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tions of the Mefliah, declining to answer by what authority he acted, and what office he bore, and keeping back all direct assertions of his high dignity, when such open claim would have exposed his intentions, and his religion to calumny and misrepresentation.—In fine, would enthusiasts have described him as confining his personal instructions, and during his own life the instructions of his disciples, to the house of Israel ? yet deelaring, that the effect of introducing his religion would be, “ i that the king“ dom of God should be taken from them, and “ given to a nation bringing forth the fruits “ thereof;" and, at his ascension, commanding his disciples to go forth and baptize in all nations.
Not to pursue further particulars, it seems most evident, that the caution and wisdom, the enlarged views and unvaried consistency of our Saviour's conduct, so admirably adapted to the unprecedented character in which he appeared, and the critical circumstances in which he was placed, were such as weak and visionary fanatics could neither have invented or described ; still less can we suppose, that such men would have been competent to delineate from their own disordered imaginations a MORAL CHARACTER such as that of Jesus ; a character difplaying piety the most fervent, without any mixture of mysticism or extravagance ; manners most strict
i Matt. xxi. 43..
and pure, but neither unfociable or austere ;: pao triotism and friendship, untinctured by narrow prejudice or weak partiality; the deepest abhorrence of guilt and the warmeft zeal for reformation, combined with the most considerate indulgence to frailty, and the most heartfelt pity to offenders; a character, in which frankness and discretion, dignity and meekness, fortitude and tenderness, exquisite sensibility and patient resignation, were so blended and tempered together in the composition of his heavenly mind, that while the most close searching wisdom cannot but confess the spotless perfection of this great example, the humblest virtue may aspire to its imitation, with a full -afsurance, that the effort is as certainly suited to the weakness of human nature, as it is evidently conducive to its perfection and happiness, and plainly conformable to the divine command.
Now, is it conceivable, that weak extravagant enthusiasts could have conceived such a character as this ? nay further, does not the manner in which this character discovers itself to us, appear as inconsistent with such a supposition as the character itself? Would enthusiasts have been able to draw fuch a character, not merely by descriptions and words, but by a long narration of facts, and repetition of discourses naturally and regularly connected, perpetually arising from, and illustrative of each other, involving a constant reference to times, places, and
persons, and bearing every poslīble mark of reality, and these related with the most perfect calmness and coolness, as well as with the artless fimplicity and assured confidence of truth?
I trust it has thus been shewn that the sacred records of the New Testament contain, in their stile and structure, in the spirit they breath, and the facts they detail, strong marks of their undoubted truth, and their divine original.
The Epistles of St. Paul were not diftated by enthusiasm ; ! . their obfcurity is considered in this section.
IN the last chapter I have examined the historical works of the New Testament, and it has, I trust, appeared, that they are entirely free from those characters which the details of enthusiasts almost universally exhibit. The perspicuity, and the calmness of stile, in which they are composed—the consistency, the importance, and the very nature of the facts they detail—and above all, the meek and merciful spirit which they breath, totally repel every suspicion that those sacred narrations were dictated by fanati. cism : but it cannot be denied that the epistles of St. Paul do not so evidently repel a similar supicion. In many passages they display an obscurity and warmth, which have been imputed, with some plausibility, to the mysticism and the violence of an enthusiastic mind.
It Thall therefore be the subject of this chapter to enquire, whether the degree of obscurity and warmth, found in these epistles, may not be fully accounted for, without obliging us to impute them to fanaticism ; and whether, in the same writings, we may not discover such clear traces of strong reasoning, sober judgment, and even of refined address, as may fully satisfy us, that the great apostle of the Gentiles, however animated and zealous, was very far removed from extravagance and enthusiasm.
One caufe of obscurity there is, which though in a certain degree common to all the writings of the New Testament; must affect those parts which like the epistles of St. Paul, are principally employed in expounding the doctrines of Christianity, more than those which are, for the most part, details of facts.This was the necessity, not only of alluding to a variety of laws and customs at that time familiar to all, but obscure to us who live in fo remote a region, and at fo distant an age, but also the necessity of employing many Greek words, in a sense very different from that which they bore in Heathen authors.
It is the observation of Mr. * Locke, 6 that the o subjects treated of in these epistles, are so wholly
* Mr. Locke's preface to his commentary on the Galations, paragraph the 3d. vol. the įd. of his works, page 100_6th edit. in 3 vol. folio, Lond. 1759.