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of his Son. I have long thought an attempt of this kind would be seasonable; I pray that it may be useful. If it should in any measure contribute to remove or soften the prejudice by which great numbers are prevented from attending to the one thing needful, and induced to speak evil of that which they know not, I shall account my time well employed. I hope I have been influenced by no motives but the love of truth, and a desire to promote the welfare of immortal souls, and therefore have expressed my sentiments with plainness and freedom, as I think it behoves every one to do, when treating on subjects in which the truths of God and the souls of men are immediately concerned.
OLNEY, November, 1769.
OF THE FIRST PERIOD OF CHRISTIANITY.
The Wisdom and Goodness of God conspicuous in the Period assigned for Christ's Appearance; illustrated by a summary View of the State of Mankind before and at the Time of his Birth.
WHEN the first man had fallen from the happiness and perfection of his creation, had rendered himself corrupt and miserable, and was only capable of transmitting depravity and misery to his posterity; the goodness of God immediately revealed a remedy, adequate to his distressed situation. The Lord Jesus was promised under the character of the seed of the woman, as the great deliverer who should repair the breach of sin, and retrieve the ruin of human nature. From that hour, he became the object of faith, and the author of salvation, to every soul that aspired to communion with God, and earnestly sought deliverance from guilt and wrath, This discovery of a Saviour was, in the first ages, veiled under types and shadows; and, like the advancing day, became brighter and brighter, as the time of his mani festation drew near: but it was always sufficient to sustain the hopes, and to purify the hearts of the true worshippers of God. That the patriarchs and prophets
of old were in this sense Christians, that is to say, that' their joy and trust centred in the promised Messiah, and that the faith, whereby they overcame the world, was the same faith in the same Lord with ours, is unanswerably proved by St. Paul in several passages *; particularly in Heb. xi. where he at large insists on the characters of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Moses, to illustrate this very point.
At length, in the fulness of time (as the apostle speaks), the time marked out by the ancient prophecies, the time to which all the previous dispensations of Divine Providence had an express reference and subordination, and which was peculiarly suited to place the manifold wisdom of God and the truths of divine revelation in the clearest light; the long-expected Messiah appeared, as the surety and Saviour of sinners, to accomplish the great work of redemption. For these purposes he was born of a virgin, of the family of David, at the town of Bethlehem, as the prophets had foretold. This great event took place in the 27th year of the reign of Augustus Cæsar (computing from the battle of Actium); and, according to the most received authorities, almost 1920 years from the calling of Abraham, and about 4000 from the creation.
The pride and vanity of man, which prompt him to cavil with his Maker, and to dispute when he ought to obey, have often objected to the expedience and propriety of this appointment. It has been asked, if Christ's appearance was so absolutely necessary, why was it so long deferred? or, if mankind could do without him for so many thousand years, why not longer, or
Rom. iv.; Gal. iii. 16, 17.