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2 Cor. viii. 18, 19. And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in
the Gospel throughout all the Churches : And not that only, but who was also chosen of the Churches
to travel with us with this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord.
Those who are acquainted with the first planting of Christianity will be at no loss to know, that the person whom St. Paul here describes as deputed by the Churches to travel with him, and as obtaining the just return of praise for the zeal and fidelity with which he executed his commission, can be no other than St. Luke, the writer of the Gospel which stands the third in the canon of the New Testament. Now had the lives of those good men of whom I am treating been spent in pursuits of such a nature that we, at so remote a distance of time, derived no very sensible advantage from them ; suppose they had related only to the settlement of colonies, or the dispersion of useful plants over the earth, and suppose the persons so engaged to have experienced an uninterrupted course, and a tranquil death; it would still have formed the subject of laudable curiosity and of useful study to have ascertained their course of procedure, their division of labour, their union with, and separation from, each other. But how much ought this interest to be increased when we find that, in their own conception and belief at least, the service in which they were engaged was for the temporal and eternal welfare of every man that was thereafter to be born into the world; that in the accomplishment of their object they encountered every kind of suffering, and voluntarily devoted themselves to death! It has been asserted by the enemies of our religion, that scarcely any superstition hath ever appeared upon earth, that hath not had its martyrs to boast of as well as Christianity; and therefore it is inferred that no sure ar
gument in support of the truth of a religion can be deduced from the readiness of its professors to suffer in attestation of their belief. And thus much may be properly conceded, that the determination of a martyr to suffer death, rather than relinquish his faith, can only be adduced as a proof of his sincerity. The excellence of the religion for which he suffers, its credibility, or absolute truth depend upon other circumstances. What, therefore, is allowed to the martyrs of the various superstitions by which mankind has been misled, cannot, we suppose, be denied to the first Christian martyrs; namely, that they were sincere. We ask no more. Neither need even this be snatched as a concession from an unguarded opponent; for the sincerity of the Apostles admits of as solid proof as any other internal affection of the human mind. However, with the exception of this single point, that each class of martyrs was sincere, it will be found, that no other resemblance whatever subsists between Christian martyrs and those of any other faith. First it will be observed, that the martyrs to a false religion have generally been actuated by some such principle as this : they would rather suffer death than relinquish the religion of their ancestors; that religion in which they had been educated; that religion according to the rites of which their fathers had been interred, whom they hoped, perhaps, to rejoin in happier regions.
But if such be the force of our attachment to the first lessons of childhood and youth, if such be the influence of ancient usages and hereditary superstitions over the human mind, by what unprecedented motive must the Apostles of our Saviour have been actuated, who, in violation of a principle so cogent, chose to encounter worldly shame and death, rather than not desert the religion of their ancestors, rather than not endeavour to plant one more pure and holy in its stead!
The general character of those religions, also, for their adherence to which men have been found to offer themselves unresisting victims, is, that they are the growth of ages, and that their origin is buried in the obscurity, real or pretended, of high antiquity; whereas the records of our faith, minute and various, commence with its birth, or first promulgation ; and the present diffusion and establishment of Christianity is not more an object of knowledge and certainty, than are all the circumstances relating to its commencement.
There is another religion certainly which, even at this time, occupies a fair portion of the globe, and is professed by nations that had at one period attained to a considerable degree of cultivation and science. The origin and early propagation of this religion are also matters of history. But what a contrast does it present to Christianity! That religion never had its peaceful, unresisting martyrs. Its first apostles were sanguinary soldiers, destroying their enemies in battle, or circumventing them in treaties, and extending their faith in the ordinary way in which worldly empires are extended and consolidated; and appealing subsequently to the success of their arms as a proof of the favour of heaven. The Ottoman empire grew like that of Rome, by the sword. But if the truth of a doctrine depended on the temporal triumphs of its professors, where