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THE HUMANITY OF JESUS CHRIST.
Having, in the last two Lectures, considered the principal passages produced to prove the deity or pre-existence of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and having presented you with some others, which, in my estimation, completely disprove these opinions, before I proceed to a train of arguments which establish his humanity, I wish to direct your attention to a very few observations.
1st, The texts urged in favour of the deity of Jesus are, at best, ambiguous. There is scarcely one, which either has not some degree of suspicion attached to it as to its genuineness, or which is not
inconsistent with the main argument of the passage where it is introduced, or, which may not be paralleled by other passages, containing the same phraseology, applied to other persons, and from which you will not allow the same inferences to be deduced. Those which have been
produced, and which remain to be produced, on the opposite side, are plain, and simple, and clear, and intelligible. If you
will not grant me this, you must, at least, grant,
2d, That, in explaining the texts we urge in favour of the humanity of Jesus Christ, you are obliged to use your reason to a very great extent. And we cannot but think that you use it unfairly and sophistically, because you generally take for granted what requires the strongest proof, that the expressions have a different signification from that in which they are at other times used, and refer only to a part instead of the whole person.
3d, In a revelation from God, so important a point as that there are more objects of religious adoration than one, never would have been left to be inferred from
a few detached passages. It surely would have been plainly, explicitly, repeatedly, stated. We are never commanded by our Saviour to pay divine homage to more objects than one. Such homage therefore cannot possibly be essential to salvation.
4th, The faith of a Christian ought not to be taken from a few detached passages, but from the general strain and tenor of the scriptures. You may bring twenty different texts, from different parts of the Testaments, and, if they are genuine, I am bound so to interpret and explain them, as to make them harmonize with the whole. But if I cannot make them so harmonize, or cannot understand them, then they are not objects of my faith. If they contradict the general sense, then they are objects of my disbelief, for no part of a revelation from God can contradict another part.*
* For instance, it might be proved from a particular passage, if the general sense of the scriptures, and also common sense, did not militate against it, that in the apostolic age all persons who became Christians, ceased to be mere human beings and became partakers of divinity, or at least of a double nature. 2 Pet. i. 4. “That by these ye might be partakers of the divine
View the scriptures connectedly as teaching one and the same doctrine. Reconcile particular passages with the general sense. If you cannot; build no important doctrines upon them.
5th, Our opinions upon points of doctrine ought to be taken from those parts of scripture which are addressed to the world in general for universal information, not to particular individuals. In the New Testamant there are four gospels, containing a history of the life and conduct of Jesus, and of the doctrines which he taught. In the Book of Acts we have a brief account of the transactions of his apostles after his death, and of the general strain
nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” Upon this passage Mr. Belsham very justly remarks, that the expression “is stronger than any which are used of Christ, and which, if it had been applied to him, would have been held forth as an irrefragable proof of his proper deity: to such an argument it would have been
difficult to have given a satisfactory reply. That explanation of the words which all are now constrained to admit, would then have been treated as a forced and languid interpretation, and an attempt hardly consistent with honesty, to wrest plain words from their natural and obvious meaning, in order to bend them to a pre-conceived bypothesis.”
Calm Inquiry, p. 215.
of their preaching.
These books were not written for the information of any individual exclusively, but to give a general and more extensive circulation to the principles of the Christian religion, than could have been given by mere personal oral testimony. Besides these books, there is a variety of letters, written under peculiar circumstances. These letters are nearly all addressed either to a particular church, or a particular individual, upon particular subjects called for on a particular occasion.
Now let any man seriously consider, whether in the nature of things, it is probable that these letters can be so clear and intelligible, and important as the narratives. I would ask
candid person that hears me, how he would act in
other similar case; suppose, for instance, Calvin. After his death, four of his intimate companions and followers, who were present with him at all his preachings, undertake to give an account of the doctrines he taught and the example he set. Others of his friends, after having established