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practical explanation of the sacred writings, than by any other species of composition whatever.
The plan of instruction adopted by our blessed Lord was unquestionably the very best that could be devised. It was not a regular system of ethics, delivered in a connected series of dry essays and dissertations, like those of the ancient heathen philosophers; but it consisted of familiar discourses, interesting parables, short sententious maxims, and occasional reflections, arising from the common occurrences of life, and the most obvious apr pearancesof nature. All these various modes of instruction are so judiciously blended and mixed together in the history of our Lord's life and conversation, delivered to us in the Gospel (as all the various sorts of pleasing objects are in the unornamented scenes of nature) that they make a much deeper impression both on the understanding and on the heart, than they could possibly do in any other more artificial form.
An exposition of Scripture, then, must at all times be highly useful and interesting to every sincere disciple of Christ; but must be peculiarly so at the present moment, when so much
tnuch pains have been taken to ridicule and revile the sacred writings, to subvert the very foundations of our faith, and to poison the minds of all ranks of people, but especially the middling and the lower classes, by the most impious and blasphemous publications that .ever disgraced any Christian country*. To resist these wicked attempts is the duty of every minister of the Gospel; and as I have strongly exhorted all those who are under my superintendancea to exert themselves with zeal and with vigour in defence of their insulted religion, I think it incumbent on me to take my share in this important contest, and to show that I wish not to throw burthens on others of which I am not willing to bear my full proportion. As longtherefore as my health, and the various duties of an extensive and populous diocese, will permit, and the exigencies of the times require such exertions, I propose to continue annually these Lectures. And I shall think it no unbecoming conclusion of my life, if these labours of my declining
* About this time, and for some years before, The Age of Reason, and other pestilent writings of the same nature- -were disseminated through almost every district of this country with incredible industry.
years should tend in any degree to render the Holy Scriptures more clear and intelligible, more useful and delightful; if they shall confirm the faith, reform the manners, console and revive the hearts of those who hear me; and vindicate the honour of our divine Master from those gross indignities and insults, which have of late been so indecently and impiously thrown on him and his religion.
HAVING in the preceding Lecture taken a short comprehensive view of the several books of the sacred volume, I now proceed to the Gospel of St. Matthew; and shall in this Lecture confine myself to the two first chapters of that book*.
The history of our Saviour's birth, life, doctrines, precepts, and miracles, is contained in four books or narratives called Gospels, written at different times, and by four different persons, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, who were among the first converts to Christianity, and perfectly well acquainted with the facts they relate; to which, two of them were eye-witnesses, and the other two constant companions of those who were so, from whom they received immediately every thing they relate. This is better authority for the truth of these histories than we have for the greater part of the histories now extant, the fidelity of which we do not in the least question. For few of our best histories, either ancient or modern, were written by persons who were eye-witnesses of all the transactions which they relate; and there is scarce any instance of the history of the same person being written by four different contemporary historians, all perfectly agreeing in the main articles, and differing only in a few minute particulars of no moment. This however we find actually done in the life of Jesus, which has been written by each of the four evangelists, and it is a very strong proof of their veracity. For let us consider what the case is, at this very day, in the affairs of common life. When four different persons are called upon in a court of justice to prove the reality of any particular fact that happened twenty or thirty years ago, what is the sort of evidence which they usually L*ive'? uhy, in all the great leading circumstances,
* For some very valuable observations in some parts of this, and the third and thirteenth Lecture, I am indebted to my late excellent friend and patron, Archbishop Seeker,