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quite sufficient to supply the want of sight. And he who on this evidence does not believe in him, would not have done it if he had lived in our Saviour's time, heard him preach, and seen his miraculous operations.
In the gospel history we read, that many of those who saw Christ, owned that never man spake like him, and beheld his miracles, yet believed not in him. At the first publication of the Christian religion, though it was accompanied with ample testimonials; yet, both Jews and Gentiles, indulging criminal passions, perverse tempers
of mind, and inveterate prejudices, refused to receive it. They even ridiculed it as an absurd and foolish story, repugnant to the established religion, and the rules and dictates of philosophy. Men of vicious prepossessions are always opposers of the truth, but never more unreasonably and violently so, than when these are rivetted by education, strengthened by prescription, and countenanced by high authorities : which was the case, both of Jew and Gentile, at the first propagation of Christianity.
The Jews were extremely zealous for their law, which was, indeed, of divine institution ; and fond almost above measure of the traditions of their fathers, which were imposed on them under the name of venerable antiquity. But so awfully blind were they, with all their zeal, that they overlooked both the true meaning and construction, as well as the main scope and design of the law itself, which was “a shadow of good things to come,” and intended to lead them to the saving knowledge of the true Messiah. And though they lived in the constant hope of his coming, and their expectation seemed to be at its zenith about the time that Jesus Christ came into the world; and though he appeared with all the distinguishing marks deciphered by those ancient prophecies,
to be the very
types, and figures, recorded in their own Scriptures: notwithstanding all this, when they saw the very person whose presence they had long anticipated, they could discern “no form nor comeliness in him that they should desire him ;” no power and splendour, no external pomp and grandeur, in which they expected he would appear, and with the imagination of which they had been much pleased. They were perfectly enraged, that a person of such obscure birth, so mean a condition, should presume to take on him so exalted a character. They were inflamed, when they heard Jesus speak in the manner he did of their ceremonies and traditions; and, especially, to perceive, that their own law and the prophets were accommodated to prove
person Christ whom they expected. Thus did their prejudices betray them into the most culpable ignorance, and caused them to be guilty of the most detestable wickedness, in rejecting, and then murdering the Lord of Glory,
The Gentiles were also under the influence of very strong prejudices. They were as much bigotted in their way, as the Jews; and, for the same reason, the most of them were enemies to the Christian religion ; for they had been educated in polytheism, which they believed had the sanction of antiquity and universality, and also the favour of the gods whom they worshipped. Now after all, to be told, that amidst their multiplicity of gods, they were still “ ignorant of the true God,” that he s dwelleth not in temples made with hands,” that
no man hath seen him at any time, but the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him," and that the crucified Jesus is his only begotten Son, the “ brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person;" I say, for them to be taught such doctrines, must excite in them a strong dislike to
the Christian religion. That men should be saved by a person who died an ignominious and accursed death, was considered by them the most absurd and ridiculous thing in the world; and so incredible, that very few could hear it without being shocked at the report. The philosophers were great pretenders to deep science and wisdom, and, therefore, the simplicity of the gospel was contemptible in their eyes. When St. Paul, at Athens, preached Jesus and the resurrection, the Epicureans and Stoics called him a “babbler,” and “setter forth of strange gods.” And all the rest of the philosophers had their own peculiar tenets, some of which were inconsistent with the chief doctrines of Christianity.
Yet, notwithstanding the prejudices of both Jews and Gentiles, many of both became early converts to the faith of Christ. There were “ many thousands of Jews that believed,” among whom were some of considerable rank and learning ; such as Simeon, Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, Gamaliel, Paul, and Apollos of Alexandria. And among the Gentiles who embraced the gospel, there were many of the wisest philosophers, eminent artists, and professional men,-such as Luke, the physician, Zenas, a learned advocate of the civil law of the Romans, many learned men at Ephesus, skilful in curious arts, who committed their books to the flames; Dionysius, the Areopagite, one of the famous Athenian judges, and
Infidelity is not the result of honest inquiry, and sober conviction ; but originates in vicious passions, unwarrantable prejudices, pride, and ambition, which will not submit to rule and correction. Immorality is the teeming source of infidelity, as is evident from the character of this class of persons, in ancient as well as modern times. Unbelief is not only a rejection of the doctrines of Christ, but
associated with a disposition of mind at variance with his authority and government. 6 We will not have this man to reign over us,” is the spirit of infidelity, and has for its father the devil, who is the great and indefatigable promoter of error, insubordination, and wickedness, in the moral world. To a penitent sinner, Christ is the most suitable object to which his attention can be directed; remission of sins through his blood, is a salvation exactly adapted to his moral condition; and the reception of this blessing through simple faith, exactly suits his state of unworthiness and helplessness. On these principles it is, that the “ damnation" of unbelievers s is just;" while they who truly believe in Christ, “receive the end of their faith, even the salvation of their souls.” This is the established order of things, as recorded in the sacred Scriptures, as well as followed in the purest Christian churches, Almighty God, hath given power and commandment to his ministers, to declare and
pronounce to his people, being penitent, the absolution and remission of their sins: He pardoneth and absolveth all them that truly repent, and unfeignedly believe his holy gospel."
The Christian revelation presents a scheme of grace and mercy perfectly worthy of God, and exactly suited to the fallen condition of man. The manifest design of its doctrines, is to show the method in which he will be reconciled to his rebellious creatures, consistently with the honour of his own perfections, and yet without any such indulgence to men as may enervate and weaken their obedience to his laws. If he had never made any proposals of peace to offending man, the honour of his goodness would not have been so eminently displayed as now it is in the gospel. On the other hand, if he had received men into favour without an adequate compensation for
their crimes, it is not likely that they should have entertained, in future, any veneration for his laws. But all these inconveniences are avoided in the Christian system; for God proposes terms of acceptance and salvation to fallen man, and thereby shows himself to be the “ Lord God, merciful, and gracious ;" yet, at the same time, by insisting on and receiving full satisfaction from his own Son, in the stead of sinful man, secures the reputation of his justice to his own moral government, and an awful respect to his own laws. And yet, by all this wise and admirable plan, man is so far from being discharged of duty to his great Creator, that he is “ under the law to Christ” the Redeemer.
God, who has in infinite goodness appointed the gospel of his Son to be the means of the salvation of men, to the end of the world, has certainly furnished it with sufficient evidence for its propagation, through the successive ages of time, among all men who are sincere and humble in their inquiries after divine truth. As the Author of nature, he knows how much light is necessary both in the eye, as well as on the object, to produce vision, in those who are willing to see. He knows also, what degree of mental capacity is requisite, as well as what proportion of evidence is necessary to attend any revealed truth, in order to its being received by sincere and impar
The sum of the Christian religion then is, that gracious method which God, in infinite wisdom, has devised, and published to the world, relative to the redemption and salvation of the human race by Jesus Christ. It informs us, that though the Divine Being be essentially holy, and greatly dishonoured by sin, and offended with sinners, yet, he is pleased to suspend the dreadful sentence of the law, and treat with them on new terms, on account