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ACTS XVII. 3. latter part.
"This Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.”
By the miraculous nature and benevolent tendency of his works, joined to the purity of his precepts and the blamelessness of his life, our Saviour vindicated, in a most satisfactory manner, his claims to the dignity of a divine commission. His works declared that the Father had sent him, and without pursuing our inquiries beyond this point, his religion becmoes, upon the strength of this conclusion alone, most fully entitled to our gratitude and obedience. Jesus, however, aspired to something more than the simple character of a Messenger from Heaven. Moses had said unto the Fathers, "A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me. Him shall ye hear."" Arrayed in the
authority of that prophet, the Son of Mary appeared unto the world, and demanded, in consequence, a more than ordinary deference and attention to his commands. His religion he déclared to be entitled to more than common acceptation, because it was the religion of one who in his nature and dignity was far superior to any common prophet. He assumed to himself the office and honours of the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed of God.
Pretensions of a character at once so grand and so peculiar could never have been established by any miracles, however certain or numerous or magnificent, when considered merely as miracles, that is, as effects contrary to our general experience of the agency of human strength and unassisted man, and as works, for the production of which the favour and interposition of the Deity were necessary. Many preachers of righteousness had appeared since the days of Moses, unto Israel, had fashioned their lives in strict conformity with their precepts, and performed many and mighty wonders in their support-had healed the sick, cleansed the lepers, raised the dead to life, and multiplied the food of man in a most astonishing manner, by a mere blessing pronounced from their lips. Yet were they none of them considered, even for a moment, or by the most
unthinking, as the Christ. Elisha had cured the Syrian Naaman of his leprosy, had restored her son to the woman of Shunem, and caused the widow's cruse to pour forth its oil in a stream of miraculous increase. All these things had Elisha done. He had prophesied too, and his prophecies were fulfilled. He was like unto our Saviour in the nature of his works, and in the holiness of his doctrine and his life; yet with all his power he was ranked only in the general class of prophets. He was numbered with Samuel and Elijah, those mighty men of God, but neither professed himself, nor was looked upon by others, to be the expected consolation of Israel. In the publicity then, and in the mercy, and in the magnitude of his miracles; in the reasonableness of his doctrines and the righteousness of his precepts; in the godliness of his life, and in the clearness and certainty of his prophecies, though we may behold indisputable evidence that Jesus of Nazareth "was approved of God," yet can we not find in them, when considered without reference to the ancient predictions, any satisfactory proof that he was the Messiah of the Scriptures and the looked-for of the Jews. Our confidence in that great fundamental article of our religion, must be derived from another source. The doctrines and miracles of the Gospel do indeed mutually confirm each other, and incontestibly shew it to
have been one of the revelations of God; but they do not demonstrate it also to have been that particular revelation which the Jews expected to be promulgated by the blessed Immanuel. That Jesus is the Christ, and that the Gospel is the revelation promised through the Christ, must be determined by considering whether he did and spoke and suffered those things which Christ ought to have done and spoken and suffered. What Christ ought to have done and spoken and suffered is predicted and detailed in the Books of the Old Testament, and the genuineness and integrity of those books must be presumed to have been already and unequivocally established, by the same arguments which have satisfied us of the credibility and inspiration of the Apostles and their writings. For in the writings of the Apostles the existing records of the Jewish Scriptures are assumed as the word of the inspiration of God, and referred to as the foundation of the Christian faith. If Jesus, therefore, be the Christ, he must have borne in his own person the distinguishing marks of Christ as displayed in the law of Moses, and in the writings of the holy men of old. A prophet greater than all the prophets which had gone before, his. miracles declared him to be; but his undoubted title to the peculiar honours and offices of the Messiah is founded upon his fulfilling all that was
written of him, and must, therefore, be shewn by a comparison of the events of his life with the words of the Jewish Scriptures, as explained to us by the inspired, and therefore authoritative, interpretations of his own Apostles.
The conclusion to which we have thus been led by a previous and accurate examination into the nature of the case, is confirmed to us by the uniform practice of the disciples of our Lord in their reasonings with the Jews, and by the decisive language of our Lord himself.
Philip converted to the Christian faith the treasurer of Candace, queen of Ethiopia, by "preaching unto him Jesus from the Scriptures, b" and explaining to him the strict connexion which subsists between the sufferings of our Lord and the mournful predictions uttered concerning his fate, so many centuries before, in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah; a passage, which is so sad, that it never can be read without being sensibly felt; and so convincing, that it was not only effectual in the days and under the hands of those disciples who possessed so great a measure of the Holy Spirit, but has probably also made a deep impression upon every one who may
b Acts viii. 35.