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We naturally conclude, that the disciples were no discredit to Christianity or its Founder; therefore are our remarks upon Christianity and its inspired teachers confirmed by the representations of the unbeliever. Could these men, so noble, so excellent, — who, according to the objector's own showing, exhibited a beautiful picture of human nature, when in its nativa purity and simplicity,! be justly charged with imposture? Yes, says the unbeliever, even Jesus, their master, the spring and fountain of all this excellence, purity, and simplicity, lied in order to teach virtue.' How absurd a charge! What is virtue, but purity, sincerity, consistency of words and actions in the cause of righteousness and truth? Let the unbeliever explain this anomaly in morals—this alleged teaching of virtue and truth, by a series. of imposture and lies!
In our last discourse, we endeavoured to show, first, that the character, views, and actions of Jesus, afforded strong internal evidence of a divine mission. And, secondly, that the opposition of the unbeliever was inconsistent with his concessions respecting the transcendent excellence of both the character of Jesus, and of his religion. We return, again to this branch of our subject.
We observe that, besides the inconsistency of attributing a series of frauds to one so eminently virtuous as Jesus, such a charge does, moreover, place him upon a level with men, in every respect, of inferior character, who have imposed systems of religion upon mankind. The unbeliever of modern times has not hesitated to compare the Lord Jesus with Numa, and with Mahomet,* which is manifestly unjust. The characters, views, and systems of these men are essentially different from the character, views, and religion of Jesus. · Numa, who flourished nearly '700 years before Jesus, was undoubtedly, a great reformer. He ena deavoured to inculcate in the minds of his semi. barbarous countrymen a reverence for the Deity; of whom, he seems to have entertained compa. ratively pure notions. He abolished the use of images in the worship of the Divine Being; and, from his example, no graven image nor painted representations of any object of worship appeared in the temples of Rome, for upwards of 160 years. Nevertheless, he deceived the people by encouraging the report which was spread of his paying regular visits to the fabled goddess Egeria; and he made use of her name to give sanction to the laws and institutions which he had introduced. It does not appear, moreover, that in the perception of what was right, and in his general conduct, he surpassed many other sages of antiquity. How infinitely inferior therefore in comparison with Jesus, were both the character of Numa and the means which he adopted to gain credit to his system!' How infinitely inferior was the systein itself to that which Jesus founded! Numa multiplied the national gods. Jesus forbad the worship of national gods, and revealed. One only living and true God, the universal Father. The religion of Numa fostered the spirit of war, and the ministers
of this religion were the guardians of the symbols and implements of war. Jesus taught his disciples to beat their swords into plough-shares, and suffered them not to return evil for evil. The religion of Numa was a religion of state and of ceremony, and was intimately connected with the kingdoms of the world. That of Jesus was the religion of the heart and of the life, and separate from worldly power. How absurd therefore to place either Numa or his system upon a level with Jesus and his religion!
. .. The like inconsistency is manifested by the unbeliever, when he compares Jesus with Mahomet. Both Mahomet and his system were grossly sensual and worldly: whereas Jesus was a perfect pattern of purity; and his religion was calculated to make his followers like unto himself, holy, harmless, and undefiled. The pretensions of Mahomet to a divine commissiou rested upon his own testimony: Jesüz appealed to his works the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me.' Mahomet appealed to the passions, Jesus to the understandings, of men. Mahomet repaired to the rich and the influential, and finally had recourse to the sword. He first gained one powerful ally, and then another, until what with them and their adherents,—what with the deep stakes of the rich, and the extravagant hopes of the poor, he found himself in a condition to try the fortune of a battle; and, having gained it, his success was no longer problematical. But the lowly prophet of Nazareth chose no such associates, adopted no such means, appealed to no such powers; that the work might be, manifestly, of God and not of man. In fact, humanly speaking, no one ever took more effectúal means to defeat his own object than Jesus did. Themen of his nation looked for a splendid prince and a triumphant conqueror: but -Jesus came despising pomp, condemning pride, and exhorting to universal charity and peace. The men of his nation expected that their Messiah would asi sociate with the great and the honourable of the earth; that princes would be his companions, and nobles his ambassadors; but Jesus chose men of no .esteem to be his friends, and the poor and lowly to be his Apostles. The men of his nation expected that their prophet and chief would associate with the reputable scribe, and the self-righteous pharisees but Jesus sat down with those that were branded as publicans and sinners. So that no just comparison can be instituted between either the systems or the actions of the lowly prophet of Nazareth, and those of the men with whom the unbeliever rashly com. pares him. And, as it seems to me, the transcendent excellence of both the character and the religion of Jesus, while it places all such comparison out of the question, as manifestly unjust and absurd, furnishes also a strong presumption in favour of the truth of Christianity. *
* Inasmuch as Mahomedanism has attacked and overthrowo, throughout 'vast regions of the East and South, the grosser superstitions and abominations of idolatrous nations, and introduced more rational ideas of the Divive attributes and government, it has so far benefited mankind. In fact, we know not but that the religion of the Arabian propbet bas been suffered to flourish and spread, as a coutterbalance to the gross corriptions of Christianity. It, at least,
Before quitting this part of our subject, I would point out a peculiarity in the case of Jesus which, considering his excellent character, makes it next to impossible that he could have been a deceiver. Jesus was taught to reverence the Mosaical insti. tution as divine, and was brought up in the observance of its rites and ceremonies. If the pretending to a divine commission be, under any circumstances, a thing to be condemned by every wise and good man, how much more sinful must it be in the case of Jesus, who, according to the bypothesis of the unbeliever, set up this claim in order to abrogate an institution, for which he always professed to entertain the highest respect, and which, he, in common with his countrymen, asserted, and doubtless, believed, to have been
established by the Deity himself. ... Among the qualities by which Jesus is so par
ticularly distinguished, there is none which more attracts our observation, and commands our applause, than a vigorous and fervent spirit of piety; an entire resignation to the will of God; an implicit submission to his pleasure. Nor is there any principle which he inculcates more earnestly and more frequently upon his disciples than the necessity and propriety of having recourse to God
inculcates, in its strict and simple form, the fundamental doctrine of all true religion, the absolute Unity of God. The time may not be far distant, when, the blessings of knowledge having been more freely diffused over these extensive countries, the doctrines of the false prophet shall give place to the divine precepts of Jesus, and the countless millions who inhabit these countries, shall call Jesus Lord, to the glory of God the Father. . .