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ume is offered to the public, upon the consideration, that it contains those books, which .furnish the only true history of the origin and establishment of our holy religion. And if it shall excite more attention to the sacred Scriptures, "which testify of Jesus Christ," the MESSIAH, and "shew unto us the way of salvation," the Editor will have attained the object he has in view, by hazarding its publication.
THE books of the sacred writers, who have given us the history of the doctrines and life of JESUS CHRIST, we denominate the gospels, as they convey "glad tidings" from heaven to men. The author of our holy religion assumed the character of a divine teacher and instructor. He claimed to be the MESSIAH, long expected by the Hebrew nation, and by whom great spiritual blessings were to be dispensed, and important moral truths were to be revealed. From his history, we learn that he came to enlighten, reform and sanctify the world; that his purpose was to convert men from error and sin, to truth and virtue; to give assurance of the divine propitiousness and grace, and to reveal a future immortal life. The expectation of a divine messenger and teacher, about the time of our Savior's birth, was not confined entirely to the Jews, though the predictions in their sacred books had produced among them a general and more thorough belief of the appearance of such a
personage. An expectation of this sort prevailed in other nations of the east. Whether it were owing to their knowledge of the Jewish Scriptures, or to the deductions of reason, which led them to suppose the Deity would in mercy interpose for the instruction of his rational creatures, who were in doubt respecting the divine attributes and their own destination; it seems to have been an opinion which many philosophers indulged, that God, at some period of the world, would raise up a great prophet, who should make known more of his moral purposes to his intelligent offspring; who should give assurances of a future life, and reveal the way by which sinful men might obtain favor and forgiveness with heaven.
That God can reveal his will to man, that he who is an infinite Spirit can inspire the human mind with a knowledge of himself and his designs, no one surely will be foolish enough to deny. That he should do it, our natural sense of his goodness will induce us to admit. And that he has in fact, spoken to the world, by his Son from heaven, is proved by various considerations; by the supernatural works he performed; by the moral precepts he gave, and the attributes of Deity he revealed, so
superior to every thing suggested by sages and philosophers; and by the accomplishment of prophecies, many centuries after they were uttered, in the character and fortunes of him, whom we believe to be the Instructor and Savior of men,
Several hundred years previous to the birth of Jesus Christ, it was declared by the Jewish prophets, and the predictions were recorded in their sacred books, that one of their nation should be constituted a spiritual Prince and Savior, who would dispense divine blessings to the world, and make new and important revelations of the gracious purposes of God. The character of this messenger of heaven, who was to be sent to illumine, to reform and bless the world, his condition in life, the time of his coming, the peculiar excellence of his moral precepts, the consoling influence of his doctrines, his miraculous and beneficent works, his sufferings, his death, the conduct of his enemies, his resurrection, and the extensive prevalence of his religion, were all foretold with wonderful minuteness and precision. To no other person do these various predictions apply, but to Jesus of Nazareth. The precise period of his birth was predicted by the prophet Daniel. And at the time of
his birth, we learn, the Jews and other eastern nations, were expecting his coming. Unless we consider them judicially blinded for their heinous and aggravated sins, there is but one circumstance which we can suppose would have led them to misunderstand and misconstrue their prophecies in reference to our Savior; and that is, his being spoken of as a Ruler and Prince, as well as one who was to endure poverty, reproach and suffering. With their worldly views, they overlooked all the other circumstances of his character and condition, so perfectly correspondent to the prophetic descriptions of the Messiah.
The books containing these predictions were in the hands of the Jews when our Lord appeared, and had long been preserved with religious care and attention. They were read in their religious assemblies, and taught their children from their earliest years. Three hundred years before the birth of Christ, they were translated into the Greek language, which then and down to the time of our Savior's coming, and for a long period subsequent, was the language of the whole civilized and learned world. Not only did the Jews in the time of Christ, not only did our Lord and his immediate followers appeal to these books;