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In the advice given to the Corinthians, concerning the propriety or impropriety of marriages, at a time in which they were so much exposed to persecutions, he pretended not to the authority of an immediate revelation; but he speaks according to his judgment, and yet "I think," says he, "that I have the spirit of the Lord." At other times, he confesses, that the counsel given is entirely from himself.
This faithful narrative of failings, in such eminent characters, and the cautious expressions used, confirm our faith in the gospel history, more than the highest pretensions to infallibility. By the conscientious and ingenuous care taken not to mislead by his authority, the Apostle establishes his authority. These facts point out the distinction which exists between the infallibility belonging to the source of all wisdom; the unerring inspirations imparted to the great Prophet, in whom the fulness of the Godhead is said to dwell; and the more circumscribed powers communicated to subordinate agents and fallible men; who, like the ancient prophets under the Jewish dispensation, were favoured with those degrees of illumination, which were adapted to the peculiar designs of their mission; and to such were they obviously confined.
That the divine wisdom and benevolence have proportioned the degrees of evidence to the importance of the doctrines revealed, is conspicuous in every part of revelation; but in no instance doth this truth appear more obvious, than in the testimonies surrounding that fundamental doctrine, the Resurrection of Christ from the dead. He was appointed to be the first fruits of them that sleep. "If Christ be not risen," says the Apostle, "there is no resurrection of the dead; ye are yet in your sins." An event so preternatural, so opposite to every appearance, so contradictory to the experience of men, demands powerful evidence.
This it enjoys, for we may safely assert, that no one event upon record is guarded with more, we may say with equal, security against the attacks of incredulity. The divine precaution foresaw every possible objection, and provided an answer. That Jesus of Nazareth was suspended on the cross, no one denies who believes in his existence; that he died on the cross, is evident from the nature of the wound inflicted on the side. He was publicly entombed. The amazement and despondency of his followers, at such an event, so contrary to their expectations, and which destroyed all their hopes, would not inspire them with a disposition
fraudulently to convey away the body of one who had disappointed them, and whom they must have suspected to have been an enthusiast or an impostor. The extraordinary precaution taken by the enemies of Christ to secure the sepulchre, and prevent the possibility of fraud, would have rendered any attempts of his former disciples, had they been so disposed, acts of madness as well as of absurdity. The miserable defence of the guards confutes itself. Its being received as an apology, instead of their being severely punished for their universal and ill-timed drowsiness; their being bribed to propagate the tale which convicted them of a breach of duty; and the promise made by the Elders, that they should be secured from the resentment of the Roman governor, sufficiently proved the chagrin and amazement of the Elders, respecting this marvellous event. The frequent intercourse of our Saviour - with his disciples and followers, after the resurrection, in order completely to remove their incredulity, and direct their future conduct; the publicity of his ascension to heaven; these closing events, being in perfect conformity with the objects of his mission, and with his own predictions concerning the manner of his death, and certainty of his resurrection, form such an united mass of evidence, that "him who was
by wicked hands crucified and slain, God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that he should be holden of it;" these are such numerous, distinct, united, unequivocal vouchers of the important fact, that nothing remains for incredulity, but boldly to deny the power of the Almighty to perform so great a miracle, and declare that it is absolutely impossible for God to raise the dead!
We have now finished our analytical enquiries. If we have been circuitous, it was in order to follow the clues which might best conduct us through many labyrinths. We have been prolix, in order to be perspicuous; and we have attempted to define or explain every important word which presented itself, in order to escape that confusion of ideas which is the natural result of confusion in language. In our ethical disquisitions, we have not entered into those speculative subjects which generally attract the attention of moral philosophers; but we have endeavoured to trace the moral history of the human mind, in its powers, pursuits, motives of action, &c. The obvious and important result of our enquiries is, that no pursuits can be so interesting as the moral and intellectual improvement of the human mind; and no motives so powerful as those which proceed from the principles of true religion. It has been shewn