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Sc'trf.'U'Eooting every where, not 6nly in Engtandi ~~" ~~~' but in foreign Countries: Would the Magistracy, and those whose Interest was- at Stake, remain unactive in such a critical Juncture, and suffer the People to be seduced by such over-bearing' Pretensions? No, certainly: They would fend, which might be easily done, to the Places where, the Persons upon whom, and the Witnesses before 'whom, those astonishing Notices of divine Power were said to be displayed: They would take down the Depositions of creditable and substantial Witnesses in every Place, that the Dead were not raised, nor the Sick cured there, nor thousands fed in a miraculous Manner, &c. They would circulate and disperse these Attestations, and fend the Antidote, wherever the Infection was spread.
Now I ask, Did the Jewish and Pagan Magistracy and Priesthood, upon the first Publication of the Facts, when the Gospel began to spread, take these easy Measures, which Common Sense suggested, to suppress Christianity, and confront it's Evidence? If they did, then Christianity must have been stifled and overlaid in it's Infancy, by the Weight of several Thousands of disin.'
terested terested Witnesses, giving it under theirjS.E*m-!I; Hands, that no such glaring Actions were publickly done. This, I fay, must have been the Consequence, if the Facts had been false j especially when all the Engines of worldly Power were applied against it. If they did not take this easy Method j they virtually and implicitly owned the Truth of the Facts: They confessed the World was not deceived; because, if it had been so, they neither wanted Power nor Inclination to undeceive it.
But it is objected, that such Accounts were published, which the Christians,when they got the Power into their Hands, wifely took Care to suppress. To which I answer; When did the Christians get the Power into their Hands? Why, after Christianity had stood the Shock, and outlived the Rage, of ten long Persecutions. But this does not at all invalidate what I said, viz. That Christianity must have been overlaid in it's Infancy, by the Weight of authentic Accounts, well-attested against it's Truth: Whereas then it was too late; it had taken the deeper Root, by weathering out the Storm. Besides this is gratis dictum ; there are no Traces left of any Books,
Sirm.ii. that ever denied the Facts; no Mention of them occurs any where. We have indeed some Remains of Celsus, Hierocles, Porphyry, and Julian, declared Enemies to Christianity. But what they alledge does not amount to a Denial of the Facts: So far are they from that, that they ascribe the Miracles of our Saviour to Magic, and the Jews in the Talmud, just as their Forefathers do in the New Testament, to a Correspondence or Intercourse with the Devil.
To account for the Rise and Propagation of Christianity, our Adversaries have Recourse to false Miracles, which they fay are very common among Christians. By Christians here they mean the Papists: But if Popish Priests chuse to act their pretended Miracles in By-Places, in Cloysters, or at least only before Men of their own Persuasion, where they have the Power in their Hands, to fence off an impartial Enquiry into them j and yet their pious Frauds have been generally detected: If, notwithstanding their confessed Depth of Art and Finesse to execute a well-concerted Project, they have never attempted to do a Wonder in the Eye of a Protestant Nation, before
a great Concourse of Hereticks, as they call us; then 1 desire to know, how a Set of unpolished Men, unpractised in studied Wiles and mysterious Frauds, should audaciously and successfully carry on a flagrant Cheat, in the Eye of Thousands of it's most inveterate Foes, the Priests and Rulers of the Jewijh Nation, and indeed the Rulers and Priests of every other Nation, who wanted neither Discernment enough to unmajk and expose it, if it had been suchj nor Power to crush and stifle it. This, I fay, was impossible, if their Miracles had been Impostures, and therefore they were not so. And since the Discovery of Impostures has staggered the Faith of some weak Men, and made them look upon Christianity in the fame disadvantageous Light; I will venture to fay, that the more numerous the Impostures are, which are discovered; the more Christianity is confirmed thereby: Because it proves, that no Imposture can stand the Test of a severe Examination, when Men of Power and Policy vigorously interest themselves in the Detection of it, and are resolved to go to the Bottom of it. Impostures need only to be held up to the Light, to be seen through; But Christianity, the Vol. II. T more
Serm.ii. more thoroughly it was canvasted, and the more vigorously it was opposed, the more it gained Footing in the World. There is then this Difference between an Imposture and a genuine Miracle. The former loves Obscurity; the latter is desirous to be set in the firongefi Point of View, and challenges the nearest Inspection, of the most penetrating Judge.
Besides, Tacitus', an Heathen Historian, assures us, that in Nero's Reign, but thirty Years after our Saviour's Resurrection, there was (ingens Multitudo) a prodigious Multitude of Christians at Rome, above two thousand Miles from Jerusalem, that Nero inflicted upon them the most exquisite Punishments ; and particularly, that they were burnt to give Light in the Streets, when Day-light failed.
What shall we say, as to that prodigious Multitude, who, in Nero's Reign, were faithful unto Death, unwearied by Toils, unshaken by Misery, and undismayed by Terrors, even by Death the King of Terrors? They could not be mistaken; since they who conversed with the Apostles, must know, whether they made good their Pretensions to a miraculous Power, or not j