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To Christian Readers.
IT is a real fact, evident beyond contradiction, that every individual should acquire a thorough knowledge of the Life and Death of ouc blessed Lord and Sayiour JESUS CHRIST, who was crucified for our sins, rose again for our justification, and now sitteth at the right hand of GOD, making intercession for us. If Christians seek a noble example of conduct to copy after, we would recommend to them the glorious and benevolent transactions of the
Great CAPTAIN of our SALVATION ; One who being in the form of God, thought it no robbery to be equal with God, yet made himself of no reputation, suffering his divine essence to be clothed with mortality, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross; that mankind by the merits of his redemption, through faith, might enjoy everlasting happiness throughout eternity in the realms above. The Life and Death of our Holy REDEEMER, with other matters herein contained, is a work, if properly executed, of the utmost consequence to this Christian land, and is the most valuable of all histo. ries ; but it is a circumstance which will be readily allowed, by the im. partial and disinterested, and which has been long much lamented by many, that no complete and perfectly authentic work of this kind has yet been published, whereby persons of every capacity may gain a thorough knowledge of the important subject. Hitherto, works of this sort have been published in too small a compass, which are not so well adapted to the importance of so valuable a work. Some of these publications have been compiled by persons whose names, characters, and private sentiments, would have done no honour to a work of the kind, and were therefore ushered into the world under the names of ficticious persons who never existed; so that Christian people have only parted with their money, without having their expectations at all answered. To remedy all these defects, by which the PUBLIC have been long materially injured, I was applied to by numerous friends to publish this COMPLETE LIFE OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST, the diligent labour of many years, and which, by the blessing of God, I have now committed to the press, in order that it may be of real benefit and use to pious and sincere Christians of every denomination. I have been particularly urged to treat this important subject at large in the most copious and satisfactory manner which I am persuaded, will be approved of by an indolgent public. It is calculated to convey divine knowledge to all ranks of people, rectify errors which too many are apt to run into, represent real religion in its natios colors, as taught by CHRIST himself, and enable even the most ignorant Christian to give an account of the faith that is in him when called upon on any occasion. The sacred writings of the Evangelists, &c. have not only been carefully consulted, and the respective accounts systematically arranged, so as to make this work a complete harmony of the Gospels, but profane authors of undoubted authority, who were co-temporaries with the Evangelists and Apostles, have furnished us with a variety of useful particulars relating to our blessed SAVIOUR, not included in the Scripture history. The evidence which Josephus bears tờ different parts of oor 'REDEEMER's LIFE, has also been faithfully preserved, together with an account of the Jewish customs, offices, and secis; every other writer (ancient and modern) on the subject, has also been diligently perused; and no trouble or expence spared to render this work, in every respect, the most complete and perfect of the kind : being happily calculated to convey to the inquisitive mind, a perfect knowledge of our holy religion, to promote a firm faith in the merits of our BLESSED REDEEMER, and to recommend the practice of every Christian virtue. The cronological and geographical parts are likewise mingtely attended to, and the errors which others have fallen into, are most carefully avoided. In this Preface, 1 shall only mention a few things more; and may they be attentively considered by all persons of both sexes, old and young. Let' it be your care to make the evidences of christianity the subject of your serious reflection and converse, wherein sach marks of truth and divinity are to be found. The sabject of the life' of our 'Blessed REDEEMER, is of the utmost consequence to every one, and demands our most serious regard; for, as the great apostle says, Christ hath suffered for us, leaving an erample to us, that we might follow his steps : He deciares himself the way, the Trilh, and the Life: Hé not only redeems our souls from death to life but enlightens and leads all his--faithful followers in the paths of safety, to a happy eternity. The answers which I have given to Atheists, Leists, and Infidelity in general, I hope will be found of the most satisfactory nature to my numerous readers, and such as will build them up in their most holy faith. The examples of the holy A postles, Evangelists, Disciples, and other eminent persons and primitive Christians (also given in this work) will likewise 'afford great instruction to every reader; and the practical improvements" and doctrinał remarks, interspersed throughout the whole, will be carefully applied to the faith and duty of every Believer.
Concerning the State of Religion, $c. in the World in general, and in
the Roman Empire, and the Jewish nation in particular, at the time of our Redeemer's birth. Including an account of the various sects amongst the Jews, and other particulars, by way of Introduction,
IT is generally acknowledged, by the most learned and judicious chronologers, that the Great REDEEMER was born in the four thousandth year after the creation of the world, and four years before the vulgar æra. This mistake is supposed to have arisen from the low state of learning, · when the birth of Christ was first fixed as the epocha from which the whole Christian world reckoned their time. This being upwards of five hundred years after the birth of CHRIST, and there being no authentic record, to fix the time with exactness and precision, a mistake of four years was at first made, and hath been ever since continued. The year in which the Saviour of the world was born, was the thirty-third of Herod, king of the Jews, after his taking Jerusalem; and the twenty sixth of the emperor Augustus, after the victory of Actium; which concluding the contest between him and Mark Anthony, put him in possession of the whole Roman empire. It was now about seven hundred and fifty years since the building of Rome. The Romans had carried their victorious arms thro' the surrounding nations, and by their justice, clemency, and moderation, risen to the highest pitch of glory and renown: but by the pride, luxury, and frequent quarrels of their great men, the empire was sinking from ito ancient greatness ; the commonwealth was at an end ; and the senate had been forced to submit to a master. Tho' the state made a violent struggle for liberty; in the murder of Julius Cæsar, great quarrels succeed. ed, and the whole empire was sobjected to the authority of Augustus. This was a prince of a very amiable disposition ; he by his wise manage
ment, put an end to all contention, and governed the empire with suck justice, prudence, and moderation, as made him highly esteemed by his subjects. He not only settled the affairs of the state so as to preserve all things quiet at home, but had the like success throughout the remoter parts of the vast empire : for a general peace prevailed through all the world, when our Great Redeemer, the heavenly prince of peace, was born.
The Jewish nation was, at this time, groaning under the tyranny of Herod the great ; who, though an old man, declining in his health, and just bordering on the grave, had so little thought of his latter end, that he reigned with such cruelty and tyranny, as justly rendered him the abhor. rance of his subjects. A late writer has stated that the Jews were, at this time, grievously oppressed by the Roman power, but as Herod was, for the most part, in favour with the emperor Augustus, and had liberty from him to rule as he pleased, and even, on slight grounds of complaint, to put his own sons, Alexander and Christobolus, to death ; it must certainly be 'the oppression of Herod,' and not of Augustus (who was a prince of a contrary character) whom the Jews -groaned ander. Herod was a prince of Idumean descent, whose ancestors had been proselytes to the Jewish religion. He had no right to regal authority, but was im. posed on the Jews by the Roman power, when there was a contest between Hyrcanus and Aristobolus, two brothers of (he Asmonian family, for the royal dignity. The Romans took the advantage of this, and Herod was declared king of the Jews by the senate, and three years after, assisted by the Roman arms in the taking of Jerusalem ; and from that time he reigned over the Jewish nation, in subjection to the Romans, about thirty-five years. Herod was a prince of a martial disposition, but as he knew he had no legal right to the crown, he was guilty of the high est injustice and cruelty to keep possession of that dignity which he had by unlawful means obtained ; and never was at rest till he had procured the death of every prince who was related to it. Jlaving thus erected his throne on murder, treachery, and all kinds of wickedness, his reign was such as might be expected from such a beginning. For though he rose to great opulence and power; though he was possessed of all that his ambition aspired to; yet he was constantly disturbed by domestic divisions, and troubles of various kinds, which rendered him most deplorably un: happy in the midst of prosperity. Though he was successful in his wars, and constantly augmenting his dominions ; though in the sumptuous buildings he erected, and in his grandeur and magpificence, in all respects, he exceeded his predecessors, Solomon only excepted ; yet his reign was one series of plots, jealousies, cruellies, murder, and every thing that is shock. ing to human nature.
The state of religion in the world, at the time of our Redeemer's birth, was such as stood in the greatest need of a teacher sent from God. The various nations around the globe were immersed in the darkness of idola. try and superstition. And Though the unity of God, and the immortality of the soul had been taught by Socrates and Plato, yet their sentiments were dark and confused, very little known amongst the vulgar, and very little depended on amongst the more learned. The Jews only retained the worship of the true God. Their temple worship was the same as established by Solomon; and the law and the prophets were weekly read in their synagogues ; but they had, in a great measure, made the moral law void by their traditions, and their temple-worship was much declined from the primitive glory of its institution. The second temple had now stood apwards of four hundred years. It was vastly inferior, in magnifi. cence and grandeur, to that which was built by Solomon. It wanted the ark of the covenant, the Divine Presence, the Urim and Thummim, the holy fire upon the altar, and the spirit of prophecy. It was first profaned and plundered by Antiochus Epiphanus. It had lately been dishonored by