« PreviousContinue »
to lay aside all modern writers, however useful and learned, and study those among the ancients who treat of Christianity, or of the affairs of the Jews and Gentiles, at its first promulgation, and afterwards. By this determination I was the more likely to guard against the prejudices of education, which have such wonderful effects in warping the views of men; to ascertain the principles of the gospel undistorted by any fallacious medium; to discover in their genuine colours the means used to establish it in the world, and the effects which it produced on those who received, and those who rejected it. Reflection soon taught me that an acquaintance with the learned languages, though necessary, was not the only qualification to gain these ends; that the successful candidate after truth must possess other less showy indeed, but not less solid requisites, namely, patience, humility, a desire to pursue truth wherever it might lead him, and above all a knowledge of the laws which govern the human mind. Indeed the doctrine of the association of ideas, as taught in the school of Locke, Hartley and Priestley, though the use
of it in this respect has yet been but little perceived, seems to me the only clue which can guide us with certainty and precision through the labyrinth of ancient records. By its assistance we are enabled to trace the influence of opinions and institutions on the minds of men, and to ascertain the connection which necessarily subsists between the situation in which they were placed, and the language or modes of speech which they respectively use. Thus we acquiesce in their language and conduct, because in similar circumstances we perceive that we ourselves would have spoken and acted in the same manner, or that it was natural for all men to do so under the influence of the same previous causes. To the light which this great law of animated nature reflected on the pages of Philo and Josephus, I am chiefly indebted for the. facts contained in the following volume.
The study of these noble authors, with others who succeeded them, convinced me that the providence of God had furnished a great mass of evidence in favour of Christianity, hitherto unknown to modern inquirers; and that the development of these facts cannot fail, in due time, to fasten the
conviction of its divine origin on the understandings and hearts of all mankind. A part of this evidence I presume already to have developed, and I now offer it to the public; though this, I am aware, may sound like an arrogant pretension in a man who lays no claim to superior learning and discernment, and whose only merit is patient investigation. Of the facts here detailed I have long been in possession, and I have viewed them on every side, and in all their bearings. Their novelty and importance will not be questioned, and unless by some unnatural obliquity my judgment is liable to error, no serious doubt will be entertained of their truth*.
*I do not entirely depend on my own judgment for the solidity of these facts, having the concurrence of some friends for their truth. Among these was the late Reverend William Thomas of Chester, with whom I was in the habit of communicating my ideas, and who, if he lived, would have materially benefitted these Re searches. This gentleman possessed, in a high degree, the qualities that ennoble and endear our nature; and presented a rare example, in which the refinements of taste and literature were happily blended with the simplicity and comprehension of Christian philosophy. He married a lady who in every respect resembled
There are three points of view in which this volume will, it is hoped, claim the atten tion of my readers. First, they will not fail to notice the charming character drawn by Philo, of the first Jewish believers. In these Christians he will recognize the genuine effects of the gospel, while yet operating in its original purity. Their wisdom and unrivalled virtue must raise them not only above the suspicion, but, morally speaking, above the possibility of being themselves deceived, or of having voluntarily concurred to deceive others, in regard to the system under the influence of which they acted.
Secondly, my readers will regard, with
himself, and who took an active part in all his generous plans to alleviate misery, and to promote the interests of knowledge and virtue. During his illness, which lasted two years, he read all the Jewish and Christian scriptures; and his patient resignation in sickness, no less than his probity and usefulness through life, formed an eloquent and interesting comment on their efficacy and truth. He died in the thirtyseventh year of his age, lamented by a wide circle of friends and acquaintances. Had he lived, society at large would have had ample reasons to know and to admire him.
agreeable surprise, the amazing progress which the gospel made in the world, soon after its first promulgation. They will perceive, from the most unquestionable authority, that not only its prevalence, but the difficulties which it had to encounter, far exceeded the belief and even the conception of men in modern days. In a few years after the resurrection of Jesus, the word of God, like the light of the sun, pervaded the whole habitable globe; and Josephus before the close of his life could say, that no place among the Greeks or Barbarians existed, in which it was not known and embraced. The men engaged in propagating it, were not only reproached and hated, but were destroyed in heaps, as the enemies of mankind and of the gods. Nevertheless their cause mightily prevailed. By the preaching of St. Paul and others, in Damascus, all the women in that town, with few only excepted, became obedient to the faith; and not only the preachers of it, but all the nation to which they belonged, in that city perished, to the amount of eighteen thousand. Ten hundred thousand Jews, a great proportion of whom were Christians, suffered persecution in the