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gument from Miracles. Of these, several were of such a nature, as to exclude all possibility of imposition or deceit. The Resurrection of Christ himself, in particular (as they well knew) was a fact, which, once believed, left no doubt of the rest. And this, upon which they frequently lay the whole stress of their cause, they proved to be true by their own testimony miraculously confirmed. The inference is irresistible; since it is not to be imagined, that God would raise the dead body of a deceiver, who had solemnly appealed to such a resurrection as the grand proof of his mission, and expressly fixed the very day on which it should take place.

Here we should close the subject, were we not able, in confirmation of what has been above advanced, to prove lastly,

7. That much has occurred, subsequently to the first propagation of the Gospel, to corroborate these evidences of its truth.

I. For let us but consider, what God has been doing, during the last eighteen centuries, for its establishment.

(1.) Its surprising diffusion in the world;

(2.) The miraculous powers bestowed not only upon the Apostles, but also upon succeeding teachers and converts;

(3.) The accomplishment of prophecies delivered in the New Testament; and, finally,

(4.) The preservation of the Jews, amidst all their persecutions, as a distinct people.

(1.) In addition to what has been previously inferred, from the astonishing propagation of Christianity on its first appearance (viz. that "it could

not be an imposture"), it may be remarked as amazing, that even truth itself, under so many external disadvantages, should have had so illustrious a triumph.

Pliny, in the very next age to that of the Apostles, informs us, that "he found the heathen temples in Achaia almost deserted;"* and Tertullian subsequently boasts, that “if the Christians were to withdraw, whole cities and provinces would be dispeopled." Now, had the Gospel, instead of opposing, been adapted to favour the vices, the errors, the interests, or the superstitions of mankind, we might more easily have accounted for this rapid prevalence. Had it numbered philosophers and orators among its missionaries, or princes and high-priests among its patrons, eloquence might have charmed, or force compelled, multitudes into an ostensible acceptance of its doctrines. But, without some such advantages, we can hardly conceive how any new religion should so suddenly gather strength, even in the darkest ages and the most barbarous countries. All these, however, we know, were in array against it. And yet it triumphed over them all-triumphed, though published in an age the most enlightened, and countries the most refined; with the utmost plainness of language, and under the revolting prohibition of their favourite idol-worship.

(2.) With regard to the miraculous powers exercised by the successors of the Apostles, in confirmation of the Christian doctrines, it may suffice to appeal to the authorities of Tertullian, ‡ and Minutius Felix. §

* Epist. x. 97. † Apol. xxxvii. Ib. xxii. § Ib. xxvii.

(3.) But we must not forget to record the accomplishment of the New Testament prophecies, particularly that delivered by Christ respecting the destruction of Jerusalem. * Of this tragical event, the circumstantial description furnished by the pen of Josephus (a Jewish priest, who had himself been an eyewitness of it), so minutely corresponds with the prediction, that, had we not known the contrary, we could hardly have helped concluding it had been written by a Christian in order to illustrate it. What our Lord likewise foretold relative to the long-continued desolation of the Jewish Temple, was supernaturally verified; for we are assured by a heathen historian, that "when Julian the Apostate, in deliberate contempt of that prophecy, solemnly undertook to rebuild it, his impious project was miraculously frustrated again and again by globes of fire bursting out from the foundation." Similar observations might be made upon the predictions of St Paul, concerning the Man of Sin, and the Apostasy of the Latter Times, § and those of St John delivered in the Apocalypse.

(4.) The continuance of the Jews, too, as a distinct people, notwithstanding all the persecutions which they have undergone, deserves our attentive regard. Scattered as they are, more especially throughout every part of Christendom, and exposed, on account of their different faith, not only to humiliation and contempt, but also in most places to civil incapacities and unchristian severities, they are still obstinately tenacious of their religion (particularly of its ceremonial institutions), although

* Matt. xxiv.
2 Thess. iii, 3-21.

+Amm. Marcel. xxiii. § 1 Tim. iv. 1-3.

their forefathers were so prone to apostatize from it.

This their providential dispersion and pertinacity, by exhibiting to us the accomplishment of many remarkable predictions, * incontestably establishes the truth of those ancient Hebrew records on which much of the evidence of the Gospel depends-records so full to the purpose, that had the whole body of the Jewish nation been converted to Christianity, men would certainly have looked upon them (with the prophecies of the Sibyls) as made many years after the events, which they pretend to foretel.

II. Let us next inquire, what methods have been adopted by the enemies of the Gospel to destroy it.

These have generally been either persecution, or falsehood, or cavilling at some petty and obscure particulars in the revelation; without entering into the great argument on which it is built, and fairly debating what has been offered in its defence.

From the very outset, bonds and imprisonment awaited its preachers. This evinced a consciousness, on the part of the Jewish rulers, that they were unable to support their cause by the fair exertion of reason; as they would not, in that case, have had recourse to the interposition of brutal force. In subsequent periods, the cruelties inflicted by the heathen Emperors, especially during the Ten General Persecutions, were such as moved the pity even of the enemies of Christianity. †

Not contented, however, with personal inflic

* See Jackson's Eternal Truth of the Scriptures,' &c. i. § 3. 10-13.

Tac. Anu. xv 44.

tions, those enemies attempted to destroy the reputations of its adherents: charging them with human sacrifices, incest, idolatry, and all the crimes for which they themselves and their own imaginary Gods were indeed justly detestable; but from which the Christians amply vindicated themselves by many noble apologies still extant, and incomparably the most valuable of any ancient uninspired writings.

To descend to later ages-The antagonists of the Gospel among ourselves have been told, again and again, that we put the proof of it on plain fact.

They cannot deny, that it prevailed in the world early and extensively. By some man, or body of men, it must have been introduced. Those, as they generally admit, were Christ and his Apostles. The latter, if their testimony was false, must have been enthusiasts, or impostors. Afraid of encountering the insuperable obstacles attached to either side of this alternative, our modern Deists decline both; and confine themselves to some miserable cavils, by which they affect to prove that to be in the highest degree improbable, if not impossible, which we have proved to be fact. One pronounces the light of nature to be a sufficient rule, and therefore sets aside all revelation as su perfluous. Another disguises the miracles of Christ by misrepresentation, and then ridicules them as absurd. A third dabbles in pedantic conjectures upon the prophecies. But not one of them has undertaken to answer, directly, what has been advanced in demonstration of the grand fact; nay, they generally take no more notice of the positive

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