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thousand objections would immediately be raised against it; and some extraordinary proof would justly be required as a balance to them. Now, I wish the rejecters of the Gospel would set themselves to invent some hypothesis, which should have any appearance of probability, to show how such an amazing story should ever gain credit in the world, if it bad not some very convincing proof. Where, and when, could it first begin to be received? Was it in the same, or a succeeding age ? Was it at Jerusalem, the spot of ground on which it is said to have happened, or in Greece, or Italy, or Asia, or Africa ? You may change the scene, and the time, as you please, but you cannot change the difficulty.
Take it in a parallel instance. Suppose twelve men in London were now to affirm, that a person executed there as a malefactor in a public manner, a month or six weeks ago, or if you please, a year, or five, or ten years since, (for it is much the same,) was a prophet sent from God with extraordinary powers, that he was raised from the dead, that they conversed with him after his revival, and at last saw him taken up into heaven; would their united testimony make them be believed there? them, if you please, to disperse, and that one or two of them should come hither, and go on to more distant places, suppose Leicester, Nottingham, or York, and tell their story there; and that others were to carry it over to Paris, or Amsterdam, or to Vienna, or Madrid : could they expect any more credit with us, or with them; or hope for any thing better, than to be looked upon as lunatics and treated as such ?And if they should go into other places, and attempt
to mend their scheme, by saying their Master was put to death one hundred or two hundred years ago, when there could be no historical evidence of it discovered, and no proof given but their own confident assertion, would they remove, or would they not rather increase, the difficulty? Or would they, in any of these cases, gain credit by the most dexterous tricks of legerdemain, of which you can suppose them masters ? Especially if they should undertake, in
? consequence of such supposed facts, to engage men to renounce the religion in which they had been educated; to deny themselves in their dearest pas sions and most important worldly interests; and even probably to hazard their liberties and their lives in dependence on a future reward, to be received in a place and state, which no man living on earth had ever seen or known? You would readily allow this to be an insupposable case; and why should you suppose it to have happened sixteen or seventeen hundred years ago? You may assure yourselves, that the reason, and the passions of mankind were then as strong as they are now. But let us a little more particularly consider,
2. The manner in which the apostles undertook to prove the truth of their testimony to this fact; and it will evidently appear, that instead of confirming their scheme, it must have been sufficient utterly to have overthrown it, had it been itself the most probable imposture that the wit of man could ever have contrived. You know, they did not merely assert, that they had seen miracles wrought by this Jesus, but that he had endowed themselves with a variety of miraculous powers. And these they un
dertook to display, not in such idle and useless tricks as slight of hand might perform, but in such solid and important works, as appeared worthy a divine interposition, and entirely superior to human power; restoring, as they pretend, sight to the blind, soundness to lepers, activity to the lame, and, in some instances, life to the dead. Nor were these things undertaken in a corner, in a circle of friends or dependants, nor were they said to be wrought on such as might be suspected of being confederates in the fraud; but they were done often in the public streets, in the sight of enemies, on the persons of such as were utter strangers to the apostles, but sometimes well known to neighbours and spectators, as having long laboured under these calamities, to human skill utterly incurable. Would impostors have made such pretensions as these? Or if they had, must they not immediately have been exposed and ruined?
Nor is there any room at all to object, that perhaps the apostles might not undertake to do these things on the spot, but only assert they had done them elsewhere: for even then, it would have been impossible they should have gained credit; and they would have seemed the less credible on account of such a' pretence.
Whatever appearances there might have been of gravity, integrity, and piety, in the conversation of Peter, (for instance,) very few, especially few that had known but little of him, would have taken it upon his word, that he saw Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead at Bethany; but fewer yet would have believed it upon his affirmation, had it been ever so solemn, that he had himself
raised Dorcas at Joppa; unless he had done some extraordinary work before them, correspondent, at least, if not equal to that. You will easily think of invincible objections, which otherwise might have been made; and undoubtedly, the more such assertions have been multiplied, every new person, and scene,
and fact, had been an additional advantage given to the enemy, to have detected and confuted the whole scheme, which Peter and his associates had thus endeavoured to establish.
But to come still closer to the point.-If the New Testament be genuine, (as I have already proved it) then it is certain, that the apostles pretend to have wrought miracles in the very presence of those to whom their writings were addressed; nay more, they profess likewise to have conferred those miraculous gifts, in some considerable degrees, on others, even on the very persons to whom they write, and they appeal to their consciences as to the truth of it. And could there possibly be room for delusion here? It is exceedingly remarkable to this purpose, that Paul makes this appeal to the Corinthians, and Galatians, when there were amongst them some persons disaffected to him, who were taking all opportunities to sink his character, and destroy his influence; and could they have wished for a better opportunity than such an appeal ? An appeal which, had not the fact it supposed been certain, far from recovering those that were wavering in their esteem, must have been sufficient utterly to disgust his most cordial and steady friends. And the same remark
may be applied to the advices and reproofs, which the Apostle there gives relating to the use and abuse of their spiritual gifts; which had been most notoriously absurd, and even ridiculous, had not the Christians to whom he wrote been really possessed of them. And these gifts were so plainly supernatural, that (as it has often been: observed), if it be allowed that miracles can prove a divine revelation, and that the First Epistle to the Corinthians be genuine, (of which, by the way, there is at least as pregnant evidence as that any part of the New Testament is so,) then it follows, by a sure and easy consequence, that Christianity is true. Nevertheless other arguments are not to be forgot in this survey.-And therefore, as I have proved under this head, that had the testimony of the apostles been false, it is not to be imagined that they could have gained credit at all; and especially, when they bad put the proof of their cause on such a footing, as we are sure they did. I am now to show
you, 5. That it is certain in fact, that the apostles did gain early credit, and succeeded in a most wonderful manner; from whence it will follow, that their testimony was true.---That the apostles did indeed gain credit in the world, is evident, from what I before offered to prove, the early prevalence of Christianity in it; and may farther be confirmed from many passages in the New Testament. And here I insist, not so much on express historical testimonies, though some of them are very remarkable; especially that of the brethren at Jerusalem, who speak of many myriads of believing Jews assembled at the feast of Pentecost: but I argue from the epistles written to several churches, which plainly prove, that there were congregations of Christians in Rome, Corinth,