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edness," conformable to the advice given by St. Paul; " that they had private assemblies of worship, and used to join together in hymns." This is the account which Pliny the younger gives of Christianity in his days, about seventy years after the death of Christ, and which agrees in all its circumstances with the accounts we have in holy writ, of the first state of Christianity, after the crucifixion of our blessed Saviour. “ That St. Peter, whose miracles are many of them recorded in holy writ, did many wonderful works," is owned by Julian the apostate, who therefore represents him as a great magician, and one who had in his possession a book of magical secrets left him by our Saviour. “ That the devils, or evil spirits, were subject to them,” we may learn from Porphyry, who objects to Christianity, that since Jesus had begun to be worshipped, Æsculapius and the rest of the gods did no more converse with men. Nay, Celsus himself affirms the same thing in effect, when he says, that the power which seemed to reside in Christians, proceeded from the use of certain names, and the invocation of certain demons. Origen remarks on this passage, that the author doubtless hints at those Christians who put to fight evil spirits, and healed those who were possessed with them; a fact which had been often seen, and which he himself had seen, as he declares in another part of his discourse against Celsus. But at the same time, he assures us, that this miraculous power was exerted by the use of no other name but that of Jesus, to which were added several passages in his history, but nothing like any invocation to demons.
III. Celsus was so hard set with the report of our Saviour's miracles, and the confident attestations concerning him, that though he often intimates he did not
believe them to be true, yet, knowing he might be silenced in such an answer, provides himself with another retreat, when beaten out of this : namely, that our Saviour was a magician. Thus he compares the feeding of so many thousands at two different times, with a few loaves and fishes, to the magical feasts of those Egyptian impostors, who would present their spectators with visionary entertainments that had in them neither substance' nor reality : which, by the way, is to suppose, that a hungry and fainting multitude were filled by an apparition, or strengthened and refreshed with shadows. He knew very well that there were so many witnesses and actors, if I may call them such, in these two miracles, that it was impossible to refute such multitudes, who had doubtless sufficiently spread the fame of them, and was therefore in this place forced to resort to the other solution, that it was done by magic. It was not enough to say that a miracle which appeared to so many thousand eye-witnesses was a forgery of Christ's disciples, and therefore, supposing them to be eye-witnesses, he endeavours to show how they might be deceived.
IV. The unconverted Heathens, who were pressed by the many authorities that confirmed our Saviour's miracles, as well as the unbelieving Jews, who had actually seen them, were driven to account for them after the same manner : for, to work by magic in the Heathen way of speaking, was, in the language of the Jews, to cast out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils. Our Saviour, who knew that unbelievers in all ages would put this perverse interpretation on his miracles, has branded the malignity of those men, who, contrary to the dictates of their own hearts, started such an unreasonable objec
tion, as a blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, and declared not only the guilt, but the punishment of so black a crime. At the same time he condescended to show the vanity and emptiness of this objection against his miracles, by representing that they evidently tended to the destruction of those powers, to whose assistance the enemies of his doctrine then ascribed them. An argument, which, if duly weighed, renders the objection so very frivolous and groundless, that we may venture to call it even blasphemy against common sense. Would magic endeavour to draw off the minds of men from the worship which was paid to stocks and stones, to give them an abhorrence of those evil spirits who rejoiced in the most cruel sacrifices, and in offerings of the greatest impurity; and, in short, to call upon mankind to exert their whole strength in the love and adoration of that one Being, from whom they derived their existence, and on whom only they were taught to depend every moment for the happiness and continuance of it? Was it the business of magic to humanize our natures with compassion, forgiveness, and all the instances of the most extensive charity? Would evil spirits contribute to make men sober, chaste, and temperate, and in a word to produce that reformation, which was wrought in the moral world by those doctrines of our Saviour, that received their sanction from his miracles? Nor is it possible to imagine, that evil spirits would enter into a combination with our Saviour to cut off all their correspondence and intercourse with mankind, and to prevent any for the future from addicting themselves to those rites and ceremonies, which had done them so much honour. We see the early effect which Christianity had on the minds of men in this particular, by that number
of books, which were filled with the secrets of magic, and made a sacrifice to Christianity by the converts mentioned in the acts of the Apostles. We have likewise an eminent instance of the inconsistency of our religion with magic, in the history of the famous Aquila. This person, who was kinsman of the Emperor Trajan, and likewise a man of great learning, notwithstanding he had embraced Christianity, could not be brought off from the studies of magic, by the repeated admonitions of his fellow Christians : so that at length they expelled him their society, as rather choosing to lose the reputation of so considerable a proselyte, than communicate with one who dealt in such dark and infernal practices. Besides, we may observe, that all the favourers of magic were the most professed and bitter enemies to the Christian religion. Not to mention Simon Magus and many others, I shall only take notice of those two great persecutors of Christianity, the Emperor Adrian, and Julian the apostate, both of them initiated in the mysteries of divination, and skilled in all the depths of magic. I shall only add, that evil spirits cannot be supposed to have concurred in the establishment of a religion, which triumphed over them, drove them out of the places they possessed, and divested them of their influence on mankind ; nor would I mention this particular, though it be unanimously reported by all the ancient Christian authors, did it not appear from the authorities above cited, that this was a fact confessed by Heathens themselves.
V. We now see what a multitude of Pagan testimonies may be produced for all those remarkable passages, which might have been expected from them : and indeed of several, that, I believe, do more than answer your expectation, as they were not subjects in their own nature so exposed to public notoriety. It cannot be expected they should mention particulars, which were transacted amongst the disciples only, or among some few even of the disciples themselves; such as the transfiguration, the agony in the garden, the appearance of Christ after his resurrection, and others of the like nature. It was impossible for a Heathen author to relate these things; because if he had believed them, he would no longer have been a Heathen, and by that means his testimony would not have been thought of so much validity. Besides, his very report of facts, so favourable to Christianity, would have prompted men to say that he was probably tainted with their doctrine. We have a parallel case in Hecatæus, a famous Greek historian, who had several passages in his book conformable to the history of the Jewish writers, which when quoted by Josephus, as a confirmation of the Jewish history, when his Heathen adversaries could give no other answer to it, they would needs suppose that Hecatæus was a Jew in his heart, though they had no other reason for it, but because his history gave greater authority to the Jewish than the Egyptian records.