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trines. To suppose, that, in such a case, God should enable an impostor to perform these marvellous works, which are related of Jesus, is contrary to all our ideas of the divine character.
They who saw Christ heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out devils, and fill the storms—they who saw him yield himself to death, and then, exactly aca cording to his prediction, return from the grave, ascend into heaven, and shed down on his disciples the promised gifts of his fpirit-especially they who felt themselves partakers of these wonderful gifts, could not doubt, but that he was, what he de clared himself to be, the Son of God and the Savior of men, and that his religion was a heavenly insie tution.
The disciples of Jesus, (allowing that there were such persons) were credible witnesses of these facts; for they related them as matters which fell under their own observation. That which they faw and heard, they declared to the world. Whether they really saw the dead arise, the sick and lame restored to health and foundness, thousands fed with a few small loaves ; whether they themselves were able to work miracles and speak with divers tongues ; whether Jesus, who was crucified, actually arose and appeared to them; whether they conversed with him, saw his wounds and heard his inftruca tions; were facts in which they could not be deceiv. ed: :LE, then, their relation was not true, they must hatë.ipitended to deceive mankind,
But it is not conceivable, that they fhould have fuch a.dithonëfe intention : For by their testimony to the miracles aridi resurrection of Christ, they exposed themselves to poverty, reproach, misery and death. And it cannot be imagined, that a number of men should deliberately associate to facrifice every thing that is dear in life, and even life itself, for the sake of imposing on the world a falsehood, which never would do mankind or themselves any
good that they should persevere in this design af. ter they began to feel its consequences--that they fhould perlift in it until death-that never a single man should defert the cause and discover the fraud. This would surpass all miracles.
If their design had been a fraud, it might, in the time of it, have been easily detected and suppressed.
The facts, which they relate, they declared, were done publicly and recently, and that they were known and remembered by many then living. If there had been no such person as Jesus Christ, or if he had performed no such miracles as are ascriba ed to him; no credit would have been given to their report.
The disciples of Jesus had enemies who wished to confound them. The Jewish rulers spared no pains to suppress the Christian cause. Their en. mity to it would have excited them to convict the witnesses of falsehood, if they had not known that the facts asserted were indisputable. If they had discovered any fraud, they would immediately have made it public, As they never denied the facts, but only studied to evade the conclusion drawn from them, they must have been convinced, that the facts themselves were undeniable.
These witnesses have left a written testimony which has come down to us with every desirable circumstance of credibility.
There are four men who have professedly writ. ten diftin&t histories of the life, ministry and works. of Jesus Christ. Two of them, Matthew and John, were his attendant disciples from the beginning to the end of his public life. The other two, Mark and Luke, were contemporary and conversant with his disciples. Four others, Peter, James, Jude and Paul, have written epifles to particular societies of Christians, or to Christians in general. In there epifles, they recognize the character, allert or al... Jude to the miracles, and teach the doctrines of Jea fus, in substance, as they are related by the before mentioned historians. Three of these letter writers were Cbrift's disciples. The last was a contempo, rary Jew, a man of uncommon zeal, learning and ability ; much conversant in public affairs; for a while an enemy to Christianity, but afterward converted to the belief of it. So that the Christian history stands on the credit of eight different per, sons, most of them disciples, and all of them contemporaries of Christ. They wrote feparately, on different occafions, without any appearance of concert; and yet they all fubftantially agree. Thefe writings were received as genuine in the time when the authors lived, and in the next succeeding age, and from age to age, ever fince, down to the prel. ent time. There is no ancient history extant, which is so completely autheniicated.
The conversion, ministry and epistles of the Apostle Paul afford strong and undeniable evidence of the truth of the Chriftian religion, To these I shall now pay particular attention.
The account, which we have of him, is given by Luke in his history of the Acts of the Apostles. This Luke appears to have been a man of learn. ing; such his writings fhew him to be. He was an esteemed and eminent physician-fo Paul calls him. He was admitted to an acquaintance with men of the first distinction; as appears by the dedication of his works to the most excellent Theophilus. He was highly regarded among the Chrif. tians of his time, and his praise, for the gospel which he wrote, was in all the churches. He was an intimate companion of St. Paul, and accompanied him for a considerable time in his travels.From hiin we have particular information concern. ing Paul's early life, remarkable converfion, and fubsequent condua : And every thing related by Luke we find confirmed in the writings of Paul himself.
Paul, who was a Jew by nation, had been educated in the rigid principles of the fect called Pharifees, and formed to eminent learning in the celebrated school of Gamaliel. He was a man of dif. tinction among his countrymen, and famous for his zeal in opposing Christianity. His worldly in. terest and preferment, the sentiments imbibed from his education, and the prevalent opinion of the Jewish rulers and priests, all concurred to fill him with violent prejudices against the gospel of Christ. In human view, no man was more unlikely than he, to be converted to the belief of it; and no time was more unpromising for his conversion than that in which it took place. He had just consen:ed to, and assisted in the execution of an eminent preacher of the gospel. Breathing out threatening and laughter against the disciples of the Lord, he had fought and obtained from the Jewish high priest a commission to bind and bring to Jerusalem for public punishment all, both men and women, whom he found professing the faith of Jesus Christ.. And for the execution of this bloody commission, he was now going to Damascus. His zeal against the gospel was, at this time, wound up to the high'est strain. Who would suspect, that this man should become a Christian ?- But so it was : When he came near to Damascus, he was, at noon day, suddenly surprised with a light from heaven, far exceeding the brightness of the sun. This was followed with an articulate voice, calling him by name, expoftulating with him for his persecution of the church of Christ, and warning him of the ruin which he would bring on himself. Struck with conviction of his guilt, Paul inquired, 'Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?' The same voice directed him to proceed on his journey into the city, where he should meet with instructions adapt. ed to his case. In consequence of this vifion he fell blind. He was led by some of the company which attended him, into the city. There he spent his time in prayer. After some days a Christian disciple came to him, related to him the purpose of the vision, and restored him to his fight by lay, ing his hands on him in the name of Christ. Soon after this, Paul became a preacher of the gospel. That this wonderful scene was real, and not im. aginary, no man can reasonbly doubt.
There is nothing, in Paul's conduct or writings, that savours of fanaticism; but, on the contrary, he uniformly appears to have possessed a good un. derstanding and a sound judgment. If he had been an enthusiast, yet he never would have fancied a revelation in opposition to his religious princi. ples, his worldly interest, and all his strong preju. dices. Enthusiasm never takes this turn, but al. ways falls in with some previous passion, interest
Paul was now actually engaged in a design to, extirpate Christianity, and he was persuaded, that his design was laudable. If he had been a fanatic, he might have fancied a revelation in favor of his design ; but it was impossible that imagination should create a light and voice in direct opposition to a design, which he had so much at heart, and which he thought so pious.
Besides : This whole scene was open and pub. lic, and attended with none of those circumstances of fecresy and disguise, which usually attend the revelations of enthusiasts and impostors. It took place, not in the night, but in full day-not in a private apartment, or retired desert, but in the high road, and near a populous city-not when Paul was alone, but when he was in the company of a number of people, who all saw the light and heard the voice, as well as he, though they understood not the words which were spoken, And these were