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antient writers assure us, that the Jews took the pains to send persons from Jerusalem into all countries, to accuse the Christians of atheism and other crimes, and to make them as odious as they possibly could i.
From the account which we have given of the obstinacy of the Jews, and of the causes whence it arose, it appears that their unbelief is no objection to the truth of the gospel. The modern Jews, therefore, reason weakly when they say that their ancestors would not, and could not, have rejected Christ, if the miracles related in the gospel had been really wrought. Against this argument we may also observe, that it can do no service to a Jew, because it would prove too much. It would prove that Moses wrought no miracles, since the whole people of Israel often rebelled against him : it would prove that many of the prophets recorded in the Old Testament were false prophets, because they were persecuted by the Jews. The Jews are not able to give any reason why they acknowledge the law of Moses to be a divine revelation, which will not directly and more strongly establish the truth and authority of the gospel,
This argument is used by Origen k: and Orobius, being pressed with it by Limborch', was forced to make two awkward concessions: first, that a Jew could not prove his religion to a deist; and secondly, that it becomes every Christian and Jew to continue in the religion in which he had been educated, because each had arguments to urge which the other could not confute.
The GENTILES had many prejudices in common with the Jews, and some peculiar to themselves.
The causes of unbelief which were common to them with the Jews were, a great corruption of manners, the prejudice of education, the purity of the precepts of the gospel so opposite to their vicious inclinations, the temporal
i Justin M. and Eusebius. See Justin, p. 171, and Thirlby's Notes, and Fabricius de Ver. R. C. p. 665. k Contr. Cels. i. p. 32. and frequently through the whole treatise.
See Limburch's Collat. et Le Clerc Bibl. Chois. xxiv. p. 539. The heretic Apelles said much the same thing, namely, ur, CETY ows εξετάζειν τον λόγον, αλλ' έκαστον ως πεπίστευκε διαμένειν. Νon esse omnino examinandam fidem, sed unumquemque in eo quod semel imbibisset perstare oportere. Eusebius E. H. v. 13.
inconveniences which attended the profession of Christianity, and the temporal advantages which might be secured or obtained by rejecting or opposing it, the poor appearance which Christ had made in the world, and his ignominious death, which they could not reconcile with the divine power ascribed to him by his disciples; these things produced in the greater part of the Jews an aversion for the gospel, and they had the same effect on the unconverted Gentiles.
The Gentiles ought not to have slighted and rejected the gospel upon account of the low estate and sufferings of Christ and his apostles. Their own reason, and some of their most approved writers, might have taught them not to value persons according to their greatness and riches, nor to measure the favour of God by temporal happiness, but to love and honour oppressed innocence m.
They might have remembered, that the best man and the wisest philosopher recorded in their histories lived all his days in poverty", was exposed to slander and calumny, and at last was accused by false witnesses, and condemned to die by unjust judges.
They knew that virtue often obtains not the esteem and respect which it deserves, that it often lies concealed from the world, or, being placed in view, is yet not observed ; and that posterity frequently does justice to the characters of illustrious persons whose good qualities have been overlooked by those amongst whom they dwelt °.
They knew that virtue, though it be so amiable in itself, has a lustre offensive to the vicious; that therefore
m Omnes adeo vestri viri fortes, quos in exemplum prædicatis, ærumnis suis inclyti floruerunt. Minuc. Felix, 36.
η Εγω μεν οίμαι, έφη ο Σωκράτης, εί αγαθού ωνητου επιτύχοιμι, ευρεϊν άν
συν τη οικία και τα όντα πάντα πάνυ ραδίως πέντε μνάς. I believe, said Socrates, that if I should meet with a good purchaser, my effects, house and all, would easily fetch me sixteen pounds. Xenoph. Oecon. i. 3.
Socrates, amicis audientibus : Emissem, inquit, pallium, si nuimos haberem, &c. Seneca de Benef. vii. 27.
In Plato's Apol. Socrat. he says that he is in extreme poverty, šv πενία μυρία ειμί. .
• Quamdiu Catonem civitas ignoravit ! Respuit, nec intellexit, nisi cum perdidit. Seneca, Ep. lxxix.
pride, and ignorance, and envy, and malice, and censo riousness will join to obscure and misrepresent it, will endeavour to make it contemptible, and to bring it to a level with themselves.
They knew that he best deserved the name of a wise and good man, who lived up to the rules of morality which he had prescribed to others; and they ought to have admired a man, who, at the same time that he recommended to his followers humility, patience, and resignation to the will of God under the severest trials, forgiveness of injuries, and universal love and charity, practised these duties himself in their full extent, and was a perfect example of all that he taught.
The Gentiles could not conceive how one who seemed hated and forsaken of God should restore men to the favour of God, and how his sufferings could be serviceable to that end.
It is reasonable that the divine mercy should constantly display itself in all cases which lie within the reach of compassion. Such was the case of us men, who, though sinful, yet are weak and frail beings; though offenders, yet corrigible and capable of amendment.
But it is also reasonable that God should be displeased at the rebellion and transgressions of his creatures, that he should show his disapprobation of iniquity, and so grant his pardon, as at the same time to vindicate the honour of his government and of his laws. Now this he hath accomplished in a most illustrious manner, in the death of his Song-thereby showing his hatred to sin in keeping sinners at a distance, and refusing to hear them in their own name, and in bestowing his favours only through the mediation of one, who suffered for their offences, and rose again for their justification P.
p Petrus I. ii. 19. vult nos patientes esse in tolerandis afflictionibus, quas insontes patimur. Adfert Christi exemplum : 'qui, inquit, et ipse passus est. Satis hoc erat ad comparationem : sed addidit, i'mèo quær, quod ad comparationem non pertinet, sed rem ipsam, hoc est Christi passionem, clarè designat. Commune ergo est patientia ; modus ille differt. Alioqui frustra Paulus quæreret, an Paulus pro fidelibus esset crucifixus, Cor. I. i. 13. Poterat enim et ipse pro ecclesiâ, hoe est in usum ecclesiæ, crucifigi, sicut pati se dixit pro ecclesiâ, Col. i. 24. et postea magno ecclesiæ bono ipse gladio percussus est, Petruss
It is further reasonable that even this intercessor should not interpose in our behalf, if we prefer vice to virtue; and therefore the gospel has taught us that Christ's death shall be no atonement for us, nor his resurrection of any benefit to us, unless we use our best endeavours to die to sin, and to live to God.
An example of goodness set before us for our imitation, encouragement to practise the virtues which are most conspicuous in adversity, which at the same time adorn it and soften its harsh nature, reliance upon him who underwent so much for our sake, hope that he will be a merciful judge, motives from gratitude to love him more than our sins, who loved us more than his own life, the fears of departing hence considerably assuaged,
these are benefits arising from the sufferings of our master, and useful purposes which seem to be better answered by this method of our redemption, than they would have been if Christ had descended from heaven to proclaim forgiveness of sins upon repentance, and to teach men their duty, and then had left the world without undergoing the evils to which he submitted.
aliique apostoli crucifixi. Sed eo modo, quo Christus, crucifigi, pænas vice nostrâ ferendo, nec Paulus poterat, nec alius quisquam. Vox ergo illa ime, pro, peculiare hic aliquid denotat, quod apostolis communicari non potest. Posset autem si mortis Christi utilitas gradu tantùm a morte apostolorum, non etiam fine proprio segregaretur. Grotius de Satisf. cap. 9. p. 331.
Joan. i. 29. duris Tougū-Respicit Baptista non ad agnum mactatum, gratiarum agendarum caussâ, qualis erat agnus paschalis, sed ad agnum expiandi peccati caussâ oblatum, quales erant agni holocautomatis quotidiani. Joannes ergo comparat id quod facturus erat Jesus ad homines ad sanctitatem adducendos, cum Deo reconciliandos, liberandosque pænis quas erant commeriti, ritui qui adhibebatur, quando Deo victima pro peccato offerebatur. Tum verò quisquis sacra faciebat, ritu ipso sacrificii palam fatebatur se commeritum esse mortem, quam victima modò passa crat, seque moriturum, si Deus summo jure secum agere vellet : Deus verò vicissim accipiebat sanguinem victimæ loco sanguinis peccatoris, et sibi confessione rei ac pænitentiâ satisfieri patiebatur. Similiter cùm Christus semet ipse Deo obtulit, humani generis loco sese ei stitit, at Deus accepit mortem ejus loco prenarum, quas singuli peccatores luere debuissent, vultque eas ei condonare, eâ lege ut ii soli, qui Christo credent et parebunt, fructuum sacrificii ejus participes fiant. Sic nobis describitur in Scripturâ sacrificium Christi, nec ab eâ descriptione abire liceat, nisi velimus aliter loqui, quam fecere apostoli. Clericus.
The Gentiles thought it strange to ascribe such power and authority to a crucified man.
But the greatest power which any person can show, consists unquestionably in performing things which no other can do, unless God assist him in an extraordinary
To destroy the peace of mankind, and carry ruin and desolation through populous countries, is no more than what human strength and human policy can accomplish; and many have done this who have not possessed one commendable quality. To be honoured, admired, trusted, reverenced,and beloved,--these are advantages which may be obtained by great abilities, and a good disposition, and a favourable concurrence of circumstances. But, as the Psalmist observes, no man by the multitude of his riches, or the eminence of his station, can deliver his brother or himself from death, or make agreement unto God for him for it cost more to redeem their souls : so that he must let that alone for ever. Therefore he who can heal all sicknesses and diseases by speaking a word, who can restore the dead to life, who can confer the same power upon others, who can deliver himself from the
is as much superior to the rich, the rulers, and the heroes of the world, as the heavens are above the earth.
If he had appeared in power and splendour, if he had subdued vice by force of arms, and established his kingdom upon earth, and ruled over the willing nations, giving them just and holy laws, and taking innocence and virtue under his protection,---such an enterprise, so accomplished, had indeed been great and glorious : but as in this case the means would have been proportionate to the end, it would have been nothing when compared with the deliverance which he wrought, and the victories which he gained, not by human means, nor by worldly wisdom, but by a most wonderful and unparalleled method, by submitting to poverty and contempt, by avoiding honours, by suffering indignities, by dying upon the cross, by sending out a few ignorant and obscure men, who with no other arms than patience and meekness, and with no other art than speaking the truth, though opposed by the learned and the mighty, introduced a religion which spread itself through the world.