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INTRODUCTION TO THE NEW TESTAMENT.
events, is most fully proved by the testimony of an unbroken series of authors, reaching from the days of the Evangelists to the present times; by the concurrent belief of Christians of all denominations, and by the unreserved confession of avowed enemies to the Gospel. In this point of view the writings of the ancient Fathers of the Christian Church are invaluable. They contain not only frequent references and allusions to the books of the New Testament, but also such numerous professed quotations from them, that it is demonstratively certain, that these books existed in their present state a few years after the Conclusion of Christ's ministry upon earth. No unbeliever in the Apostolick age, in the age immediately subsequent to it, or indeed in any age whatever, was ever able to disprove the facts recorded in these books; and it does not appear, that in the early times any such attempt was made. The facts therefore related in the New Testament must be admitted to have really happened. But if all the circumstances of the history of Jesus, that is, His miraculous conception in the womb of the Virgin, the time at which He was born, the place where He was born, the family from which He was descended; the nature of the doctrines which He preached, the meanness of His condition, His rejection, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, with many other minute particulars ; if, I say, all these various circumstances in the history of Jesus exactly accord with the predictions of the Old Testament relative to the promised Messiah, in whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed, it follows that Jesus was that Messiah. And again, if Jesus really performed the miracles as related in the Gospels, and was perfectly acquainted with the thoughts and designs of men, His Divine mission cannot be doubted. Lastly, if He really foretold His own death and resurrection, the descent of the Holy Ghost, its miraculous effects, the sufferings of the Apostles, the call of the Gentiles, and the destruction of Jerusalem, it necessarily follows that he spake by the authority of God Himself. These and many other arguments, founded in the more than human character of Jesus, in the rapid propagation of the Gospel, in the excellence of its precepts and doctrines, and in the constancy, intrepidity, and fortitude of its early professors, incontrovertibly establish the truth and Divine origin of the Christian religion, and afford to us, who live in these latter times, the most positive confirmation of the promise of our Lord, “ that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Bp. Tomline.
The Gospels recount those wonderful and important events, with which the Christian religion and the Divine Author of it were introduced into the world, and which have produced so great a change in the principles, the manners, the morals, and the temporal as well as spiritual condition of mankind. They relate the first appearance of Christ upon earth, His extraordinary and miraculous birth, the testimony borne to Him by His forerunner, John the Baptist, the temptation in the wilderness, the opening of His Divine commission, the pure, the perfect, and sublime
INTRODUCTION TO THE NEW TESTAMENT.
morality which He taught, especially in His inimitable Sermon on the Mount; the infinite superiority which He shewed to every other moral teacher, both in the matter and manner of His discourses, more particularly by crushing vice in its very cradle, in the first risings of wicked desires and propensities in the heart, by giving a decided preference of the mild, gentle, passive, conciliating virtues, to that violent, vindictive, high-spirited, unforgiving temper, which has been always too much the favourite character of the world; by requiring us to forgive our very enemies, and to do good to them that hate us; by excluding from our devotions, our alms, and all our virtues, all regard to fame, reputation, and applause ; by laying down two great general principles of morality, love to God, and love to mankind, and deducing from thence every other human duty; by conveying His instructions under the easy, familiar, and impressive form of parables; by expressing Himself in a tone of dignity and authority unknown before; by exemplifying every virtue that He taught in His own unblemished and perfect life and conversation; and, above all, by adding those awful sanctions, which He alone, of all moral instructors, had the power to hold out, eternal rewards to the virtuous, and eternal punishments to the wicked. The sacred narratives then represent to us the high character that he assumed, the claim He made to a Divine original ; the wonderful miracles He wrought in proof of His divinity; the various prophecies which plainly marked Him out as the Messiah, the Great Deliverer of the Jews; the declarations He made that He came to offer Himself a sacrifice for the sins of all mankind; the cruel indignities, sufferings, and persecutions, to which, in consequence of this great design, He was exposed; the accomplishment of it by the painful and ignominious death to which He submitted, by His resurrection after three days from the grave, by His ascension into heaven, by His sitting there at the right hand of God, and performing the office of a Mediator and Intercessor for the sinful sons of men, till He shall come a second time in His glory to sit in judgment on all mankind, and decide their final doom of happiness or misery for ever.
These are the momentous, the interesting truths, on which the Gospels principally dwell. Bp. Porteus.