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every where discovers itself in the to which none but the most abans, New Testament, have, for many doned of mankind could arrive. Yet ages, been the most effectual method / if the testimony of the apostles was of animating true believers with a false, as we have proved they could zeal for the honour of the Gospel, I not be themselves and a desire of framing their con- | this must have been their case; and versation as becomes the Gospel of that not in one single instance only, Christ.
but in a thousand. Their lives must,
in effect, be one continued and perWhere then there are such genuine | petual scene of perjury; and all the marks of an excellent character, not most solemn actions of it (in which only in their discourses, but in their they were speaking to God, or speakepistolary writings, and those some- | ing of him as God the father of times addressed to particular and inti- Christ, from whom they received mate friends, to whom the mind na- | their commission and powers) must turally opens itself with the greatest be a most prophane and daring insult freedom, surely no candid and equit- on all the acknowledged perfections able judge would lightly believe of his nature. them to be all counterfeit ; or would imagine, without very substantial And the inhumanity of such a conproof, that persons who breathe such | duct would, on the whole, have exalted sentiments of God and reli- | been equal to its impiety. For it gion, should be guilty of any kind of would have been deceiving men in wickedness ; and in proportion to the their most important interests, and degree of enormity and aggravation persuading them to venture their attending such a supposed crime, it own future happiness on the power may justly be expected that the evi- and fidelity of one whom, on this dence of their having really commit- supposition, they knew to have been ted it should be unanswerably strong an impostor, and justly to have sufand convincing.
fered a capital punishment for his
crimes. It cannot be supposed that Now it is very certain, on the God, who regards the interest of his principles laid down above, that if children, would long suffer such an the testimony of the apostles was imposition to prevail, without prefalse, they must have acted as detest- venting it by the interposition of his able and villainous a part as one can wisdom and power. easily conceive. To be found, as the apostle with his usual energy It would have been great guilt to expresses it, false witnesses of God, have given the hearts and devotions in any single instance, and solemnly of men so wrong a turn, even though declare to have done miraculously, they had found magistrates ready to what we, in our own consciences, espouse and establish, yea and to enknow was never done at all, would | force the religion they taught. But, be an audacious degree of impiety, 1 on the contrary, to labour to propa
gate it in the midst of the most vigo- | writings, and then say, whether we rous and severe opposition from them, can in our hearts believe them to have must equally enhance the guilt and been these abandoned wretches, at folly of the undertaking. For by i once the reproach and astonishment this means they would have made of mankind ? Would they have themselves accessary to the ruin of sealed a known falsity with their thousands; and all the calamities ! blood, or bartered their lives for the which fell on such pros
lon such proselytes, or even confirmation of vague notions or unon their remotest descendants, for certain conjectures? We cannot surethe sake of Christianity, would be in ly believe such things of any, and a great measure chargeable on these much less of them, unless it, shall apfirst preachers of it. The blood of pear they were in some particular honest, yea of pious, worthy, and circumstances of strong temptation ; heroic persons, who might otherwise and what those circumstances could have been the greatest blessings to the be, it is difficult even for imagination public, would, in effect, be crying to conceive. for vengeance against them. And the distresses of the widows and or But history is so far from suggestphans, which those martyrs mighting any unthought-of fact, to help leave behind them, would join to our imagination on this head, that it swell the account.
bears strongly the contrary way, I
shall now proceed to shew, So that, on the whole, the guilt of those malefactors, who are from time I That they were under no temptato time the victims of public justice, tion to forge a story of this kind, or even for robbery, murder, or treason, to publish it to the world, knowing is small when compared with that it to be false. which we have now been stating. And corrupt as human nature is, it! They could reasonably expect no appears to be utterly improbable that gain, no reputation by it. Biit on twelve men should be found, we will the contrary, supposing it an imposnot say in one little nation, but even ture, they must, with the most ordion the whole face of the earth, who nary share of prudence, have fore, could be capable of entering into so seen infamy and ruin, as the certain black a confederacy, on any terms consequences of attempting it. For whatsoever.
the grand foundation of their doc
trines was that Jesus of Nazareth, And now in this view of the case, who was crucified at Jerusalem by let us make a serious pause, and com- the Jewish rulers, was the Son of
o it what we have just been God, and the Lord of all things. We saying of the character of the apo- appeal to men's consciences, whether stles of Jesus, so far as an indifferent this looks at all like the contrivances person could conjecture it from their of artful and designing men ?
It was evidently charging upon the | and to receive a set of precepts, most princes of their country the most cri- directly calculated to controul and in inal and aggravated murder; in- restrain not only the enormities of deed, all things considered, the most men's actions, but the irregularities of enormous act of wickedness which their hearts. the sun had ever seen. They might therefore depend upon it, that these
A most difficult undertaking! And rulers would immediately employ all to engage them to this, they had no their art and power to confute the tes other arguments to bring but such as timony, and to destroy their persons. were taken from the views, of an eterAccordingly, one of them was pre- | nal state of happiness or misery, of sently stoned, another quickly be- which they asserted their crucified headed ; and most of the rest scatter- Jesus to be supreme disposer, who ed abroad into strange cities (as we should another day dispense his bleslearn from the Acts of the Apostles) sings or his vengeance, as the Gospel where they were sure to be received | had been embraced or rejected. with great prejudices, raised against
| Now, could it be imagined, that men them among the Jews, by reports would easily be persuaded, merely from Jerusalem, and highly strength | on the credit of their affirmation, or ened by their expectations of a tem- | in compliance with their importuporal Messiah : expectations which, nity, to believe things which to their as the apostles knew by their own prejudiced minds would appear so experience, it was exceeding diffi- | improbable, and to submit to impocult to root out of men's ininds; sitions to their corrupt inclinations so expectations which would render insupportable ? And if they could not the doctrine of Christ crucified an persuade them to it, what could the insuperable stumbling-block to the apostles then expect? What but to be Jews.
insulted as fools or madmen by one
sort of people; and by another to be Nor could they expect a much bet persecuted with the most savage and ter reception among the Gentiles, outrageous cruelty, as blasphemers with whom their business was to per- of their gods, as seducers of the peosuade them to renounce the gods of ple, and disturbers of the public their ancestors, and to depend upon peace ? All which we know happena person who had died the death of a ed accordingly. Nay, they assure us, malefactor; and to persuade them to that their Lord had often warned them forego the pompous idolatries in of it ; and they themselves expected which they had been educated, and Tit; and thought it necessary to adall the sensual indulgences with which monish their followers to expect it their religion (if it may be called a re- | too. And it appears, that, far from ligion) was attended, to worship one drawing back, upon that account, invisible God through one Mediator, as they would surely have done, if in a most plain and simple manner ; | they had been governed by secular motives, they became so much the have before laid down. But it apmore zealuos and arduous ; and ani-pears still more evident, when w mated each other to resist, even at the consider the nature of the fact they price of their blood.' .
asserted, in conjunction with the
methods they took to engage men to Now, as this is a great evidence of believe it ; methods, which, had the the integrity and piety of their cha- | apostles been impostors, must have racters, and thus illustrates the former had the most direct tendency to head, so it serves to the purpose now ruin both their scheme and them-. immediately in view ; that is, it selves. proves how improbable it is that any person of common sense should en Let us a little more particularly re-gage in an imposture, from which, flect on the nature of that grand fact, as many have justly observed, they namely, the death, resurrection, and could, on their own principles, have exaltation of Christ ; which as I obnothing to expect but ruin in this served, was the great foundation of world and damnation in the next. the Christian scheme, as first exhibited When we therefore consider and by the apostles. The resurrection of compare their character and circum- a dead man, and his ascension into, stances, it appears utterly improba- | and abode in the upper world, was so ble, on various accounts, that they strange a thing, that a thousand ob-. would have attempted in this articlejections would immediately be raised to impose upon the world. But sup- / against it : and some extraordinary pose that in consequence of some proof would justly be required as a unaccountable, as well as some un balance to them. Now I wish that discoverable frenzy, they had ven the rejectors of the gospel would set tured on the attempt, it is easy to themselves to invent some hypothesis, shew,
which should have any appearance of
probability, to shew how such an That, humanly speaking, they must
amazing story should ever gain crequickly have perished in it; and their
dit in the world, if it had not some foolish cause must have died with
very convincing proof. Where and them, without ever gaining any cre
when could it first begin to be redit in the world. . Common sense ceived? Was it in the same, or a sucmust have suggested to them, that a ceeding age? Was it at Jerusalem, report of a circumstance most extra the spot of ground on which it is said ordinary in its nature, if not attested to have happened? or in Greece, Italy, by the most convincing evidence,
Asia, or Africa ? The scene and time must have exposed their cause as base,
may be changed, as one pleases; but absurd and contemptible.
the difficulty cannot.
One may venture to say this in. Take it in a parallel instance: sup-general, on the principles which I | pose twelve men in London were now
to afirm, that a person executed | ests ; and even probably to hazard there as a inalefactor in a public man- | their liberties and their lives, in de. ner, a month, or six weeks ago, or, pendance on a future reward, to be if you please, a year, or five or ten | received into a place and state which years, since, for it is much the same, no man living on the earth had ever was a prophet sent from God with ex- seen or known ? You would readily traordinary powers: that he was rais- | allow this to be an insupportable case : ed from the dead : that they conversed | and why should you suppose it to with him after his revival; and at last | have happened sixteen or seventeen saw him taken up into heaven. Would hundred years ago ? You may assure their united testimony make them to yourselves that the reason and the pas. be believed there? Or suppose them sions of mankind were then as strong to disperse, and that one or two of as they are now. But let us a little them should retire to Northampton, | more particularly consider, and go on still more distant, suppose Leicester, Nottingham, or York, and The manner in which the apostles tell their story there : and that others | undertook to prove the truth of their were to carry it over to Paris, or Am- testimony to this fact : and it will sterdam, or to Vienna, or Madrid ; evidently appear, that instead of concould they expect any more credit firming their scheme, it must have with us, or with them, or hope for been sufficient utterly to have overany thing better than to be looked thrown it, had it been itself the most upon as lunatics, and treated as such ? probable imposture, that the wit of And if they should go into other man could ever have contrived. It is places, and attempt to mend their evident, they did not merely assert scheme, by saying their Master was that they had seen miracles wrought put to death an hundred or two hun- ! by this Jesus, but that he had endowed dred years ago, when there could be themselves with a variety of miracuno historical evidence of it discover- | lous powers. And these they undered, and no proof given but their own took to display, not in such idle and confident assertion ; would they re- | useless tricks as slight of hand might move, or would they not rather in perform ; but in such solid and imcrease the difficulty ? Or would they | portant works, as appeared worthy of in any of these cases gain credit by a divine interposition, and entirely the most dexterous tricks of legerde superior to human power : restoring main, of which you can suppose sight to the blind, soundness to lepers, them masters ? Especially if they activity to the lame, and, in some should undertake, in consequence of instances, life to the dead. Nor were such supposed facts, to engage men these things undertaken in a corner, to renounce their religion, in which in a circle of friends or dependants : they had been educated ; to deny | nor were they said to be wrought on themselves in their dearest passions such as might be suspected of being and most important worldly inter confederate in the fraud : but they