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course, on this : namely, whether or no the gos-
for being so confident of the truth of your religion ? To this question, according to St. Peter, every believer ought to be able to give an answer. “Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear."
I. I will consider one or two of the different sorts of answers which may be given to this inquiry.
II. And then endeavour to show you which of them it is most for your own comfort to have ready, and to be able to give on all fit occasions.
I. The truth of Christ's religion hath been proved again and again, to the silencing of gainsayers, by a variety of arguments. I am not going formally to state these arguments at present; but I will only mention one or two of the principal ones, for the sake of making a comparison between them.
One sort of argument is taken from what is called external evidence.
If the facts recorded in the gospel be true, then, it is argued, the religion must be true. If it can be proved, for instance, that Jesus Christ did really rise from the dead, that he did really work those miracles which Holy Scripture ascribes to Him, and did confer upon his apostles a power to do the like; then it must be admitted that he really was what he pretended to be, seeing no man could have done those mighty works if God had not been with him, and God could not have set his seal to a falsehood.
Accordingly, pious and learned men have written books in which they have shown, in a very satisfactory and unanswerable manner, that Jesus Christ did rise from the dead, and did work these miracles : and thus we have one sufficient proof of the truth of our religion, and one sufficient answer, which may be given unto any one who shall say, why do you trust that Christ is able to save you from sin and death? “We know,” it may be replied,
" that our Lord confirmed his doctrine, by healing the sick, opening the eyes of the blind, raising the dead, doing such works as God alone can do ; therefore, we cannot but believe in him for his work's sake.”
Another argument of a similar kind may be taken from prophecy.
If it can be proved, as very easily it may, that many hundred years before our Lord's birth, many prophecies were commonly known among the Jews, esteemed by them as the word of God, and preserved with extraordinary care; and that in these prophecies it is declared very plainly that a great person should arise to save sinners, and that he should do and suffer those very things which, upon having recourse to history, it is found Jesus Christ did do, and did suffer ; then this is also a good argument to show that Jesus is the Christ, and a good reason to give to any man who asketh why you depend upon him to be your Saviour.
Again : when this gospel, thus externally attested, comes to be examined, it appears to be, for its own sake, every way entitled to credit. As it is said by the preachers of it to come from God, so upon investigation it will be found to be worthy of God; for there is the wisdom of God and the holiness of God displayed in every page. It contains such a remedy for the miseries of mankind as none but God could have conceived or planned. It is a religion which exactly suits our
It is just what sinners wanted. It is all that they wanted. It is exactly and perfectly calculated to answer the ends for which it is declared to have been promulgated — to display the exceeding glory of God's love, and to make men good and happy. It is said, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament
showeth his handiwork ;” and truly he must be a fool who saith in his heart, " there is no God,” after he hath opened his eyes, and hath considered the frame of the visible creation. But still more forcibly, I think, doth the Bible declare the glory of God, and evince itself to be his handiwork; so that here we have another good answer, taken from internal evidence, to the question, “Why do you hope for salvation by the gospel ?” We believe it to be God's gospel; for we have examined it, and we find it to be so great, so noble, so merciful, so wise, so holy, so perfect, that we could as soon believe a human being to have made the sun, moon, and stars, as imagine such a gospel to be a cunningly-devised fable.
But it is very plain that the poor and unlearned, though they may be practically much better Christians than many who are looked upon as their superiors, will not always have capacity to see the full force of these reasonings, nor ability to defend their religion (defensible as it surely is) on these grounds. And though these are sound arguments, and the fittest arguments which can be used to stop the mouth of gainsayers, yet millions, if they had no other answer to give when asked the reason of their hope in Christ, might easily be baffled and much shaken-not, indeed, by solid objections, but by the artifices and specious false reasoning of unbelieving and ungodly men.
Therefore, if every man ought (as the apostle asserts) to have his answer ready, we must look to proof and arguments of another kind. And we shall surely find that every real Christian, be he learned or be he ignorant, provided he be but truly and practically a Christian, hath a proof within himself of the truth of Christ's religion ;-a proof built, not upon external evidence of the truth of Scripture, but upon personal experience.
So saith St. John, “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself.” * Not as the words are sometimes interpreted, the witness that he is a true believer, (though that also is true, and may, by consequence, be shown to be so from this very passage, and abundantly from other passages,) but the witness to the truth of that which he believes, to the truth of the gospel, to the truth of Christ's being the Son of God, and his gospel the power of God unto salvation.
In addition to all that can be alleged from prophecy, from miracles, from the internal excellency of the Scriptures, the true believer hath a witness in himself that he hath believed upon good grounds.
II. Let us inquire what this witness is; it is the personal experience of a death unto sin, and a
* 1 John v. 10.