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had selected the twelve apostles, and given them their charge, “they went out, and “preached that men should repent":” and this is the end of all Gospel knowledge, however attained, that those by whom it is possessed should repent them of their sins past, and so direct their future lives that they may possess here the greatest of all earthly blessings, the testimony of a good conscience, and may receive an unspeakable reward in the world to come.
St. Mark vi. 12.
2 Cor. viii. 18, 19. And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in
the Gospel throughout all the Churches : And not that only, but who was also chosen of the Churches
to travel with us with this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord.
Those who are acquainted with the first planting of Christianity will be at no loss to know, that the person whom St. Paul here describes as deputed by the Churches to travel with him, and as obtaining the just return of praise for the zeal and fidelity with which he executed his commission, can be no other than St. Luke, the writer of the Gospel which stands the third in the canon of the New Testament. Now had the lives of those good men of whom I am treating been spent in pursuits of such a nature that we, at so remote a distance of time, derived no very sensible advantage from them ; suppose they had related only to the settlement of colonies, or the dispersion of useful plants over the earth, and suppose the persons so engaged to have experienced an uninterrupted course, and a tranquil death; it would still have formed the subject of laudable curiosity and of useful study to have ascertained their course of procedure, their division of labour, their union with, and separation from, each other. But how much ought this interest to be increased when we find that, in their own conception and belief at least, the service in which they were engaged was for the temporal and eternal welfare of every man that was thereafter to be born into the world; that in the accomplishment of their object they encountered every kind of suffering, and voluntarily devoted themselves to death! It has been asserted by the enemies of our religion, that scarcely any superstition hath ever appeared upon earth, that hath not had its martyrs to boast of as well as Christianity; and therefore it is inferred that no sure ar
gument in support of the truth of a religion can be deduced from the readiness of its professors to suffer in attestation of their belief. And thus much may be properly conceded, that the determination of a martyr to suffer death, rather than relinquish his faith, can only be adduced as a proof of his sincerity. The excellence of the religion for which he suffers, its credibility, or absolute truth depend upon other circumstances. What, therefore, is allowed to the martyrs of the various superstitions by which mankind has been misled, cannot, we suppose,
be denied to the first Christian martyrs; namely, that they were sincere. We ask no more. Neither need even this be snatched as a concession from an unguarded opponent ; for the sincerity of the Apostles admits of as solid proof as any other internal affection of the human mind. However, with the exception of this single point, that each class of martyrs was sincere, it will be found, that no other resemblance whatever subsists between Christian martyrs and those of any other faith. First it will be observed, that the martyrs to a false religion have generally