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THE APPARENT UNSUITABLENESS OF THE MEANS TO THE END, IN ESTABLISHING THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION, A PROOF OF ITS DIVINITY. He that means to effect any thing must have means of his own proportionable; and if they be not, he must fail, or derive them from the mighty. See then with what instruments the holy Jesus sets out upon this great reformation of the world.
Twelve men of obscure and poor birth, of contemptible trades and quality, without learning, without breeding: these men were sent into the midst of a knowing and wise world, to dispute with the most famous philosophers of Greece, to out-wit all the learning of Athens, to out-preach all the Roman orators; to introduce into a newly settled empire, which would be impatient of novelties and change, such a change as must destroy all their tem ples, or remove thence all their gods; against which change all the zeal of the world, and all the passions, and all the seeming pretences which they could make, must needs be violently opposed: a change, that introduced new laws, and caused them to reverse the old, to change that religion under which their fathers long did prosper, and under which the Roman empire obtained so great a grandeur, for a religion, which in appearance was silly and humble, meek and peaceable, not apt indeed to do harm, but exposing men to all the harm in the world, abating their courage, blunting their swords, teaching peace and unactiveness, and making the soldiers' arms in a manner useless, and untying their military girdle: a religion, which contradicted their reasons of state, and erected new judicatories,
and made the Roman courts to be silent and without causes; a religion, that gave countenance to the poor and pitiful, but, in a time when riches were adored, and ambition esteemed the greatest nobleness, and pleasure thought to be the chiefest good, it brought no peculiar blessing to the rich or mighty, unless they would become poor and humble in some real sense or other: a religion, that would change the face of things, and would also pierce into the secrets of the soul, and unravel all the intrigues of hearts, and reform all evil manners, and break vile habits into gentleness and counsel : that such a religion, in such a time, preached by such mean persons, should triumph over the philosophy of the world, and the arguments of the subtle, and the sermons of the eloquent, and the power of princes, and the interest of states, and the inclinations of nature, and the blindness of zeal, and the force of custom, and the pleasures of sin, and the busy arts of the devil, that is, against wit, and power, and money, and religion, and wilfulness, and fame, and empire, which are all the things in the world that can make a thing impossible; this, I say, could not be by the proper force of such instruments; for no man can span heaven with an infant's palm, nor govern wise empires with diagrams.
It were impudence to send a footman to command Cæsar to lay down his arms, to disband his legions, and throw himself into the Tiber, or keep a tavern next to Pompey's theatre; but if a sober man shall stand alone, unarmed, undefended, or unprovided, and shall tell, that he will make the sun stand still, or remove a mountain, or reduce
Xerxes' army to the scantling of a single troop, he that believes he will and can do this, must believe he does it by a higher power than he can yet perceive; and so it was in the present transaction. Bp. Taylor.
THE SPEEDY PROPAGATION OF THE GOSPEL,
THE gospel is frequently, in the New Testament, compared to light; and it did in nothing more resemble light than in this, that, as soon as the heavenly doctrine therein contained arose upon the world, it darted its bright rays, and diffused its quickening influence from east to west, with an inconceivable swiftness. The kingdom of God did not establish itself, like other kingdoms, in a slow and leisurely manner, so as that lookers on might trace it easily from its rise through the several steps of its progress; but fixed itself at once almost every where, with so rapid and amazing a course, as did, as it were, leave the eyes and observation of men behind it. And still as it went along, it gained mighty spoils from all religions, and gathered vast multitudes of every country under its banners.
The appearing causes and instruments of this wondrous revolution were, chiefly, twelve men, of obscure birth and parentage, of the meanest education, of the plainest and simplest understandings, unpolished by learning and eloquence, unimproved by experience and converse; men of no subtlety, no art, no address; who had no manner of authority, interest, or repute in the world. They left their nets, and their hooks, the only things, probably,
that they understood, to come into a new world, wherein they were perfect strangers, and to preach a new gospel, with which all men were unacquainted: and they preached it, not to the wise, the mighty, or the noble, who, when converted, might have forwarded its reception by their influence; but to the foolish, weak, and base, who were able to do nothing for its advantage, but by living according to the rules, and dying for the truth of it. As they had no help from the powers of this world, civil or military, so had they all the opposition that was possible; which they withstood and baffled : they sowed the good seed of the word under the very feet of the Roman, magistrates and soldiers, who, though they trod it down, and rooted it up, yet could not destroy it so far, but that still it sprang out again, and yielded a fruitful and glorious harvest. The inference from hence is plain and indubitable; that a divine power and virtue certainly went along with it, to supply what was wanting to it upon other accounts, and that its increase must needs have been supernatural and miraculous. Atterbury.
THE SAME SUBJECT.
THE establishment of the Christian religion among men, is the greatest of all miracles. In spite of all the power of Rome; in spite of all the passions, interest, and prejudices of so many nations; so many philosophers; so many different religions; twelve poor fishermen, without art, without eloquence, without power, publish and spread their doctrine throughout the world. In spite of
a persecution for three centuries, which seemed every moment ready to extinguish it; in spite of continued and innumerable martyrdoms of persons of all conditions, sexes, and countries; the truth in the end triumphs over errour, pursuant to the predictions both of the old and new law. Let any one show some other religion, which has the same marks of a divine protection.
A powerful conqueror may establish, by his arms, the belief of a religion, which flatters the sensuality of men; a wise legislator may gain himself attention and respect by the usefulness of his laws; a sect in credit, and supported by the civil power, may abuse the credulity of the people: all this is possible; but what could victorious, learned, and superstitious nations see, to induce them so readily to Jesus Christ, who promised them nothing in this world but persecutions and sufferings; who proposed to them the practice of a morality, to which all their darling passions must be sacrificed? Is not the conversion of the world to such a religion, without miracles, a greater and more credible one, than even the greatest of those which some refuse to believe? Fenelon.
TRUTH OF THE RESURRECTION.
LET us consider the single miracle of Christ's resurrection. Jesus had frequently mentioned it before his death; and the thing was so far in general credited, that the sepulchre was sealed, and an armed guard appointed to watch it. We may well suppose, therefore, that his favourers would na