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deep ignorance and depravity of the human species; and we trace the means perseveringly pursued for a series of ages, gradually to produce a due reformation. These means -were either natural, or supernatural, as contingent circumstances demanded; and we trace the direction of providence, in the course of events which prepared the way for the advent of the promised Messiah.
This coincidence is abundantly displayed, and the evidence it contains, abundantly strengthened, by the accomplishment of several prophecies, recorded in the ancient Scriptures. For minute particulars, we must refer to those writers who have made the ancient prophecies the peculiar objects of study. We shall only observe, that several of these prophecies were sufficiently explicit to awaken, in the Jewish people, the expectation, that some extraordinary person would appear, at a future period, in the character of a deliverer. The time of his appearance, his moral excellencies, his humiliation, his sufferings, his exaltation to honour, the light and knowledge that should be communicated to the Gentile world, were portrayed in a manner sufficiently explicit to render them applicable to the person and office of the Messiah, and to him alone. As the destruction of the Babylonish
and Assyrian empires, and of the surrounding nations, who had persecuted the Jewish nation, had been foretold and accomplished, to the conviction of the later inhabitants of Judea; thus the destruction of this nation, as a political body, and the dispersion of the remaining tribes, upon their national rejection of the promised Messiah, were predicted in language equally explicit, to the conviction of every believer in Christianity, in the present day, and to the amazement of unbelievers.
When the fulness of time was come, in which he who was spoken of by the prophets,, was appointed to make his appearance, it was necessary for him to convince the world, by some supernatural tokens, that he also was a prophet sent from God; and the prophet, whose advent was expected by the Jewish nation. For, although it was obviously the law, which had been respected by the supreme governor, not to work a miracle, where the purpose can be finally accomplished by the slow progress of natural means; yet it is manifest, that in the introduction of a system totally new, so opposite to the expectations, opinions, prejudices, and habits of mankind, demanded the immediate
interposition of the Deity, through the
agency of this divine messenger; and it was also necessary that he should bring his credentials with him, by the power of working miracles. The purity of his precepts could not alone be sufficient to awaken the attention, and promote the reformation, of a sinful world. They might be approved of by the reason of all; they might have been beneficial to the well disposed; but they could not convey any authoritative declaration, that the precepts inculcated, and the moral discipline of this world, have an immediate relation to a future state of existence; and that the virtuous and pious affections, so strenuously enforced, were in order to prepare moral agents for eternal happiness. Nor could the auxiliary of a perfect example, equally enforce an obedience to the precepts of virtue. Example cannot be of an extensive influence. It may appear excellent, but to imitate may be deemed optional; and it might have been applauded and admired by those who saw not their obligation to imitate. The miraculous gift, with which this preacher of righteousness was endowed, gave an infinite energy to both: they proved him to be a delegate from heaven; it was proclaimed from above, "this is my beloved Son ;' and it is commanded from above, "hear ye
him." Which annihilates option, and creates a duty.
The Perfection of his character, was, in itself, a perpetual miracle. It was peculiar to him, without a single exception. Every other prophet of God, had many imperfections. Jesus Christ was the only being clothed with humanity, with whom the father was always well pleased. No other individual, of the posterity of Adam, commenced and persevered in a course of virtue and piety, without numberless aberra tions. To err, in the first attempts, is the concomitant of ignorance. Things present, will arrest the whole attention of those who cannot form any conceptions of treasures in reserve. The passions will be excited before reason is awake to direct them; and without the direc tions of reason, they must be subjected to numberless irregularities. The unrestrained indul→ gencies of these, may render continued ignorance criminal, and foster the vices of indolence, inattention, and obstinacy; but dispositions the most humble, docile, and attentive, have never secured the pupil of virtue from the frailties of humanity, although, by the aid of proper discipline and correctives, they have greatly advanced his progress. The obvious exemption of our divine Saviour from the imperfections
inherent in our nature, can alone be explained by a conviction, that God was with him; that he was under the immediate and supernatural influence of his heavenly father. The native purity of his heart, suavity of his temper, superiority of his intellectual endowments, were under the fostering care of his Father, and our Father, his God, and our God, for the benefit of the universal family.
His obscure situation, before he entered upon his public ministry, precluded him from enjoying the advantages of human instruction. The most distinguished Sages of antiquity, acquired those degrees of knowledge which rendered them conspicuously eminent, in advanced years, and at the expence of much time and labour. They were obliged to travel into remote countries, in order to collect fragments of knowledge from the reputed seats of wisdom. But he was taught of God. He spake as never man spake, without those human aids which other sages had enjoyed; and at a very early period of life, he had acquired knowledge which astonished the venerable rulers of the synagogue.
Without the perfection of moral character he could not have enjoyed the honour of being the Saviour of the world. He could not have been the pattern of all righteousness.