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BIUs records this pointed turn of Augustus, “ that he had rather “ be Herod's hog than his son.”
The next difficulty that occurs to us, is this, that Christ should be born of a VIRGIN. But since God had foretold it, who should prevent its coming to pass? And who can question his power, when he is fully assured of his will? But this prophecy was so very re. markable, that Simon Magus, not to be thought in any respect inferior to Jesus, assured his disciples, that he was the son of a virgin; a thing which the blessed Jesus never published of himself. Moreover, we read, that the temple of peace fell down to the ground, that very day at Rome, at the foundation whereof, the ORACLE OF APOLLO being consulted by the Romans, the answer was; “ THAT IT SHOULD STAND TILL A VIRGIN SHOULD BE “ WITH CHILD, AND HAVE A SON,” which they misconstrued for the promise of an eternal duration.
As to ST. JOHN BAPTIST, our Lord's harbinger and herald; his holy life, his exalted piety, his doctrine and his death, are all recorded in JOSEPHus's history much to the same purpose as they are in our evangelists. If we look into the life of our most gracious Saviour we shall find it one continued series of benevolent miracles: and this consideration that all his actions were described and published with so many particular circumstances, the least of which could no ways be contested, should alone be sufficient to strengthen and confirm our faith. For which reason, we shall now proceed to his death.
“ From the sixth hour unto the niņth hour there was darkness " over all the earth ;" that is, at noon-day. If any one doubts of this fact, PHLEGON, Adrian's freed-man, the most exact and curious chronologer of his time, hath observed, that there was an unnatural eclipse of the sun, attended with a violent earthquake, in the eighteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, in which our Lord and Saviour was crucified. And EUSEBIUS assures us, that he has
met with the fame observation in some of the Heathen historians. LUCIAN also, one of the priests of Antioch, refers the judges who condemned him to their own annals. “ You will find it “ recorded, says he, that in Pilate's time an unnatural darkness “ covered the earth at mid-day, and the sun withdrew his light, “ as if ashamed to see his Maker suffer.”-Now concerning the earthquake that immediately ensued, Phlegon before-mentioned speaks of it in much the same terms as our Evangelists do, and ascribes it to the eclipse. Now, since accidents like these so very seldoin happen, and since these are allowed to fall out in one and the same year, and about the same time, they cannot rationally be supposed to be any other than those our authors treat of. In a word, the vail of the temple was rent in twain :-As to the giving credit to, or disbelieving this assertion, there required no more than a journey to the place to be fully convinced. But Josephus speaking of the ill omens that portended the destruction of the Jews, takes particular notice of this as one.
Behold! the Lord of life is dead !--But then the third day he riseth again, according to his own prediction. -Had he said, as Mahomet did, about eight hundred years hence, I will visit you again, then he had safely kept them in suspence till the expiration of that term: but since he says, within three days I will come again, the fallacy, if it had been such, had soon been plainly detected. Women saw him, the incredulous felt him; he ate, drank, and conversed with them at several times, and for several days successively. The Apostles, though at first startled and astonished at the various incidents consequent to this transaction, foon preached, published, and at last sealed it with their blood. Even he whom a simple servant maid confounded, even he, who in his master's life-time denied him thrice in one hour, preached him, and proclaimed his resurrection in Jerusalem before the magistrates and priests; and no persuasions, no menaces could deter him from such
publication.-Had Christ perished in the grave, what advantage could have been reaped, or expected from his lifeless corpse ? And had not Jesus been alive, whence this sudden courage, this ardent zeal, this strong and unaccountable impulse ?-Had not our Lord spoke in him, who would have put any trust or confidence in what he said, at least so far, as upon his bare word, to preach, publich, and seal his affirmation with their blood ? .
Moreover, the very objections of gainfayers serve only to set the truth in a fairer and more advantageous point of light. To this end the Jews pretend that his disciples stole away his body by night, because they could not find it. But the method that was. taken to fecure it fully confutes such a preposterous tale. Some Heathens gave out, that they crucifieds a spectre, or ghost, instead of Jesus; but this notion the Jews unanimously condemn; for: they were scandalized at his death, and believed that he didi actually suffer. Upon which account, they commonly call him. the crucified man.
Christ-lived therefore, and lives for ever; and sent down in pure fuance of his promise to his disciples before his death the Holy: Ghost upon them.-A little time after his resurrection, they received the gift of tongues, in fo- singular a manner, that the same gift; by the imposition of their hands, descended on many others. This is another article which 'obstinate and wilful men carp at, as. if God Almighty could not, if he pleased; with the fame ease bestow the gifts of many languages upon one man, as confound and divide one language into a great many, as he did in the infancy of the world, to testify his divine displeasure. But had it been only, a matter of oftentation, as they vainly surmife; what endscould they propose to themselves in such idle boasting ?--How. easily, how readily had they been confuted and disproved? They were in the custody of tħe magistrates and judges; why were they not examined before the people? Jerusalem, was the metro
polis of the east, where could they better have detected the cheat, or forced them to a recantation ?-But the certainty of the narration plainly appears from the effects of it. For the Apostles themfelves, and their disciples, though originally no more than fishermen and publicans, a tribe of ignorant illiterate men, that understood no other language than their own, and were no great critics very probably in that; yet composed divers, books, travelled over the greatest part of the world, and preached with majesty and power to all nations. How would either the Jews or Gentiles have approved of such men as these for their orators ?-And yet so successful were they in their labours, that in less than forty years, the name and doctrine of the Lord Jesus was not only promulgated, but received in most parts of the habitable world. And how could they possibly have effected this, if they had not, by some extraordinary means, some supernatural assistance, attained to the perfect knowledge of the languages ? And this event was so common, so universally believed, that Simon Magus before-mentioned assured his disciples, that he was the very person that descended on the apostles in fiery tongues.
Let us now. look a little into the history of St. Paul. He was the disciple of Gamaliel, and was sent to Damascus with an unlimited commission to perfecute the christians. In his journey, a sudden light shone around him, and falling on his face to the ground, he heard a voice, saying, Saul, Saul, WHY PERSECUTEST THOU ME?—In a word, immediately of a Jew, he became a christian, and of a persecutor a martyr. And if you will not believe St. Luke in the Acts, St. Paul himself confirms this circumstance in several other places. Now, what objection can incredulity itself raise against this, except, perhaps, a bare denial ? Our apostle has a very fair prospect of advancing himself, and is in great favour with the magistrates and priests: all on a sudden
he changes his course of life, runs to the other extreme, and patiently submits himself to be reviled, scourged, beaten, stoned, and put to death. Suppose now neither St. Luke nor St. Paul had disclosed the true reason of this sudden alteration, would not any one naturally conclude, that some extraordinary internal impulse had induced him to such apostacy? But here it may be said, we daily find by experience, that men alter their opinion upon very flight and trivial occasions.—None surely, fools or mad excepted. But St. Paul weighs the matter maturely; first argues the case, lays down axioms, and draws undeniable conclusions from them. The most learned of his enemies pity him, indeed, for the mifapplication, as they call it, of his learning, but admire his writings. Moreover, he knew that his preaching would be by fomc accounted folly ; but as great a folly as it appeared to worldly minds, it was the wisdom of the Almighty ;- that the continuation of it would reduce him to poverty, and the worst of worldly misfortunes ;but yet he boldly and resolutely persists therein ; and he who esteems him an ignorant person, reflects on his own understanding ; since all men of genius stand confounded at his words and actions. Now, if he was a wise, a learned, and judicious person, as most certainly he was, it naturally follows, that the alteration so made must proceed from some cause; and as it was great, it must be owing to some great cause; and as it was sudden, furprising, and preternatural, so the cause must be preternatural too. Now, that reason which induces us to draw this general conclusion, ought to prevail on us to make this inference in particular, that since it was some great, supernatural cause that wrought this sudden alteration, it can be no other than that, which St. Luke expressly mentions, and St. Paul himself, in various places, acknowledges. He esteemed it, we find, an happiness to undergo those various tortures which he had prepared for others; and