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confidered as composing a single evidence only, but as containing diftinct and independent attestations of the truth of Chriftianity; for it is evident from their contents, that they were written by different persons, at various times, and upon various occafons. Even the little circumstances in which they differ from each other have their use, as they tend to prove that there was no plan preconcerted by the writers, with a view to excite wonder, and obtain credit by any studied uniformity of reprefentation,
He who peruses the Gospels and Epistles with attention, must be struck by a remarkable peculiarity of narrative and argument, which runs through every part of them. There is no appearance of artifice in the sacred Writers; no endeavour to raise the reputation of friends, or depreciate the characters of enemies. There is no effort made to reconcile the mind of the reader to what is marvellous in their narrative; no studied attempt to fire his imagination, or rouse his paffions in their cause. All is fair, temperate, and candid. Vain, it is true, were the search for those ornaments which distinguish the classical writers: but still in their works there is frequently a pleasing fimplicity, and sometimes a sublimity of expresiion, although these beauties seem rather to rise naturally out of the subject, than to result from the labour of composition, or any choice or arrangement of words. One circumstance there is, in which the New Testament rises to an elevation
which no other book can reach. Here prefides the majesty of pure and unsullied truth, which fhines in unadorned but awful ftate, and never turns aside to the blandishments of pattery, or listens to the infinuations of prejudice, or calumny. Here alone she invariably supports the fame dignified and uniform character, and points with equal imparțiality to Peter now professing his unalterable fidelity, and now denying his Lord ; -, to the Apostles at one time deserting Christ, and at another, hazarding their lives by the bold profesfion of his Gofpel. And these plain characters of truth afford the clearest evidence of the infpiration of the facred books, The Holy Spirit, whose assistance was promised to his disciples by their heavenly Mafter, guarded them from error in their narratives, in the statement both of their precepts and doctrines. Upon such momentous: points, as contribute to form the rule and standard of fạith and practice, they were guided by the divine wisdom, and thus are raised to a degree of authority and credibility unattainable by all other writers.
" It doth not appear, that ever it came into the mind of these writers, how this or the other action would appear to mankind, or what objec. tions might be raised upon them. But without at all attending to this, they lay the facts before you, at no pains to think, whether they would appear credible or not. If the reader will not believe their teftimony, there is no help for it;
they tell the truth, and attend to nothing else. Surely this looks like fincerity, and that they publifħed nothing to the world, but what they believed themselves 8.”
An inquiry into the authenticity of the books of the New Testament is of great importance. If they are as ancient as they are reputed to be; if they were certainly written by the persons to whom they are afcribed, and have all the requisite characters of genuineness, we may venture to assert with confidence, that the facts contained in them are undeniably true. For fuppofing such actions as have been attributed to Christ never to have been performed, so great must have been the effrontery, as well as the ingenuity, of the fą, bricators of this story, if they proceeded to pubJifh as true what they knew to be false, as to exceed the bounds of belief: and if, even for the fake of argument only, we suppose them to have combined in a confederacy for such a purpose, what would have been the consequence ? They would only have given the desired advantage to their acute, active, and implacable enemies, who would quickly have detected the falsehood, facrificed the abettor's of it to their just indignation and stigmatized the Christian Religion for ever as an impofture and a fable. .
In the preservation of the New Testament, we
$ Duchal, quoted by Paley, vol. üi po 187.
may may observe a very striking instance of the superintendence of divine Providence, ever watchful for the happiness of mankind. Notwithstanding the various diffentions which have continued to prevail in the Christian Church, ever since its first eftablishment, the Books containing the principles of the Religion itself, are come down to us who live at the distance of nearly eighteen Centuries from the time of their Authors, in a pure and unadulterated condition: fo that whenever the Christian faith has been corrupted, its deviation from a state of purity could always be detected by an appeal to the most indisputable authority. Nor has the stream of time merely conveyed to us this divine treasure, uninjured and secure; but even in the midst of the most violent persecutions, and the darkeft fuperftition, the Christian faith has been fo protected by divine care, that it has never been wholly lost to the world. Some believers in every age have had the courage, like their divine Mafter, to witness a good confession, and let the light of their example thine before their depraved con, temporaries,
II. The Chara&ter of our Lord.
This character, as represented in the plain and energetic narratives of the Evangelists, is marked by qualities the most extraordinary, and the most transcendent. Every account of every other personage, whether portrayed by the fancy of
the poet, or described by the accuracy of the historian, leaves it evidently without an equal, in the history of mankind.
If the conduct of those who bear a resemblance to Christ as the founders of religious establishments be examined, these assertions will receive the fullest confirmation. They all accommodated their plans to human policy, and private intereft-to existing tenets of fuperftition, and to prevailing habits of life. The Christian Lawgiver, more fublime in his object, and more pure in his motives, aimed at no recommendation of his precepts by courting the prejudices, or flattering the passions of mankind. The institutions of Numa the second King of the Romans, of Brama the Lawgiver of the various tribes of India, and of Confucius the great Philofopher of China, were evidently adapted to the existing habits, and prevailing inclinations of their people. They seem indeed to have been founded altogether upon them. Mahomet, the great impoftor of Arabia, suited the rules of his Koran, and the rewards of his paradise, to the manners and desires of a warlike and a sensual people. In his character and conduct he prefented a striking contrast to Christ. Ambition and luft were his reigning passions. He maintained, that he received his Koran from heaven : but its frivolous and absurd contents sufficiently indicate the falsehood of his pretensions. With a degree of effron'tery still more impious, he pleaded a divine authority for the boundless gratification of his fenfuality: