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as truth and reason seldom find so favourable a reception in the world, and as the wisdom of Providence frequently condescends to use the passions of the human heart, and the general circumstances of mankind, as instruments to execute its purpose, we may still be permitted, though with becoming submission, to ask, not indeed what were the first, but what were the secondary, causes of the rapid growth of the Christian church? It will perhaps appear, that it was most effectually favoured and assisted by the five following causes: I. The inflexible, and, if we may use the expression, the intolerant zeal of the Christians, derived, it is true, from the Jewish religion, but purified from the narrow and unsocial spirit which, instead of inviting, had deterred, the Gentiles from embracing the law of Moses. II. The doctrine of a future life, improved by every additional circumstance which could give weight and efficacy to that important truth. III. The miraculous powers ascribed to the primitive church. IV. The pure and austere morals of the Christians. V. The union and discipline of the Christian republic, which gradually formed an independent and increasing state in the heart of the Roman empire.
The first I. We have already described the religious harZeaTof mony of the ancient world, and the facility with the Jews. which the most different and even hostile nations embraced, or at least respected, each other's superstitions. A single people refused to join in the common intercourse of mankind. The Jews, who, under the Assyrian and Persian monarchies, had languished for many ages the most despised portion of their slaves," emerged from obscurity under the successors of Alexander; and, as they multiplied to a surprising degree in the east, and afterward in the west, they soon excited the curiosity and
• Dum Assyrios penes, Medosque, et Persas Oriena fuit, despectissima para servientiurn. Tacit. Hist. 5.8. Herodotus, who visited Asia whilst it obeyed the last of those empires, slightly mentions the Syrians of Palestine, who, according to their own confession, had received from Egypt the rite of circumcision. See lib. 2. c. 104.
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wonder of other nations." The sullen obstinacy with which they maintained their peculiar rites and unsocial manners, seemed to mark them out a distinct species of men, who boldly professed, or who faintly disguised, their implacable hatred to the rest of human-kind.0 Neither the violence of Antiochus, nor the arts of Herod, nor the example of the circumjacent nations, could ever persuade the Jews to associate with the institutions of Moses the elegant mythology of the Greeks.d According to the maxims of universal toleration, the Romans protected a superstition which they despised." The polite Augustus condescended to give orders, that sacrifices should be offered for his prosperity in the temple of Jerusalem;' while the meanest of the posterity of Abraham, who' should have paid the same homage to the Jupiter of the Capitol, would have been an object of abhorrence to himself and to his brethren. But the moderation of the conquerors was insufficient to appease the jealous prejudices of their subjects, who were alarmed and scandalized at the ensigns of Paganism, which necessarily introduced themselves into a Roman province' The mad attempt of Caligula to place his own statue in the temple of Jerusalem, was defeated by the unanimous resolution of a people who dreaded death much less than such an
» Diodorus Siculus, lib. 40. Dion Cassius, lib.' 37. p. 121. Tacit. Hist. 5.1—9. Justin, 36. 2, 3.
c Tradidit arcano quaecunque volumine Moses,
The letter of this law is not to be found in the present volume of Moses. But the wise, the humane Maimonides openly, teaches, that if an idolater fall into the water, a Jew ought not to save him from instant death. See Bamage, Histoire des Juifs, lib. 6. c. 28.
* A Jewish sect, which indulged themselves in a sort of occasional conformity, derived from Herod, by whose example and authority they had been seduced, the name of Herodians. But their numbers were so inconsiderable, and their duration so short, that Josephus has not thought them worthy of his notice. See Prideaux's Connexion, vol. 2. p. 285.
* Cicero pro Flacco, c. 28.
* I'hilo de Legatione. Augustus left a foundation for a perpetual sacrifice. Yet he approved of the neglect which his grandson Caius expressed towards the temple of Jerusalem. See Suetom in August. c. 93. and Casaubon's notes on that passage.
i See, in particular, Joseph. Antiquitat. 17. 6.18. 3. and de Bel. Judaic. 1. 33. and 2. 9. Edit. Havercany).
idolatrous profanation.11 Their attachment to the law of Moses was equal to their detestation of foreign religions. The current of zeal and devotion, as it was contracted into a narrow channel, ran with the strength, and sometimes with the fury, of a torrent.
its gradual This inflexible perseverance, which appeared mcrea*,- so odious or so ridiculous to the ancient world, assumes a more awful character, since Providence has designed to reveal to us the mysterious history of the chosen people. But the devout and even scrupulous attachment to the Mosaic religion, so conspicuous among the Jews who lived under the second temple, becomes still more surprising, if it is compared with the stubborn incredulity of their forefathers. When the law was given in thunder from mount Sinai; when the tides of the ocean, and the course of the planets, were suspended for the convenience of the Israelites; and when temporal rewards and punishments were the immediate consequences of their piety or disobedience; they perpetually relapsed into rebellion against the visible majesty of their divine King, placed the idols of the nations in the sanctuary of Jehovah, and imitated every fantastic ceremony that was practised in the tents of the Arabs, or in the cities of Phoenicia As the protection of Heaven was deservedly withdrawn from the ungrateful race, their faith acquired a proportionable degree of vigour and purity. The contemporaries of Moses and Joshua had beheld with careless indifference the most amazing mi, racles. Under the pressure of every calamity, the belief of those miracles has preserved the Jews of a later period from- the universal contagion of idolatry; and, incontra
h Jusst a Caio Cacsare, effigiem ejus in templo locare arma potius sumpsere. Tacit. Hist. 5. 9. Philo and Josephus gave a very circumstantial, but a very rhetorical, account of this transaction, which exceedingly perplexed the governor of Syria. At the first mention of this idolatrous proposal, king Agrippa, fainted away, and did not recover his senses till the third day.
1 For the enumeration of the Syrian and Arabian deities, it may be observed, that Milton has comprised in one hundred and thirty very beautiful lines the two large and learned syntagmas, which Stlden had composed on that abstruse suh
diction to every known principle of the human mind, that singular people seems to have yielded a stronger and more ready assent to the traditions of their remote ancestors, than to the evidence of their own senses."1 Their re- ^^e Jewish religion was admirably fitted for jjgion defence, but it was never designed for conquest: suited to and it seems probable that the number of prosethan to lytes was never much superior to that of aposconquest. tates The divine promises were originally made, and the distinguishing rite of circumcision was enjoined, to a single family. When the posterity of Abraham had multiplied like the sands of the sea, the Deity, from whose mouth they received a system of laws and ceremonies, declared himself the proper, and as it were the national, God of Israel; and, with the most jealous care, separated his favourite people from the rest of mankind. The conquest of the land of Canaan was accompanied with so many wonderful and with so many bloody circumstances, that the victorious Jews were left in a state of irreconcilable hostility with all their neighbours. They had been commanded to extirpate some of the most idolatrous tribes, and the execution of the divine will had seldom been retarded by the weakness of humanity. With the other nations they were forbidden to contract any marriages or alliances; and the prohibition of receiving them into the congregation, which in some cases was ,perpetual, almost always extended to the third, to the seventh, or even to the tenth, generation. The obligation of preaching to the Gentiles the faith of Moses, had never been inculcated as a precept of the law, nor were the Jews inclined to impose it on themselves as a voluntary duty.
In the admission of new citizens, that unsocial people was actuated by the selfish vanity of the Greeks, rather
k " How long will this people provoke me ? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewn among them ?" (Numbers xiv. 11.) It would be easy, but it would be unbecoming, to justify the complaint of the Deity from i lie whole tenor of the Mosaic history.
than by the generous policy of Rome. The descendants of Abraham were flattered by the opinion, that they alone were the heirs of the covenant, and they were apprehensive of diminishing the value of their inheritance, by sharing it too easily with the strangers of the earth. A larger acquaintance with mankind extended their knowledge, without correcting their prejudices; and whenever the God of Israel acquired any new votaries, he was much more indebted to the inconstant humour of polytheism, than to the active zeal of his own missionaries.1 The religion of Moses seems to be instituted for a particular country, as well as for a single nation; and if a strict obedience had been paid to the order, that every male, three times in the year, should present himself before the Lord Jehovah, it would have been impossible that the Jews could ever have spread themselves beyond the narrow limits of the promised land.TM That obstacle was indeed removed by the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem; but the most considerable part of the Jewish religion was involved in its destruction; and the Pagans, who had long wondered at the strange report of an empty sanctuary," were at a loss to discover what could be the object, or what could be the instruments, of a worship which was destitute of temples, and of altars, of priests and of sacrifices. Yet even in their fallen state, the Jews, still asserting their lofty and exclusive privileges, shunned, instead of courting the society of strangers. They still insisted, with inflexible rigour, on those parts of the law which it was in their power to practise. Their peculiar distinctions of days, of meats, and a variety of trivial though burdensome ob
1 All that relates to the Jewish proselytes has been very ably treated by Basnage, Hut. des Juifs, lib. 6. c. 6, 7.
rj See Exod. xxiv. 23. Dent. xvi. 16. the commentators, and a very sensible note in the Universal History, vol. 1. p. 605. edit. fol.
• When Pompey, using or abusing the right of conquest, entered into the holy of holies, it was observed, with amazement, " Nulla intus Deflm effigie, vacuum sedem et mania arcana." Tacit. Hist. 5.9- It was a popular saying with regard to the Jews,
Nil prater mibes et coJi numcn adorant.