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of truth who has redeemed them," "in hope of eternal life, which he, who cannot lie has promised;" and in the cheering and assured confidence, that " he, in whom we have believed, is able to keep that which we have committed to him until that day."
"So we preach, and so ye have believed." When we appear before you in this sacred place, and on this holy day, we claim not to have dominion over your faith;" but fain would we be fellow-helpers of your joy," by endeavouring to convince you of the value and importance of "those things in which you have been instructed;" by faithfully discharging "the ministry of reconciliation;" and by "testifying, both to small and great, repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ." And while we discharge the ministry committed unto us, you also, by your attendance here, seem to say unto us, what Cornelius expressed in words; Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God."-We have already alluded to some of those things, which are commanded us of God, and in which you have been instructed; and we purpose so to address you, that you may not be wholly at a loss how to ascertain "the certainty of those things, in which you have been instructed." It is desirable that we should always "be put in remembrance of
these things, even though we know them, and are established in the present truth;" that we should be instructed in their several uses and applications, and be reminded of their certainty. It is desirable for ourselves, that we may not "let them slip," but "take the more earnest heed to them," and not "neglect so great a salvation." It is desirable for the continual benefit of all that have yet to learn these things, that they also may see on how solid a foundation the hope of a Christian is built.
The topic, which is to form one prominent feature in the discourses of the Hulsean Lecturer, has been so often and so largely discussed, that he cannot, perhaps, select any department of the evidences for the truth of Christianity, abundant and various as they are, in which he has not, in some measure, been anticipated. But it is because these subjects are important, rather than because they are novel, that they demand our attentive investigation. It is from the circumstance, that many will listen to the discussion of such topics, who might not have either opportunity or inclination to read much respecting them, that the utility of preaching is to be estimated, both as to this, and other, subjects of Christian instruction. The preacher may not advance any thing substantially new. But the subjects themselves, of which he treats, may have hitherto obtained only
an imperfect attention from some of those whom he addresses; and the renewed consideration of the same extensive and interesting subjects may not be without its use with respect to others; especially if the preacher's plan, or his method of illustration, present them in some point of view in which they have been less generally contemplated. He will probably select some line of argument, which has already afforded satisfaction to his own mind; which he conceives calculated to elucidate the difficulties, and obviate the doubts, which may suggest themselves to the mind of the serious inquirer. And such a view will, therefore, at least have the recommendation, that it is exhibited by one, who has inquired for himself into the grounds of his belief; who is prepared to avow his own conviction of the futility and falsehood of all the theories and objections of the infidel; and who is at the same time ready to give to every one, who stands in the posture of a candid inquirer, "a reason of the hope that is in him." With "meekness and with fear" would we do this; with that meek and lowly heart to which alone God will "teach his way;" and with that "meekness towards all men," which restrains the bitter word, and the judgment of uncharitableness. We are desirous also to maintain that fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom;" and which alone consists with that
good understanding," which can enable us to judge rightly of what professes to come from him. Nor must we omit to cherish a fear respecting ourselves. Even when we seem to have attained the fullest conviction, we should still bear in mind, that he, that thinketh he standeth, must take heed lest he fall;" and we must also "fear, lest, a promise being left us by God of entering into his rest, any of us should seem to come short of it."
In such a temper of mind let us pursue our inquiries respecting "the certainty of those things in which we have been instructed." For the present let it suffice, to specify and explain the method which we propose to adopt. Perhaps it may be considered in some respects a new one ; not certainly new in its principle, nor in the arguments and topics which we shall discuss; but yet perhaps new in the extent to which we shall apply that principle, and in the form and aspect which arguments, already familiar, may assume, when they are so arranged and discussed. We shall proceed, however, upon a principle, which, though not generally adopted, is as little novel as Christianity itself; which the Apostles themselves have taught us, at the same time that they also furnish the materials to which it is to be applied. We propose to consider the New Testament, not only as a directory in matters of Christian faith and practice, which,
if Christianity be from God, demands our implicit obedience; but as being also a repository of the several arguments in proof of the divine original of the Gospel. We contend that Jesus and his Apostles have themselves appealed to the several evidences of the truth and divine authority of the religion which they taught; and that, since they have so stated them, and reasoned upon them, the Christian, who understands the authorized records of his own religion, can be as little at a loss with respect to the reasons for his belief in the Gospel, as confessedly he ought to be, with respect to the doctrines which it requires him to receive, and the precepts which it commands him to obey.
The principle which I have now briefly stated, and which will hereafter be more fully illustrated, will indeed apply to a considerable portion of the Acts of the Apostles, and of the Epistolary writings of the New Testament. But the materials furnished by the Evangelists are so abundant, that we must content ourselves with the endeavour to embody and elucidate the arguments and reasonings advanced in the discourses of Jesus himself. But lest we should appear to be proceeding upon unsafe or unwarrantable grounds, we will now explain in what manner the principle may be deduced; at what period in the Christian argument we may have recourse to it; and the advantages which it offers to the inquirer.