Abbildungen der Seite

monies. The Jewish religion possessed the same advantages; and, besides this, really enjoyed the honour which all the rest falsely claimed, of being a revelation from heaven. Moreover in heathenism there was nothing which could have the least influence to prepare the minds of its votaries for the reception of the gospel ; but rather every thing to alienate them from it. For it is well known that there was the most direct opposition between all the different forms of the heathen religion and the gospel. Judaism indeed ought to have paved the way for the introduction of Christianity, for which it was intended as a preparatory dispensation, but, through the wickedness of the Jews, it proved otherwise. For the decendants of Abraham, being prepossessed with the belief of the eternal obligation of the Mosaick institutions, were filled with violent enmity to the gospel, which taught the abrogation of the law. It is evident, therefore, from the nature of things that the introduction of the gospel upon the ruins of the established religion, must in all countries have been effected in opposition to the sword of the magistrate, the craft of priests, the pride of philosophers, the passions, humours and

[ocr errors]

prejudices of the people, as well as the interest of many of them wliose trades and professions, like the goldsmiths at Ephesus, depended upon

the continuance of the ancient superstition, all closely combined in support of the national worship, and in opposition to that new system which aimed at nothing less than the total subversion of the old.

It farther deserves attention, that, in the conversion of the world to Christianity, the methods whereby absurd systems have sometimes. been successfully established, were not used. For the life and doctrines of Christ was not a story privately whispered among the Christians themselves, or communicated only to the few who were disposed to be of their party. It was not propagated in the dark, by people who stole about from house to house, with an intention to deceive the credulous. It was not delivered out by parcels, the first of which being tolerable palatable, paved the way for one more absurd and extravagant to follow. It did not insinuate itself into the belief of mankind by slow and insensible steps. These are the arts whereby the forgeries of impostors have crept into the world, and systems of errour have at length become to be believed, which if of

fered openly and all at once would have been rejected with abhorrence as monstrous. But, instead of this, the history of Jesus and the most offensive doctrines of Christianity were preached publicly in Jerusalem, the scene of these wonderful transactions, in the synagogues, in the streets, in the temple itself, and even before the representatives of the Jewish nation in council assembled. It was soon afterwards preached in the same publick and open manner through all the regions of heathenism. At the discourses of the Apostles, and the meetings of the disciples, every one who chose might be present. The history and doctrines there advanced were proposed in their true, native colours, without any softening or disguise, They were proposed, also, all at once; at least all the essential articles of the gospel, which however disagreeable to the passions or prejudices of men, were delivered by the Apostles with the greatest openness in every sermon. As a proof of all this we may appeal to those candid and undaunted discourses of St. Peter and St. Paul, which are recorded in the Acts of the Apostles: and with still greater evidence

: to the publication and dispersion of the books of the Evangelists, and the Epistles which contain the whole of Christianity, and were offered entire in the first age of its progress to the world as we now have them. It is therefore indubitable that all who anciently embraced Christianity, had an opportunity of exam. ing the whole scheme before they formed the resolution of becoming the disciples of Jesus. No one was cheated into this belief by any artful dealing of the first preachers of the gospel.

There is a third circumstance which with judicious persons will render the conversion of the world to Christianity a most striking proof that our religion is from God, namely, that the belief of the doctrine and miracles of Jesus, which in so short a time became general through the world, began in the country which had been the scene of his ministry, and particularly in the capital city, where he had been publicly tried, condemned, and put to death, by the senate of Israel, as a deceiver. For, on the fiftieth day after his crucifixion, there were no less than three thousand converted in Jerusalem by a single sermon of one of the Apostles, who insisted upon the miracles performed by Jesus as things well known to all present, a topick which the Apostles in


every sermon failed not to urge. A few weeks after this, five thousand who believed are said to have been present at another sermon preached by the same Apostle. In the second year

. after our Lord's ascension the number of the disciples multiplied greatly, and a great company of thé priests, who had always been the most violent opposers of the new religion, became obedient to the faith. In the third year they multiplied so exceedingly that there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem, and they were all except the Apostles scattered abroad throughout the region of Judea and Samarią.

In the third or fourth year,

the spreading of the Christian faith was so remarkable, even in the remotest provinces of Palestine, that the high priest and council of Jerusalem, in order to put a stop to it, sent forth persecutors as far as Damascus. Of these the leader was a zealous young man named Saul, who in this very journey was converted by Jesus appearing to him at noonday. About eight or ten years after our Saviour's death, the disciples were grown so numerous in Jerusalem and the country about, that they became the object of jealousy to Herod himself. For, at the instigation of the

« ZurückWeiter »