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man. It seems therefore to be destroying the plain sense of Scripture, to consider Christ merely as a martyr to the truth.
Although there exist among professing Christians various sects, and different opinions as to some doctrines believed to be taught in the Gospels, it is apprehended that this diversity of sentiment is not so great as is often represented : And that in all great and essential truths, they are generally agreed, notwithstanding some verbal difference which appear when they engage in disputation and controversy. To any one, who carefully, peruses the Gospels, or other books of the sacred Scriptures, we think, it will be evident, that mankind are represented to be in a fallen and degenerate, yet probationary state ; that, liable as they are to sin, and feeble comparatively as are their moral powers, they still are subjects of hope and of mercy, and capable of becoming renewed and holy ; that however unable they are, strickly speaking, to merit any thing of their Creator, and their salvation is to be resolved into the free grace of God through the Redeemer, yet are consideration, repentance, reformation and sincere obedience indispensably requisite to justify their hopes of pardon and eternal life ; and
that, though they need divine assistance in avoiding sin and in discharging their duty, still they are without excuse if they live in vice, and must themselves zealously and faithfully strive to make their immortal happiness secure. In a word, that God has graciously provided for our improvement and felicity ; and that if any perish, it will be owing to their own folly and wickedness.
The supernatural works performed by Jesus Christ, the founder of our holy religion, are also to be brought into view, in considering the various proofs of his being inspired and assisted of God. In the course of his ministry, he wrought miracles the most wonderful and beneficent, displaying at once the power and goodness of a heavenly messenger. It was truly a philosophical remark of Nicodemus, the Jewish rabbi, addressed to our Lord, that "no one could do such works as he did, except God was with him.”—It has indeed been pretended, that miracles are contrary to our experience, and imply a suspension of the laws of nature: and, therefore, cannot be supposed to be real and genuine. But, surely our experience is too partial and limited to warrant us in pronouncing a thing impossible,
rely because it has not come within our
own personal knowledge and observation. And to deny the possibility of miracles, is to limit the power of omnipotence. It is strictly rational and philosophical to suppose, that he, who established the order of nature, may change or suspend it, according to his sove. reign will. He who formed man of the dust of the earth, and breathed into him the breath of life-he, certainly, can cure the most inveterate diseases by his word ; and, at his will, can re-animate the dead body which slumbers in the tomb.
It is proper to remark, that the miracles recorded in the Gospel are such as we might expect would be performed by a benevolent being, in support of his claims to the character of a divine instructor. They discover neither caprice nor ostentation, though frequently done publicly and in the presence of those who were disposed to scrutinize and to object. They were designed for the relief of the afflicted and distressed ; and the occasions, on which they were performed, were suitable for the exertion of supernatural power in one commissioned to enlighten and reform the world.
But not only must we admit, that miracles are possible, and that those ascribed to our
Lord are worthy of a divine teacher ; probable in themselves and beneficent in their effects—we should consider also, that miracles are in some degree necessary to substantiate the claims of any one to a heavenly commis. sion. For if God send a messenger from heaven to reveal his will and to direct men in the way of truth and happiness, he certainly will afford proof that he has in fact designated him for such an important purpose. And besides the purity and excellence of his doctrines, it is probable such a being would be able to refer to prophecies announcing his coming and describing his character ; and to appeal to miracles which he was empowered to perform by the assistance of Him, who is the great author of nature, and to whose control all things are subjected.
That the miracles, mentioned in the evangelical history, were actually performed we have all the evidence, which can reasonably be desired. Men of fair and honest minds, disinterested and unprejudiced, who witnessed them, have left their solemn testimony to the world, and sealed it with their blood. For a long time, the disciples had mistaken ideas of the character and kingdom of Christ ; and nothing but the most overwhelming evidence
could persuade them that he was risen from the dead. Nor would they have abandoned all worldly pleasures and gains to diffuse the knowledge of the gospel, unless they had received the most irrefragable proofs of its truth and divinity. The prevalence of Christianity, under the auspices of obscure and unlearned men, and in opposition to worldly policy and power, to the prejudices of the populace and the pride of philosophers, can only be accoun-, ted for on the supposition, that the first con-, verts had indubitable evidence of the reality of the miracles ascribed to Christ and his
It is also to be considered, that from the days of the first converts and immediate dis-, ciples of Christ, societies and churches have, existed, in which have been carefully preserved the histories of the founder of our holy religion, which we now possess. All nations and all sects of Christians have ever been in possession of those sacred books. And though different constructions have been put upon some passages which relate to ceremonies or speculative tenets, there is yet a wonderful agreement among all these thousands and thousands of versions and translations scattered through the Christian world.