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of God, when seen only in part, frequently appear unsightly and uncouth; when complete they are covered with beauty. It is so here. What we see is like the limbs severed from the human body; and how mutilated and uninviting is the sight! But the wretched state of the Jews will have an end. It is predicted that they shall be converted to the Christian faith; and afterwards live in great honour and felicity: “ For shame,” as one of their own prophets expresses it, “they shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion; in their land they shall possess double; everlasting joy shall be upon them.”—Isa. Ixi. 7. How strong a presumptive proof does their separate state furnish of their promised restoration! When they are converted, the argument in favour of the gospel, designed for the benefit and conviction of the whole world, will be seen in all its evidence, and felt in all its force; and its influence on those who till then continue in unbelief will be unspeakably great. The evidence in its present state merits the deepest attention of every one who rejects the Christian religion.
Read and meditate deeply on the subject. Consider maturely its general nature and design, and these particular predictions. I can confidently appeal to sound judgment and reason,
say, “ Is prophecy a just theme of ridicule? Does it consist of some uncertain conjectures, which may be interpreted in any way? It must be allowed by the candid and impartial to have considerable weight. It is one of those arguments which resembles a river; it acquires greater body and force in proportion to the length of its course; and if we consider the scope of many predictions, and the actual state of a considerable portion of mankind, and the tendency of things in the moral world, do they not afford very weighty evidence of the inspiration of the prophets, and of the truth of the gospel ?"
OF THE EVIDENCE FOR THE DIVINE AUTHORITY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT,
ARISIXG FROM THE SUCCESS OF THE GOSPEL.
That the Christian religion had great and extensive success in the world, will be denied by none. But some may reply, “So had the old pagan systems; so had the koran." The remark is so far just that mere success, abstracted from circumstances, means, and causes, is no proof either of truth or error. There is scarcely a more dangerous principle than that which leads a person to conclude, that because a plan succeeds, therefore it is right; because the object which he had in view is attained, therefore it is good; and because he has been able to gratify his wishes to the full, therefore it is an evidence of the divine approbation and favour. However common this manner of reasoning has been, and is at the present time, it is utterly destitute of foundation. But though the general maxim be false, it by no means follows but that in some cases success may be considered as a proof of truth and goodness, and an eminent display of the divine interposition in its favour. It will appear, it is hoped, to be so here. Let the subject be weighed with impartiality; and it will be seen, that while success pleads nothing in favour of either Paganism or Mohammedanism, it is a strong presumptive evidence that Christianity is of God. Consider the following things.
The nature of the Christian Religion as contained in the
You will recollect what has been already written on this subject. Christianity is at war with every evil passion in the
human heart: it condemns pride, ambition, and all those dispositions and pursuits which exalt men in their own esteem, and in the esteem of the world. It plainly tells religionists, that all their costly services, their multiplied acts of worship, and their rigorous austerities, will not purchase the pardon of their sins, nor the favour of God, nor a title to eternal felicity; and it calls upon them as guilty, condemned, depraved, and miserable creatures, to look for salvation from one who suffered on the cross; to place all their dependence on him alone, “ for wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption"-1 Cor. i. 30; and to live devoted to him. It enjoins a temper and conduct diametrically opposite to the wishes of every depraved heart. It strikes at the root of the prevailing sentiments and dispositions of mankind, by proclaiming aloud, “ Selfishness shall not reign; drag down the Jezebel from the throne, and trample her under foot.” The welfare of our neighbour, the gospel enjoins us to consider as our own, and to love him as ourselves; and the public and general good to consider as paramount to private and individual benefit. Above all, it teaches us that the authority of God is to rule supreme
and without a rival in the soul; and that we are to live in a state of constant and entire subjection to him; or, to adopt its language, "to glorify him in our body and in our spirit, which are his.”—1 Cor. vi. 20. What is there in this religion either to soothe the lofty ideas of the great ones of the earth, or to gratify the appetites and passions of the multitude?
The Persons by whom the Christian Religion was
The Founder of Christianity was so poor, that he had not where to lay his head; and those whom he chose for witnesses of his character, and missionaries to the world, had no external glory to recommend them. None of them were men of literature, in the Greek or Roman sense of the word; and Paul only in the Jewish sense. The rest were plain men. They had no family connexions, no estates, no titles, not even that of rabbi among their countrymen. They did not, I conceive, appear in what is called the rank of gentlemen; nor had they acquired the modes of behaviour in polite life. They were plain, honest men, of unfeigned piety, and much unadorned good sense;
who delivered their testimony with great simplicity and zeal, and with an ardent affection to their Master and the souls of
In appearance, dress, and manners, they were considered as verging towards what is called the lower class of society; and in both their idiom and accent they had, among their countrymen at Jerusalem, the patois (the brogue) of Galilee, and among the Greeks and Romans, the patois of the Jews. “ What will this babbler say?" was the contemptuous sneer of the Athenian philosophers: and Paul's own declaration,
though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge,” unites to confirm the justness of the remark. By the followers of Christ in succeeding ages, the character of the apostles has been justly held in so high a degree of reverence, that we are ready to attach to them a venerableness of appearance in the eyes of the world, which commanded general esteem. But on due consideration, the account which has just been given will be found to be accurate. Judge then, what regard would be paid to such men, when they went from place to place, to propagate a new religion, and to assert that every body was in the wrong except themselves. When they every where proclaimed aloud, that unless each individual turned from his sinful thoughts and ways; the pagan from all his idolatry to the gospel; and the Jew from relying on his observances, and quitted Moses for Christ, he could not escape the judgments of God-you can easily anticipate with what hearts the world would listen to their preaching.
The Means which were employed for propagating the
PAGANISM does not afford an instance of any person before the coming of Christ, employing what may be called a rational method for converting the inhabitants of any country, or even of a single city, to the belief of the heathen mythology. The system formed in the infancy of society was received as divine, and those who afterwards entered into the community, must submit to it as the condition of enjoying the benefit of their protection. Mohammed, a man of note among his countrymen, of a family accounted ancient and honourable, in manners a courtier, and attentive to all the punctilios of polite behaviour, sought earnestly to ingratiate himself with those who
could promote his views. But finding softness and persuasion to be tedious ways of gaining converts, he took a shorter and more successful method; and the ultima ratio regum, the sword, was allowed, and abundantly employed. The booted Hierophant who comes at the head of an army and commands belief, demonstrates that he confides in something besides arguments for success; and success is here no evidence of truth. When I see his sword reeking with blood warm from the hearts of his opposers, I wonder not that he has many proselytes; but instead of believing, my soul is filled with disgust and abhorrence.
Turn away from the odious spectacle, and view the disciples of Jesus in their humble garb addressing the multitude in a synagogue, or a handful in a school, or in a private house! They have no wealth, and they cannot bribe; they have no influence, and they can promise neither riches nor honours. They preach Jesus Christ, and him crucified. They narrate the history of his life, and death, and resurrection, and ascension; and they declare that it is he who is appointed to be the Saviour of the world, and the Judge of the living and the dead. Both the Greeks and the Romans were fond of eloquence (a very florid and gaudy one was the taste of the age) and of fine speaking, even to the very minutest parts of action. But the only one of the apostles who can be supposed capable of attempting such a thing, declares, “ I came not with enticing words of men's wisdom.” The rest could not, if they would; and that they did not aim at it, their writings plainly show: for if ever there was a book which gave evidence that the writers did not seek for eloquence of composition, it is the New Testament. We may justly consider it as a specimen of their preaching; and it proves they did not seek to impose on men in any way. “ Our exhortation,” say they, “ was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor of guile.” They made use of no political craft. They were neither sycophants of the rich and great, nor flatterers of the poor: they neither cringed to rulers nor courted the people; and they made no show of learning, to impose on the ignorant and vulgar. They gave no promises of any worldly advantage by the change of religion; on the contrary, they told their hearers, “ all who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” Such were the means used. Were they calculated to deceive the world, and gain converts to an imposture?