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that if the miracles of Christ had not been foretold, they would have deserved no regard and credit.
This was making improper concessions ; for the miracles wrought in support of the gospel were attended with many circumstances to prove them to be the works of God, besides their correspondence with antient prophecies 4. The predictions of Christ and of his apostles which were fulfilled, the noble ends for which their miracles were performed, the happy effects which they produced upon the bodies and souls of men, and the character and behaviour of those who wrought them, all vouch for them, that they were not only miracles, but divine miracles.
The particular nature of some of those miracles leads us also to the same conclusion; as, for example, the resurrection of dead persons, which requires a power equal to that of creation.
In the general opinion and estimation of mankind, the raising of the dead hath passed for an act of the most extraordinary power. The Pagans in general thought it incredible, and some of them said that it was an utter impossibility, and one of those things which God himself could not do. But from the nature of this miracle, and from the influence which it would have upon unprejudiced men, we may reason thus : To suppose that God would permit evil spirits to perform so affecting, so astonishing a miracle as raising the dead, and to perform it in order to mislead men, is the same thing as supposing that there is no divine Providence, and that God hath given up the government of the world into the hands of evil spirits. If a person by their assistance could raise the dead, and should teach doctrines not absurd and contradictory, an honest and prudent man would think himself obliged to obey such a teacher, and so would inevitably be led into error.
Thus the miracles of Christ and of his apostles may be proved to have been wrought by a divine assistance, without having recourse to antient prophecies. It is indeed a very good additional argument, that these things were declared long before, and that the Jews were prepared to expect such signs from the Messias.
u The miracles ascribed to Christ and to his apostles recommend themselves to our belief on several accounts, which are considered in the Remarks on Eccl, Hist. The Miracles of our Saviour and of his Apostles defended.' VOL. I.
The Christian religion required an open profession before men, which seemed also unreasonable to the learned Pagans, who, as we observed before, were generally of opinion, that if a man led a virtuous life, it mattered not much what religion he professed; that the supreme Being chose to be worshipped in various ways, according to the various notions which different people entertained of him; and that every one was obliged, for the sake of public peace, to conform to the religion established in his country.
I shall not treat this opinion with contempt; it is perhaps the most specious thing that the Gentiles had to say for themselves W. Let it be granted that a Pagan was not obliged to inquire diligently after all the religious notions and the various modes of worship which obtained up and down in the habitable world, nor to spend his time in examining what the philosophers had to urge for their several tenets; that it was enough for him to practise those virtues which had the general approbation, and to honour the Deity ‘more patrio: if we should make even these large concessions, yet when a religion, fair and amiable, just and holy, and attested by miracles, condescended to visit him and to come to seek him ; to refuse her a hearing and to reject her with scorn, was an immoral behaviour, showed a contempt of truth and of the Deity, and was a scandalous indolence in a man, who probably would not have refused toil of body and attention of mind, if pleasure, or profit, or praise had called him to it.
To profess doctrines which we believe to be false, for worldly advantage, for the sake of quiet, for political reasons, and out of submission to the civil magistrate, is a vicious excess, which nothing can justify. Not to be content with the liberty of following our own sentiments, but rudely to attack what is accounted true and sacred in the nation where we live, is an extreme on the other side.
» Marcilius Ficinus, in his Treatise of the Christian religion, has in some measure adopted the sentiment. He contends, ch, 4. that all religions, how differing soever, are so far good, as they teach men to honour the Deity; and he adds, forsitan et varietas hujusinodi, ordinate Deo, decorem quendam parit in universo mirabilem.”
The king of Siam reasoned in the same manner, in his reply to the French king's ambassador, who pressed him to embrace the Christian religion. See Voyage de Siam des Pères Jésuites, p. 136.
The dictates of prudence and of good manners, and the reverence due to civil society, are things which ought to be carefully considered by those whose inquiries have led them aside from the religious opinions commonly received.
Lastly, the Gentiles disliked Christianity, because it was, in their way of thinking, an unsociable and domineering religion, which rejected all Gods, except one, and condemned all other religions as impious and detestable*.
Such were the prejudices of the Jews and Gentiles, which made so many of them unwilling and unfit to receive the Christian religion. But there is reason to think that the number of unbelievers, amongst those to whom the gospel was first preached, was not altogether so great as is commonly imaginedy. Besides those who professed Christianity, and those who rejected and opposed it, there were in all probability multitudes between both, neither perfect Christians nor yet unbelievers ; they had a favourable opinion of the gospel, but worldly considerations made them unwilling to own it. many circumstances which inclined them to think that Christianity was a divine revelation ; but there were many inconveniences which attended the open profession of it; and they could not find in themselves courage enough to bear them, to disoblige their friends and family, to ruin their fortunes, to lose their reputation, their liberty, and their life, for the sake of this new religion. Therefore they were willing to hope, that if they endeavoured to observe the great precepts of morality, which Christ had represented as the principal part, the sum and substance of religion,-if they thought honourably of the gospel, if they never spake against it, if they offered no injury to the Christians, if they did them all the services that they could
* When Dionysius Alex, was brought before milion, and exhorted by him to adore the gods, he replied, that Christians worshipped one God, maker of all things. Why, so you may, said Æmilian; you may worship your own God as much as you will, if you will but worship our gods also. Euseb. E. H. vii. 11.
y See Epiphanius Hæres. 30. c. 9. p. 133. and Petav. Not. p. 53 where some strange things are related, the truth of which I would neither affirm nor deny. But Epiphanius was a credulous man, and, in general, little regard is due to his testimony.
safely perform, they were willing to hope that God would accept this, and that he would excuse and forgive the rest.
The account which we have of those tinres is very short; but enough is said in the New Testament to show that this supposition is not groundless, and that many thought and acted in this manner; for we are there told that several believed in Christ, but durst not own it; some because they loved the praise of men ; others because they feared the Jews, because they would not be put out of the synagogue; others because they would not part with their possessions. Joseph of Arimathæa is said to have been secretly his disciple; Nicodemus seems to have had the same disposition; and afterwards Gamaliel, and other Pharisees, who opposed the persecution and the punishment of the apostles, were probably not a little inclined to Christianity. Thus it was then, and thus it hath been ever since. Truth has had concealed and timorous friends, who, keeping their sentiments to themselves, or disclosing them only to a few, complied with established errors and superstitions, which they disliked and despised. They who are at all acquainted with history, know that a great number of such examples might be produced.
The opposition which the gospel experienced from the Jews and Gentiles arose principally from their vices. To this cause the scriptures ascribe their unbelief, and observe, that truth is hidden from those who love darkness rather than light, whose deeds are evil, who hate to be reformed, whose minds are carnal, and cannot be subject to the law of God, and who have pleasure in unrighteousness
. Of such persons it is said, that none of them shall understand.
2 Erasmus Epist. 553. says, 'Quid ego potuissem opitulari Luthero, si me periculi comitein fecissem, nisi ut pro uno perirent duo ?Multa quidem præclare et docuit et monuit, atque utinam sua bona malis intolerabilibus non vitiasset! Quod si omnia pie scripsisset, non tamen erat animus ob veritatem capite periclitari. Non omnes ad martyrium satis habent roboris. Vereor, ne, si quid inciderit tumultûs, Petrum sim imitaturus.
Father Paul, being asked by a friend, how he could hold communion with the church of Rome, replied, · Deus non dedit mihi spiritum Lutheri.' See Burnet's Life of Bedell, p. 16. and Bayle's Dictionary, art. Weidnerus,
Virtue and goodness are the health of the soul, and vice is a disease in it. A sickly and infirm body cannot undergo hard toil, nor can a mind vexed and discomposed with irregular appetites, attend to the search after truth, wanting that evenness of temper, and that vigour, which are necessary in such inquiries.
The entire opposition between the principles of religion and the inclination of a vicious mind, makes a bad man an improper judge of morality.
A man seldom judges right in a cause between himself and his enemy; prejudice and passion incline him to give an unfair sentence. In such a situation is the sinner when he sits down to examine the truth of religion ; for, if religion be indeed what it is commonly supposed to be, he is a rebel to God and to reason, a mere fool; and yet not excusable on that account, because his folly is not a natural but an acquired infirmity. And what can such an one do? He must hate the glass that sets his deformity before him, he must turn away his eyes and his thoughts from divine truths, and confound the differences between right and wrong, that he may find some plea for his conduct. Since God is the father of all, since his
mercy all his works, since he puts it in the power of every person to perform all that he requires from him, and since men are exposed to many temptations-it is reasonable to think that from this supreme Being, from this eternal fountain of truth and of all good gifts, there issues a light“, which lighteth every one that cometh into the world, and that whosoever hath a love of things good and praise-worthy, and a desire of acting a virtuous and rational part in his station, hath also a blessing from God, and a secret influence upon his heart and understanding to guide and im
This blessing, as it is given to the good, so it is withholden from the wicked. The mind that delights in unrighteousness, and prefers it to the divine favour, is left to itself, to its injudicious choice, and to the fatal consequences of that choice. God withdraws himself from it, and all is darkness and disorder.
See Grotius, Vot, pro Pac. p. 666. and Rivet. Apol. Discuss. p.701.