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rational men, which they undoubtedly were, mercenary motives or hopes of temporal gain could not possibly enter into their scheme, because the Redeemer himself had from the beginning taught them to expect the very re
In becoming his disciples, they were required to take up their cross; and were told, if needs be, that they must forsake father, and mother, and wife, and brethren, and sisters, rather than forego their attachment to his cause. He commanded them not to lay up for themselves treasure upon earth, but to prepare for persecutions, and to expect that their names would be cast out by men as evil, and ever to be ready to lay down their lives for his sake. In propagating the religion which they received from him, they uniformly acted upon the self-denying principles in which they had been instructed. Instead of holding forth any alluring prospects of a temporal nature, to those whom they endeavoured to proselyte, they maintained the same doctrine as their Master, and unreservedly told those who became converts to the faith of the Gospel, that “ in the world they must expect tribulation.”
If the reader peruse the Acts of the Apostles, and the various epistles of the New Testament, which contain the earliest records of the history of the church, he will there find an abundance of proof, in the various accounts which are given of the opposition which they universally met with, in their endeavours to preach the faith of Christ, that they had not been unnecessarily forewarned, neither did they unnecessarily forewarn others, to prepare for trials and persecutions in their Christian career. The troubles which they afterwards underwent in the cause of their Master, proved the truth of the doctrines which he had previously taught them; and whether we refer to the one or the other, we shall find, that as men with their eyes open, they could, in no possible way whatever, be influenced by even the shadow of a hope, that any secular advantage or temporal gain would accrue to them from the hazardous undertaking in which they embarked.
It is, if possible, still more absurd to suppose, that pride or ambition entered into their scheme, or formed a part of their projects. The honour that cometh from men was amongst the things which by their Lord they were forbidden to seek; and instead of their being enrolled amongst the great and noble of the earth, we find, from their history, that they met with the most sovereign contempt—that they were looked upon by the men of the world with scorn and indignation, and were every where treated as the refuse of the earth, and the offscouring of all things.
And whilst it is certain that the apostles were not, in their career of Christian philanthropy, influenced by ambition or covetousness, it is also equally clear, that they were not weak, fanatical, or superstitious men; but men, as is evident from their writings, who were in their sound senses, and who possessed a correct judgment, and a deep acquaintance with the human heart. We are, therefore, on taking this view of their conduct, naturally led to enquire, By what motives could these zealous labourers in this despised cause possibly be influenced? What was the secret impetus which induced them thus voluntarily to submit to defamation, to suffer the loss of all things, and patiently to undergo a series of sufferings unparallelled in the annals of history? If we call upon these men to speak for themselves, we shall find that they tell us a plain, simple, and unvarnished story; which is attested by so many circumstantial and characteristic marks of truth, that we are almost irresistibly constrained to believe it. Instead of being influenced by sinister motives, we learn from the simple testimony which they have given us, that the happiness of mankind (for the pronotion of which they were deeply concerned,) was intimately connected with their reception of the doctrines which they were labouring to circulate—that these doctrines were communicated to them by a special revela-, tion from God-and that it was by his command and au. thority they thus laboured and suffered to propagate them through the world.
Having, therefore, listened to their statement, enquired into their motives, and examined their conduct, all that remains for us to do is, as reasonable men, and candid enquirers after truth, to judge, as far as we can, what are the probabilities of the case. And if in thus judging, we bring the foregoing illustration to bear upon the subject, the only rational conclusion at which we can possibly arrive is, that what they have asserted is undoubtedly true: for whilst, on the one hand, there is no justifiable ground on which we can reject their testimony, there is, on the other hand, the most satisfactory evidence that can reasonably be required in confirmation and support of its truth. They have about them all the air, and mien, and characteristic traits of honest and sincere men: they tell us, that they had the authority of the Deity for acting as they did; and we are compelled to admit the veracity of their assertion, as the only rational explication that possibly can be given of their conduct. It is the height of adsurdity to suppose, that they would labour and suffer, and submit to the loss of all things, without some important reason; niuch less that they should, without any imaginable motive, spend their lives in endeavouring to propagate what they knew to be falsehood, deception, and lies.
Perhaps some of my readers may be satisfied as to the truth of what I have thus far advanced, and yet be ready to reply, That admitting the apostles were honest, upright, and sincere men, and influenced by the purest of motives in the labours which they undertook, yet it is still possible that they might be mistaken, both in their views of the truth, and their ideas of the importance, of Christianity ; i. e. Christianity, notwithstanding their zealous labours to propagate it, and their undoubted belief of its divine authority, might nevertheless be a cunningly devised fable, the falsehood of which they could not detect, in consequence of the power which superstition and fanaticism had upon their minds.
This, I reply, is utterly impossible. I have before observed, that they were neither fanatics nor enthusiasts: the very supposition strikes at the root of all testimonial evidence, and involves an absurdity which needs no contradiction. I therefore do not hesitate unequivocally to assert, and 'will maintain the assertion, that the uprightness and integrity of their conduct, is a satisfactory confirmation of the truth of the Christian Scriptures. If it can be proved that they were honest and sincere men, then Christianity, (involved as it is in the integrity of their conduct,) is likewise equally proved to be, beyond all doubt, the true, and the only true religion. The apostles and first preachers of Christianity could not possibly be labouring under a delusion---the circumstances in which they were placed utterly prevented it. It was no hearsay story which they propagated, but that which had come under their own immediate observation. They were eye-witnesses of the facts which they record : it was not that which they had heard, but that which they had seen with their eyes, which they had looked upon, and which their hands had handled of the good word of life. (1 John, i. 1.) Let the objector, therefore, turn which ever way he will, it will be impossible for him to find any ground on which to suspect the veracity of the apostles, or doubt the truth of their testimony. If this conclusion is admitted as just and correct, there is then no flaw whatever : the mystery which otherwise hangs over their conduct is immediately removed ; and the motives which induced them to labour, and by which they were supported through such a series of trials, are on this principle evident and clear; and the difficulties which they patiently underwent rationally accounted for. But, on the other hand, if the truth of this position be denied, inexplicable difficulties and clashing principles meet us at every turn. We are, therefore, on the ground of all experience, and of all moral, rational, and testimonial evidence, compelled, as a necessary and unavoidable conclusion, to admit the truth of what the sacred writers have asserted; and to receive the Bible, on the testimony which they have given us, as a book which is given “ by inspiration of God, and which is profitable for doctrine, for re. proof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, and which is able to make men wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus." (2 Tim. iii. 15, 16.)
On the Sufferings and Persecutions which the Apostles un
derwent in the Cause of Christianity. In the foregoing section, an allusion has been made to the situation in which the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ were placed at the introduction of the gospel dispensation, and to the impossibility of their being deceived as to the truth of his mission, and the indubitable manner in which the divine authority of the doctrine which he taught was corroborated. This point being, as it is, incontrovertibly established, the argument for the truth of Christianity is thereby made to rest upon the satisfactory nature of the proofs which are adduced of their own honesty as witnesses and historians; and of the sincerity of the motives by which they were actuated in their endeavours to propagate it. I have already enlarged upon their disinterestedness, and their freedom from sinister motives, but have only made a few distant allusions to the actual sufferings which they underwent in their career of Christian exertion. I shall now therefore proceed, from this view of the subject, to direct the reader's attention to the positive proofs of the integrity of their characters the sincerity of their motives — their veracity as witnesses and their faithfulness as historians, which arise from the detailed account we have given us, both in Scripture and history, of the persecutions, privations, and trials which they perpetually underwent in the noble cause of disin