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Here, then, is a book, for which no probable Author can be found, if it be a fable. Call it the true word of the living God, and all the difficulty vanishes. His glory alone-his interest alone-is promoted by it. Wicked men could never have devised this: if good men have done it, and called the work a Divine revelation, it must have been by God's express command.
III. IF IT BE A FABLE, IT IS UNACCOUNTABLE THAT IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN SO LONG AND SO EXTENSIVELY FOLLOWED.
The New Testament has now been in existence-as every one knows, who knows anything about the matter-for nearly one thousand eight hundred years. What can have kept up its credit so long, if it be not true? How did it gain credit at all? The first Christians were not compelled or bribed to believe it; nay, all possible means were resorted to for extinguishing the new religion. The book of the Acts describes those means; and other histories, written at the time, give a similar testimony. Contempt, torments, losses, death-these were the price that Christians had to pay for their faith. And yet men of all ranks, all characters, all dispositions, embraced this dangerous religion. If it be a fable, the learned were imposed upon, as well as the ignorant; men who had much to lose, as well as those who had nothing; the cheerful, no less than the desponding; nay, frequently, those became its most ardent followers, who set out as its most determined opposers. Witness Saul of Tarsus ! -Will any thing but truth account for this?
IV. IF IT BE A FABLE, THE FOLLOWING OF IT HAS AT LEAST BEEN BENEFICIAL TO MANKIND.
All who are acquainted with the history of former
times, well know this, "if they would testify"—that the introduction of Christianity into any country has been the sure forerunner of civilization and improvement. Infidels themselves have acknowledged, that no Government could now do without it.-This, however, is the effect of Christianity, in its mere outward profession. What can it do-nay, what can it NOT do, where the Gospel is heartily believed, and faithfully acted upon? It can make the drunkard sober, the licentious chaste, the blasphemer meek and gentle, the thief honest, the murderer kind, the miser generous. It can heal the broken heart, give peace of conscience to the guilty, encourage the despairing, console the wretched. One little sentence here is worth all other books that ever were written; and, if fully believed, shall cure the most abandoned reprobate, and make him a happy and holy man. Ask you what it is? "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin!" 1
If that which produces these blessed effects be only a fable after all, yet how excellent is that fable! how worthy of all men to be received" as verity and truth!-Once more,
V. IF IT BE A FABLE, I MUST NEVERTHELESS
FOLLOW IT, TILL YOU CAN SHEW ME SOME MORE EXCELLENT WAY.
I want a guide in my ignorance; I want a comforter in my troubles.—Is Human Reason that guide? Alas! I find cause to distrust that, at every step which I take. It barely suffices to steer me clear of a thousand errors, between me and my fellow-creatures; but it tells me nothing of my Creator of the means of pleasing him, or of his purposes respecting me. I find heathen philosophers all blundering in the dark, simply
1 1 John i. 7.
to discover whether they had a Creator or no; and "professing themselves wise they became fools." 1 Reason, moreover, cannot keep me from dying, nor quiet my fear of that which shall come after death. What then can Reason do for me, when I shall have cast away Christ and his precious Gospel?-Again, Is Self-gratification the better comforter? What! to follow the devices and desires of my own heart, in spite of this forbidding fable? Something might be said for this, if, when the Bible were gone, we could then follow our own desires. But I find human law standing in my way, when I have rejected the Divine law. I must still suffer restraint ;-and surely it were more tolerable, from a holy and heavenly Father, than from a mere fellow-worm. Even when unbounded selfgratification is in my power, sooner or later I smart for using it. Thus it is, then :-to comply with the Bible is at first painful, but delightful afterwards; to follow my own lusts, is at first pleasing, but painful afterwards"at the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder." 2 And is this your more excellent way?
I will pursue the subject no further; but close with one important remark, addressed to those who suffer idle doubts still to linger in their minds. If the Gospel be not a fable, IT IS TRUTH; and Truth of such a nature, that you will be saved or lost, according as you believe or neglect it. It must be "followed; it must affect your heart, and influence your life! If it do not this, you may well wish it to be a fable-but can your wishes or vain words avail against the Almighty, to overthrow His truth? Oh, then, humble yourselves before Him. "Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper." "3 "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." 4
1 Rom. i. 22. 2 Prov. xxiii. 32. 32 Chron. xx. 20. 4 Acts xvi. 31.
MARK ii. 27.—And he said unto them, The Sabbath was made for man.
THESE words were spoken by our Lord in answer to the absurd accusation, that he had permitted his disciples to profane the Sabbath, by plucking the ears of corn as they passed through the fields upon that sacred day. He shewed them, that the most sacred things might be regarded as common, where the necessities of man required relief; as Abiathar the Priest did not scruple to satisfy the hunger of David and his men with the consecrated shew-bread, when there was no other at hand. Applying this to the fourth Commandment, he asserted, that even the Sabbath, though ordained for the express honour of God, was nevertheless intended for the benefit of man; hence it could never be unlawful to satisfy craving hunger, or to perform any work of real necessity, on the Sabbath day.
I propose, by God's asssistance, to examine this short declaration of Christ-that "the Sabbath was made
for man; in other words, to shew you, more at large, God's benevolent design in the institution of the Sabbath. "The Sabbath was made FOR MAN!"—yes, even when it was first instituted, in the day of man's innocency, in the Garden of Eden. The occasion, indeed, of its appointment, was God's ceasing from the work of creation. In memory of that great work, and of the completion of it, every seventh day was to be
regarded (while all the seven were holy) as more peculiarly holy to the Lord, the Creator. But had man himself no interest in this honour paid to his Maker? Yes; it led him to a closer intercourse-a more devout contemplation—a more enlarged admirationand a more intelligent love-of Him whom he thus honoured. And thus the Lord made even his own special honour the means of increasing the happiness of his creatures.
Since the Fall of man, more abundant considerations have arisen, which shew that God both foresaw that lamentable event, and, in prospect of it, graciously 66 made" his "Sabbath for man." I will mention three. He appointed it
1. AS A PERIODICAL REPRIEVE FROM THE CURSE, TO WHICH MAN IS NOW DOOMED.
As soon as Adam transgressed, "Cursed" (said the Lord) "is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life." The design of this curse, as it might seem, was uninterrupted labour. But the Sabbath (previously ordained, and doubtless with this view,) provides an interval of rest. On the six days we are not only compelled, but it is our duty, to toil and labour on the seventh, this is not demanded; and God's mercy ensures that it shall not be necessary. He might have so ordained the curse, that the intermission of this one day should reproduce all the thorns and thistles which the previous toil had subdued, and irrecoverably stop the growth of vegetation. But, instead of this, he gives a day of safe rest; taking upon himself, as it were, the labour of the earth for this day, that man may be eased of the curse and be thankful.
1 Genesis iii. 17.