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cal commentary on the prophecy of Christ, for the confirmation, in all ages, of the truth of the Christian religion.
We shall sum up the evidence adduced, nearly in the language of Bishop Newton. We actually see the completion of many of the prophecies, in the state of men and things around us : and we have the prophecies recorded in books which have been read in public assemblies, nearly 2000 years; have been dispersed into several countries; have been translated into various languages, and quoted and commented upon, by different authors, of different ages and nations; so that there is no room to suspect so much as a possibility of forgery, or illusion.
Prophecies may really be said to be a summary of the history of the world. And the history of the world is the best commentary upon the prophecies.
If to the prophecies we add the miracles so salutary and beneficial, so publicly wrought, so credibly attested, above any other matters of fact whatever, by those who were eye-witnesses of them, and sealed their testimony with their blood; if to these external confirmations, we add likewise the internal excellence of Christianity, the transcendent superiority of its doctrines, so perfect, so divine; and the purity as well as per
fection of its motives and sanctions, above any other system of religion and morality in the world; if we seriously consider, and compare all these things together, it is almost impossible not to feel conviction, and to cry out as Thomas did, after beholding the hands of our Saviour: "My Lord and my God." John xx. 28.
Men are sometimes apt to think, that if they could see a miracle wrought in favour of religion, they would readily resign all their scrupulous belief without doubt, and obey without reserve. The very thing which they desire, they have. They have the greatest and most striking of all miracles, in the series of scripture prophecies exhibited, and accomplished. This accomplishment falls under our observation, in the present state of the Jews, the Arabians, the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans.
After all this, if any reject the evidence of prophecy, neither will they believe though one should rise from the dead.
ON THE DOCTRINE AND PRECEPTS OF CHRIST.
INNUMERABLE are the Treatises which have been published on the doctrines and precepts of the Gospel, since the introduction of the Christian religion into various parts of Europe. To refer to a small part only of those which this country has produced, would be to fill volumes, which would not consist with the plan of this work. Only a very brief summary of the leading tenets of Christianity can be admitted. But that it may have the greatest weight, we shall deduce its doctrines from the acknowledgments of persons who have been either avowed infidels, or open opposers of the truth of the gospel.
John James Rousseau, the French author, one of the most distinguished Deists of our times, died in 1778. His acknowledgment is no inconsiderable proof of that Divine influence, by which the vain reasonings of men are put to flight; by
which they are made to contradict their own superficial theory, and bend to the superior wisdom of truth. This extraordinary person, and determined opponent of the gospel, in his Emilius, under the power of conviction, makes the following ingenuous and striking confession in its favour:"I will confess to you, that the majesty of the Scriptures strikes me with admiration, as the purity of the gospel hath its influence on my heart. Peruse the works of our Philosophers; with all the power of diction, how mean, how contemptible are they, compared with the Scriptures!"
"Is it possible that a book at once so simple and sublime, should be merely the work of man? Is it possible that the same personage whose history it contains, should be himself a mere man ? Do we find that he assumed the tone of an enthusiast, or ambitious sectary? What sweetness, what purity in his manners! What an affecting gracefulness in his delivery! What sublimity in his maxims! What profound wisdom in his discourses! What presence of mind! What depth of discernment! What truth in his replies! How great the command over his passions! Where is the man, where is the philosopher, who could so live, and so die, without weakness, without ostentation?
"When Plato described his imaginary good man loaded with all the shame of guilt, although meriting the highest rewards of virtue, he describes exactly the character of Jesus Christ; the resemblance was so striking, that all the Fathers perceived it. What prepossession, what blindness must it be to compare the son of Sophroniscus to the son of Mary! What an infinite disproportion there is between them!
"The death of Socrates, peaceably philosophizing with his friends, appears the most agreeable for a martyr that could be wished. And that of Jesus expiring in the midst of agonizing pains; abused, insulted, and accused by a whole nation, is the most horrible that could be feared.
"Socrates, in receiving the cup of poison, blessed indeed the hand of the weeping executioner who administered it. But Jesus, in the midst of excruciating tortures; prayed for his merciless tormentors. Yes, if the life and death of Socrates were those of a Sage, the life and death of Jesus were those of a God!
"Shall we suppose the evangelic history a mere fiction? Indeed, my friend, it bears not the mark of fiction. On the contrary, the history of Socrates, which nobody presumes to doubt, is not so well attested as that of Jesus