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brought up in a Christian community, is exposed. I have tried to guard against them; to look into the Christian Records, as if they had just been placed before me, at least with no disposition in their favour but that produced by the undisputed excellence of their morality ; and to ascertain the precise truth as nearly as possible, unswayed by that veneration for authority which leads us to take too much for granted on the one hand, or by that love of novelty, so fruitful of doubt and denial on the other.
There are numbers who give no credit to the accounts of the Life of Jesus Christ. They barely admit his existence. There are many more whose faith rests only on tradition. I do not doubt, therefore, that works, like the present, whose aim it is to disclose grounds for personal conviction, are needed and may be useful. Still, a direct knowledge of the wants of others has not been the primary cause of this publication. The views contained in this volume have interested my own mind deeply. For this reason I have wished to publish them. I believe and therefore do I speak. Were I utterly unacquainted with the wants of others, I should deem it a safe
presumption that the experience of one individual, no matter how humble, in regard to a subject of universal interest, is the experience, if not of all, yet of many. Every man is the best representative to himself of other men. And he may justly be charged with arrogance, who fancies himself so peculiarly constituted, so different from all others, that what has satisfied his mind will not have a like influence in
numerous other cases.
It is extremely difficult to suggest any new mode of regarding admitted truths, without incurring the suspicion of unfriendliness to the truths themselves; so generally is opinion identified with truth. I may be charged with a design to explain away the Christian Miracles, when, in reality, I am at a loss to express my sense of the value of the extraordinary facts of the life of Jesus. In every point of view, moral, religious, and philosophical—whether as lessons to every man's soul, or as attestations to the Divine authority of him by whom they were wrought, they possess a value of which we do not yet dream. They have been compared to the foundations of a grand edifice, into which the multitude enter and
dwell, rejoicing in its beauty, but “caring not about its foundation any further than to know that it has
This is a just comparison so far as it expresses the fundamental character of the miracles. But it betrays the defect of the common representation of these remarkable facts. Why should the occupants of the building care to know any more of that part of it which is hidden, buried in the earth, than its bare existence? At the point of view at which
I have considered the miracles, and which it seems -1 to me, every just principle of thought indicates, while
they are no less essential than the above illustration represents, they become the key-stones of the great arches and domes of the edifice, arresting every eye, vişibly imparting strength and perfection to the whole, blazing with celestial characters, and hewn as out of that sapphire which, in the vision of the prophet, was the throne of God.
I am aware that the exposition I have attempted of the true mode of regarding the Christian miracles (Chapters VIII., IX.) is very imperfect. Still it is best it should be published. If erroneous, its fallacy may be shown. If true, it will attract the attention
land engage the services of abler minds. In the meanwhile I avow myself a sincere believer in the reality of these wonderful facts. I believe that the blind i received sight, the lame walked, the dead rose, and Ithe winds and waves were hushed at the word of Jesus of Nazareth. I do not deny that these events sattest his divine authority. But I know not how they can have any force as evidences of the divinity of í his mission, until they are felt to have been wrought for a diviner end than merely to convince the understanding, even for a certain intrinsic worth which I must be discerned, whether it be definable or not. God's means are always ends, and hence their efficiency as means. A good act, performed for example's
sake, is not a good act, and consequently cannot have : the influence of goodness. It must be done for its own sake, and then it will be powerful as an example. So I conceive it to be with the miracles of Jesus.
They were wrought principally for their own sakes. v They are demonstrations of the power of a single and
pure purpose; and therefore are they powerful to en convince. Thus do they testify that he was moved y by the inspiration of God. 110111
“Since I was of understanding”-to use the words of Sir Thomas Browne,—“ to know we knew nothing,” I have felt that there could hardly be a greater objection to a theory or mode of thought, than the pretension to explain everything. I am impressed with nothing more deeply, than with the vanity of supposing that the mind of man can so penetrate and compass any work of God as to be able to relieve it of all difficulty. I do not believe there are any questions, connected with the great subject of these pages, which are unanswerable; but there are many, I freely confess, that I cannot answer.
There are many passages in the Gospels which I have not attempted to explain. I have not sought to remove difficulties, but to unveil the beaming features of truth; to point out some of those characteristics of these narratives which produce an impression of reality that no difficulties are strong enough to obliterate.
I have not wished to allude to the opinions of others, however erroneous, except as it became necessary to the unfolding of what seems to me to be