Sermon 17. The Gospel Witnesses

"In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established." 2 Cor. xiii. 1.

{183} [Note 1] IT has pleased Almighty God, in His great mercy, to give us accumulated evidence of the truth of the Gospel; to send out His Witnesses again and again, Prophet after Prophet, Apostle after Apostle, miracle after miracle, that reason might be brought into captivity, as well as faith rewarded, by the fulness of His revelations. The double Festival which we are now celebrating, reminds us of this. Our Service is this day distinguished by the commemoration of two Apostles, who are associated together in our minds in nothing except in their being Apostles, in both of them being Witnesses, separate Witnesses of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Thus this union, however originating, of the Feast Days of Apostles, who are not especially connected in Scripture, will serve to remind us of the diversity and number of the Witnesses by whom {184} one and the same Sacred Truth has been delivered to us.

But, further than this. Even the twelve Apostles, many as they were, form not the whole company of the Witnesses vouchsafed to us. In order more especially to confirm to us, that the Word has really become incarnate, and has sojourned among men, another distinct Witness is vouchsafed to us in the person of St. Paul. What could be needed beyond the preaching of the Twelve? they all were attendants upon Christ, they had heard His words, they had imbibed His Spirit; and, as agreeing one and all in the matter of their testimony, they afforded full evidence to those who required it, that, though their Master wrote not His Gospel for us with His own finger, nevertheless we have it whole and entire. Yet He did more than this. When the time came for publishing it to the world at large, while He gradually initiated their minds into the full graciousness of the New Covenant, as reaching to Gentile as well as Jew, He raised up to Himself, by direct miracle and inspiration, a fresh and independent Witness of it from among His persecutors; so that from that time the Dispensation had (as it were) a second beginning, and went forward upon a twofold foundation, the teaching, on the one hand, of the Apostles of the Circumcision, and of St. Paul on the other. Two schools of Christian doctrine forthwith existed,—if I may use the word "school," to denote a difference, not of doctrine itself, but of history, between the Apostles. Of the Gentile school, were St. Luke, St. Clement, and others, followers of St. Paul. Of the School of the Circumcision, {185} St. Peter, and still more, St. John; St. James, and we may add, St. Philip. St. James is known to belong to the latter, in his history as Bishop of Jerusalem; and, though little is known of St. Philip, yet what is known of him indicates that he too is to be ranked with St. John, whom he followed (as history informs us), in observing the Jewish rule of celebrating the Easter Feast, and not the tradition of St. Peter and St. Paul. I propose upon this Festival to set before you some considerations which arise out of this view of the Scripture history.

Christianity was, and was not, a new religion, when first preached to the world; it seemed to supersede, but was merely the fulfilment, the due development and maturity, of the Jewish Law, which, in one sense, vanished away, in another, was perpetuated for ever. This need not be proved here; I will but refer you, by way of illustration, to the language of Prophecy, as (for instance) to the forty-ninth chapter of the Book of Isaiah, in which the Jewish Church is comforted in her afflictions by the promise of her propagation and triumphs (that is, in her Christian form) among the Gentiles. "Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee ... Lift up thine eyes round about, and behold; all these gather themselves together, and come to thee. As I live, saith the Lord, thou shalt surely clothe thee with them all, as with an ornament, and bind them on thee as a bride doth ... The {186} children which thou shalt have, after thou hast lost the other, shall say again in thine ears, The place is too strait for me, give place to me that I may dwell. Then shalt thou say in thine heart, Who hath begotten me these, seeing I have lost my children, and am desolate, a captive, and removing to and fro? ... Behold, I will lift up Mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up My standard to the people; ... and kings shall be thy nursing-fathers, and their queens thy nursing-mothers." The Jewish Church, then, was not superseded, though the Nation was; it merely changed into the Christian, and thus was at once the same, and not the same, as it had been before.

Such being the double aspect of God's dealings towards His Church, when the time came for His exhibiting it in its new form as a Catholic, not a local Institution, he was pleased to make a corresponding change in the internal ministry of the Dispensation; imposing upon St. Paul the particular duty of formally delivering and adapting to the world at large that Old Essential Truth, the guardianship of which He had already committed to St. James and St. John. In consequence of this accidental difference of office, superficial readers of Scripture have sometimes spoken as if there were some real difference between the respective doctrines of those favoured Instruments of Providence. Unbelievers have objected that St. Paul introduced a new religion, such as Jesus never taught; and, on the other hand, there are Christians who maintain that St. Paul's doctrine is peculiarly the teaching of the Holy Ghost, and intended to supersede both our Lord's {187} recorded words, and those of His original followers. Now a very remarkable circumstance it certainly is, that Almighty God has thus made two beginnings to His Gospel; and, when we have advanced far enough in sacred knowledge to see how they harmonize together, and concur in that wonderful system, which Primitive Christianity presents, and which was built on them both, we shall find abundant matter of praise in this Providential arrangement. But at first there doubtless is something which needs explanation: for we see, in matter of fact, that different classes of religionists do build their respective doctrines upon the one foundation and on the other, upon the Gospels and upon St. Paul's Epistles; the more enthusiastic upon the latter, the cold, proud, and heretical, upon the former; and though we may be quite sure that no part of Scripture favours either coldness or fanaticism, and, in particular, may zealously repel the impiety, as well as the daring perverseness, which would find countenance for an imperfect Creed in the heavenly words of the Evangelists, yet the very fact that hostile parties do agree in dividing the New Testament into about the same two portions, is just enough at first sight to show that there is some difference or other, whether in tone or doctrine, which needs accounting for.

This state of the case, whether a difficulty or not, may, I conceive, any how be turned into an evidence in behalf of the truth of Christianity. Some few remarks shall here be made to explain my meaning; nor is it superfluous to direct attention to the subject; for, though points of evidence seldom avail to the conversion {188} of unbelievers, they are always edifying and instructive to Christians, as confirming their faith, and filling them with admiration and praise of God's marvellous works, which have more and more the stamp of Truth upon them, the deeper we examine them. This was the effect produced on the Apostles' minds by their own miracles, and on the Saints in the Apocalypse by the sight of God's judgments; prompting them to cry out in awe and thankfulness, "Lord, Thou art God, which hast made Heaven and earth!" "Great and marvellous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of Saints." [Acts iv. 24. Rev. xv. 3.]

My remark then is simply this;—that supposing an essential unanimity of teaching can be shown to exist between the respective writings of St. Paul and his brethren, then the existing difference, whatever it is, whether of phraseology, of subject, or of historical origin, in a word, the difference of school, only makes that agreement the more remarkable, and after all, only guarantees them as two independent Witnesses to the same Truth. Now to illustrate this argument.

I suppose the points of difference between St. Paul and the Twelve will be considered to be as follows:—that St. Paul, on his conversion, "conferred not with flesh and blood," [Gal. i. 16, 17.] neither went up to Jerusalem to them which were Apostles before him;—that, on the face of Scripture, there appears some sort of difference in viewing the Dispensation between St. Paul and the original Apostles; that St. Paul on one occasion "withstood Peter to the face," and says that "those who seemed to be {189} somewhat," referring apparently to James and John, "in conference added nothing to him;" [Gal. ii. 6, 11.] and St. Peter, on the other hand, observes, that in St. Paul's Epistles there "are some things hard to be understood;" while St. James would even seem to qualify St. Paul's doctrine concerning the pre-eminence of faith [2 Peter iii. 16. James ii. 14-26];—that St. James, not to mention St. John, was stationary, having taken on himself a local episcopate, while St. Paul was subjected to what are now called missionary labours, and laid the foundation of churches without undertaking the government of any of them;—that St. Paul speaks with especial earnestness concerning the abolition of the Jewish Law, and the admission of the Gentiles into the Church, subjects not prominently put forward by the other Apostles;—that St. Paul declares distinctly and energetically, that we are elected to salvation by God's free grace, and justified by faith [Rom. v. 1.], and traces out, in the way of system, all Christian holiness and spiritual-mindedness from this beginning; whereas, St. James says we are justified by works [James ii. 24.], St. John that we shall be "judged according to our works," and St. Peter that "the Father judgeth according to every man's work, without respect of persons," [Rev. xx. 13. 1 Pet. i. 17.] phrases which are but symbols of the general character of their own and of our Lord's teaching;—lastly, that there is more expression of kindled and active affections towards God and towards man in St. Paul's writings than in those of his brethren. This is not the place to explain what needs explaining in this list of contrasts; nor indeed is there {190} any real difficulty at all (I may say) in reconciling the one side with the other, where the heart is right and the judgment fairly clear and steady. It has often been done most satisfactorily. But let us take them as they stand, prior to all explanation; let a disputer make the most of them. So much at least is proved, that St. Paul and St. James were two independent witnesses (whether concordant or not) of the Gospel doctrines, which is abundantly confirmed by all those circumstances which objectors sometimes enlarge upon, St. Paul's peculiar education, connexions and history. Take these differences at the worst, and then on the other hand take account of the wonderful agreement after all in opinion, manner of thought, feeling, and conduct, nay, in religious vocabulary, between the two Schools (as I have called them),—most wonderful, considering that the very idea of the Christian system in all its parts was virtually a new thing in the particular generation in which it was promulgated,—and if it does not impress us with the conviction that an Unseen Hand, a Divine Presence, was in the midst of it, controlling the human instruments of His work, and ruling it that they should and must agree in speaking His Word, in spite of whatever differences of natural disposition and education, surely we may as well deny the agency of the Creator, His power, wisdom, and goodness, in the appointments of the material world.—The following are some instances of the kind of agreement I speak of.

1. Take the New Testament, as we have received it. It deserves notice, that in spite of what partisans would desire, after all we cannot divide its contents {191} between the two Schools under consideration. Admitting there were two principles at work in the development of the Christian Church, they are inextricably united as regards the documents of faith; so that the modern parties in question, whether their particular view be right or wrong, are at least attempting a return to a state prior to the existence of the New Testament. Consider the Epistle to the Hebrews,—which would be sufficient evidence, were there no other, of the identity of St. Paul's doctrine with St. James's. Be as disputatious as you will about its author, still it comes at least from the School of St. Paul, if not from that Apostle himself. The parallelisms between it and his acknowledged writings forbid any other supposition. Now look through it from beginning to end, observe well its exhortations to obedience, its warnings against apostasy, its solemn announcement of the terrors of the Gospel, and further, its honourable treatment of the Jewish Law, which it sets forth as fulfilled (following our Saviour's doctrine), not disrespectfully superseded by the Gospel, and then say whether this Epistle alone be not a wonderful monument of the essential unity of the Gospel creed among all its original disseminators. Again, consider the Epistles to Timothy and Titus, which are confessedly St. Paul's, and try to discriminate, if you can, between the ethical character which they display, and that of St. James's Epistle. Next observe the position of St Luke's writings in the Inspired Volume, an Evangelist following the language of St. Matthew, yet the associate of St. Paul. Examine the speeches of St. Paul in the Book of Acts, and consider {192} whether he is not at once the Apostle of the Gentiles, and the fellow-disciple of those who had attended our Lord's Ministry [Note 2]. Consider, too, the history of St. Peter, and see whether the revelations made to him in order to the conversion of Cornelius, do not form a link between "St. Paul's Gospel" and that of his earlier brethren. Lastly, count up the particular parts of St. Paul's writings, in which that Apostle may be supposed to speak a different doctrine from the rest, and determine their extent and number. Are there much more than nine chapters of his Epistle to the Romans, four of that to the Galatians, three in the Ephesians, a passage in the Colossians, and a few verses in the Philippians? Are there not in other chapters of these very Epistles clear and explicit statements, running counter to these supposed peculiarities, agreeing with St. James, and so protesting (as it were) against those who would put asunder Apostles whom God has joined together? These shall be presently instanced; but for the moment concede the whole of the Epistles just mentioned,—yet you cannot make more than five out of fourteen, which is the whole number of his Epistles; and these, however sacred and authoritative, are not after all of greater prominence and dignity than some of the remaining nine. It would appear then, from the very face of the New Testament, that the differences between St. Paul's doctrine and that of his brethren, (whatever they were), admitted of an amalgamation, as far as Christian Teaching went, from the moment when that office was first exercised in the Church. {193}

2. In the case of the original Apostles, the intention of delivering and explaining their Divine Master's teaching cannot be mistaken. Now, of course, St. Paul, professing to preach Christ's Gospel, could not but avow such an intention also; but it should be noticed, considering that he was not with our Lord on earth, how he devotes himself to the sole thought of Him; that is, it would be remarkable, were not St. Paul divinely chosen and called, as we believe him to have been. Simon Magus professed to be a Christian, yet his aim was that of exalting himself. It was quite possible for St. Paul to have acknowledged Christ generally as his Master, and still not practically to have preached Christ. Yet how full he is of his Saviour! He could not be more so, if he had attended Him all through His ministry. The thought of Christ is the one thought in which he lives; it is the fervent love, the devoted attachment, the zeal and reverence of one who had "heard and seen, and looked upon and handled, the Word of life." [1 John i. 1.] What a remarkable attestation is here to the Sovereignty of the Unseen Saviour! What was Paul, and what was James, "but ministers," by whom the world believed on Him? They clearly were nothing beyond this. This is a striking fulfilment of our Lord's declaration concerning the ministration of the Spirit; "He shall glorify Me." [John xvi. 14.] St. John records it; St. Paul exemplifies it.

It is remarkable too, how St. Paul concurs with the other Apostles in referring to our Lord's words and actions, though much opportunity for this does not occur {194} in his writings; that is, it is plain, that he was not exalting a mere name or idea, any more than the rest, but a Person, a really existing Master. For instance, St. John says, "That which we have seen and heard, declare we unto you;" and St. Peter, "This voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with Him in the Holy Mount;" again, "We are witnesses of all things which He did." [1 John i. 3. 2 Pet. i. 18. Acts x. 39.] In like manner St. Paul enumerates, as his "Gospel," not mere principles of religion, but the facts of Christ's life, recurring to that very part of the Dispensation, in which he was inferior to his brethren. "I delivered unto you first of all, that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, ... was buried, ... rose again the third day, and that He was seen of Cephas, then of the Twelve, after that ... of about five hundred brethren at once ... after that ... of James, then of all the Apostles;" he adds, with expressions of self-abasement, "And last of all, He was seen of me." [1 Cor. xv. 3-8.] Again in his directions for administering the Lord's Supper, he refers carefully to our Lord's manner of ordaining it, as recorded in the Gospels; again, in the seventh chapter of the same Epistle, there would seem a repeated reference to our Lord's words in the Gospel; "unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord." In the same chapter the verse beginning, "This I speak for your own profit," has been supposed with reason to refer to St. Luke's account of Martha's complaint of Mary, and our Lord's speech thereupon. In his first Epistle to Timothy, he alludes to our Lord's appearance before {195} Pilate. In his farewell address to the elders of Ephesus he has preserved one of His sayings which the Gospels do not contain; "It is more blessed to give than to receive." [Acts xx. 35.] And in the Epistle to the Hebrews reference is made to Christ's agony in the garden.

3. The doctrine of the Incarnation, or the Gospel Economy, as embracing the two great truths of the Divinity of Christ and the Atonement, was not (as far as we know) clearly revealed, during our Lord's ministry. Yet, observe how close is St. Paul's agreement with St. John. "The Word was with God, and the Word was God, and the Word was made flesh."—"Christ Jesus, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; yet humbled Himself, being made in the likeness of men." St. John calls Christ "the Only-begotten Son in the bosom of the Father;" and St. Paul, "the First-begotten." St. John says, that He hath "declared the Father," and, in His own sacred words, that "he that hath seen Him, hath seen the Father;" St. Paul declares that He is "the Image of the Invisible God,"—"the brightness of His glory, and the express Image of His Person." St. John says, "All things were made by Him;" St. Paul, that "By Him God made the worlds." Further, St. John says, "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin;"—St. Paul, that "in Him we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins;"—St. John, that "if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;"—St. Paul, that He "is even at the right hand of God, and also maketh intercession for us;"— {196} St. John, that "He is the propitiation not for our sins only, but also for those of the whole world;"—St. Paul, that He has "reconciled" Jew and Gentile "in one body by the cross." [John i. 1, 14. Philip. ii. 5-8. John i. 18. Heb. i. 6. John i. 18; xiv. 9. Col. i. 15. Heb. i. 3. John i. 3. Heb. i. 2. 1 John i. 7. Col. i. 14. 1 John ii. 1. Rom. viii. 34. 1 John ii. 2. Ephes. ii. 16.]

Now, considering the mysteriousness of these doctrines, the probability that there would be some diversity of teaching, in the case of two different minds, and the actual differences existing among various sects at the time, I must consider this exact accordance between St. John and St. Paul (men to all appearance as unlike each other by nature as men could be) to be little short of a demonstration of the reality of the divine doctrines to which they witness. "The testimony of two men is true;" and still more clearly so in this case, supposing (what unbelievers may maintain, but they alone) that any rivalry of schools existed between these holy Apostles.

4. To continue our review. St. John and St. Paul both put forward the doctrine of Regeneration, both connect it with Baptism, both denounce the world as sinful and lost. They both teach the peculiar privilege of Christians, as God's adopted children, and make the grant of this and all other privileges, depend on faith [John iii. 3-5, 16, 19. 1 John iii. 1; v. 19. Rom. iii. 19; v. 1, 2; viii. 14, 15. Tit. iii. 5, &c.]. Now the ideas and the terms employed are peculiar; and, after all allowance for what might have been anticipated by former dispensations and existing schools {197} of religion, yet, could it be shown, that ever so much of this doctrine was already familiar to the Jewish Church, this does not account for the unanimity with which they respectively adopt and modify it. I add some parallel texts on this part of the subject. St. John delivers our Saviour's prediction: "If I depart, I will send the Comforter unto you; He will guide you into all truth;"—St. Paul, "God hath revealed (the mysteries of the Gospel) unto us by His Spirit;"—"All these (gifts) worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will." St. Paul says, "He which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God;"—St. John, "Ye have an unction from the Holy One." St. John, in accordance with the teaching of his Lord, declares, "There is a sin unto death; I do not say that a man shall pray for it;" and St. Paul, that "it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance." [John xvi. 7, 13. 1 Cor. ii. 10; xii. 11. 2 Cor. i. 21. 1 John ii. 21; v. 16. Heb. vi. 4-6.]

5. We all recollect St. Paul's praise of charity as the fulfilling of the Law, and the characteristic precept of the Gospel. Yet is not the pre-eminent importance of it as clearly set forth by St. John, when he says, "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren," and the nature of it by St. James in his description of "the wisdom that is from above?" Again, it is observable, that our Lord's precept, adopted from the Law, of loving our neighbour as ourselves, is handed down at once by St. Paul and St. James [1 John iii. 14. James iii. 17. Rom. xiii. 9. James ii. 8.]. {198}

6. We know that an especial stress is laid by our Lord on the duty of Almsgiving. St. John and St. James follow Him in so doing [1 John iii. 17. James ii. 15, 16.]; and St. Paul likewise. That Apostle's words, in the Galatians, are especially in point here, as expressly acknowledging this agreement between himself and his brethren. "When James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision; only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do." [Gal. ii. 9, 10.]

7. Self-denial, mortification of life, bearing our cross, are especially insisted on by Christ. St. Paul delivers clearly and strongly the same doctrine, declaring that he himself was "crucified with Christ," and "died daily." [Gal. ii. 20. 1 Cor. xv. 31.] The duty of Fasting may here be mentioned, as one in which St. Paul unhesitatingly enters into and enforces our Lord's religious system.

8. I need not observe how urgent and constant is St. Paul in his exhortations to Intercession; yet, St. James equals him in his short Epistle, which contains a passage longer and more emphatic than any which can be found in St. Paul [Ephes. vi. 18. 1 Thess. v. 17. James v. 14-18.]. Again, both Apostles insist on the practice of sacred Psalmody as a duty. St. James, "Is any afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms." St. Paul, "Speaking {199} to each other in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs." [James v. 13. Ephes. v. 19.]

9. St. Paul makes much of the Holy Eucharist; nay, to him the Church is indebted for the direct and clear proof we possess of the sacramental virtue of that Ordinance. Far different is the conduct of innovators; who are impatient of nothing more than of ordinances which they find established. He also recognises the obligation of the Lord's day [Acts xx. 7. 1 Cor. xvi. 2.], he being the Apostle who denounces, as other Jewish rites, so also the Sabbath.

10. St. Jude bids us "contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the Saints." In like manner, St. Paul enjoins Timothy to "hold fast the form of sound words, which he had heard of him;" and Titus, to "hold fast the faithful word as he had been taught, that he might be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers." [Jude 3. 2 Tim. i. 13. Titus i. 9.] St. Paul bids us "speak the Truth in love;" St. John says, he "loves Gaius in the Truth." [Ephes. iv. 15. 3 John 1.]

11. It is observable that our Lord speaks of His Gospel being preached, not chiefly as a means of converting, but as a witness against the world. This is confessedly a remarkable ground to be taken by the Founder of a new religion. "The Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations." [Matt. xxiv. 14; xviii. 37.] Accordingly, He Himself witnessed even before the heathen Pilate, "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I {200} should bear witness unto the Truth." [John xviii. 37.] Yet, surely, it is still more remarkable, that the Apostle of the Gentiles should take up precisely the same view, even referring to our Lord's Confession before Pilate, when giving Timothy his charge to preach the Truth, declaring, that the Gospel is "a savour of death unto death," as well as "of life unto life," and foretelling the growth of "evil men and seducers" after his departure [1 Tim. vi. 13. 2 Cor. ii. 16. 2 Tim. iii. 13.].

12. Observe the agreement of sentiment in the following texts: St. James, taught by his Lord and Master says, "Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." St. Paul nearly in the same words, "Not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified." [James i. 22. Rom. ii. 13.] Again, did we not know whence the following passages come, should we not assign them to St. James? "God will render to every man according to his deeds; to them, who by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, and honour, and immortality, eternal life; but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation, and wrath … for there is no respect of persons with God." This, as well as the text just cited, is to be found in the opening of that Epistle, in which St. Paul appears most to differ from St. James; now observe how he closes it. "Why dost thou judge thy brother? And why dost thou set at nought thy brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ ... Every one of us shall give account of himself to God." Again, in {201} another Epistle: "We must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men." [Rom. ii. 6-8, 11; xiv. 10-12. 2 Cor. v. 10, 11.]

13. St. John, after our Lord's example, implies especial praise upon those who follow an unmarried life, involving the letter in the spirit, as is frequent in Scripture [Note 3]. "These are they which were not defiled with women, for they are virgins; these are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth." St. Paul gives more direct praise to the same state, and gives the same reason for its especial blessedness; "He that is {202} unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord ... I speak this for your own profit ... that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction." [Rev. xiv. 4. 1 Cor. vii. 32, 35.]

14. St. Paul says, "Be careful for nothing, but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God;" St. Peter in like manner, "Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you." Both after our Lord's exhortation, "Be not careful for the morrow, for the morrow shall take care for the things of itself." [Phil. iv. 6. 1 Pet. v. 7. Matt. vi. 34.]

15. Lastly, as Christ foretells the approaching visitations of the Jewish Church, and the necessity of looking out for them, so St. Peter declares, "The end of all things is at hand; be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer." St. James, "Be ye also patient, stablish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh." [1 Pet. iv. 7. Phil. iv. 5. James v. 8.] And St. Paul in like manner, "Let your moderation be known unto all men; the Lord is at hand."

These instances may suffice by way of pointing out the argument for the truth of Christianity, which, as I conceive, lies in the historical difference existing between the respective schools of St. Paul and St James. Such a difference there is, as every one must grant: I mean that St. Paul did, as a matter of fact, begin his preaching upon his own independent revelations. And thus, however we may be able (as assuredly every Christian {203} is gradually able, in proportion to his diligence and prayer) to reconcile and satisfy himself as regards St. Paul's apparent discordances in doctrine from the rest of the Apostles, so much after all must remain, just enough, that is, to build the foregoing argument upon. At the same time, as if to ensure even the historical harmony of the whole Dispensation, we are allowed to set against our information concerning this separate origin of the two Apostolical Schools, the following facts; first, that St. Paul ever considered himself ecclesiastically subordinate to the Church at Jerusalem, and to St. James, as the Book of Acts shows us; next, that St. John, the beloved disciple, who "was in Christ before him," was appointed to outlive him, and, as a faithful Steward, to seal up, avouch, and deliver over inviolate to the Church after him, the pure and veritable teaching of his Lord.

As to the point of doctrinal agreement and difference which I have been employed in ascertaining, it is scarcely necessary to observe, that beyond controversy the agreement is in essentials—the nature and office of the Mediator, the gifts which He vouchsafes to us, and the temper of mind and the duties required of a Christian; whereas the difference of doctrine between them, even admitting there is a difference, relates only at the utmost to the Divine counsels, the sense in which the Jewish law is abolished, and the condition of justification, whether faith or good works. I would not (God forbid!) undervalue these or any other questions on which inspiration has spoken; it is our duty to search diligently after every jot and tittle of the Truth {204} graciously revealed to us, and to maintain it: but I am here speaking as to an unbeliever, and he must confess, that viewing the Gospel Creed in what may be called its historical proportions, a difference of opinion as to these latter subjects cannot detract from that real and substantial agreement of System, visible in the course of doctrine which the Two Witnesses respectively deliver.

Next, speaking as a Christian, who will admit neither inconsistency to exist between the inspired documents of faith, nor points of trivial importance in the revelation, I observe notwithstanding, that the foregoing argument affords us additional certainty respecting the characteristic doctrines as well as the truth of Christianity. An agreement between St. Paul and St. John in behalf of a certain doctrine is an agreement not of mere texts, but of separate Witnesses, an evidence of the prominence of the doctrine delivered in the Gospel system. In this way, if in no other, we learn the momentous character of some particular tenets of revelation which heretics have denied, as the Eternity, or, again, the Personality of the Divine Word.

Further, we are thus permitted more clearly to ascertain the main outlines of the Christian character; for instance, that love is its essence,—its chief characteristics, resignation, and composure of mind, neither anxious for the morrow, nor hoping from this world—and its duties, almsgiving, self-denial, prayer and praise.

Lastly, the very circumstance that Almighty God has chosen this mode of introducing the Gospel into the {205} world, I mean, this employment of a double agency, opens a wide field of thought, had we light to trace out the parallel providences which seem to lie amid the intricacies of His dealings with mankind. As it is, we can but gaze with the Apostle in wonder and adoration upon the mystery of His counsels. "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been His counsellor? Or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen." [Rom. xi. 33-36.]

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Notes

1. The Feast of St. Philip and St. James, the Apostles.
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2. Vide, e.g. Acts xx. 25; xxviii. 31.
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3. Vide Hos. xiii. 14. John xi. 23, 40; xiii. 8; xviii. 9. And especially, as being a parallel case, Matt. xviii. 3-6, and so again, Matt. x. 38. Rev. vii. 14.—The parallel is instructively brought out in separate passages in the "Christian Year:"

"Yet in that throng of selfish hearts untrue,
Thy sad eye rests upon Thy faithful few,
Children and childlike souls are there," &c.—Advent.

…"There hangs a radiant coronet,
All gemm'd with pure and living light,
Too dazzling for a sinner's sight,
Prepared for virgin souls, and them
Who seek the martyr's diadem.
Nor deem, who, to that bliss aspire,
Must win their way through blood and fire," &c.
Wednesday before Easter.

In other words, Childhood, Virginity, Martyrdom, are made in Scripture at once the Types and Standards of religious Perfection, as they are represented in the three Saints' Days following Christmas-Day,—St. Stephen's, St. John's, and Holy Innocents'. So again, Poverty, Luke vi. 20; xii. 33; Matt. xi. 5, with Matt. v. 3. But this rule of interpretation, and the light it throws upon Gospel duties and the Christian character, cannot be more than alluded to in a note.
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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
Copyright 2007 by The National Institute for Newman Studies. All rights reserved.