John Fleetwood.

The life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ : containing a full, accurate, and universal history from his taking upon himself our nature to his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension: together with the lives, transactions, and sufferings of his holy evangelists, apostles, disciples, and other pri online

. (page 1 of 67)
Online LibraryJohn FleetwoodThe life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ : containing a full, accurate, and universal history from his taking upon himself our nature to his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension: together with the lives, transactions, and sufferings of his holy evangelists, apostles, disciples, and other pri → online text (page 1 of 67)
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The first and greatest object that should most materially en-
gage the attention of Mankind is, the pursuit of that knowledge
which tends to promote their welfare while on this transitory stage
of life, and their eternal happiness in that which is to come. No
measures whatever can be taken to effect this, but the most earn-
est endeavors to make themselves perfectly acquainted with, and
strictly to follow the example of Our Blessed Redeemer, the
great Captain of our sufferings — the preserver of our souls from
death to life everlasting — the grand pattern of sanctity, humility,
meekness, and charity — the King of Glory — the guiding star to
righteousness — and who, as himself expresses it, is *' the Way,
the Truth, and the Life."

As, therefore, in Our Blessed Redeemer only, rests the whole
of our eternal salvation, let Him only engross our most serious at-
tention : and let the examples of his Holy Apostles, who have
sealed their faith with their blood, inspire us with resolution to
make us emulous to be accounted voluntary servants of Christ,
who condescended to suffer an ignominious and painful death, to
clear us from our sins, and the punishment due to our manifold

In seriously perusing the Life and Transactions of the Great
Redeemer of Mankind, we shall there find those balmy sweets,
those solid comforts, which, if properly attended to, will promote
our felicity here, and secure to us eternal happiness hereafter. If
we endeavor to pursue the divine system laid down by Our Bless-
ed Saviour, there is no reason to doubt but our obedience will
be crowned with that reward which he has been pleased to promise


to all those who imitate his glorious example. Our Blessed Lord
liimself tells us, that if we are poor in spirit, we shall gain the
kingdom of heaven — if we mourn here, we shall be comforted —
if we hunger and thirst after righteousness, we shall be filled. It
is from these assurances that St. Augustine says, " the happiness
of this life consists in the Holy Gospel, without which we cannot
come to the knowledge of God." All true knowledge, virtue and
perfection, that a Christian can desire, or attain to, are contained
in the doctrines and transactions of Our Glorious Redeemer ; who
teaches us, that righteousness and holiness consist in the inward
purity and integrity of the mind, and not in the outward show of
^vorks — in a conscience void of offence, not in the pompous ap-
plause of men — in humility, not in ostentation — in contempt, not
in pursuit of worldly honors — and he farther teaches us to love
our enemies as well as our friends. Have we read of the nature
of true faith ; of trusting in Christ alone ; and how we ought not
to glory but in HiM. Here we read, also, of the certainty of
salvation, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body,
and of life eternal.

We most sincerely hope, that the perusal of this work will
produce that effect for which it is so happily adapted, namely,
the promotion of the cause of Christianity, and making man-
kind wise unto salvation. A serious attention to the divine
transactions contained in this history, will fill the mind with
awful, though pleasing ideas ; banish every doubt ; confirm the
reader in the most sublime truths, and fill his soul with divine

We shall only further observe, that in the execution of this
pious work, we have endeavored to improve the understanding
and warm the heart, to inspire the mind with gratitude for the
astonishing love of a dying Saviour, and to excite the soul to
embrace his kind invitations of forgiveness, of happiness, and






It is a well-attested truth, that immorality ever grows with
infidelit}^ and to the prevalence of vice must certainly be impu-
ted that scorn and derision in which too many in the present day
hold the sacred oracles of God, the revealed will of the Great
Creator of Heaven and Earth.

From hence, therefore, it is reasonable to ask, what cause
can produce so strange a deviation from the ways of God f
Doubtless from that unhapp}^ disregard, either to the Gospel in
general, or to his peculiar and essential truths so visible in the
world, and which appear to be continually increasing. It is
too evident that multitudes among us, like those of old, who
thought and professed themselves the wisest of mankind, or, in
other words, the free-thinkers of the age, have been desirous of
banishing God and his truths from their knowledge ; and it is
therefore the less to be wondered at, if " God has given them
up to a reprobate mind ; to the most infamous lusts and enor-
mities ; and to a depth of degeneracy, which, while it is in part
the natural consequence, is in part also the just, but dreadful
punishment of their apostacy from the faith. And we are per-
suaded that those who wish well to the cause of Christ, as
every true Christian most certainly does, cannot serve it more
eflectually, than by endeavoring to establish men in their belief
of the Gospel in general, and to build them up in the most holy
faith. The latter, we flatter ourselves, we have sufficiently
done in the following lives of the blessed Jesus, and his Apos-
tles and followers ; and propose in this Dissertation, to prove
that the Christian Religion is true, and owes its origin to God


It will be needless to observe, that this is a matter of the high-
est importance, as every one will apprehend that this is the foun-
dation of all our hopes. It is absolutely necessary in this age
of libertinism, that every Christian should be able *' to give a
reason for the hope that is in him," and to put to silence the
tongues of those men that have *' evil will at Zion." And may
the Almighty enable us to plead his cause with success ! May
the divine Spirit accompany these arguments, that the faith of
our readers being more and more established, it may appear that
the tree is watered at the roots, by all the other graces growing
and flourishing in an equal proportion !

God has made ample provision for the honor and support of
his Gospel, by furnishing it with a variety of proofs, which
may, with undiminished, and indeed, with growing conviction,
be displayed in the eyes of the whole world : and we should be
greatly wanting in gratitude to him, in zeal for a Redeemer's
kingdom, and in charitable concern for the conversion of those
who reject the Gospel, as well as for the edification of those who
embrace it, should we wholl}' overlook those arguments, or neg-
lect to acquaint ourselves with them. This is the evidence we
propose, and beg our readers would peruse it with becoming

In prosecution of this great design, we shall endeavor more
particularly to shew, that if we take the matter on a general
survey, it will appear highly probable, that such a system of
doctrines and precepts, as we find Christianity to be, should
indeed have been a " divine Revelation ;" and then, that if
we examine into the external evidence of it, we shall find it
certain in fact that it was so, and that it had its origin from
on high.

First, then, we are to shew, that taking the matter merely in
theory, it will appear highly probable, that such a system as the
Gospel, should be indeed, a divine revelation.

To prove this, we shall endeavor to shew. That the state
of mankind was such as greatly to need a revelation ; That
there seems, from the light of nature, encouragement to hope
that God would grant one; That it is reasonable to believe,
that if any were made, it should be introduced and transmitted
as Christianity was ; and, That its general nature and substance
should be such as we find that of the Gospel is. If we satisfac-
torily prove these particulars, there will be a strong presumptive
evidence that the " Gospel is from God," and a^ fair way will
be opened for that more divine proof which is principally in-

1. The case of mankind is natural] v such as to need a divine


We would not be understood to speak here of a man in hig
original state, though even then, some instruction from above
seemed necessary to inform him of many particulars, which it
was highly proper for him then to know ; but we speak of him
in the degenerate condition in which he now so evidently lies,
by whatever means he fell into it. It is very easy to make florid
encomiums on the perfection of natural light, and to deceive
unwary readers by an ambiguous term, as a late author has done
in his deistical wrirtings; a fallacy beneath an ingenious reason-
er, and which along ought to have exposed his book to the con-
tempt of every serious reader. Truth needs no disguise ; a
candid advocate scorns such subterfuges ; let facts speak for
themselves, and controversy will soon be decided. We appeal
to every intelligent reader, who is acquainted with the records of
antiquity, or that has any knowledge of the present state of those
countries where Christianity is unknown, whether it is not too
obvious a truth, that the whole heathen world has lain, and still
lies in a state of wickedness. Have not the greater part of them
been perpetually bewildered in their religious notions and prac-
tices, very different from each other, and almost equally differ-
ing on all sides from the appearances of truth and reason ? Is
any thing so wild as not to have been believed ; any thing go in-
famous as not to have been practised by them, while they not
only pretended to justify it by reason, but to have consecrated it
as a part of their religion ? To this very day, what are the dis-
coveries of new nations in the American or African world ; but,
generally speaking, the opening new scenes of enormity ? Ra-
pine, lust, cruelty, human sacrifices, and the most stupid idola-
tries, are, and always have been, the morahty and religion of
almost all the Pagan nations under heaven ; and if they have
discovered a dawn of reason, it has only sufficed to convince
them of the want of an abler guide, to direct them in pursuit of
real happiness.

But perhaps some of our readers have only heard those
things by uncertain reports. If this be the case, look around
you within the sphere of your own observation, and remark the
temper and character of the generality of those who have
been educated in a Christian, and even in a Protestant country.
Observe their ignorance and forgetfulness of the Divine Being,
their impieties, their debaucheries, their fraud, their oppression,
their pride, their avarice, their ambition, their unnatural in-
sensibility of the wants, 'sorrows, and interest of each other;
and when you see how bad they generally are in the midst of
so many advantages, judge by that of the probable state of
those that want them. When the candid reader has well weigh-
ed these particulars, let him judge whether a revelation be an
unnecessary thing*


2. There is, from the light of nature, considerable encourage-
ment to hope, that God would favor his creatures with so desira-
ble a thing as a revelation appears to be.

That a revelation is in itself a possible thnig is evident be-
yond all shadow of doubt. Shall not He that " made man's
mouth," who has given us this wonderful faculty of discovering
our sentiments, and communicating our ideas to each other:
shall not He be able to converse with his rational creatures, and,
by sensible manifestations, or inward impressions, to convey
the knowledge of things which lie beyond the discernment of their
natural faculties, and yet may be highly conducive to their ad-
vantage ? To own a God, and to deny him such a power would
be a notorious contradiction. But it may appear much more du-
bious, whether he will please to confer such a favor on sinful

Now it must be acknowledged, that he would not certainly
conclude he would never doit; considering, on the one hand,
how justly they stood exposed to his final displeasure : and, on
the other, what provision he had made by the frame of the hu-
man mind, and of nature around us, for giving us such noti-
ces of himself, as would leave us inexcusable, if we either failed
to know him, or to glorify him as God, as the apostle argues
at large. (Rom. i. 20, &:c.) Nevertheless, we should have
something of this kind to hope, from considering God as the
indulgent father of his creatures ; from observing the tender care
he takes of us, and the hberal supply which he grants for the
support of the animal life ; especially from the provision he has
made for man, considered as a guilty and calamitous creature,
by the medicinal and healing virtues he has given to the produc-
tions of nature, which man in a perfect state of rectitude and
happiness, never would have needed.

This is a circumstance which seems strongly to intimate, that
he would, some time or other, graciously provide an adequate
remedy to heal the minds of the children of men ; and that he
would interpose to instruct them in his own nature, in the man-
ner in which he is to be served, and in the final treatment which
they may expect from him. And certainly such an apprehension
seems very congruous to the sentiments of the generality of man-
kind, a sufficient proof that men naturally expect some such kind
of interposition of the Almighty.

3. It is natural to conclude, that if a revelation were given, it
would be introduced, and transmitted in such a manner as the
Evangelists shew us Christianity was.

It is, for instance, highly probable that it should be taught
either by some illustrious person, sent down from a superior
world, or at least by a man of eminent wisdom and piety, who
should himself have been not only a teacher, but an example


of righteousness. In order to this, it seems probable, that he
should be led through a series of calamities and distress ; since,
otherwise, he could not have been a pattern of that resignation,
which adorns adversity, and is peculiar to it. And it might
also have been expected that, in the extremity of his distress,
the Almighty, whose messenger he was, should, in some ex-
traordinary manner, have interposed either to preserve or to
recover him from deatlx.

It is, moreover, exceedingly probable, that such a person,
and perhaps also those who were at first employed as his mes-
sengers to the world, should be endowed with a power of work-
ing miracles, both to awaken men's attention, and to prove his
divine mission, and the consequent truth of his doctrines, some
of which might perhaps be capable of no other proof; or if
they were, it is certain that no method of arguing is so short,
so plain, and so forcible, and on the whole so well suited to
conviction, and probably, to the reformation of mankind, as a
course of evident, repeated, and uncontrolled miracles. And
such a method of proof is especially adapted to the populace,
who are incomparably the greater part of mankind, and for
whose benefit we may assure ourselves a revelation would be
chiefly designed. It might be added, that it was no way im-
probable, though -not in itself certain, that a dispensation should
open gradually to the world ; and that the most illustrious mes-
senger of God to men should be ushered in by some predictions
which should raise a great expectation of his appearance, and
have an evident accomplishment in him.

As to the propagation of a religion so introduced, it seems
no way improbable, that having been thus established in its
first age, it should be transmitted to future generations by cred-
ible testimony, as other important facts are. It is certain, that
affairs of the utmost moment, transacted among men, depend on
testimony ; on this, voyages are undertaken, settlements made,
and controversies decided ; controversies on which not only the
estates but the lives of men depend. Though it must be owned,
that such an historical evidence is not equally convincing with
miracles which are wrought before our own eyes ; yet it is certain
it may rise to such a degree as to exclude all reasonable doubt.
We know not why we should expect, that the evidence of a rev-
elation should be such as universally to compel the immediate
acquiescence of all to whom it is- ofiered. It appears much
more probable, that it should be so adjusted as to be a kind of
touchstone to the tempers and characters of men, capable,
indeed, of giving ample satisfaction to the diligent and candid
inquirer, yet attended with -some circumstances, from whence
the captious and perverse might take occasion to cavil and
object. Such we might reasonablv suppose a revelation would

2 *'


be, and such we maintain Christianity is. The teachers of it
undertake to prove that it was thus introduced, thus established,
and thus transmitted ; and we trust that this is a strong pre-
sumption in its favor, especially as we can add,

4. That the principal doctrines contained in the Gospel" are
of such a nature, that we might in general suppose a divine
revelation would be — rational, practical, and sublime.

It is natural to imagine, that in a revelation of a religion
from God, the great principles of natural religion should be
clearly asserted, and strongly maintained : such as the existence,
the unity, the perfection, and the providence of God ; ijie essen-
tial and immutable difference between moral good and evil ;
the obligations we are under to the various branches of virtue,
whether human, social, or divine ; the value and immortality of
the soul ; and the rewards and punishments of a future state.
All these particulars every rational person would conclude were
contained in it ; and that upon the whole it should appear cal-
culated to form men's minds to a proper temper, rather than to
amuse them with curious speculations.

It might, indeed, be farther supposed, that such a revelation
would contain some things which could not have been learned
from the highest improvements of natural light: such as, that
God would pardon the sins of the most flagrant ofl^ender, on
account of the satisfaction made b}^ his dear Son, the Redeemer
of the world ; that he would work holy desires in the hearts of
his people, by the power of his divine grace, and form them for
happiness hereafter by implanting in them a principle of ho-

In short, the Christian system is undoubtedly worthy of God,
nor is it possible to imagine from whom else it could have pro-

Thus have we considered the first branch of the argument,
and shewn, we hope satisfactorily, that, taking the Christian
system only in theory, it appears highly probable. The truth
is, that to embrace the Gospel is so safe, and upon the whole
so comfortable a tiling, that a wise man would deliberately ven-
ture his all upon it^ though nothing more could be offered for
its confirmation. But, blessed be God, we have a great deal
more to ofler in this important cause ; and can add, with still
greater confidence, that it is not only probable in theory, but,

Secondly, That it is in fact certain, that Christianity is, in-
deed, a divine revelation-.

* From what lias been said, it sufticienlly appears, lliat a revelation was abso-
lutely necessary lo instruct mankind in the most important principles of religion ;
and consequently all the faUacious arguments of deistical writers, against the
necessity of an extraordinary revelation, fall to the ground like u mighty structure
when the foundation is destroyed.


On this it must be confessed the chief stress is to be laid ;
and therefore we shall insist more largely on this branch of the
argument, and endeavor, by tlie divine assistance, to prove the
certainty of this great, this important fact. And in order to
this, it will be necessary to shew,

I. That the books in the New Testament, now extant, may
be depended upon as written by the first preachers and pub-
lishers of Christianity. AikI,

II. That from hence it will certainly follow that what they
assert is true, and that the religion they teach brings with it
such evidences of a divine authority, as may justly recommend
it to our acceptance.

Each of these heads would furnish matter for several vol-
umes ; but as we are writing only a Dissertation, it is our
business to strike at the most obvious and important particulars,
by which they may be briefly illustrated and confirmed.

We are to prove, that the books of the New Testament, now
extant, were written by the first preachers and publishers of

We shall nov/ confine ourselves to the books of the New
Testament, as that particular part of the sacred oracles has
engrossed our present attention, though we propose, in another
place, to lay down some solid arguments in defence of the au-
thenticit}^ of the Old, which is an invaluable treasure, being the
very foundation of the New, and demands our dail}^ pleasing
and grateful perusal, and is capable of being defended in a man-
ner we are persuaded its most subtle enemies will never be able
to answer.

After premising these particulars ; we shall go on to the argu-
ment, and advance it by the following degrees : We shall prove
that Christianity is an ancient religion ; — That there was such
a person as Jesus of Nazareth crucified above seventeen hun-
dred years ago, at Jerusalem ; — That the first preachers of his
religion wrote books, which went by the name of those that
now make up the volume of the New Testament ; — And that
the English translation of them, now publicly used, is in the
main faithful, and may be depended upon.

1. It is certain that Christianity is not a new religion, but
one that was maintained by great multitudes soon after the time
in which the Gospels tell us Jesus appeared.

That there was, considerably more than seventeen hundred
years ago, a body of men that went by the name of Christians,
is full as evident as that a race of men was then subsisting in
the world ; nor do we know that any enemy to the religion of
Jesus has ever been vile and confident enough to dispute it.
Indeed, there are such numbers, both of Christian and Heathen
writers, who attest this fact, that it would be madness to deny


it, and therefore superfluous for us to prove it. But we cannot
help observing:, that Tacitus, Suetonius, Pliny, Marcus Antoni-
nus, and others, not only attest the existence of such a body of
men, but also inform us of the extreme persecutions they under-
went in the very infancy of their religion ; a strong evidence
that they were firmly persuaded that their rehgion was from
on hiffh.

2. That there was such a person as Jesus of Nazareth, who
was crucified at Jerusalem, when Pontius Pilate was the Roman
governor there.

It can never be imagined, that multitudes of people should
take their names from Christ, and sacrifice their lives for their
adherence to him, even in the same age in which he lived, if
they had not been well assured that there was such a person.
Nay, Tacitus himself tells us that he was put to death under
Pontius Pilate, who was procurator of Judea in the reign of
Tiberius. And it is well known that the primitive Christian
apologists often appeal to the acts of Pilate, or the memoirs cf
his government, which he, according to the custom of all other
procurators, transmitted to Rome, as containing an account of
these transactions ; and as the appeal was made to those who
had the command of the pubhc records, we may assure our-
selves such testimonies were then extant. But it is a fact which
our enemies never denied. They owned it ; they even gloried
in it, and upbraided the Christians with the infamous death of

Online LibraryJohn FleetwoodThe life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ : containing a full, accurate, and universal history from his taking upon himself our nature to his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension: together with the lives, transactions, and sufferings of his holy evangelists, apostles, disciples, and other pri → online text (page 1 of 67)