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judge will acknowledge that a sober and accurate revisal of it would essentially serve the cause of religion; as it would facilitate and recommend a perusal and study of the scriptures, many parts of which at present abound with invincible difficulties to the English reader.
It should be constantly recollected that the doctrines and precepts which our Lord himself delivered do not constitute the whole of what his religion teaches on any particular subject. It is true that to every serious Christian they must appear peculiarly authoritative and affecting: but the words of Christ's inspired disciples rest on the same divine authority with his own and the discoveries of God's perfections, and the general lessons of religion and morality, which occur in the Hebrew scriptures, are parts of
that grand system which Christianity invites all mankind to embrace.
In the prosecution of my present subject many learned and excellent men have gone before me. The industry of some has comprehended the whole of our Lord's history; while the object of others has coincided with my own, in exhibiting to their readers only select parts.
Bishop Taylor's "Exemplar of Sanctity in the History of Christ" is a pious, eloquent and learned work but, notwithstanding much weighty instruction, and occasional emanations of a sublime genius, its diffuse and digressive manner is alone sufficient to disgust readers of no very fastidious taste.
a This book has gone through many editions.
The sketches of our Lord's life by Dupin, Calmet, & Tillemont, Le Clerc, L'Enfant and Beausobre, the & Abbè de St. Real, and Bailey, are recitals, paraphrases, or abridgments, of the four gospels; and they furnish explications of the text, sometimes interwoven with the narration, and sometimes subjoined in notes.
Stackhouse's History of the Bible contains a copious and useful life of Christ, with dissertations, notes, and replies to objections.
Dr. Benson's Life of Christ consists of discourses, or dissertations, on important subjects, or difficult passages, in the gospels: but death prevented the laborious, learned and judicious author from perfecting his comprehensive design. There is an excellent remark in the introduction to this work ; "that if the several hints of things of the like kind [which occur in the gospels] be faithfully collected together, and considered in one view, they give such a light and lustre to one another, as to make the life of Christ appear to amazing advantage." This author's method, of reducing under distinct heads detached and similar circumstances in our
The Life of our blessed Saviour Jesus Christ, &c. Written in French by the learned L. E. du Pin, and Englished by a divine of the church of England with additions. London. 1711. 8vo.
Prefixed to his Commentary on the Gospels.
d Histoire Ecclesiastique. tome prem. 12mo. 1706. Bruxelles.
Historia Ecclesiastica. 4to. Amst. 1716.
f Abregé de l'Histoire Evangelique: prefixed to their New Testament ̧ with notes: 2 vols. 4to. Amst. 1718.
Oeuvres. tome sec. A Paris. 1730.
The Life of Jesus, as collected by Caleb Bailey, Esq. 1732. The narration is a compound text of the four evangelists, in the words of the English version.
i London. 2 vols. fol. 1752. * London. 4to. 1764. Printed for Waugh.
Lord's history, is like collecting scattered rays to a luminous and forcible point. The first intimation of pursuing it was given, I think, by Sir Isaac Newton in his Observations on Daniel: where he well illustrates the manner in which our Lord borrowed his images and language from present objects. Doctor Benson has extended it to several other particulars. It has been carried somewhat further in the subsequent work; which I am conscious will also be found a defective attempt, both in general heads and inductions of particulars: for the plain and concise gospels are full of deep and curious matter, not to be exhausted by the industry and attention of ages.
In Bishop Law's "Reflections on the Life and Character of Christ" there is a series of excellent observations comprised in a narrow compass; and references are made to various authors who have enlarged on many topics which are only pointed out by this eminent writer.
Doctor Craig proposes to give a single and connected view of Christ's whole character at once;" and "chiefly to consider those events in the history of the gospel by which he bore witness of himself, and manifested the peculiar dignity of his character." He premises "a short account of those extraordinary interpositions of Providence by which his heavenly Father bore witness of him." This is a concise, elegant and able performance.
m Note: p. 148. Cambridge. 1765. ed. 5. 8vo.
See the preface to an Essay on the Life of Jesus Christ. Glasgow. 1769. 12mo.
n Considerations on the Theory of Religion, &c.
Doctor Hunter professes "Not to make the meaning of words, or of difficult passages, the subject of inquiry." His agreeable and instructive work is adapted to all capacities; and methodically comprehends many ingenious and interesting remarks.
Doctor Harwood wrote his "Delineation of the Life and Character of Jesus Christ" "with an express design to promote the interests of practical religion ;" and "professedly calculated it for the use of masters and mistresses of families, and for the benefit of young persons." This treatise is recommended by a judicious selection of subjects, a strain of piety, a warmth of imagination, and a copiousness of style.
It would be tedious to mention the many detached discourses which coincide with my general design. But I cannot omit Bishop Bradford's, Archbishop Tillotson's, and Doctor James Foster's, sermons on the example of Christ.
A diligent attention to our Lord's discourses and actions has been highly satisfactory and delightful to me. The life of Jesus is a most instructive, a most interesting, and a most important subject. The Deity, when we contemplate his discoveries of
Observations on the History of Jesus Christ, &c. Edinburgh. 1770. 2 vols. 12mo.
Printed for T. Becket. There is
4 Preface: p. vi. London. 1772. 8vo. a History of Jesus, by William Smith, M. A. 12mo. London. 1703. I have not seen it; but I am assured that it contains useful matter, and historical knowledge; though it is not uniformly judicious. There is also extant Life of Jesus Christ, and the Lives of the Twelve Apostles: fol. Lond. 1758. This is a voluminous compilation, containing 875 pages: and the anonymous author designed it both for a harmony of the gospels and a commentary.
Boyle's Lectures: fol. 1, 481, &c.
himself in the works of creation, cannot be sufficiently admired and adored. But in the gospels we see him, as it were, face to face; we seem to converse with him, as a man with his friend; and we behold his perfections as vividly represented in the person of Jesus Christ as the limited capacity of human nature admits.
It is my earnest wish and prayer that, by a more general cultivation of biblical criticism, the lovers of the scriptures may better understand and more deeply admire them; and that those who neglect a due examination of them, or who deny their authority, may be convinced of their importance, and may discover the signatures of truth stampt on them. My ardent love and admiration of these divine writings lead me to conclude, that they cannot be seriously and carefully read without pleasure and conviction. I lament that they are impiously interdicted to a large body of Christians; that they are so much disregarded, and of course misunderstood, by the bulk of Protestants among ourselves; that many of our clergy, unmindful of the solemn engagement at their ordination, do not devote their time to the study of them; and that, while human learning is making a rapid progress in its various branches, the religion of Christ is almost every where overwhelmed by human formularies and systems. Christianity can never have its free course among men of improved understandings, and even among rational creatures in general, while gross misrepresentations of it are substituted in the place of the simple and perfect original.