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worshipper, of merit and acceptance with God. This, however rational it may appear, or recommending to us at prefent, did not by any means facilitate the plan then. On the contrary, to difparage thofe qualities which the highest characters in the country valued themselves moft upon, was a fure way of making powerful enemies. As if the fruftration of the national hope was not enough, the long-esteemed merit of ritual zeal and punctuality was to be decried, and that by Jews preaching to Jews.

The ruling party at Jerufalem had just before crucified the founder of the religion. That is a fact which will not be difputed. They therefore who stood forth to preach the religion, must neceffarily reproach these rulers with an execution, which they could not but represent as an unjust and cruel murder. This would not render their office more eafy, or their fituation more


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With regard to the interference of the


Roman government which was then eftablished in Judea, I fhould not expect, that, despifing, as it did, the religion of the country, it would, if left to itself, animadvert, either with much vigilance, or much feverity, upon the fchifms and controverfies which arofe within it. Yet there was that in Christianity which might eafily afford a handle of accufation with a jealous government. The Chriftians avowed an unqualified obedience to a new master. They avowed also that he was the person who had been foretold to the Jews under the suspected title of King. The fpiritual nature of this kingdom, the confiftency of this obedience with civil fubjection, were distinctions too refined to be entertained by a Roman prefident, who viewed the business at a great diftance, or through the medium of very hoftile reprefentations. Our hiftories accordingly inform us, that this was the turn which the enemies of Jefus gave to his character and pretenfions in their remonftrances with Pontius Pilate. And Juftin Martyr, about a hundred years afterwards, complains


that the fame miftake prevailed in his time;

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ye having heard that we are waiting for a kingdom, fuppofe, without diftinguishing, that we mean a human kingdom, when in truth we fpeak of that which is with God*." And it was undoubtedly a natural fource of calumny and mifconftruction.

The preachers therefore of Chriflianity had to contend with prejudice backed by power. They had to come forward to a difappointed people, to a priesthood poffeffing a confiderable fhare of municipal authority, and actuated by ftrong motives of oppofition and refentment; and they had to do this under a foreign government, to whofe favour they made no pretenfions, and which was conftantly furrounded by their enemies. The well known, because the experienced, fate of reformers, whenever the reformation fubverts fome reigning opinion, and does not proceed upon a change already taken place in the sentiments of a country, will not al


Ap. 1. p. 16, ed. Thirl.


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low, much lefs lead us, to fuppofe, that the first propagators of Chriftianity at Jerufalem and in Judea, with the difficulties and the enemies which they had to contend with, and entirely deftitute, as they were, of force, authority or protection, could execute their million with perfonal ease and fafety.

Let us next enquire what might reasonably be expected by the preachers of Christianity when they turned themselves to the heathen public. Now the first thing that ftrikes us is, that the religion they carried. with them was exclufive. It denied without referve the truth of every article of heathen mythology, the existence of every object of their worship. It accepted no compromife: it admitted no comprehenfion. It muft prevail, if it prevailed at all, by the overthrow of every statue, altar and temple, in the world. It will not eafily be credited that a design, so bold as this was, could in any age be attempted to be carried into execution with impunity.

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For it ought to be confidered, that this was not fetting forth, or magnifying the character and worship of fome new competitor for a place in the Pantheon, whofe pretenfions might be difcuffed or afferted without questioning the reality of any others. It was pronouncing all other gods to be false, and all other worship vain. From the facility with which the Polytheism of ancient nations admitted new objects of worship into the number of their acknowledged divinities, or the patience with which they might entertain proposals of this kind, we can argue nothing as to their toleration of a fyftem, or of the publishers and active propagators of a system, which swept away the very foundation of the exifting establishment. The one was nothing more than what it would be, in Popifh countries, to add a faint to the calendar; the other was to abolish and tread under foot the calendar itself.

Secondly, it ought also to be confidered, that this was not the cafe of philofophers


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