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with respect both to number and magnitude, as to be out of the reach of all reasonable objection, though not of mere cavil; and such is actually the case. We may even venture to say, that had the most skeptical person in the world been asked what he himself would have wished to have been done in order to satisfy him that the Author of nature had really interposed in the government of the world, he could not have pitched upon more striking things, as an evidence of it, than the ten plagues of Egypt, the passage of the Red Sea and the river Jordan, the articulate and audible voice from Mount Sinai, pronouncing not a few words only (for in that the hearing might be deceived), but so many as composed the ten commandments, and lastly, the falling of the walls of Jericho; all of them exhibited in the presence of a whole nation, and some of them even more nations than one.
In order to satisfy distant ages that such things as these really took place, what more could have been demanded than that the history of them should be committed to writing while the facts were recent; that solemn customs should be instituted at the very time for the purpose of commemorating them ; that a nation the least disposed to the religion which all this apparatus was provided to establish, should receive the history as genuine, and reluctantly adopt the religion thus enjoined them; and that, notwithstanding their many deviations from it, owing to the seductive nature of the rites of other nations they should, by faith in this history, be brought back to the strict observance of it and continue in it to this day, a period of about four thousand years.
Nothing but a due attention to this remarkable state of things is necessary to ensure the firm belief of the whole, to the most skeptical of mankind. And in due time we cannot doubt but that this due attention will be given to this history, and to that of the propagation of Christianity in conjunction with it; and then all mankind will, of course, become worshippers of the God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob, and of Jesus Christ; and this faith cannot but be attended with a great improvement in the moral conduct of men, such as will ensure to them the truest enjoyment of this life, and immortal happiness in the life to come.
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Though the history of the deliverance of the Israelites from their state of bondage in Egypt, and their settlement in the land of Canaan, be an extraordinary one, abounding with miraculous events, which require a proportion ably clear evidence, we have seen that the evidence of the facts is as full and clear as the case, or as any case, can require; and the object of the whole scheme to which these events were an introduction, was of proportional importance. It was nothing less than to impress upon mankind the belief of the existence and providence of the one true God, the purity of his worship, the knowledge of our moral duty in this life, and of our expectations in another. For this great purpose it pleased God to make one nation the medium of all his communications with mankind, and to distinguish them by a particular providence that they might appear in the most conspicuous light to the whole world, and attract universal attention. This the nation of the Jews has done to a considerable degree in all ages. Originally they were situated in the very centre of all the civilized nations of the world, and as civilization extended, they by one means or another became most wonderfully dispersed through all countries; and at this day they are almost literally every where the most conspicuous, and in the eye of reason and religion, the most respectable nation on the face of the earth.
It has been by means of prophets of this nation, and especially Jesus Christ, that the world has been recovered, as far as this recovery has taken place, from the deplorable state of superstition and idolatry into which it was universally sunk. This nation had originally as much to learn concerning God, a providence, and a future state, as any other, and they had not naturally any better sources of information; but having been taught of God, they or their disciples are the instructors of all the world; and the lessons they give us are equally instructive, whether they themselves have suffered for their disobedience or flourished in consequence of their obedience. And the most important and convincing of all the lessons they are destined to give the world, what we have reason to believe will put an end to all infidelity, will be the result of their promised restoration to their present desolated country, from their present miserable, despised, and dispersed condition; for who but he who alone can see into futurity, could foresee an event so distant and so complicated? And as their dispersion and preservation correspond, * * * with such wonderful exactness to ancient prophecies, their is no reasonable cause of doubt but that their restoration and future flourishing state will correspond to the many predictions concerning it, with equal exactness. With those who, for want of attention (for it cannot be owing to any thing else), are unbelievers at present, the issue of the whole must rest on this future event, which cannot fail to arrest and most forcibly engage the attention of all mankind.
THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST.
The very character of Jesus Christ is so exceedingly unlike any other character whatever in the whole history of mankind; there is something in it so remarkably great and extraordinary, especially such an amazing mixture of dignity and condescension; that we cannot suppose that such men as the Evangelists should have conceived it, or have supported it so uniformly as they have done on a great variety of occasions. The fact demonstrates that they must have had an original to copy after. In this case they must have written from their memories, and not from imagination.
I would not scruple to appeal to any person, whose moral sentiments have not been perverted, whether he can possibly reconcile the character of Christ, the doctrines which he taught, and his general conduct, with that of an enthusiast or an impostor, and consequently whether his history does not on this account bear internal marks of truth. He taught and laboriously inculcated the precepts of the purest morality. He did not puzzle his hearers with subtle distinctions in morals, but insisted chiefly upon great and general principles, as the love of God, the love of mankind, and universal purity of heart, which are calculated to form a complete character, adapted to every station and condition in life; and he more especially enforced those virtues which are the least ostentatious, but the most essential to true greatness and excellence of character; viz. the forgiveness of injuries, humility, contentment, and resignation to the will of Sod.
He never consulted his own ease or pleasure, but constantly labored and felt for others, going about doing good to the souls and bodies of men. He spared neither the faults of his friends, nor the vices of his enemies, though the former were ever so dear to him, and the latter ever so powerful and inveterate. He discovered the most astonishing wisdom and presence of mind, whenever ensnaring questions were put to him. He sought no worldly emoluments or honors, but persisted in a course of life which rendered him in the highest degree obnoxious to those who were in power; and when he deemed the great purpose of his useful life to be accomplished, he no longer secreted himself from the malice of his persecutors, but in a firm belief, and with a peremptory declaration, that he should rise to the most distinguished greatness, and that he should raise all his disciples and friends to similar honors in a future life, he submitted, with inimitable calmness and composure, to a most cruel and ignominious death.
If there be any truth in history, all this, and much more than this was unquestionably fact. Now, what is there in human nature, or in the history of mankind, that can lead us to imagine that the man who could act this part should solemnly assert that he was commissioned by God to do it without really having such a commission 1 A good man will immediately say, if Divine interpositions be possible in themselves, and if God has ever spoken by man, Jesus Christ must certainly have been the man; and an intelligent person perceive that the time in which he lived was the most proper time for his appearance. The man whose life and conversation is agreeable to the gospel, and who feels that he enjoys the advantages of his being and condition, to the greatest perfection, in consequence of it, must feel what will be to him the most irresistible evidence, that the gospel proceeds from the Giver of every good and perfect gift. He has the witness in himself, and has peace and joy in believing. • * *
Let all these circumstances be duly considered, the ob