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written an account of the miraculous birth of Jesus, does in reality contradict it as a falsehood. He asserts that he begins his gospel with the word of God which came to John the Baptist; and he defines the period of that event with unexampled precision; he demonstrates the whole scheme to be a fiction, by showing that Jesus was not really born till after the death of Herod the Great;-he asserts, in language the most positive and unequivocal, that Jesus was the son of Joseph; and confirms this as a fact, by the register of his birth, and the testimony of the people of Nazareth.
The divinity of Christ suggested by Heathenism, in order
to account for his miracles, and adopted by the Pagan philosophers to set aside the truth of his gospel.
SUCH was the genius of Heathenism, that its votaries, as soon as they heard of the miracles of Jesus, and had reason to believe them to be true, were unavoidably led to consider him as a god.
The Heathens, it is well known, believed in the existence and agency of many gods. These, as they supposed, often appeared in the shape, or entered the bodies of men. The Greek and the Roman writers abound with instances of their interposition in both these respects ;: and the notion was as familiar as that of ghosts or evil spirits, entertained by the vulgar in modern days. When Christ appeared, and exhibited, in the miracles which he performed, the proofs of his divine mission, the conclusion was natural, that he was himself one of the
gods, acting by virtue of his own power, and not with the authority of a higher Being. I will illustrate this by three examples of unquestionable authenticity. When Paul miraculously healed the infirm man in Lystra, Acts xiv. 11, “the people," we are told, “lifted up their voice, in the language of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.” If Christ had been the author of this miracle, the people of that place would doubtless have said the same thing of him. The inhabitants of other places would certainly have drawn a similar inference; differing only as to what god he might be, each supposing him to be that divinity to which he was most particularly devoted : and if they would suppose him to be a god from this miracle, they would à fortiori, have had recourse to the same supposition from all his miracles, and especially from the stupendous miracle of his resurrection. Another example, illustrative of the genius of Paganism, presents itself in the discourse of Paul at Athens. His hearers immediately concluded that he was “a setter forth of new gods;" and the sacred historian subjoins the reason, “because he preached Jesus and the resurrection," Acts xvii. In the estimation of a Heathen, superiority to death was the most deeisive proof of divinity ; so that, in their opinion, to assert that Jesus survived death, was the same thing as to assert that he was a god.
To introduce a new god at Athens was a capital crime. Three centuries before, Socrates was put to death under that very charge; and they instantly conducted the Apostle to the Areopagus, to have him condemned for the same offence. Paul effectually sets aside the charge, by holding forth Jesus as a man appointed of God to judge the world; and raised from the grave by the power of the Almighty. The notion of one supreme God as the creator and governor of the universe, was not unknown to the Athenian philosophers; but lest the preaching of this Great Being should be made the grounds of a new accusation against the apostle, he, with admirable wisdom and presence of mind, precludes it by an appeal to their own writers, and especially to an altar erected to the unknown God in that very city. Here we are presented with a very remarkable fact, most worthy the notice of those who believe that Paul taught the Deity of our Saviour. The people of Athens, misled by polytheism, charged that apostle with holding forth the divinity of Christ as an object of their acceptance. And what did this great champion of the religion of Jesus do, in consequence? Did he meet the charge and avow it? This he certainly would have done, had it been wellfounded, even at the risk of his life. On the contrary; he cuts up the charge by the roots, as grounded in misconception : and he was accordingly discharged. Had he attempted to justify that doctrine, he would have been instantly condemned. His acquittal is an unequivocal fact that he negatived it, as a mere dictate of Heathenism.
Peter was sent for to explain the first principles of the gospel to Cornelius, a Roman officer and a Heathen. This man, when told of the miracles and resurrection of Christ, must necessarily have concluded that he had a demon, or was himself a supernatural being : and the precaution which the apostle took to prevent this conclusion, is worthy of observation. “Peter having opened his mouth, said, In truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons, but that in every nation 'he who feareth him and doeth righteously, is accepted of him. The Word (Logo) which he sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ, this (Word) is Lord of all. You know the report which spread throughout all Judea, beginning in Galilee, after the baptism which John preached, Jesus of Nazareth, how God endued him with the holy spirit and power; who went about doing good, healing all those that were oppressed by the devil, because God was with him. This Jesus, God raised on the third day, and showed him
openly, net indeed to all the people, but to witnesses chosen by God, even to us who ate and drank with him after he had risen from the dead;" Acts x. 36. Here the apostle personifies the Gospel under the term Word or Logos, and makes it a delegate distinct from the Lord Jesus. He is sent by God, and preaches peace through Jesus Christ, who himself did not come from God, but only received a commission from God. This commission, proclaimed by the instrumentality of Jesus Christ, consisted of good news and peace from God, and was to be Lord of all, was to obtain a sovereign influence over the Gentiles as well as the Jews. God having chosen Jesus to be his agent in announcing this commission to the world, he endues him with his Holy Spirit, and enables him to heal all manner of diseases ; and God is with him in so doing; and finally, after he is put to death, God raises him the third day from the grave, and shows him again to all his faithful witnesses. Thus Peter was anxious to show a Heathen that Jesus was not himself a God, but one that had received divine authority to proclaim certain tidings of great joy to the human race. From the Recognitions ascribed to Clement, we find that Cornelius was acquainted with the magician Simon, who, we shall presently see, was an associate of the Egyptian impostors alluded to by Luke as the men who first taught the miraculous birth of Jesus. Cornelius might suppose that the blessed Jesus, like the Samaritan impostor, was in league with demons, who, while performing the magical arts, instigated their votaries to atrocious deeds. Peter provides against this suspicion by saying that his Divine Master was actuated by the Holy Spirit of God; that, being benevolent, he went about doing good; and that, instead of being an agent of Satan, relieved those who were afflicted by him. Moreover, the apostle sets aside the story that Jesus was miraculously born, by saying that the commission which God sent to Jesus Christ, began in Galilce, not in Bethlehem :
not in the time of Herod the Great, but after the baptism of John. Finally, it was an opinion of the Pagans that their Gods did not partake of human food; and to show that Jesus had not a divine nature, Peter asserts that he ate and drank with them after he had risen from the dead. The conclusion on which I here insist, is directly asserted by Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History, lib. i. 13. “ The divinity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was celebrated among all nations by means of his wonderful power; an immense number, even of foreigners, being attracted to him, in the hope of being healed by him of the various diseases which afflicted them.” Here it is asserted that all nations celebrated the divinity of Christ, and that the grounds of this celebration were the wonderful works performed by him, It is clear therefore, that, according to the surrounding nations who heard the fame of Jesus, he was a supernatural being, because he did things above the course of nature.
A well-known passage of Tertullian in his Apology, cap. 6, (see Lardner, vol. vii. p. 243) inculcates the same conclusion. “Tiberius, in whose reign the Christian name appeared in the world, having received from Palestine in Syria an account of the works which revealed and verified the divinity of Jesus, proposed him to the Senate, with the privilege of his own vote in favour of his deification. The Senate, because he had himself refused that honour, rejected the proposal. Cæsar remained of the same opinion; and threatened to punish the accusers of the Christians.” Here, again, it is asserted that the works of Jesus proved his divinity. The conduct of Tiberius, who was a Heathen, in proposing the deification of Jesus, proves that he drew the same inference; but it is remarkable that Tertullian, who was a Christian, and who had opportunities to know better, should assert that the miracles of our Lord verified, not his divine mission, but his divine nature. This shows