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calculated to confirm the faith of the believer, than to convert unbelievers, the prophecies I have enumerated, though few in comparison of what might have been adduced, will satisfy any reasonable person, that they must have been dictated by a foresight more than human, and therefore that the Jewish and Christian religions, having the same author, must be of divine authority
We are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ.
John Vi 20.
Besides the evidence of miracles, including that of prophecy, which is the proper seal of God to any thing that is alledged to come from him, with which we become acquainted by history, or tradition, and which is usually called the external evidence of divine revelation, there is another kind of evidence properly denominated internal, which, to those who have a sufficient knowledge of human nature and human life, is hardly less satisfactory. For knowing what men are, and what men have done, we readily judge what is probable or improbable, possible or impossible, with respect to the designs and actions of men; and if any thing be afferted of a man, and especially of
a number of men, which we well know could not be asserted with truth of any man, or any number of men, with whom we were ever acquainted, or concerning whom we have had any authentic information, we do not hesitate to pronounce it to be highly improþable, and perhaps absolutely impossible.
It is, therefore, of the greatest importance, that we apply the knowledge we have of human nature, and human life, in our study of the evidences of divine revelation, to attend accurately to the characters and circumstances of Moses and the prophets, of Christ and the apostles, that we may form a judgment whether what is related of thein, on the supposition of their having had divine communications, or of their having been impostors, be probable or otherwise. Having in a former set of discourses considered the circumstances of the history of Moses, I shall in this consider the history of Jesus; and I think it will appear, that, if what is, and must be, allowed concerning him be true, it was absolutely impossible that he should have been an impostor, every thing related of him being perfectly natural on the idea of his being conscious to himself, or fully persuaded in his
own mind, of his having a divine mission, but in the highest degree unnatural, and even impossible, on the idea of his having been an impostor. That he was a mere enthusiast, and really imagined that he had a divine mission when he had none, is another question, which I shall consider only incidentally. This indeed was evidently impossible in such a case as this, and will not, I am persuaded, be supposed by any unbeliever; so that if Jesus was no impostor, and did not know that he was deceiving his followers and the world, his divine mission must be acknowledged.
1. If we consider the nature and extent of the undertaking of Jesus, it must appear highly improbable that it should have occurred to a person of his country, and of his low birth, and education. Had his views, whatever they were, extended no farther than his own country, his undertaking any thing that should bring him into notice, and advance him in life, (which is all that an impostor can be supposed to aim at) must have appeared very unlikely to succeed, and consequently must have been very unlikely to enter into his thoughts, and have been undertaken by him, With the Jews, the place of a man's birth
was a circumstance of no small moment, and Jesus was of Nazareth, esteemed a mean place, in a despised part of the country, so that, on this account, he must have lain under great disadvantage; and his occupation, which was that of a carpenter, without any advantage of education, such as his country afforded, must have made his undertaking much more difficult. In these circumstances, ambition so preposterous as that of Jesus, must have bordered on insanity or infatuation, which must have appeared in his conduct. But nothing of this kind does appear in him. Exclusive of the language suited to his undertaking, there was nothing like extravagance in his words or actions. On the contrary, his whole behaviour shewed a mind perfectly composed and rational, and, what is more, there was not in him any thing of oftentation, but the most amiable humility and modesty, though accompanied with becoming dignity.
Whatever we may think of a Jewish education, and Jewish literature, they were highly valued by Jews, and must have been necessary to gain general esteem, especially with the higher classes of men, and for the purpose of acting any conspicuous part in that coantry.