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been frequently reproached by their divine Master himself for want of apprehension, for the grossness of their conceptions, for their defi: ciency in faith and courage; and they had given indubitable proof of all these by their obstinate perseverance in looking upon him as a temporal prince and deliverer, by their cowardice in de serting him when he was apprehended, by their weak lamentation arising from the disappointment of their hopes at his death, and by their įncredulity yhen he appeared to them after his resurrection. What therefore could seem more hopeless? What attempt more desperate and forbidding? What causes more inadequate to the effect to be produced ; were we to judge by the rules of huinan prudence and foresight;
To put this in a still stronger light; let us only take a view of the astonishing attempt of St. Paul to spread the doctrines of Christianity through the city of Rome, and we cannot find a more extraordinary instance of the difficulties the Gospel had to encounter, and the seemingly disproportionate means þy, which it was promulged:
It will be unnecessary perhaps to observe, that the grandeur and power of Rome was at this time arrived at its full stature and perfec
tion. Raised upon the ruins of the three mighty empires of Assyria,' Persia, and Greece, it i proudly towered above the rest of the world, and had attained to a height of greatness unknown to former ages : a height, not only of wealth and large extent of power, but also of learning, of morality, of refinement, of policy, pf arts and arms,
But this was not all. The Romans were not only thụs great in power, but, which was a worse obstacle to Christianity, they were great in superstition also: they were the most zealous asserters of all the mysteries and corruptions of Ethnic idolatry of any people in the world. They had many thousand gods within the compass of their city, as Varro tells us, in commendation of their piety and devotion. In short, they received every thing pretending to divine honour, and excluded no person but Christ him. self; and him for this only reason, at least as · Eusebius tells us, because he had been acknowledged as a God in Judæa without the consent of the senate *
What then could be more astonishing than the attempt of St. Paul to convert this powerful
* Vide Van Dale de Oraculis, Diss. I. p. 46.
aud idolatrous people? Here is a little single apostle engaged against the greatest “empire of the world. Here is a stranger of mean quality and appearance, a poor despised Jew, attempting no less than to disarm, and pull down, and banish, all the gods of imperial Rome, ‘and in spite of all the power, and wit, and learning, and prejudices of their adorers, 'to cast them to the moles and to the bats, and to introduce a new and unheard-of religion ; a religion spiritual and refined ; a way of worship estranged from all the gross and specious rites of idolatry, rivetted in their minds by early prejudice, and become sacred by long and established úsage, from the reign of Numa to that of Tiberias, being 700 years.
But these were not the only difficulties which accompanied this arduous undertaking. St. Paul had not only to encounter all these corruptions, but, what was still worse, the patrons and defenders of them. He had to combat the proud philosophers and dogmatists of the age, men exceedingly learned and popular, and admired as gods in human shape : so that whosoever should venture to contradict these favourites of the people, must needs labour under great disadvantages, and be sure of being laughed at or silenced, without a fair and
equitable hearing; as we know, in fact, it happened to St. Stephen at Jerusalem, and to St. Paul at Athens.
And besides these, there were other enemies of Christianity, armed with sharper weapons against the propagators of it. These were the patrons of the old idolatry, who enforced their opinions by the severest penalties of legal vindiction; who expressly commanded, that every man should conform to the religion of his country, and that no one should, unauthorized, adore a new god or reject an old one, on pain of death or banishment. “ Honestiores depor«'tentur, humiliores capite puniantur.” Acocordingly we find, that its * novelty alone was always one weighty objection against Christianity : the Athenians stiled it, “xanun didaxn;" and it is called by Suetonius, “ novæ supersti« tionis genus.”
But the opposition of these men against the religion of Jesus was not only on account of its novelty, but also of its inconsistency with other ways of worship. And hence it was that the appointed inspectors of worship condemned the Christians as guilty of contumely, for refusing
* Vide Bingham’s Orig. Eccles. Vol. I. p. 17.
to adore any gods but their own, and endeavour ing to abolish the worship of all other gods.
How daring therefore was it, according to huinan estimation, in a single, unsupported stranger, to face all these combined powers of prejudices and penalties, to assert the unity of the true God, to declare against their plurality and distinctions of deities, to deride their canonized heroes and venerated dæmons, to oppose the pride and supercilious vanity of their learned philosophers, to detect their manifold errors and absurdities; in short, to subvert the whole plan of their religious faith and worship, delivered down to them from the venerable code of Numa to the reign of Tiberias, and explained and supported by the combined wit and eloquence of Greece and Rome! Yet, notwithstanding all these disadvantages and discouragements, he gloriously triumphed over all opposition, and silenced the mouth of gainsayers. “ A little s one,” said God by his prophet Isaiah, “shall s become a thousand, and a small one a strong “ nation: I the Lord will hasten 'it in due " time.” And this was the due time for the accomplishment of this remarkable prediction : for under this little one, for so the name of Paul impkies, so mightily grew the word of God, and prevailed, that he soon could boast of his prose