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equity and common sense, gave place to doctrines of men, to traditions contrary to them both. The most considerable and the most learned were those who were the most depraved in their opinions, and in their practice; and they who should have taught the truth to others were blind guides, deluding those who relied upon them.
We may judge of the state of the Gentile world at that time, by the state of that considerable part of it which belonged to the Roman empire. Public spirit, a love of their country, disinterestedness, frugality, sobriety, a desire of reputation, and a contempt of wealth, had contributed to make the Romans great ; but their successes proved their undoing, and their national good qualities forsook them : their power still continued, nor could it be soon destroyed; but the remains of virtue, and their liberty, fell together : they learned the vices of those whom they had conquered, and taught them theirs in exchange.' Such was the condition of the Gentile world when our Lord sent forth his apostles to instruct and reform them.
4. Though the Heathen were then greatly corrupted in their lives, yet knowledge was considerably increased, and upon this account it was a proper season for our Lord to appear. Truth and learning are friends; error and imposture flourish under the protection of ignorance. When the gospel was offered to mankind, the teachers of it had adversaries, who wanted neither inclination nor abilities to oppose it. To make its way at such a time, and to bring over not only the lower sort of people, but also some of the learned, who turned its own weapons against Paganism, this was an honour to the Christian religion, and one proof of its truth.
5. At the time when our Lord came, the insufficiency of the Jewish religion ", of natural religion, of antient tradition, and of philosophy, fully appeared.
The Jewish religion was never designed to be universal
w See Le Clerc, Hist. Eccl.
* Eusebius observes, oro Mwośws róuos kóry ’loudaiww z Orel, xal τούτω επι της οικείας γης οικούνται αποδεδεικται, και ότι δια τούτο
or perpetual; it had also other defects, which appeared the plainer when it was compared with the Christian religion.
The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews shows at large that the Christian institution ought to take place of the Mosaic, upon account of the comparative weakness and unprofitableness of the first covenant.
The insufficiency of the Jewish revelation appeared also, in some measure, from that general corruption which had overrun it, of which mention has been already made.
Concerning the insufficiency of natural religion, we may observe, that since natural religion consists of those duties which human reason can discover, reason and natural religion may here be considered as one and the same thing. There have been many disputes about the sufficiency or insufficiency of human reason. Human reason seems to have its sufficiency in one sense, and its insufficiency in another. The sufficiency of human reason is this ; that every one may find out as much as God requires from him. Men, according to the place and age in which they live, the opportunities and the natural abilities conferred upon them, must differ extremely in knowledge; but every one may know all that God expects of him, which is, that he should inform himself of his duty to the best of his power, and act suitably to his judgment and to the dictates of his conscience.
The insufficiency of human reason, or natural religion, consisted in this : religion was so corrupted by fables and forgeries, and so obscured by the doubts and disputes of the learned, that it lay buried under falsehood and uncertainty, and was not to be retrieved without great dif. ficulty.
And, if we may judge of the powers of reason by the discoveries of this kind which reason ever made, we shall
ετέρου προφήτου, και ετέρου νόμου προσεδέησε. • Quod Mosaica lex uni Judaicæ genti accommodari poterat, et huic ipsi propriam terram incolenti duntaxat : quodque idcirco altero propheta, alteraque lege opus fuerat. Demonst. Ev. i. 1.
find, that though several persons determined justly on several moral subjects, yet there was not one of them who did not fall into some mistakes in matters of morality and of religion.
Concerning the insufficiency of tradition, we may observe that religion, as it stood in the heathen world, was not barely the result of reasoning ; but that a considerable part of it was made up of truths received by tradition from the remotest antiquity. Before learning flourished, before the arts of disputing were cultivated, the general opinion was, that one God and Father of all had formed the uni. verse, and that the soul subsisted after it had left the body, and was happy or unhappy according to its past behaviour. These notions were so early, that the origin of them could never be discovered. But as the Gentiles were at a loss to know whence these traditions arose, so neither did they receive them pure and unmixed, nor could they restore them to their natural simplicity ; by length of time they were debased, darkened with lies and fables, and therefore grew insufficient for religious purposes, and became weak incitements to virtue.
When natural religion and tradition were thus corrupted, there remained only one human method of retrieving them, and that was philosophy. This method had been tried, and was found deficient.
For the philosophers themselves were not free from gross mistakes, from many defects both in principles and practice y. Besides, the corruption was too general to be cured by philosophy, which was not calculated for the benefit of the common people, nor understood by them Add to this, that those learned moralists used to
y Grotius on Rom. i. 32. mentions the pernicious doctrines of some philosophers. Some of them had loose notions concerning the lawfulness of lying and of fornication. Whitby on Ephes. iv. 25. v. 6. 1 Thes. iv. 5. Grotius on Acts xv. 20. As to practice, see what Cicero says of them, Tusc. Disp. ii
. 4. and the writer of the Clement, Homil
. v. 18. and Grotius de Ver. R. C. ii. 18. and Whitby on 1 Thes.
i Horace tells us that his father used to say to him;
• Sapiens, vitatu quidque petitu Sit melius, caussas reddet tibi : mî satis est, si
recommend virtue from its natural beauty and decency“, and to insist chiefly on this motive, which, though it may weigh much with some well-disposed minds, yet must have little influence upon the bulk of mankind, who will not be moved, unless their fears or their hopes be strongly affected.
The philosophers, by their endless disputes and divisions 5, darkened many truths, and taught nothing so effectually as doubt and suspense. Instead of opposing the vulgar superstitions, they often complied with them, and outwardly conformed to the established religions. These and other disadvantages under which philosophy laboured, show that it had little effect towards a reformation of sentiments and
What it could do, it had done before the coming of Christ. It had been tried, and it had been found insufficient.
6. Lastly, when our Lord came, the most civilized and the most populous parts of Europe and Asia were under one government, and ruled by common laws, which in the main were just and good"; the times were more quiet and
Traditum ab antiquis morem servare, tuamque,
Serm. i. 4. 115, The reasonings of the philosophers were jargon to this plain honest man : but he thought it right to follow whatsoever things were of good report.
• It is not possible,' says Strabo, to move the vulgar by philosophic discourses, and to lead them to piety, holiness, and fidelity; but it must be done by superstition also, and that requires fables and prodigies. Ου γαρ όχλον τε γυναικών και παντός χυδαίου πλήθους επαγαγείν λόγω δυνατόν φιλοσόφω, και προσκαλέσασθαι προς ευσέβειαν και οσιότητα και πίστιν, αλλά δεί και δια δεισιδαιμονίας, τούτο δ' ουκ drey u.udorotas, xad Tepateias. Here is something right, and soniething wrong. See 1. i. a See Miscell, Obsery. vol. i.
33. b Nimium altercando veritas amittitur.
In Publii Syri Sentent. • 'Ανέτειλε γαρ εν ταις ημέραις αυτου δικαιοσύνη, και πλήθος ειρήνης γέγονεν, αρξάμενον από της γενέσεις αυτού, ευτρεπίζοντος του Θεού
διδασκαλία αυτού τα έθνη, ν' υπό ένα γένηται των Ρωμαίων βασιλέα και μη, δια το προφάσαι των πολλών βασιλειων άμικτον των εθνών προς αλληλα, χαλεπώτερον γένηται τους αποστόλους του Ιησού το
happy than they had been, commerce flourished, and travelling was made easy and safe; and this state of things was favourable to Christianity, and afforded opportunities to lay the foundation of it, and to spread it speedily and effectually
After the resurrection of Christ, for several years, the Romans were disturbed by civil commotions, and ruled by bad emperors, and so had no leisure to mind the progress of the gospel, and to oppose it, till the Christians were become too numerous to be destroyed.
ποιήσαι όπερ προσέταξεν αυτοίς. Orta est enim in diebus ejus justitia et abundantia pacis, idque statim ac natus est. Deus enim, cum gentes ad ejus doctrinam præparatus vellet, providit ut uni Romanorum imperatori parerent: ne, si plures essent reges, gentesque essent a se invicem alienæ, difficilius apostoli exsequerentur id quod illis a Jesu præceptum fuerat. Origen contr. Cels. ü. p. 79.