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personage. An expectation of this sort prevailed in other nations of the east. Whether it were owing to their knowledge of the Jewish Scriptures, or to the deductions of reason, which led them to suppose the Deity would in mercy interpose for the instruction of his rational creatures, who were in doubt respecting the divine attributes and their own destination ; it seems to have been an opinion which many philosophers indulged, that God, at some period of the world, would raise up a great prophet, who should make known more of his moral purposes to his intelligent offspring; who should give assurances of a future life, and reveal the way by which sinful men might obtain favor and forgiveness with heaven.
That God can reveal his will to man, that he who is an infinite Spirit can inspire the human mind with a knowledge of himself and his designs, no one surely will be foolish enough to deny. That he should do it, our natural sense of his goodness will induce us to admit. And that he has in fact, spoken to the world, by his Son from heaven, is proved by various considerations; by the supernatural works he performed; by the moral precepts he gave, and the attributes of Deity lie revealed, so superior to every thing suggested by sages and philosophers; and by the accomplishment of prophecies, many centuries after they were uttered, in the character and fortunes of him, whom we believe to be the Instructor and Savior of men.
Several hundred years previous to the birth of Jesus Christ, it was declared by the Jewish prophets, and the predictions were recorded in their sacred books, that one of their nation should be constituted a spiritual Prince and Savior, who would dispense divine blessings to the world, and make new and important revelations of the gracious purposes of God. The character of this messenger of heaven, who was to be sent to illumine, to reform and bless the world, his condition in life, the time of his coming, the peculiar excellence of his moral precepts, the consoling influence of his doctrines, his miraculous and beneficent works, his sufferings, his death, the conduct of his enemies, his resurrection, and the extensive prevalence of his religion, were all foretold with wonderful minuteness and precision. To no other person do these various predictions apply, but to Jesus of Nazareth. The precise period of his birth was predicted by the prophet Daniel. And at the time of
his birth, we learn, the Jews and other eastern nations, were expecting his coming. Unless we consider them judicially blinded for their heinous and aggravated sins, there is but one circumstance which we can suppose would have led them to misunderstand and misconstrue their prophecies in reference to our Savior ; and that is, his being spoken of as a Ruler and Prince, as well as one who was to endure poverty, reproach and suffering. With their worldly views, they overlooked all the other circumstances of his character and condition, so perfectly correspondent to the prophetic descriptions of the Messiah.
The books containing these predictions were in the hands of the Jews when our Lord appeared, and had long been preserved with religious care and attention. They were read in their religious assemblies, and taught their children from their earliest years. Three hundred years before the birth of Christ, they were translated into the Greek language, which then and down to the time of our Savior's coming, and for a long period subsequent, was the language of the whole civilized and learned world. Not only did the Jews in the time of Christ, not only did our Lord and his immediate followers appeal to these books;
but the enemies both of the Jews and the Christians referred to and quoted them, though they did not acknowledge them to be divine. These books of ancient prophecies have been carefully preserved through every succeeding age, as well by Jews as Christians. Their antiquity and genuineness are indisputable. And the accomplishment of predictions which they record fully justify us in believing them to have been inspired:
In prophesying of the Messiah, who was to reveal the purposes of divine grace to men, these writings foretold that he should be born of a virgin, should live in poverty and want, should be a reformer and preacher of righteousness, and yet be meek and humble, unostentatious and unobtrusive, rather avoiding than courting notice and popularity; that though perfectly innocent and harmless, he should be opposed by the rulers of his nation, and persecuted as a criminal; and that his kingdom, (his religion) should prevail among the heathen even to the ends of the earth. All these predictions, we learn from history, have been wonderfully accomplished in Jesus Christ, the author of our holy religion.
It will be admitted that the reason and moral sense of man given him by his Creator, if duly cultivated, will lead him to results favorable to the social duties, and that an attentive consideration of the power and goodness of God, exhibited in the works of creation, will excite devout and grateful feelings towards the Supreme Being. It will also be granted, that, from considering the powers and faculties of the mind, and the unequal distribution of rewards and punishments in this life, we are furnished with arguments which render probable the doctrine of a future state of being. But with this concession, it may justly be insisted, that decisive and convincing evidence was wanted to establish the doctrine of immortality; that the world was destitute of a complete system of moral precepts ; and that the forms of worship and the prevalent opinions concerning the attributes of God were irrational and ridiculous. On all these subjects, the gospel of Jesus Christ is explicit and satisfactory. It confirms those sentiments of moral obligation and shose apprehensions of the Deity, which are consentaneous to the most enlightened reason.