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deference to the judgments of other men, especially our rulers in church and state; but to approach to the contemplation of the Divine Nature and Perfections with the highest reverence, and to preserve an awful simplicity upon all subjects of pure revelation, exercising our reason no further than the rules of sound criticism require. Charity leads us to extirpate from the very bottom of our souls that rancour which may indeed be the effect of different opinions, but is more frequently the cause of them, and is generally one principal reason why we adhere obstinately to errour.
The Christian Church, whether we consider it as Catholick and Universal, as the established religion of our country, or as the peculiar distinction of our sect, must be founded in true faith; from thence arises its purity. Its uniformity will be preserved by those great Christian virtues of humi4ity and charity, which are the natural fruits of a lively faith, and which are so mutually connected, that humility necessarily leads to charity, and our charity must operate with the same powerful influence upon our humility.
FROM THE SAME.
INTRODUCTORY VffiW OP THE FIRST PROMULGATION OF CHRISTIANITY.
THE preparation of the world for the coming of Christ was suitable to the grandeur of the event itself, and of the purposes which it was designed to accomplish. A mind rightly instructed can see in the incarnation and sacrifice of Christ a glory which eclipses all that the universe ever beheld. Christ in the manger, and Christ on the cross, are scenes of such infinite importance, in their causes and in their consequences, that such a mind can see the highest wisdom in that long preparation for the exhibi tion of them, which seemed good to divine providence. That God should, " at sundry times, and in divers manners, speak to the fathers by the prophets," might seem the ordinary and natural method of his intercourse with men; but, that he should "speak to us by his Son," that he should " send forth his Sou made of a woman," and that " God" should be thus " manifest in the flesh," is a " mystery so great" that it might well wait till "the fulness of time was come" for its completion. It becomes us, indeed, in no case, to prescribe what it is fit God should do; but i: is not unsuitable, either to our state or character, to inquire, with humility and reverence, into the fitness of what he has done.
This preparation, however, consisted not merely in various and increasing intimations of the approach of the Redeemer, caleula ted to awaken expectation and desire of that event, but in suffe 1 ing the world to arrive at that pitch of spiritual darkness arii moral depravity, which might demonstrate the necessity, and i 1 lustrate the mercy, of a new and brighter dispensation. This will appear upon a view of the state of the Gentile world at the birth of Christ. All the nations which occupied the vast extent of the Roman empire were degraded by the grossest superstitions and vices, varying according to the genius and circumstances of the respective people. Paganism had manifested itself to be so dreadfuily vicious in its nature and tendency, that it was become the just object of contempt to the wiser part of mankind. It had been suffered to demonstrate its utter ineflicacy to benefit man; yea, it had left him, and, in part, had led him, to debase himself lower than the very brutes. The Apostle draws an awful picture of the immoralities of the Gentile world, in the latter part of the first chapter of his epistle to the Romans. And all this was at a period when human genius shone with greater splendour than at any other; and when the most refined and sublime intellects were 'xxupied in the investigation of truth! Hut, " where," asks the apostle, " is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" and hath he not demonstrated how despicable are genius, aiidacuteness, and almost intuition, when compared with " soberness, righteousness, and godliness?" The apostle plainly tells us, '.hat it was " in the wisdom of God," for his own wise purposes, that "the world by wisdom knew not God." (See 1 Cor. i. 18. ad fin.)
We may trace the same design in the state of the Jewish nation at this period. Our Lord chose that period for his appearance upon earth, when his own people were biought to the lowest state of degradation. Subjected to the Roman authority, w'ith scarcely the shadow of liberty under Herod, and reduced after Ms death to the form of a province, they imbibed the worst vices of their masters. The priests and rulers were, in general, profliiyite men; their religion had wholly degenerated from its primitive purity and simplicity; the multitude were grossly ignorant and superstitious; the learned were captious, disputatious, and trifling, and split into various sects and parties; and the whole hody of the nation, a very few persons excepted, had lost the true sense of their own Scriptures, misunderstood the character of the expected Messiah, and, instead of a spiritual deliverer from sin, wked for a mighty conqueror, who should free them from their > rvitude. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes disputed with one another, not only upon subordinate points, but even upon the points essential to salvation. The oriental philosophy had infected their religious opinions. Their ritual was augmented .y human inventions. The spiritual intention of it was lost. It ."is regarded as an external service, and their reliance upon it, 11 this view, for acceptance with God, was a fatal delusion, and heir practice of it was carried to a ridiculous pitch of extrava:nDce. Such was the state of the most highly favoured oi nations 'Hen the Messiah appeared. That this picture is not overcharVoi. I.—MV I. P
ged, the reader may satisfy himself, by turning to the account which St. Paul has given of his own nation in Rom. ii.
It is scarcely to be conceived, that the moral state of mankind could more loudly call for divine and peculiar aid. The civil state of the world too, was peculiarly favourable to the opening of a new dispensation. The Roman empire extended, at this period, over a great part of the known world; and, being under the control of a single man, and enjoying an uncommon state of tranquillity, these circumstances facilitated the propagation of the Gospel, in a manner that no former period could have done. At this juncture the Saviour appeared. The Life and Death of Christ demonstrate him to have been appointed to rescue wretched man from the bondage of darkness and sin. He came, indeed, in such a form, and taught such a doctrine, that he proved a "stumbling-block" to the carnal apprehensions of his own nation, and " foolishness" to the captious minds of the Greeks. But every circumstance attending his appearance upon earth was calculated to correct the false views and taste of mankind. Born in privacy, of humble parents, in circumstances of external meanness, and living retired and unknown, probably in the laborious occupation of his reputed father, but certainly in dutiful subjec tion to his parents, for by far the larger portion of his life, and proving hereby to a mind rightly instructed, that his " kingdom was not of this world;" yet, born above the course of nature, by miraculous conception, he wanted not the acclamations of the heavenly host at his' birth to reproach, as it were, the stupidity of his people, nor the homage of distant, sages to reproach their ingratitude. He wanted not a harbinger to prepare his way, and make proclamation before the approaching king; but it was a proclamation of the true nature of his kingdom. He wanted not the clearest marks and evidences, that he was the very person who had been the object of the Church's expectation for several thousand years, and the subject of prophecies, types, and ritual institutions. And though the prophetical records of the nation pointed out the very spot, the minute circumstances, and almost the very moment of his birth, yet so infatuated and sensualized were the people, though there was among them at this very time a lively and eager expectation of their Messiah, that none were found to bid him welcome, to do him homage, or to bear testimony to him, but the few spiritual and heavenly persons, whose minds were raised by divine influence above the tone of their nation, who entered into the true intent of the Scriptures, and " waited for redemption in Israel."
Before his entrance upon his publick ministry, the divine wisdom that dwelt in him beamed forth with such clear indications, as to awaken surprise in the learned of his nation, and highwrought expectations in the breast of his mother and the faithful few. When he entered upon his ministry, it was upon a life of sorrow, of want, of poverty, of meanness, and of contempt He had nothing of the greatness and bravery of the world. A voice from heaven had uttered, " This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him," (Matt. xvii. 5.;) yet, though he acted upon this authority, " he was despised and rejected of men, a man,, of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid, as it were, our faces from him: he was despised, and we esteemed him not" (Is. liii. 3.)
The world has no notion of greatness and dignity, but as it is connected with noise and display; but it was foretold of him, " He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the streets." (Is. xlii. 2.) "He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him." (Is. liii. 2.) "His visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men." (Is. lii. 14.) His life was a demonstration of the nature of the religion which he came to inculcate. It embodied it, and brought it out to the eye. His actions, more perhaps even than his teaching, were a reproach to the leaders of his nation. His modest character reproached their ostentation; his mildness, their severity; his holiness, their impurity; his spirituality of mind, their sensuality; his laboriousncss, their love of ease; and the largeness of his charity, their narrow and selfish feelings. Indications these were of spiritual authority, before which the wordly, and the hardened, and the profane, and the covetous, hurried from the precincts of the Temple; the subtle reasonings of the captious were silenced, and the obstinate pride of the haughty was abashed.
His whole system of teaching was rather directed to a rectification of errour, by rescuing the Scriptures from the false interpretations put upon them, and to bringing men back to a discernment of true religion in its spiritual and vital nature, than to a full and explicit declaration of the nature of his kingdom, and the means of obtaining the divine favour. Much, indeed, he spake by way of anticipation, and which could not be fully understood till after his ascension, and that effusion of the Spirit which instructed the disciples in the true nature of his kingdom.
To pour further contempt upon the objects of human estimation, and to evince without reasonable contradiction, the divinity of the Gospel, he chose his companions, the future instruments of propagating the faith, from the unlearned and the poor. These he sent forth to announce the glad tidings throughout the province of Judea, with a charge to seek " the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Mat. x. 6.) To these he added seventy other disciples, whom he " sent, two and two, before his face, into every city and place, whither he himself would come." (Luke x. 1.) To the Jews, the personal ministry of our Saviour was almost exclusively confined, his usual seat of abode being Galilee; and though his ministry was comparatively unsuccessful, yet many, who ranked not openly in the number of his followers, yielded to the authority and power with which he spake. Five hundred brethren are mentioned as witnesses of his resurrection. (1 Cor. xv. 6.)
The circumstances of his appearance were, like those of the whole dispensation of the Gospel, adapted to try the state of men's minds, he *< being set for a sign that should be spoken against,—that the thoughts of many hearts might be revealed." (Luke ii. 34, 35.) His glory was so veiled, that, while the believing eye could discern, and the humble heart receive him as "the Holy One and the Just," yet the proud and the carnal could "desire a murderer to be granted to them, and kill the Prince of Life:" (Acts iii. 13, 14;) for " had they known," says the apostle, »'. e. with irresistible evidence, " they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory." (1 Cor. ii. 8.) And though his death was necessary for the salvation of his very murderers, and " the Son of Man went as it was determined," yet " wo to that man by whom he was betrayed." (Luke xxii. 22.) He was betrayed by an apostate disciple, dragged to the tribunal of his own creatures, abandoned by his nearest friends, arraigned and condemned upon false accusations, mocked, and insulted, and spat upon, and scourged, and led away to consummate at once his sufferings and his sacrifice upon the cross, the bitterness of which hour he had already anticipated in his conflict in the garden, when his agonies had drawn from him as it were great drops of blood. But over him the grave had no power. As he died for our sins, he rose again for our justification; and, after giving sufficient evidence that he had raised out of the grave that very body with which he entered it, he ascended into heaven to assume his mediatorial throne, and exercise that office of intercessor for which lie had been qualified by his own sufferings, and that dominion which was the reward of his obedience.
The nature and ends of their Lord's death, and the divine fiurJiose in the separation of their nation, were very imperfectly understood by the disci/Ues themselves; much less had they any notion of the extent of that commission which they had received, though it was expressed in such general terms, " Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature." (Mark xvi. 15.) But their prejudices as Jews were to be removed gradually. Many things, our Lord told them, he had to say to them, but they could not bear them then. For wise reasons it had seemed good to the great Head of the Church to separate the Jewish nation from the rest of mankind, by a peculiar hedge of distinction; not, as was repeatedly declared, for their own deservings, for, to illustrate the freedom of his acting and its independence of any merit in the creature, he chose for this end a nation remarkably obstinate and rebellious; but to preserve upon earth, till the coming of the Messiah, some traces of true religion, and to be a picture and shadow of his especial favour to his spiritual Israel. In common with the rest of the nation, the disciples had imbibed the prejudice that peculiar privileges were attached to the Jews, and admitted with great difficulty the disagreeable truth, that this peculiarity of privilege was to be annihilated, the wall thrown down, and the Gentiles received into a full participation of Christian