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more valid, or more satisfactory, since at the time Christ appeared, all nations were unbelievers, and all adults who became christians must have been converts, though less distinguished than St. Paul, of whom we are speaking.
But what if a number of writers contemporary, or nearly so, with the apostles and martyrs, who lived, even conversed with some of them-what if they should attest the miracles done by these apostles and disciples, as proofs of their truth; should describe their holy manner of living, their patience, meekness, sufferings, and forbearance ; should themselves quote the evangelists, and the acts and epistles of the apostles, as the genuine and Holy Testament of our Lord and Saviour, which he sealed with his blood; and should afterwards add* the cruel persecution and martyrdom of these men ? It matters not, we reply; still are they but christians who relate their own story, and point to the accomplishment of the grand prophecies in the Old Testament. We would ask whether any pagan writer, the enemy of chris
* St. Ignatius is said to have conversed familiarly with the Apostles. He says he has recourse to the gospel as to the flesh of Jesus Christ. And, further, it becomes us to attend to the prophets, but especially to the gospel in which the passion has been shewn to us, and the resurrection perfected. Polycarp was not only actually instructed by the apostles, but by them constituted bishop of the church of Smyrna; he says, “ I trust ye are well versed in the Holy Scriptures, and in these it is said, Be ye angry and sin not; and let not the sun go down upon yoar wrath ;" which we know is a verse to be found in the New Testa
ent only: thereby giving the name Holy Scriptures to both parts of the Bible.
tianity, can bear us out in the relation of miracles and facts, or persons, upon which our religion rests ? If those things were not, as the christians say, done in a corner, surely the opposers of their belief must have seen and known, or at least have heard of some; and surely so famous an imposture, if imposture it be, would at any rate have been noticed in the history of those days?
It is to be presumed that many works, written before and after the Redeemer made his appearance on earth, are lost to us for ever ; either in the pillage of the barbarians, who sacked the towns, and destroyed the monuments of art and learning in every chief city of the Roman empire, which at one time included great part of the known world, or in the ignorance which every where prevailed, and the consequent disregard of literary property in the dark ages.*
* Every one knows of the destruction of the Alexandrian tibrary, which was said to contain 500,000 books.
Petrarch, in the 13th century, discovered a valuable and long-lost work of Cicero, on parchment, which his shoemaker was cutting up for measures; be purchased, lent, and again lost it; the work has never been recovered.
Papias was contemporary with these writers, and conversant with the immediate disciples of the apostles ; he expressly ascribes the gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark to their respective authors, and establishes the genuineness of the first epistle of Peter, and the first of John..
Clemens at Rome, Bartrobus at Cyprus, Iguatius in Syria, Polycarp at Smyrna, and Papias at Hierapolis in Phrygia, own all the books of the New Testament to be genuine, by shewing the most distinguished regard to them; by often quoting them, and often alluding to them: an honour they do no other writings, except those of the Old Testament.-Seed, vol. 2.
Yet, whether or not some books are lost which refer to the Saviour, or attest the wonders wrought by him, is immaterial, as we happen to possess a few precious passages in profane history, which relate more or less to the subject under consideration.
The expectations of a glorious person. In the first place, the time of the prophecy mentioned by Daniel being arrived, it appears that the whole Jewish and heathen world expected a Messiah, or some great personage on earth.
Virgil, the Roman poet, who lived in the time of Augustus Cæsar, is supposed, in his fourth eclogue, to describe the blessings of the government and age of some great person, who was, or should be, born about this time, and some suppose he borrowed this sense from some ancient books of the prophetesses who were called sibyls.
Suetonius tells us, in the life of Augustus Cæsar, that there was one Julius Marathus declared that nature was about to bring forth a king for the people of Rome. He says, also, in the life of Vespasian, that there had prevailed over all the eastern part of the world a constant opinion, that about that time there should come out of Judea those who should obtain the empire of the world.
Tacitus, another Roman historian, says the same hing, and that it was contained in the ancient books of the Jewish priests : so that both Jews and Gentiles expected now some glorious person to arise in the world. *
* Dr. Watts.
Augustus Cæsar, as pontifex or high priest, examined the sibylline prophecies; and those he discovered to be spurious books he condemned to the fames. In the others it is generally supposed he saw a greater prince was foretold, to whom all the world should pay adoration ; upon which he refused the title of Lord, which the people unanimously offered him. And this gave sanction to the relation of Suidas, viz. that Augustus sending to the Pythian oracle to inquire who should succeed him, was an. swered by the demon, that an Hebrew child, Lord of the Gods, had commanded him to return to hell, and that no further answer was to be expected. Whereupon Augustus erected an altar in the capitol, Primogenito Dei, to the first-born of God.* .
His birth attended with signs in the heavens :--The appearance of a wonderful star at the time of the
Saviour's nativity is mentioned by Pliny, in his natural · history, under the name of a bright comet.
- Josephus also tells us, that the Jews had expec. tations of a great king rising from among them, who should have the empire of the whole world; and this was the true cause which then excited them to that war with the Romans, in which the city and temple were destroyed.
* That these sibylline prophecies are genuine is disputed. However, in answer to this, it is to be observed, that long before the times of Christianity, there were extant among the heathens several oracles, or predictions of future events, ascribed to one or more of these prophetesses who were styled sibyls.-Stackhouse, vol. v.
Julius Marathus says, nature was about to bring forth a son that should be the king of the Romans.--Prideaux.
The new star, or body of light, which upon our Saviour's birth conducted the wise men to him, is acknowledged by the heathen Julian, though he would gladly ascribe it to natural causes.
Children were slaughtered by Herod. Dion, the Roman, in his life of Octavius Cæsar, records the murder of the babes at Bethlehem.
Macrobius, a heathen author, says, Herod the king ordered to be slain in Syria (which in Roman authors is frequently set for Judea) some children that were under two years old.
He had a forerunner, a holy man, named John the Baptist.-Josephus, an enemy to christianity, thus expresses himself:
An opinion generally prevailed among the Jews, that the defeat of Herod's army was a judgment upon him for the barbarous murder of John, surnamed the Baptist. That truly excellent man had not committed any crime. His custom was to exhort the Jews to the love and practice of every virtue ; recommend. ing them to regulate their lives by the rules of piety and justice; urging the necessity of regeneration by baptism, and a new life.
On entering upon his ministry, Jesus Christ preaches the word of truth, and works miracles in confirmation of his divinity,- We no where see, in any heathen writer, a denial of the facts so well established of Christ's miracles. We have, indeed, some remains of Celsus, Hierocles, Porphyry, and Julian, declared enemies to christianity. But what they alledge does not amount