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many false pretensions to prophecy; whereas in all that time there does not appear to have been any pretension of this kind. Nay the whole history of the Jews shews that; if any nation was to have been chosen for a theatre of prophecy, none could have been so proper for the purpose as that of the Jews; because they appear to have been the least credulous, more disposed to reject, than eagerly to receive, any prophets that were sent to them, Mo ses himself, the great pride of their nation, least of all excepted. They were ever fond of the cerc, monies and religious rites of their neighbours, but always ready to reject their own, till repeatedly brought back to the observance of them by the severest judgments... .
Besides, though a great prophet, under the de. nomination of the Messiah, was expected by the body of the Jewish nation, the idea they had uni- . versally conceived of him was such, that, though Jesus truly bore that character, he was, in fact, such a person as they were least likely to receive in it. Their idea of the Messiah was that of a king and a conqueror, to which Jesus made no pretensions. Nothing, therefore, but the most overbearing evi-, dence could be expected to induce any Jew to res ceive in that character one who disclaimed all
worldly honours, and who lest his nation in the abject condition in which he found it. I will venture to say we have no example in history of any national prejudice so deeply rooted as this among the Jews, of their Messiah being to be a temporal prince, destined to rescue their nation from servi. tude, and to make them the most distinguished people upon the face of the earth. It is found among all the Jews, in all parts of the world, to this very day. No time, or calamities, seem capable of extinguishing it. Evidence, therefore, that could subdue such a prejudice as this, in any considerable number of Jews, must have been of the most satisfactory kind. ".:.
In this nation did Jesus appear, after being an. nounced by John the Baptist, who, to draw the more attention upon him, solemnly baptized those who received his doctrine, the chief article of which was the speedy approach of another prophet much greater than himself. An audible voice from hea. ven was the token by which Jolin knew that Jesus was the person when he was sent to precede, for they had no previous knowledge of each other. Accordingly, Jchn veferred all his disciples to Jesus, thereby transferring to din, 'as far as it was in his paver, a tho popularity that he himself had ac
quired, quired, which appears to have been very great with the nation in general. This, I would observe by the way, suficiently proves that John was no impostor, or one who sought any thing for himself. * i Jesus, thus announced, preached publicly, working numberless miracles, the reality of which was never called into question, especially healing all manner of diseases, and raising at least three' persons, but probably more, from the dead. Bnt the morality which he taught was so strict, and his appearance so unassuming, that the generality of his countrymen would not receive him in the character of their promised Messiah. Many, however, who attended him more closely, had no doubt of this. But even these persons were so fixed in the popular belief that the Messiah was to be a king, that they were persuaded he only waited a proper opportunity to assume that character; and when he was put to death without doing it, all their hopes were disappointed, and they evidently had no farther expectations from him, notwithstanding they never entertained the idea of his being an impostor. . . . . .
. • While Jesus lived his followers were numerous, and twelve of them constantly attended him, so thať his person could not but have been perfectly well
known to them, and to these he repeatedly appear:ed after his death, so as finally, to leave no doubt on any of their minds, that he was the same person who had been put to death..
I shall now dwell a little on those circumstances: which tend to give peculiar strength to the evidence of the resurrection of Jesus, and reply to some objections which have been made to it. After this I shall shew that this historical evidence of the truth of revealed religion proves the truth of natural religion, and conclude with a practical application of the doctrine. .. . .. . om no
In the first place I shall consider the circumstances which give peculiar strength to the evidence of the resurrection of Jesus. . .
1. His death was not private, among his friends, but in public, and accomplished by his enemies, who, we may be sure, would not leave their own great purpose unfinished, when it was in their. power completely to effect it. This we cannot doubt to have been the principal reason, in the plan. of divine providence, why Jesus was executed as a criminal, in consequence of the sentence of a pub. lic court of justice. After this, no reasonable. doubt could be entertained of the reality of his death. Accordingly, it does not appear that any
doubt a loss
doubt was entertained of it at the time, by those who were the best judges, and who were, at the same time, the most interested to dispute the fact, And this is all that we can reasonably require at this day
It is true that Jesus expired sooner than other persons usually did in the same circumstances. But this might be owing to his having a more de. licate constitution, but especially to his having been so much exhausted by his severe agony in the garden the preceding night; an agony which affected him so much that it would not have been extraordinary.if he had actually died in consequence of it: since such consternation and terror as he appears to have been in is well known to have been, of itself, the cause of death to many persons.
The death of Jesus was so evident to the soldiers who attended the execution, and who, no doubt (being used to the business) were sufficient judges of the signs of death, that, concluding him to be actually dead, they did not break his bones, as they did those of the other persons who were executed along with him. One of them, however, did what was fully equivalent to it; for he thrust a spear in. to his side, so that blood and water evidently flow ed out of the wound. Now though we may be at