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mercy could trace-“ Ye denied the holy one, says “ St. Peter, and desired a murderer to be granted “.to you, and killed the Prince of Life ; and now, « brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, " as did also your rulers; but those things which « God before had fhewed by the mouth of all his
prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so “ fulfilled ; repent ye therefore and be converted, " that your fins may be blotted out."-Such is the whole tenor of their stile; and surely this is very opposite to the fury of enflamed enthusiasm,
The facts of the evangelic history considered.
From the stile and thought let us turn to the facts recorded by the evangelists. We know the fort' of facts on which enthusiasts dwell with peculiar complacency, having no others to produce in support of their divine authority. They generally abound, like the history of Mahomet, with the accounts of noctur. nal visions, in which the authors are admitted to an immediate converse with angels, nay, even the Deity himself, and behold the glories of other worlds, which
c Acts iii. 17.
they minutely and rapturously deseribe. Sometimes, like the priestesses of old, overpowered by the supposed influence of their God, in the dark recesses of their temples, or, like the devotees, prostrate at the tombs of modern faints, their inspiration is difplayed by convulsions and agitations, which, when numbers are collected, pafs like an electric shock from soul to foul; sometimes like the celebrated Lord Herbert (the first patron of the deistical scheme in modern days) when wound up to the height of devotion, they mistake the voice of a ftill small wind as a voice from God; they receive answers to their prayers in raptures and extacies, secret whispers and sudden illuminations, which have no connection with any
ascertainable facts, and preclude the possibility of either proof or confutation.
Such are the circumstances which almost univerfally form the fubject of enthusiastic details. Now compare with these the plain facts, the sensible open miracles of the gospel history. Throughout the four evangelists not one vision to any of the writers is so much as mentioned; angels indeed are said to have appeared at our Saviour's birth and resurrection, and fome other occasions, when their interposition was neceffary to execute some important purpose by their fupernatural aid, or to convey glad tidings of great joy to all mankind. But these appearances are delivered clearly and plainly, and verified by the whole series of subsequent events. Voices from heaven are
also said to have been heard; but they are all at open day, twice in the presence of multitudes.First, at the baptifm of our Lord by John, when his divine character was folemnly proclaimed by a voice from heaven ; and again, when the application of some , Grecians to be admitted to his presence, presaged the diffusion of his kingdom to the remotest ends of the earth; a similar voice is related to have been heard, in the presence of three disciples, when our Lord, on the Mount, appeared to them in the anticipated glory of his heavenly majesty. In the Acts only two visions are related, not accompanied by any miraculous fact, fone calling Paul to preach in Macedonia ; and the other, that which appeared to Peter, to prepare him for communicating to the Roman, Cornelius, the knowledge of the gospel, and thus breaking down that wall of partition which had so long divided the heathen world from the chosen people of God, one of the most important steps in the promulgation of the Christian scheme; and this vision is as fully attested as its importance requires, being three times repeated, confirmed by a correspondent vision to Cornelius himself, and connected with the whole series of subsequent events. If the apostles are frequently said to have been determined by the Spirit how they should act, and where they should go, such affertions are vindicated from the charge of enthusiasm, by comparing them with the decisive manifestations of the same fpirit in the miracles it enabled them to perform, and the success which such miracles only were adequate to obtain,
& John xii. 27.
• Matt. xvii.
f Acts xvi,
8 Acts x.
To conclude this view of the facts which constitute the subject of the gospel history, I would peculiarly call the attention of my reader to the consideration of one grand object which pervades and connects the whole, and which seems fufficient of itself to prove that this history could not have been the prą. duction of enthusiasts--I mean the CHARACTER AND CONDUCT OF CHRIST Jesus. In whatever view we consider this unparalleled, this divine Character, we cannot believe it possible, that if it never had existed enthusiasts would have been able to invent it; or even if it had existed, to describe it undebased by any mixture of their own folly and extravagance.Without attempting to delineate all the features of this consummate character, let me point out a few which seem most inconsistent with the supposition of its having been invented or described by
It is then not difficult to prove that the character and conduct of Christ united all the apparently incon. ; fiftent qualities, which the Jewish prophets declared
should belong to the Messiah, while they excluded eve. ry quality which the worldly minds of the warm and bigotted Jews had led them to expect. Now could wild and senseless fanatics have been able, even in a
fictitious character, to maintain a coincidence so exact and natural, but at the same time so unthought of, and unexpected, and this through such a variety of particulars apparently so discordant? would they have described the Meffiah as of the royal house of David, of the tribe of Judah, and born in Bethlehem, yet the reputed son of a carpenter, brought forth and nurtured in poverty, and so long resident in Nazareth, as to be stigmatized by the title of Nazareth and Galilean ? h Would enthusiasts have described him as appearing, when only twelve years old, in the temple, amidst the most learned teachers and doctors of the synagogue, and astonishing them by his understanding and answers ; yet for eighteen years after making no further display of his supernatural wisdom or power, but remaining fubject unto his parents till the due period came for commencing his ministry, and manifesting forth his glory by public miracles? Would enthusiasts have described him as act. ing with a dignity suitable to the spiritual king of Israel, and the Son of God, and yet appearing humble and poor, not having where to lay his head, despised and rejected of men?-Would enthusiasts have described him as exhibiting in his doctrines, and his works, the clearest proofs of his being the expected Messiah, and on safe occasions, and to fit persons plainly, declaring his claim to that character; yet to the chief priests and Pharisees, who had formed false concep
Vid. Supra, ch. i. $ 3.