صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني
[ocr errors]

this place forced to refort to the other folution, that it was done by magic. It was not enough to fay, that a miracle which appeared to fo many thousand eye-witneffes was a forgery of Chrift's difciples; and therefore, fuppofing them to be eye-witnefles, he endeavours to fhew how they might be deceived.

IV. The unconverted Heathens, who were preffed by the many authorities that confirmed our Saviour's miracles, as well as the unbelieving Jews, who had actually seen them, were driven to account for them after the fame manner for, to work by magic in the Heathen way of fpeaking, was in the language of the Jews to caft out devils by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. Our Saviour, who knew that unbelievers in all ages would put this perverse interpretation on his miracles, has branded the malignity of thofe men who, contrary to the dictates of their own hearts, ftarted fuch an unreasonable objection, as a blafphemy against the Holy Ghoft, and declared not only the guilt, but the punishment of fo black a crime. At the fame time he condefcended to fhew the vanity and emptiness of this objecton against his miracles, by reprefenting, that they evidently tended to 'he deftruction of thofe powers, to whofe affiftance the enemies of his doctrine then ascribed them; an argument which, if duly weighed, renders the objection fo very frivolous and groundlefs, that we may venture to call it even blafphemy againft common fenfe. Would magic endeavour to draw off the minds of men from the worship that was paid to ftocks and ftones, to give them an abhorrence of thofe evil spirits who rejoiced in the moft cruel facrifices, and in offerings of the greatest impurity; and, in fhort, to call upon mankind to exert their whole ftrength in the love and adoration of that Being from whom they derived their exiftence, and on whom only they were taught to depend every moment for the happinefs and continuance of it? Was it the bufinefs of magic to humanize our natures with compaffion, forgivenefs, and all the inftances of the most extenfive charity? Would evil fpirits contribute to make men sober, chaste, and temperate, and, in a word, to produce that reformation which was wrought in the moral world by those doctrines of our Saviour that received their fanction from his miracles? Nor is it poffible to imagine, that evil spirits would enter into a combination with our Saviour, to cut off all their correfpondence and intercourse with mankind, and to prevent any for the future from addicting themselves to thofe rites and ceremonies which had done them so much honour. We see the early effect which Chriftianity had on the minds of men in this particular, by that number of books which were filled with the fecret of magic, and made a facrifice to Chriftianity, by the converts mentioned in the Acts of the Apoftles. We have likewife an eminent inftance of the inconfiftency of our religion with magic, in the hiftory of the famous Aquila. This perfon, who was a kinfman of the emperor Trajan, and likewife a man of great learning, notwithstanding he had embraced Chriftianity, could not be brought off from the ftudies of magic by the repeated admonitions of his fellow Chriftians; fo that at length they expelled him their fociety, as rather choofing to VOL. V. G


[ocr errors]

lofe the reputation of fo confiderable a profelyte, than communicate with one who dealt in fuch dark and infernal practices. Befides, we may obferve, that all the favourers of magic were the most profeffed and bitter enemies to the Chriftian religion. Not to mention Simon Magus and many others, I fhall only take notice of two great perfecutors of Chriftianity, the emperors Adrian and Julian the apoftate, Both of them initiated in the myfteries of divination, and skilled in all the depths of magic. I fhall only add, that evil (pirits cannot be fupposed to have concurred in the establishment of a religion which triumphed over them, drove them out of the places they poffeffed, and divefted them of their influence on mankind; nor would I mention this particular, though it be unanimously reported by all the ancient Christian authors, did it not appear, from the authorities above cited, that this was a fact confeffed by Heathens themselves.

V. We now fee what a multitude of Pagan teftimonies may be produced for all those remarkable paffages, which might have been expected from them; and indeed of feveral, that, I believe, do more than anfwer your expectation, as they were not fubjects in their own nature fo expofed to public notoriety. It cannot be expected they should mention particulars which were tranfacted among the difciples only, or among fome few even of the difciples themselves; fuch as the tranf figuration, the agony in the garden, the appearance of Chrift after his refurrection, and others of the like nature. It was impoffible for a Heathen author to relate these things; because, if he had believed them, he would no longer have been a Heathen, and by that means his teftimony would not have been thought of fo much validity. Befides, his very report of facts, fo favourable to Chriftianity, would have prompted men to say that he was probably tainted with their doctrine. We have a parallel cafe in Hecatæus, a famous Greek hiftorian, who had feveral paffages in his book conformable to the hiftory of the Jewish writers, which, when quoted by Jofephus, as a confirmation of the Jewish hiftory, when his Heathen adverfaries could give no other anfwer to it, they would need fuppofe that Hecatæus was a Jew in his heart, though they had no other reafon for it, but because his history gave greater authority to the Jewish than the Egyptian records.




1. Introduction to a fecond lift of Pagan Authors, who give testimony of our Saviour.

II. A paffage concerning our Saviour, from a learned Athenian.

IIl. His converfion from Paganism to Chriftianity makes his evidence Aronger than if he had continued a Pagan.

IV. Of another Athenian Philofopher converted to Christianity.

V. Why their converfion, inftead of weakening, ftrengthens their evidence in defence of Chriftianity.

VI. Their belief in our Saviour's hiftory founded at firft upon the principles of hiftorical faith.

VII. Their teftimonies extended to all the particulars of our Saviour's history, VIII. As related by the four Evangelifts.

I. TO this lift of Heathen writers, who make mention of our Saviour, or touch upon any particulars of his life, I shall add those authors who were at firft Heathens, and afterwards converted to Christianity; upon which account, as I fhall here fhew, their teftimonies are to be looked upon as the most authentic. And in this lift of evidences, I fhall confine myself to fuch learned Pagans as came over to Christianity in the three first centuries, because those were the times in which men had the best means of informing themselves of the truth of our Saviour's hiftory, and because among the great number of philofophers who came in afterwards, under the reigns of Chrif tian emperors, there might be several who did it partly out of worldly motives.

II. Let us now fuppofe, that a learned Heathen writer, who lived within fixty years of our Saviour's crucifixion, after having fhewn that falfe miracles were generally wrought in obfcurity, and before few or no witneffes, fpeaking of those which were wrought by our Saviour, has the following paffage: "But his works were always feen, because "they were true; they were feen by those who were healed, and by "those who were raised from the dead. Nay, these persons who were "thus healed and raised, were seen not only at the time of their "being healed and raifed, but long afterwards. Nay, they were not "feen only all the while our Saviour was upon earth, but furvived "after his departure out of this world; nay, fome of them were living "in our days."

III. I dare fay you would look upon this as a glorious atteftation for the cause of Christianity, had it come from the hand of a famous Athenian philofopher. These forementioned words, however, are actually the words of one who lived about fixty years after our Saviour's crucifixion, and was a famous philofopher in Athens; but it will be faid, he was a convert to Chriftianity. Now confider this matter impartially, and fee if his teftimony is not much more valid for that reafon. Had he continued a Pagan philofopher, would not the world. have faid, that he was not fincere in what he writ, or did not believe it? for, if fo, would not they have told us he would have embraced Chriftianity? This was indeed the cafe of this excellent man: he

G 2


had fo thoroughly examined the truth of our Saviour's history, and the excellency of that religion which he taught, and was fo entirely convinced of both, that he became a profelyte, and died a martyr.

IV. Ariftides was an Athenian philofopher, at the fame time famed for his learning and wifdom, but converted to Chriftianity. As it cannot be questioned that he perused and approved the apology of Quadratus, in which is the paffage juft now cited, he joined with him in an apology of his own, to the fame emperor, on the same subject. This apology, though now loft, was extant in the time of Ado Vinnenfis, A. D. 789, and highly efteemed by the most learned Athenians, as that author witnesses. It must have contained great arguments for the truth of our Saviour's hiftory, because in it he afferted the divinity of our Saviour, which could not but engage him in the proof of his miracles.

V. I do allow that, generally speaking, a man is not fo acceptable and unquestioned an evidence in facts which make for the advancement of his own party. But we must confider, that, in the cafe before us, the perfons to whom we appeal were of an oppofite party, till they were perfuaded of the truth of thofe very facts which they report. They bear evidence to a hiftory in defence of Christianity, the truth of which hiftory was their motive to embrace Chriftianity. They atteft facts which they had heard while they were yet Heathens; and, had they not found reafon to believe them, they would ftill have continued Heathens, and have made no mention of them in their writings.


VI. When a man is born under Chriftian parents, and trained up in the profeffion of that religion from a child, he generally guides himself by the rules of Chriftian faith, in believing what is delivered by the Evangelifts: but the learned Pagans of antiquity, before they became Chriftians, were only guided by the common rules of historical faith; that is, they examined the nature of the evidence which was to be met with in common fame, tradition, and the writings of thofe perfons who related them, together with the number, concurrence, veracity, and private characters of those perfons; and being convinced, on all accounts, that they had the fame reafon to believe the hiftory of our Saviour, as that of any other perfon to which they themfelves were not actually eye-witneffes, they were bound by all the rules of hiftorical faith, and of right reafon, to give credit to this hiftory. This they did accordingly, and in confequence of it published the fame truths them felves, fuffered many afflictions, and very often death itself, in the affertion of them. When I fay, that an hiftorical belief of the acts of our Saviour induced thefe learned Pagans to embrace his doctrine, I do not deny that there were many other motives which conduced to it; as the excellency of his precepts, the fulfilling of prophedies, the miracles of his difciples, the irreproachable lives and magnanimous fufferings of their followers, with other confiderations of the fame nature: but, whatever other collateral arguments wrought



[ocr errors]


more or less with philofophers of that age, it is certain that a belief in the hiftory of our Saviour was one motive with every new convert, and that upon which all others turned, as being the very basis and foundation of Chriftianity.

VII. To this I must further add, that, as we have already seen many particular facts, which are recorded in Holy Writ, attefted by particular Pagan authors, the teftimony of those I am now going to produce, extends to the whole hiftory of our Saviour, and to that continued feries of actions which are related of him and his difciples in the books of the New Teftament.

VIII. This evidently appears from their quotations out of the Evangelifts, for the confirmation of any doctrine or account of our bleffed Saviour. Nay, a learned man of our nation, who examined the writings of our most ancient fathers in another view, refers to several paffages in Irenæus, Tertullian, Clemens of Alexandria, Origen, and Cyprian, by which he plainly fhews, that each of these writers afcribed to the four Evangelifts by name their refpective hiftories; so that there is not the least room for doubting of their belief in the hiftory of our Saviour, as recorded in the Gospels. I fhall only add, that three of the five fathers here mentioned, and probably four, were Pagans converted to Chriftianity, as they were all of them very inquifitive and deep in the knowledge of heathen learning and philofophy.



I. Character of the times in which the Chriftian Religion was propagated, 11. And of many who embraced it.

III. Three eminent and early inftances.

IV. Multitudes of learned men who came over to it.

V. Belief in our Saviour's history, the first motive to their converfion.
VI. The names of feveral Pagan philofophers, who were Chriftian con-


I. IT happened very providentially to the honour of the Chriftian religion, that it did not take its rife in the dark illiterate ages of the world, but at a time when arts and sciences were at their height, and when there were men who made it the bufine fs of their lives to fearch after truth, and fift the feveral opinions of philofophers and wife men concerning the duty, the end, and chief happiness of reafonable crea


II. Several of these therefore, when they had informed themselves of our Saviour's hiftory, and examined with unprejudiced minds the doctrines and manners of his difciples and followers, were fo ftruck and convinced, that they profeffed themselves of that fect; notwithftanding by this profeffion, in that juncture of time, they bid farewell to all the pleasures of this life, renounced all the views of ambition, engaged in an uninterrupted course of severities, and expofed themfelves to public hatred and contempt, to fufferings of all kinds, and to death itself.

G 3


« السابقةمتابعة »