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pistle to FlorinHi, a Heretick, who had considerable Employments in the Emperor's Court, declar'd, that he remember'd exactly what he had heard Poly cars discourse, concerning the account of the Miracles and Doctrine of our Saviour, which he had receiv'd from St. John and others, who had convers'd with Christ; and that it difFer'd in nothing from the Scriptures.
And besides the infpir'd Writings, the chief Points of the Christian Religion were testify'd in Apologies written from time to time, to the Heathen Emperors themselves. q Qgadratus, Bishop of Athens, in his Apology to Adrian, declared, that Persons who had been heal'd by our Saviour, and others that had been rais'd from the dead by him, were still living in his time. Aristides presented an Apology to that Emperor r at the fame time, at Athens. s Justin Martyr wrote two Apologies, the first dedicated to>Antoninm Pius and his two Sons, and the Roman Senate j the latter to M. Antoninus and the Senate. 1 Melito, Bishop of Sardis , and Apollinaris Bishop of Hierapolis , likewise wrote a Vindication of the Christian Religion to M* Antoninus. Athenagoras offer'd his Apology to A4. Aurelius and Commodus ■ Meltiades to Commodust or to the Deputies of the Provinces. * Apollonius , a Roman Senator, made a publick Defence or the Christian Religion in the Senate of Rome, and TertulUan presented his Apology to the Senate, or to the Governors of the Provinces. And the Apologists did not
dwell only upon generals, but descended to such particulars, as to appeal to the publick Records for the truth of what they delivered concerning the place of our Saviour's Birth, and the manner of his Death, and his Resurrection, 7 and to give an account of the Christian Worship, and of the celebration of the Eucharist it self j so that the Principles and Foundations of the Christian Religion, were from the beginning asserted in publick Writings, dedicated and presented to the Heathen themselves, who were most concerned and most capable of disproving it, if it had been false. 1 And though the Acts which were forged under the Emperor Maximin, and pretended to be Pilate's, tho' bearing * date divers Years before Pilate was Governour of Judta, were by his command sent into all the Provinces of his Empire, and published in all places, and ordered to be taught Children, and to be learnt by heart by them •■, yet all this malicious care and contrivance was ineffectual to the suppressing the Truth of the History of our Saviour , which was so well attested, and so fully published amongst all sorts of Men, that it was impossible to extirpate the belief of it. And this Emperor himself (as I before shewed) was by miraculous Diseases inflicted on him, forced to retract by a publick Edict, his Practices against Christianity, and to acknowledge that his Sins and Blasphemies against Christ, were the just cause of his Puifilhment.
Of the Dolirines contained in the Holy Scriptures.
THe Scriptures must: be acknowledged by all considerate Men , to contain excellent Rules and Precepts for the Government of our Lives, and it cannot be denied that it is to these we owe the Peace and Happiness we enjoy, even in this World. It is therefore the interest of every good and prudent Man to wish the Christian Religion true, though it were not so, and there can be no cause to wish it false, but our own sin and folly. And this of it self is a good argument that it is true, because it is for the benefit of Mankind that it should be so, and upon that account it carries the visible Characters of Divine Wisdom and Goodness in it: for it is certain, that the Religion , which God has established in the World, must be of this nature, that none but wicked Men can dislike it, and that all sober and good M,en must be well- satisfied with it, and mightily enclined to believe it, nay even the worst Men must be forced to confess, that they owe their own safety and protection to the Doctrines of it. And that such is the nature of the Christian Religion, will be evident, if we consider that, I. It teacheth an universal Righteousness both towards God and Man. II. It layeth down the only true Principles of Holiness. III. Itproposeth the most effectual Motives. IV. It affords the greatest helps and assistances to an Holy Life. V. It expresseth the greatest compassion and condescension to our Infirmities. VI. The propagation of the Gospel has had mighty effects towards the Reformation and Happiness of Mankind. VII. The highest Mysteries of the Christian Religion are not merely speculative, but have a necessary relation to Practice, and were revealed ed for the advancement of Piety and Virtue amongst Men.
I. The Christian Religion teacheth an Universal Righteousness both towards God and Man. It teacheth us- the nature of God, that he is a Spirit, and therefore ought to be worshipped in Spirit and in Truth, and gives us an account of the Power, and Wisdom, and Goodness of God, in the Creation of the World, and in the various Dispensations of his Providence in the preservation and government of it, and especially in the wonderful Work of our. Redemption. God is represented in the Scriptures, as flow to Anger, and great in Tower, and who will not at all acquit the wicked, Nahum. i. 3. and we are required to love and serve him with all our Abilities both of Body and Mind, Dent. vi. 5. Mat. xxii. 37.
The Duties of Men towards one another are no less strictly enjoined, than our Duty towards God himself. For the Scriptures oblige all Men to the con* scientious performance of their several Duties, in their respective capacities and relations: They teach Wives and Children, and Subjects and Servants, Obedience, not only for Wrath, but also for Cenfcknee-fake', and they teach Princes and Husbands, and Fathers and Masters, a proportionable care, and kindness, and affection , they check and restrain the rich and powerful from violence and oppression, and command them to relieve those that are in want, and to protect all that are in distress: and to root up the very Seeds and Principles of Vice inlis •, they regulate our Defires, and give Laws to our Words, and Looks, and Thoughts, they command an universal Love and Charity towards all Mankind, to hurt no body so much as in a Thought, but to do all the good which is in our power ; they oblige Men to do as they would be done unto in all cases, to consider others as Men of the fame nature with themselves, and to love and respect them accordingly upon all occasions. I may add (what Grotint has not omitted) that more favour and equity is extended to one half of humane kind by the Christiaa Religion, than ever had been by any other: for Bills of Divorce were permitted to the Jews-, because of the hardness of their Hearts, and among Infidels Women are esteemed but as Slaves to the Lusts of Men, who may have as many Wives as they please, and change them as often as they think fit.
II. The Scriptures propound to us the only true Principles of Holiness. For they teach us to perform all Duties both towards God and Man , upon Principles of Love and Charity, which are the only Principles that can make Men happy in the performance of their respective Duties, and that can cause them to persevere in it. What Men do upon Principles of Love, they do with delight; and what Men delight in, they will be sure to do j but Fear hath Torment, and Men will use all Arts to get rid of their Fears, and of that fense of Duty, which proceeds only from an apprehension of Puniihments, and therefore is perpetually grievous and burthensom to them: Rewards themselves may become ineffectual, by proposals of contrary Rewards, for smaller Advantages, which are present and in hand, may be more prevalent, than never so much greater, which are future, and looked upon only at a distance. But a sense of Love, and Gratitude, and Charity, can never fail of its effect, because this brings its Reward with it, and makes our Duty a delight. He who loves God will certainly obey him; and he that doffs not love him, never can truly obey him, as he ought, but will be ever repining at his Duty, and will be for seeking all pretences to excuse himself from it. He who doth not love his Neighbour, will be for taking all opportunities of pursuing his own Advantage against him; but he who loves him as himself, will never do him any injury. He that lovetn another, hath fulfilled the Law: For thu^tkou shalt not commit adultery^thou shalt not kill) than