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G scripture, are authenticated, they reply, that the Old and New Testament are proved to be the word of God by evidences innumerable, both external and internal.
My intention, on the present occasion, is not to attempt any new idea on the great subject of our redemption, but merely to state a few of the most prominent particulars arising out of the most essential characteristics of our religion. It is an historical religion ; that is, it is a religion whose doctrines arise out of facts; chiefly miraculous facts. In this respect Christianity essentially differs from all the philosophical systems, or false religions of the world. Mahomet did no more than lay down doctrines; but Christ performed actions out of which doctrines flow. Thus he died for us, and hence the doctrine of the atonement; he sent the Holy Spirit to us, and hence the doctrine of grace. And this will account for our not finding doctrines with which we are familiar set forth as such in the sacred nar: ratives. They are contained there, yet not abstract propositions, but involved in the facts related.
Throughout indeed the whole ministry of our Saviour, he exhibited a conformity to the description of prophecy in every way which could excite attentive inquiry and faith in the humble minded ; and in his death, seeing that when he made his grave with the wicked, &c., the lesson was completed, crowding as it did the immense number of prophetic hints relative to the crucifixion and resurrection into this brief but awful period.
The books of the New Testament now in our hands were written by the first preachers and promulgators of Christianity; and the characters of the writers also, so far as we can judge by their works, seem to render them worthy of regard, and leave no room to imagine they intended to deceive us. The manner, indeed, in which each relates his history is most happily adapted to gain our belief. It cannot be said that the apostles were under any temptation to forge a story of any kind, or to publish it to the world knowing it to be false : on the contrary, there are in their writings the most genuine traces not only of a plain and honest, but of a most pious and devout, a most benevolent and generous disposition, as every one must acknowledge who reads their writings. The gospels were written at different periods ; viz. :
St. Matthew's was written in Judea about the year 38.
65. St. Luke's
68. St. John's
Of the first Gospel.—We have the narrative of an eye-witness and an apostle. From a variety of concurrent testimony, it appears beyond a doubt that the gospel of St. Matthew was really written by him, and in Hebrew, the language then spoken in Palestine, and the first of the gospels that was written. Matthew, it appears, was a native of Galilee; but history does not tell us in what city of that country he was born, or to what tribe of the people of Israel he belonged ; let it be sufficient for us to know, that he was from the time of his call a constant attendant upon our Saviour. If the gospel of John alone is genuine, we have the saine degree of evidence. If both these can be proved to be spurious, then compare those of Luke and Mark, and if found to differ by oinission or variation in
some points, they will be found most uniforin in substance.
In my opinion a very strong proof of the genuineness of the gospel instead of reason for cavilling at it and doubting its authenticity, is the circumstance of one Evangelist relating what another has omitted, for instance, Matthew makes no mention of our Lords ascension into heaven, the relation of which is given by St. Mark and St. Luke; and it is also observable that he notices only one of our Saviour's appearances to his disciples after his resurrection. But how to account for this omission of St. Matthew when comparing it with the others is not very easy, nor more necessary, than to express our surprize at the exclusive mention he makes of the visit of the eastern magi—our Saviour's flight into Egypt—the slaughter of the infants at Bethlehem—the parable of the ten virgins—the dream of Pilate's wife—the resurrection of
saints at the crucifixion-and the bribing of the Roman guard, appointed to watch at the holy sepulchre, by the chief priests and elders; and if anything else were wanting ;