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that looks like súblimity strangely disfigured by wild, and incoherent words. So unintelligible indeed, that even the profoundest of Christian divines have never been able to fathom all their mysteries. To prove that I do not say these things rashly, wickedly, or out of any malignity towards the character of Jesus, which I really respect and venerate, I will establish my assertions by examples. For instance
Many instances might be adduces of conduct directly subversive of the very design to promote which he said that he was sent into the world. For example, he said that he came to preach glad tidings to the poor, and uninformed ; and yet he declares to his disciples, that be spake to this very multitude of poor and ignorant people in parables, lest they might understand him, and be converted from their sins, and God should heal, or pardon them. În the 26th chapter of Matthew, Jesus says to his disciples in the garden of Gethsemane these strange words, “ Sleep on now, and take your restArise ? let us be going.” The commentators endeavour to get rid of the strange contradictoriness of these words, by turning the command into the future ; and rendering the Greek word translated • now" thus—" for the rest of your time," or " for the future." And that he asked then 6 whether they slept for the future”?! which appears to be just as rational, as to have asked, 6 how they do to-inorrow'' ?!
Jo. viii. 51, “ Verily, verily (said Jesus) I say unto you, if a man keep my saying, he shall never see death." Reader, what cost thou think of this saying ? Has believing in the Christian religion. at all prevented men from dying as in afore time? And should we be at all astonished at what the Jews said to him, when they heard this assertion...6" 'I hen said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a demon si. e. art mad.] Abraham is dead, and the Prophets, and thou sayest if a man keep my saying he shall never taste of death ?" So said the Jews, and if in cur times. a man was to make a similar assertion, should we not say the same?
Many instances might also be given of absurd and in. consequent reasoning ; but I shall only adduce the following. He reproaches the Pharisees, Luke xi. 47, 48, for building, and adorning the sepulchres of the Prephets, whom their wicked fathers slew; and says to them, “ Your fathers slew them, and ye build their sepulchres,” and he adds, 6 that thus they showed that they approved the deeds of their fathers !” Surely this is absurd! Did the Athenians by setting np a statue to Socrates after his unjust death, show to the world that they “ approved” the deed of them who slew him ? did it not show the direct contrary? and was it not intended as a testimony of their regret, and repentance ?
Again, “ upon you (says Jesus to the Jews) shall come all the righteous blood that has been shed upon the earth, from the blood of Abel the righteous, to the blood of Zechariah,”' &c. Now herein is a marvellous thing! how could a man really sent from God, assert to the Jews, that of them should be required the blood of Abel, and of all the righteous slain upon the earth ? Did the Jews kill Abel? or did their fathers kill him? No ! he was slain by Cain, whose posterity all perished in the deluge : how then could God require of the Jews who lived four thousand years after the murder, the guilt of it; nay more, “ of all the righteous blood that had been shed upon the earth,” were they guilty of all that too ? If such assertions, and such reasonings do not prove what I asserted, what can ?
It is said, that Jesus, by giving himself up to suffer death, proved the truth of his mission and doctrines, by his readiness to die for them. But this is an argument which will recoil upon those who advance it. Are there no instances upon record of mild, zealous, and amiable men who preaclied to the savages of America that they ought to worship the Virgin Mary? and did they not cheerfully die by the most excruciating torments to prove it? Yes certainly! and let any Protestant Christian read the accounts of the preaching, sufferings, deaths, aye! and miracles too of the Roman Catholick missionaries in Asia, and America; and then let him candidly answer whether he is willing to rest the issue of his controversy with the Papists upon the argument of martyrdom? We all know the power of enthusiasm upon a susceptible mind; and we have read of, and perhaps seen its effects in producing mar. tyrdoms among people of all religions, in all parts of the world. Nay more, such is the power of this principle, that even now, women in India burn themselves alive on the funeral piles of their husbands, to prove, as they say, their love for them, and their determination to accompany them to the other world; when it is well known, that they burn themselves from the impulse of vanity, and the fear of disgrace, if they should not do so. Nay more still, so little support does martyrdom yield to truth, that there are more martyrdoms in honour of the false, ridiculous, and abominable idols of Hindostan, than any where else. You may see men hooked through the ribs, and supported, and whirled round in the air in honour of their rods, clapping their hands, and testifying pleasure instead of crying out with pain. You inay see in that country the misguided enthusiastick worshippers of mishapen idols prostrate their bodies before the enormous wheels of the car of Seeva, and piously suffering themselves to be crushed in pieces by the rolling mass. And any man who has been upon the banks of the Ganges, can tell you of the Yoguis, and of their self-inflicted torments, compared to which, even the cross is almost a bed of roses. " Indeed the argument of martyrdom will support any religion ; and it has, in fact, been cheerfully undergone by enthu. siasts, and zealots of all religions, in testimony of the firm belief of the sufferers not only in the absurdities of Popery, and Brachmanism, but of every, even the most monstrous system that ever disgraced the human understanding. There have been martyrs for Atheism itself.
This argument of martyrdom has been more particularly applied to the Apostles, and first Christians. 6. How can it be imagined, (say Christian Divines,) that simple men like the Apostles could be induced to leave their employment, and wander up and down, to teach the doctrines, and testify to the facts of the New Testament, and expose themselves to persecution, imprisonment, scourging, and untimely, and violent death : unless they certainly knew, that both the doctrines, and the facts were true? Besides, what honours, what riches, could they expect to get by supporting false doctrine, and false testimony ?"
To this argument I might reply as in the prosedling: pages, for I would ask, have we not suen simple and honest men quit their employments, and wander up and .down to preach doctrines which they not only had no means of certainly knowing to be true, but which they did not even unilerstand? Have we not seen such men submit to deprivations of every kind, and expose'l to imprisonment, and the whipping post? And do we not certainly know, that some such have cheerfully suffered a most cruel death?
Is it possible! that any sensible man, after reading the History of the Roman Catholic Missionaries, the Baptists, the Quakers, and the lethodists, can be con. vinced of the certain truth of the Christian religios, or seriously endeavour to convince another of it, by such an argument as the above!
But much more than this can be said pon this topick; for it can be shown, that the Apostics in preaching Christianity did not suffer near so much as some well meaning enthusiasts in modern times have suffered to propagate religious tenets notoriously false, and absurl. And that the Apostles could expect to get neither faina, nor honour, nor riches by their preaching, is doubtful. This is certain that they could not lose much. For they were confessedly men of the lowest rank in society, and of great poverty. Poor fishermen, who could not feel a very great regard for their own dignity.or respectability. And it was by no means a small thing for such men to be considered as divine Apostles, and “in exchange for heavenly things,” to have the earthly possessions of their converts“ laid at their feet.” Peter left his nets, his boat, and boorish companions, and after persua ling his Disciples to receive his words for oracles, go where he would, he found ample hospitality from them. This at least was an advantageous change, and though they did not acquire fame, or respect from the higher ranks of society, they were at least had in great respect by their followers. Neither George Fox, nor Whitfield, nor Westley were honoured by the nobility, or gentry, or scholars of England ; or Ann Lee, by the most respectable citizens of the United States. Yet among their disciples the Quakers, the Methodists, and the Shakers. They were held in the most implicit veneration, and can any man believe that they did not think themselves thus well payed for the trouble of making converts ?
It is true that the Apostles did not acquire riches, for they were conversant only with the poor. But neither had they any to lose by taking up the profession of Apostles, and Preachers. At least by preaching the · guspel, they obtained food, and cloathing, and contributions; as is evident from many places in the Epistles, where they write to their converts, 6 it is written, thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn ;'' and Paul tells thein, that they must not think from this place, that God takes care for oxen, “for, (saye he,) it was undoubtedly written for our sakes." Thus we see that the gospel was by no means altogether unprofitable, and many men daily risk their lives for less gain than the Apostles did.
As to the dangers to which it is said they exposed themselves, they had none to fear, except in Judea, which they quickly quitted, finding the Jews too stubborn, and went to the Greeks. From the Greeks, and likewise from the Romans, they had not much fear, who were not very difficult or scrupulous in admitting new Gods, and new modes of worship. Besides this, the Romans for a great while seem to have considered the Christians merely as a Jewish sect who differed from the rest of the Jews in matters not worth notice; as is to be gathered from Tacitus and Suetonius. And if the Apostles did speak against the Pagan Gods, it was no more than what the Roman poets and philosophers did ; and the magistrates were not then very severe about it. And it is evident from the Acts of the Apostles, that the Roman prætors considered the a cusations against Paul and his companions, as mere trifles. But in Judea, where the danger was evident, it was otherwise. When Paul was in peril there, on account of his transgressions against the law, after being delivered from the Jews by the Roman garrison at Jerusalem, he pleaded before Festus and Agrippa, that he was falsely accused by the Jews; and he asserted that he had taught nothing against the Law of Moses, and his country, but that he only preached about the resurrection of the dead; and that it