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mit me now, Sirs, solemnly to remind you, that these are the Memoirs of the Holy Jesus, the Saviour of sinful men, whom to know is life eternal, and whom to neglect is everlasting destruction. We have here the authentic records of that Gospel which was intended as the great medicine for our souls; of that character which is our pattern; of that death which is our ransom; of Him, in short, whose name we bear, as we are professed Christians; and before whose tribunal we are all shortly to appear, that our eternal existence may be determined, blissful or miserable, according to our regard for what he has taught, and done, and endured. Let not the greatest, therefore, think it beneath their notice; nor the meanest imagine, that amidst all the most necessary cares and labours, they can find any excuse for neglecting, or for even postponing it.
Had I not been fully convinced of the importance of Christianity, I should not have determined to devote my whole life to its service, (for, on the principles of natural religion, I know the soul to be immortal, and should expect nothing but its ruin in the ways of the most sanctified fraud:) but as I am thus convinced, I must make it my humble request to every one that enters on the perusal of these volumes, that they may, for a little while at least, be the employment of his retired hours; and that, as he proceeds from one section to another, he would pause and reflect, "Whose words do I hear? Whose actions do I survey? Whose sufferings do I contemplate? And as all must know they are the words, the actions, and the sufferings of Jesus the Son of God, our supreme Lord, and our final Judge, let it be farther, and very seriously inquired, in what degree the obvious and confessed design of the glorious Gospel has been practically regarded and complied with: "Can I, in my heart, think that I am a disciple, whom such a Master will approve, and whom he will choose for his attendant in that world of glory to which he is now gone?" Let the plainness of this advice be forgiven; for such is the temper and conduct of most who call themselves Christians, that, if this religion be true, their cold and unaffecting knowledge of the history of Christ, and of the purposes of his appearance, will only serve to furnish out matter for eternal selfaccusation and remorse: and he is at best but a learned and polite infidel, who would not rather be the instrument of conducting the lowest creature, capable of reading or hearing these lines, to the saving knowledge of a crucified Redeemer, than fill the most refined nation with
his own applause, while the grace of the Saviour is forgotten, or his service neglected.
As what I now present to the reader concludes the historical part of the New Testament, I here fulfil the promise which I long since made, of offering some remarks on the excellence and usefulness of that history; which may dispose the reader more frequently to review it, and to study it with the greater application.
It must be universally granted, that the excellence of any performance is to be estimated by considering its design, and the degree in which it is calculated to answer it. The design of the Gospel history is summed up in the words which I have placed for my motto; which, though they are taken from the conclusion of St. John's Gospel, are applicable, not only to all the other Evangelists, but likewise to the Acts of the Apostles, that invaluable appendix to them. "These things are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name.”
I shall beg leave to show how admirably the history before us is calculated to answer both these ends: viz., to produce a conviction of the truth of Christianity, and to make those good impressions on the heart, which may secure the eternal life and happiness of the reader; which no speculative conviction, even of the most sublime, comprehensive, and important truths, will itself be able to do. I apprehend, that in proportion to the degree in which these two premises can be illustrated, the excellence and value of this history will immediately appear: for no man is so far infatuated as to dispute, whether obtaining life, eternal life, be an end of the highest importance; how light soever he may in fact make of it, and how wantonly soever he may barter it away for every trifle that strikes his imagination or fires his passions. Obvious as the hints are which occur on these heads, I will touch a little upon them, that we may more evidently see how much we are indebted to the Divine Wisdom and Goodness, in giving us so invaluable a treasure as these books contain, and how highly we are concerned to attend diligently to the contents of them.
First, every intelligent reader of this Evangelical History must have seen, that it is admirably adapted to produce and support, in all attentive and impartial minds, a strong conviction of the truth of Christianity; and, by consequence, of the divine glories of Jesus the Christ, as the Son of God.
It is evident that our most material arguments for the demonstration of the truth of Christianity, are drawn from miracles, from prophecies, from the character of its founders, and from the genius of the religion itself. Now, though all these receive great illustration from the epistolary parts of the New Testament, and some of them, especially the second, from the Old; yet it is certain that the great basis and foundation of them all, is what we read in the history of Christ and his Apostles. There we are informed of the miracles which they wrought, of the character they maintained, and of the system of religion which they published to the world; and the application of Old Testament prophecies to Jesus of. Nazareth, is, beyond all controversy, to be justified chiefly from what we find there.
These books do in the most authentic manner, as we have demonstrated elsewhere, show us who Jesus of Nazareth was, and what he professed himself to be. They give us an account of the very high pretensions he made to an immediate mission from God, and to a most intimate relation to him, as His Son, in a peculiar and appropriate sense, not communicable to any other. They give us also, as in this connection it is very fit they should, a very large and circumstantial narration of a variety of miracles which he wrought. Their number appears to be very great; so that a late writer, who had considered them very accurately, reckons up sixty-nine relating to particular persons, besides twenty other instances; in all of which several, and in most of them multitudes-yea, frequently great multitudes, are men tioned, not merely as the spectators, but as the objects of his miraculous power; which must, on the most moderate computation, arise to many hundreds ;-not to mention those yet more numerous miracles which were performed by his Apostles in his name, wherever they came, especially after the descent of the Holy Ghost upon them; or the variety of supernatural gifts and powers with which they were endowed; and which, in many thousands of instances, they communicated to others.
It is further to be recollected here, that these miracles were not of such a kind as to leave any room for a doubt, whether they lay within the natural efficacy of second causes or not; since the most hopeless and inveterate diseases gave way, not merely to some trivial application of means, whether internal or external, but to a touch or a word; and HH 2
death itself obeyed the voice of Jesus, and of his servants, speaking by his authority.
Now I would wish that any one who feels himself inclined to scepticism with regard to Christianity, would sit down and read over every one of the Evangelists in this particular view; that he would take the stories of the several miracles in their succession; and, after having attentively weighed them, would ask his own heart, whether, if he had seen such facts as these, he would not immediately have been convinced in his own conscience that this was indeed the seal of Heaven, set to the commission of the person who performed them; and, consequently, whether, if these things were really done by Jesus, and his missionaries in his name, he must not be compelled to acknowledge that Christianity is true. Let any impartial and rational man in the world judge, whether, if an impostor had arisen, falsely and blasphemously arrogating to himself the high titles of the Son of God and Saviour of men, God would have honoured his lips with this wonderful power over diseases and death; or his dead body, after a public execution, with a resurrection: that is, in one word, whether he would have interposed to give such credit to him, as it is not pretended he hath ever given, in any other instances, to the best of men, in the best of causes. Every man's heart will surely tell him, with the circumstances of such facts full in his view, that the only question is, whether they be themselves credible? And that, if this be allowed, the divine attestation to the authority of such a teacher follows, by a connection which can never be broken, and which probably few men living will have an inveteracy of prejudice sufficient to gainsay.
The historical books of the New Testament do also admirably illustrate that argument in favour of Christianity, which is drawn from the accomplishment of prophecies; and this in a variety of respects. Many very important passages of this kind are expressly quoted; not merely by way of allusion, but by a literal and exact application of them, according to their genuine sense, and agreeably to the connection in which they stand. The application of some others, in themselves more dubious, will, upon strict examination, appear just; and may prove a key to the sense of many more, on the truest principles of analogy, as many writers have shown: nay, the texts quoted by way of allusion and accommodation, of which there are such numerous in
stances, have consequently tended to the establishment of the argument from prophecies, however, under injudicious management, they may seem to have perplexed it; as they have had their share in recommending the Jewish Scriptures to the perusal of Christians; and so in guarding them more surely against any possibility of corruption, if the Jews themselves could have been wicked enough to attempt it.
But, besides these various views in which the citations may be considered under this head, I must further observe, that when not this or that particular passage of the Evangelical history alone, but the whole series of it, comes to be compared with correspondent representations in the Old Testament, it fixes upon the mind the strongest impression that can well be imagined, of the reference of the Prophets to Jesus as the Messiah. The ingenious Earl of Rochester, whose story is so celebrated, was deeply sensible of this, with regard to the 53rd of Isaiah, as illustrated by all the story of our Lord's passions: and there are many other sections of that prophet, and of several others, to which the remark may be applied; which, indeed, extends to all the general representations of the Messiah's character, conduct, and circumstances.
The account which the New Testament gives us of the temper and character of our Divine Redeemer, is a topic of argument on this head by no means to be forgotten. We do not, indeed, there meet with any studied encomiums upon the subject. The authors deal not in such sort of productions; but, which is a thousand times better, they show us the character itself. The sight of what is great and beautiful has another kind of effect than the most eloquent description of it. And here we behold the actions of Christ; we attend his discourses, and have a plain and open view of his behaviour. In consequence of this we see in him every thing venerable, every thing amiable. We see a perfection of goodness nowhere in the world to be seen or to be heard: and numberless arguments plead at once, to persuade the heart that it is absolutely impossible such a person should be engaged in a design founded in known falsehood, and tending only to mislead and ruin his followers.
And though it is true the character of his Apostles does not fully come up to the standard of their master, nor is entirely free from some small blemishes; yet we see so little of that kind in them, and on the contrary, such an assemblage of the human, divine, and social virtues, that we cannot, if we thoroughly know them, if we form an intimate