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I shall first show that he did this; and then why he did it.
I. We are to consider, that Paul usually proved the truth of the doctrines, which he taught. He did not desire his hearers to believe any thing, which he asserted, without evidence. It seems by what is said in the eleventh verse of the context, that he commended the noble Bereans, for searching the scriptures, to see whether the doctrines, which they heard him preach, were agreeable to that infallible standard. He usually preached on the great and essential doctrines of the gospel, which he knew ought to be proved, by plain and conclusive reasoning. To reason fairly is to draw fair consequences from true premises, or to adduce clear and conclusive arguments in support of truth. In order to reason clearly and intelligibly upon the truth of a proposition, it is often necessary, in the first place to explain it ; in the next place to produce arguments in support of it ; and lastly to answer objections against it. By Paul's proving the doctrines, which he taught, we are to understand his reasoning upon them in this manner.
them in this manner. And if we now examine his general mode of preaching, we shall find, that he usually proved the particular doctrine which he preached, by explaining it; if it needed explanation; by bringing arguments to support it, if it needed to be supported; and by answering objections, if he supposed any would occur to the mind of the hearer. This will appear in respect to a variety of subjects upon which he preached.
When he preached upon the existence of God, he reasoned plainly and forcibly upon the subject. Hear his
arguments in support of this first and fundamental doctrine of all religion. Speaking of the Pagans, who deny the existence of the only living and true God, and neglect to worship him, he says, “ The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse." But he argued more largely upon
this doctrine, in his discourse to the Epicurean and Stoick philosophers at Athens. 66 Then Paul stood in the midst of Marshill, and said, ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious, for as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God, that made the world, and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and hath made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us; for in him we live, and move, and have our being ; as certain also of your own poets have said : For we are his offspring. For as much then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think, that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.” This clear, concise, and conclusive reasoning was perfectly adapted to prove the being and perfections of God, and the indispensible duty of the Pagans to know, to love, and to serve him.
Paul reasoned as plainly and forcibly upon the doctrine of divine sovereignty in electing and saving some and not others. “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he
hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, wlıy doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, Oman, who art thou, that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say unto him that formed it, why hast thou made me thus ? Hath not the potter power over the clay of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” Here Paul stated or explained his subject, proved his subject, and answered the most plausible objection that could be made against it.
Paul taught the doctrine of total depravity, and proved it, by plain and conclusive reasoning. He first proved this doctrine from a long and particular account of the character and conduct of all the heathen world, and then from the authority of the old testament, in which the total depravity of the Jews is plainly asserted. He says, “ What then? Are we better than they? No, in no wise : for we have before proved, both Jews and Gentiles that they are all under sin; as it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one,” &c.
When Paul preached to the Jews and Greeks at Thessalonica, he undertook to prove, that Christ had come into the world, suffered, and died, and risen from the dead. This is related in our text and context. " And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath-days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, opening and alleging," that is, explaining and proving, “ that Christ must needs have suffered, and
6 risen again from the dead : and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ. Paul, in his preaching, not only asserted, that Christ was the long expected and promised Messiah, that he had suffered and died, and that he had risen from the dead, but he proved these points, and so demonstrated, that Christ was the only and all-sufficient redeemer.
In treating on the resurrection and future state of the righteous, Paul reasoned with great perspicuity and energy. Some of the Corinthians denied this doctrine, which made it necessary to prove it, which he did in this long and forcible train of reasoning. “ Now if
Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you, that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen. And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God, that he raised up Christ: wliom he raised not up, if so be the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised. And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain, ye are yet in your sins.” He goes on in this strain till he starts and answers an objection." But some men will say, how
66 are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come ? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die. And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain; it may chance of wheat, or some other grain. But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.” Finally he says, “ This
66 corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruption shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, death is swallowed up in victory. Thus philosophically and scripturally the apostle reasoned upon the resurrection of the body, and the immortality of the soul.
When Paul preached before Felix, “ he reasoned" so plainly and -forcibly " of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, that Felix trembled.” Immediately after he was converted and baptized, he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the son of God, and reasoned so clearly and conclusively on the subject, that he confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ. After he came from Athens to Corinth, and found a certain Jew named Aquila, he abode with him there. And we are told, that he there “ reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. He continued preaching in this manner to the Corinthians
a year and six months; but at length he came to Ephesus, where he entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews, in his publick discourses, “ speaking boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God." I trust, it now appears evident to every one, that Paul usually reasoned in his preaching, and fairly proved the truth of the important doctrines, which he publicly taught and inculcated. I now proceed to show,
II. Why he made it his common practice to prove the doctrines, upon which he treated. He did not adopt this mode of preaching because he supposed it would be the most pleasing to his hearers, nor because he was not capable of preaching in a more agreeable
But, 1. Because he meant to preach the gospel plainly and intelligibly to persons of all characters and capacities. He says to the Romans, “I am a debtor, both to the Greeks, and to the barbarians, both to the wise, and to the unwise." And he says to the Corinthians, “Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel : not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect
. And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech, or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit, and of power ; that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God.” The Apostle very well knew, that in order to preach the great, the deep, and important doctrines of the gospel plainly and intelligibly to all descriptions of men, it was necessary to explain those doctrines, that they might be clearly and distinctly understood ; and in the next place, to prove them to be true ; that they might be believed ; and in many cases, to answer objections, that the mouths of gainsayers might be stopped. All preachers ought to be teachers, and all teachers find it necessary to explain and prove