« AnteriorContinuar »
or, in other Words, whether they were Serm. II. Impostors, or Persons commissioned by God. Did they then wilfully conspire to impose upon others ? Upon what Motives? That of Vain-Glory? No, certainly. The great Leaders of Parties may sometimes expect to be transınitted down to Posterity, with Marks of Honour, and to leave behind them a bright and lasting Track of Glory. But their numerous Retinue of
Follower's must expect to die unnoticed, as - they lived unknown : Each of Them will be lost in the Crowd, like so many Cyphers, undistinguished, and of no Conßderation or Moment, any farther than they contribute to make the principal Figure, which was placed at the Head of them, more .confi. derable. Now that Men should give up the most weighty and valuable Considerations of this Life; nay Life itself, for ins; valuable Rewards in Heaven, and for an 'exceeding Weight of Glory; that they should Suspend all Desire of Applause, till they received the inestimable Applause of their Creator~--~This is easily accounted for. But that Men Thould give up their All here, for Nothing in Reverfion ; that they should resign Life itself, without even expecting T 2 :
Serm. II. that imaginary Life, a great Name after
Death, merely to attest and support an un-
The numerous Converts to Christianity in the first Century, could not have believed it to be true, if it had been false. For they must have had an inward Conscious
nefs, whether they had received those mi-Serm. II. raculous Gifts or not, for the Abuse and Mis-application of which St. Paul in his first Epistle to the Corinthians censures and reproves them. They must have had an absolute Certainty, fuppofing no extraordi. nary Gifts were communicated to them, that he, from whom they received their Religion, and whose Epistles, as appears from St. Peter and others, were universally read as of divine Authority, was a shameless Impostor. And yet they could not have. profelled the Belief of it, knowing it to be an Imposture, at a Time, when Christians were of all Men most miserable, without any Prospect of worldly Honour and Advantage, but with a certain Expectation of exquisite Torments ; except upon a Supposition that they loved Misery and hated Happiness, as such.
Pliny, a Person of unsuspected Veracity, in the Reign of Trajan, not seventy Years after the Resurrection, in a Letter to the Emperor, informs him that, where he was Governor in Bithynia, a Place above twelve hundred Miles from Jerusalem the nearest Way; to arrive at which you must travel through several Nations, of different LanT 3
SERM. II.guages, Syrians, Pamphylians, Carians,
Lycians, &c. Christianity had so far prevailed, that the Temples of the Gods were almost desolated, their facred Rites a long Time intermitted, and there were very few that would buy any Sacrifices; notwithstanding great Severities were inflięted upon Christians' of every Rank: Sex, and Age.
Yustin Martyr, who lived in the same Century, informs us, in his Dialogue with Trypho the few, that there was no Nation in the known World, where some did not pray to God in the Name of Jesus Christ. What shall we say then ? that the Apostles travelled from one End of the Earth to the other, without understanding the Languages of several Nations ? Then it would have been impossible to have made any Converts, by speaking to them in an unknown Tongue. Or shall we say, that Men bred up in low Employments had a vast Variety of Languages at Command? That would have been almost impossible, if they had made it the whole Business of their lives. In short there is no other Way of accounting for it, but by Inspiration : They could not acquire them; they must be the Gift of God. And when I consider, that they enlightened as many
Nations with a rational Devotion, and sound Serm. II. Morality, as Alexander ravaged by the Forcem of Arms; that they did more in one Century to disabuse the World, and rescue it from human Sacrifices, and to propagate beneficial Truth; than the Philosophers had done for many Ages : I think, what was a mere Compliment, when applied to a certain great Hero, is but strict Justice done to them, viz. that they were the Instruments in tantis Rebus gerendis, quantas audere vix hominis; perficere nullius nisi Dei, “ in “ 'bringing those Things to bear, which .. merely to attempt was more than human; " but to perform was certainly God-like and “divine.” That the Apostles, though low, should overcome the Great, and though ignorant, should teach the Wife; can only be ascribed to him, who has chosen the weak Things of this world to confound the Mighty.
Besides, supposing the Apostles had asserted without any Foundation, that at the Death of our Saviour, when the Moon was at the Full, and consequently, there could be no natural Eclipse, yet there was a supernatural one, and a Darkness of three Hours Continuance; that in the Metropolis, T4