, upon the lowest estimation, it proves the Author of our religion to have been, how can we refuse our credit to him, when we are told, that he expounded to his disciples, from Moses and all the Prophets, the things concerning himself, and consequently, that all those events which, we are assured by the Evangelists, happened to fulfil certain predictions, rest upon his own authority, and were derived by those writers immediately from himself?
It may seem, at first sight, very extraordinary that so many of the Jews, who were familiar with these prophecies, should, notwithstanding his numerous miracles, have been unconvinced by his declaration, that he was the person to whom they referred, and in whom they terminated. This has not escaped the notice of a late celebrated historian; who has observed, in his peculiar manner, that “ in contradiction to every known principle of the human mind, that singular people seem to have yielded a stronger and more ready assent to the traditions of their remote ancestors, than to the evidence of their own senses ?." But he has omitted to add, in order to account for this, (though he could not have been ignorant of it) that this their character and conduct, is itself the subject of prophecy from Moses to Isaiah. Insomuch that this incredulity of the Jews, in our Saviour's Messiahship, is in fact one of the strongest arguments of its truth: as their general belief in him would not have been a fulfilment, but a contradiction of their Scriptures. And their very existence at this time, and under their present circumstances, is a powerful corroboration both of the Mosaic and of the Christian dispensations.
from the earth, the eternal destiny of every individual hangs suspended upon the truth of this awful doctrine. To all who now exist, it offers the most powerful motives, to fix their religious faith, and to improve in holiness of life. When we are satisfied of the truth of the first advent of our Saviour, our belief in his second coming will be almost its inevitable result. And when we reflect upon the alternatives which that great event will present to us, it seems impossible that we should hesitate to make it the chief business of our lives, seriously to prepare for it.
The substance of the text then may be resolved into these two points: first, the fact of our Saviour's first coming and its object; and secondly, the promise of his future coming, with its consequences. In discussing these propositions, some topics will probably arise of considerable difficulty: in which we must content ourselves with approximating to the truth, rather than attaining it. But this should not be a matter of surprise to us, or any ground of doubt. On the contrary, it is in reality, when well considered, a firm foundation for confidence. The analogy between what we learn by our senses and reflection,