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CENT. I. PART 1.

VIII. When we consider the rapid progress of Christianity among the Gentile nations, and the of the rapid poor and feeble instruments by which this great of the gospel. and amazing event was immediately effected, we

The causes

must naturally have recourse to an omnipotent and invisible hand, as its true and proper cause. For unless we suppose here a divine interposition, how was it possible that men, destitute of all human aid, without credit or riches, learning or eloquence, could, in so short a time, persuade a considerable part of mankind to abandon the religion of their ancestors? How was it possible that an handful of apostles, who, as fishermen and publicans, must have been contemned by their own nation, and as Jews, must have been odious to all others, could engage the learned and the mighty, as well as the simple and those of low degree, to forsake their favourite prejudices, and to embrace a new religion which was an enemy to their corrupt passions? And, indeed, there were undoubted marks of a celestial power perpetually attending their ministry. There was, in their very language, an incredible energy, an amazing power of sending light into the understanding, and conviction into the heart. To this were added, the commanding influence of stupendous miracles, the foretelling of future events, the power of discerning the secret thoughts and intentions of the heart, a magnanimity superior to all difficulties, a contempt of riches and honours, a serene tranquillity in the face of death, and an invincible patience under torments still more dreadful than death itself; and all this accompanied with lives free from all stain, and adorned with the constant practice of sublime virtue. Thus were the messengers of the divine Saviour, the heralds of his spiritual and immortal kingdom, furnished for their glorious work, as the unanimous voice of ancient history so loudly testifies. The event sufficiently declares this; for without

PART 1.

these remarkable and extraordinary circumstances, CENT. I. no rational account can be given of the rapid propagation of the gospel throughout the world.

gifts commu

apostles

IX. What indeed contributed still further to this Miraculous glorious event, was, the power vested in the apos-nicated by the tles of transmitting to their disciples these miraculous gifts. For many of the first christians were no sooner baptized according to Christ's appointment, and dedicated to the service of God by solemn prayer, and the imposition of hands, than they spoke languages they had never known or learned before; foretold future events, healed the sick by pronouncing the name of Jesus, restored the dead to life, and performed many things above the reach of human power. And it is no wonder if men, who had the power of communicating to others these marvellous gifts, appeared great and respectable, wherever they exercised their glorious ministry.

of the gospel

absurd causes.

x. Such then were the true causes of that amazing The progress rapidity with which the christian religion spread attributed to itself upon earth; and those who pretend to assign other reasons of this surprising event, indulge themselves in idle fictions, which must disgust every attentive observer of men and things. In vain, therefore, have some imagined, that the extraordinary liberality of the christians to their poor, was a temptation to the more indolent and corrupt part of the multitude to embrace the gospel. Such malignant and superficial reasoners do not consider, that those who embraced this divine religion exposed their lives to the most imminent danger; nor have they attention enough to recollect, that neither lazy nor vicious members were suffered to remain in the society of christians. Equally vain

* See Pfanner's learned treatise, De charismatibus sive donis miracu tosis antiquæ ecclesiæ, published at Francfort, 1683.

PART I.

CENT.I. is the invention of those, who imagine that the profligate lives of the heathen priests was an occasion of the conversion of many to Christianity. For, though this might indeed give them a disgust at the religion of these unworthy ministers, yet it could not, alone, attach them to that of Jesus, which offered them from the world no other prospects, than those of poverty, infamy, and death. The person, who could embrace the gospel solely from the motive now mentioned, must have reasoned in this senseless and extravagant manner; "the ministers of that religion which I have professed from my infancy, lead profligate lives; therefore, I will become a christian, join myself to that body of men who are condemned by the laws of the state, and thus expose my life and fortune to the most imminent danger."

CHAPTER V.

CONCERNING THE CALAMITOUS EVENTS THAT HAPPENED TO THE
CHURCH.

The Jews persecute the

Palestine.

L. THE innocence and virtue that distinguished christians in so eminently the lives of Christ's servants, and the spotless purity of the doctrine they taught, were not sufficient to defend them against the virulence and malignity of the Jews. The priests and rulers of that abandoned people, not only loaded with injuries and reproach the apostles of Jesus, and their disciples, but condemned as many of them as they could, to death, and executed in the most irregular and barbarous manner their san. guinary decrees. The murder of Stephen, of James the son of Zebedee, and of James, sirnamed the Just, bishop of Jerusalem, furnish dreadful ex

amples of the truth of what we here advance. This CENT.I. odious malignity of the Jewish doctors, against the PART I heralds of the gospel, was undoubtedly owing to a secret apprehension, that the progress of Christianity would destroy the credit of Judaism, and bring on the ruin of their pompous ceremonies.

those in for

II. The Jews who lived out of Palestine, in the And also by Roman provinces, did not yield to those of Jeru- eign countries. salem in point of cruelty to the innocent disciples of Christ. We learn from the history of the Acts of the Apostles, and other records of unquestionable authority, that they spared no labour, but zealously seized every occasion of animating the magistrates against the christians, and setting on the multitude to demand their destruction. The highpriest of the nation, and the Jews, who dwelt in Palestine, were instrumental in exciting the rage of these foreign Jews against the infant church, by sending messengers to exhort them not only to avoid all intercourse with the christians, but also to persecute them in the most vehement manner. this inhuman order, they endeavoured to find out the most plausible pretexts; and, therefore, they gave out, that the christians were enemies to the Roman emperor, since they acknowledged the authority of a certain person whose name was Jesus, whom Pilate had punished capitally as a malefactor by a most righteous sentence, and on whom, nevertheless, they conferred the royal dignity. These perfidious insinuations had the intended effect, and the rage of the Jews against the christians was

For

• The martyrdom of Stephen is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, vii. 55; and that of James the son of Zebedee, Acts xii. 1, 2; that of James the Just, bishop of Jerusalem, is mentioned by Josephus, in his Jewish Antiquities, book xx. chap. viii. and by Eusebius, in his Eccles. History, book ii. chap. xxiii.

See the Dialogue of Justin Martyr with Trypho the Jew, p. 51, 52, 53. 109, 138, 318.

PART 1.

CENT I. conveyed from father to son, from age to age; so that the church of Christ had, in no period of time, more bitter and desperate enemies than that very people, to whom the immortal Saviour was more especially sent.

The Jews severely punish

III The Supreme Judge of the world did not el for their let the barbarous conduct of this perfidious nation Christ and his go unpunished. The most signal marks of divine disciples. justice pursued them, and the cruelties they had

treatment of

exercised upon Christ, and his disciples, were dreadfully avenged. The God, who had for so many ages protected the Jews with an outstretched arm, withdrew his aid. He permitted Jerusalem, with its famous temple, to be destroyed by Vespasian and his son Titus, an innumerable multitude of this devoted people to perish by the sword, and the greatest part of those that remained to groan under the yoke of a severe bondage. Nothing can be more affecting than the account of this terrible event, and the circumstantial description of the tremendous calamities which attended it, as they are given by Josephus, himself a Jew, and also a spectator of this horrid scene. From this period the Jews experienced, in every place, the hatred and contempt of the Gentile nations, still more than they had formerly done. And in these their calamities the predictions of Christ were amply fulfilled, and his divine mission further illustrated. The ten Gen- IV. However virulent the Jews were against the christians, yet, upon many occasions, they wanted power to execute their cruel purposes. This was not the case with the heathen nations; and therefore from them the christians suffered the severest calamities. The Romans are said to have pursued the christians with the utmost violence in ten persecutions, but this number is not verified by

tile persecu

tions.

The learned J. Albert Fabricius has given us a list of the authors that have written concerning these persecutions, in his Lux Evangelii orbi universo exoriens, cap. vii. p. 133.

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