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sect; notwithstanding, by this profession in that junc. ture of time, they bid farewell to all the pleasures of this life, renounced all the views of ambition, engaged in an uninterrupted course of severities, and exposed themselves to public hatred and contempt, to sufferings of all kinds, and to death itself.
III. Of this sort we may reckon those three early converts to Christianity, who each of them was a member of a senate famous for its wisdom and learn. ing. Joseph the Arimathean was of the Jewish San hedrim, Dionysius of the Athenian Areopagus, and Flavius Clemens of the Roman senate ; nay, at the, time of his death, consul of Rome. These three were so thoroughly satisfied of the truth of the Christian religion, that the first of them, according to all the reports of antiquity, died a martyr to it; as did the second, unless we disbelieve Aristides, his fellow-citizen and contemporary; and the third, as we are in'formed both by Roman and Christian authors.
IV. Among those innumerable multitudes, who in most of the known nations of the world came over to Christianity at its first appearance, we may be sure there were great numbers of wise and learned men, beside those whose names are in the Christian records, who without doubt took care to examine the truth of our Saviour's history, before they would leave the religion of their country and of their forefathers, for the sake of one that would not only cut them off from the allurements of this world, but subject them to every thing terrible or disagreeable in it. Tertullian tells the Roman governors, that their corporations, councils, armies, tribes, companies, the palace, senate, and courts of judicature, were filled with Christians; as Arnobius asserts, that men of the finest parts and learning, orators, grammarians, rheto
ricians, lawyers, physicians, philosophers, despising the sentiments they had been once fond of, took up their rest in the Christian religion.
V. Who can imagine that men of this character did not thoroughly inform themselves of the history of that person, whose doctrines they embraced ? for, however consonant to reason his precepts appeared, how good soever were the effects which they produced in the world, nothing would have tempted men to acknowledge him as their God and Saviour, but their being firmly persuaded of the miracles he wrought, and the many attestations of his divine mission, which were to be met with in the history of his life. This was the ground-work of the Christian religion, and if this failed, the whole superstructure sunk with it. This point, therefore, of the truth of our Saviour's history, as recorded by the Evangelists, is every where taken for granted in the writings of those, who from Pagan philosophers became Christian authors, and who, by reason of their conversion, are to be looked upon as of the strongest collateral testimony for the truth of what is delivered concerning our Saviour.
VI. Besides innumerable authors that are lost, we have the undoubted names, works, or fragments, of several Pagan philosophers, which show them to have been as learned as any unconverted Heathen authors of the age in which they lived. If we look into the greatest nurseries of learning in those ages of the world, we find in Athens, Dionysius, Quadratus, Aristides, Athenagoras, and in Alexandria, Dionysius, Clemens, Ammonius, Arnobius, and Anatolius, to whom we may add Origen, for though his father was a Christian martyr, he became, without all con
troversy, the most learned and able philosopher of his age, by his education at Alexandria, in that famous seminary of arts and sciences.
1. The learned Pagans had means and opportunities of informing
themselves of the truth of our Saviour's history. II. From the proceedings, III. The characters, sufferings, IV. And miracles of the persons who published it. V. How these first apostles perpetuated their tradition, by ordaining
persons to succeed them.. VI. How their successors in the three first centuries preserved their
tradition. VII. That five generations might derive this tradition from Christ, to
the end of the third century. VIII. Four eminent Christians that delivered it down successively to the
year of our Lord 254. IX. The faith of the four above-mentioned persons, the same nith that
of the churches of the East, of the West, and of Egypt. X. Another person added to them, who brings us to the year 343, and
that many other lists might be added in as direct and short a suc
cession. XI. Why the tradition of the three first centuries more authentic than
that of any other age, proved from the conversation of the primi
tive Christians. XI!. From the manner of initiating men into their religion. XIII. From the correspondence between the churches. XIV. From the long lives of several of Christ's disciples, of which two
1. IT now therefore only remains to consider, whether these learned men had means and opportunities of informing themselves of the truth of our Saviour's history; for, unless this point can be made out, their testimonies will appear invalid, and their inquiries ineffectual.
II. As to this point, we must consider, that many thousands had seen the transactions of our Saviour in
Judea, and that many hundred thousands had received an account of them from the mouths of those who were actually eye-witnesses. I shall only mention among these eye-witnesses the twelve apostles, to whom we must add St. Paul, who had a particular call to this high office, though many other disciples and followers of Christ had also their share in the publishing this wonderful history. We learn from the ancient records of Christianity, that many of the apostles and disciples made it the express business of their lives, travelled into the remotest parts of the world, and in all places gathered multitudes about them, to acquaint them with the history and doctrines of their crucified Master. And indeed, were all Christian records of these proceedings entirely lost, as many have been, the effect plainly evinces the truth of them; for how else during the apostles' lives could Christianity have spread itself with such an amazing progress through the several nations of the Roman empire ? how could it fly like lightning, and carry conviction with it, from one end of the earth to the other?
III. Heathens, therefore, of every age, sex, and quality, born in the most different climates, and bred up under the most different institutions, when they saw men of plain sense, without the help of learning, armed with patience and courage, instead of wealth, pomp, or power, expressing in their lives those excellent doctrines of morality, which they taught, as delivered to them from our Saviour, averring that they had seen his miracles during his life, and conversed with him after his death ; when, I say, they saw no suspicion of falsehood, treachery, or worldly interest in their behaviour and conversation, and that they submitted to the most ignominious and cruel deaths, rather than retract their testimony, or even be silent in matters which they were to publish by their Saviour's especial command, there was no reason to doubt of the veracity of those facts which they related, or of the Divine Mission in which they were employed.
IV. But even these motives to faith in our Saviour would not have been sufficient to have brought about in so few years such an incredible number of conversions, had not the apostles been able to exhibit still greater proofs of the truths which they taught. A few
persons of an odious and despised country could not have filled the world with believers, had they not shown undoubted credentials from the Divine Person who sent them on such a message. Accordingly, we are assured, that they were invested with the power of working miracles, which was the most short and the most convincing argument that could be produced, and the only one that was adapted to the reason of all mankind, to the capacities of the wise and ignorant, and could overcome every cavil and every prejudice. Who would not believe that our Saviour healed the sick, and raised the dead, when it was published by those who themselves often did the same miracles, in their presence, and in his name? Could any reasonable person imagine, that God Almighty would arm inen with such power to authorize a lie, and establish a religion in the world which was displeasing to him; or that evil spirits would lend them such an effectual assistance to beat down vice and idolatry?
V. When the apostles had formed many assemblies in several parts of the Pagan world, who gave credit to the glad tidings of the Gospel, that, upon their departure, the memory of what they had relat