Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

not iatisfyed as to the reality of the thing; and he was sure there were many very unreasonable things in it, if those who studyed it most, and ought to know it best, the divines, were right in their accounts and explications. They preached such doctrines and mysterys as must for ever render it contemptible to right reason.

To this it was again replyed, that as the publisher of the christian religion distinguished himself in a course of years, by declaring the most holy doctrine, and constantly conformed himself to it without any variation; as he performed numerous and mighty works in the name of God, and appealed to them as proofs of his divine mission j as he acted under much reproach and persecution, and foretold his rising again after that death he expected on account of his gospel; as this prediction was fulfilled, and the miraculous powers he promised his disciples after his ascension were publicly conferred upon them; ——these concurring circumstances render it impossible that Christ should be an impostor.

And as to the authors of the books contained in the New Testament, their excellent writings shew them to be men of character, worthy of regard, and that they were capable of judging of the facts they attested; nor had they the least temptation to impose them on the world, if they knew them to be false. Poverty and misery, contempt and death, what they met with, was all they could expect in this world for preaching their religion j and if it had been a falihood, they had no hope in reversion. It is therefore quite incredible, that they would attempt to tell mankind their story, unless they were as sure as they were of their own existence that it was a glorious reality.

Beside, if their report had been false, it was not pofljble they could gain credit: And yet, against aU opposition they succeeded. Their gospel made a rapid progress into different parts of the world, and its success was without the persuasive words of eloquence, or the devices of human art or wit. By instruments the most mean and obscure it increased, and diffused itself in an amazing manner, in opposition to the passions, prejudices, and worldly interests of men j and notwithstanding the secular powers pf the world were bent upon its destruction. Paganism and Judaism sunk before it, and it became the public religion of a large part of the world. Is it possible to account for this, unless the gospel was true, and had auxiliary forces from above? No, Hanmtr, our holy religion could not have acquired its extent, and have had its power and influence upon the minds of men, if the great christian legislator had not reveled the mind of the universal B b 4 • Father; Father; and if it had not been supported by the miraculous gifts and influences of his holy spirit. This was the truth of the cafe. It carryed rational conviction along with it, it tended to the benefit of mankind, and the hand of the Lord was with the first preachers of the gospel: Therefore they were able to wrestle not only with flesh and blood, not only with the prejudices and lusts of human nature, but with powers and authoritys, with the rulers of the darkness of this world, with spiritual wickednesses in heavenly things, that is, both with the secular and ecclesiastical powers of Judaism and Heathenism. The gospel not only triumphed within the boundarys of the Roman empire, about a hundred years after Christ, as Justin Martyr tells us; but every nation of men, Greeks, Barbarians, the Savages that wandered in clans from one region to another, had learned to offer prayers and thanksgivings to the Father and Maker of all, in the name of Jesus who was crucified (a).

And

(a) Justin Mart. p. 388, Edit. Thirlb.. His works are, Two Apology* sor the Chrijtian Religion; one of which he presented to Titus Antoninus, strnamed the Pious, who succeeded Adrian j arid the other to Marcus Aurelius; A Dialogue with Triphon the Jew j Two Treatises addressed to the Gentiles : And, A Treatise os the Unity os_Gfd. He was born in the first year of the second century, in the re;gn of Trajan, and suffered martyrdom the 13th of April, A. D. 166. He had been a Platonic philosopher, and wore the habit to his

death.

And as Pliny, in his 97th letter to Trajan from Ntcomedia, fays, the temples of the

gods

death. He was an excellent christian, and a learned man.

His writings are pious, substantial and judicious; but there is no beauty or eloquence in them. II avoit une erudition consommee, unc connoissance parfaite de l'hiftoire, mais, fans ordre, fans aucun ornemenr. He despised those things, when he became a christian, and regarded only plane truths and stubborn facts. He was born a Greek. His account of the christian worship in his time, in this passage, is remarkable, and deserves consideration a 015 Jv» onofu*)©* rav£uS»>

yitnlsn. The Greek, the Barbarian, the wrndering Savages, are all taught to worjhip the Father and maker of all, Patri kai poiete ton 6I6n, and offer prayers and thanksgivings to him, in the name of a crucified Jesus,

dia tou anomatos tou staurothentos lesou. Here was

no trinity in unity in this golden age of Christianity : — No Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the

Holy Ghost, all one: No glory equal: No majejly

co-eternal: No Athanafian mystery, to offend the Jew, and make the Turk despise us: but the mojl glorious of immortal Beings, one supreme spirit, the universal Lord, our Father, the nations were iben taught to worship, fays 'Justin Martyr, as the disciples of the chosen servant of God, Christ Jesus; who was crucifyed by a degenerat age for his virtue and integrity; in laboring to reform their manners, and revealing to them the will of bis God and Father. This was simple, heavenly religion. But it was abandoned by presumptuous and illdesigning men for spurious system and unintelligible mystery. They multiplyed articles of faith and ceremonys of worship, and so incumbered and deformed the majestic simplicity of the christian religion with human innovations and falje ornaments, that the spiritual building

of gods were almost deserted, and the sacred rites negleScd by the spread of that superstitious

con

of our Lord and his apostles was quite ruined and hid from the world for ages. We got explications, barriers, pillars, and every thing foreign to christianity, that a never slumbering invention could bring in to the second temple of the doctors. We got a fry of mediators, and a quan of heaven. We got hocui pocus, a ttafer divinity, and the creed of Jthanafius tips the spire.

After this, can we wonder, that Mahommedism- should spread to wide extent, and encroach on the boundary* of our Lord's kingdom? If the christians, at the time of Mahomet's appearance, A. D. 622, (when the Hegyra begins) had greatly corrupted natural religion in the fundamental article of it, the unity of God, and turned the respect of the world to a treble Deity; a Deity compounded of three distinct individuals, infinite intelligences or understandings, whose complex idea is exprest by the term trinity 5 must not a religion, that cut off this gross absurdity, and cake-worjhip, and the warJhip of the mother of God; a religion, fays Mr. Salt (in his preliminary discourse to the Koran) that is taken up in admonitions to moral and divine virtues, and above all to the worshipping and reverencing one eternal, the only true invisible God, and resignation to his will; among which are many excellent things not unworthy even a christian's perusal j must not such a religion be grateful to the common sense of mankind, and prevale very widely; notwithstanding the Romish zeal and piety, took every possible expedient in favor of their treble Deity, their hojl and goddess Mary. Mahommedism is preserable to popery.

And need we be surprized, upon a review of the christian case, in its change from heavenly to earthly, from the truth of God to the inventions of men, that the Jews should persist in their infidelity; and an unconquerable prejudice remain not only in ail the infidel nations, but

« AnteriorContinuar »