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tions of the Meffiah, declining to anfwer by what authority he acted, and what office he bore, and keeping back all direct affertions of his high dignity, when fuch open claim would have expofed his intentions, and his religion to calumny and misreprefentation. In fine, would enthufiafts have defcribed him as confining his personal instructions, and during his own life the inftructions of his difciples, to the houfe of Ifrael? yet declaring, that the effect of introducing his religion would be, "that the king"dom of God fhould be taken from them, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof;" and, at his afcenfion, commanding his difciples to go forth and baptize in all nations.
Not to purfue further particulars, it seems most evident, that the caution and wifdom, the enlarged views and unvaried confiftency of our Saviour's conduct, fo admirably adapted to the unprecedented character in which he appeared, and the critical circumstances in which he was placed, were fuch as weak and visionary fanatics could neither have invented or described; ftill lefs can we fuppofe, that fuch men would have been competent to delineate from their own difordered imaginations a MORAL CHARACTER fuch as that of Jefus; a character difplaying piety the most fervent, without any mixture of mysticism or extravagance; manners most strict
i Matt. xxi. 43:
and pure, but neither unfociable or auftere; patriotism and friendship, untinctured by narrow prejudice or weak partiality; the deepest abhorrence of guilt and the warmeft zeal for reformation, combined with the moft confiderate indulgence to frailty, and the most heartfelt pity to offenders; a character, in which frankness and discretion, dignity and meeknefs, fortitude and tenderness, exquifite fenfibility and patient refignation, were fo blended and tempered together in the compofition of his heavenly mind, that while the most close searching wisdom cannot but confefs the spotlefs perfection of this great example, the humbleft virtue may afpire to its imitation, with a full affurance, that the effort is as certainly fuited to the weakness of human nature, as it is evidently conducive to its perfection and happiness, and plainly conformable to the divine command.
Now, is it conceivable, that weak extravagant enthufiafts could have conceived fuch a character as this? nay further, does not the manner in which this character difcovers itself to us, appear as inconfiftent with such a fuppofition as the character itfelf? Would enthusiasts have been able to draw fuch a character, not merely by defcriptions and words, but by a long narration of facts, and repetition of difcourfes naturally and regularly connected, perpetually arifing from, and illuftrative of each other, involving a conftant reference to times, places, and perfons,
perfons, and bearing every poffible mark of reality, and these related with the most perfect calmnefs and coolness, as well as with the artless fimplicity and affured confidence of truth?
I trust it has thus been fhewn that the facred records of the New Testament contain, in their stile and ftructure, in the fpirit they breath, and the facts they detail, ftrong marks of their undoubted truth, and their divine original.
The Epistles of St. Paul were not dictated by enthusiasm; their obfcurity is confidered in this section.
IN the last chapter I have examined the historical works of the New Teftament; and it has, I truft, appeared, that they are entirely free from thofe characters which the details of enthufiafts almost univerfally exhibit. The perfpicuity, and the calmness of stile, in which they are compofed-the confiftency, the importance, and the very nature of the facts they detail-and above all, the meek and merciful spirit which they breath, totally repel every suspicion that those facred narrations were dictated by fanaticifm: but it cannot be denied that the epiftles of St. Paul do not fo evidently repel a fimilar fupicion. In many paffages they display an obscurity and warmth, which have been imputed, with fome plaufibility, to the mysticism and the violence of an enthusiastic mind.
It fhall therefore be the fubject of this chapter to enquire, whether the degree of obfcurity and warmth, found in these epiftles, may not be fully accounted for, without obliging us to impute them to fanaticism; and whether, in the fame writings, we may not discover fuch clear traces of ftrong reasoning, fober judgment, and even of refined addrefs, as may fully fatisfy us, that the great apoftle of the Gentiles, however animated and zealous, was very far removed from extravagance and enthusiasm.
One caufe of obscurity there is, which though in a certain degree common to all the writings of the New Testament; must affect those parts which like the epiftles of St. Paul, are principally employed in expounding the doctrines of Chriftianity, more than those which are, for the most part, details of facts.This was the neceflity, not only of alluding to a variety of laws and cuftoms at that time familiar to all, but obfcure to us who live in fo remote a region, and at fo diftant an age, but also the neceffity of employing many Greek words, in a sense very different from that which they bore in Heathen authors.
It is the obfervation of Mr. Locke, " that the fubjects treated of in thefe epiftles, are fo wholly
k Mr. Locke's preface to his commentary on the Galations, paragraph the 3d. vol. the 3d. of his works, page 100-6th edit. in 3 vol. folio, Lond. 1759.