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strations, which they had perpetually before them, of being under the special guidance of the Supreme Being, quickened their pride, caused them to magnify their privileges, and to fancy themselves superior to other nations. From numerous intimations in their prophetical writings, they had long expected the coming of the Messiah. In him they were looking for a prince, a judge, a redeemer, a deliverer ; but it was from their political troubles, and their distresses as a nation, from which they fondly imagined he would deliver them. When Christ appeared, they had become a degraded province, and were suffering under the cruel tyranny of the Romans.
Such was the political condition of the Jews, such their national prejudices, and such their expectations in regard to the character of the Messiah, and the objects of his mission. These were powerful obstacles to the introduction of a religion, like that of Jesus Christ. How would the people believe him to be their long expected Messiah, whose character and conduct were so opposite to all their anticipations? Instead of coming in the splendor and power of a prince, he appeared an humble peasant of Gallilee, a province proverbial for its poverty and insignificance, and from which it had long been the belief, that no good thing could come. He did nothing to promote their political aggrandisement; he placed before them no prospects of military glory and conquest; and instead of offering to rescue them from bondage, he chided them for their rebellious spirit, and commanded them to submit to their condition.
And further, the religious impressions of the Jews presented another obstacle. They believed their religion to come immediately from God. With them, civil and religious laws were the same. Their national concerns, their religious ceremonies, and the occupations of private life, were regulated by the same rules. The religion of the Jews mingled with all their intercourse, and gave a tone to their thoughts, their habits, their manners. In this consisted the whole compass
of their education. It was an entire system of law and morality, of faith and piety. No Jew had any conception, that it could be improved or altered. It was the glory of his nation, the foundation of its present existence, and the hope of its future greatness and prosperity. With these im
pressions, nothing could be more remote from the minds and feelings of the Jews, than that any change was either necessary or possible in their religion.
But these are a part only of the obstacles, with which the christian religion had to contend. It was, also, to be preached to the Gentiles. And what was there in its character to recominend it to them? Or rather, what was there, which was not at war with all their prejudices, prepossessions, and religious ceremonies ? In the first place, the Jewish nation itself had become a byeword to the rest of the world. Their customs, and the exclusive nature of their laws, had raised barriers between them and every other nation.
The contempt, with which they affected to regard their neighbors, was returned in full measure. Next, the character, which Christ sustained wbile on earth, was not one, which would command the respect of the Gentiles any more than the Jews. How could they believe the divine nature and authority of his doctrines, when they had no knowledge of the God of Israel, by whose power he acted, and by whose spirit he was enlightened ? Confirmed in a mythology and worship of their own, which were rendered sacred by the most cherished associations, and all that was dear to them in the memory of their ancestors, how could they believe, that a Jew of Nazareth had been sent from heaven to proclaim a system of divine truths, that should overthrow, and root up the system, which they regarded with so much veneration; and that should work an entire revolution in the morals, manners, and religion of the world?
Again, the manner in which Christ died was calculated to excite abhorrence in the minds, both of the Jews and the heathens, or Gentiles. The death of the cross was one, to which only the worst of criminals were condemned. No doctrine could have been proposed to the people, at which they would so suddenly revolt, and which they would so immediately reject, as the doctrine of the cross. And yet, this doctrine was a prominent feature in the preaching of the Apostles. No doctrine could be more unpopular, or do greater violence to the prejudices of all parties, the high and low, the wise and ignorant, yet the Apostles persevered in preaching it; they resorted to no schemes of compromise ; they maintained a stern integrity, and firm adherence to truth, without yielding to the vices, the follies, or the weaknesses of men. They preached the Gospel, as it had been delivered to them by their divine master, leaving it to find its own way into the heart and the understanding, without attempting to remove or diminish the vast obstacles, which stood like the mountains of ages to oppose its progress.
It may be added, also, that the moral character and the purifying spirit of the christian religion, its precepts and commands, were totally at variance with the morals and manners of the whole world at that period; so that the religion of Jesus had not only to contend with the prejudices, the firmly rooted opinions, and the hereditary customs of all nations; but also their passions, their vices, their inclinations, their worldly propensities, and worldly affections.
Considering the formidable obstacles, at which we have but partially hinted, what means should we expect would overcome them? Should we look for anything less than the highest efforts of human wisdom and learning in the persons, who should attempt to remove the prejudices, and correct the vices of a world sunk in depravity and darkened with error ? Should we not even then say, that success would be wholly beyond the reach of human probability ? But what was the fact ? A few obscure, uneducated men, who had no knowledge of the world, without patronage or aid, without any countenance from the wise, or strength from the powerfül, set out to accomplish a revolution greater than ever had been contemplated, by the most enthusiastic and fortunate conqueror,-a revolution, which had for its object, not the downfal of nations and the glory of conquest, but the peace, harmony, virtue, and happiness of the whole human race. The preachers of Christianity, to all human appearance, were absolutely the last men, who could be supposed qualified for so extraordinary an enterprise.
And what kind of people did these preachers go abroad to convince and convert ? The age was not inore remarkable for error, superstition, and wickedness, than for intellectual refinement. It was a proud era of the arts and sciences in Greece, and the meridian glory of Roman greatness. Philosophy had taught men to reason and think ; eloquence and poetry to invent, define, and adorn. The Apostles, unlettered, uninformed as they were, came resolutely forward to combat learning, ingenuity, wit, eloquence. Imagine to yourself a small band of fishermen from Genesareth, going into the cities of Greece, reasoning with their wise men, confuting their arguments, and drawing after them multitudes of followers, adherents to a cause, which was held in universal contempt, and which subjected every person, who embraced it, to privations, reproach, and sufferings. Imagine these men in the synagogues of the Jews, reasoning with the learned doctors on the most difficult points of the law, and proving the truth of their doctrines from the very arguments brought to confute them. Imagine St Paul, who tells us he was rude in speech, and weak in bodily presence, imagine this man standing before a powerful king, and uttering his sentiments in a strain of bold, nervous, manly eloquence, which made the heathen monarch himself exclaim, Paul, almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. Imagine him in the enlightened city of Athens, boldly chiding the Athenians for their idolatry, and their superstition, preaching Jesus and the resurrection, and making known the existence, attributes, and glory of the one true God. By what power did Paul and Barnabas preach and teach in Lystra, till the people exclaimed, The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!' By what magic did these Apostles, uninformed and unpractised in the arts of the world, impress with conviction and fill with astonishment the minds not only of the ignorant and simple, but of the learned, the wise, the powerful? What sufferings did they not endure ? Imprisoned, scourged, and stoned ; reviled and mocked ; persecuted and despised, what influence could we expect they would have, in preaching the unwelcome doctrines of the cross, convincing the world of error, conquering the omnipotence of opinion, subduing the pride of knowledge and wisdoin, destroying the dominion of prejudice, and in severing the unhallowed union of religion and vice, of unprincipled ambition and morals, of devotion and debasing ceremonies ?
But they succeeded; prejudice and pride yielded before them; the ignorant were enlightened, and the obstinate convinced; and the religion of Jesus rapidly spread itself throughout the whole civilised world. The Apostles themselves travelled over many parts of Asia and Africa, and to the remote regions of Europe. One generation had not VOL. XX. NO. 47
passed away, before churches were established in all the land of the patriarchs, in Greece, Italy, Egypt, and the far distant countries of Ethiopia ; and this, by the means we have been considering. The spirit of persecution breathed its venom; the arm of tyranny was raised in anger, and the followers of Jesus were led to martyrdom. They triumphed in their fate, and gloriously tested the strength of their faith, the firmuess of their principles, and the joyful hopes of their religion, by a sacrifice of their lives. And notwithstanding these appalling obstacles, this religion advanced with a celerity altogether beyond any anticipations, which could have been warranted by the most fortunate circumstances. Had it been sanctioned by the belief, and supported by the edicts of princes and governors; had it been promulgated by preachers of the highest worldly wisilom and attainments; had it flattered the vanity and encouraged the vices of men; had it appealed to their passions, their interests, their feelings; even then, the broadest latitude of human probability could never have encouraged the hope, that its success would be so rapid, extensive, and permanent.
What then shall we say, when we compare the obstacles, the means, and the results ? Is nothing but the power of man here? Since the foundation of the world, when has the power of man been adequate to such effects? It was a remark of one of the ancient fathers, who lived fifteen hundred years ago, to the unbelievers of his time; ' If ye will not believe the miracles of the Apostles, ye must at least believe this miracle, that the world was by such instruments, without miracles, converted.' In his opinion it was not a less wonderful, and in itself, a less incredible fact, that the Gospel should succeed as it did, than that the Apostles should work the miracles recorded in their writings. Without referring to a supernatural agency, one is comparatively as unaccountable as the other. But the fact of the success of the Gospel is before our eyes. It is confirmed by authentic historical records. The experience of every age has given additional proof; and one simple question remains. How is it to be accounted for? To this question there is but one answer, and it is short. What the Evangelists wrote was true ; Christ was the power of God and the wisdom of God;' his religion was from Heaven, and the Apostles published it