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It might be particularly urged, in would be depopulated.” Nor did confirmation of the truth of Chris. the Gospel only triumph thus within tianity, the wonderful success with the boundaries of the Roman empire: which it has been attended, and the for long before Tertullian was born, surprising propagation of the Gospel | Justin Martyr, in bis dialogue with in the world.
Trypho the Jew, which seems to
have been written not much above We have endeavoured, under a an hundred
after Christ's death, foriner head, to shew, that the Gos declares, “ That there was no nation pel met with so favourable a recep of men, whether Greeks or Barbation in the world, as evidently prov- rians, not excepting those savages ed, that its first publishers were capa that wandered in clans from one reble of producing sufficient evidence | gion to another, and had no fixed of its truth; evidence absolutely in- | habitation, who had not learned to compatible with imposture. But we offer prayers and thanksgivings to shall now carry this remark farther, the Father and Maker of all, in the and assert that, considering the cir name of Jesus, who was crucified.” cumstances of the case, it is amazing, that even truth itself, under so many Now how is it possible to account disadvantages, should have so illustri- | for such circumstances as these, but ous a triumph; and that its wonder- | by saying the hand of the Lord was ful success so evidently proves such with the first preachers of the gospel, an extraordinary interposition of the and therefore such multitudes believ: Almighty in its favour, as may justly | ed, and turned to the Lord? How be called a miraculous attestation of was it possible for so small a fountain it.
to have swelled immediately into a
mighty river, and even have so exThere was not only one of a family, tensively spread itself on the face of or two of a city, taken and brought to the earth, if it had not sprung from Zion; but the Lord so hastened it, in the sanctuary of God, and been renits appointed time, that a little one be dered triumphant by his Almighty came a thousand, and a small one a arm? strong nation. And as the apostles themselves were honoured with very Had this new religion, so directly remarkable success, so this divine contrary to all the prejudices of eduseed was propagated so fast in the cation, been formed to soothe men's next age, that Pliny testifies, “ He vices, to countenance their errors, to found the Heathen temples in Achaia defend their superstitions, or to proalmost deserted :” and Tertullian, af- mote their secular interests, we might terwards boasts, “ That all places, easily have accounted for its prevaexcept those temples, were filled with lence in the world. Had its preachChristians; so that were they only ers been profound philosophers, or to withdraw, cities and provinces polite and fashionable orators, many
might have been charmed, at least death for the destruction of its folfor a while, to follow them: or had lowers. And yet it triumphed over the princes and potentates of the earth all, though published in ages and declared themselves its patrons, and places celebrated for learning and armed their legions for its defence elegance; and proposed, not in an and propagation, multitudes might ornamental and artificial manner, but have been terrified into the profes- | with the utmost plainness"; the docsion, though not a soul could by such trines of the cross being always admeans have been rationally persuad- vanced its grand foundation, ed to the use of it. But without though so notorious a stumbling-block some such advantages as these, we both to the Jews and Gentiles; and can hardly conceive, how any new the absolute necessity, not only of religion should so strangely prevail; embracing Christianity, but also of even though it had crept into the renouncing all idol worship, being world in its darkest ages, and the insisted on immediately and in the most
barbarous countries ; and strongest terms, and which must have though it had been gradually propo
made the religion of the gospel appear sed in the most artful manner, with to them the most singular that had the finest veil industriously drawn ever been taught in the world. over every part which might at first have given disgust to the be
Had one of the wits or politicians holder.
present age seen the apostles,
and a few other plain men, who had But every one knows that the very been educated amongst the lowest of reverse of all this was the case of the people, as most of the first teachChristianity. It is abundantly evi ers of Christianity were, going out dent, from the apparent constitution armed with nothing but faith, truth, of the religion of Jesus, that the lasts and goodness, to encounter the and errors, the superstitions and in power of princes, the bigotry of terests of carnal men, would imme- priests, the learning of philosophers, diately rise up against it as a most the rage of the populace, and the irreconcileable enemy. It is known, prejudices of all ; how would he have that the learning and wit of the Greeks derided the attempt, and said, with and Romans were early employed to Sanballat, What will these feeble Jews ridicule and obstruct its progress. It do? But had he seen the event, is known, that as all the herd of the surely he must have owned, with the heathen deities were to be discarded, Egyptian Magi, in a far less illustrious the priests, who subsisted by the su miracle, that it was the finger of God; perstitious worship paid them, must and might justly have fallen on his in interest find themselves obliged to face, even among those whom he had oppose it. It is known, that the insulted, withan humble acknowledgeprinces of the earth drew the sword ment that God was with them of a against it, and armed torments and truth.
We must not forget to mention the design was frustrated miraculously, accomplishment of several prophecies, again and again ; the workmen conrecorded in the New Testament, as a 'sumed by globes of fire, which broke further confirmation given by God to out from the foundations. the gospel.
The prediction of St. Paul, conThe most eminent and signal in- cerning the man of sin, and the apostance under this head, is that of our stacy of the latter times, is so well Lord's prediction concerning the de- worthy of our remark; and though struction of Jerusalem, as recorded by a great part of the book of Revelation St. Matthew, in his twenty-fourth | be still concealed under a dark veil, chapter. The tragical bistory of it is yet the division of the Roman emmost circumstantially described by pire into ten kingdoms; the usurpaJosephus, the Historian, who was an tion, persecution, and idolatry of eye-witness of it; and the description | the Romish church, and the long duwhich he has given of this sad calamity ration of the papal power, with seveso exactly corresponds with the pro- ral other extraordinary events, which phecy, that one would have thought, no human prudence could have forehad we not known the contrary, that seen, and which have happened long it had been written by a Christian, since the publication of that book, on purpose to illustrate it. And one are so clearly foretold there, that we can never enough admire the series cannot but look on that part of the of amazing providence, by which scripture as an invaluable treasure : the author was preserved from most and it is not at all improbable, that imminent danger, that he might leave the more visible accomplishment of us that invaluable treasure which his some of its other prophecies, may be writings contain
a great means of reviving the Chris
tian cause, which is at present so much We have no need of further evi on the decline. dence than we find in Josephus, of the exact accomplishment of what was The preservation of the Jews, as a prophecied concerning the destruc- distinct people, is another particular, tion of Jerusalem. But our Lord had under this head, which well deserves also foretold the long-continued de our attentive regard. solation of the temple. And we cannot forbear mentioning the awful It is plain that they are very numesanction which was given to that part rous, notwithstanding all the slaughof the prediction. For it is well | ter and destruction of this people, in known, that a heathen historian has former and latter ages. They are disassured us, that when Julian the apo- | persed among various and most disstate, in deliberate contempt of that iant nations, and particularly in these prediction, solemnly and resolutely parts of the world, where Christianundertook to rebuild it, his impious ity is professed; and though they
are exposed to great hatred and con- | people, evidently leaves room for tempt, on account of their different the accomplishment of those Old and faith, and in most places subject to New Testament prophecies, which civil incapacities, if not to unchris- relate to their national conversion and tian severities; yet they are still most restoration : whereas, that would be obstinately tenacious of their religion ; | impossible in itself, or at least imposwhich is the more wonderful, as their sible to be known, if they were profathers were so prone to apostatize miscuously blended with other peofrom it; and as most of them seem ple. On the whole, it is such a to be utter strangers entirely to piety scene in the conduct of Providence, or humanity, and pour the greatest as we are well assured, cannot be contempt on the moral precepts of paralleled in the history of their own law, while they are so at nation upon earth : and affords a tached to the ceremonial institutions most obvious and important arguof it, troublesome and inconvenient ment in favour of the Gospel. as they are. Now let us seriously Thus had Christianity been further reflect, what an evident hand of Pro- confirmed since its publication, by vidence is here, that by their dis- what God has done to establish it. persion, preservation, and adherence It only remains that we consider, to their religion, it should come to 2. What confirmation it receives pass, that Christians should daily see from the methods which its enemies, the accomplishment of many remark have taken to destroy it. able prophecies concerning this peo And these have generally been, ple; and that we should always have either persecution, or falsehood, or amongst us such a crowd of unex cavilling at some particulars in the ceptionable witnesses to the truth of revelation, without entering into the those ancient Hebrew records, on grand argument on which it is built, which so much of the evidence of and fairly debating what is offered the Gospel depends; records which in its defence. Now, who would are many of them so full to the
not think the better of a cause for pose, for which we alledge them, being thus attacked ? that, as a celebrated writer
At first, it is known that the
proobserves, “ Had it been represented fessors, and especially the preachers that the whole body of the Jewish of the Gospel, were severely persenation had been converted to Chris- cuted. In every city bonds and imtianity, men would certainly have prisonment awaited them. As soon thought the assertion had been forged as ever the apostles began to preaclı by Christians; and have looked upon Jesus and his resurrection, the Jewish them in the same light with the pro- rulers laid hold on them; and havphecies of the Sybils, as made many ing confined and scourged them, years after the evenis which they strictly prohibited their speaking any pretended to foretel.”
more in his name. A little while And to add no mere here, the pre- after Stephen was murdered ; and servation of the Jews, as a distinct afterwards James, and some other of
the apostles. Now certainly such a | noble apologies, which, through the conduct evidently betrayed a consci-. Divine providence, are transmitted ousness that they were not able to to us, and are incomparably the answer the apostles, and to support most valuable of any ancient unintheir own cause by the fair methods spired writings. of reason and argument, to which, Such were the infamous, the scan. so far as the history informs us, they dalous methods, by which the Gosmade no pretence: but attempted | pel was opposed in the earliest ages to bear them down by dint of au of the church; and it must be added, thurity and to silence them by brutal that the measures more lately taken force.
to subvert it, especially among ourIt would be needless to attempt selves, seem rather to reflect a glory shewing, particularly, 'how these un on it. The unhappy enemies of the righteous methods were pursued in Gospel of the Son of God have been succeeding ages and distant countries. told, again and again, that we put the The savage cruelties of Nero to these proof of it on plain facts. They innocent and holy men, were such as themselves do not, and cannot deny, raised the pity even of their enemies. that it prevailed early in the world, Yet this was one of the least extensive as we have shewn at large. There and destructive of the ten general per
must have been some men, or body secutions, which arose in the Roman of men, who first introduced it; and empire, besides several others in the even themselves; notwithstanding all neighbouring countries, of which ec their obstinacy and perverseness, geclesiastical history informs us. nerally confess that Christ and bis
These early enemies of the gospel apostles were the persons ; which is added falsehood and slander to their a manifest acknowledgment of the inhumanities. They endeavoured to most forcible argument they can give murder the reputations of Christians, against their own debased principles. as well as their persons ; and were not Now which of these schemes will ashamed to present them as haters the unbelievers take? It seems, that of the whole human species, for no the deists of the present age fix on imaginable reason, but that they neither, as being secretly conscious would not associate themselves in they cannot support either: but they their idolatrous worship. Nay, they content themselves with cavilling at charged them with human sacrifices, some circumstances attending the reincest, idolatry, and all the crimes, velation, without daring to encounter for which themselves and their false its grand evidence; that is, they have gods were indeed justly detestable ; been laboriously attempting to prove but from which the Christians knew it to be improbable, or absurd, to suphow to vindicate themselves, highly pose that to have been, which neverto their own honour, and the ever theless plainly appears to have been lasting reproach of these malignant facts. One of them, most weakly and pestilent accusers. And they and sophistically attempts to prove, have not failed to do it in many l in defiance of the common sense of