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tions of the Meffiah, declining to answer by what authority he acted, and what office he bore, and keeping back all direct affertions of his high dignity, when fuch open claim would have exposed his intentions, and his religion to calumny and mifreprefentation. In fine, would enthusiasts have described him as confining his personal inftructions, and during his own life the inftructions of his difciples, to the houfe of Ifrael? yet declaring, that the effect of introducing his religion would be, "that the king"dom of God fhould be taken from them, and

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given to a nation bringing_forth the fruits "thereof;" and, at his afcenfion, commanding his disciples to go forth and baptize in all nations.

Not to pursue further particulars, it seems most evident, that the caution and wisdom, the enlarged views and unvaried confiftency of our Saviour's conduct, fo admirably adapted to the unprecedented character in which he appeared, and the critical circumstances in which he was placed, were fuch as weak and visionary fanatics could neither have invented or described; ftill lefs can we fuppofe, that fuch men would have been competent to delineate from their own difordered imaginations a MORAL CHARACTER fuch as that of Jefus ; a character difplaying piety the most fervent, without any mixture of mysticism or extravagance; manners moft ftrict

i Matt. xxi. 43.


and pure, but neither unfociable or auftere; patriotifm and friendship, untinctured by narrow prejudice or weak partiality; the deepest abhorrence of guilt and the warmeft zeal for reformation, combined with the moft confiderate indulgence to frailty, and the most heartfelt pity to offenders; a character, in which frankness and difcretion, dignity and meeknefs, fortitude and tenderness, exquifite fenfibility and patient refignation, were fo blended and tempered together in the compofition of his heavenly mind, that while the most close searching wisdom cannot but confess the spotless perfection of this great example, the humblest virtue may aspire to its imitation, with a full affurance, that the effort is as certainly suited to the weakness of human nature, as it is evidently conducive to its perfection and happiness, and plainly conformable to the divine command.

Now, is it conceivable, that weak extravagant enthufiafts could have conceived fuch a character as this? nay further, does not the manner in which this character difcovers itself to us, appear as inconfiftent with fuch a fuppofition as the character itfelf? Would enthusiasts have been able to draw fuch a character, not merely by defcriptions and words, but by a long narration of facts, and repetition of difcourfes naturally and regularly connected, perpetually arifing from, and illustrative of each other, involving a conftant reference to times, places, and


perfons, and bearing every poffible mark of reality, and these related with the most perfect calmness and coolness, as well as with the artless fimplicity and affured confidence of truth?

I truft it has thus been fhewn that the facred records of the New Testament contain, in their stile and structure, in the spirit they breath, and the facts they detail, ftrong marks of their undoubted truth, and their divine original.


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The Epiftles of St. Paul were not dictated by enthusiasm ; their obfcurity is confidered in this fection.

IN the last chapter I have examined the historical works of the New Teftament; and it has, I trust, appeared, that they are entirely free from those characters which the details of enthusiasts almost univerfally exhibit. The perfpicuity, and the calmness of stile, in which they are composed-the confiftency, the importance, and the very nature of the facts they detail-and above all, the meek and merciful fpirit which they breath, totally repel every fufpicion that thofe facred narrations were dictated by fanaticifm but it cannot be denied that the epiftles of St. Paul do not fo evidently repel a fimilar fupicion. In many paffages they display an obscurity and warmth, which have been imputed, with some plausibility, to the mysticism and the violence of an enthusiastic mind.

It fhall therefore be the fubject of this chapter to enquire, whether the degree of obfcurity and warmth, found in these epistles, may not be fully accounted for, without obliging us to impute them to fanaticism; and whether, in the fame writings, we may not discover fuch clear traces of strong reasoning, fober judgment, and even of refined addrefs, as may fully fatisfy us, that the great apostle of the Gentiles, however animated and zealous, was very far removed from extravagance and enthusiasm.

One caufe of obfcurity there is, which though in a certain degree common to all the writings of the New Teftament; muft affect thofe parts which like the epiftles of St. Paul, are principally employed in expounding the doctrines of Christianity, more than those which are, for the most part, details of facts.— This was the neceffity, not only of alluding to a variety of laws and cuftoms at that time familiar to all, but obfcure to us who live in fo remote a region, and at so distant an age, but also the neceffity of employing many Greek words, in a sense very different from that which they bore in Heathen authors.


It is the obfervation of Mr. Locke, "that the રે fubjects treated of in these epiftles, are fo wholly

k Mr. Locke's preface to his commentary on the Galations, paragraph the 3d. vol. the 3d. of his works, page 100-6th edit. in 3 vol. folio, Lond. 1759.


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