« PreviousContinue »
TO THE READER.
A few months since, I was requested to furnish, for publication, a copy of a discourse delivered at the dedication of a Christian Chapel. As I preached extempore, and without notes, I felt that I had a sufficient apology for not complying with the request. About a month after, I was called upon by the same committee, and vehemently urged to furnish a copy. My reluctance, which before seemed invincible, gave way; and I commenced preparing the manuscript. At this time I thought of publishing only a sermon. The work, however, multiplied upon my hands; and the result is, I have made a book. More than half the following pages were written after the printer commenced. During which time, my pastoral labors were considerably greater than ordinary.
By laying aside the form of a sermon, I have felt myself freed from some embarassment; and have taken the liberty to extend the argument more in detail. I hope my friends, by whose request I have been induced to appear before the public, will excuse the alterations which have been made, and the extension of the argu
New-BEDFORD, March, 1837.
TRUE BELIEVER'S DEFENCE.
DESIGN OF JOHN'S GOSPEL.
JOHN XX. 31. "But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name."
I begin with this text, because it decides upon four important points of controversy, which, for ages, have divided and distracted the Church.
First, it decides what we must believe, concerning our Lord Jesus Christ, in order to be saved. Some require us, at our peril, to believe that Jesus Christ is God; others, that he is equal with God; and others, that he is very God and very man. To the true penitent, who utters, with a full and bursting heart, the important inquiry, What must I do to be saved ? it is infinitely sweet to turn away from the vain and contradictory speculations of men, to the pure Word of God—to the words of our text, which unequivocally promise life to all who religiously believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
Secondly, our text decides for what purpose John wrote his Gospel. It is contended that his object was to prove, what is called in the Schools, the proper Deity of Christ. This is inferred particularly from the first verse of the
proem to John's Gospel, and from the fact, which I believe is admitted by all, that the other Evangelists, especially Mark and Luke, say little or nothing in favor of the Trinitarian doctrine, which asserts that Christ is God. In casting my eye over the proof texts for this doctrine, as cited by Trinitarians, I find very few indeed in Matthew, none in Mark, none in Luke. Now as Trinitarians rely more upon John than
all the other Evangelists, as furnishing evidence for the Deity of Christ, and as John has assured us that he wrote his Gospel to prove that Jesus is the Christ" the Son of God, instead of God himself, it appears to me very difficult for any one to believe that John, or either of the Evangelists, wrote to establish the
Trinitarian hypothesis of the Deity of Christ. It must be admitted that no man on earth knows, so well as the .writer, for what purpose he wrote.
Thirdly, our text decides that whatever deficiencies, or omissions, of the other Evangelists, it was John's intention to supply, these did not relate to the nature of Christ. John's Gospel evidently implies some acquaintance with one or more of the preceding. And I think it not improbable that he had in view, among other things, to supply deficiencies in the foregoing narrations. These deficiencies, however, which John has supplied, chiefly relate to those transactions that evince and illustrate the criminality of the Jews, in rejecting and crucifying the Son of God; and are evidently designed to strengthen that very faith which the other Evangelists inculcate. For they, as well John, require faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. John confirms their testimony, by supplying such circumstantial evidence as they omitted. Had John written to supply deficiencies relative to the nature of Jesus Christ, thus teaching a new doctrine, not recognized by the previous narrations, a different reason, if any, must have been as
signed from that contained in our text, for that would not have been the true one.
Fourthly, our text decides for what purpose Jesus performed miracles. It is contended that Jesus performed miraculous works to prove himself to be God. But had this been his design, John must have recorded them for the same purpose. And since John has assured us that the signs which Jesus did are recorded to prove that he is the Christ, the Son of God, it is an unavoidable inference, that they were performed for the same purpose. Those who were eye witnesses of the miracles of Christ did not infer from them, as Trinitarians do, that he was God. They inferred that he was a “ teacher come from God;" that he was“ approved of God;" that "God was with him;"> and “they glorified God, (not Christ) who had given such power unto men." I believe there is no instance recorded in the New Testament in which any one, either, friend or foe, either Jew or Gentile, inferred that Christ was God, from beholding or contemplating the miraculous powers with which he was invested. Nor did they infer, as Trinitarians do, that Christ was God, from the manner in which he performed miracles. But lest these statements should be regarded as mere assertions, without proof, let us examine the facts connected with that great miracle, the resurrection of Lazarus.-John xi. " Then said Martha unto Jesus, ‘Lord, if thou hadst been here (she did not believe him to be the omnipresent God) my brother had not died. But I know that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.'” Here we learn that Martha knew it to be the custom of Jesus to pray to God for the accomplishment of any miracle he wished to exhibit, and that God always answered his prayer by performing the miracle through him. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank
thee that thou hast heard me; and I knew that thou hearest me always; but because of the people which stand by, I said it, that they may believe, that thou hast sent me: and when he had thus spoken, he cried with a loud voice, * Lazarus, come forth.'" Here we learn that Jesus never wrought any miracle without prayer to God, either expressed aloud, or silently. “I knew that thou hearest me always." This implies that, previous to the performance of any miracle, he always prayed either mentally or vocally, and that God always granted his petition. “But because of the people which stand by, I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. This implies that on the present occasion he prayed aloud, so that the spectators, evidently perceiving that he was dependent on his Father for his miraculous power, and that the Father imparted it to him in answer to prayer, might believe him to be, what he professed to be, the authorized ainbassador of heaven, commissioned and sent to proclaim the will of God to men.
It is obvious, I think, that a careful attention to the facts connected with the display of Christ's miraculous power, leaves no room to infer, either from the miracles performed, or the manner of performing them, that Christ was God. It is still further obvious, at least to my mind, that the conclusion drawn from the miraculous works of Christ, by his disciples who were eye witnesses of them, is far more reasonable, just, and scriptural, than that which is drawn by Trinitarians, who infer from them that Christ is God. If the prayer of Jesus, in the performance of miracles, was always heard, then he always prayed. But if he always prayed, then he always acknowledged that he was not God; for God never prays. So that every miracle which Jesus performed furnishes the same evidence that he was not God, as it does that he prayed, either mentally or vocally. We come, then, to this unavoidable conclu