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courage to hail their king when he appeared in a plebeian CHAP. garb, their grosser apprehensions were incapable of discern- XLVII. ing their God, who had studiously disguised his cælestial character under the name and person of a mortal.3 The fa. miliar companions of Jesus of Nazareth conversed with their friend and countryman, who, in all the actions of rational and animal life, appeared of the same species with themselves. His progress from infancy to youth and manhood, was marked by a regular increase in stature and wis. dom; and after a painful agony of mind and body, he expired on the cross. He lived and died for the service of mankind; but the life and death of Socrates had likewise been devoted to the cause of religion and justice; and al. though the stoic or the hero may disdain the humble virtues of Jesus, the tears which he shed over his friend and country, may be esteemed the purest evidence of his humanity. The miracles of the gospel could not astonish a people who held, with intrepid faith, the more splendid prodigies of the Mosaic law. The prophets of ancient days had cured diseases, raised the dead, divided the sea, stopped the sun, and ascended to heaven in a fiery chariot. And the metaphorical style of the Hebrews might ascribe to a saint and martyr, the adoptive title of Son of God. Yet in the insufficient creed of the Nazarenes and the His birth

and elevaEbionites, a distinction is faintly noticed between the here.

tion. tics, who confounded the generation of Christ in the common order of nature, and the less guilty schismatics, who revered the virginity of his mother, and excluded the aid of an earthly father. The incredulity of the former was countenanced by the visible circumstances of his birth, the legal marriage of his reputed parents, Joseph and Mary, and his lineal claim to the kingdom of David and the inheritance of Judah. But the secret and authentic history has been recorded in several copies of the gospel according to St. Matthew, which these sectaries long preserved in the original Hebrews as the sole evidence of their faith. The

3 Chrysostom (Basnage, Hist. des Juifs, tom. v. c. 9. p. 183), and Athanasius (Petav. Dogmat. Theolog. tom. v. 1. i. c 2. p. 3), are obliged to confess that the divinity of Christ is rarely mentioned by himself or his apostles.

4 The two first chapters of St. Matthew did not exist in the Ebionite copies (Epiphan. Häres. xxx. 13); and the miraculous conception is one of the last articles which Dr. Priestley has curtailed from his scanty creed. 5 It is probable enough that the first of the gospels for the use of the Jews

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CHAP, natural suspicions of the husband, conscious of his own chasXLVII. tity, were dispelled by the assurance in a dream) that his

wife was pregnant of the Holy Ghost: and as this distant and domestic prodigy could not fall under the personal observation of the historian, he must have listened to the same voice which dictated to Isaiah the future conception of a virgin. The son of a virgin, generated by the ineffable operation of the Holy Spirit, was a creature without example or resemblance, superior in every attribute of mind and body to the children of Adam. Since the introduction of the Greek or Chaldean philosophy, the Jews were persuaded of the pre-existence, transmigration, and immortality of souls; and Providence was justified by a supposition, that they were confined in their earthly prisons to expiate the stains which they had contracted in a former state. But the degrees of purity and corruption are almost immeasurable. It may be fairly presumed, that the most sublime and virtuous of human spirits was infused into the offspring of Mary and the Holy Ghost;' that his abasement was the result of his voish converts, was composed in the Hebrew or Syriac idiom: the fact is at. tested by a chain of fathers... Papias, Irenæus, Origen, Jerom, &c. It is de. voutly believed by the Caiholics, and admitted by Casaubon, Grotius, and Isaac Vossius, among the protestant critics. But this Hebrew gospel of St. Matthew is most unaccountably lost ; and we may accuse the dilligence or fidelity of the primitive churches, who have preferred the unauthorised version of some nameless Greek. Erasmus and his followers, who respect our Greek text as the original gospel, deprive themselves of the evidence which declares it to be the work of an apostle. See Simon, Hist. Critique, &c. tom. iii. c. 5... 9. p. 47...101. and the Prolegomena of Mill and Wetstein to the New Testa

6 The metaphysics of the soul are disengaged by Cicero (Tusculan, I. i), and Maximus of Tyre (Dissertat. xvi), froin the intricacies of dialogue, which sometimes amuse, and often perplex, the readers of the Phæ trus, the Phedon, and the Lorus of Plato.

7 The disciples of Jesus were persuaded that a man might have sinned be. fore he was born (John, ix. 2), and the Pharisees held the transmigration of virtuous souls (Joseph. de Bell. Judaico, 1. ii. c. 7); and a modern Rabbi is modestly assured that Hermes, Pythagoras, Plato, &c. derived their metaphy. sics from his illustrious countrymen.

8 Four different opinions have been entertained concerning the origin of human souls. 1. That they are eternal and divine. 2. That they were created, in a separate state of existence, before their union with the body. 3. That they have been propagated from the original stock of Adam, who con. tained in himself the mental as well as i he corporeal seed of his posterity. 4. That each soul is occasionally crea ed and embodied in the moment of conception... The last of these sentiments appears to have prevailed among the moderns; and our spiritual history is grown less sublime, without becoming more intelligible.

9 Οτι η τυ Σωτηρος ψυχη, η τ8 Αδαμ ην....Was one of the fifteen here:ies imputed to Origen and denied by his apologist (Photius, Bibliothec cod. cxvii. p. 296). Some of the Rabbis attribute one and the same soul to the persons of Adam, David, and the Messiah.

ment.

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luntary choice; and that the object of his mission was to pu- CHAP. rify, not his own, but the sins of the world. On his return to

XLVII. his native skies, he received the immense reward of hisobe. dience; the everlasting kingdom of the Messiah, which had been darkly foretold by the prophets, under the carnal images of peace, of conquest, and of dominion. Omnipotence could enlarge the human faculties of Christ to the extent of his cælestial office. In the language of antiquity, the title of God has not been severely confined to the first parent, and his incomparable minister, his only begotten Son, might claim, without presumption, the religious, though secondary, worship of a subject world.

II. The seeds of the faith, which had slowly arisen in the II. A pure rocky and ungrateful soil of Judea, were transplanted in ful! God to the maturity, to the happier climes of the Gentiles; and the strangers of Rome or Asia, who never beheld the manhood, were the more readily disposed to embrace the divinity, of Christ. The polytheist and the philosopher, the Greek and the Barbarian, were alike accustomed to conceive a long succession, an infinite chain of angels or dæmons, or deities, or æons, or emanations, issuing from the throne of light. Nor could it seem strange or incredible, than the first of these æons, the Logos, or word of God, of the same substance with the Father, should descend upon earth to deli. ver the human race from vice and error, and to conduct them in the paths of life and immortality. But the prevail. ing doctrine of the eternity and inherent pravity of matter, insected the primitive churches of the East. Many among the Gentile proselytes, refused to believe that a cælestial spirit, an undivided portion of the first essence, had been personally united with a mass of impure and contaminated flesh: and, in their zeal for the divinity, they piously abjured the humanity of Christ. While his blood was still recent on mount Calvary;ło the Docetes, a numerous and learned sect of Asiatics, invented the phantastic system, which was afterwards propagated by the Marcionites, the Manichæans, and the various names of the Gnostic here.

10 Apostolis adhuc in seculo superstitibus, apud Judæam Christi sanguine recente, PHANTASMA domini corpus asserabatur. Hieronym. advers. Luci. fer.c.8. The epistle of Ignatius to the Smynæans, and even the gospel according to St. John, are levelled against the growing error of the Docetes, who had obtained too much credit in the world (1 John, iv. 1...5).

CHAP sy." They denied the truth and authenticity of the gospels, XLVII.

as far as they relate the conception of Mary, the birth of Christ, and the thirty years that preceded the exercise of his ministry. He first appeared on the banks of the Jordan in the form of perfect manhood; but it was a form only, and not a substance; an human figure created by the hand of Omnipotence to imitate the faculties and actions of a man, and to impose a perpetual illusion on the senses of his friends and enemies. Articulate sounds vibrated on the ears of the disciples; but the image which was impressed on their optic nerve, eluded the more stubborn evidence of the touch; and they enjoyed the spiritual, not the corporeal, presence of the Son of God. The rage of the Jews was idly wasted against an impassive phantom; and the mystic scenes of the passion and death, the resurrection and ascension of Christ, were represented on the theatre of Jerusalem for the benefit of mankind. If it were urged, that such ideal mimicry, such incessant deception, was unworthy of the God of truth, the Docetes agreed with too many of their orthodox brethren in the justification of pious falsehood. In the system of the Gnostics, the Jehovah of Israel, the creator of this lower world, was a rebellious, or at least an ignorant spirit. The Son of God descended upon earth to abolish his temple and his law; and, for the accomplishment of this salutary end, he dexterously transferred to his own person the hope and

prediction of a temporal Messiah. His incor

One of the most subtle disputants of the Manichæan ruptible school, has pressed the danger and indecency of suppo- . body.

sing, that the God of the Christians, in the state of an human fætus, emerged at the end of nine months from a female womb. The pious horror of his antagonists provoked them to disclaim all sensual circumstances of conception and de. livery; to maintain, that the divinity passed through Mary like a sun-beam through a plate of glass ; and to assert, that the seal of her virginity remained unbroken even at the moment when she became the mother of Christ. But the rashness of these concessions has encouraged a milder sentiment

11 About the year 200 of he Christian æra, Irenæus and Hippolytus refuted the thirty-two sects, tes yeuawapo you rews, which had multiplied to fourscore in the time of Epiphanius (Phot. Biblioth. cod. cxx, cxxi, cxxii). The five books of Irenæus exist-only in barbarous Latin; but the original might perhaps be found in some monastery of Greece.

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of those of the Docetes, who taught, not that Christ was a CHAP. phantom, but that he was clothed with an impassible and incor. XLVII. ruptible body. Such, indeed, in the more orthodox system he has acquired since his resurrection, and such he must have always possessed, if it were capable of pervading, without resistance or injury, the density of intermediate matter. Devoid of its most essential properties, it might be exempt from the attributes and infirmities of the flesh. A fætus that could increase from an invisible point to its full maturity ; a child that could attain the stature of perfect manhood, withoutderivingany nourishment from the ordinarysources,might continue to exist without repairing a daily waste by a daily supply of external matter. Jesus might share the repasts of his disciples, without being subject to the calls of thirst or hun. ger; and his virgin purity was never sullied by the involuntary stains of sensual concupiscence. Of a body thus singularly constituted, a question would arise, by what means, and of what materials, it was originally framed; and our sounder theology is startled by an answer which was not peculiar to the Gnostics, that both the form and the substance proceeded from the divine essence. The idea of pure and absolute spirit is a refinement of modern philosophy; the incorporeal essence, ascribed by the ancients to human souls, cælestial beings, and even the Deity himself, does not exclude the notion of extended space; and their imagination was satisfied with a subtle nature of-air, or fire, or æther, incomparably more perfect than the grossness of the material world. If we define the place, we must describe the figure, of the Deity. Our experience, perhaps our vanity, represents the powers of reason and virtue under an human form. The Anthropomorphites, who swarmed among the monks of Egypt and the Catholics of Africa, could produce the express declaration of scripture, that man was made after the image of his Creator.12 The venerable Serapian, one of

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12 The pilgrim Cassian, who visited Egypt in the beginning of the fifth cen. tury, observes and laments the reign of anthropomorphism among the monks, who were not conscious that they embraced the system of Epicurus (Cicero, de Nat. Deorum, i. 18. 34). Ab universo propemodum genere monachorum, qui per totain provinciam Egyptum morabantur, pro simplicitatis errore susceptum est, ut e contrario memoratuin pontificem ( Theophilus ) velut hæresi gravissimâ depravatum, pars maxima seniorum ab universo fraternitatis corpore decerneret detestanduin (Cassian, Collation. x. 2). As long as St. Augustin remained a Manichæan, he was scandalized by the anthropomorphista of the vulgar Catholics.

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