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denied altogether the traditions of the elders, for which the Jews had so high a veneration ; in a word, that retained scarce any part or principle of that religion, besides the one article of the one God, that made the heavens and the earth, and that would assert the gods of all other countries and people were devils, or senseless idols, and represent their religious principles and practices as absolutely absurd and abominable ?
Was it likely that any persons should, for the sake of a forgery, run the hazard of all those sufferings and inconveniences they could not but expect in the prosecution of such a design? What could they expect but disgrace and contempt at least, to be deemed madmen at best, that would propagate notions contrary to all the rest of mankind, perhaps to be treated as seditious and turbulent, men that had bad designs, contrary to the common belief of the civil constitutions of the world ? No advantage possible to be obtained without great fatigue and many dangers : they must encounter the passions as well as the sentiments of mankind. Would any men undergo this for the sake of a mere invention? What is there so taking in being the head of a party? especially, could it be likely that men of a low education, as most of these persons were, should be seized with this sort of ambition, and enter on a design encumbered with so many difficulties? Would they not rather choose peace and quietness at home, and a competence in the callings they were bred up in ? As for Paul in particular, what temptation of gain or honour could he have in this undertaking? Was he not bred up in the most honourable and flourishing sect in his own nation, under a master of considerable reputation, and must he not bere bave the fairest view of all that could Hatter his pride and ambition, if these were the principles that governed him ?
But in answer to all this, it may be said, this does not seem very likely. However, it is not impossible, and can never be proved, that no men may form projects, which have not at first appearance any prospect of success; some men are fond of their own schemes, and have an high opinion of their own abilities, imagine they can surmount very great difficulties, and by address and artifice break through a great deal of opposition. Some have engaged in great and hazardous designs, and have succeeded beyond what the most could have imagined; and the few instances there have been of this kind, may give encouragement to others of a bold and presumptuous imagination.
As to the mean occupations of most of the twelve, some such persons have had high spirits, and have been carried by their ambition into vast designs; as for the pains they must take, the fatigues they must undergo, many persons will forego outward ease, and sensual pleasure, and be at a great deal of pains to carry a point they have once proposed to themselves. As for the sufferings and inconveniences
. they run the hazard of, all men do not judge alike of these things; the timorous and the daring are very differently affected by them. Some imagine difficulties in every thing ; others reckon every thing they have a mind to, easy to accomplish. Some men's spirits are sharpened by the appearance of difficulties, and they are even fond of such undertakings. As to Paul's prospects of honour and advancement in bis own nation and his own sect, it might be so as has been represented ; but perhaps be bad met with some check, and his pretensions were not gratified, and in a disgust he might resolve revenge, and enter into a design that should ruin the sect that had shown him unkindness. So that a great deal may be said on both sides, in this general speculation, on the passions, interests, views, and inclinations
I cannot say we need decline this way of arguing as if we had no advantage in it; for certainly, considering the state of the world at that time, the circumstances of Jews and Gentiles, the apostles must have had a very unaccountable turn of mind, and have been very different from the rest of their species, if by their own skill and contrivance they imagined they could bring any great number of persons over to their opinions, which were singular, and opposite to all others; and if they had not entertained hopes of making a considerable number of proselytes, they could not act upon secular views and considerations. However, at present I do not insist upon this; and the course of my argument leads me to the other method of surveying and examining their conduct, to see what marks they give of design, what of honesty and integrity. This seems to be more decisive than the other way. We have, in the writings of the New Testament, sufficient materials to go upon in this inquiry.
That they did not set out in this undertaking with secular views, and were not actuated by them in the prosecution of it, appears in all the parts of their conduct: they did not aim at pleasure and ease, at wealth or honour.
That they did not seek ease and bodily pleasure, appears from the fatigues they underwent, the journeys they took ; and that imprisonment, stripes, and scourging, did not discourage them in prosecuting their design. But this is so evident that it need not be insisted on.
And if men propose the aggrandizing themselves by heaping up wealth, or by raising to themselves authority and power, they will often forego and neglect bodily pleasure: but neither did they seek wealth, for they made no profit of the religious instructions they gave men, nor of the powers they claimed and put in practice, of healing distempers, and removing other bodily inconveniences meu laboured under. They freely employed this power on the poor and necessitous, such as were able to make no requitals for it; though they were far from being possessed of any superfluous riches.
Peter and John, of mere benevolence, healed the lame man that was daily laid at the gate of the temple to ask alms of them who entered into it; and Peter said unto bim, “ Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: in the name of Jesus of Nazareth rise up and walk," Acts iii. 6. Men that are rich will give any part
of their substance to recover their health, and preserve life, when under painful and dangerous illnesses; and any advantages might be made of this power, supposing it possible to be lodged in men of sordid spirit, or a worldly mind; especially if we consider that the apostles are represented, not only as possessed of the power of healing themselves, but likewise of a capacity of bestowing gifts of the Holy Ghost on others. Selfish and covetous persons would have purchased such a gift at any rate: but the apostles detested such a thing as making profits of this part of their power. They met with temptations of this kind, but rejected them with the utmost abhorrence and indignation. When the gospel had been received by some at Samaria, and the apostles had conferred some gifts on some of the converts : • When Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost; but Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought the gift of God may be purchased with money; thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter, Acts viii. 18—21.
In divers places where Paul spent a considerable time in sowing the seed of religious principles, in convincing and teaching, he refused all gratuities, though he did, it is true, accept of some supply from others. “When I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man; for that which was lacking to me, the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied; and in all things, I have kept
myself from being burdensome unto you;" 2 Cor. xi. 9; but all this appears, from the expression made use of, to have been only a supply for the present, and what could not last long. And it is plain from what St. Luke relates, that during part of his stay at Corinth, he worked with his own bands for the gaining what was necessary for the support of life : “ After these things, Paul departed from :
, Athens, and came to Corinth, and found a certain Jew, named Aquila, with his wife Priscilla; and because he was of the same craft he abode with them, and wrought, (for by their occupation they were tent-makers,)” Acts xviii. 1-3. At Thessalonica likewise this was the case; for he tells the Thessalonians : “ You remember, brethren, our labour and travail; for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God," 1 Epistle ii. 9. Nor did he suffer others to make any considerable advantages. “ Did I make a gain of you, by any of those whom I sent unto you? I desired Titus, and with him I sent a brother; did Titus make a gain of you? walked we not in the same steps ?” 2 Cor. xii, 17, 18.
Yea, the apostle professed himself a loser on the account of this religion, which whether true or not, might have been known. “Yea, doubtless, and I account all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Cbrist,” Phil, iii. 8.
It is evident they did not seek honour to themselves, the common charge against innovators, the great propensity, as it is supposed, of all who affect to be heads of a party. From those that continued their old affection for Judaism or heathenism, they could expect nothing but contempt or aversion--to be thought inconsiderate, mistaken, and deluded wretches, or else proud and self-opinionated, perhaps designing and wicked. As for them that came over to them entirely, or conceived favour for their doctrine, it is plain they sought not honour from them; for they refused all undue respects when offered them. We have an instance of this at Lystra. Paul and Barnabas cured a man lame from his birth. When the people saw this, “they lift up their voices saying, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.” The priest of Jupiter had prepared oxen and garlands, and would have done sacrifice with the people, It was even dangerous to oppose such an attempt of gratitude and respect. Yet the apostles with the greatest eagera
vess put by these offers, though they could not do it but in a way that must lay a disgrace upon the rites this people were devoted to; "they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, Sirs, why do ye these things? We preach unto you that ye turn from these vanities, unto the living God. And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrifice unto thein," Acts xiv.
They wrought no miracles in their own name: when they bestowed any extraordinary kindness upon any person, they did it in the name of Jesus Christ. And when any were ready to run into a mistake, and ascribe to them what did not belong to them, they were careful to rectify such apprehensions. When the people at Jerusalem flocked togeiher about Peter and John, upon the cure of the lame man at the gate of the temple, "greatly wondering; when Peter saw it,” he said to them, “ Why marvel ye at this ? or why look ye so earnestly upon us; as though, by our own power or holiness, we had made this man to walk ? The God of our fathers hath glorified his Son Jesus :" the use they make of it is, to magnify the goodness of God, and the power of Christ, and to bring them to true repentance, that they may all share in the favour of God: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord,” Acts iii. 19. When Peter was entering in to Cornelius, and he met him, and fell down at his feet and worshipped him : “ Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man,” Acts x. 25, 26. 'They disclaimed likewise all undue respects among those that had acknowledged their commission, and received their doctrine. They detested all contentions about their own persons, owned their meanness, and referred all to the glory of God. “ Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ. Is Christ divided ? Was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul ?” 1 Cor. i. 12, 13. They owned their own meanness; that God had “ chosen the foolish things of the world, and weak things, and base things of the world;" that he that glorieth might “ glory in the Lord,” chap. i. 27, 31. Again, “ I was with you in weakness and in fear, and my speech was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit, and of power, that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God," chap. ii. 1. “ Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even