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and Davlindness that weremonial ipllof those prophain to “all
wiefling, therefore the earth; pofterously intcrepance of lfraedhe soa
God in their compliance with the ceremonial law, they turned their attention principally to that ; and attached themselves to it so strongly, that though they did not scruple to commit a thousand immoralia ties, they would sooner die than eat any unclean meats, or suffer their temple to be profaned.
From this attachment to what they esteemed the law of Moses, they presumed upon the special favour and protection of God, and looked upon themselves as fole heirs of the promises made to Abraham and David, and repeated and confirmed by all their prophets. But the same blindness that with-held them from seeing the spiritual intent and meaning of the ceremonial institutions, kept them likewise from understanding the spiritual sense of those prophecies. The blessing, therefore, promised through the seed of Abraham to " all “ the nations of the earth,” and the kingdom ftipulated to the posterity of David, they preposterously interpreted to belong to themselves alone; and expounding the deliverance of Israel intimated by the prophets, and the victories and doininion of the Son of David, in a carnal sense, they expected, at the time of Christ's coming, a Messiah, who should not only deliver them from their subjection to the Romans, but even conquer and subdue them, and all the other powers of the earth, to the empire of the Jews, the sole ni favourites of Heaven, and destined lords of the universe, under their invincible glorious king. These expectations, so flattering
to the whole nation, had so infected the minds of all orders and dea , - grees, that even the disciples of Jesus, who were (some of them at
leaft) of the lowest of the people, were a long while tainted with "them, notwithstanding the spiritual instructions and plain declaraitions of their master to the contrary. And though, soon after his afcenfion, they seem to have given up all thoughts of a temporal kingdom, yet could they not for some time, nor without an express miracle, be convinced that the Gentiles had any title to the mercies of God, or any share in the kingdom of the Messiah. Such was the superstition, and such the prejudices, of the whole Jewish nation.
To these national prejudices may be added others arising from the peculiar tenets of the different sects that divided among them alınout the whole people of the Jews. The most powerful of thele were the Pharisees and Sadducees; of whose chief doctrines fome notice is taken by the Evangelists, as well as of their rancorous opposition to the Gospel of Christ. The reader who is desirous of seeing a more particular account of the opinions of these and the other fects, may consult the Universal History *. It may be sufficient to observe here, that they had all of them many followers, had great authority with the people, and had, especially the Pharisees, a Jarge share in the government of the Jewish state. And though there was a constant hatred and rivalry between them, and consequently to great a zeal in each for the advancement of their particular, opinions, that they " would compass heaven and earth to gain one
* Vol. IV, p. 169, & seq.
progine idolatrouvery nation well known rides the prime le fuper
e profelyte,” yet they all agreed with the same ardour to oppose the progress of Christianity.
The idolatrous superstitions of the Heathen world, and the zealous attachment of every nation and city to the worship of their respective tutelary Deities, are too well known to be enlarged upon in this place : but I must observe, that, besides the prejudices of the ignorant and bigoted multitude, there sprung up from there superstitions other obstacles to Christianity no less formidable, though of a different kind : for many religious rites and cereinonies having, either by prescription, or the policy of legislators, been mixed and interwoven with the administration of civil affairs, the worship of the Gods was become not only an essential part of the constitution, but the great engine of government in most states and kingdoms. Thus, among the Greeks and other nations, omens and oracles; ainong the Romans, auspices, auguries, and sacrifices, either of thanksgiving, or propitiation ; were often very successfully employed upon great and important occasions : on which account, all the Roman ein perors, who had appropriared to themselves the authority of the whole empire, formerly divided among several officers, after the examples of Julius Cæsar and Augustus, either actually took upon them the office, or at least the title, of “ Pontifex Maximus," chief priest ; that is, according to the definition of Feftus, “ Judex atque arbiter rerum humanaruin divinarumque ;' the judge and arbitrator of human and divine affairs. And hence thole wise, as well as humane emperors, Trajan and the two Antonines, might possibly think themselves under a double obligation as chief magistrates and chief priests, of perfecuting the Christians, whom they apparently considered as innova. tors with regard to the constitution as well as religion of the empire. This, though no fufficient excuse for such barbarous and inhuman proceedings, may ferve, however, to leisen the astonishment we are apt to fall into, upon hearing that so viriuous a religion as that of the Christians was persecuted by lo virtuous a prince as Antoninus the Philosopher; though it must at the saine time be acknowledged, that there was in hin a great mixture of superstition, however incompatible that is thought to be with philofophy. This may also serve to Thew us the distretsful situation of Christianity, against whose progress not only the superstitious zeal of the multitude, the laws and policy of almost every state and kingdom, but the foeming duty of even good and juft magistrates, were fatally combined.
If, to politic and pious princes, religion and the laws of the state might serve for a reason or pretence for oppofing Chriftianity, to wicked emperors there was yet another motive distinct from any confideration either of duty or policy, or even of their vices; and that was, their own divinity. After all the power and divinity of the Roman people, and their several magiftrates, was devolved upon the single person of the emperor, the senators, by a transition natural enough to flaves, froin counsellors becoming flatterers, had not only established by law the absolute authority of their tyrants,
but so far, consecrated their persons, even in their life-time, as to
* Epist, xcvii. l. 10.
cuntur, que nominati, fed defiffeo el alum
ch as fiatuarieship, yet vermany trades,
" they were once Christians, but denied their being so now, says “ing they hac quicted that religion, some three years, others more, " and some few even twenty years ago. All these r worshipped “ both your image, and thole of the Gods, and did also blaspheme 66 Christ.”
To thcfe powerful patrons of fuperftition, and enemies of the gospel, may be added others, whose authority, though inferior and subíervient to the forıner, at least within the limits of the Roman empire, was, however, of very great and extensive influence; I mean the priests, diviners, augurs, and managers of oracles, with all the subordinate attendants upon the temples and worship of almost an infinite number of deities ; and many trades, if not entirely depending upon that worship, yet very much encouraged and enriched by it, such as ftatuaries, fhrine-makers, breeders of victims, dealers in frankincense, &c. All of whom were by interest, to say nothing of religion, strongly devoted to idolatry. .
It may not be improper also, under the article of religion, to men. tion the Circentian, and other spectacles exhibited among the Romans, the four great games of Greece, the Olympian, Pythian, Isthmian, and Nemean; with many others of the same kind, celebrated with great magnificence in every country, and almost in every city of Greece both in Europe and Asia ; all of which were so many religious feflivals, which by the allurements of pomp and pleasure, not to mention the glory and advantages acquired by the conquerors in those games, attached inany to the cause of superstition.
But superstition, universal and powerful as it was, by its union with the interests and pleasures of a considerable part of inankind, was not the only nor the greatest obstacle' that Christianity had to contend with. Vice leagued against it a ftill greater number. The ambitious and luxurious, the debauched and lewd, the mifer and extortioner, the unjust and opprefive, the proud and the revengeful, the fraudulent and rapacious, were all focs to a religion that taught humility and moderation, temperance and purity even of thought; liberaliiv and clemency, justice, benevolence, and meekness, the forgiving of injuries, and 6 the doing that only to others, which we would have " them to do to us." Virtues agreeable indeed to reason, and disa coverable in part by the clear light of nature ; but the difficulty lay in the bringing those to hear reason, who had abandoned themtelves to fuperftition. And how was the almoit extinguished ray of nature to be perceived, among the many false and glaring lights of religion, opinion, and philosophy, which recommended and fanctified many enormous vices? The Gods, like diffolute and despotic princes, who have often been very properly compared to them, were themselves the great patrons and examples of tyranny, lewdness, and revenge, med almost all kinds of vice. And opinion had magnified Alexander, www deified Julius Cæsar, for an ambition, which ought to haie endered then the object of the deteítation and curses of all man
ous in their first morality, that ita noble in her
. Neither was philosophy so great a friend to virtue, or enemy to vice, as the pretended to be. Some philosophers, on the contrary, denied the being, at leaft the providence of God, and future rewards and punishments; and, as a just consequence of that opinion, placed the felicity of mankind in the enjoyments of this world, that is, in sensual pleasures. Others, affecting to doubt and question every thing, took away the distinction of virtue and vice, and left their difciples to follow either as their inclination directed. These were, at least indirectly, preachers of vice. And among those who undertook to lead their disciples to the temple of virtue, there were so many different, and even inconsistent opinions, some of them so paradoxical and absurd, others so subtilized and myfterious, and all of them so erroneous in their first principles, and so defective in many great points of religion and morality, that it is no wonder that philosophy, however venerable in her original, and noble in her pretentions, degenerated into fpeculation, sophistry, and a science of disputation, and from a guide of life became a pedantic president of the schools, from whence arose another kind of adversaries to : the Gospel ; a set of men, who, from feeing farther than the vulgar, came to fancy they could see every thing, and to think every thing subject to the discussion of reason, and carrying their inquiries into the nature of God, the production of the universe, and the essence of the human soul, cither framed upon cach of these, or adopted some quaint or mysterious systein, by which they pretended to account for all the operations of nature, and measure all the actions of God and man. And as every fect had a system peculiar to itself, fo did each endeavour to advance their own upon the ruins of all ine rest ; and this engaged thein in a perpetual war with one another; in which, for want of real ftrength and folid arguments, they were. reduced to defend themselves and attack their adversaries with all those arts which are commonly made use of to cover or supply the deficiency of sense and reason ; fophiftry, declamation, and ridicule, obstinacy, pride, and rancour. Men of this turn, accustomed to reason upon topics in which reason is bewildered ; so proud of the fufficicncy of rcason, as to think they could account for every thing; fo fond of their own systems, as to dread conviction more than error; and so habituated to dispute pertinaciously, to assert boldly, and to decide magisterially upon every question, that they were almost incapable of any instruction; could not but be averle to the receiving for their master a crucified Jew, and for teachers a parcel of low obscure persons of the samne nation, who profefled to “ glory in the cross of Christ, to know nothing but him crucified," and to neglect and despise the fo-much-admired wildom of this world, and who morcover taught points never thought of by the philosophers, such as the redemption of mankind, and the resur- . rection of the dead, and who, though far from forbidding the due exercise of reason, yet confined it within its proper bounds, and exhorted their disciples to submit wiih all humility, and to rely with all confidence upon the wisdom of God, instead of pretending to
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