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the whole world this faith and this doctrine, therefore I am à debtor to the Greeks and barbarians; I would make others partakers of the same hope. Would to God, that not only thou, Agrippa, but all those that hear me, were not only almost, but altogether such as I am, except only these bonds, these sufferings which I endure for Christ's sake; Acts xxvi. 22.
4. I am not ashamed to contend for it as a good soldier of Christ; to defend it when it is attacked, and to vindicate the cause of my Lord and Master. Where it is assaulted I endeavour to secure it, though with many reproaches from the carnal prejudices of mankind. I oppose them all; for they oppose my Saviour and his cross, and I build my everlasting hopes there. I am set for the defence of the gospel of Christ; Phil. 1. 17. and I will contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints; Jude ver. 3. And he gave us an instance of it, that when Peter, who was an apostle, seemed to diminish some of the glory and the liberty of the gospel, he withstood him to the face; Gal. ii. 11. "There shall no man silence me, or stop my mouth, when I am preaching a crucified Saviour, and when I express my faith in the liberty and latitude of the gospel of Christ. For if I durst withstand an apostle under his criminal concealments, and in his diminution of the honour of this doctrine, surely I dare oppose all the world besides."
5. Lastly, I am not ashamed to suffer and die for it as a martyr. Load me with reproaches, ye Jews, my countrymen, and load me with chains, ye magistrates of Rome; of none of these am I ashamed or afraid, but with all boldness I am always ready that Christ should be magnified in my life, or my death; Phil. i. 14, 20. And as for my friends that are full of sorrow lest Paul should be sacrificed for the faith of Christ, What mourn ye, and break my heart for? I am not only ready to be bound, but to die for the sake of Christ. I count nothing dear to me, no nor my life precious to myself, that 1 may finish with joy the course of my ministry of this gospel, that I may testify the grace of my God; Acts xx. 24. and xxi. 13.
I might add also, that St. Paul intends and means more than he expresses by a very usual figure of speech: I am not ashamed of it, that is, I glory in it, I make my boast of it. If there be any doctrine worth boasting of, it is the gospel of Christ. If I have any profession to glory in, it is that I am a christian. Once I was a pharisee, and I counted it my gain and my honour; Phil. iii. 7, 8. But what things were gain to me, these I counted loss for Christ; yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. I glory in being a minister of the gospel; it is the highest honour God could have put upon me, who am less than the least of
all saints. To me is this grace given to preach among the gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; Eph. iii. 8. 1 glory in it to that degree, that I am dead to all things else. God forbid I should glory in any thing save in the cross of our Lord Jesus, whereby the world is crucified to me, and I to the world; Gal. vi. 14. I glory in my sufferings: and, my friends, if ye understood the value of these things, they are your glory too. If I am offered up a sacrifice for the service of your faith; I joy and rejoice together with all; Phill. ii. 17. O! that you would but rejoice together with me in it. Thus I have shewed you that all these things are implied in St. Paul's not being ashamed of the gospel of Christ, and I have proved it to you from other parts of his epistles.
The third general head I proposed to speak to, was this; What is there in this gospel that may be supposed to expose any man to shame! And this question is very needful; for if there were nothing in it that men might take occasion to throw their scandals and reproaches at, it had been no great matter for St. Paul to have cried out, I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.
To this I answer in general, this was a gospel that contradicted the rooted prejudices of the Jews, and was severely reproached by those that professed great knowledge in their law; it was also a new and strange thing to the Gentiles. A crucified Christ was a stumbling-block to the Jews, and foolishness to the Greeks; 1 Cor. i. 23. There was something in the faith, and practice, and worship of the gospel so contrary to the course of their education in the world, so opposite to their carnal inclinations, and to the customs and fashions of their country, that a man might well be afraid and ashamed to profess it, when they lift their tongues,, and their hands, and their swords against it, and the chief of them crucified the Lord of glory, and put the preachers of it to death.
Thus in general. But while I descend to particulars, I shall confine myself only to those occasions of shame, which the same gospel micets with in our day, that so the discourse may be more useful, to the present audience; and as I mention each objection or supposed occasion of shame, I shall endeavour to take off the force of it, and shew that it is unreasonable.
Now the things that might any ways be supposed to expose this gospel to shame, may be ranked under these two heads:
I. Those which arise from the doctrines of the gospel: And, H.-Those which arise from the professors of the gospel.
First, The occasions of shame that arise from the doctrines of the gospel, are these five that follow:
I. That there are mysteries in it which are above the powers of our reason to comprehend, and I will never believe a gospel that I cannot comprehend. This is the language of Socinians, men that have pretended so much to reason in our day.
But to relieve this occasion of shame, let us consider that mysteries are of two sorts.
First, Such as we should never have known but by divine revelation; but being once revealed, they may be fairly explained and understood. Such is the doctrine of the satisfaction of Christ, of the resurrection of the dead, of the forgiveness of sins for the sake of Christ's sufferings, and of eternal life in a future world. I say, these are all mysteries that were hid from ages, that is, they are such truths which nature or reason could not have found out of itself, but being once revealed to us of God, may be fairly explained and well understood. Other sort of mysteries are those, which when revealed unto us, we know merely the existence, or reality and certainty of them, but cannot comprehend the mode and manner how they are. And of this kind there are but two that I know of which are peculiar to our religion, and which are the chief objects of offence to some men. These are the mysteries of the blessed Trinity, and the mystery of the incarnation of Christ. The mystery of Three, whom the scripture describes as persons, who have some glorious communion in one godhead! and the mystery of two natures united in one person.
Now, though the way and manner how the three persons, Father, Son, and Spirit, should be one God, and how two natures, human and divine, should be one person in Christ Jesus; I say, though the way and manner how these things are, is not so easy to be explained and unfolded by us, and above our own present capacity to comprehend and fully to explain, yet I could never find these things proved impossible to be. If I must refuse to believe a thing that I know not the manner and nature of, there are many things in the world of nature, and in natural religion, that I must disbelieve. Let them explain to me in natural religion what is the eternity of God, what ideas they can have of a being that never began to be; and then perhaps I may be able to explain to them how three persons can have communion in one godhead, and how two natures can be one in person. I am well assured, there are some doctrines in natural religion as difficult to be explained, and hard to be understood, and the manner of them is as mysterious, as these doctrines of revealed religion, which are also rendered more offensive to the thinking mind, by some men's attempts to explain them in an unhappy manner.
But we may go a step lower to meet this objection, and con
found it. In the world of nature there are mysteries of this kind, which are as unaccountable and as hard to be unfolded as the mysteries of grace. It is the doctrine of union both in the trinity and the incarnation, which renders them so mysterious. Now this doctrine of unions in natural philosophy hath been hitherto insolvable. We know that spirit and body are united to make a man: But the manner how they are united, remains still a most difficult question. We know that some bodies are hard, and some are soft; but what it is that ties or unites hard bodies so closely together, and makes them so difficult to be separated, is a riddle to the best philosophers, which they cannot solve; or what it is that renders the parts of soft bodies so easily separable. And many other things there are in nature as mysterious as this.
Besides, if it were possible for us to explain all things in nature, and to write a perfect book of natural philosophy with the most accurate skill, yet it would not follow that we must know God the Creator to perfection. The things of God are infinitely superior to the things of men. The nature of a Creator in his manner of existence is infinitely above the nature of creatures in theirs. It is fit there should be something belonging to God an infinite Spirit, that is incomprehensible, and above the power of finite spirits to comprehend, and fully search out and explain. It ought therefore to be no just ground of shame to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, that it has mysteries in it, that is to say, that it has some doctrines in it, which we could never have found out by the mere light of reason; and some truths, the full explication whereof we can never attain to, since there are many things in the world of nature, in the world of bodies and souls, and many things in natural religion, which we cannot fully explain.
II. Another occasion of reproach, which men fasten upon the gospel, is, that some of the doctrines are so singular and contrary to the common opinions and reasonings of men; such as that the ever-blessed God should want a satisfaction, in order to pardon sin with honour; that he should punish the most innocent and obedient man that ever lived, even his own Son, for the sins of wicked and rebellious creatures; that we should be freed from hell, which we had deserved, by the sufferings of another in our stead; that one man should be justified with another's obedience; nay, that ten thousands of men should be pardoned and justified for the sake of the obedience and death of one single man ; that all our own repentance is not sufficient of itself to obtain our pardon; and our holiness, be it never so great, does not procure as a title to the favour of God and heaven; that dead bodies, though mouldered in the grave for thousands of years, should bo
raised again to life and immortality: These are such strange doctrines, so very foreign to the common sentiments of most men, that some of the Athenians cried out, "What does this babbler. mean?" A man should be ashamed of these things; the very heathen philosophers called it foolishness.
But now to remove this scandal, let us consider that many of these things are not so contrary to the reason of men as some think: As for the satisfaction made for our sins by the sufferings of Christ, did not almost all the heathen world suppose that God would not pardon sin without satisfaction? What else mean all their bloody sacrifices? And why did they sometimes proceed so far as to murder men, and offer them to God for their sins? I confess indeed, that many of the philosophers and learned men amongst them, who derided the gospel of Christ, did also despise the sacrifices and religious ceremonies of their own countrymen, believing that God would be merciful to men that were penitent and pious, without any rites of atonement and sacrifice. But it is as evident also, that the people had a general notion of the necessity of some atonement for sin, and that the more valuable the sacrifice was, the sooner was their god appeased, and the benefit procured would be more extensive, howsoever the philosophers might ridicule it. It is manifest then, that many of the heathens did imagine that the death and sufferings of one person would procure pardon and immunities for a whole multitude. And upon this principle some of the ancient Romans, now and then, out of nobility of spirit, devoted themselves to death, to appease the anger of the gods, for their whole country. Thus it appears, that the business of satisfaction for sin, and the doctrine of expiation and atonement by the blood and death of a surety, was not so utterly unknown in the world.
I add farther, that the notion of one person's making satisfaction for the crime of another in human and political affairs, has been sometimes practised, and thought to be very intelligible; and why should it be counted so very monstrous and absurd in' things divine? Do we understand what it is for one man to become a surety for another, or for a criminal to be set free from punishment by the voluntary substitution of another person in his stead? Are we not well acquainted what it is for one man to pay the debt of another, and the original person that was obliged thereby, to become free? Do we not know what it is for a whole family of children to inherit a possession for many ages, one after another, for some noble acts and services of their father? Therefore honour, and glory, and happiness, betowed upon a multitude, for the sake of what one man has done, is not so unintelligible a thing as some men would persuade us. Why should that be esteemed impossible in the aflair of religion, which is evident and plainly practicable in the affairs of this world?