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mily, together with his relation John, as that both one and the other should afterwards have had the ability of forming themselves systematically, according to the prophecies and the various texts of Scripture? This is, indeed, doubting boldly; and certainly involves a question which may be supposed not very easily answered. But I think I perceive in it more sound than substance: for were I to say nothing more, than that, had Christ been without supernatural aid, it could never have been so accurately brought about, that the Romans should, most scrupu lously, fulfil the ancient prophecies of the Israelites relative to him; or that the effects of his sufferings, so early predicted, should now, nearly two thousand years after his death, be daily more palpable and convincing; I think I should say enough. But Christ was neither an impostor, nor an enthusiast; for surely such sublime and rational insanity never existed. His life was innocent and spotless, spent entirely in serving the ends of holiness and charity; in doing good. to men; in exhorting them to repentance; and inviting them to serve and to glorify God. When his bitterest enemies accused him, in order to take away his life, they could not charge him with one appearance of vice or immorality. And so far was he from being guilty of what they
they did accuse him, namely, of vain glory, and attempting to move sedition, that once, when the admiring people would, by force, have taken and made him king, he chose to work a miracle, to avoid the only thing which could have been imagined to have been the design of an impostor. In like manner, whoever considers seriously, the answers he gave to all questions, whether moral or captious, his occasional discourses to his disciples, and more especially the wisdom and excellency of his sermon upon the mount, which is, as it were, the system and summary of his doctrine, manifestly surpassing all the moral instructions of the most celebrated philosophers that ever lived, cannot charge him with duplicity or artifice.
With enthusiasm and superstition, indeed, great numbers of Jews, at first, adhered to Christ as their Messiah, or national deliverer; and by force would have placed the crown upon his head, and have set him up against the Romans. But when they found that he had no such ambitious designs, that he renounced any such pretensions, and declared he came not with any such particular view to the Jewish nation, "his kingdom not being of this world," they all deserted him, and cried out, "crucify him, crucify
him." For the intemperate zeal of the multitude he thus suffered. The high priest Caaiphas dreaded an insurrection, and consequently destruction, on his whole nation, from the Romans; and, therefore, though he could find no evidence against him of his having made pretentions to the government of the Jews, yet he thought it better that one innocent man should die, than that the whole people of Israel should run the risque of displeasing the tyrants of the world.
We are told, I know, that the use and intention of miracles, as quoted by the evangelists, were to prove that Jesus was the promised Messiah, or that prince of the house of David, lineally descended from him, who was to restore the kingdom and deliver the nation: the design of Matthew and Luke in particular, in their genealogies, being to prove the title of Jesus to the crown, as the right heir from David. And what is still more surprising, we are informed that these very evangelists who endeavour to prove his hereditary right to the kingdom, assure us at the same time, that he had no natural human descent, but that Mary conceived him by the Holy Ghost, or immediate power of God, while she was a pure virgin; consequently, that we are to consider him no more the son of David
David than of Saul; and no more of the seed of Abraham than of Melchizedek: and moreover, that as two of the evangelists mention nothing of this, so there is in reality no original proof or evidence, but Mary's own word, while she lay under a strong suspicion; and Joseph had an inclination to put her away privately without making her a public example, and which he certainly would have done, had not an angel appeared and spoke to him in a dream; or in other words, had he not dreamed an angel had appeared, and had so spoken, and so dissuaded him.
The prophet Isaiah, however, says, "A virgin shall conceive a son." Christ himself also (and the apostles afterwards) frequently appeal to the ancient prophets of the Jewish nation, for the truth of his mission and doctrines from God, as the person whom they had foretold. I will not, indeed, deny that Saint Paul seems to have understood Moses and the prophets, in all that relates to Christianity, in a figurative or allegorical and mystical sense; and to have in great measure rejected the literal interpretation as false, absurd, and contrary to the true reason and spirit of the gospel. Jesus, likewise, never appeals to the prophets to prove that he was the Messiah who
was to restore the kingdom to the house of David; so far from it, he renounced this worldly character, and died upon the renunciation. And had he not done so, he would not have suffered as he did; nor could the Jewish priests and rulers,nor even the Romans themselves, have put him to death, agreeably to law. Pilate was sensible of this, and would have saved Jesus, had it been readily in his power. But, the enraged mob were vexed and disappointed, and they would not hear of mercy.
When we thus consider the subject, therefore, it is perhaps to be presumed, that Jesus was not, agreeably to the Israelitish interpretation, the Jewish Messiah, who, according to the prophecies concerning him, was to be a great temporal prince, and to restore the kingdom of Israel to the house of David. As the restorer of moral truth and righteoushess, however, he was amply to fulfil the predictions which had announced him as the Saviour of the world. But, supposing Christ to have been an impostor, he must at least have the character allowed him of a most pure, a most holy, a most disinterested, and assuredly a most unexampled impostor. In what manner, supposing him such, could he have reas soned with himself? The Jews, he must have said,