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For The Editors; conDER, Bucklensbury; Button, Pat ERNosten-Row;
Abel, No RTHAMP To N ; AND
THE nature and design of this work, and the principles on which it hath been undertaken and conducted, have been so largely represented in the Preceding volumes, that it is unnecessary here to enlarge upon then. But, as what I now present to the reader concludes the historical part of the New Testa"lent, this seems a very proper place to recollect the promise which I long since made, of offering some remarks on the excellence and usefulness of that his. tory, which may dispose the reader more frequently to review it, and to study it with the greater application. It must be universally granted, that the ercellence of any performance is to be estimated, by considering its design, and the degree in which it is calculated to answer it. The design of the gospel history is stimmed up in the words which I have placed for my motto; which, though they are taken from the conclusion of St. John's gospel, are applicable, not only to all the other Evangelists. but likewise to the Acts of the Apostles, that invaluable appendix to them These things are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. I shall beg leave to shew, how admirably the history before us is calculated to answer both these ends, viz. to produce a conviction of the truth of christianity, and to make those good impressions on the heart, which may secure the eternal life, and happiness of the reader; which no speculative conviction, even of the most sublime, comprehensive, and important truths, will itself be able to do. I apprehend, that, in proportion to the degree in which these two premises can be illustrated, the ercellence and value of this history will immediately appear; for no man is so far infatuated as to dispute, whether obtaining life, eternal life, be an end of the highest importance; how light soever he may in fact make of it, and how wantonly soever he may barter it away for every trifle, that strikes his imagination, or fires his passions. Obvious as the hints are which occur on these heads, I will touch a little upon them ; that we may more evidently see, how much we are indebted to the Divine Wisdom and goodness in giving us so invaluable a treasure as these books contain, and how highly we are concerned to attend diligently to the contents of them. First, Every intelligent reader of this evangelical history, must have seen, that it is admirably adapted to produce and support in all attentive and impartial minds a strong conviction of the truth of christianity, and by consequence of the divine glories of Jesus the Christ, as the Son of God. - It is evident, that our most material arguments for the demonstration of the truth of christianity are drawn from miracles, from prophecies from the character of its founders, and from the genius of the religion itself. Now though all
these receive great illustration from the epistolary parts of the New Team: all
* As the first edition was printed in Six Volumes, the Third Volume began with the first chapter of the Acts, and concluded with that book.
Wol. VIII. A
4. PREF ACE.
and some of then, especially the second, from the Old; yet it is certain, that the grand basis and foundation of them all is what we read in the history of Christ and his apostles. There we are informed of the miracles which they wrought, of the character they maintained, and of the system of religion which they published to the world; and the application of the Old Testament prophecies to Jesus of Nazareth is beyond all controversy to be justified chiefly from what we find there. These books do in the most authentic manner, as we have demonstrated elsewhere, shew us, who Jesus of Nazareth was, and what he professed himself to be. They give us an account of the very high pretensions he made to an immediate mission from God, and to a most intimate relation to him, as his Son in a peculiar and appropriate sense not communicable to any other. They give us also, as in this connection it is very fit they should, a very large and circumstantial narration of a variety of miracles which he wrought. Their number appears to be very great ; so that a late writer, who has considered them very accurately, reckons up sixty-nine relating to particular persons, besides twenty other instances, in all of which several, and in most of them multitudes, yea frequently great multitudes, are mentioned, not merely as the spectators, but as the objects of his miraculous power, which must on the most moderate compution arise to many hundreds ; not to mention those yet more numerous miracles which were performed by his apostles in his name, wherever they came, especially after the descent of the Holy Ghost upon them; or the variety of supernatural gifts and powers with which they were endowed, and which in many thousands of instances they communicated to others. It is farther to be recollected here, that these miracles were not of such a kind as to leave any room for a doubt, whether they lay within the natural efficacy of second causes, or not ; since the most hopeless and inveterate diseases gave way, not merely to some trivial application of means, whether internal or
external, but to a touch, or a word; and death itself obeyed the voice of Jesus
and of his servants speaking by his authority. Now I could wish that any one who feels himself inclined to scepticism with regard to christianity, would sit down and read over any one of the evangelists in this particular view : That he would take the stories of the several miracles in their succession, and after having attentively weighed them, would ask his own heart, whether, if he had seen such facts as these, he would not immediately have been convinced in his own conscience, that this was indeed the seal of heaven set to the commission of the person who performed them ; and consequently, whether if these things were really done by Jesus and his missionaries, in his name, he must not be compelled to acknowledge, that christianity is true. Let any impartial and rational man in the world judge, whether if an impostor had arisen, falsely and blasphemously arrogating to himself the high titles of the Son of God, and Saviour of men, God would have honoured his lips with this wonderful power over diseases and death, or his dead body after a public execution with a resurrection that is, in one word, whether he would have interposed to give such credit to him, as it is not pretended he hath ever given, in any other instance, to the best of men in the best of causes. Every man's heart will surely tell him, with the circumstances of such facts full in his view,that the only question is, whether they be themselves credible; and that, if this be allowed the divine attestation to the authority of such a teacher follows, by a connection which can never be broken, and which probably few men living will have an inveteracy of prejudice sufficient to gainsay. The historical books of the New Testament do also admirably illustrate that arguinent in favour of christianity, which is drawn from the accomplishment of prophecies; and this, in a variety of respects. Many very important passages Q