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Such, indeed, is the imperfection of human language--and a divine religion even must be communicated and preserved by means of human language-that men of per. verse minds who are anxious to discover difficulties may pretend some passages are obscure, and some declarations inconsistent with others. But upon a careful examination and a candid consideration of the various occa. sions and circumstances on which, and of the different characters to whom they were addressed, much apparent difficulty is removed, and many seeming discordances are reconciled.
From the writings of eminent Christians in the second century, we learn, that these gospels or histories of Christ were then received and used in churches as the only authentic records of the doctrines and life of our Savior. We have evidence also that all the societies of Christians appealed to these gospels, and that they were early translated into various languages. This publicity of them must have prevented all intentional variance, though it may be supposed possible that some mistakes might occur through the carelessness of transcribers. It is however to be considered, that the most minute attention has been be
stowed in examining and collating all the various manuscripts and versions of the Gos. pel, and the other books of the New Testament; and if some trifling variations occur, "they are not of such a nature as to affect any essential article of faith, or any important rule of life.” “It seems, indeed, to have been wisely ordered by Providence, that no important doctrine or precept should rest upon a single text of scripture ; and therefore we are never obliged to have recourse to a disputed passage in support of any fundamental principle of our religion : and while we contend that a single inspired authority is a sufficient support for any proposition in theology or morals, we acknowledge that the different writers of the New Testament, by their agreement in all material points, confirm each other ; and that the Gospel derives great advantages from the number and consistency of the witnesses to its truth."
There are vain and speculative men too, we are aware, who pretend, that Christianity will soon be out of credit in the world; and that enlightened reason is a sufficient guide to truth and virtue. Ungrateful and foolish men ! They consider not what they owe to Christianity ; or what advantages of a moral
kind they have derived from being educated in the bosom of the Christian church! What is the moral state of man where the Gospel is not known, and what must have been ours, unblessed by the grace and truths which caine by Jesus, the Messiah!
Could we, for a moment, admit that the Christian religion were the result of human wisdom and goodness, we must feel deeply interested in its support, as a system most auspicious to moral virtue, most consolatory to the mind of man. And there is no hazard in asscrting, that whilst there is any moral goodness among men, any love of virtue, any reverence of the Deity, any regard for the present peace of society, or any desire of immortality, the religion of Jesus Christ will be admired and approved, will have friends and advocates.
But, in truth, the Gospel speaks to us, not only to direct and comfort us; it claims our attention ; it demands our obedience. It is proposed to us as a revelation from heaven. To disregard it is at once foolish and hazardous. It reveals our duties, and we are bound to examine it. Its author came to bless us, by turning us from our sins. If we reject it, we reject the only source of hope, and forfeit
the favor of God, who has here given us the proinise of heavenly and immortal blessings.
In reading the history of Christ, it should be ever kept in view, that he came not merely for the benefit of a few learned and speculative men ; but that his Gospel is designed for the instruction and improvement of the great mass of mankind; the poor and the illiterate. Its instructions are level to the capacity and understanding of the inost simple. Its essential doctrines are plain and intelligible to all. And those, we think, are in a great error who represent Christianity as altogether an irrational and mysterious system, which the common people cannot understand, and which must be received only in a scholastic and metaphysical form. Indeed, such a representation is not only erroneous, but has done infinite disservice to the cause of genu. ine Christianity. If we carefully consult the words of our divine Master, we shall learn to lay little stress upon mere opinions or particular ceremonies. And yet it has frequently been urged, that these were absolutely indispensible to constitute one a disciple of Jesus ; and the grace of God through a Redeemer, has been linnited to this or the other sect. Surely, little attention has been paid by secta
rians to this catholic declaration of Peter, “Of a truth, I perceive that God is no respecter of persons ; but in every nation he who feareth him and worketh righteousness is accepted of him.” Who can read the Gospels with care, and not wonder that men, calling themselves the followers of the meek, benevolent and humble Jesus ; that men who consider the words of Christ as their only rule and directory, should ever puzzle their fellow-men with the subtilties of philosophical disquisitions, or the dogmas of scholastic theology, and call it Christianity!
Happily, for the present age, Christians are generally now so enlightened and so candid that they appeal only to the inspired writings, to decide on subjects of religion, and look with good will on all who receive Jesus Christ as the true Messiah, and through the influence of his holy Gospel are turned from sin to a devout and virtuous life.