« ÖncekiDevam »
Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ, chap. i. v. 16. Saint Luke with equal precision says, that · Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph. Now when it is thus clear that both these genealogies apply to Joseph, and both these evangelists expressly assert that Jesus was born of an immaculate virgin, I do not think it a fair statement to call it the genealogy of Christ for the purpose of discrediting the veracity of these evangelists in points of faith or doctrine, merely because they differ in a family catalogue of the generations of Joseph, one of which is carried up to Adam, and the other brought down from Abraham. The gospel historians, as I understand them, profess severally to render a true account of Christ's mission, comprising only a short period of his life; within the compass of this period they are to record the doctrines he preached, the miracles he performed, and the circumstances of his death, passion, and resurrection : to this undertaking they are fairly .committed; this they are to execute as faithful reporters, and if their reports shall be found in any essential matter contradictory to each other or themselves, let the learned author late mentioned, or any other opponent to Christianity, point it out, and candour must admit the charge; but in the matter of a pedigree, which appertains to Joseph, which our Church universally omits in its service, which comprises no article of doctrine, and which being purely matter of family record, was copied probably from one roll by Matthew, and from another by Luke, I cannot in truth and sincerity see how the sacred historians are impeached by the non-agreement of their accounts. We call them the inspired writers, and when any such trivial contradictions as the above can be fixed upon them by the enemies of our faith, the word is retorted upon us with triumph ; but what has inspiration to do with the genealogy of Joseph, the supposed, not the real, father of Jesus? And indeed what more is required for the simple narration of any
facts than a faithful memory, and sincere adherence to truth?
Let this suffice for what relates to the birth of Christ, and the different ways in which men argue upon that mysterious event: if his coming was foretold, and if his person and character fully answer to those predictions, no man will deny the force of such an evidence : if we are simply told that “a virgin did conceive and bear a son,' it is a circumstance so much out of the ordinary course of nature to happen, that it requires great faith in the veracity of the relater to believe it ; but if we are possessed of an authentic record of high antecedent antiquity, wherein we find it expressly predicted, that such a circumstance shall happen, and that a “virgin shall conceive and bear a son,' it is such a confirmation of the fact, that wonderful as it is, we can no longer doubt the truth of the historians who attest it. Now it is not one, but many prophets, who concur in foretelling the coming of the Messias; his person, , his office, his humility and sufferings, his ignominious death and the glorious benefits resulting from his atonement, are not merely glanced at with enigmatic obscurity, but pointedly and precisely announced. Had such evidences met for the verification of any historical event unconnected with religion, I suppose there is no man, who could compare the one with the other, but would admit its full concordance and completion; and is it not a strange perverseness of mind, if we are obstinate in doubting it, only because we are so deeply interested to believe it? I have said there was but one temple upon earth, where the only true and living God was worshipped, the temple at Jerusalem: the Jews had derived and continued this worship from the time of Abraham, and to him the promises were made, that in his seed all the nations of the world should be blessed. Where then are we naturally to look for the Messias but from the stock of Abraham, from the descendants of that family, in which alone were preserved the knowledge and worship of the only true God. If therefore the religion, which Christ founded, does in fact hold forth that blessing to all the nations of the world, then was that promise fulfilled in the person of Christ, who took upon him the seed of Abraham.'
We are next to enquire if the character and commission of the Messias were marked by such performances, as might be well expected from a person, whose introduction into the world was of so extraordinary a nature.
We are told by one of the sacred historians, that "the Jews came round about him and said unto him, how long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly: Jesus answered them, I told you, and
ye believed not; the works that I do in
my Father's name, they bear witness of me.'
In this passage Christ himself appeals to his works done in the name of God, to witness against all cavils for his being the true Messias. The same question was put to him by the disciples of the Bap
tist, • Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?' The same appeal is made to his works in the reply he gives to these inquirers.
It follows next in order that we should ask what these works were, and it so happens, that the person who performed them, has himself enumerated them in the following words : • The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached unto them.”
These are works it must be acknowledged of a most benevolent sort; they are not indeed so splendid as the miraculous act of dividing the Red Sea for the people of Israel to march through it, and again commanding it to close
their pursuers in the rear and swallow the army
of Pharaoh ; they are not of so tremendous a character as those afflicting plagues with which Moses punished the Egyptians; but would these, or such as these, have been characteristic of a mediator? Christ came to save and not to destroy the world, and the works above described are no less merciful in their nature, than miraculous.
When the Jews therefore tauntingly assert the superior magnificence of the miracles wrought by Moses, which we admit to have been in all respects suitable to the commission which Moses was encharged with, they should with equal candour admit, that the less splendid, but more salutary, miracles of Christ, were no less suited to the merciful commission, which he came amongst us to perform. There is indeed more horrible grandeur in the spectacle of a vast army swallowed up by the sea, miraculously divided into a wall on each side of those who passed through it; but who will say that God's power is not as wonderfully and conspicuously displayed in restoring dead Lazarus to life, as in drowning Pharaoh and his host ? Surely it is as great a miracle to give life to the dead, as it is to put the living to death.
The miracles of Christ were performed without ostentation and display, yet they were of such gene-ral notoriety, that the Jews themselves did not, and do not even now, deny their being wrought by him, but ascribed them to the aid and agency of the devil: a miserable subterfuge indeed! But this is not all: a contemporary writer of that nation, David Levi, in his letter to Dr. Priestley asserts, that there was not only “no such necessity for the miracles of Jesus as for those of Moses, but that they were scarcely just or rational, and consequently cannot be offered as proofs of his divine mission in comparison with that of Moses.' p. 67, 68.
In support of this assertion the learned controversialist observes, that as to the miracles of Moses, there was the greatest necessity for them; for instance, the plagues he brought upon the Egyptians were necessary for the redemption of the Jewish nation; as was the dividing of the Red Sea, and the drowning the Egyptians for their further deliverance from them; the manna from heaven and the water from the rock were necessary for their subsistence in the wilderness; the same of all the rest.'
This we may admit in its full force; but as the miracles which Christ wrought were altogether as necessary for the proof of his divine mission, as these of Moses for the proof of his; a man must be very partial to his own nation, who will assert, that the deliverance of the Jews from their captivity in Egypt, was a more important object than the redemption of lost mankind. We will not doubt but it was necessary the Egyptian host should be drowned, because it seemed good to God so to punish their obduracy, and extricate the Jewish tribes; but it is no less necessary,
that mankind should believe in Christ,