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before a large assembly of Jews at Rome, some believed the things that were spoken, and some believed not,d though the same things were spoken to all ? Such in general was the success of the apostolical preaching ; some few receiving the word with gladness, while others opposed themselves and blasphemed. And though it be supposed, that words are more easily misunderstood than facts, and may admit of a greater latitude : yet here we shall find, that the same spirit which has divided mankind in what are called the more specula. tive points of faith, will also divide them in the plainest and most striking matters of fact. The resurrection of Lazarus was a matter of fact, seen and attested by a competent number of witnesses : but how different was the effect of it upon different persons ! for while it had its free course with many of the Jews, and moved them to believe on Jesus, it only moved the chief priests to hate him the more; and they consulted how they might put Lazarus also to death. When Jusus cured the blind and cast out devils, some rightly concluded-Rabbi, thou art a teacher come from God; for no man can do these miracles, that thou doest, except God be with him;f yet there were not a few, and they of the most learned and knowing too, who concluded far otherwise, that he cast out devils by Belzebub, the prince d Acts xxviij. 24. e John zii. 10, 11. f John iii. 2. of devils. So likewise, when the Holy Ghost descended on the apostles, and inspired them with the gift of tongues, some devout men were amazed and confounded at the mira. cle ; plainly seeing the hand of God in it, and asking what it meant, what was the end and design of it ? and being informed by St. Pe. ter's discourse, that it was to confirm the mission of Jesus of Nazareth, received his word gladly, and were baptized ;h while others, to avoid the conclusion, mocking, said, these men are full of new wine.i Here is a great multitude assembled together, all of them witnesses to the same fact : yet, in their opinions of it, they are as far assunder as drunkenness is from inspiration. But in this case no Chris- . tian will raise a doubt about the real inspira. tion of the apostles; or deny the power of God to have been sufficiently manifested, because some were so profane and senseless as to ridicule it, under the name of drunkenness.
This self-deceit always operates by the assistance of some false principle contrary to the scripture ; which gets possession of the heart by ministering to the passions. And till that be dispossessed, no truth will be suffered to enter which can in the least effect or destroy it. A man in such circumstances may see the truth staring him in the face ; and the clearer he sees it, the more he will be eng Matthew xii. 24. h Acts ü. 41. i Acts. v. 13.
raged at it. He may be convicted, and left without a word to say,
but what will expose the hardness and perplexity of his heart; but till it be emptied of its evil treasure, and he becomes as a little child that has nothing of its own to oppose to the revelation of God, he cannot be converted : but will either shut his eyes and deny the evidence that is offered to him, or pretend it is a nice point, very difficult to be understood ; and so give a perverse turn to it, though it be ever so plain and intel. ligible.
Till the disciples of Christ resigned themselves up to be led into all truth by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, they were in the state of mind I am now describing ; dull of hear. ing, and doubtful, and slow of heart. They were often warned of it ; particularly in the following words—I have yet many things to say unto
ye cannot BEAR them now.k And as the divine wisdom made choice of such men for the good of those who should come after, so these things are written of them for our admonition. They had laid it down as a first principle, that their master's kingdom was to be of this world : and formed all their reasonings and expectations accordingly. One was to sit at his right hand, another at his left; and they were ever disputing which should be the greatest. Any occurrence that flattered
& John syi. 12
this notion, was gladly received and made the most of; and every thing that could not be reconciled with it was thrust out of sight. When the son of man began to teach them, that he must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again ;l all these things were so destructive of their principle, that Peter began to rebuke him, as if he heard blasphemy. Christ took an opportunity of inculcating this doctrine afresh, when they were in a state of conviction at seeing him perform a miracle ; endeavoring, as it were, to surprise them into a confession of its truth : but the time was not yet. While they wondered every one at all things which Fesus did, he said unto his disciples, let these sayings sink down in your ears : for the son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men. But they understood not this saying ; it was hid from them, that they perceived it not.m The terms were clear and intelligible enough; and the ideas conveyed by them were all common and familiar : but if that saying were ad. mitted, they must part with their beloved prin. ciple : therefore it follows that they were afraid to ask him of that saying ; lest he should carry on the subject, and leave them no way to escape. They had already heard more than they would believe, and therefore,
I Mark vüi. 31.
m Luke ix. 43, 44.
as to any thing farther, thought it best to re. main in the dark.
In short, where there is a taste and relish for the things that be of men, more than for the things that be of God, and some principle is imbibed wherein the passions are strongly en. gaged, men are to be persuaded of any thing and of nothing: ready to take up with every despicable pretence, to prop and support their favorite opinion ; and deaf to the plainest words and most infallible proofs, if they tend to establish the other side of the question. For example ;
that a Messiah was to deliver their nation, was allowed by all the Jews; and they were well agreed as to the time of his coming, and the place where he should be born. It was to be shewn, that Jesus of Nazareth was the person : and for a proof of it, they were bid to compare the scripture with the things he did and taught. But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him,n and as if he had left the proof of his mission obscure and defective, they came very formally to him to ask a sign of him, after they had seen so many signs; and called out to the better evidence, bidding him come down from the cross, that they might see and believe. One would take these Jews to have been sceptics, who would persevere in
n John xii. 37.
o Mark xy. 32.