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tablished theology and worship of every other country. We cannot feel much reluctance in be lieving, that, when the messengers of such a system went about not only publishing their opinions, but collecting proselytes, and forming regular societies of proselytes, they should meet with opposition in their attempts, or that this opposition should sometimes proceed to fatal extremities. Our history details examples of this opposition, and of the sufferings and dangers which the emissaries of the religion underwent, perfectly agreeable to what might reasonably be expected from the nature of their undertaking, compared with the character of the age and country in which it was carried on.
IV. The records before us supply evidence of what formed another member of our general propo. sition, and what, as hath already been observed, is highly probable and almost a necessary consequence of their new profession ; viz. that, together with activity and courage in propagating the religion, the primitive followers of Jesus assumed, upon their conversion, a new and peculiar course of private life. Immediately after their Master was withdrawn from them, we hear of their continuing with one accord in prayer and supplication :"* of their “ continuing daily with one accord in the temple ;'!+ of “many being gathered together pray: ing."! We know what strict injunctions were laid upon the converts by their teachers. Wherever they came,
the first word of their preaching was, Repent!” We know that these injunctions obliged them to refrain from many species of licentiousness, which were not, at that time, reputed criminal. We know the rules of purity, and the maxims of benevolence, which Christians read in their books; concerning which rules, it is enough to observe, that, if they were, I will not say completely obeyed, but in any degree regarded, they would produce a system of conduct, and, what is more difficult to preserve, a disposition of mind, and a regulation of affections, different from any thing to which they had hitherto been accustomed, Acts i, 14. Acts ii. 46.
# Acta xli, 72.
and different from what they would see in others. The change and distinction of manners, which resulted from their new character, is perpetually referred to in the letters of their teachers.
And you hath be quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins, wherein in times past ye walked, according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience : among whom also we had our conversation in times past, in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature the children of wrath even as others."*_For the time past of our lives may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasci. viousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries; wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot.”+ Saint Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, after enumerating, as his manner was, a catalogue of vicious characters, adds, “Such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified.”+ In like manner, and alluding to the same change of practices and sentiments, he asks the Roman Christians,“ what fruit they had in those things, whereof they are now ashamed ?''|| The phrases which the same writer employs to de scribe the moral condition of Christians, compared with their condition before they became Christians, such as “newness of life," being “ freed from sin," being“ dead to sin ;" “ the destruction of the body of sin, that, for the future, they should not serve sin ;"> “ children of light, and of the day,” as op: posed to “ children of darkness and of the night;" * not sleeping as others ;” imply, at least, a new system of obligation, and, probably, a new series of conduct, commencing with their conversion.
The testimony which Pliny bears to the beha. viour of the new sect in his time, and which testimony comes not more than fifty years after that of Saint Paul, is very applicable to the subject under consideration. The character which this writer
* Eph. il. I---3. See also Tit. iii. 3. + 1 Pet. tv. 3.
11 Rom, yi: 2:
gives of the Christians of that age, and which was drawn from a pretty accurate inquiry, because he considered their moral principles as the point in which the magistrate was interested, is as follows : He tells the emperor,
“ that some of those who had relinquished the society, or who, to save themselves, pretended that they had relinquished it, affirmed that they were wont to meet together on a stated day, before it was light, and sang among themselves alternately a hymn to Christ as a God; and to bind themselves by an oath, not to the commission of any wickedness, but that they would not be guilty of theft, or robbery, or adultery; that they would never falsify their word, or deny a pledge committed to them, when called upon to return it.” This proves that a morality, more pure and strict than was ordinary, prevailed at that time in Christian societies. And to me it appears, that we are authorized to carry this testimony back to the age of the apostles; because it is not probable that the immediate hearers and disciples of Christ were more relaxed than their successors in Pliny's time, or the missionaries of the religion than those whom they taught.
There is satisfactory evidence that many, professing
to be original witnesses of the Christian miracles, passed their lives in labours, dangers, and suffer ings, voluntarily undergone in attestation of the accounts which they delivered, and solely in consequence of their belief of those accounts ; and that they also submitted, from the same motives, to new rules of conduct.
WHEN we consider, first, the prevalency of the religion at this hour; secondly, the only credible account which can be given of its origin, viz. the activity of the Founder and his associates; thirdly, the opposition which that activity must naturally have excited; fourthly, the fate of the Founder of the religion, attested by heathen writers as well as our own; fifthly, the testimony of the same writers to the sufferings of Christians, either contemporary with, or immediately succeeding, the original se
tlers of the institution; sixthly, predictions of the sufferings of his followers ascribed to the Founder of the religion, which ascription alone proves, either that such predictions were delivered and fulfilled, or that the writers of Christ's life were induced by the event to attribute such predictions to him; seventhly, letters now in our possession, written by some of the principal agents in the transaction, referring expressly to extreme labours, dangers, and sufferings, sustained by themselves and their companions; lastly, a history purporting to be written by a fellow-traveller. of one of the new teachers, and, by its unsophisticated correspondency with letters of that person still extant; proving itself to be written by some one well acquainted with the subject of the narrative, which history contains accounts of travels, persecutions, and martyrdoms, answering to what the former reasons lead us to expect : when we lay together these considerations, which, taken separately, are, I think, correctly, such as I have stated them in the preceding chapiers, there cannot much doubt remain upon our minds, but that a number of persons at that time appeared in the world, publicly advancing an extraordinary story, and, for the sake of propagating the belief of that story, voluntarily incurring great personal dangers, traversing seas and kingdoms, exerting great industry, and sustaining great extremities of ill usage and persecution. It is also proved, that the same persons, in consequence of their persuasion, or pretended persuasion, of the truth of what they asserted, entered upon a course of life in many respects new and singular,
From the clear and acknowledged parts of the case,
I think it to be likewise in the highest degree probable, that the story, for which these persons voluntarily exposed themselves to the fatigues and hardships which they endured, was a miraculous story; I mean, that they pretended to miraculous evidence of some kind or other. They had nothing else to stand upon. The designation of the person, that is to say,
that Jesus of Nazareth, rather than any other person, was the Messiah, and as such the subject of their ministry, could only be founded upon "supernatural tokens attributed to him. Here were no victories, no conquests, no revolutions, no surprising elevation of fortune, no achievements of valour, of strength, or of policy, to appeal to; no discoveries in any art or science, no great efforts of genius or learning to produce.
A Galilean peasant was announced to the world as a divine lawgiver. A young man of mean condition, of a private and simple life, and who had wrought no deliverance for the Jewish nation, was declared to be their Messiah. This, without ascribing to him at the same time proofs of his mission, (and what other but supernatural proofs could there be ?) was too absurd a claim to be either imagined, or attempted, or credited. In whatever degree, or in whatever part, the religion was argumentative, when it came to the question," Is the carpenter's son of Nazareth the person whom we are to receive and obey ?" there was nothing but the miracles attributed to him, by which his pretensions could be maintained for a moment. Every controversy and every question must presuppose these : for, however such controversies, when they did arise, might, and naturally would, be discussed upen their own grounds of argumentation, without citing the miraculous evidence which had been asserted to attend the Founder of the religion (which would have been to enter upon another, and a more general question,) yet we are to bear in mind, that without previously supposi the existence, or the pretence of such evidence, there could have been no place for the discussion of the argument at all. Thus, for example, whether the prophecies, which the Jews interpreted to belong to the Messiah, were, or were not, applicable to the history of Jea sus of Nazareth, was a natural subject of debate in those times; and the debate would proceed, without recurring at every turn to his miracles, because it set out with supposing these ; inasmuch as without miraculous marks and tokens (real or pretended,) or without some such great change effected by his means in the public condition of the country, us might have satisfied the then received inierpre. tation of these prophecies, I do not see how the question could ever have been entertained. Apollos, we read, "mightily convinced the Jers, showing