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among the people of America in the present age, if no such events had taken place? Or would such a fictitious history go down with credit to succeeding ages ?.. The reception of a history relating to facts of recent existence and public notoriety, is an evidence of its truth.
If any man doubts the genuineness of these books, let him say when they were forged. It was not while the apostles were living; for they would have detected, and suppressed, the fraud. It was not after their death; for then the cheat would not have succeeded. The books pretend to have been sent abroad by the authors, themselves. Paul's epistles, for example, profess to have been written by him, at such a time, and in such a place; to have been sent to such churches, by such messengers; and to have been signed by his own hand. Now if these churches had never received such letters, or seen such messengers, or if Christians in general had never heard of such writings, until some years after they pretend to have been sent abroad and publicly read; this would have been a sufficient reason never to have admitted them.
Most of Paul's epistles were written to noted churches in populous cities; and, consequently, if they were genuine, they must have been known before his death. If they had not appeared until after his death, the churches to which they pretend to have been sent, would have declared, they never received them, and thus have exposed the deception.
In short, if we suppose the books of the New Testament to be spurious, we must suppose, that the Christians, in the Apostolic and succeeding ages, among whom were many learned, and, doubtless, many honest men, did all, in the several different countries of Christendom, without any conceivable motive, confederate in a fraud, and agree to impose on the world. A supposition this, which, if admitted, puts an end to all historical credit.
Besides; as one well observes, "It is easy to discover the writings of the New Testament, particularly Paul's epistles, to be original. His very soul speaks in all his writings. There is that undissembled zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of mankind; that courage that disregard to his own interest, when it interfered with higher views-that boldness of expression-that life and spirit which are hard to be counterfeited. The same force and energy, which an imated all his actions, and empowered him to spread the gospel from east to west, ennobles all his composi tions; and it would be almost as impossible for an impostor to write as Paul did, as it would be to act as he did. It is very difficult to personate such a warm, affectionate and interesting writer. There is an exact resemblance in his speeches and in his epistles. In both there is the same greatness of spirit, the same glowing language, the same elevated thoughts, warm from the heart. In both, he speaks and writes with too animated a zeal, to be a cold deceiver; with too much sense, solidity and consistence, to be an enthu siast."
Of our preceding reasonings this is the result;
THE RELIGION OF THE GOSPEL IS DIVINE.
This religion, if it be divine, must be supremely important. Do you believe, that God has sent into the world a Saviour from heaven-has borne witness to him by miracles and wonders-has subjected him to death for our redemption, and raised him from the dead by his mighty power--has given support to the religion which this Saviour taught, and by a wonderful providence has conveyed it down to our day with full evidence of its heavenly origin? Do you believe all this? Surely you must believe, that this is a religion in which mankind are infinitely concerned.-Come forward then; make an open profession of it, and tell the world, you are not ashamed of it. VOL. III.
Faithfully attend on the instituted worship of God. This is a great security against irreligion and infidelity. That christians may hold fast the profession of their faith, the Apostle enjoins them to keep up their religious assemblies.
Be solicitous to obtain a share in the great blessings, which this religion offers to you. Seek pardon and glory, in the way which it prescribes, by repentance of sin and faith in the redeemer. There is no other name
by which you can be saved.
Endeavor to extend the knowledge, advance the honor and promote the success of the gospel; put to silence the ignorance of foolish men; confirm them who waver; strengthen such as are weak; encourage the young and tender, and guard them against the instructions which cause to err. If you ask, How this shall be done?-Take the apostle's advice, "Only let your conversation be, as it becometh the gospel of Christ."
Inscription, Benediction, and general subject of the
EPHESIANS i. 1, 2, 3.
Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God to the saints which are in Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus. Grace be to you, and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.
EPHESUS, the city in which the church here addressed was collected, was the metropolis of Lesser Asia; and, lying on the sea coast, it was a place of considerable trade. The Greeks inhabiting this city were zealous idolaters. They are said, in the 19th Chapter of the Acts, to be "worshippers of the great goddess Diana, and of the image that fell down from Jupiter." In this city stood the temple of Diana, which, for its grandeur and magnificence, was considered as one of the wonders of the world. The Ephesians were also celebrated for their skill in the arts of magic and divination, as we find in the Chapter before cited. And from this epistle of Paul, we learn, that they were also infamous for luxury, lasciviousness and all uncleanness. In this city dwelt great numbers of Jews, who had a synagogue here for divine worship, in which Paul preached for several months. This is the first account, which we have, of the publication of
the gospel in this city. After his departure, Apollos, who was an eloquent man and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. He had been educated in the Jew. ish religion; but having lately been instructed in the way of the Lord, he came and taught it diligently in the synagogue. Paul, not long after this, returning to Ephesus, preached there above two years together; "So that not only the Ephesians, but all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks; and God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul. And the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified; and many believed, and came and confessed their evil deeds; and the word of the Lord mightily grew and prevailed."
Sometime after Paul's departure from Ephesus, we find that he was sent a prisoner to Rome. In his confinement he wrote several epistles to churches and christian friends; and, among others, this to the church of Ephesus; for he calls himself, Chap. iv. the prisoner of Jesus Christ for the Gentiles.
He directs this letter to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus, i. e. not only to those in Ephesus who had believed, but to those in other parts of Asia, who had heard the word of the gospel from him, while he was preaching in that city. So he orders his epistle to the Colossians to be read also in the church of the Laodiceans.
The design of this epistle is more fully to instruct them in the nature of that gospel, which they had received to guard them against certain errors, to which they were exposed from the influence and example of unbelieving Jews and Gentiles; and to inculcate upon them the importance of a conversation becoming their faith and profession. It contains the substance of the Gospel And one who reads and understands it, will have good acquaintance with that religion which Paul taught in all his epistles and discourses.