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CHRISTIAN RELIGION. .
I. General division of the following discourse, with regard to Pagan
and Jewish authors, who mention particulars relating to our Sa
viour. II. Not probable that any such should be mentioned by Pagan nriters
who lived at the same time, from the nature of such transactions : III. Especially when related by the Jews : IV. And heard at a distance by those who pretended to as great mira
cles of their own. V. Besides that, no Pagan writers of that age lived in Judea or its con
fines. VI. And because many books of that age are lost. VII. An instance of one record proved authentic. VIII. A second record of probable, though not undoubted, authority.
THAT I may lay before you a full state of the subject under our consideration, and methodize the several particulars that I touched upon in discourse with you ; I shall first take notice of such Pagan authors as have given their testimony to the history of our Saviour; reduce these authors under their respective classes, and show what authority their testimonies carry with them. Secondly, I shall take notice of Jewish authors in the same light.
II. There are many reasons, why you should not expect that matters of such a wonderful nature should be taken notice of by those eminent Pagan writers, who were contemporaries with Jesus Christ,
or by those who lived before his disciples had personally appeared among them, and ascertained the rez port which had gone abroad concerning a life so full of miracles.
Supposing such things had happened at this day in Switzerland, or among the Grisons, who make a greater figure in Europe than Judea did in the Ro. man empire, would they be immediately believed by those who live at a great distance from them ? or would any certain account of them be transmitted into foreign countries, within so short a space of time as that of our Saviour's public ministry ? Such kinds of news, though never so true, seldom gain credit, till some time after they are transacted and exposed to the examination of the curious, who, by laying together circumstances, attestations, and characters of those who are concerned in them, either receive or reject what at first none but eye-witnesses could absolutely believe or disbelieve. - In a case of this sort, it was natural for men of sense and learning to treat the whole account as fabulous, or at farthest to suspend their belief of it, until all things stood together in their full light.
III. Besides, the Jews were branded not only for superstitions different from all the religions of the Pagan world, but in a particular manner ridiculed for being a credulous people; so that whatever reports of such a nature came out of that country, were looked upon by the Heathen world as false, frivolous, and improbable.
IV. We may further observe, that the ordinary practice of magic in those times, with the many pretended prodigies, divinations, apparitions, and local miracles among the Heathens, made them less attentive to such news from Judea, till they had time to