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sum Origenem in quibusdam rebus negari non potest. Quale mihi nequid eveniat, Deum supplex precor, soleoque scriptis meis hanc addere cautionem, ut si quid ibi sit alienum dogma (a veritate et sacris literis] id pro non scripto habeatur.'
In this I would willingly join with Grotius. Whosoever is in the disposition which he describes, takes the best way to secure himself from dangerous errors; and if he has any wrong notions, there is reason to hope that they proceed not from a bad mind, but are only the issues of unfortu, nate inquiry.
THE PREJUDICES OF THE JEWS AND GENTILES.
WHEN we read over the history of Christ, and con. sider the variety of beneficial miracles which he wrought, and his mild and inoffensive behaviour, it must at first sight seem very strange that the Jews should reject him and put him to death; that they, who had so long expected and so greatly desired the coming of the Messias, should persecute and kill him when he appeared amongst them, and so well confirmed his right to the character which he assumed.
When we consider further how the apostles afterwards confirmed the truth of his resurrection, how many miracles they wrought, teaching the same holy doctrines as their master had taught, and imitating his good example, and how innocent and virtuous the behaviour of the first Christians was, it seems also strange that the Jewish nation should not have yielded to such evidence.
And though the apostles had great success in the heathen world, and brought over multitudes to the faith, yet it appears unaccountable that more of the Gentiles were not moved to receive the gospel by the miracles which they wrought in its behalf, and that few of the rich, of the great, and of the learned were at first converted,
We are inclined to think that if we had lived in those days, and seen what the Jews and Gentiles then saw, we should readily have embraced the gospel; and that if any person in our sight should heal all distempers, and remove all infirmities, and raise the dead, we should submit to any thing that he commanded, and receive anything
that he taught, naless it were plainly absurd, and con. trary to common sense. They who reject the gospel, object to the miracles recorded in it, that the bulk of the Jewish nation was not converted by them, and that in the pagan world the poorer and meaner sort of the people were chiefly the first proselytes to the Christian religion, and the learned and powerful for the most part stood out; till at length the Roman emperors became Christians, and what by force, what by example, brought their opinion into fashion, and estab Eshed it in the world.
But whosoever shall well coasider the many causes concurring to keep the Jews and Gentiles from embracing the gospel, will cease to judge it strange that so many of them persevered in their unbelief.
One great and general cause to which the infidelity of the Jews should be ascribed, is their wickedness; and that cer. tainly is a cause suficient to produce such an effect. If a man is vicious, he is disposed to reject evident truths, and to embrace ridiculous opinions That vice weakens the understanding, infatuates the judgment, and hindars it from discerning between truth and faseroed, especially in matters of merality and religion, is aimed constant v in scripture, is highly agreeable to rasa, and perperuar testified by experience Teace Jews were then very wicked is plain from several parts of the New Testurient, and Josephus 5 intortus us of enormous rienes pruised by many of them, or which no pagan nadien was perhaps ever go .
• To give a parcicular account of ail hair iniquies, would be endless : tius much, in general, it may sutrice to say, that there never was a city which sufered such miseries, or a race of men from the beginning of the world who so abounded in wickedness.
• I verily believe, that if the Romans had delayed to destroy these wicked wretches, the city would either have been swallowed up by the earth, or overwhelmed by the waters, or struck with fire from heaven, as another Sodom; for it produced a far more impious generation than those who suffered such punishment.
Suppose a man sensual and debauched, proud and con. ceited, uncharitable and malicious, unjust and worldly. minded; suppose him not to have been educated in gross ignorance of his duty, but to have had sufficient opportunities of acquiring some degrees of sacred knowledge, and by his evil disposition to have been led either to disbelieve plain truths, or to continue in sin against the dictates of his own conscience, or to find out some ways of reconciling his religion with his vices ; suppose such an one hath the gospel preached to him by an apostle, and confirmed by signs and wonders, there is no reason to conclude that he will receive it, that he will submit to a religion which is attended with many temporal inconveniences, and which upon all accounts he despises and hates; that he will alter his whole course of life, and become a poor and persecuted disciple of Christ, and enter into his church.
If any one ',' says Origen,will candidly consider us Christians, we can produce him more who have been converted from a life not the worst, than from a very wicked course. For they whose conscience speaks favoura. bly in their behalf, are disposed to wish that our doctrine concerning the future rewards of goodness may be true; and so are more ready to assent to the gospel than profligate men.'
I know, it may be said, that among the first Christians there were several who had led bad lives before; but there are many degrees in wickedness, and there is no reason to suppose that these sinners were for the most part of the
worst sort: and though some persons who have been very wicked may become very good, and such were found amongst the first Christians, yet where the exceptions are few, the general observation is not affected by them; for thus much is certain, that an honest mind is a great help to understand the truth; that the practice of morality leads to the practice of christianity; and that, since conversion is brought about by steps, and revealed religion is founded on natural religion, he who is moved to embrace the gospel must be first sensible of the difference between good and evil, truth and falsehood, virtue and vice, must love the one and abhor the other, must repent of his former transgressions, and receive the sacred knowledge which is offered to him, with gratitude, and a firm resolution of performing his duty. He therefore who can call evil good, and good evil, who is totally corrupted in heart and understanding, is removed at an infinite distance from God and righteousness, has no ears to hear and no éyes to see, not even to see miracles, so as to be instructed and amended by them.
To this general cause the unbelief of the Jews may be ascribed, as also to several prejudices which they had against the person of Christ, and the doctrines of the gospel.
The Jews were offended at Christ, because he was not received and followed by those of the most learning and authority amongst them. Have any of the rulers, or of the Pharisees, believed on him?
We may then suppose that a Jew who rejected the gospel would have argued thus : It becomes a private man not to lean too much to his own understanding, but to suppose that they who have studied the laws of God more than himself, and are appointed of God to be his instructors, are better judges in religious controversies than he can possibly be. Our spiritual guides are all of opinion that Jesus is not the Messias. It is therefore the most modest, rational, and safe way for me, who have not their leisure, learning, and abilities, to submit and trust to their der cisions.
Here is a prejudice founded upon the doctrine that private persons, especially they who are ignorant and illiterate, should follow the judgment of the church, of their guides