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than such as became prudent, as well as faithful writers. Much less did that conciseness (with which the unmasker would cover his bold censure of the Gospels and the Acts, and, as it seems, lay them by with contempt) make the holy writers omit any thing, in the preaching of our Saviour and his apostles, absolutely necessary to be known and believed to make men christians.
Conformable hereunto, we shall find St. Luke writes his history of the Acts of the apostles. In the begining of it, he sets down at large some of the discourses made to the unbelieving jews. But in moft other places, unless it be where there was something particular in the circumstances of the matter, he contents himself to tell to what purpose they spoke; which was every-where only this, that Jesus was the Messiah. Nay, St. Luke, in the first speech of St. Peter, Acts ii, which he thought fit to give us a great part of, yet owns the omission of several things that the apostle said. For, having expressed this fundamental doctrine, that Jesus was the Messiah, and recorded several of the arguments wherewith St. Peter urged it, for the conversion of the unbelieving jews, his auditors, he adds, ver. 40, “ with many other words did he testify and exhort, say
ing, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” Here he confeffes, that he omitted a great deal which St. Peter had said to persuade them, To what? To that which, in other words, he had just said before, ver. 38, Repent and be baptized every one of you “ in the name of Jesus Christ,” i. e. Believe Jesus to be the Messiah, take him as such for your Lord and King, and reform your lives by a fincere resolution of obedience to his laws.
Thus we have an account of the omissions in the records of matters of fact in the New Testament. But will the unmasker say, That the preaching of those articles that he has given us, as necessary to be believed to make a man a christian, was part of those matters of fact, which have been omitted in the history of the New Testament? Can any one think, that “the corruption “ and degeneracy of human nature, with the true original of it, (the defection of our first parents) the
propagation of fin and mortality, our restoration and e reconciliation by Christ's blood, the eminency and
excellency of his priesthood, the efficacy of his death, « the full satisfaction thereby made to divine justice, " and his being made an all-sufficient sacrifice for sin,
our justification by Christ's righteousness, election,
adoption,” &c. were all proposed, and that too, in the sense of our author's system, by our Saviour and his apostles, as fundamental articles of faith, necessary to be explicitly believed by every man, to make him a chriftian, in all their discourses to unbelievers; and yet that the inspired pen-men of those histories every-where left the mention of these fundamental articles wholly out? This would have been to have writ, not a concise, but an imperfect history of all that Jesus and his apostles taught.
What an account would it have been of the gospel, as it was first preached and propagated, if the greatest part of the necessary doctrines of it were wholly left out, and a man could not find, from one cnd to the other of this whole history, that religion which is necessary to be belicved to make a man a chriftian? And yet this is that, which, under the notion of their being concise, the unmasker would persuade us to have been done by St. Luke and the other evangelifts, in their histories. And it is 110 less than what he plainly says, in his “ Thoughts
concerning the causes of atheism,” p. 109, where, to aggravate my fault, in passing by the epistles, and to flow the necessity of searching in them for fundamentais; he in words blames me; but in effect condemns the tacred history contained in the Gospels and the Acts. " It is moft evident,” says he, “ to any thinking man, " that the author of the Reasonableness of Christianity,
purposely omits the cpiftolary writings of the apostles, “ because they are fraught with other fundamental
doctrines, besides that one which he mentions. There
we are instructed concerning these grand heads of " christian divinity.” Here, i. e. in the epistles, says he, « there are discoveries concerning satisfaction," &c. And, in the close of his list of grand heads, is he calls them, some whereof I have above set down lö
of him, he adds, « These are the matters of faith con« tained in the epistles.”
.” By all which expressions he plainly signifies, that these, which he calls fundamental doctrines, are none of those we are instructed in, in the Gospels and the Acts; that they are not discovered nor contained in the historical writings of the evangelists : whereby he confesses, that either our Saviour and his apostles did not propose them in their preachings to their unbelieving hearers; or elfe, that the several faithful writers of their history, wilfully, i. e. unfaithfully, every-where omitted them in the acccount they have left us of those preachings; which could scarce possibly be done by them all, and every-where, without an actual combination amongst them, to smother the greatest and most material parts of our Saviour's and his apostles discourses. For what else did they, if all that the unmalker has set down in his lift be fundamental doctrines; every one of them absolutely necessary to be believed to make a man a christian, which our Saviour and his apostles every-where preached, to make men christians ? but yet St. Luke, and the other evangelists, by a very guilty and unpardonable conciseness, everywhere omitted them, and throughout their whole history, never once tell us, they were so much as proposed, much less, that they were those articles which the apotlles laboured to establish and convince men of every-where, before they admitted them to baptism? Nay the far greatest part of them, the history they writ does not any where so much as once mention? How, after such an imputation as this, the unmasker will clear himself from laying by the four Gospels and the Acts with contempt, let him look; if my not collecting fundamentals out of the epistles had that guilt in it. For I never denied all the fundamental doctrines to be there, but only said, that there they were not easy to be found out, and distinguished from doctrines not fundamental, Whereas our good unmasker charges the historical books of the New Testament with a total omission of the far greatest part of those fundamental doctrines of christianity, which he says, are absolutely necessary to be believed to make a man a christian.
To convince the reader what was absolutely required to be believed to make a man a christian, and thereby clear the holy writers from the unmasker's slander, any one need but look a little farther into the history of the Acts, and observe St. Luke's method in the writing of it. In the beginning, (as we observed before) and in some few other places, he sets down at large the discourses made by the preachers of christianity, to their unbelieving auditors. But in the process of his history, he' generally contents himself to relate, what it was their discourses drive at; what was the doctrine they endeavoured to convince their unbelieving hearers of, to make them believers. This, we may observe, is never omitted. This is every-where set down. Thus, Acts v. 42, he tells us, that “ daily in the temple, and in
every house, the apostles ceased not to teich, and to
preach JESUS THE MESSIAH.” The particulars of their discourses he omits, and the arguments they used to induce men to believe, he omits; but never fails to inform us carefully, what it was the apostles taught and preached, and would have men believe. The account he gives us of St. Paul's preaching at Thessalonica, is this: That “three fabbath-days he REASONED with “ the jews out of the scriptures, OPENING and Al
LEGING, that the Messiah must needs have suffered, “ and risen again from the dead; and that Jesus was " the Messiah; Acts xvii. 2, 3. At Corinth, that “ he 'Reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and
PERSUADED the jews and the grecks, and TESTIFIED “ that Jesus was the Messiah ;" xviii. 4, 5. That ço Apollos mightily convinced the jews, SHOWING BY “ THE SCRIPTUREs, that Jesus was the Messiah ;” xviii. 28.
By these, and the like places, we may be satisfied what it was, that the apostles taught and preached, even this one proposition, That Jesus was the Messiah: for this was the sole proposition they reasoned about ; this alone they testified, and they showed out of the scriptures; and of this alone they endeavoured to convince the jews, and the greeks, that believed one God. So that it is plain from hence, that St. Luke omitted no
thing, that the apostles taught and preached; none of those doctrines that it was necessary to convince unbelievers of, to make them christians ; though he, in most places, omitted, as was fit, the paffages of scripture which they alleged, and the arguments those inspired preachers used to persuade men to believe and embrace that doctrine.
Another convincing argument, to show that St. Luke omitted none of those fundamental doctrines, which the apostles any where proposed, as necessary to be believed, is from that different account he gives us of their preaching in other places, and to auditors otherwise disposed. Where the apostles had to do with idolatrous heathens, who were not yet come to the knowledge of the only true God, there, he tells us, they proposed also the article of the one invisible God, maker of heaven and earth; and this we find recorded in him out of their preaching to the Lystrians, Acts xiv. and to the Athenians, Acts xvii. In the latter of which, St. Luke, to convince his reader, that he, out of conciseness, omits none of those fundamental articles, that were any where proposed by the preachers of the gospel, as necessary to be believed to make men christians, sets down not only the article of Jesus the Messiah, but that also of the one invisible God, creator of all things; which, if any necessary one might, this of all other fundamental articles might, by an author that affected brevity, with the fairest cxcuse, have been omitted, as being implied in that other, of the Messiah ordained by God. Indeed in the story of what Paul and Barnabas said at Lystra, the article of the Messiah is not mentioned. Not that St. Luke omitted that fundamental article, where the apostles taught it: but, they having here begun their preaching with that of the one living God, they had not, as appears, time to proceed farther, and propose to them what yet remained to make them christians : all that they could do, at that time, was, to hinder the people from facrificing to them. And, before we hear any more of their preaching, they were, by the instigation of the jews, fallen upon, and Paul stoned.