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raise him from the dead, it appears obvious that such an escape would have almost wholly prevented the spread and efficacy of his life-giving doctrines.
All the former cases imply that Jesus deserted the objects of his mission, without the sanction of divine authority ; but the last case, which is founded on his own words in Matt. xxvi. 53, has a somewhat different aspect, and requires to be more fully considered; and some of the remarks I shall make, might have been applied to the second and third cases.
Fourthly, Jesus might have been miraculously delivered from the cruel designs of his enemies. Now this would have added a little to those convictions of his followers already produced by the miracles which they had seen, and it might have lessened the opposition of the least prejudiced and wicked of his enemies; but it would have heightened the rage and enmity of the most bitter of them, and prevented him from being again able to appear publicly in Jerusalem : it would have appeared to many, who knew only in part, a cowardly evasión of dangers which he ought to have calculated, and to have had courage to face; and at any rate it would have destroyed all those purposes which were answered by his endurance unto death. He would not then have given to his enemies as well as friends, the most striking and impressive testimony, that he was himself thoroughly convinced ", that it was by God that he
It is on this point that the essential difference rests, between the importance of our Lord's death as a testimony to the truth, and that of any other martyr, which is so often to
was sent, and to declare truths of the greatest iinportance to the welfare of mankind, calculated, if received, to communicate the greatest blessings, hut depending for their efficacy upon the reception of them,-a testimony which was to his disciples peculiarly impressive, because they knew that he was fully acquainted before-hand with his dangers and sufferings, and that he could at any period have escaped from them,- and which was peculiarly important, on account of the vast numbers of persons who, at the great festival of the passe
tally overlooked by the opponents of Unitarianism. When a person submits to death as a testimony to his opinions, he proves nothing more than the strength of his own conviction in the truth of them; and that conviction may be ill- founded, or if well-founded, the opinions themselves may be destitute of importance : but our Lord's endurance unto death fully proved his conviction as to a point respecting which he could not be mistaken, and which is of the highest importance, in fact the foundation of the whole Christian dispensation,--that he acted under direct authority from God. I admit that he might fossibly have been mistaken as to the reality of divine suggestions and intercourse; and even that he might possibly have believed that he heard miraculous words investing him with a divine commission, and implying the high approbation of God, without their having been uttered: but it is impossible that he could be mistaken as to the reality of those mi. racles which were wrought at his word ; and, conscquentiy, he could not be deceived in the conviction that he acted under direct authority from God, that he was the Son of God, that he had received from God his life-giving doctrines. The testimony of the witnesses of his resurrection borne by their death, was of high importance to give credibility to that fact, which of itself proves that Jesus is the Son of God; but such attestation was only corroborative, and in no individual instance necessary: the testimony thus borne by Jesus was indispensable, yet might have been avoided without the assertion of any falsehood, or the evasion of any truth; and it could only be prompted by the firmest confidence in God, and the most exalted benevolence to mankind.
over, crowded to Jerusalem from all parts of the then known world. And by such miraculous interference, that last signal instance of divine approbation would either have been prevented, or its efficacy greatly lessened if not destroyed,—that striking display of the power of God, by which the divine authority of Jesus was established beyond all doubt, and his declarations sanctioned as the words of God:if he had not died in the most public and indisputable manner, the convictions of his followers in his resurrection could not have possessed that firmness, by which they were led to sacrifice every temporal good, without the prospect of any temporal good, to promulgate doctrines in part founded on that fact, and at any rate deriving their chief authority from it; nor could the Apostles have succeeded in disseminating that lively faith in the divine authority of Jesus and his doctrines, by which such numbers were brought over from sin and ignorance to knowledge and holiness.
I have before observed, (p. 8,) that it is impossible for us to say, that no other means of communicating Gospel blessings could have been
appointed by the Supreme Being ;-they might have been kept separate from the Jewish prejudices respecting the Messiah, they mighi from the first have been made unconuected with Judaism,-they might have been received without opposition, without suffering on the part of the appointed agent, and some other agent might have been appointed : but the more we examine all the known circum. stances under which they were actually communi. cated, the more we shall perceive that these were peculiarly fitted to make the reception of them cordial, extensive, permanent, and efficacious. And it ought always to be borne in mind, as an obvious principle of the divine government, and one which is requisite in order to bring into due exercise some of our highest powers, that miraculous agency is never employed, where the effect can be equally well produced by the usual operation of moral causes.
When we thus consider the death of Christ, as on the one hand perfectly voluntary, and on the other essentially requisite to an efficacious, extensive, and permanent diffusion of Gospel-blessings, and consider also the nature and value of those blessings, can we hesitate, with all our intellectual correctness, our refinedness of phraseology, and our customary rejection of the bold language of eastern metaphor, to speak of that event as a most important sacrifice for the best interests of mankind, as our ransom from spiritual bondage, as the means of pardon and everlasting life,-and to say that Jesus died for our sins, that he died that we might live, &c.? And when in addition to these things we take into account, that the sufferings and death of the Messiah were objects of such amazement to the Jews, yet necessary to accomplish the prophecies concerning him,--that the idea of a suffering Messiah excited the disgust of the prejudiced Jew, and that the doctrines of one who had been disgraced by the punishment of slaves and the vilest malefactors, were treated with
ridicule and contempt by the philosophic Gentiles, yet that the sufferings and death of Jesus really presented the best proof of his disinterested love to men, and of his profound obedience to the will of God,--that the sufferings and death of Jesus were caused by the wickedness of his own nation, -that the Apostles had a very intimate acquaintance with all the painful and aggravating circumstances of those sufferings,--that they were witnesses of the most beneficial and strikingly rapid changes taking place, in the spiritual condition of men, in consequence of his endurance unto death, -that the Easterns were accustomed to employ metaphors and allusions calculated to give quick and vigorous conceptions of truths or facts, and to dwell, as all persons of lively imagination do, on the most striking of a train of causes as what produced important effects in contemplation,-and, lastly, that the Mosaic ritual and scriptural phraseology were a fertile source of metaphors and allusions which were well suited to soften down the prepossessions of the Jews against the Gospel dispensation, to heighten the convictions of the believer, and to give impressive views of the importance of its blessings, and of the means by which they were communicated and assured ; when, I say, we take all these things into account, in addition to the voluntary nature yet necessity of the death of Jesus, can we wonder that the Apostles sometimes referred to this event all the blessings of the Gospel, and represented it under those figures with which their religious and national pe