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open to them the knowledge of eternal life; to receive which they must withdraw their minds from sin, and all corrupt desires.
Very early in his ministry he chose twelve persons to assist him in teaching his Religion. These were poor ignorant fishermen and others, taken from among the lowest order of the people, to shew that no human powers were employed to carry into effect his gracious design, proving that the power of God alone made them teachers of his Gospel; and further shewing that he looked upon all mankind as claiming equally the regard of their blessed Redeemer.
To convince them of his divine authority, he performed the most astonishing miracles, shewing that he was gifted by powers from above. He healed the sick and lame; he gave sight to the blind; and cast out devils, restoring many to their senses who were thus possessed. It may be supposed that these extraordinary acts would excite universal interest. He was soon surrounded with multitudes; the people exclaiming, that a great prophet was risen up among them, and that God had visited his people; and this rumour of him went forth throughout all Judea, and all the region round about.' And he went about all Galilee, teaching in their religious assemblies, and preaching the Gospel of his kingdom.'+
That his doctrines might be spread quickly, and as widely as possible throughout the country, having instructed the twelve disciples, he sent them forth two by two as teachers of his Religion; giving them power of performing miracles in his name, as tokens of their authority. They returned to him in astonishment at their own wonderful success ; and it appears from that time they remained constantly with him, receiving his instructions both publicly and in private, to enable them to publish at a future time those divine truths to the world which they were appointed to preach.
Christ afterwards sent forth seventy disciples in like manner, who executed their ministry with the same powers, and with equal success. They returned again with joy, saying Lord! even the devils are subject unto as through thy name.' ‡
The success of the new Religion was astonishingly great in all parts of the country; the effect of his miracles obtained credit to his doctrines in every quarter, so that the whole nation appeared disposed to receive the faith of Christ. Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone all men will believe on him, and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.' §
They marked the progress of the new faith with jealousy and alarm; they foresaw that if the Religion of Christ was established, their own power and influence over the people would dwindle into nothing. They therefore watched his motions with the greatest anxiety; they endeavoured on all occasions to prevent his success;
they tried him with the most artful questions, in hopes of convicting him of error, and of turning away the public partiality from him, which was so fast increasing in his favour. On every such occasion, however, he brought his enemies to silence. He confounded their arts by his divine wisdom, and exposed to the world their malice and treachery. This served but to increase their hatred against him. They were continually witnesses of the great miracles he performed; they were forced to confess that he acted with powers beyond this world. They had seen him cure the most fatal diseases; raising the cripple; giving sight to those blind even from their infancy; in an instant restoring reason to the insane, by a word only. And, as the most astonishing proof of his power, they had seen the dead arise to life by his command, even after being corrupted in the grave.
Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death: '* and caused a proclamation to be made for his apprehension.
When Jesus had completed his ministry, having during three years delivered his Divine lessons, teaching them every thing regarding his Religion which was necessary to be made known, and having set before mankind a perfect pattern of that piety which he taught, heshewed his disciples how that he must go unto Jerusalem and suffer many things of the elders, and chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.' +
With this knowledge of his approaching doom, our Saviour, at the appointed time, fully resigned to his fate, went up to Jerusalem to keep the feast of the Passover with his disciples. Upon that solemn occasion he repeated to them the ancient prophecy concerning his own death and his glorious resurrection to life. He also foretold the persecutions they should endure for his sake. He at the same time established a solemn ordinance, to be kept in remembrance of the sacrifice he was then going to make for mankind. He took bread, and brake it, and gave to them, commanding that they should reverently eat it, as a representation of his body which was to be offered up for them on the cross. Likewise also the cup, saying, 'Drink ye also of this, in remembrance of my blood, which shall be shed for the remission of sins.' This ceremony, called the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, has from that time been observed throughout the Christian Church.
That same night one of his own disciples having bargained with the chief priests to betray him to them for a sum of money (as had been foretold by the prophet Zachariah), he was treacherously delivered into their hands; and being carried before the Jewish Council, was questioned by the High Priest and others in the most malicious and blasphemous manner: being then adjured by the living God (the common form of the Hebrew oath) to declare whether he was the promised Messiah, he answered in express terms, he was the
Christ, the Son of God; adding, that hereafter he should be seen descending from Heaven in the majesty of divine glory.
The Council having determined on his death, but possessing no power to pass sentence on him, (as the Jews were no longer an independent people), led him before the Roman Governor, loudly demanding his execution. Pilate long hesitated to comply with their inhuman wishes, shewing an earnest desire to release him, as he declared that he found no fault in him: but the chief priests, bent on his ruin, artfully endeavoured to persuade Pilate that he had tried to raise sedition amongst the people against the Roman government, and ended by saying, if he let him go he was not Cæsar's friend. Thus they at length prevailed on him to consent to his death, which they immediately carried into effect by the most shameful punishment, reserved by the Romans for their slaves; and having loaded our blessed Saviour with the grossest insult and torture, they forced him to bear his own cross to the place of public execution without the city, until sinking under the burden, they obliged another to support it for him. He was crucified accordingly, between two public criminals, as if to increase his disgrace; thus fulfilling part of Isaiah's prophecy concerning his death. + While nailed to the fatal cross his cruel enemies indulged their hatred and revenge by reviling their expiring Redeemer in the most insulting language. An extraordinary darkness overspread the whole country during our Saviour's dreadful sufferings; and when at length he expired, a terrible earthquake in the same moment shook the ground; the veil, or curtain, of the great temple of Jerusalem, which divided the Holy of Holies from the outer court, was rent in twain, to shew that all religious distinctions were now abolished between Jews and Gentiles ; and many holy persons arose from the grave and went into the city, appearing unto many. ‡
The body of our blessed Lord, being taken from the cross, was buried by a pious believer in his own tomb; and a guard of soldiers was provided by the Jewish Council to watch over it, in consequence of his having declared, that after three days he would rise again from the dead. Thus did the bitterest enemies of Christianity give the surest proof of the reality of his return to life, by putting it out of the power of his followers, had they been so inclined, to impose upon the world.
On the morning of the third day he accordingly arose from death, and, as St. Matthew informs us, behold there was a great earthquake, for the angel of the Lord descended from Heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow; and for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.' § The chief priests, informed of this awful event by some of the terrified guards, prevailed on them by large bribes to declare
that the disciples of Christ had come by night and stolen him away while they slept.*
Christ, upon being thus raised from the dead, first shewed himself among his disciples; and having made them handle him to satisfy themselves of his reality, he continued with them forty days (being seen of no less than 500 persons at one time), that no doubt of his resurrection might be entertained by those who had been eye-witnesses of his crucifixion and death.
Having now completed the object of his coming into the world; having made the great atonement for the sins of mankind, and given this last remaining proof of his divine nature and authority; having continued upon earth a sufficient time to establish this most wonderful fact beyond all doubt, he led out his disciples from Jerusalem as far as Bethany. He delivered to them his last advice; he repeated to them his former promises, that on his departure the Holy Ghost, the Comforter of mankind, should come upon them from Heaven, and assist them with his grace and support, even to the end of the world.
Christ lastly gave them his solemn blessing, and he was parted from them, and carried up into Heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned into Jerusalem with great joy. +
We have thus brought together, in a very short and hasty manner, the principal circumstances of our Saviour's life and ministry on earth, to enable our readers to comprehend at one view the general course and design of his gracious mission. We must reflect on it with serious attention, and refer to the four Gospels for those particulars which deserve more deliberate examination. In our next Lecture we will proceed with our examination of the Books of the New Testament,
DIALOGUE BETWEEN EUSEBIUS AND ALCIPHRON,
To the Editor.
I HAVE lately had a second conversation with the acquaintance whom you before heard of under the name of Alcipbron. You may perhaps desire to know in what manner those persons who reject Revelation are accustomed to supply its place. So I send you a short report of what passed between us: which, to prevent awkward explanations, I have put into the form of a dialogue between Alciphron and Eusebius.
Eusebius. The sight of that blue smoke among the trees reminds me of the subject of our conversation when we met here on Christmas day. We were interrupted, I remember :- but you had been trying to persuade me that Revelation occasioned much misery to mankind, instead of being necessary to their welfare. And I know that this is
*Matthew xxviii. 13.
+ Luke xxiv. 51.
the ground which Owen and Palmer have lately taken, together with the host of Deists whose poison Carlile, unfortunately for himself, has been so active in distributing. Now I should be glad to know how you, and such as you, explain to your satisfaction a case like that of the poor woman whose sufferings I related to you. You believe in God, and you believe that he directs the affairs of the world, and therefore you believe that this woman could not have suffered such affliction, except according to his will, and the general laws of his providence.
Alciphron-No doubt I think so, and that you have explained your own difficulty. God regulates the world by general laws, and does not interfere to prevent individual cases of misery, which arise. out of that system of things which he has seen fit to establish, as best upon the whole: i. e. most fitted to promote the general happiness of mankind, which must have been his object in creating this world.
Eusebius. And according to this principle, what security has this poor woman that the general laws of Providence may not render it fit or necessary that she should suffer pain or penury in another state, as well as in the present? Perhaps you will say, how do we know that there is a future state? But at least you cannot prove the contrary; for the infant just born had no concern in procuring its own existence, and you may find yourself as little consulted about beginning another state of existence as you were about entering on this: so that I again ask, what security has she that she may not be just as unhappy there as here? or, to complete the dilemma, if there is no future state, what recompense has she for the misery thus patiently endured? Reason, I dare say, will find good grounds for leading you to believe that such cases (which, remember, are by no means uncommon) are somehow or other provided for by a merciful God. But I also think that your reason would not, beforehand, have suggested to you that there would be any such cases, and that the degree of pain and privation which everywhere occur, the necessity of which it is impossible to discover, except on principles which you refuse to admit, must unanswerably perplex any Deist who undertakes to reconcile the appearance of the world with the naked proposition, that God intended mankind to possess unconditional or unalloyed happiness. Ask yourself whether, in framing according to reason an ideal world, the work of the Creator whom your party say that Deism declares to intelligent man,' you should have thought of introducing privation and pain like that of this poor woman? Reason, therefore, would have misled you in this point of no small importance; and as it would have proved fallible in the first case, that of the existence of such misery, it is not impossible that it might in the other, that of a provision for its recompense. But at any rate shall we step in and ask the poor old creature, whether she will choose to exchange her assurance of future compensation for your probability?
Alciphron. That is hardly necessary. Certainly the assurance