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But lest the transcendent excellence of the character of Jesus should be denied, and the unbeliever should accuse me of presenting a partial view of the great Exemplar, whom the wise and good of so many ages have been proud to follow, I would addụce evidence from a quarter, which he cannot, consistently, hesitate to receive. Turn we to the camp of the enemy for information upon this subject; if there be a failing observable in the character of Jesus, it will not pass unnoticed there.
Vanini,'* says Dr. Prideaux, was one of the most zealous champions of impiety that ever appeared against the Christian cause--for he died a martyr for it has not attempted to find in the gospel of Jesus any thing that savours of worldly interest. But after the most diligent search which so keen an adversary could make, he was forced to give up the point, and plainly acknowledge that, in the whole series of the history and actions of our Saviour, he could not find any thing that he could charge with secular interest or design, with which either to blast him or his religion.'of
Mr. Chubb, a celebrated unbeliever, says, “In Christ we have an example of a quiet and peace
See Malthy's Illustrations of the Truth of the Christiau Religion.
+ Concerning this opponent of Christianity, Dr. Mosheim, in bis Ecclesiastical History, says, that he was publicly burned at Toulouse, in the year 1629, as an impious and obstinate atheist. It is nevertbeless to be observed, that several learned and respectable writers consider this anbappy man rather as a victim to bigotry and envy, than as a martyr to impiety and atheism ; and maintain, that neither bis life por bis writings were so absard or blasphemous as to entitle him to the character of a despiser of God and religion.
able spirit, of a becoming modesty and sobriety; just and honest, upright and sincere; and, above all, of a gracious and benevolent temper and behaviour. After several encomiums, expressed nearly in the language of scripture, he proceeds,
His life was a beautiful picture of human nature, when in its native purity and simplicity; and showed at once what excellent creatures men would be when under the influence and power of that gospel he preached to them."
Lord Bolingbroke admits, that, the gospel is, in all cases, one continued lesson of the strictest morality, of benevolence, and of'universal charity.'
Rousseau, after comparing the character of Jesus with that of Socrates, and preferring the former, proceeds to say, If the life and death of Socrates are those of a philosopher, the life and death of Jesus Christ are those of a God.' With respect to the invention of the gospel, he says, · It is not thus that men invent: and the actions of Socrates, concerning which no one doubts, are less attested than those of Jesus Christ. After all, this is shifting the difficulty instead of solving it: for it would be more inconceivable that a number of men should forge this book in concert, than that one should furnish the subject of it. Jewish authors would never have devised such a manner, and such morality; and the gospel has characters of truth so great, so striking, so perfectly inimitable, that its inventor would be still more astonishing than its hero.'*
* Emile. See also Maltby, from whom this quotation is made.
Voltaire, endeavouring to account for the success of the gospel from human causes, says, “If Jesus preached a pure morality; if he announced the approach of a kingdom of heaven for the recompence of the just; if he had disciples attached to his person and Iris virtues; if these very virtues drew. on him the persecutions of 'the priests; if calumny caused him to die an ignominious death; his doctrine, preached with firmness by his disciples, must have produced a very considerable effect upon the world.'
Mr. Paiñe, than whom no one has been more indecent in his attacks upon Christianity, professes his respect for the moral character of Christ.' He says, moreover, Jesus Christ founded no new system. He called men to the practice of moral virtues and the belief of one God. The great trait in his character is philanthropy.'
Mr. Gibbon, no way inferior to Mr. Paine in hostility to Christianity, has borne his testimony in
favour of Jesus of Nazareth,' by recording .his mild constancy in the midst of cruel and voluntary *sufferings, his universal benevolence, and the suba lime simplicity of his actions and character.'
Mr. Lequinio, a French writer, quoted by Dr. Priestley, in his Letters to the French Philosophers, represents Christ as the wisest and best man that ever lived ;=one who was actuated by the most sincere good will to all the human race, teaching the great principles of moral equity and the purest patriotism; braving all dangers, opposing the great, despising alike glory and fortune, equally temperate with respect to himself,
beneficent to others, and sympathizing with all; hated by the powerful, whom he provoked; per secuted by the intriguing, whose artifices he exposed; and put to death by a blind and deceived multitude, for whom he had always lived. This generous philanthropisi, he adds, who whollysacrificed himself to the public good, who gave his whole existence to the unhappy, and even to his persecutors, never lied bat to teach virtue.'
In this review, then, of the opinions of some of the most eminent unbelievers, the facts we have adduced respecting the character of Jesus are fully substantiated. The unbeliever confirms the testimony of the Christian. The latter asserts that the character of Jesus is original; and that the supposition of invention, herein, is merely the endeavouring to get rid of one difficulty by creating another equally great. The celebrated Rousseau asserts the same. The Christian says, that the character of Jesus exhibits traits of the most perfect consistency, benevolence, dignity, sincerity, uprightness, purity, simplicity, wisdom, and moral and intellectual sublimity. The most eminent unbelievers abundantly corroborate this statement. • His life,' says one of them, was a beautiful picture of human nature, when in its native purity and simplicity; and showed at once what excel. lent creatures men would be when under the in: fluence and power of that gospel he preached to them.' “The great trait in his character,' says another, “was philanthropy. He was,' says a third, the wisest and best man that ever lived:' and yet, with singular inconsistency, this unbes liever charges him, in the same breath, with the mean vice of lying. Can it, indeed, be true, that a person who was just and honest, upright and sincere;'-who was the wisést and best man that ever lived,'-lied to his conscience, to God, and to the world, in claiming to be regarded as a messenger of the Most High? Can it be true, that a person who had no secular interest or design, whose gospel is one continued lesson of the strictest morality, who announced the approach of a kingdom of heaven for the recompence of the just, who exposed the artifices of the pharisee, braved the hatred of the powerful," -- endured the persecutions of the priest,' and fell a sacrifice to the malignity of the bigot;I say, can it be true, that such a one did have recourse, upon the mere ground of expedièncy, to the teaching of the great principles of moral equity,' and the strictest morality,' and the pro- .. foundest reverence of God, by means of falsehood and imposture ? No! it is utterly impossible.
We perceive, then, that the unbeliever-I quote standard authorities-agrees with the Christian as to the originality and transcendent excellence of the character of Jesus; but, he overlooks the source whence alone this originality and this excellence could have been derived ;-nay, not only so, but, with singular inconsistency, he attributes to Jesus vices utterly inconsistent with the character he assigns to him: he asserts the excellence of this character, he bears testimony to its truth,it exhibits, says he, a perfect specimen of human nature in its highest attributes and best aspects.