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THE following work is designed to assist speculative inquiry, and pious meditation : it proposes to the lover of truth and goodness the doctrines of Christ in their native simplicity; and his character, as it arises from facts recorded by the evangelists : it states those evidences for our Lord's divine mission to which he himself appealed : and it contains a discussion of many difficulties relating both to the phraseology and to the subject matter of the gospel history.
My quotations from the evangelical writers are large ; and the distribution of my subject requires that the same passage should be placed in different lights. My reader will hence derive the benefit of reviewing, in a great measure, those inestimable writings which furnish my materials ; and of thus becoming more conversant with the most important part of the most important book. Though in these extracts I have made the English version my ground work, I have freely departed from it; not indeed with the strict and uniform attention of a translator, but as it occasionally seemed to admit of improvement. For notwithstanding its intrinsic merit, which we cannot but think extraordinary when we consider the age in which it was produced, every competent
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judge will acknowledge that a sober and accurate revisal of it would essentially serve the cause of religion ; as it would facilitate and recommend a perusal and study of the scriptures, many parts of which at present abound with invincible difficulties to the English reader.
It should be constantly recollected that the doctrines and precepts which our Lord himself delivered do not constitute the whole of what his religion teaches on any particular subject. It is true that to every serious Christian they must appear peculiarly authoritative and affecting : but the words of Christ's inspired disciples rest on the same divine authority with his own: and the discoveries of God's perfections, and the general lessons of religion and morality, which occur in the Hebrew scriptures, are parts of that grand system which Christianity invites all mankind to embrace.
In the prosecution of my present subject many learned and excellent men have gone before me. The industry of some has comprehended the whole of our Lord's history; while the object of others has coincided with my own, in exhibiting to their readers only select parts.
Bishop - Taylor's “ Exemplar of Sanctity in the History of Christ” is a pious, eloquent and learned work : but, notwithstanding much weighty instruction, and occasional emanations of a sublime genius, its diffuse and digressive manner is alone sufficient to disgust readers of no very fastidious taste.
* This book has gone through many editions.
The sketches of our Lord's life by Dupin, Calmet, d Tillemont, Le Clerc, 'L'Enfant and Beausobre, the 8 Abbè de St. Real, and · Bailey, are recitals, paraphrases, or abridgments, of the four gospels ; and they furnish explications of the text, sometimes interwoven with the narration, and sometimes subjoined in notes.
Stackhouse's i History of the Bible contains a copious and useful life of Christ, with dissertations, notes, and replies to objections.
Dr. Benson's Life of Christ consists of discourses, or dissertations, on important subjects, or difficult passages, in the gospels : but death prevented the laborious, learned and judicious author from perfecting his comprehensive design. There is an excellent remark in the introduction to this work ; “ that if the several hints of things of the like kind (which occur in the gospels] be faithfully collected together, and considered in one view, they give such a light and lustre to one another, as to make the life of Christ appear to amazing advantage.” This author's method, of reducing under distinct heads detached and similar circumstances in our
o The Life of our blessed Saviour Jesus Christ, &c. Written in French by the learned L. E. du Pin, and Englished by a divine of the church of England with additions. London. 1711. 8vo.
• Prefixed to his Commentary on the Gospels.
* Abregé de l'Histoire Evangelique : prefiscd to their New Testament, with notes: 2 vols. 4to. Amst. 1718.
8 Oeuvres. tome sec. A Paris. 1730.
b The Life of Jesus, as collected by Caleb Bailey, Esq. 1732. The narration is a compound text of the four evangelists, in the words of the Pnglish version. i London. 2 vols, fol. 1732. * London. 4to. 1764. Printed for Wangh. Page ..
Lord's history, is like collecting scattered rays to a luminous and forcible point. The first intimation of pursuing it was given, I think, by Sir Isaac Newton in his Observations on Daniel : where he well m illustrates the manner in which our Lord borrowed his images and language from present objects. Doctor Benson has extended it to several other particulars. It has been carried somewhat further in the subsequent work ; which I am conscious will also be found a defective attempt, both in general heads and inductions of particulars : for the plain and concise gospels are full of deep and curious matter, not to be exhausted by the industry and attention of ages.
In Bishop · Law's “ Reflections on the Life and Character of Christ" there is a series of excellent observations comprised in a narrow compass ; and references are made to various authors who have enlarged on many topics which are only pointed out by this eminent writer.
Doctor Craig proposes “ to give a single and connected view of Christ's whole character at once ;" and “ chiefly to consider those events in the history of the gospel by which he bore witness of himself, and manifested the peculiar dignity of his character.” He premises“ a short account of those extraordinary interpositions of Providence by which his heavenly Father bore witness of him.” This is a concise, elegant and able performance.
m Note : p. 148. n Considerations on the Theory of Religion, &c. Cambridge. 1765. ed. 5. 8vo.
• See the preface to an Essay on the Life of Jesus Christ. Glasgow. 1769, 12mo,