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blessed and generous, which they underwent according to the will of God. For so it becomes us, who are more religious than others, to ascribe the power and ordering of all things unto him. And indeed who can choose but admire the greatness of their minds, and that admirable patience and love of their master, which then appeared in them ? who, when they were so flayed with whipping, that the frame and structure of their bodies were laid open to their very inward veins and arteries, nevertheless endured it. In like manner, those who were condemned to the beasts, and kept a long time in prison, underwent many cruel torments, being forced to lie upon sharp spikes laid under their bodies, and tormented with divers other sorts of punishments ; that so, if it were possible, the tyrant, by the length of their sufferings, might have brought them to deny Christ.**
There is satisfactory evidence that many, professing to
have been original witnesses of the Christian Miracles, passed their lives in labours, dangers, and sufferings, voluntarily undergone in attestation of the accounts which they delivered, and solely in consequence of their belief of those accounts; and that they also submitted from the same motives, to new rules of conduct. UPO
Pon the history, of which the last chapter contains an abstract, there are a few observations which it may be proper to make, by way of applying its testimony to the particular propositions for which we contend.
I. Although our scripture history leaves the general
account of the apostles in an early part of the narrative, and proceeds with the separate account of one particular apostle, yet the information which it delivers so far extends to the rest, as it shews the nature of the service. When we see one apostle suffering persecution in the discharge of his commission, we shall not believe, without evidence, that the same office could, at the same time, be attended with ease and safety to others. And this fair and reasonable inference is confirmed by the direct attestation of the letters, to which we have so often referred. The writer of these letters not only alludes, in numerous passages, to his own sufferings, but speaks of the rest of the apostles as enduring like sufferings with himself. “I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were, appointed to death; for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men; even unto this present hour, we both hunger and thirst, and are naked, and are buffetted, and have no certain dwelling-place; and labour, working with our own hands : being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it; being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and as the offscouring of all things unto this day.”* Add to which, that in the short account that is given of the other apostles, in the former part of the history, and within the short period which that account comprises, we find, first, two of them seized, imprisoned, brought before the Sanhedrim, and threatened with further punishment ;t then, the whole number imprisoned and beaten :f soon afterwards, their adherents stoned to death, and so hot a persecution raised against the sect, as to drive most of them out of the place ; a short time only succeeding, before one of the twelve was beheaded, and another sentenced to the same
* 1 Cor. iv. et seq.
† Acts iv. 3, 21.
* Acts v. 18, 40.
fate ; and all this passing in the single city of Jerusalem, and within ten years after the founder's death, and the commencement of the institution.
II. Secondly : We take no credit at present for the miraculous part of the narrative, nor do we insist upon
the correctness of single passages
of it. If the whole story be not a novel, a romance ; the whole action a dream; if Peter, and James, and Paul, and the rest of the apostles, mentioned in the account, be not all imaginary persons; if their letters be not all forgeries, and, what is more, forgeries of names and characters which never existed ; then is there evidence in our hands sufficient to support the only fact we contend for (and which, I repeat again, is, in itself, highly probable), that the original followers of Jesus Christ exerted great endeavours to propagate his religion, and underwent great labours, dangers, and sufferings, in consequence of their undertaking.
III. The general reality of the apostolick history is strongly confirmed by the consideration, that it, in truth, does no more than assign adequate causes for effects which certainly were produced, and describe consequences naturally resulting from situations which certainly existed. The effects were certainly there, of which this history sets forth the cause, and origin, and progress. It is acknowledged on all hands, because it is recorded by other testimony than that of the Christians themselves, that the religion began to prevail at that time, and in that country: It is very difficult to conceive how it could begin, or prevail at all, without the exertions of the founder and his followers in propagating the new persuasion. The history now in our hands describes these exertions, the persons employed, the means and endeavours made use of, and the labours undertaken in the prosecution of this purpose. Again, the treatment which the history represents
the first propagators of the religion to have experienced, was no other than what naturally resulted from the situation in which they were confessedly placed. It is admitted that the religion was adverse, in a great degree, to the reigning opinions, and to the hopes and wishes of the nation to which it was first introduced ; and that it overthrew, so far as it was received, the established theology and worship of every other country. We cannot feel much reluctance in believing that, when the messengers of such a system went about not only publishing their opinions, but collecting proselytes, and forming regular societies of proselytes, they should meet with opposition in their attempts, or that this opposition should sometimes proceed to fatal extremities. Our history details examples of this opposition, and of the sufferings and dangers which the emissaries of the religion underwent, perfectly agreeable to what might reasonably be expected, from the nature of their undertaking, compared with the character of the age and country
in which it was carried on. IV. Fourthly: The records before us supply evidence of what formed another member of our general proposition, and what, as hath already been observed, is highly probable, and almost a necessary consequence of their new profession, viz. that, together with activity and courage in propagating the religion, the primitive followers of Jesus assumed, upon their conversion, a new and peculiar course of private life. Immediately after their master was withdrawn from them, we hear of their continuing with one accord in prayer and supplication ;'* of their “continuing daily with one accord in the temple,"t of
many being gathered together praying."# We know what strict injunctions where laid upon the converts by their teachers. Wherever they came, the first word of their
* Acts i. 14.
† Acts ii. 46.
# Acts xii. 12.
preaching was, “ Repent.” We know that these injunctions obliged them to refrain from many species of licentiousness, which were not, at that time, reputed criminal. We know the rules of purity, and the maxims of benevolence, which Christians read in their books; concerning which rules, it is enough to observe, that, if they were, I will not say completely obeyed, but in any degree regarded, they would produce a system of conduct, and, what is more difficult to preserve, a disposition of mind, and a regulation of affections, different from any thing to which they had hitherto been accustomed, and different from what they would see in others. The change and distinction of manners, which resulted from their new character, is perpetually referred to in the letters of their teachers. " And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins, wherein in times past ye walked, according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience ; among whom so we had our conversation in times past, in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh, and of the mind, and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”*_“For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lust, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries; wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot.”+ St. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, after enumerating, as his manner was, a catalogue of vicious characters, adds, “ Such were some of you, but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified."
”+ In like manner, and alluding to the same change of practices and sentiment, he asks the Roman Christians “ what
* Eph. ii. 1-3. see slso Tit. iii. 3. † 1. Pet. iv. 3, 4. 1 Cor. vi. 11.