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Every article of faith, and every rule of life necessary to constitute the Christian character, will be found completely stated and exemplified in the History of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
The four Gospels contain a view of all that we are bound to believe, as well as all that we are required to practise, to render us partakers of that “ life and immortality" which the Son of God came into the world to reveal fully unto men.
It is, therefore, of the utmost moment to our present and future welfare, that we should make these “ true and lively oracles” familiar to our understandings, as affording the only certain guide to happiness, by exhibiting to us a perfect pattern of holy living and dying, in the person of Him, who not only came to save us from the punishment due to our sins, but lo teach us by his example, and to assist us
by his grace, in gaining the victory over them.
If our blessed Lord judged it necessary to say to the Jews, “ search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me, (John v. 39.) it is equally our incumbent duty to study the history of his life, and to compare the same with the prophecies to which he referred, as bearing a direct testimony to his heavenly mission.
Either of the gospel narratives is sufficient for this purpose, to give us a precise view of the character of Jesus, and to establish his divine authority ; but since the Evangelists wrote at different periods, and without any communication with each other, it happens that some facts and declarations are contained in one history, concerning which the others are silent; and though all the inspired writers concur in the substantial circumstances, yet from an inattention to chronological exactness, some perplexity frequently arises in the perusal of them.
To remove this difficulty, many learned men have laboured to construct a harmony of the four gospels; disposing the relations and discourses of the whole into one regular series, or continued history of our Lord's life and ministry.
But in the order of arrangement most of these have varied considerably from each other; and though this difference no way
affects the credit of the sacred originals, or detracts from the merit of the writers who have been so laudably employed, yet, in general, the productions of these ingenious persons are better adapted to the use of theological students, than for the instruction of youth, and the edification of unlearned christians.
The performance which is now submitted to the public, lays no other claim to favour, than that of its being a plain, scriptural life of our blessed Saviour, given scrupulously in the exact words of the evangelical historians, according to the authorised version of the bible, the fidelity of which cannot be justly questioned, and the elegant simplicity of which cannot possibly be excelled.
It is proper to observe in this place, that the compiler has been indebted to the invaluable works of the learned and pious Dr. Macknight for a few notes, explanatory of the text, which are occasionally given at the foot of the page; but these are purposely short, that the narrative might not be disturbed by the parade of elucidation, or the reader perplexed by a display of controversial doubts and critical conjectures.
To young persons such a history as the present, may properly be recommended, particularly at a time when an alarming laxity of morals, leads, by a natural course, to that sceptical indifference concerning religious truth, which soon terminates in all the gloomy impiety of infidelity.
To preserve the rising generation from the pestilential evil which is so prevalent among us, is an imperious duty upon all who have a sense of their obligations as rational and accountable creatures: and as it is certain that no science can be understood which is not studied in its elements, so neither can the excellence of the christian religion be comprehended, unless it be systematically considered, to which end it is primarily necessary that the life of its founder be carefully read and compared with the prophecies and other scriptures which relate to his person, character, and works. If
young persons are thus familiarized to the gospel history, they will be able to