« הקודםהמשך »
openly apostatized from it, who professed the most implacable hatred to it, who employed all his ingenuity, all his acuteness and learning, which were considerable, in combating the truth of it, in displaying in the strongest colours every objection he could raise up against it; even he did not deny the reality of our Lord's miracles*. He admitted that Jesus wrought them, but contended that he wrought them by the power of magic.
3. Unless we admit that the founder of our religion did actually work the miracles ascribed to him by his historians, it is utterly impossible to account for the success and establishment of his religion. It could not, in short, to all appearance, have been established by any other means.
* Julian apud Cyrillum, L. vi. viii. x. Celsus also acknowledged the truth of the gospel miracles in general, but ascribed them to the assistance of demons. ." The Christians, says he, seem to prevail, Saylov Tivay Ovouaol xqu NATOMAROEOT, by virtue of the names and the invocation of certain demons.” Orig. contra Celsum, ed, Cantab. 1. i. p. 7.
: Consider only for a moment what the apa parent condition of our Lord was, when he first announced his mission among the Jews, what his pretensions and what his doctrines were, and then judge what kind of a reception he must have met with among the Jews, had his preaching been accompanied by no miracles. A young man of no education, born in an obscure village of obsure parents, without any of those very brilliant talents or exterior accomplishments which usually captivate the hearts of men ; without having previously written or done anything that should excite the expectation, or attract the attention and admiration of the world, offers himself at once to the Jewish nation, not merely as a preacher of morality, but as a teacher sent from heaven; nay, what is more, as the Son of God himself, and as that great deliverer, the Messiah, who had been so long predicted by the prophets, and was then so anxiously expected, and so eagerly looked for by the whole Jewish people. He called upon this people to renounce at once a great part of the religion of their forefathers, and
to adopt that which he proposed to them; to relinquish all their fond ideas of a splendid, a victorious, a triumphant Messiah, and to accept in his room a despised, a persecuted, and a crucified master: he required them to give up all their former prejudices, superstitions, and traditions, all their favourite rites and ceremonies, and what was perhaps still dearer to them, their favourite vices and propensities, their hypocrisy, their rapaciousness, their voluptuousness. Instead of exterior forms he prescribed sanctity of manners ; instead of washing their hands, and making clean their platters, he commanded them to purify their hearts and reform their lives. Instead of indulging in ease and luxury, he called upon them to take up their cross and follow him through sorrows and sufferings; to pluck out a right eye, and to cut off a right arm; to leave father, mother, brethren, and sisters, for his pame's sake, and the gospel,
What now shall we say to doctrines such as these delivered by such a person as our Lord appeared to be? Is it probable, is it possible that the reputed son of a poor
mechanic could, by the mere force of argument or persuasion, induce vast numbers of his countrymen to embrace opinions and practices so directly opposite to every propensity of their hearts, to every sentiment they had imbibed, every principle they had acted upon from their earliest years ? Yet the fact is, that he did prevail on multitudes to do so; and therefore he must have had means of conviction superior to all human eloquence or reasoning; that is, he must have convinced his hearers by the miracles he wrought, that all power in heaven and in earth was given to him, and that every precept he delivered, and every doctrine he taught, was the voice of God himself. Without this it is utterly impossible to give any rational account of his success. · In order to set this argument in a still stronger point of view, let us consider what the effect actually was in a case where a new religion was proposed without any 'support from miracles. That same impostor Mahomet, to whom I before alluded, began his mission with every advantage that could
arise from personal figure, from insinuating manners, from a commanding eloquence, from an ardent enterprising spirit, from considerable wealth, and from powerful connections. Yet with all these advantages, and with every artifice and every dexterous contrivance to recommend his new religion to his countrymen, in the space of three years he made only about six converts, and those principally of his own family, relations, and most intimate friends. And his progress was but very slow for nine years after this, till he began to make use of force ; and then his victorious arms, not his arguments, carried his religion triumphantly over almost all the eastern world.
It appears therefore, that without the assistance either of miracles or of the sword, no religion can be propagated with such rapidity, and to such an extent, as the Christian was, both during our Saviour's life time, and after his death. For there is, I believe, no instanee in the history of mankind of such an effect being produced, without either the one or the other. Now of