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wanted force to rouse and awaken their attention. Whereas by exemplifying these things in the ruin'ous fate of similar attempts, which happened before the eyes of many who heard him, he brought the argument home to their understandings, and even appealed to their own experience for the wisdom and justness of his observation,
But, while we allow the efficacy of this method, we are not precluded from supporting it by the other mode of reasoning ; particularly as it will serve to distinguish Christianity from other religions, which although manifestly the work of men, nave notwithstanding prevailed through a large portion of the world, and for a considerable length of time. The religion of Mahomet is of this description, to which, if the judgment of Gamaliel be applied, it will not conclude. How then can it be justified ? I answer, by shewing so marked a distinction between the primitive state and manner of propagating both religions, that what was perfectly true of one may not be so in any degree of the other. The religion of Mahomet was propagated completely by the sword, without venturing one appeal to miracles. It is true he pretended to miraculous visions and communications with Heaven; but these were all in privacy and retirement, far from the notice of mankind, carrying with them this infallible token of imposture-secrecy : as'well as a multitude of others, in their gross and palpa
ble absurdities. And when pressed to work miracles in support of his religion, he referred to the Koran (his book of faith) as the greatest that could be wrought: although the best parts of that work are evidently drawn from Scripture, and other parts of it are utterly unworthy of a divine origin, or even a human legislator. His only miracle was the sword, which he displayed publicly enough in the slaughter and ruin of millions. If God never permits a bold usurper, or unjust aggressor to succeed, then may Mahomet claim to have acted under his commission. But if we every day behold instances of fortunate crimes, we can only look upon him as deserving the execrable pre-eminence above all other impostors and murderers.
Now how did the Christian religion stand at its outsetting and first propagation? And what was the condition of those Apostles, of whom Gamaliel made his observation ? They were destitute of every appearance of strength or power. Their divine Master had entirely disclaimed and forbad the use of force even in his owri defence. They themselves, in imitation of his example, suffered with calmness and resignation every thing which malice could inflict ; stripes, imprisonment and death. They appealed to the mighty works performed by Christ in the face of the Jewish nation; repeatedly charging their hearers with knowing the truth and reality of these. They themselves wrought many
signs and wonders by the power of the Holy Ghost, which they received on the day of Pentecost, and whose instantaneous effects were visible to many thousands. On these things they rested their whole cause : the slightest failure, or suspicion of fraud must have been fatal. What then but the power of God could bear them through ? Can you for a moment conceive it possible for men in their state to carry on a successful imposture, founded upon an avowed appeal to public miracles, against the vigilance and wisdom and authority of the state, which were all employed with sharpness and rigour against those feeble instruments? If this counsel or work were of such men, it must indeed have quickly come to nought : how it could last an hour, after engaging the notice and censure of the ruling powers, is hard to imagine.
The other part of Gamaliel's argument, which supposes the work to be of God, will not require much discussion ; for who shall dare to overthrow what he wills to establish ? « The fool hath said in his heart there is no God.” But that man is, if possible, a greater fool, who acknowledging a God, should attempt to fight against him. And the thought of this well deserves the consideration of some, who take upon them, without just and solid reasons, to reject the divine will when made known to them. For men may fight against God, not only in persecuting and slaying his ministers, but in
despising, defaming, and reviling his word ; in striving to make his truth a lie, to destroy the kingdom of his Christ upon earth, to resist and blaspheme the Holy Ghost. The Jewish rulers acted very foolishly as well as wickedly, in turning their backs upon the repeated proofs of divine power exhibited to them, and endeavouring to take away the lives of those, who were instruments in the hand of God. Does the infidel of the present day act more rationally or excusably, who closes his eyes against the light of the Gospel; either neglecting it altogether as unworthy of serious notice, or studying it with a perverted and corrupt heart ; rather wishing to prove it false, than find it true : whereas an honest and good mind, prepossessed with the intrinsic excellence and sublime morality contained therein, will approach it with no less esteem and love, than reverence and awe ? And how is the man who murders the good name of that pattern of all goodness our blessed Lord, and of his innocent disciples, slandering them with the title of impostors and deceitful, less to blame than they who sought their lives? The Gospel is offered to us, a gift of grace inestimable, unspeakable. Our duty is to receive it with the highest gratitude, to cherish it as dearer than life, to infuse its heavenly spirit into our souls, to incorporate its maxims into our lives, and to hold fast this blessed hope of everlasting
life. If, instead of turning it to these uses, some men set it up as a mark for the bitterest shafts of enmity, hatred and malice ; if they expose it to the scorn and ridicule of fools ; if they treat its author with disrespect and reproach, classing and comparing him with acknowledged knaves and impostors ; if they misrepresent its doctrines and precepts ; . if they eagerly spread abroad the infection of their blasphemies, making proselytes to their faithless cause, and contending with God for the souls of his creatures ; of what more attrocious crimes can they be guilty ? Can such men expect to be dealt with after the way of common sinners ? Assuredly they are cheaping up wrath for themselves against the day of wrath," and will at last have cause to repent of their vanity and vices.
As to you, my brethren, I trust, and am persuaded, that none of you have suffered from such impious doctrines. Your situations, and yonr dispositions, in a great measure secure you from them. But it is not enough that you believe, unless you act right : for 6 faith without works is dead.” Place yourselves, then, under the great Captain of your salvation, and fight the good fight against sin, the world, and the devil, until you overthrow them, and become conqucrors thro* Christ. Amen.