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of their country. Some of the foulest vices were permitted them
and the blind, and to the cleansing of lepers. Accordingly, this ned C power in the Christian religion, whereby it produced effects fa
glorious, recommended it not a little to the virtuous and inquisitive
among the Heathens, who examined its evidences. By the consent let 4 therefore of all prudent men, it were ridiculous to the last degree, to
fancy that the Apostles, by means merely human, produced this great that change in the manners of such multitudes, formerly enslaved to their nouncil lufts, and fold under fin. vine ? Thirdly, That which is most astonishing in this matter, and which mone & molt clearly shews the conversion of the world to be the effect, not 2013 « of any human power or persuasion, far less the effect of the persuaEl fion of an handful of people who were looked upon as the offscourings s & of the earth, is this; by forsaking their native religions, and emEdge & bracing Christianity, the Heathens not only made shipwreck of all okoll the goods of this life, but exposed their persons to sufferings, to
torture, and to death. But of this enough has been said in the foreonder going articles. I therefore infer, upon the justest principles, that by Please such instruments as the Christian Apostles, and in such circumstances in the of persecution as the profession of the gospel brought men into in , the early ages, the world could not have been converted, if the facts 2015 6. contained in the gospels were false, and particularly if the Apostles PR and first preachers of Christianity wrought no miracles in confirmaJy:!tion of their reports concerning their Master.
11. The argument for the truth of the gospel-history, drawn from the conversion of the world to Christianity, is rendered com
plete by this consideration, That our religion has sublifted through make the course of seventeen centuries in full vigour, notwithstanding its
"Thus Amphitryon, speaking of Jupiter's intrigue with his wife Alcmena, says, “ Po!
enemies have strenuously attacked it both with arguments and arms. Its standing the test of inquiry, especially in its infancy, is a circumstance which does great honour to the gospel. For the space of 300 years, when the Christian religion had no protection from the magistrate, all men were at liberty, nay were encouraged to argue against it with the greatest boldness. In later times, indeed, Infidels are not allowed this liberty in certain countries where Christianity prevails; but in others they may Speak their freely, and have done it without the least disadvantage to our caufe. If the gospel-history were a forgery, and the Christian religion a delusion, how comes it that, in the course of so many ages of free debate, neither of them has been detected? Other falle religions have made progress in the world, by favour of ignorance, by the force of novelty, by the countenance of civil authority, by the power of the sword, in short, by any lucky concurrence of circumItances you please to name : but they have flourished only for a while. No sooner have the causes ceased by which they obtained, than they have vanished. The ravings of enthusiasm too have suddenly intoxicated multitudes. But by raging and spreading, this fire hath always spent itself. Men have returned to a solid way of thinking, without any pains taken to convince them, and but the names of those sects subfist at this day; whereas Christianity has continued for the space of seventeen bundred years, in spite of all opposition. Moreover, being at present the prevailing religion in many countries, it is as likely to continue now as ever. Wherefore the truth of the gospel-history is firmly supported, as by many buttresses, so by the stability and permanency of the Christian religion itself; and the rather that the founder of Christianity foretold expressly, that his religion and church would continue to the end of time. " Upon this rock will I build my church, and the « gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” See B. III. C. V. § 2. fine. We therefore his disciples, who with joy have seen in vart the wonderful accomplishment of our Master's prediction, are willing to risk the whole cause on this single event. And putting it on such a footing, the longer that Christianity continues in the world, though men are the farther removed from the age in which its miracles were wrought, yet the stronger does the evidence of its divinity become.
Let'us now join together the different particulars comprehended under the conversion of the world. The Christian religion was introduced every where, in opposition to the sword of the magistrate, the craft of the priests, the pride of the philosophers, the pallions and prejudices of the people. What do you think was capable of surmounting all these difficulties, other than the power of truth and of miracles united ?- This religion was not propagated in the dark, nor delivered out by parcels, according to the usual method in which impoftures are made to succeed; but was fully laid before men all at once, that they might judge of the whole under one view. Therefore mankind were not cheated into the belief of its
but received it upon proper examination and conviction. The gospel-history was first preached and first believed by multitudes in Judea, where Jesus exercised his ministry, and where every individual had access to know whether the things told of him were real matters of fact. In this country, surely, his history never would have been received, unless it was true, and known to be so by all men.-Moreover, the history of Jesus was preached and believed, in the most noted countries and cities of the world, in the very age wherein he is said to have lived. In that age certainly men, whose faculties were improved by the most perfect Itate of social life, were good judges of the evidence offered in support of the facts in the gospel-history : especially as it is well known, that the age wherein the apostles went about preaching the history of Jesus, was remarkable for those improvements whereby the human faculties are strength
ened ; remarkable likewise for the communication which subfifted bepalju tween all countries ; so that wise men could not only judge of such ching extraordinary thifigs as happened, but could impart to one another to their sense of those matters. In so enlightened an age, if the things pily told of the Lord Jesus had been falle, they would instantly have been a los discerned to be lo. And the confutation of them would quickly ng 20 have passed from one country to another, to the utter confusion of the
persons who endeavoured to propagate the belief of them. It is true, the generality of the first converts were men in the middle and lower
Itations of life. But even there, in an age of such knowledge and 1. Ti intercourse, were fufficiently secured against false pretensions of any as bis kind. Or if you suppose their minds not sufficiently tinctured with Chris knowledge, you should consider, that in proportion to their ignorance Cianity their attachment to their first religious notions would be strong'; minutes and that to bring persons of this character and rank to change their sch, a principles, no arguments would be sufficient but evident miracles. _JI. 9 Wherefore this class of men being converted in such numbers, and so mave fis early, is an absolute demonstration that many and great miracles adidas were every where wrought by the first preachers of the gospel.-But and pure there wanted not allo among the first converts to Christianity, even pues *in the earliest age, a number of men remarkable for their station, ofage in fice, genius, education, and fortune, who were well qualified to
judge of our religion. The conversion of such persons adds great ! Jultre to the triumphs of the gospel. Its evidences approved themmmpris felves, not only to the multitude, but to men of the most refined sense religion and of the greatest abilities. -However, that which makes the fore.
going circumstances of more weighty consideration is, that the prothepine tellion of Christianity led all without exception to renounce the si capely world, and exposed them to the most terrible sufferings; sufferings. ver of the bare mention of which is shocking to human nature, and horrible. coated y Who does not see that such numbers of men, of different characters Gi meitenes and stations in every country, could not possibly have been persuaded, e land in these circumstances and at that time, to embrace the Christian rea runt ligion, unless they had had the clearest evidence given them of the R 3
truth of the gospel-history ? namely, the agreeing attestations of a sufficient number of eye-witnesses, qualified to judge and report the matters which they testified, and who at the same time verified their attestation, by performing in the presence of the world miracles equal to, if not greater than those they ascribed to their master, particu. Jarly by communicating to those who received their testimony concerning him, the power of working the like miracles. This concluSion is strengthened by the consideration of the character of the perfons who persuaded mankind to change their belief. They were a handful of the meanest of the people, from a nation despised on account of the ill-will which they bare towards the rest of mankind, Moreover, in all countries where they preached, they were absolute strangers, of whose veracity no one had any knowledge. (See the last paragraph of the following section). Yet these men, in a very short space, prevailed with thousands every where to change their ben lief, and to reform their lives, however vicious they had been for. merly. Does not every one see, that, to make themselves understood in all countries, these strangers must have been endued by God with the gift of tongues; that, to procure themselves credit, they must have wrought many evident miracles; and that, to make their fermons have the desired effect in reforming mankind, they must have been accompanied with the power and grace of God!Lastly, the Christian religion, thus introduced by the power of God and of truth, hath been supported in the world by the same powers, through a course of many ages, amidst the shocks of arms and a thousand other acci. dents fufficient to have destroyed it, if the divine protection had been wanting. Moreover, it will be continued in the world to the end
of time; nay, and will prevail universally in spite of all opposition, · to the utter destruction of idol-worship and false religion of every
kind. From all which, the conclusion is manifeft and certain ; that
of the proof resulting from the conversion of the world to Chriftianity.
I. IT is pretended, that neither the truth of the gospel- history in general, nor of the apostles miracles in particular, is established by the conversion of the world to Christianity; because this may have been effected, merely by the reasonableness of the Christian doctrines and precepts, approving themselves so fully to the judgement and coniciences of all men, that they could not fail to be res ceived every where.
1. To this I answer, that though the Chriftian religion be beyond comparison the best system of theology and morality that ever was proposed to the world, it cannot be refused that many of its doctrines and precepts are such as to the Heathens would appear mere foolishness. Of the doctrines the following may be mentioned as examples. The incarnation of the Son of God: his miraculous conception : his being constituted judge of the quick and the dead : and his having a right to the same honour with the Father : all which the Gentiles would look upon as downright absurdities, considering the meanness of his condition, the persecutions which he underwent, and the ignominy of his death. And that they actually considered them as absurdities, is evident from Celsus's books, the greatest part of which was taken up in ridiculing the Christians, for pretending that the author of their religion is God, and came down from heaven. Moreover, to the philosophers nothing could appear more ridiculous than the doctrine of salvation through a crucified Saviour, which yet the apostles preached with such earneftness and diligence, that it may be said to have been their principal topic every where. Nor muft the resurrection of the body be omitted in mentioning the doctrines of Christianity, which to human wisdom would appear liable to manifold objections. Even the precepts of the gospel were not altogether free from exception in the eyes of men devoted to pleasure, as the Gentiles generally were. In this number we may reckon the precepts concerning self-denial, humility, forgiveness of injuries, abftinence from evil desires, and the like, so often and so earnestly inculcated in the gora pels. Moreover, the many prohibitions of fornication and drunkenness, given by the Apostles in their sermons and epistles, would appear to the Heathens unreasonable severities; and the rather, that, instead of being reckoned vices, both the one and the other was authorised by the laws and customs of many states, both made part of the worship of their gods, and both were patronized by the opinions and practices of the philosophers * It is evident, therefore, that the doctrines and precepts just now mentioned, instead of conciliating fa
"Thus Porphyry tells of Socrates, Ap. Cyrill. contr. Julian. lib. VI. p. 186. ". That "he was moderate in venereal matters, yet without injury to any one. For he either made “ use of his wife, or of common whores.” As to what Lucian so often affirms of Socrates in his Dialogues, that he was addicted to the vice common among the Greeks, the love of boys, I cannot tell whether it is to be believed.--.What opinion Cicero and the rest had of fornication, may be learned from the following passage of his oration, Pro M, Cælio, cap. 20: “Si quis eft qui etiam meretriciis amoribus interdictum juventuti putet ; eft ille qui.
dem valde severus, negare non possuin : fed abhorret non modo ab hujus feculi licentia, verum etiam a majorum consuetudine, atque conceffis. Quando enim hoc non factum eft
Quando reprehenfum? Quando non permissum ? Quando denique fuit, ut, quod licet, non * Siceret ?" On this head let us hear the philosophers also. Epictet. Enchir. C. 47. Ilego Pροδισια, εις δυναμιν προ γαμα καθαρεύλεον· απιομενω δε, ως νομιμον εςι, μελα ηπλεον. --, mato, De legib. lib. VI. TIIVEIN d'à peony, anno. 8 WETEI, wany éograig Ty To
Soul. Jes, tozlais, #TE do pass. Ibid. lib. I, Mn Savmale, včeve, vopeu soll'nunov r . Xaler. Maxim. lib. II. cap. 6. “ Siccæ enim est fanum Veneris, in quod fe matronæ conferebant : atque inde procedentes ad quæstum dotes, corporis injuria, contrahebant; bonesto animorum tum inhonefto vinculo, conjugio juncturæ."--- Justin. lib. XXII. c. 3. bocrenfes voverant,aut die fefto Veneris virgines fuas prostitucrent.”