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it stands in the apostolic writings, is manifestly a scheme for opening the eyes of mankind, not for blinding their understandings; for improving, not confounding human reason; for removing, not riveting prejudice. And it is given with all that unadorned and artless simplicity which distinguishes truth from imposture. Nor can the least surmise or suspicion of any indirect design be fastened upon them. No scheme for aggrandizing themselves. Their ambitious views vanished at the death of their Master. And from the time of his ascension, we see their whole conduct and behaviour wholly disengaged from, and superior to all worldly designs. We see them disclaiming riches, honours, and pleasure, and teaching their followers to aspire only after future glory, honour, and immortality, and to trample under their feet the vain amusements of the present short and perishing life. The accounts they have left of their own errors and weaknesses, suit very ill with a scheme to impose on mankind. The dispute, which we know arose between them, must have discovered the plot, if there had been one. For it is evident that they did not spare one another, and that they have not at all softened things in the accounts they have left on record of the differences which arose between them. Their accusation of their countrymen, and their defying, in the most public manner, their most inveterate enemies to lay any thing justly to their charge, what are the genuine marks of integrity and simplicity of intention, if these are not?
There is indeed no argument for the truth of Christianity more irresistible than the character and conduct of its first propagators, and especially of its glorious author. No human sagacity could, from mere invention, have put together a fictitious account of the behaviour of a person, in so many strange and uncommon particulars, as the evangelists have told us of our Saviour, without either swelling up the imaginary character into that of the hero of a romance, or drawing it defaced with faults and blemishes. That human invention is by no means equal to any such task, is evident from the success of the attempts which have been made by the greatest masters of description to draw perfect characters, especially where any thing supernatural was to have a place. And that such a character as that
of our Saviour should be drawn so uniform and consist ent, at the same time that it is so wholly new and peculiar, that in all the histories, and all the epic poems in the world, there is no pattern from whence the least hint could be taken to form it by; that this character, in which the greatness is of so extraordinary and stupendous a kind, that whatever is great in those warriors, or heroes, or kings, is despised and neglected by him, and infinitely beneath him; that such a character should be the invention of a few illiterate men, and that it should by them be exhibited, not by studied encomiums, but by a bare unadorned narration of facts, but such facts as are no where else to be equalled; he who can believe that all this could be the effect of mere human invention, without superior interposition, must be capable of believing any thing. So that I may defy all the opposers of revelation to answer this question. How came we to have such a character as that of Christ, drawn as it is, and drawn by such authors, if it was not taken from a real original, and if that original was not something above human?
I do not think it would be a hard matter to write a volume upon this subject, without treading much in the footsteps of those who have written upon the life of Christ. But without considering at present what has, or has not, been said by others, I shall only desire the reader to peruse carefully the evangelical history; (with what helps may be necessary;) attending, as he goes through the account of the words and actions of our Saviour, to the disposition, and genius of spirit, which shines throughout the whole. Let him consider the tender compassion and love for a race of perverse, self-destroyed creatures, which must have prompted this glorious Being to condescend thus low to instruct and save them from vice and its dreadful consequences. At the same time, let the wisdom he showed in doing so be considered; since nothing conceivable is of greater importance, or more worthy of a being of the highest dignity, than the recovery of a species, otherwise lost and undone, to virtue and endless happiness. Let the prudence and judgment of the Divine instructor be attentively considered. How easy had it been for him, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom, to have given forth his
instructions in such a manner as to have overpowered all human understanding? How hard do we see it is for men of superior understanding to adapt their lessons to the capacities of the young and ignorant? How irksome to most men, the employment of teaching? How few teachers are there who can avoid showing some affectation of their superiority in knowledge? Who could have expected, that ever he, who was the instrument of God in making this world, whose Divine penetration saw by intuition through all the depths of science, which a Newton could only collect by laborious inquiry, by accurate calculation, and distant analogy, that one. capable of instructing the most enlightened archangel, should condescend to initiate in first principles a multitude of ignorant, illiterate mortals. "Blessed are the humble, the meek, the merciful." Here is no affectation of mystic learning; no pompous ostentation of profound science, no nice distinction of speculative points. And yet, when all is duly considered, it was no more derogation from the dignity of a teacher, capable of instructing angels, to condescend to give to those, who may hereafter come to be companions of angels, the first principles of virtue, which is the only true wisdom, than for a philosopher to teach his son the first rudiments of learning. Then how wisely does he suit his instructions both to the capacities and dispositions of his hearers! Parable and allegory have ever been thought the most entertaining manner of communicating instruction. The severity of the precept is lost in the entertainment of the fable. The sensible image reflects a light upon the moral thought, and the abstract thought gives an importance to the sensible representation. By apt similitude, therefore, and allegories drawn from the surrounding objects, did this great teacher recommend to his hearers the most solemn truths and important precepts. The honest and teachable mind was thus allured to search after Divine knowledge; while the proud and obstinate scorned the trouble of inquiring into the easy meaning of the figures used by him. Thus did his instructions become what all addresses to free and reasonable beings ought, a part of trial and discipline. So that they who were well disposed might receive improvement and advantage, and the hardhearted might hear and not understand.
With what graceful ease, and yet solemn composure, does he accommodate himself to the conversation of all sorts of persons! Among the wise and learned, how does he shine in communicating clear and important truth, confuting their artificial sophisms, and silencing their malicious cavils! among the illiterate, how does he condescend to the meanness of their understandings, and adapt his instructions to their apprehension, and usual train of thinking, raising his reflections from the present objects, and improving upon the most common occasions! even women and children are taken notice of by this wisest of teachers; and with reason for no well disposed human mind is of little consequence; whatever it is at present, it is in the way to be hereafter great and glorious. The character, in short, which the Saviour of the world assumed, seems to have been equally sublime and amiable. . How does his wisdom, and the dignity of his character, appear in his discouraging all idle curiosity, which engages the mind unprofitably, and takes off its attention from the awful business for which we were sent into the world; at the same time that he fails not to answer any useful question that is put to him; and ever turns the attention to something great, and worthy of a Divine instructor to dwell upon!
How different his manner of communicating instruction from the dictates of the artful impostor or wild enthusiast! Instead of threatening with fire and sword the opposers of Divine truth, he kindly forewarns them of the natural and judicial effects of their impious obstinacy and malice. Instead of thundering out spiritual anathemas or excommunications against those who would not take his religion on trust; instead of depriving them of the temporal advantages to which every peaceable subject has unquestionable right; instead of employing the secular arm to decide in matters of conscience, where civil power has no right to interpose; instead of setting the world in a flame about mere speculative opinions, and doubtful doctrines, this Divine Teacher applies himself to mankind, as one who understood mankind. He addresses himself to their reason. He calls upon them to exert their understanding He does not insist upon their believing him on his own
assertion, though he might have done so on a much better pretence than the purest church, the most numerous council, or the infallible bishop of Rome himself. He claims no implicit authority over their faith; but appeals to the works which they saw him perform, and to the prophecies of their own Scriptures, which they saw fulfilled in him. The doctrines he dwells upon, and labours to inculcate, are the great and important points of morality, the duties of love to God, and benevolence to man; the heavenly virtues of sincerity, self-denial, contempt of a vain world, humility, meekness, and the other excellent graces, which make the only true ornament of the human mind which have a natural tendency to qualify it for the society of all welldisposed beings in the universe. Is not this the very doctrine, are not these the very precepts which one would expect the messenger of God to mankind to teach and inculcate? The perverse, or vicious opposer of religion may cavil as long as he will; but I think myself safe in venturing the cause I defend upon the sense of every welldisposed mind; to which I dare appeal, Whether it does not feel the Divine authority of this heavenly Teacher, in the excellence of his doctrines and precepts? But to proceed:
How patiently does he bear with the mean and grovelling ideas his disciples bad at first of the character in which the Messiah ought to appear! How kindly does he overlook their weakness, in fixing all their desires on worldly grandeur! What pity does he show for the unhappy uninstructed part of the people, the publicans and sinners! How does he show himself ready to pardon, though by no means to justify, the offences which proceed from the unthinking indulgence of passion and appetite, while he denounces woes upon the hardened and hypocritical sinner! Wonderful! that he, who himself knew no fault, should thus bear with the faults of wretched mortals; while they, though all guilty before God, find it so hard to bear with one another.
With what open generosity does he bestow the highest encomium that can be deserved by mortal man, on one who had just before treated him and his pretensions in a very slighting manger; I mean Nathaniel, who, upon