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RELIGION. limits of human life. But the knowledge of a Christian takes a more exalted and a more certain aim; it refpects a degree of felicity, which exceeds our utmost powers of conception, and a situation of pleasure and delight without alloy, and without end-It relates to a state of existence, when the fpirits of the just will be made perfect, and the transcendent bliss of angels will be imparted to glorified and immortal man.
Such being the excellence of Christianity, and such the important end, which it proposes, every person, who defires to be fully acquainted with divine truth, and to build his happiness upon the most solid basis, will take, with the greatest satisfaction, a particular and distinct view of its nature and evidences. Then will he avoid the imputation of being a Christian merely in compliance with the prejudices of his parents, or the customs of his native country; and he will become one in confequence of a proper examination, and a rational preference. His conviction of its truth will then
« b Were a man designed onely, like a flie, to buzz about here for a time, fucking in the air, and licking the dew, then soon to vanish back into nothing, or to be transformed into worms; how forry and despicable a thing were he ? And fuch, without religion, we hould be. But it supplieth us with business of a moft worthy nature, and lofty importance; it setteth us upon doing things great and noble as can be ; it engageth us to free our minds from all fond conceits, and cleanse our hearts from all corrupt affections ; to curb our brutish appetites, to tame our wild paffions, to correct our perverse inclinations, to conform the dif
be folid and clear; he will plainly perceive the strength of its foundations, and fully understand the extent of its advantages : he will be persuaded that it bears the character and fiamp of Divinity, and that it has every claim to the reception of mankind, which a divine Revelation can reafonably be expected to possess.
The proofs of the truth of the Christian Revelation are numerous, clear, and conclusive. The most obvious and striking are those which arise; I. From the AUTHENTICITY OF THE Books or THE NEW TESTAMENT. II. THE CHARACTER OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR. III. The PROPIECIES of which he was the subject, as well as those which he delivered. IV. His MIRACLES. V. THE SUBLIME MORALITY OF HIS PRECEPTS. And, VI. THE RAPID AND EXTENSIVE PROPAGATION OF HIS RELIGION under circumstances the most hostile to its advancement. Thefe, together with fome remarks on the futile objections of Unbelievers, and a concluding exhortation to perseverance in the duties of our holy religion, will form the subjects of this and the following chapter.
positions of our soul, and the actions of our life to the eternal laws of righteousness and goodness: it putteth us upon the imita. tion of God, and aiming at the resemblance of his perfections ; upon obtaining a friendship, and maintaining a correspondence with the High and Holy one ; upon fitting our minds for conversation and society with the wisest and purest spirits above; upon pro. viding for an immortal state ; upon the acquift of joy and glory everlasting." Barrow's Sermons, vol. 1. ferm. iii. p. 36. i.
1. The Authenticity of the Books of the
The New Testament is the source, from which the knowledge of the Christian fyftem is derived. That the Gotpels and the Acts of the Apostles were written by St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. John, neither Gențiles nor Jews have ever been fo hardy as to deny. The Epistle to the Hebrews indeed, the second Epiftle of St. Peter, the Epistles of St. James and St. Jude, and two of the Epistles and the Revelation of St. John, were not received at first by all the congregations of Christians. As foon however as their authenticity was made known, they were admitted into the Canon of Scripture. That the Gospels are the same in every article of importance, as they were when first published by their respective authors, there can be no doubt; as they have been preserved through every successive age with the greatest care, From the time of the Apostles to the present hour, even those seets of Christians, that have been the most at variance upon other points, have concurred in guarding them with equal diligence, and have beld them in equal veneration. The proofs of their genuineness are more numerous than can be adduced in favour of any other ancient writings. Every relation of a fact is marked by the most exact detail of names, perfons, times, and places, that can in any degree throw light upon the fubject, and efta. blith its truth. The history, the manners, and the
opinions of the times, as they may be collected from all other accounts, agree with the narratives of the sacred Writers, and confirm their general veracity. The Evangelists were placed in fituations the most favourable for obtaining com, plete and authentic information. St. Matthew and St. John, two of the disciples of our Lord, heard his divine instructions from his own mouth, beheld his astonishing miracles, and attended him during the whole course of his miniftry. They drew their accounts from an intimate knowledge of persons, and a wely recollection of facts. St. Mark and St, Luke are entitled to all the credit of contemporary Biographers, as they were enabled to trace the truth to its source, in consequence of living in habits of the closest intimacy with those who had seen and conversed with our Lord. Few of those historians, whose works we most esteem, and whose fidelity we most respect, were fo nearly connected with the subject of their writings, or poffessed such ample means of genuine information. Any one of the Evangelists was perfectly well qualified to record the Hiftory of Christ, and to satisfy us upon his own credit only; and all of them taken together, and combining their accumulated.strength, form a body of evidence sufficient to remove the scruples of every candid mind, and to establish the truth upon a folid and lasting foundation,
We may affert with the most perfect confidence and truth, that so far from there being any traces extant of a History of Christ and his followers, con
tradictory to that of the Evangelists, there is not a contemporary, or a subsequent writer, whether Jewish or Pagan, who adverts to the subject at all, who does not confirm the leading facts of the Gospel History
The New Testament likewise contains Epistles written by the holy perfons, who were engaged in preaching the Gospel immediately after the af, cension of their divine Master. These Epistles refer continually to the original facts contained in the Gospels, and confirm their truth. A perfect harmony of design is evident both in the one and the other. They prescribe the same rule of faith. They inculcate the same articles to be believed, and the same precepts to be obeyed. They contain many striking refereneēs to the labours, which St. Paul, the great Apostle of the Gentiles, underwent; and the peculiar energy and earneftness, with which he addressed his converts, have all the marks of feriousness and sincerity, which can give to any writings whatever the stamp of originality. All these Epistles, when taken together, are not to be
< See the animated and affecting defçription of his sufferings, 2 Cor. xi. &c.
. The proofs of the genuineness of his Epistles deduced from remarkable coincidences, and close though not studied connexion with the Gospel History, as well as from allusions to particular incidents, persons, times, and places, are fated by Dr. Paley, with great preciĝon and clearness. See more particularly his Horæ l'aulinæ, p. 11, 14, 34, 169, 216, 312, He concludes with a short view of the external Evidence, p. 386, 403. And gives some triking remarks on the Talents, Character, and Conduct of ht, Paul, p. 411,