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IV

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which raged against Christianity. But these are only specimens of the dreadful scenes which lasted for three hundred years; during which the blood of the Christian martyrs flowed in torrents in almost every part of the Roman empire. The Jew and the Gentile vied in their hatred and cruelty. He who professed this despised religion was exposed to the loss of property and country and liberty and life. The emperors armed the magistrates with authority, the fury of the populace supplied additional means of destruction, and the poison of the most odious calumnies (as we see also in the extracts to which I have just referred) aggravated all-the Christians were tortured with every species of cruelty, and accounted the enemies of the human race. Neither age por sex was spared; and for centuries a succession of sanguinary persecutions, with short intervals of repose, marked the progress of the church.

Now the doctrine of Christ never could have overcome such obstacles in the first instance, if it had depended on merely human means. That which is already established may have within it causes of further extension ; education, habit, temporal interests, spirit of party, obstinacy, pride, love of fame may then operate. But how to propagate at first, how to press on

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against education and habit and the other tena. cious principles of mankind, how to resist and turn all the accustomed inclinations and predilections of the heart of man, this is the difficulty. The first Christians did not suffer in the defence of opinions long entertained, conveyed down by hereditary usage, and at a time when the evidences of them had become, as they are now, those of testimony, and not of personal knowledge and ocular observation. The matter was quite different. They suffered in attestation of facts which they had witnessed with their own eyes, and in support of a doctrine at war with all their natural feelings, prejudices, and mental associations. This is the point. And what we assert is that the first Christians could never have been brought over to a new and strict doctrine, and at the risk of every possible suffering, and when no one human motive of pride or vain-glory or ambition or covetousness was interested on the side of the new opinions; they never could have embraced the religion of a crucified Jew, with the whole world against them, but on the fullest conviction of the divine authority of Christianity, attested in its miraculous operations, and sealed upon the heart by the gifts and graces of the Spirit. The case speaks for itself. We know what men are. It is morally impos

sible for such a doctrine as the Christian, to have been propagated by such feeble instruments, with such rapidity, to such a vast extent, in spite of every imaginable obstacle, and unsupported by a single human resource, if it had not been of God.

But consider,

III. THE MORAL AND SPIRITUAL CHANGE WROUGHT IN THE CHRISTIAN CONVERTS. It was no idle assent which they had to give to a philosophical speculation or an abstract theory. The reception of the doctrine, besides all the outward disruption of their previous habits, and all the personal hazards which it brought with it, disposed them to take up a new course of life, entirely in opposition to the corrupt propensities of our nature. Compare the apostle's description of the previous characters of the Roman or Corinthian or Ephesian converts; as far from God, alienated from the divine life, resigned over to all uncleanness, the understanding blinded to truth, the heart hardened against spiritual perceptionswith his description of the same men renewed, sanctified, elevated, united to God, having the eyes of their understanding enlightened, beholding the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, walking in love, mortifying every corrupt affection, living a pure and self

denying and benevolent life; and then tell me what but the power of God could have produced the change. What could have led the mass of the heathen world to sacrifice all their prejudices and all their lusts, in order to embrace the suffering and holy religion of a despised malefactor, unless a divine and undoubted power had attended it? What more demonstrative token of such a power, than to turn thousands of men “from the practice of every vice to the practice of every virtue; to reform them in understanding, inclination, affection; to recover, what philosophy only pretended to, the dominion of reason over passion ; to make them unfeignedly subject to their Maker, rejoicing in his favour in the midst of the severest sufferings, and serenely waiting for their dismission into a state of blissful immortality ?". The patience, especially, with which they endured the torments inflicted on them, had something in it more than human. This did not appear in a few cases merely, but was so general, and at the same time so astonishing, as to attract the notice of their persecutors, and frequently to produce submission to the doctrine which they taught.

The general meekness also and benevolence of their lives, (of which the letter of Pliny is no unii ortant proof,) their unresisting obe

dience to the civil governors, who so often illtreated them, and their charity towards each other, prove both the sincerity of their faith, and the truth of the religion which they had embraced.

The astonishing revolution in the human mind and manners, which the new religion thus produced—a change from the darkness, and corruption, and abominations of Gentile idolatries, and Jewish traditions, to the pure and benevolent graces of Christianity-a change in itself most difficult, and effected in the face of all these additional obstacles already noticedforms an invincible argument for the truth of the Revelation. The conversion was, even by the admission of heathens themselves, from bad to good, from vice and dissoluteness of morals, to purity and love. The history of the world affords no parallel to this illustrious fact.

Nor should it be forgotten, that amongst the numerous converts to the Christian faith, were persons of all ranks, as we have more than once had occasion to remark, and of all stations—men of cautious enquiry, of singular acuteness of mind, and of sound and capacious judgmentmen as capable of examining a question, and as fearful of being deceived as any in the world now are. And yet these persons embraced a persecuted religion, renounced all their oldest

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