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among the most unostentatious of the sons of men.
The history of our religion is preserved, as you know, in four short narratives, which have ever been regarded as the composition of men who were themselves eye-witnesses to the facts which they relate, or at least were the companions of those who had witnessed them. They are written in a strain of remarkable simplicity, and with all the internal appearances of truth ; nor I suppose would
any doubts have ever been started against their authenticity, did they not, along with the more natural incidents, contain an account, likewise, of certain miraculous occurrences, which “ the reasoning pride” of some ambitious philosophers has represented as unworthy the belief of an enlightened understanding. Upon this subject I shall hereafter have occasion to make some observations; but, in the mean time, it may be sufficient to say, that if we are ever prepared to expect a particular revelation of the Divine will, we should likewise be prepared for something miraculous in its history, since the very circumstance of such a revelation is a miracle in itself. There cannot, surely, be any
method so good of acquiring an acquaintance with the origin, the evidences, the nature, and the doctrines of Christianity, as in studying with attention those invaluable records in which these particulars are detailed; and, accordingly, it has always been considered as one of the most important duties of a Christian teacher, to illustrate the obscurities, and to bring forward the more important circumstances in these sacred books. The Gospel of St Matthew has in this manner been commented upon by a late very
eminent Prelate, and I doubt not, that, from
his pure and Christian instruction, many of you
have derived, both for yourselves and for your children, very valuable principles both of faith and of conduct. In humble imitation of this excellent model, it is my intention to deliver from this place, during the season of Advent, and occasionally in the course of the ensuing year, lectures on a similar plan, on the Gospel next in order, that of St Mark: and if, in the inquiries into which I shall thus be led, it may not be in my power to add any thing of great importance to the information of elder hearers, I yet hope that I shall be enabled to say something which
the attention of the young; and, at that dangerous period when sophistry is beginning to perplex them with its delusions, and pleasure to allure them with its charms, may, under the influence of Diyine Grace, tend to assure them, that the
true honour and happiness of human life can spring only from the faith and the practice of the Christian. Before entering directly upon my
subject, it may not be unimportant to take notice of certain peculiarities of opinion and temper, which prevail very generally at present with regard to the Gospel. At the period when the Lectures on St Matthew, already alluded to, were composed, a very fatal spirit of infidelity had spread itself over the Christian world; and, not confined to the higher and more licentious orders of men, it had even crept into the retirement of the cottage, and was threatening to blight all the hopes, and to wither the virtues, of the human race.
To counteract this destructive spirit, which had been aided, alas ! in its progress, by men whose abilities and endowments seemed to call them to far nobler offices, was the chief
object proposed by the venerable author of that publication; and much good was certainly effected by his labours, and those of his coadjutors in the same field of honourable exertion. Lessons, however, of still greater efficacy have since been collected from the course of human affairs; and a voice more eloquent than
the tongues of men and of angels," has been heard amidst the storms that have agitated the world. The rich and the powerful have at length seen the danger of unhinging those principles on which the stability of society depends ; and the poor have found nothing but additional wretchedness, in the fancied illumination which seemed to be opening upon them. The progress of infidelity has consequently been arrested, and the spirit of its apostles either converted or subdued. There are few men who are now desirous to keep it alive. They who have them