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Of the Commision given by Christ to his Apostles ; and of the power
by which he fitted them for executing that commision: and of the nature and authority of their writings.
THE Lord Jesus before his death spake in this manner to
his apostles, John xvi. 12. I have yet many things to say to you, but ye cannot bear to them now. 13. Howbeit, when the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth. From this it is evident, that while on earth, Jesus did not declare the whole doctrines of the gospel, but left them to be revealed by the Holy Ghost, to the persons who, after his departure, were to make them known to the world. In this method of revealing the gospel, there was both dignity and propriety. For the Son of God came from heaven, not to make the gospel revelation, but to be the subject of it, by doing and suffering all that was neceffary to procure the salvation of mankind
But, although it was not our Lord's intention to make a complete revelation of the gospel in person, he occasionally delivered many of its doctrines and precepts in the hearing of his followers, that, when the persons commissioned by him to preach the gospel in its full extent, executed their commission, the world, by observing the perfect conformity of their doctrine with his, might entertain no doubt of their authority, and infpiration, in those farther discoveries which they made, concerning the matters of which Christ himself had spoken nothing.
The Son of God, in prosecution of the purpose for which he took on him the human nature, came to John at Jordan, and was baptized. To this rite he submitted, not as it was the bapE 4
tism of repentance, for he was perfectly free from sin; but as it prefigured his dying and rising again from the dead, and because he was, on that occasion, to be declared God's beloved Son by a voice from heaven, and by the descent of the Holy Ghost npon him, in the view of the multitudes who were afsembled to Johı's baptism.
Having received these miraculous attestations, Jesus began his ministry; and from that time forth shewed himself to Israel as their long-expected deliverer, and, in the hearing of the people, spake many discourses, in which he corrected the errors of the Jewish teachers, and explained many of the doctrines and precepts of true religion. And while he thus employed himself, he confirmed his doctrine, and proved himself to be the Son of God, by working great miracles in all parts of Judea, and even in Jerusalem itself. But the chiefs of the Jews, envying his reputation with the people, laid hold on him, and condemning him for calling himself the Son of God, constrained Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea, to put him to death. But whilst the Jews, with wicked hands, crucified Jesus, his death, by the sovereign appointment of God, became an atonement for the sin of the world. And, to wipe away the stain which the Jews endeavoured to fix on Jesus as a deceiver, by putting him to death, God raised him from the dead on the third day, according to Christ's own prediction, and thereby declared him, in the most illustrious manner, his Son.
After his resurrection, Jesus shewed himself alive to many witnesses: and, having remained on earth forty days, a sufficient time to prove the truth of his resurrection, he ascended into heaven, in the presence of his disciples, who were assured, by the attending angels, that he would return from heaven in like manner as they had seen him go away; namely, at the end of the world,
I. The illustrious display just now described, which Jesus made on earthof his glory, as the Son of God, by his virtues, his miracles, his sufferings, his resurrection, and his ascension, was intended, not folely for the people before whom it was exhibited, but for all mankind. And, therefore, that the knowedge of it might not be confined to the Jews, but spread through the whole world, and continued in it to the end, Jesus, in the be
ginning of his ministry, chose twelve of his disciples, and ora dained them to be with him, that they might hear all that he should speak, and see all that he should do for the salvation of mankind; and that, as eye-witnesses of these things, they might report them to the world, with every circumstance of credibility. These witnesses Jesus named apostles, or persons sent forth by him, and appointed them to bear that' name always, that when they published his history, bare witness to his resurrection, and preached falvation to them who believed, all might be sensible that they acted by commission and authority from him. And, to prevent any error that might arise in the execution of this office, from the failure of their memory, he made them the following promises : John xiv. 16. I will pray the father, and he shall give you another comforter, that he may abide with you for
17. Even the Spirit of truth; for he dwelleth with you, and fball be in you. 26. The comforter, which is the Holy Ghoji, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you : And John xvi. 13. Will guide you into all truth : Besides bringing to your remembrance the things I have said to you, he will give you the knowledge of the whole gospel scheme. And, because many of the doctrines of the gospel were darkly re. vealed, and many of the particulars of Christ's life were in diverse manners foretold in the writings of Moses and the prophets, Jesus opened the understunding of his apostles, that they might understand the scriptures ; Luke xxiv. 15.
Having in this manner educated and prepared the twelve, Jesus, before his ascension, declared to them the purpose for which he had called them to attend him during his ministry, and explained to them their duty as apostles. Acts i. 8. Ye Mall b, witnesses unto me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermoft parts of the earth. Then gave them their commission in the following words : Mark xvi. 15. Go ye therefore and teach all nations. He that believeth and is baptized fball be saved. But he that believeth not fall be damned. And that the things which they should teach might gain entire credit, in addition to what he had promised formerly, (Luke xxi. 15. Behold I will give you a mouth, and wisdom which all your adverSaries fall not be able to gainsay nor refift ;) he now told them, Luke xxiv. 29. Behold I send the promise of my Father upon you. But tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endowed with power from on high. And added, Mark xvi. 17. These signs fall follow them that believe ; in my name fball they cast out devils; they fall speak with new tongues. 18. They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them. They shall lay bands on the fick, and they shall recover. 19. So, then, after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and fat on the right band of God. Such was the commission which Christ gave to his apostles, and such the supernatural powers which he promised to bestow on them, to fit them for executing it with fuccefs.
But one of the apostles, Judas by name, having fallen from his office by transgression, the eleven judged it necessary to supply his place; and for that purpose chose Matthias by lot. In this, however, they acted, not by the direction of the Holy Ghost, for he was not yet given to them, but merely by the dictates of human prudence, which, on that occasion, seems to have carried them too far. No man, nor body of men whatever, could, by their designation, confer an office, whose authority bound the consciences of all men, and whofe duties could not be performed without the gifts of inspiration and miracles. To ordain an apofile belonged to Christ alone, who, with the appointment, could also give the supernatural powers necessary to the function. Some time, therefore, after the election of Matthias, Jesus himself feems to have superseded it, by appointing another to be his apostle and witness in the place of Judas. In the choice of this new apostle, Jesus had a view to the conversion of the Gentiles : which, of all the services allotted to the apostles, was the most dangerous and difficult. For the person engaged in that work had to contend with the heathen priests, whose office and gains being annihilated by the spreading of the gospel, it was to be cxpected that they would oppose its preachers with an extreme rage.
He had to contend, likewise, with the unbelieving Jews living in the heathen countries, who would not fail to inflame the idolatrous multitude against any one who should preach fala vation to the Gentiles, without requiring them to obey the law of Moses. The philosophers too were to be encountered, who,