For the king knows of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him…
1. When our Saviour began to publish the gospel, He did not, as deceivers do, vent His new doctrines, or pretend to perform His wonders in places where there was nobody fit to oppose the one or to disprove the other. From the first He appeared publicly, and throughout the whole course of His ministry He addressed Himself constantly to multitudes, and in the most frequented parts — the streets, market places, temple and synagogues — where His life and doctrine and miracles might, by His professed enemies, be narrowly observed and examined.
2. He pitched upon such persons for the subjects of His miraculous cures whose infirmities were notorious and of a long standing; one who had been blind from his very birth; another diseased with an issue of blood twelve years; and a third troubled with a palsy for thirty-eight years; so that there could be no possible confederacy in a case where the person cured was known to have laboured under that distemper some years before our Saviour was born.
3. He so ordered the matter that some of those He healed should immediately repair to the priests, his inveterate enemies, and give them an opportunity of detecting the fraud, if there were any.
4. As He had lived, so He died in public. When buried, He had a public guard set upon His grave, and He arose from thence in the presence of that very guard, and to their astonishment. He appeared afterwards to five hundred brethren at once, to the twelve disciples frequently; ate, drank, and conversed with them for forty days, and was at last taken up into heaven in their sight by a slow and leisurely ascent. In all respects and circumstances the gospel of Christ showed itself to proceed from the great "Father of lights, in whom is no darkness at all." As its Founder once appealed to His disciples, and said, "Handle Me and see," so may the doctrine itself make a like challenge to its enemies. Learn then —
I. HOW GREAT AN ADVANTAGE THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION HATH, ON THIS ACCOUNT, OVER ALL OTHER RELIGIONS. Scarce any religion ever set up in the world without pretending to derive its authority from miracles. But then, either those so-called miracles have been acted confessedly in secret, or, if said to have been done in public, the account came too late to deserve credit. Mahomet boasted of receiving several chapters of his Alcoran from the angel Gabriel; and when miracles were demanded of him he at first (as his followers have done ever since) appealed to the Alcoran itself as to the greatest and most convincing miracle. The Jewish religion was indeed published by God in a very open and solemn manner. Yet still infidelity finds room to object that the truth of this revelation depends upon the testimony of friends only; and that the scene is laid in a place where nobody could be present but the persons concerned. And should any of these persons have been inclined to contradict it they could not, because they all perished in the wilderness ere a correspondence was as yet opened between them and any other people. Such objections, it is true, are of no weight, laid in the balance with the evidence given for the truth of those facts; yet it is some advantage to the proof of gospel miracles not to be liable even to those exceptions.
II. HOW INEXCUSABLE THEY ARE WHO, NOTWITHSTANDING THAT OPEN, INCONTESTABLE MANNER IN WHICH THE DIVINE AUTHORITY OF THE GOSPEL, WAS MANIFESTED, CONTINUE STILL TO STAND OUT AGAINST IT.
III. THE VANITY OF THOSE PRETENCES WHICH ARE MADE TO MIRACLES IN THE ROMISH COMMUNION. A miracle is, in the nature of it, somewhat done for the conversion of infidels (1 Corinthians 14:22). And yet it so happens that Popish miracles are generally done at home, before believers, where there is little or no need of them, or if abroad, at such a convenient distance as not to lie within reach of confutation. In China and Japan these wonder workers may pretend to have done as many miracles as they please, without the fear of a discovery; in Spain and Italy they may venture, now and then, to set up for them where there are so many always ready to favour their pretences and to run into any pious fraud that can be contrived for them. But in heretical countries they are very shy and sparing of their talent this way.
IV. TO REJECT ALL PRETENCES TO THE SPIRIT, TO PRIVATE VISIONS AND INWARD ILLUMINATIONS, BY WHICH ENTHUSIASTIC OR DESIGNING MEN ENDEAVOUR TO ESTABLISH THEIR OPINIONS, and to give them a sacred authority.
V. HOW IT COMES TO PASS THAT MIRACLES HAVE BEEN SO LONG DISCONTINUED. They were performed at first in so conspicuous, exuberant, and convincing a manner as to render a continual repetition of the same proofs utterly needless (Luke 16:31).
VI. THAT THE MORE ANY DOCTRINE AFFECTS SECRECY AND DECLINES TRIALS OF ANY SORT THE MORE REASON WE HAVE TO SUSPECT AND TO EXAMINE IT (John 4:11). This reflection cannot but put us in mind of those articles of the Roman Catholic faith, by which it stands distinguished from the faith of all other Christians. We are not allowed to doubt of them, or to reason upon them. They are to be received implicitly, without any particular discussion and inquiry; from the great doctrine of infallibility they proceed, and into that they are finally resolved. Now this is the greatest prejudice imaginable against the truth of the doctrines of any Church, or the sincerity of its pretences; for if what it proposeth to us be true and reasonable, why should it decline the examination and judgment of reason? If all be true gold, without alloy, how comes it thus to fly the touchstone? It is the property of error only to skulk and hide its head; but truth, we know, is open and barefaced, like our first parents, in the state of innocence and happiness, naked, but not ashamed.
VII. TO MAKE OUR PRACTICE OF THE GOSPEL, LIKE THE FIRST PROOFS OF IT, CONSPICUOUS AND PLAIN; and endeavour, with all our power, to recommend the doctrine we embrace to the hearts of men, as openly and powerfully by our good. lives and actions as the first planters of it did by their miraculous performances. So shall we best put to silence the ignorance of foolish men, and be able, in the most convincing and effectual manner, to make an answer to our blasphemers.
Parallel VersesKJV: For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.
WEB: For the king knows of these things, to whom also I speak freely. For I am persuaded that none of these things is hidden from him, for this has not been done in a corner.