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Moses. The sect ultimately comprehended those Scribes and Pharisees who opposed and even crucified our Lord : and though they appeared and professed to teach some leading truths of the Gospel, they did this, that by such profession they might more effectually set it aside. The truth of this assertion appears from their immoralities, which, though well attested, almost exceed credibility ;from their system, which was too impious and absurd to be seriously believed, even by those who framed it;—and from the declarations of Christ and his apostles respecting them, who were too discerning to mistake, and too candid to misrepresent their sinister designs.

Our Lord (Matt. vii. 15.) warns the people against them, as wolves in sheep's clothing. In Matt. xxiv. he holds them forth as false prophets and false Christs. In John x. 8. he calls them thieves and robbers. And when he represents his Gospel as first corrupted, he intimates that the authors were disguised enemies. For he says, The adversary did this; and to this adversary he gives the name of Satan. The language of Paul is so strong and direct, in regard to these impostors, as to leave no reasonable doubt but their object in professing Christianity was to overthrow it. “ I wonder,” says he to the Galatians, “that ye have so soon removed from him who called you in the grace of Christ to another Gospel, which is not indeed a Gospel, but the fiction of some who harass you, and wish to subvert the Gospel of Christ.” Gal. i. 6. And again, to the Corinthians, he writes: "For such are false apostles, men of deceitful actions, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder; for Satan himself putteth on the appear

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ance of an angel of light; so that it is no strange thing if his ministers also put on the appearance of ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.” 2 Cor. xi. 13. The beloved disciple considered these impostors in the very same light with Paul; and so directly opposite to the Gospel did he regard their system, that he repeatedly applies to them exclusively the name of antichrist. The character given of them by Peter and Jude, by the Christian fathers, and by Josephus, justifies the same conclusion. They trampled," says this last writer, “ upon all the rights of men, derided the divine laws, and scoffed at the oracles of the prophets ; for the prophets have given many precepts in favour of virtue and against vice, which the zealots violated; and thereby brought upon themselves the accomplishment of a prediction delivered against our country,

The fundamental principle of their system shows, that in their hearts they were determined atheists. It was natural in men, who could be base enough to ascribe to an evil being the works which they knew to have been done by the finger of God, to proceed a step further, and represent the Almighty himself as evil and imperfect. Accordingly, they taught that the Creator was a malevolent, inferior being; and professed to reveal a supreme God, who had lived in eternal inactive solitude, and hitherto unknown to mankind. It is not to be supposed that if, in opposition to the strongest evidence from reason and from revelation, they rejected the perfections of Jehovah, they could seriously believe the existence and perfections of any other being without evidence from either. Having thus degraded the Universal Father, they exalted the

Son in the opposite scale of power and divinity, representing him as a god in the shape of a man, or a man inhabited by a god. By this twofold impiety, they endeavoured at once to destroy the sanctions of virtue, as founded in the belief of an all-wise and righteous Governor, to account for the miracles of Christ

, independently of that Great Being who sent him, and to preclude the doctrine of a future state as the grand principle of reforming the world. This principle is the soul of the Gospel, and forms the leading object which the impostors sought to destroy. They maintained that Christ did not come with instruction from God; that he was not authorized to encourage the penitent with the hope of pardon, or to support virtue with the assurance of immortality; that, on the other hand, he came to destroy the works of God, and to set his followers at liberty to pursue their inclinations, without any restraint from those oppressive and arbitrary laws prescribed by Moses and the prophets. They reasoned in this manner :-Christ is a god; he therefore did his wonderful works by his own power, and not by a power derived from the Creator. Virtue, moreover, will not be rewarded, nor vice punished in a future state, because there will be no resur. rection of the dead; there will be no resurrection of the dead, because the resurrection of Christ, who, by nature, is superior to death, is no proof of the resurrection of beings who, by nature, are subject to death. There is therefore no life to come: “ Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die."

CHAPTER VIII.

THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST'S DIVINITY ADOPTED BY

THE PAGANS AS THE MEANS OF ACCOUNTING FOR HIS MIRACLES.

If we reflect on the unrivalled wisdom and bene volence which are displayed in the character of our Lord; if we properly consider the stupendous works which he performed, and his open and public manner of performing them, we may well infer that, in no place, however distant, that had any intercourse with Judea, could he long have remained unknown. The glad tidings which he proclaimed as the messenger of Heaven, the wonders which he exhibited in attestation of his claims, and the conformity of those claims to the expectation entertained not only by the Jews, but by all other civilized nations, must, without delay, have excited universal attention, and proved the means of conveying his fame not only to Rome, betwixt which and Judea was maintained a constant and direct communication, but to the remotest regions of the Roman empire. What we may thus fairly infer from reflection on the character and miracles of Jesus, is attested to a certain extent by the authentic historians of his life. Matthew informs us, that when he began to heal diseases, his fame went throughout all Syria : chap. xiv. 24: and Luke adds, that it spread throughout all the surrounding region : chap. iv. 14.

The above inference cannot but dispose us to regard as by no means improbable the substance of the following narrative, written by a person who professed to be in Rome at the time the fame of Christ reached that city. A certain report, commencing with the spring season, under the reign of Tiberius Cæsar, insensibly prevailed in every place, and pervaded the world, as being truly the message of God, and unable to retain in secrecy the divine will. Every where it grew greater and stronger; saying that a certain man in Judea, making his first appearance in the spring, announced to the Jews the kingdom of the eternal God, of which he affirmed every one that led a virtuous life might partake: and in order to prove that he proclaimed this blessing by divine inspiration, he wrought many surprising signs and wonders by his command alone. For he caused the deaf to hear, and the blind to see; the lame he enabled to walk, and the cripple to stand erect; he healed every disease, and banished all demons. Scaly lepers recovered their sound state by only looking on him at a distance. Even the dead which were brought to him he raised to life; and there was nothing which he was not able to do. And as the time advanced, the report of him was confirmed by multitudes that had come from that country; so that it was no longer a report but a real fact. And meetings were now held in different places, for the sake of inquiring who the person that had thus appeared might be, and what he intended to proclaim.” Clementine Homilies, 1. 4.

The heathens, it is well known, believed in the existence and agency of many gods. These, as they supposed, often appeared in the shape, or entered the bodies, of men. The Greek and Roman writers abound with instances of their interposition

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