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mercy could trace-" Ye denied the holy one, fays "St. Peter, and defired 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 alfo your rulers; but thofe things which "God before had fhewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Chrift fhould fuffer, he hath fo "fulfilled; repent ye therefore and be converted, "that your fins may be blotted out."-Such is the whole tenor of their ftile; and furely this is very oppofite to the fury of enflamed enthusiasm.
The facts of the evangelic history confidered.
FROM the ftile and thought let us turn to the facts recorded by the evangelifts. We know the fort ' of facts on which enthusiasts dwell with peculiar complacency, having no others to produce in fupport of their divine authority. They generally abound, like the history of Mahomet, with the accounts of nocturnal vifions, in which the authors are admitted to an immediate converfe with angels, nay, even the Deity himfelf, and behold the glories of other worlds, which
A&ts iii. 17.
they minutely and rapturously deferibe. Sometimes, like the priesteffes of old, overpowered by the fuppofed influence of their God, in the dark receffes of their temples; or, like the devotees, proftrate at the tombs of modern faints, their inspiration is dif played by convulfions and agitations, which, when numbers are collected, pass like an electric fhock from foul to foul; fometimes 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 still small wind as a voice from God; they receive anfwers to their prayers in raptures and extacies, fecret whispers and fudden illuminations, which have no connection with any ascertainable facts, and preclude the poffibility 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 fenfible open miracles of the gofpel history. Throughout the four evangelifts not one vifion to any of the writers is so much as mentioned; angels indeed are faid to have appeared at our Saviour's birth and refurrection, and fome other occafions, when their interpofition was neceffary to execute fome 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 feries of fubfequent events. Voices from heaven are alfo
also faid to have been heard; but they are all at open day, twice in the prefence 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 fome Grecians to be admitted to his prefence, prefaged the diffufion of his kingdom to the remotest ends of the earth; a fimilar voice is related to have been heard, in the presence of three difciples, when our Lord, on the Mount, appeared to them in the anticipated glory of his heavenly majesty. In the Acts only two vifions are related, not accompanied by any miraculous fact, one 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 fo long divided the heathen world from the chofen people of God, one of the most important steps in the promulgation of the Christian scheme; and this vifion is as fully attefted as its importance requires, being three times repeated, confirmed by a correfpondent vifion to Cornelius himself, and connected with the whole feries of fubfequent events.— If the apostles are frequently faid to have been determined by the Spirit how they fhould act, and where they should go, fuch affertions are vindicated from the charge of enthusiasm, by comparing them
* Matt. xvii. f Acts xvi.
* John xii. 27.
& Acts x.
with the decifive manifestations of the fame fpirit in the miracles it enabled them to perform, and the fuccefs which fuch miracles only were adequate to obtain.
To conclude this view of the facts which conftitutę the subject of the gospel history, I would peculiarly call the attention of my reader to the confideration 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 production of enthusiasts-I mean the CHARACTER AND CONDUCT OF CHRIST JESUS. In whatever view we confider this unparalleled, this divine Character, we cannot believe it poffible, that if it never had existed enthusiasts would have been able to invent it; or even if it had exifted, to defcribe it undebased by any mixture of their own folly and extravagance.Without attempting to delineate all the features of this confummate character, let me point out a few which seem most inconfiftent with the fuppofition of its having been invented or described by any fanatic.
It is then not difficult to prove that the character and conduct of Chrift united all the apparently inconfiftent qualities, which the Jewish prophets declared fhould belong to the Meffiah, while they excluded every quality which the worldly minds of the warm and bigotted Jews had led them to expect. Now could wild and fenfelefs fanatics have been able, even in a
fictitious character, to maintain a coincidence fo exact
Vid. Supra, ch. i. § 3.