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claiming a similar authority to theirs. If there were any good reason for doubt concerning the names to which these books are ascribed, (which there is not, for they were never ascribed to any other, and we have evidence, not long after their publication, of their bearing the names which they now bear) their antiquity, of which there is no question, their reputation and anthority amongst the early disciples of the religion, of which there is as little, form a valid proof that they must, in the main at least, have agreed with what the first teachers of the religion delivered.
When we open these ancient volumes, we discover in them marks of truth, whether we consider each in itself, or collate them with one another. The writers certainly knew something of what they were writing about, for they manifest an acquaintance with local circumstances, with the history and usages of the times, which could only belong to an inhabitant of that country, living in that age. In every narrative we perceive simplicity and undesignedness; the air and the language of reality. When we comparethe different narratives together, we find them so varying, as to repel all suspicion of confederacy; so agreeing under this variety, as to show that the accounts had one real transaction for their common foundation; often attributing different actions and discourses to the person whose history, or rather memoirs of whose history, they profess to relate, yet actions and discourses so similar, as very much to bespeak the same character; which is a coincidence, that, in such writers as they were, could only be the consequence of their writing from fact, and not from imagination.
These four narratives are confined to the history of the founder of the religion, and end with his ministry. Since, however, it is certain that the affair went on, we cannot help being anxious to know how it proceeded. This intelligence hath come down to us in a work purporting to be written by a person himself connected with the business during the first stages of its progress, țaking up the story where the former historian had left it, carrying on the narrative oftentimes with great particularity, and throughout with the appearance of good sense*, information, and candour, stating all along the origin, and the only probable origin of effects, which unquestionably were produced, together with the natural consequences of situations, which unquestionably did
and confirmed, in the substance at least of the account, by the strongest possible accession of testimony which a history can receive, original letters, written by the person who is the principal subject of the history, written upon the business to which the history relates, and during the period, or soon after the period, which the history comprises. No man can say that this altogether is not a body of strong historical evidence. Paley.
* See Peter's speech apon curing the cripple (Acts xiii. 18); the council of the Apostles (xv.); Paul's discourse at Athens (xvii. 22.); before Agrippa (xxvi). I notice these passages both as franght with good sense, and as free from the smallest tincture of enthusiasm.
THE APPARENT UNSUITABLENESS OF THE MEANS
TO THE END, IN ESTABLISHING THE CHRIS
TIAN 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 thre 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 temples, or remove thence all their gods; against whiclv 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 contradieted 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 perutiar blessing to the rich or inighty, 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
tand still, or remove a mountain, 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.
THE SPEEDY PROPAGATION OF THE GOSPEL,
SUPERNATURAL AND MIRACULOUS. 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,