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eternal perdition, not a single nation, but the whole world; and in the execution of it, went through the longest and heaviest train of labours that ever was sustained, with a constancy and resolution, on which no disadvantageous impression could be made by any accident whatever: calumny, threatenings, bad success, with many other evils constantly attending him, served only to quicken his endeavors in this glorious enterprise, which he unweariedly pursued, even till he finished it by his death on the cross.
Mankind are prone to retaliate injuries received, and seem to take a satisfaction in complaining of the cruelties of those who oppress them; whereas, the whole of Christ's labours breathed nothing but meekness, patience, and forgiveness, even to his bitterest enemies, and in the midst of the most excruciating torments. The words Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do, uttered by him when his enemies were nailing him to the cross, fitly express the temper which he maintained through the whole course of his life, even when assaulted by the heaviest provocations. The truth is, he never signified on any occasion, the least resentment by speech or action, nor indeed any emotion of mind whatever, except such as flowed from pity and charity ; consequently such only as expressed the deepest concern for the welfare of mankind, to which his glorious life and sufferings effectually opened the way.
The greatest and best men have had their failings, which tarnish the lustre of their virtues, and shew them to have been nothing more than men. This was the case with Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joh, David, Paul, and other heroes celebrated in history; but it was otherwise with Jesus; he was superior to all the men that ever lived, both with regard to the purity of his manners, and the perfection of his virtues : he was huly, harmless, undefiled, and separated from sinners. Whether we consider him as a teacher or as a man, he
did not sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. 1 Peter, ii. 22. His whole life was perfectly free from spot or weakness, at the same time it was remarkable for the greatest and most extensive exercises of virtue : but never to have committed the least sin in word or in deed, never to have uttered any sentiment that could be censured, upon the various topics of religion and morality, which were the daily subjects of his discourses, and that through the course of a life filled with the action, and led under the observation of many enemies, who had always access to converse with him, and who often came to find fault, is a pitch of perfection evidently above the reach of human nature ; and consequently, he who possessed it, must have been divine, and a most perfect Being.
This adorable Person is the subject of the evangelical history. If the reader, by reviewing his life, doctrine, and miracles, as they are here represented to him united in one series, has a clearer idea of these things than before, or observes a beauty in his actions thus linked together, which taken separately, do not appear so fully; if he feels himself touched by the character of Jesus in general, or with any of his sermons and actions in particular, thus simply delineated in writing, whose principal charms are the beauties of truth ; above all, if his dying so generously for men, strikes him with admiration, or fills him with joy, in the prospect of that pardon which is hereby purchased for the world ; let him seriously consider with himself, what improvement he ought to make of the divine goodness, and what returns of praise and gratitude are due to him.
The Saviour of mankind, by his death, has set open the gates of immortality to all the posterity of Adam; and by his word, spirit and example, graciously offers to make them meet for the glorious rewards in the kingdom of the heavenly Canaan, and to conduct them into the inheritance of the saints in light: let us, there
fore, remember, that, being born under the dispensation of his gospel, we have, from our earliest years, enjoyed the best means of acquiring wisdom, virtue, and happiness, the lineaments of the image of God. We have been called to aspire after an exaltation to the nature and felicity of the Almighty exhibited to mortal eyes in the man CHRIST Jesus, to fire us with the noblest ambition. His gospel teaches us that we are made for eternity; and that our present life is to our future existence, as infancy is to manhood: but as in the former, many things are to be learned, many hardships to be endured, many habits to be acquired, and that by a tedious course of exercises, which in themselves though painful, and possibly useless to the child, yet are necessary to fit him for the business and enjoyments of manhood'; so while we remain in this infancy of human life, things are to be learned, hardships to be endured, and habits to be acquired by a laborious course of discipline, which, however painful, must be undergone, because necessary to fit us for the employments and pleasures of our riper existence in the realms above. Enflamed, therefore, with the love of immortality and its joys, let us submit ourselves to our heavenly Teacher, and learn of him those graces which alone can render life pleasant, death desirable, fill eternity with ecstatic joys, and the tongues and hearts of the blessed with a song of triumph in honour of their Deliverer.
Observations on the Doctrine of our blessed Lord and
Saviour : The Excellency of the Religion he enforced and inculcated: And the Reasonableness of, and
Pleasure resulting from a Christian Life. We cannot more properly conclude our history of the life of the blessed Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, nor place the great doctrines taught by the benevolent Son of the Most High, in a more conspicuous light, than by removing a few prejudices which some, we fear too many, have formed against the religion of the holy Jesus, and shew that his yoke is easy, and his burden is light.
There have not, perhaps, been greater enemies to the progress of religion, than those who delineate it in a gloomy and terrifying form ; nor any guilty of a more injurious calumny against the gospel, than those who represent its precepts as rigorous impositions and unnecessary restraints. True religion is the perfection of human nature, and the foundation of uniform exalted pleasure, of public order and private happiness. Christianity is the most excellent and the most useful institution, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come; it is the voice of reason; it is also the language of Scripture; the ways of wisdom are rays of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. Prov. iii. 17. And our blessed Saviour himself assures us, that his precepts are easy, and the burden of his religion light and pleasant.
The religion which Christ came into this lower world to establish, is a rational service, a worship in spirit and in truth, a worship worthy of the majesty of the Almighty to receive, and of the nature of man to pay. One of its important branches is natural religion, inforced by additional motives and new discove.
ries : its positive rights are few, of plain and easy significancy, and manifestly adopted to establish a sense of moral obligations. The gospel places religion not in abstruse speculation and metaphysical subtilties; not in outward shew and tedious ceremony; not in superstitious austerities and enthusiastic vision, but in purity of heart, and holiness of life. The sum of our duty, according to our great Master himself, consists in the love of God, and of our neighbour : according to St. Paul, in denying ungodliness and worldly lusts ; and in living soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world : according to St James, in visiting the fatherless and widows in affliction,
and in keeping our. selves unspotted from the world. This is the constant strain and tenor of the gospel ; this it inculcates most earnestly, and on this it lays the greatest stress, as most conducive to true and substantial happiness.
If it be asked, whether the Christian system is only a republication of the law of nature, or merely a refined system of morality? We reply, No, certainly; it is a great deal more. It is an act of grace, a stupendous plan of Providence, designed for the recovery of mankind from a state of degradation and ruin, to the favour of the Almighty, and to the hopes of a happy immortality through a Mediator. Under this dispensation, true religion consists in a repentance towards God, and in faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, as the person appointed by the supreme authority of heaven and earth, to reconcile apostate man to his offended Creator, as a sacrifice for sin ; our vital head, and governing Lord. This is the religion of Christians; and what hardship, what exaction is there in all this? Surely none : nay, the practice of religion is much easier than the servitude of sin, which at best is the vilest drudgery, and yields the worst kind of wages.
All will readily agree, that our rational powers are impaired, and the soul weakened by sin ; the animal passions are strong and apt to oppose the dictates of