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it most favoured their private vices and national pride. Thus we find, that the contempt which Jesus discovered for their traditions, the generous views of God and virtue, which he opened, and the internal purity which he recommended, were the very things which awakened their suspicions, and excited against him their most inveterate hostility. This single character of our Lord, without any other revolting circumstance, would have most effectually suppressed his cause, if it had been the cause of man only.
Again, the circumstance of the very general dispersion of the Jews throughout the Roman empire, at this period, which, to a superficial observer, appears favourable to the propagation of christianity, presented on the whole a serious obstacle. It is true, the knowledge of our Saviour's life was thus sooner communicated and farther spread. But to counterbalance this, let it be remembered, that the same national prejudices, the same corruptions of principle and practice, which impelled the ruler and priest at Jerusalem to reject and crucify Jesus, were diffused through the whole Jewish people in every part of the world, and that they exerted every where the same malignity towards Jesus and his church. Wherever Jews were found, there too were found enemies of the new religion. Had it not been for the tumults and opposition, which, as we learn from the Acts, they every where excited, the new doctrine might have been received among the Gentiles peaceably enough, though perhaps slowly, and not without contempt. But the apostles always and every where found among the Jews the indefatigable opponents of the great truth they preached, that Jesus was the promised Messiah.
Still further; the Jews, wherever they were known, were odious to the Romans, and their more extensive intercourse with foreigners served only to increase the general contempt and hatred which existed
against their nation. Hence it was a prejudice, almost insurmountable in the mind of a Greek or a Roman, that the apostles, the first preachers of the new faith, were of so detestable an origin. “Are not these men that speak, Galileans, and can any good come out of such a country of rebels," must have been the first thought in the mind of a listening heathen. Can you imagine any thing, my friends, more unfavourable to the promulgation of christianity in the world, than this very state of the Jews at home and abroad, which seemed to you at first so favourable to its progress ?
4. The corrupt morals of the pagan world, which demanded the introduction of a purer system, were also extremely unfavourable to the cordial reception of any thing so pure as the gospel. The apostles of Christ preached a purity of heart, of which the world had then hardly a faint conception. The new religion condemned, as odious in the sight of God, the vices to which the Gentiles were most enslaved, and threatened the punishment of hell to the very practices which they had consecrated, by making them a part of their worship, and the best recommendations to the favour of their deities. Wherever the gospel was received, it banished all their pompous sacrifices, their idol feasts, their dissolute worship; wherever it was received, their favourite fights of gladiators, their theatrical shows, and all the sanguinary amusements of the populace, which long habit had made necessary, disappeared. In the midst of a luxurious, relaxed, selfish and sensual age, it demanded a degree of mortification and self denial, which must at any time have appeared intolerable; and not only so, but it exposed its professors to contempt, persecution, the loss of former friends, the dissolution of established habits, to poverty, ignominy, and not seldom to death itself.
This was the prospect it opened to the mass of the Gentile world. And how, think you, was it likely to
ion of theuptions of thof fanatic enti
di be received among the luxurious senators, the vain lit5 erati, the tyrannical prefects, the military governours bi and generals, the consulars decked out with honours, mail the licentious favourites of the men of power--a reli
gion which preached the vanity of temporal honours, er the folly of pagan wisdom, the dangers of station and ih influence, in one word, which preached a poverty of
spirit, which must have appeared to men, whose sentit ments were so depraved, the height of fanatic ab
surdity. If then the corruptions of the world called ok for the introduction of the gospel, as soon as it was
preached, these very corruptions, from the emperour on his throne down to his dissolute slaves, were ar. rayed against it in all the hardihood of the grossest depravity.
5. Lastly, the intellectual refinement of that period, * which may be thought to have prepared the minds of og men for some of the sublime instructions of revelation, I was perhaps still more unfavourable to its progress.
It enabled men indeed to understand the gospel, but
it encouraged them at the same time to despise it. E' Do you ask, how was this? I will attempt to show
you. The men of that age, who had thought at all upon the subject of religion, had, as I before mentioned, proceeded far enough to know, that the estabĮished idolatry was nothing but a creature of the state, and therefore they easily consented to support, while they believed it utterly false. They thought it the duty of every man not to neglect the religion of his country; and could see no possible harm in countenancing a system which they did not believe. How extraordinary, nay, how unacceptable must the new religion have appeared to these men, a religion which declared their idolatrous conformity a crime, which was utterly irreconcileable with the notion, that all religions were equally indifferent, or equally good, and which seemed even to suspend the favour of God and their eternal happiness or misery on
their reception of this new system. Surely nothing could be more hostile to their latitudinarian philosophy.
Again, though some of their sages had discovered much solicitude respecting a future existence, and many of them eagerly wished for instruction, yet the manner in which immortality was brought to light in the christian revelation, coupled as it was with the resurrection of the dead, and rested even on the resurrection of a crucified man, seemed to them a most contemptible, if not impious absurdity. We see plainly enough, in the reception of Paul's discourses at Athens and Corinth, and the expressions of king Agrippa at his trial, that the christian doctrine of a future life was no recommendation of the new religion to the wits and philosophers of that disputatious period.
But there is one circumstance resulting from the very refinement of that age, which it is impossible the christian revelation could have surmounted, had not the hand of God been engaged to establish it. It is this. The Greek language was at that time spoken in the utmost purity all over the empire. Eloquence was every where cultivated, and immoderately valued ; and nothing could command the attention of men that did not come recommended with the graces of elocution and style. What now can be imagined more unfavourable to the success of the apostles, who were rude in speech and utterly unacquainted with the arts of popular addresses, than such a polished period ? What ! those men to overturn the systems of the world, whose language was so idiomatical that Peter was betrayed by it even to one of his own countrywomen-men who were Galileans, without any of the fashionable science of the times men humble in their aspect, poor in condition, fishermen by occupation, persecuted in every step of their progress, and recommending themselves to the Greeks and Romans by professing to be the followers of one, who was crucified as a malefactor! These, then, were the circumstances under which christianity made such progress in the world, as that in three hundred years a christian emperour was on the throne of the Cæsars.
My friends, if you have viewed this subject in the light that I do, you will contemplate, with ever increasing amazement, the establishment of christianity, and adore the power of God. How wonderful, that the state of the world was such as to make that the fittest time for the birth of Christ, and yet the most unfavourable, in all human probability, to the success of his religion ! Every circumstance, which goes to prove the necessity of revelation at that moment, proves also the utter impossibility of establishing it by merely human means. Nothing but facts which could not be denied, miracles which could not be resisted, and a supernatural power in the teachers of the reli. gion, could have made this astonishing change in the world. I know not whether the reasoning in this discourse be new, but of this I am sure, that if this counsel or this work had been of men, it would have come to nought. Of this I am sure, that the foolishness of God is wiser, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. I see not only the fulness of time in the period when Jesus appeared, but I am sure, from the unexampled success of his religion, that it was God who sent him forth, and that he sent forth his Son. He asks us, my friends, whom think ye that I am ? I answer with Peter, thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
gion, C_I know n but of this