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very lowest stations; and by the force of great natural talents, a native dignity of mind, and a constitutional goodness of disposition, break out from the obscurity of their situation, and rise superior to all the rest of mankind
But besides what has been already insisted' on, that no such character as that of Christ is to be found in any nation of the world, in any period of time, or any situation of life, it must be remembered, that our Lord himself laid claim to something more than the character of a great and a good man. He laid claim to a divine original. He affirmed, that he was the Son of God, and that He and his Father were One. If, therefore, this was not the case, he must have been either an enthusiast or an impostor. In other words, he must have been a very weak, or a very wicked man. But either of these suppositions is utterly irreconcileable with the description that has just been given of him, with every idea of wisdom and of goodness, which yet he has been proved, and is allowed to have possessed, in their utmost extent. Whoever, then, acknowledges him to be a great, a wise, and a perfectly good man, must also, on his own principles allow him that DIVINITY which he claimed.
· Here, then, is a proof of the divine authority of our Lawgiver, and our religion, which every one may comprehend, and which it will not be easy for any one to withstand. Some allege that they want leisure, and others that they want learning or ability, to investigate with sufficient care and accuracy, the prophetic, the miraculous, and the historical evidences of our faith. * This, indeed, is commonly nothing more than mere pretence. But even this pretence is taken away by the argument here offered to their consideration. It is involved in no difficulty, and requires no laborious or critical examination, no uncommon degree of sagacity or ability to decide upon. Nothing more is requisite than to lay open the Bible, and to contemplate the character of our Lord, as it is there drawn with the most perfect fairness and honesty by the Evangelists. Whoever can judge of any
. The proofs of Christianity depend on the laborious investigation of historic evidence, and speculative theology. History of the Decline of the Roman Empire, vol. 3. p. 366.
thing, can judge of this ; and we know by experience, that it is calculated to carry conviction even into the most unwilling minds. We have seen, that even a Pagan centurion, when he beheld Jesus expiring on the cross, could not forbear crying out (and many others with him) “ Truly this was the Son of God.” And it is very remarkable, that the contemplation of the very same scene, as described in the Gospel history, extorted a similar, but still stronger confession of Christ's divine nature, from one of the most eloquent of modern sceptics *, who has never been accused of too much credulity, and who, though he could bring himself to resist the force even of miracles and of prophecies, yet was overwhelmed with the evidence arising from the character, the conduct, and the sufferings of Christ. “Where,” says he, " is the man, where is the philoso66 pher, who can act, suffer, and die, without 66 weakness, and without ostentation? When • Plato describes his imaginary just man, “ covered with all the opprobrium of guilt, “ yet at the sametimemeriting the sublimest “ rewards of virtue, he paints precisely every 66. feature in the character of Jesus Christ. 56 The resemblance is so striking, that all the “ fathers have observed it, and it is impos“ sible to be deceived in it. What prejudice, “ what blindness, must possess the mind of 66 that man who dares to compare the son of “ Sophroniscus to the Son of Mary! What “ a distance is there between the one and “ the other ! The death of Socrates, philo“ sophising calmly with his friends, is the “ most gentle that can be wished; that of « Jesus, expiring in torments, insulted, de“ rided, and reviled by all the people, the “ most horrible that can be imagined. So“ crates taking the poisoned cup, blesses " the man who presents it to him; and 66 who, in the very act of presenting it, melts “ into tears. Jesus, in the midst of the “ most agonizing tortures, prays for his en66 raged executioners. Yes, if the life and “ death of Socrates are those of a sage, the “ life and death of Jesus are those of a 6 GOD." *
It is not, then, the prejudice (as it has been called) of a Christian education, it is not the mere dotage of superstition, or the mere enthusiasm of pious affection and gratitude towards our Redeemer, which makes us discover in his character plain and evident marks of the Son of God. They have been discovered and acknowledged by men who were troubled with no such religious infirmities ; by one man who was a professed Pagan, and by another man who, without professing it, and perhaps without knowing it, was in fact little better than a Pagan. On the strength of these testimonies, then, added to the proofs which have been here adduced, we may safely assume it as a principle, that Jesus is the Son of God. The necessary consequence is, that every thing he taught comes to us with the weight and sanction of DIVINE AUTHORITY, and demands from every sincere disciple of Christ implicit belief, and implicit obedience. We must not, after this, pretend (as is now too much the prevailing mode) to select just what we happen to like in the Gospel, and lay aside all the rest ; to admit, for instance, the moral and preceptive part, and reject all those sublime doctrines which are peculiar to the Gospel, and which form the wall of partition between Christianity, and what is
* Emile, v. 2. p. 167.