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fimilar method of aecounting for the rest of his miracles.
After the Pharisees and rulers of the Jews had observed how thoroughly exasperated Jesus was against them, how he exposed all their pride and hypocrify, and how little disposed he was to thew them any favour, it is no wonder that they were determined to reject him in any character, thinking the Romans better masters than such a Messiah as he would be with respect to them. Thus their fears and their interest together would lead them to oppose Jesus at all events, whether he was the Merfiah or not.
The more reasonable and considerate among them might, however, be fatisfied that God could not contradict himself, and that it was more probable that they had misinterpreted the scriptures, than that the undeniable miracles of Jesus were not proofs of an authority to which they ought to fubmit.
With the modern Jews it should be a sufficient answer to this objection, that their ancestors frequently opposed Moses and the prophets, even perfecuting and killing some of them, notwithftanding their allowed character of messengers from God.
To aflift us to form a right judgment in this case, let us consider what would be the probabile effect of preaching against popery, even with the power of working miracles, in Spain or Portugal;
for the space of a year and a few months, which appears to me to have been the period of Christ's public ministry. In these circumstances, I should think, that to expect the immediate reformation of the whole country, strongly prejudiced as the people are known to be, would be to expect more than a just knowledge of human nature, and of the history of mankind would warrant. would there be who, not being in the way of the preacher, and not seeing the miracles themselves, would give no attention whatever to any reports concerning them; and who, being fatisfied within themselves that the reports.could not possibly be true, would obstinately persist in rejecting all evidence in their favour; and if these persons, as would probably be the case, were men of rank, and distinguished for their knowledge, it could not but have great influence upon the common people..
Upon the whole, it will hardly be thought improbable, that after such a person had opposed the superstition of an ignorant and vicious people, and had laboured to throw down the false foundation of their hopes of future happiness, they would endeavour to do by him as the Jews did by Christ. At most, his success could not be supposed to be much greater in proportion.
As to the miracles of the apostles, the same motives, whatever they were, that led the Jews to oppose those of Christ, would lead them to oppose
theirs also; and the more, as they were now irritated by opposition, though the power of truth would make its way by degrees.
It is evident, that many of the most intelligent of the Heathens, especially. Marcus Antoninus, would not give any proper attention to any accounts of miracles, so many things of this kind having been reported, which, upon examination, appeared to be tricks or illusions; though, had these men been satisfied that the course of nature had really been controlled, it cannot be supposed but that they must have been convinced of the interpofition of the divine power and providence, Many of the Greeks and Romans, however, had a great opinion of the power of Magic, and, without considering the nature and circumstances of the christian miracles, supposed them to have been performed by some such means.
If we consider the state of the Gentile world, and of christianity in early times, we may very well account for the general rejection of it, without any impeachment of its truth.
The Gentiles in general could not reconcile the idea of the ignominious death of Christ with the great power which his difciples afcribed to him. The more opulent and politer part of them were also disgusted, because the first profelytes to christianity were generally of the lower fort, and many of them flaves, whom they held in extreme con
tempt, and with whom they could not bear the thought of associating. The Greek philosophers were exceedingly fond of their knowledge and elequence, and disdained to receive instruction from such illiterate persons as the apostles and the primitive christians in general were. They were also exceedingly offended at the spirit of christianity, as being at enmity with all other religions; they being of opinion that different modes of worship, and different religions, were even pleasing to the Gods.
The leading men in all the heathen states had a very high idea of the authority of the civil magistrate, and had always considered the bufiness of re. ligion as intirely subjea to his controul; and therefore thought that the mere obslinacy of the christians, in refusing to submit to the laws, was, of itself, deserving of capital punishment. In this manner Trajan reasons in his answer to Pliny. Many of the Gentiles confounded the chriftians with the fects among the Jews, whom they held in contempt; and, therefore, they would not so much as give any attention to their preaching or miracles. The common people considered all those who were enemies to their superstitions as atheists, and to this term the greatest odium was ever annexed; and there are several proofs of their regarding the Epicureans, and the christians in the same light. Besides, Paganism had the advantage, which is common to every thing that has been long establithed, the fanction of antiquity; whereas christi. anity was despised as a novel, and upstart thing.
We are not, however, to suppose that all the impression which the evidences of christianity made on the minds of men, is to be estimated by the numbers of the declared converts to it, since many both of Jews and Gentiles entertained a favourable opinion of the gospel, but were unwilling to own it for fear of censure, ridicule, and persecution, and hoped that God wouid overlook it, provided they did nothing in direct opposition to chrif. tianity, and did not themselves join in the persecue tion of christians.
It staggers some persons, that there should be so many unbelievers in the present age; but those who know the world, and the circumstances in which infidelity gains ground, will see nothing in it that is, in fact, unfavourable to the evidences of chrif tianity. It would be unjust to unbelievers to rank them all in the same class. I shall, therefore, endeavour to point out the different sources of infidon lity in the present age.
A great number of those who profess to reject christianity, are not only such persons as have never considered the subject, or indeed have a fufficient stock of knowledge to examine it with proper attention, but they are also known to be, in