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ness for misery and death than other people. Yet this they did actually and cheerfully undergo at the command of their Lord. How is this to be explained and accounted for? Is there any instance upon record before this in the annals of the world, where twelve grave, sober men, without any reason, and without being misled by any artifice or delusion whatever, voluntarily exposed themselves, at the desire of another person, to persecution, torment, and destruction? There must have been some most cogent reason for such a conduct as this; and that reason could be nothing less than a full and perfect conviction, arising from the miracles, which they saw with their own eyes, and which they themselves were enabled to perform, that Christ was what he pretended to be, the Son of God; that all power was given to him in Heaven and on Earth; and that he was able to fulfil the promises he had made them of a recompense in a future life, infinitely surpassing in magnitude and in duration all the sufferings they could experience in the present world.
This is the only rational account to be given of their conduct; and it presents to us, in a short compass, a strong, convincing evidence of the truth of the Christian revelation.
In order to fortify the minds of his disciples against the severe trials they were to undergo, our blessed Lord, in the twenty-eighth verse, adds the following exhortation: "Fear not them, which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him, which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."
This passage contains a decisive proof of two very important doctrines, the existence of a soul distinct from the body, and the continuance of that soul after death (both of which, in direct opposition to this and many other passages of Scripture, some late writers have dared to controvert); and it plainly refers the apostles to the consideration of a future life, in which all their views, their hopes, and fears, were to centre, and by which their conduct in this world was entirely to be regulated. The worst their enemies could do to them in this life was to kill the body, which must some time or other be destroyed by age or disease. But God was able to kill the soul, which was formed for immortality; to annihilate it at once, or to condemn it to everlasting punishment. It was, therefore, of infinitely more consequence
to avoid his displeasure, and to secure his approbation by performing their duty, than, by shamefully deserting it, to escape the infliction of the bitterest evils, that their fellow-creatures could bring upon them.
In conformity to this advice, he tells them, "that he that endureth to the end shall be saved; and that he, who loses his life for his sake in this world, shall find it, in a far more exalted sense, in the next*."
This was solid comfort and substantial support. But unless our Lord had given them irresistible miraculous evidence of the reality of this future reward, unless they had absolute demonstration of its certainty, it was utterly impossible, that they could be so mad as to sacrifice to this expectation every thing most valuable in this life, and even life itself.
Ás a still farther support under the terrifying prospect, which our blessed Lord had held up to the apostles, he assures them, that the providence of God would continually superintend and watch over them.
"Are not two sparrows," says he, "sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall to the ground without your Father; but the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not, therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows t."
Here we have that most important and comfortable doctrine of a particular providence plainly and clearly laid down.
That he, who erected the immense and magnificent fabric of the universe, will continue to regard and to preserve the work of his own hands, and maintain what is called the general order of nature, and the ordinary course of human affairs, is so consonant to reason and common sense, that few, even of the pagans, who believed the being of a God, entertained any doubt of this general superintendence of the Deity over the worlds he has created, and the inhabitants he has placed in them. But when we descend from this comprehensive view of things to the several constituent parts of the general system, and to every individual of every species of animated beings dispersed throughout the whole; when we reflect how very inconsiderable a place this globe, that we inhabit, holds amongst the celestial bodies, how very small a portion it occupies of unbounded
Matt. x, 22, 39.
Matt. x, 29, 30, 31..
space, and how infinitely minute and insignificant every human creature must appear in the vast mass of created beings; we can hardly think it possible, that the care of the Supreme Being should extend to ourselves; we cannot help fearing, that we shall be lost and overlooked in the immensity of creation, and that we are objects far too small and minute to fall within the sphere of our Maker's observation. The more we reason on this subject, the more ground we shall find for these apprehensions; and there is nothing, I will venture to say, in the whole compass of what is called natural religion, or modern philosophy, that can, in the smallest degree, tend to allay or to remove these natural, these unavoidable misgivings of the human mind.
Here, then, is one of those many instances in which we can have no certainty, no solid ground for the sole of our foot to stand upon, but in the Gospel of Christ. Our reason, though sent out ever so often in search of a resting-place, returns to us, like Noah's dove, when the waters covered the Earth, without any token of comfort. It is Scripture only, which in this important point can give rest unto our souls. There we are assured, that every individual being, even the least and most contemptible, even the sparrow, that is sold for less than a farthing, is under the eye of the Almighty; that, so far from man being too inconsiderable for the notice of his Maker, the minutest parts of his body, the very hairs of his head, are all numbered. These very strong instances are plainly chosen on purpose to quiet all our fears, and to banish from our minds every idea of our being too small and insignificant for the care and protection of the Almighty.
This most consolatory doctrine of a particular providence, of a providence which watches over every individual of the human race, places the Christian in a situation totally different from that of every one, who disbelieves revelation. The latter must conceive himself under no other government, but that of chance or fortune, and of course must consider the whole happiness of his life as exposed every moment to the mercy of the next accident, that may befal him. The true believer, on the contrary, has the most perfect conviction, that he is constantly under the protection of an almighty and merciful God, in whom he lives, and moves, and has his being; "whose eyes are over the righteous, and whose
ears are open to their prayers;" that, therefore, if he lives so as to merit the approbation of his heavenly Father, he has every reason to hope for such a degree of happiness, even here, as the imperfection of human nature will admit; and he is certain, that nothing dreadful can befal him without the knowledge and permission of his great protector, who will, even in that case, support him under it, and render it ultimately conducive to his good.
The next passage, in this chapter, to which I shall direct your attention, is that very remarkable one, which has furnished the enemies of Christianity with so much pretence for obloquy and invective against the Gospel, and has been the source of no small uneasiness and dismay to some of its warmest friends. The passage I mean is this: "Think not," says our Lord, "I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword; for I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man's foes shall be those of his own household*."
What shall we say now (exclaims the infidel) to this extraordinary declaration? Here we have the Author of the Christian religion himself openly and explicitly avowing, that he came to send a sword upon earth, to dissolve all the tender endearing ties of domestic affection to set the nearest relations at variance, and to arm them with inextinguishable rage and rancour against each other.
But can this be really the sense of our Saviour's words? Can HE mean to denounce war and destruction to the human species? HE, whose whole religion breathes nothing but peace, gentleness, kindness, and compassion to every human being; who made charity, or the love of man, the great characteristic mark of his religion; who expressly forbade his disciples "to call down fire from heaven' on those, who had insulted them; who, in this very chapter, commanded them "to be harmless as doves; and declared, that he came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them+?" It is evidently impossible, that the author of such precepts and such professions could mean literally to spread ruin and desolation over the earth. What then was his meaning? It was
* Matt. x, 34, 35, 36.
+ Matt. x, 16; Luke ix, 56.
to obviate an error into which the apostles would be very apt to fall, and which probably our Saviour saw rising in their minds. You tell us (they perhaps said within themselves), you tell us that we shall be persecuted, tormented, and put to death, and that even by those who are most nearly connected with us. But how is this possible? How can all this happen under your protection, under the reign of the Messiah, THE PRINCE OF PEACE, under whom we have always been given to expect tranquillity, repose, and happiness? To this supposed reasoning our Saviour answers: You are mistaken in your idea of that peace, which I, your Messiah, am to give you. It is not immediate temporal peace, but peace in a spiritual sense, peace in your own minds, and peace with God. Ultimately, indeed, I shall establish peace in every sense of the word, and " shall make wars to cease in all the world*;" but at present, and indeed for many years to come, I shall not bring peace but a sword upon earth. The promulgation of my religion will be productive of much dissension, cruelty, and persecution, not only to you, but to all those who for many ages afterwards shall preach the Gospel in purity and truth. The true cause of this will be the wickedness and the ferocious passions of men; but the occasion and the pretence for it will be the holy religion which you are to promulgate. In this sense, and in this only, it is, that I may be said to bring a sword upon earth; but they, who really bring it, are the open enemies or pretended friends of the Gospel.
Still it is said by the adversaries of our faith, that, however these words may be interpreted, the fact is, that Christians themselves have brought a sword, and a most destructive sword, upon earth: that they have persecuted one another with inconceivable rancour and fury; and that their dissensions have produced more bloodshed, misery, and desolation, among mankind, than all the other wars of contending nations put together.
To this I answer, in the first place, that the charge, as here stated, is not true. It is not true, that wars of religion have been more frequent and more sanguinary than any others. On the contrary, it may be proved in the clearest manner, from the most authentic facts, that
* Psalm xlvi, 9.