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well as suggest some reflections, which may abate the presumption of those who think too highly of human reason, as the sole guide to religious knowledge.
The observation which most readily arises from a perusal of this passage is—How scantily the Gospel was furnished with human means to ensure its success! Instead of deriving any assistance from local and national prejudices in its favour; it had to contend against the most powerful antipathies of mankind; and instead of prospering even by means of the expectations raised by the prophecies concerning it, it assumed a character and appearance, directly the reverse of those expectations. The Jews looked for a temporal prince, and a warlike deliverer. They expected to see the descendant of David arrayed in worldly pomp, and displaying by worldly power his pretensions to the character of their Messiah. They expected to have their arrogance indulged, their prejudices flattered, their hopes of temporal prosperity justified, by the restoration of the kingdom to Israel, and the destruction of all their enemies. At once to baffle their hopes, and disappoint their pride, the meek and lowly Jesus appeared; the reputed son of a carpenter; the native of an unpopular province; destitute of every necessary and convenience of life, and deriving no splendour from his associates' or connexions ; for he was the companion of publicans and fishermen. So far was he from courting the assistance of any predominant sector party, that he incurred the displeasure of all by freely and publicly reproving their vices, exposing their errors, and stripping off the mask of their hypocrisy. Neither
Neither “ the
wise nor the scribe”, neither Rabbies nor expounders of the law, neither the Pharisee, Sadducee, nor Herodian, had reason to regard Him in any other light, than as the avowed enemy of their doctrines, in whatever they were corrupt, and of their practice, in whatever it was immoral. Thus frustrating the hopes and expectations of his own countrymen, opposing every sect and reproving every party; aided by coadjutors destitute of every advantage of birth, knowledge, and authority; if His religion prospered among the Jews, it surely was the work of God, and not of man; “ the foolish things of the world were chosen to confound the wise, and the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty.” * But if His religion was addressed to the Jews under such great disadvantages; it must have appeared to the Gentiles in a still more unfavourable light. If it had been recommended to their acceptance with all the weight and authority, which the concurrence of the whole Jewish people could possibly have conferred; it could not have come from any quarter with less probable expectations of success. The unsocial disposition and institutions of the descendants of Abraham were in a manner proverbial; the contempt they avowed for other nations was returned by them with dislike and aversion; and it would be difficult to pronounce, whether a Jew were less likely to forsake the law of Moses at the entreaty of a Gentile; or a Gentile to renounce the worship of his fathers at the bidding of a Jew. Every possible disadvantage that could be encountered must have attended the preaching of a Jew to the Gentiles. An intolerant worshipper of one God had to address himself to a Polytheist, who, amidst unrestrained intercourse with all other people, had been accustomed to turn aside from the inhabitants of Judea. They were considered by the refined Greeks as rude in manners and in speech : and the contempt, which those Greeks indulged and expressed towards Barbarians, might be supposed to reach its greatest height, when the object of that contempt was a Jew, Moreover, the Greeks, we must recollect, were vain of their powers of disputing, and their progress in arts and sciences; they prided themselves above measure upon the elegance of their language, and the refinements of their philosophy. In these points they considered themselves superior to all other, nations, and eminently capable of instructing them. Yet did this people actually receive instruction in the very points upon which their pride, as a nation, was so much elevated; even in moral philosophy and religion. Still more ;-they received it from teachers, whose manners they were accustomed to abhor, whose language they treated as barbarous, and whose capacity, as well as attainments, they had for ages deemed beneath their notice. Let it be imagined that a Jewish tent-maker, skilled indeed in the abstruse lore of the Rabbi and the Pharisee, should, without any supernatural advantages, address the most polished and enlightened people in the world, in a language infected with Hebrew idioms; and endeavour to inculcate what to idolaters would seem, the obstinate prejudices and strange superstition of a Jew, Let it be imagined that such a person, either the author or the instrument of an imposture, should address the acute, the refined, and the vain Athenians in their most public and solemn assembly. What could we conceive to be the issue, but derision and insult? But suppose ; what was really the truth with regard to St. Paul-the great Apostle of the Gentiles; that this eminent person was the preacher of a Divine revelation; that he had himself been miraculously converted ; and that, acting under immediate inspiration, he came forward to declare what he had been taught, as well as what he had experienced in his own conversion to the faith, by the especial favour of its Divine Author. In that case, and in that case only, we might expect him to succeed in gaining converts, not merely at Athens, but wherever he directed his course. In that case, we can believe him to have had the undaunted courage to proposé, and the adequate means to effect, the conversion of a people, to whose national pride and religious prejudices nothing but the interference of Heaven could have been opposed with success.-- If we view our Lord and His disciples, having all these obstacles to encounter, in any other light than the true one, their success is altogether unaccountable ; and we must believe a miracle greater than any which is objected to by the foes of Christianity. View them, on the contrary, in their proper light; consider our Lord as the Author, and His disciples as the preachers, of a dispensation really divine; their success in the final establishment of the Gospel is no longer unaccountable; the known effects are commensurate with the cause, and we have no difficulty in receiving as truths incontestable those facts, which are faithfully recorded in history;- but which, without à previous belief in the Divine origin of Christianity, would surpass our comprehension and stagger our belief.
From these considerations we are led by the peculiar nature of the subject to refute a sarcastic insinuation, which is thrown out by the celebrated Historian of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire against two of the most illustrious preachers and martyrs, whose actions are recorded in the history of the Church. -". After relating the destructive ravages that took place at the close of the sixth century, the Historian observes, that " like Thebes, Babylon, or Carthage, the name of Rome might have been erased from the earth, if the city had not been animated by a vital principle, which again restored her to honour and dominion. A vague tradition was embraced that two Jewish teachers, a tent-maker and a fishermani, had formerly been executed in the Circus of Nero"; and at the end of five hundred years their genuine or fictitious relics were adored as the palladium of Christian Rome." If we consider what this statement amounts to, we shall find that Rome, the Queen of nations and the mistress of the world, owed the preservation of its renown and perhaps its existence as a city to a mere supposition, that the relics of two Jews of low birth, who were executed some hundred years before, were preserved within its walls. This fact being ascertained, it involves in it all the proof that we could desire of the Divine origin of the religion, of