Obrazy na stronie
[ocr errors]

this place forced to resort to the other solution, that it was done by magic. It was not enough to fay, that a miracle which appeared to fo many thousand eye-witnesses was a forgery of Christ's disciples ; and therefore, supposing them to be eye-witnesses, he endeavours to fhew how they might be deceived.

IV. The unconverted Heathens, who were pressed by the many authorities that confirmed our Saviour's miracles, as well as the unbelieving Jews, who had actually seen them, were driven to account for them after the same manner : for, to work by magic in the Heathen way of speaking, was in the language of the Jews to cast out devils by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. Our Saviour, who knew that unbelievers in all ages would put this perverse interpretation on his miracles, has branded the malignity of those men who, contrary to the dictates of their own hearts, started such an unreasonable objection, as a blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, and declared not

only the guilt, but the punishment of so black a 'crime. At'the fame i time he condescended to shew the vanity and emptiness of this objece t'in against his miracles, by representing, that they evidently tended 2 to be destruction of thofe powers, to whose allistance the enemies of

his doctrine then ascribed them; an argument which, if duly weighed, - renders the objection fo very frivolous and groundless, that we may

venture to call it even blafphemy against common sense. Would magic endeavour to draw off the minds of men from the worship that was paid to ftocks and stones, to give them an abhorrence of those evil spirits who rejoiced in the most cruel sacrifices, and in offerings of the greatest impurity; and, in short, 'tó call upon mankind to exert their whole ftrength in the love and adoration of that Being

from whom they derived their existence, and on whom only they were 35 taught to depend every moment for the happiness and continuance of it it? Was it the business of magic to humanize our natures with com17pasion, forgiveness, and all the instances of the most extensive cha

rity? Would evil spirits contribute to make men sober, chaste, and temperate, and, in a word, to produce that reformation which was wrought in the moral world by those doctrines of our Saviour that received their fanction from his miracles? Nor is it possible to imagine, that evil spirits would enter into a combination with our Saviour,' to cut off all their correspondence and intercourse with mankind, and to prevent any for the future from addicting themselves to those rites and ceremonies which had done them so much honour. We see the early effect which Christianity had on the minds of men in this para ticular, by that number of books which were filled with the secret of magic, and made a facrifice to Christianity, by the converts mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. We have likewise an eminent in. Itance of the inconsistency of our religion with magic, in the history of the famous Aquila. This person, who was a kinsman of the em

peror Trajan, and likewise a man of great learning, notwithstanding i he had embraced Christianity, could not be brought off from the studies

of magic by the repeated admonitions of his fellow Christians; fo that at length they expelled him their society, as rather choosing to Vol. V. G

lose lose the reputation of so considerable a profelyte, than communicate with one who dealt in such dark and infernal practices. Besides, we may observe, that all the favourers of magic were the most professed and bitter enemies to the Christian religion. Not to mention Simon Magus and many others, I shall only take notice of two great perfecutors of Christianity, the emperors Adrian and Julian the apostate, both of them initiated in the mysteries of divination, and skilled in all the depths of magic. I shall only add, that evil spirits cannot be supposed to have concurred in the establishment of a religion which triumphed over them, drove them out of the places they poffefsed, and divested them of their influence on mankind ; nor would I mention this particular, though it be unanimously reported by all the ancient Christian authors, did it not appear, from the authorities above cited, that this was a fact confessed by Heathens themselves.

V. We now see what a multitude of Pagan teftimonies may be produced for all those remarkable passages, which might have been expected from them; and indeed of several, that, I believe, do more than answer your expectation, as they were not subjects in their own nature so exposed to public notoriety. It cannot be expected they should mention particulars which were transacted among the disciples only, or among fome few even of the disciples themselves ; such as the transfiguration, the agony in the garden, the appearance of Christ after his 2 resurrection, and others of the like nature. It was impossible for a Heathen author to relate these things; because, if he had believed them, he would no longer have been a Heathen, and by that means his testimony would not have been thought of fo much validity. Befides, his very report of facts, fo favourable to Christianity, would have prompted men to say that he was probably tainted with their doctrine. We have a parallel case in Hecatæus, a famous Greek histosian, who had several pa Cages in his book conformable to the history of the Jewish writers, which, when quoted by Josephus, as a confirmation of the Jewish history, when his Heathen adversaries could give no other answer to it, they would need fuppose that Hecatæus was a Jew in his heart, though they had no other reason for it, but because his history gave greater authority to the Jewish than the Egyptian records.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


SECTION III. 1. Introduction to a second list of Pagan Authors; who give teflimony of

our Saviour. II. A paffage concerning our Saviour, from a learned Athenian. III. His conversion from Paganism to Christianity makes his evidence

stronger than if he had continued a Pagan. : IV. Of another Athenian Philosopher converted to Christianity. V. Why their conversion, instead of weakening, strengthens their evidence

in defence of Christianity. VI. Their belief in our Saviour's history founded at first upon the prina

ciples of historical faith. VII. Their testimonies extended to all the particulars of our Saviour's history, VIII. As related by the four Evangelifs.

I. TO this list of Heathen writers, who make mention of our Saviour, or touch upon any particulars of his life, I shall add those authors who were at first Heathens, and afterwards converted to Chriftianity; upon which account, as I shall here shew, their testimonies are to be looked upon as the most authentic. And in this list of evidences, I shall confine myself to such learned Pagans, as came over to Christianity in the three first centuries, because those were the times in which men had the best means of informing themselves of the truth of our Saviour's history, and because among the great number of philosophers who came in afterwards, under the reigns of Christian emperors, there might be several who did it partly out of woridly motives.

II. Let us now suppose, that a learned Heathen writer, who lived within fixty years of our Saviour's crucifixion, after having shewn that false miracles were generally wrought in obfcurity, and before few or no witnesses, speaking of those which were wrought by our Saviour, has the following passage : “ But his works were always seen, because “ they were true ; they were seen by those who were healed, and by “ those who were raised from the dead. Nay, these persons who were “ thus healed and raised, were seen not only at the time of their " being healed and raised, but long afterwards. Nay, they were not “ seen only all the while our Saviour was upon earth, but survived " after his departure out of this world; nay, some of them were living “ in our days.”

III. I dare fay you would look upon this as a glorious attestation for the cause of Christianity, had it come from the band of a famous Athenian philosopher. These forementioned words, however, are actually the words of one who lived about sixty years after our Saviour's crucifixion, and was a famous philosopher in Athens; but it will be laid, he was a convert to Christianity. Now consider this matter impartially, and see if his teftimony is not much more valid for that reafon. Had he continued a Pagan philosopher, would not the world have said, that he was not fincere in what he writ, or did not believe it? for, if so, would not they have told us he would have embraced Chriftianity! This was indeed the case of this excellent man: he G 2


had so thoroughly examined the truth of our Saviour's history, and the excellency of that religion which he taught, and was so entirely convinced of both, that he became a profelyte, and died a martyr.

IV. Aristides was an Athenian philosopher, at the same time famed for his learning and wisdom, but converted to Christianity. As it cannot be questioned that he perused and approved the apology of Quadratus, in wbich is the passage just now cited, he joined with him in an apology of his own, to the same emperor, on the same subject. This apology, though now loft, was extant in the time of Ado Vinnensis, A. D. 789, and highly esteemed by the most learned Athenians, as that author witnesses. It must have contained great arguments for the truth of our Saviour's history, because in it he asserted the divinity of our Saviour, which could not but engage him in the proof of his miracles.

V. I do allow that, generally speaking, a man is not so acceptable and unquestioned an evidence in facts which make for the advancement of his own party. But we must consider, that, in the case before us, the persons to whom we appeal were of an opposite party, till they were persuaded of the truth of those very facts which they report. They bear evidence to a history in defence of Christianity,

the truth of which history was their motive to embrace Christianity. · They atteft facts which they had heard while they were yet Heathens ;

and,'had they not found reason to believe them, they would still have continued Heathens, and have made no mention of them in their writings.

VI. When a man is born under Christian parents, and trained up in the profession of that religion from a child, he generally guides himself by. the rules of Christian faith, in believing what is delivered by the Evangelifts : but the learned Pagans of antiquity, before they became Christians, were only guided by the common rules of historical faith; that is, they examined the nature of the evidence which was to be met with in common fame, tradition, and the writings of those persons who related them, together with the number, concurrence, veracity, and private characters of those persons; and being convinced, on all accounts, that they had the fame reason to'believe the history of our Saviour, as that of any other person to which they themselves were not actually eye-witnesles, they were bound by all the rules of historical faith, and of righe reason, to give credit to this history. This they did accordingly, and in consequence of it publiihed the same truths themselves, suffered many afflictions, and very often death itself, in the assertion of them. When I say, that an historical belief of the acts of our Saviour induced these learned Pagans to embrace his doctrine, I do not deny that there were many other motives which conduced to it; as the excellency of his precepts, the fulfilling of prophecies, the miracles of his disciples, the irreproachable lives and magnanimous sufferings of their followers, with other considerations of the fame nature: but, whatever other collateral arguments wrought


jes of which

[ocr errors]

the number, being convinceory of our Sav

more or less with philosophers of that age, it is certain that a belief in the history of our Saviour was one motive with every new convert, and that upon which all others turned, as being the very basis and foundation of Christianity.

VII. To this I must further add, that, as we have already seen many particular facts, which are recorded in Holy Writ, attested by particular Pagan authors, the testimony of those I am now going to produce, extends to the whole history of our Saviour, and to that continued series of actions which are related of him and his disciples in the books of the New Testament.

VIII. This evidently appears from their quotations out of the Evangelists, for the confirmation of any doctrine or account of our blessed Saviour. Nay, a learned man of our nation, who examined the writings of our most ancient fathers in another view, refers to re

veral passages in Irenæus, Tertullian, Clemens of Alexandria, Oridie gen, and Cyprian, by which he plainly shews, that each of these wri

ters ascribed to the four Evangelists by name their respective histories; er so that there is not the least room for doubting of their belief in the

history of our Saviour, as recorded in the Gospels. I shall only add, that three of the five fathers here mentioned, and probably four, were Pagans converted to Christianity, as they were all of them very inquisitive and deep in the knowledge of heathen learning and philosophy.

[ocr errors]

SECTION IV. I. Charafter of the times in which the Christian Religion was propagated,

II. And of many who embraced it. 13. III. Three eminent and early instances.

IV. Multitudes of learned men who came over to it. V. Belief in our Saviour's history, the first motive to their conversion. VI. The names of several Pagun philosophers, who were Christian converis. 1. IT happened very providentially to the honour of the Christian religion, that it did not take its rise in the dark illiterate ages of the world, but at a time when arts and sciences were at their height, and when there were men who niade it the business of their lives to search after truth, and fift the several opinions of philosophers and wise men concerning the duty, the end, and chief happiness of reasonable creatures.

II. Several of these therefore, when they had informed themselves of our Saviour's history, and examined with unprejudiced minds the doctrines and manners of his disciples and followers, were fo ftruck and convinced, that they professed themselves of that sect; notwithItanding by this profession, in that juncture of time, they bid fare. well to all the pleasures of this life, renounced all the views of ams bition, engaged in an uninterrupted course of severities, and exposed themselves to public hatred and contempt, to sufferings of all kinds, and to death itself,


G 3

« PoprzedniaDalej »