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social, and objects of pity and disgust, rather than of jealousy and alarm to the Roman government; so that their excessive vanity and superstition were too uninviting to divert the heathen from their attachments to pagan idolatry. For these and similar reasons, they were permitted to enjoy their religious rites, unmolested.
With the Christians, however, the case was far different. Their zeal and diligence in propagating their religion, excited the alarm of the Jews, and drew upon them the vengeance of the Scribes and Pharisees. The rapidity with which their principles spread throughout Judea, was the signal for persecution and death. This led the first christians to visit more distant regions, and to proclaim the truths of the gospel to the gentiles. When the Roman government became acquainted with its high pretensions, and were apprized of the zeal and activity of its advocates-when they saw to what an extent its principles were received; that it aimed at the utter subversion of all idolatry, and that the temples of pagan superstition were beginning to be deserted; they were alarmed for the safety of their religious institutions, and therefore commenced the work of persecution, with a view to exterminate what they termed an extravagant and pestilent superstition.
Many of those who were the subjects of these violent persecutions, were among the apostles and first disciples of Christ; were the subjects of his immediate instruction; listened to his discourses; saw him perform his miracles; witnessed his trial and condemnation, and saw him after he had risen from the dead. To a few of them, the gift of miracles was imparted, and frequent revelations were afforded, to encourage and inspire them with comfort amidst the trials and sufferings to which they were exposed, in the defence and dissemination of the gospel. They were the authors of the writings which are contained in the New Testament. The fortitude, the constancy and firmness with which they met and sustained the dreadful sufferings which their unfeeling persecutors inflicted, excited, indeed, the astonishment of their tormentors, but was mistaken for the most criminal obstinacy and indifference to life. These facts are too well authenticated to
admit of contradiction or doubt; since they are recorded by both the friends and enemies of the gospel.
A most rational and serious inquiry, therefore, presents itself for our solution. It is admitted, for it cannot be denied, that the profession of christianity was sure to entail suffering and disgrace; not only in Judea, but throughout the whole Roman empire: And those who embraced the faith of the christian religion were sure to be regarded as an infatuated, despised and miserable people. They could have no hope of worldly honor or distinction, nor could they anticipate any temporal advantage from attaching themselves to a religion which waged an indiscriminate war with the religion of the whole pagan world, and at the same time imposed its stern restraints upon all the unholy passions and desires of the human heart. It promised them none of that glory which encircles the brow of the patriot and the hero, but exposed them, not only to derision and insolence, but to the charge of contemptible folly and madness. It has been well observed by an able author in defence of christianity, that "A name and reputation in the world might sustain the dying moments of Socrates or Regulus; but what earthly principles can account for the intrepidity of those poor and miserable outcasts, who consigned themselves to a voluntary martyrdom in the cause of their religion ?" With all these circumstances in full view before us, let us bring the question home to every heart :-What possible inducement could the writers of the New Testament have had to impose these writings upon the world, if they knew them to be false? And this they must have known, if the things which they recorded did not actually transpire. To submit to all the sufferings of a bloody and unsparing persecution, and that in defence of what they knew to be a groundless imposture, would have been a species of madness and insanity, without a parallel in the history of all ages! But have they written like mad-men, or like men, laboring under the influence of mental alienation? Do not their writings rather demonstrate that they enjoyed clearness of intellect, soundness of understanding, soberness of reflection, conviction of duty, and a deep devotion of heart and purpose, to the honor of God and the moral and relig
ious improvement of mankind? These characteristics are too plain and palpable in all their productions to admit of denial.
Again, they voluntarily suffered martyrdom for what they wrote and taught-and it has universally been admitted that martyrdom is an incontrovertible evidence of the sincerity of those who submit to its sufferings. I shall probably be told, in reply, that men have suffered martyrdom in defence of principles which are directly opposite in their character. This is readily admitted; and it only proves that those who thus suffered, truly and unquestionably believed the sentiments which they espoused, and were sincerely devoted to the defence of their principles. The martyrdom of archbishop Cranmer afforded undoubted evidence of his sincere and conscientious rejection of what he conceived to be the errors of the papal creed, and of his thorough conviction of opposite sentiments. The martyrdom of Michael Servetus, in pursuance of the decision of the council of Geneva, carried undeniable proof of his sincerity in the belief of the sentiments which he had espoused: But neither of these cases proves the correctness of the sentiments which they embraced and maintained; it only proves that they sincerely believed the doctrines which they advanced, without the positive knowledge that they were in all respects true. It therefore shows that a man may be sincere, and yet be laboring under a mistake: That the errors which he embraces may exert an influence to induce him to suffer in their defence, in the same manner as if they were sanctioned by demonstrative evidence.
These acknowledgments, however, afford no conclusion that the apostles and primitive christians suffered in the defence of what they only believed or supposed to be true; for they suffered in attestation of what they saw and heard ; of what their senses took cognizance; and not merely of what their understandings took cognizance, as a matter of opinion or belief. They heard the preaching and saw the miracles of Christ for its confirmation; nay, more,they were with him after his resurrection from the dead, and therefore must have known the truth of what they declared. Their sufferings, therefore, furnished the in
controvertible evidence, not only of the sincerity of their faith, but of the truth and certainly of what they proclaimed.
The miracles which these witnesses performed, and by which they commended their message to the confidence of the multitude, stand forth as an imperishable monument of the divine authority of what they wrote and taught. These writings are bequeathed us as an invaluable legacy, containing a transcript of the will of God, the standard of evangelical faith, and a most ample and perfect directory in all the important duties which devolve upon us, in our relation to the Supreme Being, and to all the creatures of his forming hand. It is the glorious charter of immortality, the pledge of eternal life.
To reject the truth of what these writings contain, is to renounce the hope of all which can sustain our hearts under the severest conflicts of life, and which can support our courage amidst the sharpest trials which were ever allotted for the experience of human nature. But why do we talk of their rejection? Do they contain any thing offensive to reason, or to the purest morality which ever refined and elevated the character of man? It cannot be pretended, with the least semblance of justice; for the opposite character has always been awarded to these writings, even by the most violent opposers of revealed religion.
The writings of the New Testament contain a clear and interesting description of the third and last dispensation of infinite wisdom and goodness, by which the glorious designs of Heaven are unfolded to man, and by whose instructions we are furnished with the rules of every moral and social duty, together with a most shining and forcible example of all those important virtues, in the life and character of the distinguished Founder of our religion. The great object of his life was that of improving the condition of man, and of elevating and refining the sensibilities of our common nature. They teach us, in a clear and impressive manner, that the centre to which all his designs and actions tended, was that of releasing mankind from the bondage of ignorance, superstition and vice, and
of conforming the manners and habits of the intelligent family of God to rules of the most exaited piety and virtue.
To this worthy end, and for the security of this ennobling design, he combined the purest precepts with the most perfect example. Never has a character been presented to the world so amiable and godlike, and at the same time, so equally distant from the phrenzy of enthusiasm, the craft of imposture, and the haughty indifference of stoical pride. His example was the most perfect exhibition of holiness; of devotion to the honor of God; of zeal for the glory of the great Creator; of ardent solicitude for the improvement and happiness of man; of charity and kindness; of sympathy and love; of condescension and forbearance; of meekness, humility and selfdenial.
The religion which he taught, was totally unconnected with all the schemes of human policy: It is true that it forcibly inculcated the duty of submission to human laws, but it never sought to seat its votaries in the chair of civil and political authority on the contrary, it openly proclaimed a kingdom which was not of this world! It directed all its energies to extinguish the flame of every unholy passion of the heart, and sought to elevate the human mind above the grovelling propensities which enslave the noble powers of the soul, check the spontaneous flow of charity, and obstruct the gentle currents of benignity, peace, and universal kindness; so unspeakably auspicious to the welfare of man. The exalted views which the writings of the New Testament inculcate, of the character and government of God, are such as to commend themselves to our reason; as they are worthy of the most excellent of all possible beings, and such as to excite our highest reverence, since they give birth to the most sincere affections of the soul, and call forth the liveliest emotions of gratitude, confidence and joy. They represent him as a Father, of universal benignity, whose mercy and grace, like the blessings of his providence, flow free and unconfined, to all the creatures of his hand, throughout the universe. They make us acquainted with our duty to him, as the children of his love; point out the path of improvement and happiness, and furnish us with a knowledge