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Paul's epistles appears to be somewhat stronger yet: and the strength of it lies in this narrow compass; that they were certainly written by him; and immediately received, and highly esteemed, by the several churches to whom they are directed: that in them he mentions frequently the supernatural gifts of the Spirit, as then subsisting in those churches; that he would not have dared to do this, had there been no such thing; or if he had, he and his letters could never have been respected, as they certainly were.

For the first point, that these epistles are really his, we have the strongest external evidence imaginable the testimony of some of his contemporaries, of many who lived immediately after him, and the universal consent of mankind. But the internal marks and characters of their being genuine, are, if possible, yet more convincing to a judge of such matters. There is an evident air and look of truth and preciseness preserved throughout them. The numbers of persons on various occasions named in them; the minute directions and orders that are sent; the obscurity of several passages, occasioned by their referring to questions asked and accounts of things given by the churches, and to their present situation, in one respect or another, are manifest tokens that they are what they profess to be. A writer of counterfeit pieces would either be too artful to venture into such particulars, or must have failed in some of them. But then the reception of them by the congregations, to which they are inscribed, completes the impossibility of a fraud. Suppose an imposter to draw up letters of a considerable length to such and such societies, churches for instance, relating to many of their members and acquaintance, and to many things, of many sorts, done,

believed, or debated amongst them, and not to make in any one of these a single mistake, which is quite inconceivable: yet, when these performances came into the hands of these persons, pretending in the title to have been sent to them or their fathers, not many years before, can it be imagined, they will all agree to receive them as such, though till then they had neither original, nor copy, nor memory, nor tradition of them? A false history may creep silently into the world, and obtain credit by degrees. A false collection of letters may impose on strangers, remote in place or time: but that the very men, or body of men, to whom they declare themselves to have been written a little while ago, and who absolutely know nothing of their ever being written to them at all, should believe in them, is utterly inconceivable and still more so, if these letters affirm such extraordinary things to be then doing amongst them, as could not have been forgotten, if they had been done, and yet are not remembered. Now it never was, or can be denied, that St. Paul's epistles were admitted as his, and honoured as sacred, were continually read and quoted both in private and public, by those churches, of which they bear the names, not some ages after his death, for then there might have been colour for a charge of imposition, but from his own days downwards. Nay, if we allow the testimony of early and venerable writers, his originals themselves were preserved there (a thing by no means unlikely) to following generations.

Now in these epistles, thus proved authentic, the miraculous operations of the Holy Ghost appear to have been common amongst Christians. The workers of miracles, they who spoke with tongues, who prophesied, who had the gift of healing, are men



tioned there as familiarly as the Apostles, elders and teachers. Nay farther, as the exercise of some of these powers in the church, it seems, was irregular sometimes, and made confusion, there are many directions laid down by the Apostle for the regulation of it. And farther still, because the persons endued with them were too apt to value themselves, and be valued by others, immoderately on account of them, he insists very much, in the true spirit of Christianity, on the preferableness of charity, that is, of love to God and man, before speaking with the tongues of men and angels, before prophecy, before the faith that could remove mountains*. Is it possible now that all this should be written to, and received and respected by persons, who had no such gifts amongst them? Is it possible also, that St. Paul, when, as we find in these very letters, he had rivals and enemies in these churches, men of interest and influence, of art and subtlety, should, in the face of them all, appeal, as he doth, to miracles performed by himself and others, for a proof of his authority and doctrine, before their eyes, if in reality neither he, nor any one else, had ever performed any? Observe, how he expostulates with the Galatians, on the danger of their apostatizing from the Gospel to the law. O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit, the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost, by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? He that ministereth the Spirit to you and worketh miracles among you, doth he it by the works of the law, or the hearing of faith? Again, he boldly pleads to the Judaizing Roman converts, those things which Christ had

1 Cor. xiii. 1, 2.

+ Gal. iii. 1, 2. 5.

wrought by him to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God*. And when, amongst the Corinthians, his apostleship had been questioned by some, his answer is, Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in wonders and mighty deeds and from the consciousness which he had of the assistance of the Spirit, he threatens to come to them again shortly, and know, not the speech of them, which are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God, he adds, is not in word, but in power ‡: agreeably to what he had told them in a preceding chapter; that his own preaching had not been with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit of power, that their faith might stand, not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of Gods. Now as it must be, not only imprudence, but madness in him, to speak of these things, if they were not true; so his speaking of them could not but have produced the entire rejection of his epistles and himself, if the several churches had not known them to be true. And therefore, since these churches did continue to reverence him and them as of more than human authority, it follows, that these operations and miracles were both real and frequent amongst all Christians in general. For even when he was congratulating the illustrious church of Corinth on her gifts, he doth not hint to her (many and great as we know they were) that she was before, but only not behind others in that respect ||.

And now what remains is, that being satisfied of the certainty of these things, we lay seriously to heart the proper inferences from them; which are indeed

Rom. xv. 18, 19. † 2 Cor. xii. 12.

§ 1 Cor. ii. 4, 5.

1 Cor. iv. 19, 20.

|| 1 Cor. i. 7.

too many to be enlarged on at present, but happily too plain to need it. In general it follows, that the religion, which we profess, is no other than the truth of God: the doctrines of it, however mysterious, reasonable objects of firm belief; the precepts, however difficult, matter of indispensable duty; its glorious rewards, secure to every good person; its dreadful punishments, unavoidable by every bad one. More particularly in regard to that Spirit, which testifies these things, it follows, that we should honour him, as possessed of those divine attributes, which they imply, and which the Scripture ascribes to him repeatedly; that we should make our thankful acknowledgments for these his outward manifestations, and pray for his inward and saving influences on our souls; that we should receive the Gospel more submissively, and obey it more diligently, for his having ratified and confirmed it in so unparalleled a manner; often recollecting for this purpose that awful admonition: if the word spoken by angels, the law of Moses, was stedfast, and every transgression received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost*? To whom, with the Father and the Son, &c.

* Heb. ii. 2. 34.

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