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cherishing the expectation of the Messiah's immediate approach, they were led by the miracles of Jesus to recognize the person, whom John had already proclaimed and described.—The probability of our conjecture will, it is hoped, remove an objection, which was successively urged by Porphyry and by Julian \ that their conduct proceeded not from deliberate conviction, but was remarkable for rashness and precipitancy.
Let us now consider in what manner St. John proved his claim to the title of 'the Prophet of the Highest.'—It is in the knowledge of futurity, that the wishes of man are most strong, and his ability is most weak.—It is not difficult, indeed, without the superinduction of divine assistance, for a person, who studiously observes the course of human affairs, and the tendency of human interests and passions, and who is accustomed diligently to deduce a series of possible contingencies, to be fortunate in his conjectures, respecting the issue of certain projects, or the growth and decay of certain institutions. But such conjectures3 are explained the nature of this office; and we had established the truth of his Mission by the chief proofs which arise from the supernatural events at his birth, and from the accomplishment of ancient prophecies, as well as by those intrinsic marks, which demonstrate the utter impossibility of imposture; — and, to return to the first step, we had urged the importance of the discussion from the connexion which intimately subsists between the missions of John the Baptist, and of Jesus Christ.—Such are the admirable adjustment, dependance, and regularity, which pervade and distinguish the frame of Christianity1. Designed by Him "that sitteth in the heavens," she bears the impress of her origin in the extent and the congruity of her numerous relations,—in diversity of modes, and in unity of object. Of her influence, our reason, our meditation, our feelings,—in all the variety, and with all the force of spontaneous emotions, —declare, that from the beginning she was intended for our happiness, and to the end she will diffuse it among the children of men. To what cause, then, is our restless discontent with the system of revealed religion to be traced ?—It is that, ignorant of the nature of real perfection, we fill our minds with glowing visions of counterfeit excellence, and through the gorgeous profusion of their fantastic imagery the light of truth comes dim and powerless;—it is that the pride of intellectual powers revolts at the thought of hearing with humility and attention the authoritative precepts of inspired wisdom ;—or it is that our follies and our vices suffer us not to examine them, till the hour of sickness and of sorrow be arrived, when our spirits are broken, and our hopes scattered, and our faculties enfeebled, and our views of the future, as they gradually become more fixed, discover only shadows of indistinct terror, that rest on the darkening stage of existence. Another source of these fretful complaints may perhaps be sought in that feeling of utter unsatisfactoriness, which, usually attending our weak and imperfect undertakings, unfits us for the contemplation of sublime and momentous objects. When the Almighty surveyed the works, which his hands had wrought, he saw that they were all exceeding good,—and rested; but when man surveys the works, which his hands have wrought, he sees that they are all vanity and vexation of spirit, —and finds no rest8. Thus dissatisfied with himself, he grows dissatisfied even with the plans of Omnipotence;—he turns from the clearest arguments to dwell on the slightest obscurities, till his mind become at length so blinded by the indulgence of error, that he will "grope in the noon-day as in the night."—So subtle and so versatile is the spirit of prejudice. Assuming every form, and appearing in every colour, it insinuates itself into genius as into ignorance, and reigns alike in the depth of vicious degradation, and the height of mental superiority.
* "Arguit in loco Porphyrius et Julianus Augustus, vel imperitiam historici mentientis, vel stultitiam eorum, qui statim secuti sunt salvatorem, quasi irrationabiliter quemlibet vocantem hominem sint secuti; quum tantae virtutes, tantaque signa pracesserint, qua? Apostolos, antequam crederent, vidisse non dubium est."—Hieron. in Matt. Tom. IV. p. SO.
3 Of this nature were the conjectures of Cicero.—" Facile existimarijpossit, prudentiam quodammodo esse divinationem. Non enim Cicero ea solum, quae vivo se acciderunt, futura praedixit, sed etiam quae nunc usu veniunt, cecinit ut vates." Corn. Nep. Vit. Attic. §. clxx. See also Cic. Epist. lib. vi. Ep. 6. &c.
1 What Plotinus has so justly observed of the exquisite agreement and consistency which the Deity has caused to subsist throughout the universe, and the folly of those, who find faults with separate parts, without considering their subserviency and conformity to the whole, may be applied to the system of revelation:—""OAoi/ yap Ti iiroitjoe wdyKa.\ov,
Kat UVTCLpKtt, KCLt <pt\ov OUTM, Kill TO?s pep€<ri To!s avTOv, TO?? T€
KvptbiTepots Kai To?s e\aTTO<riv w<ravTw<? irpov<popoi(;' 6 Toivvv eK Twy pepatv To o\ov atTtwpevos, ctT07ro<? av eltj Trji atTias' TaTe 70-p pepy irpos avTo To Oaox St? <rKoireiv, ei <rvn<p<ova Kai dppoTrovTa e'«i'i/eo." Ennead. p. 256.
5 "Tu, postquam conversus es ad spectandum opera, quae fecerunt manus tuae, vidisti quod omnia essent bona valde; et requievisti. At homo, conversus ad opera, quae fecerunt manus suae, vidit quod omnia essent vanitas et vexatio spiritus, nee ullo modo requievit." Bacon. Instaur. Mag. Part I. Distrib. Opus
But no one, who divests himself of all undue bias, and reviews the whole evidence with seriousness and impartiality,—weighing the force of each proof separately, and of all collectively,—can fail to admire the strength, the completeness, and the harmonious correspondence of every part in the fabric of that religion, on whose front sits the beauty of holiness, and whose foundation is the rock of ages;—or be forced, in the agitation of perpetual solicitude, and in the darkness of comfortless uncertainty, to repeat the question,— "Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?"