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the Jews, as CHRIST himself declares in his converfation with the woman of Samaria; though it appears, at the fame time, that their notions concerning the offices and miniftry of the MESSIAH, were much more juft and conformable to truth, than thofe which were entertained at Jerufalem [w]. Upon the whole it is certain, that the Samaritans mixed the profane errors of the Gentiles with the facred doctrines of the Jews, and were exceffively corrupted by the idolatrous cuftoms of the Pagan nations [x].

XVIII. The Jews multiplied fo prodigiously, that the narrow bounds of Paleftine were no longer fufficient to contain them. They poured, therefore, their increafing numbers into the neighbouring countries, and that with fuch rapidity, that, at the time of CHRIST's birth, there was fcarcely a province in the empire, where they were not found carrying on commerce, and exercifing other lucrative arts. They were maintained, in foreign countries, against injurious treatment and violence by the special edicts and protection of the magiftrates [y]; and this, indeed, was abfolutely neceffary, fince, in most places, the remarkable difference of their religion and manners from thofe of the other nations, exposed them to the hatred and indignation of the ignorant and bigotted multitude. All this appears to have been moft fingularly and wifely directed by the adorable hand of an interpofing providence, to the end, that the people, which was the fole depofitary of the true religion, and of the knowledge of one fupreme God, being fpred abroad through the whole earth, might be every where, by their example, a reproach to fuperftition, contribute in fome measure to check it, and thus prepare the way for that yet fuller difcovery of divine truth, which was to fhine upon the world from the ministry and gospel of the son of God.

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1.TH

CHA P. III.

Concerning the life and actions of JESUS CHRIST.

HE errors and diforders, that we have now been contemplating, re- The birth of quired fomething far above human wisdom and power to difpel and CHRIST. remove them, and to deliver mankind from the miferable state to which they

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[(w) CHRIST infinuates, on the contrary, in the ftrongeft manner, the fuperiority of the Jewish worship to that of the Samaritans, John iv. 22. See alfo, on this head, 2 Kings xvii. 29. The paffage to which Dr. MOSHEIM refers, as a proof that the Samaritans had jufter notions of the MESSIAH than the Jews, is the 25 verfe of the chapter of St. John, already cited, where the woman of Samaria fays to JESUS, I know that MESSIAH cometh which is called CHRIST: when be is come, he will tell us all things. But this paffage feems much too vague to juftify the conclufion of our learned biftorian. Befides, the confeffion of one perfon, who may poffibly have had fome fingular and extraordinary advantages, is not a proof, that the nation in general entertained the fame fentiments, especially fince we know that the Samaritans had corrupted the fervice of God by a profane mixture of the groffeft idolatries.]

[x] Those who defire an exact account of the principal authors that have written concerning the Samaritans, will find it in the learned work of Jo. GOTTLOB CARPZOVIUS, entitled, Critica S. Vet. Teftam. part II. cap. iv. p. 595.

[] See the account, published at Leyden 1712, by JAMES GRONOVIUS, of the Roman and

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CENT. I. were reduced by them. Therefore, towards the conclufion of the reign of HEROD the GREAT, the fon of God defcended upon earth, and, taking upon him the human nature, appeared to men under the fublime characters of an infallible teacher, an all fufficient mediator, and a fpiritual and immortal king. The place of his birth was Bethlehem, in the land of Palfline. The year, in which it happened, has not hitherto been fixed with certainty, notwithstanding the deep and laborious researches of the learned on that matter. There is nothing furprizing in this, when we confider that the firft Chriftians laboured under the fame difficulties, and were divided in their opinions, concerning the time of CHRIST's birth [z]. That which appears moft probable, is, that it happened about a year and fix months before the death of HEROD, in the year of Rome 748, or 749 [a]. The uncertainty, however, of this point is of no fort of confequence. We know that the SUN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS has fhone upon the world. And, though we cannot fix the precife period in which he arofe, this will not hinder us from enjoying the direction and influence of his vital and falutary beams.

The accounts

during his infancy and youth.

II. Four infpired writers, who have tranfmitted to us an account of the life given of CHRIST and actions of JESUS CHRIST, mention particularly his birth, his lineage, his family, and his parents; but they fay very little concerning his infancy and his earlier youth. Not long after his birth, he was conducted by his parents into Egypt, that he might be there out of the reach of HEROD's cruelty [b]. When he was but twelve years old he difputed, in the temple, with the most learned of the Jewish doctors, concerning the fublime truths of religion. And the reft of his life, until the thirtieth year of his age, was fpent in the obfcurity of a private condition, and confecrated to the duties of filial obedience [c]. This is all that the wisdom of God has permitted us to know, with certainty, of CHRIST, before he entered upon his public miniftry, nor is the story of his having followed the trade of his adopted father JOSEPH built upon any fure foundation. There have been, indeed, feveral writers, who either through the levity of a wanton imagination, or with a defign to attract the admiration of the multitude, have invented a series of the most extravagant and ridiculous fables, in order to give an account of this obfcure part of the Saviour's life [d].

John, the forerunner of the Meffiah.

III. JESUS began his public miniftry in the thirtieth year of his age, and to render it more folemn and affecting to the Jews, a man, whofe name was JOHN, the fon of a Jewish prieft, a perfon of great gravity also, and much refpected on account of the auftere dignity of his life and manners, was commanded by God to proclaim to the people the coming of the MESSIAH, that

Afiatic edicts in favour of the Jews, allowing them the free and fecure exercise of their religion, throughout all the cities of the Leffer Afia.

[x] The learned JOHN ALBERT FABRICIUS has collected all the opinions of the learned, concerning the year of CHRIST's birth, in his Bibliograph. Antiquar. cap. vii. ix. p. 187. [a] Matt. iii. 2,&c. John i. 22, &c.

[b] Matt. ii. 13.

Luke ii. 51, 52.

[4] See the account, which the abovementioned ALBERT FABRICIUS has given of these romantic triflers, in his Codex Apocryphus N. T. tom. i.

had

had been promised to their fathers. This extraordinary man called himself the fore-runner, of the MESSIAH. Filled with a holy zeal and a divine fervour, he cried aloud to the Jewish nation to depart from their tranfgreffions, and to purify their hearts, that they might thus partake of the bleffings which the fon of God was now come to offer to the world. The exhortations of this refpectable meffenger were not without effect, and thofe, who, moved by his folemn admonitions had formed the refolution of correcting their evil difpofitions and amending their lives, were initiated into the kingdom of the redeemer by the ceremony of immerfion, or baptifm [e]. CHRIST himself, before he began his miniftry, defired to be folemnly baptized by JOHN in the waters of Jordan, that he might not, in any point, neglect to answer the demands of the Jewish law.

CENT. I.

CHRIST.

IV. It is not neceffary to enter here into a particular detail of the life and The life of actions of JESUS CHRIST. All Chriftains must be perfectly well acquainted with them. They must know, that, during the space of three years, and amidst the deepest trials of affliction, and distress, he inftructed the Jewish nation in the will and counfels of the most high, and omitted nothing, in the course of his ministry, that could contribute either to gain the multitude, or to charm the wife. Every one knows, that his life was a continued scene of the most perfect fanctity and the purest and most active virtue, not only without spot, but also beyond the reach of fufpicion. And it is alfo well known that by miracles of the most ftupendous kind, and not more ftupendous than falutary and beneficent, he displayed to the universe the truth of that religion, which he brought with him from above, and demonstrated the reality of his divine commiffion in the most illuftrious manner.

and of the LXX

difciples.

V. As this divine religion was to be propagated to the utmost ends of the The election of earth, it was neceffary that CHRIST fhould chufe a certain number of perfons, the apoftles, and to accompany him conftantly through the whole courfe of his miniftry; that thus they might be faithful and refpectable witneffes of the fanctity of his life, and the grandeur of his miracles, to the remoteft nations; and alfo tranfmit to the latest pofterity a genuine account of his fublime doctrines, and of the nature and end of the gofpel-difpenfation. Therefore JESUS chofe, out of the multitude that attended his difcourfes, twelve perfons, whom he separated from the reft by the name of Apoftles. These men were illiterate, poor, and of mean extraction, and fuch alone were truly proper to answer the views of the divine Saviour. He avoided making ufe of the miniftry of perfons endowed with the advantages of fortune and birth, or enriched with the treasures of eloquence and learning, left the fruits of this embaffy, and the progrefs of the gofpel, fhould be attributed to human and natural caufes [ƒ]. Thefe apoftles were fent but once to preach to the Jews during the life of CHRIST [g]. He chofe to keep them about his own perfon, that they might be thoroughly inftructed in the affairs of his kingdom. That the multitude, however, might not be deftitute of teachers to enlighten them with the knowledge of the truth, CHRIST appointed LXX difciples to preach the glad tidings of life eternal throughout the whole province of Judea [b].

[] Matt. iii. 6. Johni. 22. [f] 1 Cor. i. 21. [g] Matt. x. 7.

[b] Luke x 1.
VI. The

CENT. I.

Why the num

11, and that of

LXX.

VI. The researches of the learned have been employed to find out the reafon of CHRIST's fixing the number of the apostles to twelve, and that of the ber of the apo- difciples to feventy; and various conjectures have been applied to the folution ftles was fixed to of this question. But fince it is manifeft, from the words of our Saviour the' difciples to himself [i], that he intended the number of the x11 apoftles as an allufion to that of the tribes of ISRAEL; it can scarcely be doubted, that he was willing to infinuate by this appointment, that he was the fupreme lord, and highpriest of these twelve tribes, into which the Jewish nation was divided. And as the number of difciples anfwers evidently to that of the fenators, of whom the council of the people, or the fanhedrim, was compofed, there is a high degree of probability in the conjecture of thofe, who think, that CHRIST, by the choice of the feventy, defigned to admonish the Jews, that the authority of their fanhedrim was now at an end, and that all power, with respect to religious matters, was vefted in him alone.

CHRIST's fame

Judæa.

VII. The ministry of the divine Saviour was confined to the Jews, nor, extends beyond while he remained upon earth, did he permit his apoftles or disciples to extend their labours beyond this diftinguifhed nation [k]. At the fame time, if we confider the illuftrious acts of mercy and omnipotence, that were performed by CHRIST, it will be natural to conclude that his fame must have been very foon fpred abroad in other countries. We learn from writers of no fmall note, that ABGARUS king of Edessa, being feized with a fevere and dangerous illness, wrote to our bleffed Lord to implore his affiftance; and that JESUS not only wrote him a gracious anfwer, but also accompanied it with his picture, as a mark of his esteem for that pious prince [7]. These letters are ftill extant. But they are juftly looked upon as fictitious by most writers, who alfo go yet further, and treat the whole ftory of ABGARUS as entirely fabulous, and unworthy of credit [m]. I will not pretend to affert the genuiness of these letters; but I fee no reafon of fufficient weight to destroy the credibility of the whole ftory, which is fuppofed to have given occafion to them [z].

The fuccefs of

VIII. A great number of the Jews, ftruck with those illuftrious marks of a CHRIST's mi- divine authority and power, that fhone forth in the miniftry and actions of CHRIST, regarded him as the fon of God, the true MESSIAH. The rulers of

giftry.

[i] Matt. xix. 28. Luke xxii. 30.

[] Matt. x. 5, 6. xv. 24.

[7] EUSEB. Hift. Eccl. lib. i. cap. xiii. p. 21. tom. i. p. 317.

Jo. ALBERT FABRIC. Codex Apocryphus N. T.

[m] Sec BASNAGE Hiftoire des Juifs, vol. i. cap. xviii. p. 500. As alfo THEOPH. SIGF. BAYERUS Hiftoria Edeffena et Ofroëna, lib. iii. p. 104. Jos. SIMON ASSEMANUS Biblioth. Oriental. Clement. Vaticana, tom. i. p. 554.

[(z) There is no author who has difcuffed this queftion (concerning the authenticity of the letters of CHRIST and ABGARUS, and the truth of the whole ftory) with fuch learning and judgment, as the late Mr. JONES, in the fecond volume of his excellent work, entitled, A new and full method of fettling the canonical authority of the New Teftament. Notwithstanding the opinions of fuch celebrated names as PARKER, CAVE, and GRABE, in favour of thefe letters, and the hiflory to which they relate, Mr. JONES has offered reafons to prove the whole fictitious, which feem unanswerable, independent of the authorities of RIVET, CHEMNITIUS, WALTHER, SIMON, DU PIN, WAKE, SPANHEIM, FABRICIUS, and LE CLERC, which he oppofes to the three abovementioned.]

the people, and more efpecially the chief priefts and Pharifees, whofe licenti ousness and hypocrify he cenfured with a noble and generous freedom, laboured with fuccefs, by the help of their paffions, to extinguish in their breafts the conviction of his celeftial miffion, or, at leaft, to fupprefs the effects it was adapted to produce upon their conduct. Fearing alfo left the ministry of CHRIST fhould tend to diminish their credit, and to deprive them of the advantages they derived from the impious abuse of their authority in religious matters; they laid fnares for his life, which, for a confiderable time, were without effect. They fucceeded, at length, by the infernal treafon of an apoftate difciple, by the treachery of JUDAS, who difcovered the retreat which his divine master had chofen for the purposes of meditation and repose, and thus delivered him into the merciless hands of a brutal foldiery.

CENT. I,

IX. In confequence of this, JESUS was firft brought before the Jewith high- Death of priest and fanhedrim, before whom he was accufed of having violated the law, CHRIST. and blafphemed the majefty of God. Dragged from thence to the tribunal of PILATE the Roman prætor, he was there charged with feditious enterprifes, and with treason against CAESAR. Both thefe accufations were fo evidently falfe, and deftitute even of every appearance of truth, that they muft have been rejected by any judge, who acted upon the principles of common equity. But the clamours of an enraged populace, fet on by the impious instigations of their priefts and rulers, intimidated PILATE, and engaged him, though with the utmost reluctance, and in oppofition to the dictates of his confcience, to pronounce a capital fentence against CHRIST. The divine Saviour behaved with inexpreffible dignity under this heavy trial. As the end of his miffion was to make expiation for the fins of men, fo when all things were ready, and when he had finished the work of his glorious miniftry, he placidly fubmitted to the death of the cross, and with a ferene and voluntary refignation, committed his fpirit into the hands of the Father.

race.

X. After JESUS had remained three days in the fepulchre, he refumed that His Refur life which he had voluntarily laid down, and, rifing from the dead, declared rection. to the universe, by that triumphant act, that the divine juftice was fatisfied, and the paths of falvation and immortality rendered acceffible to the human He converfed with his difciples, during forty days after his refurrection, and employed that time in inftructing them more fully concerning the nature of his kingdom. Many wife and important reafons prevented his fhewing himself publicly at Jerufalem, to confound the malignity and unbelief of his enemies. He contented himself with manifefting the certainty of his glorious refurrection to a fufficient number of faithful and credible witneffes, foreseeing, perhaps, that if he appeared in public, thofe malicious unbelievers, who had formerly attributed his miracles to the power of magic, would now represent his refurrection, as a phantom, or vifion, produced by the influence of infernal powers. After having remained upon earth, during the space of time abovementioned, and given to his difciples a divine commiffion to preach the glad tidings of falvation and immortality to the human race, he afcended into heaven, in their prefence, and refumed the enjoyment of that glory, which he was poffeffed of before the worlds were created.

CHAP.

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