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one; where, in the first place, shall we find the man that could draw it? where shall we find the man, who, by the mere force of imagination, could invent a character at once so absolutely perfect and so truly original ? The circumstances of his uniting the divine and human nature in one person, and of his being at one and the same time the Messiah of the Jews, and the Instructor, the Redeemer, the Mediator, and the Judge of Mankind, are so very peculiar, and so perfectly new; and yet all these several parts are so well supported, and preserved so distinct, and every thing our Saviour said or did is so admirably accommodated to each, that to form such a character as this, without any original to copy it from, exceeds the utmost stretch of human invention. Even the best of the Greek and Roman writers never produced any thing to be compared with it, either in point of originality or of excellence, though they frequently exerted themselves to the utmost in forming beautiful portraits of wisdom, greatness, and goodness of mind, sometimes in the way of compliment, sometimes of instruction. But however some extraordinary genius, in the
polite and learned nations of the world, might have succeeded in such an attempt, let it be remembered that the historians of Jesus were Jews, natives of a remote, and, in general, unlettered corner of the world. How came they by such extraordinary powers of invention? They have never shown such powers in any other instance. Not even the sublimest of their own sacred books equal, in this respect, the history of the Gospel ; much less their apocryphal writings, much less Philo and Josephus, though instructed in Pagan literature and philosophy. And as to the succeeding rabbis, they have not given the history of a single person that is not overrun with wildness and absurdity. Or if we think it possible, that one Jew, at least, might be found, who, with the help of extraordinary talents, and a better education than any of the rest ever had, might do so much more than any of the rest ever did, what colour can there be for applying this to the EVANGELISTS, to those who have been so often and so opprobriously, called the publicans, the tent-makers, and the fishermen of Galilee? They had never studied at Athens or at Rome. They had no superior talents, no learning, no education, no skill in designing or colouring ideal characters. It is not, most assuredly, it is not men such as these that invent. · Nay, further still, had they been ever so capable of forming such a character as that of our Saviour, what reason in the world is there to imagine, that they would have ascribed it to their Messiah. They expected him to be of a spirit and a behaviour widely different from that of the meek, and humble, and passive Jesus. They expected an enterprising and prosperous warrior, avenging the injurious sufferings of his countrymen, trampling the nations under his feet, and establishing the Jewish empire, and with it the Jewish law, throughout the world. Possessed as they were with these notions, instead of drawing for their promised Deliverer such a portrait as the Gospel presents to us, had they seen it ready drawn, and been asked whose it was, he would have been the last person upon earth for whom they would have conceived it intended. • Besides, what conceivable inducement could the sacred historians have to impose
an imaginary personage upon the world? and why, above all, should they persevere in this imposition, when they saw and felt that hatred, and persecutions and death, were the certain consequences of their maintaining the reality of a character, which they knew all the while to be a mere phantom of their own creation, and could have saved themselves by confessing it? But even if it were possible that human creatures might, contrary to all honesty, and all interest, be thus unaccountably bent on deceiving, we have as full evidence as can be, that the Evangelists were not so. There is manifestly an air of simplicity and godly sincerity, of plain, unornamented truth in every thing they relate; nothing wrought up with art, nothing studiously placed in the fairest light to attract the eye, no solicitude to dwell even on the most illustrious parts of our Saviour's character; but, on the contrary, so dry and cold a manner of telling the most striking facts, and most affecting truths, as furnishes ground to apprehend that they themselves did not always distinctly perceive the divine wisdom and excellence of many things said
and done by Jesus, and recorded in their books. At least, they have by no means brought them forward into view as they well deserved, and as men who wrote with a design would most certainly have done. This very circumstance, added to the whole turn and tenor of their writings, most clearly proves, that they followed with religious care, and delivered with scrupulous fidelity, truth and fact, as it appeared to them, and nothing else.
It is evident, therefore, upon the whole, that our blessed Lord was, in reality, the very person that he is represented to be in the Gospel. And as he is represented to have possessed a degree of perfection, both intellectual and moral, far beyond what human nature is capable of arriving at, and that, too, without any of the common means of acquiring such perfection, the conclusion can be no other than this, that both he and his Religion came from God.
But it may still, perhaps, be said, that there is no necessity for supposing any thing supernatural in the case. He was only one of those wonderful and extraordinary characters that sometimes appear even in the