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says, that he wrote his gospel at the desire of the bishops of Asia againit Cerinthus and Ebion. Indeed such expressions as these, “ the passover a “ feast of the Jews,” and “ that fabbath day was "an high day," seem to indicate, that the Jewish polity was now no more, it not being natural to give such explications of customs, except to those, who had no opportunity of ocular inspection. I cannot but think, that Dr. Lardner in his attempts to shew, that St. John in his gospel had no intention to oppose any particular heresies, has betrayed his own predilection for Socinianism*. In an affair merely historical, I know none whose judgment and industry deserve more regard. But he is an enemy of the vital doctrines of the gospel, though as candid an one as his principles would perinit. In truth, there are various internal proofs which corroborate the testimony of Jerom. The very beginning of his gospel is an authoritative declaration of the proper Deity of Jesus Christ. The attentive reader cannot but recollect various discourses to the same purport. The confeffion of Thomas, after his resurrection, ftands single in St. John's gospel. The particular pains which he takes, to assure us of the real death of his mastery and of the issuing of real blood and water from his wounded lide, are delivered with an air of one, zealous to obviate the error of the Docetæ. Nor can I understand his laying so great a stress on Jesus Christ's coming in the fieht in any other manner.

While this Apostle lived, the heretics were much discountenanced. And it is certain that Gnostics and Ebionites were always looked on as perfectly distinct from the christian church. There needs no more evidence to prove this, than their arrangement by Irenæus and Eusebius under heretical parties. Doubtless they called themselves christians, and so do all heretics, for obvious reasons; and, for reasons as obvious, all who are tender of the fundamentals of the Gospel should not own their right to the appellation. A remark or two may be made, before we difiniss them.

by * See his supplement to the credibility in the history of St. Joha.

to Joho iv.

1. It does not appear by any evidence that I can find, that these men were persecuted for their religion. Retaining the christian name, and yet glo. rifying man's righteousness, wisdom, and strength,

they spake of the world, and the world heard “ thein.” The Apostle John, in saying this, has his eye on the Docetæ particularly. In our own times persons of the same stamp would willingly ingratiate themselves with real christians, and yet aç the same time avoid the cross of Christ, and whatever would expose them to the enmity of the world. We have even the testimony of Justin Martyr, that Simon was honoured in the Pagan world, even to idolatry*. What stress is laid on this circumstance in the New Testament, as an evidence of the characters of men in religion, is well known.

2. If it be made an objection against evangelical principles, that numbers who profess them have run into a variety of abuses, perversions, and contentions, we have seen enough, even in the first century, of the same kind of evils to convince us, that such objections milicate not against divine truth, but might have been made with equal force against the apostolical age.

3. A singular change in one respect has taken place in the christian world. The two heretical parties above described, were not much unlike the Arians and Socinians at this day. The former have the same ideas as the Docetæ radically, though it would be unjust to accuse thein of the Antinomian abominacions, which defiled the followers of Simon; the latter are the very counterpart of the Ebionites. The Trinitarians were then the body of the church, and so much superior was their influence and numbers, that the other two were treated as heretics. At present the two parties, who agree in leffening the dignity of Christ, though in an unequal manner, are carrying on a vigorous controversy against one another, while the Trinitarians are despised by both as unworthy the notice of men of reason and letters. Yet I shall beg leave to insist on the necessity of our understanding certain fundamental principles as necessary to constitute the real gospel. The Divinity of Christ, the atonement, justification by faith, regeneration-we have seen these to be the principles of the primitive church, and within this inclosure the whole of that piety which produced such glorious effects has been confined, and it is worthy the attention of learned men tó consider whether the same remark may not bę made in all ages.

the * Apud. Euseb. B. 2. E. H.

IV. Thus have we seen the most astonishing revolution in the human mind and in human manpers, that was ever seen in any age, effected without any human power legal or illegal, and even against the united opposition of all the powers then in the world, and this too not in countries rude or uncivilized, but in the most humanized, the most learned, and the most polished part of the globe, within the Roman empire; no part of which was exempted from a sensible share in its effects. This empire, within the first century at

least,

least, seems to have been the proper limit of chrif tian conquests.*

If an infidel or sceptic can 'produce any thing like this effected by other religions, he may with some plausibility compare Mahometanisın or any other human religion with chriftianity. But as the gospel stands unrivalled in its manner of subduing the minds of men, the argument for its divinity from its propagation in the world will remain invincible.

And surely every dispassionate obseryer must confess, that the change was from bad to good. No man will venture to say, that the religious and moral principles of Jews and Gentiles, before their conversion to christianity, were good. The idolafries, abominations, and ferocity of the Gentile world will be allowed to have been not less than they are described in the first chapter to the Romans; and the writings of Horace and Juvenal will prove, that the picture is not exaggerated. The extreme wickedness of the Jews is graphically delineated by their own historian, and is not denied by any. What but the influence of God, and an out-pouring of his Holy Spirit (the first of the kind since the coming of Christ, and the measure and standard for regulating our views of all succeeding ones) can account for such a change ? From the Acts of the Apostles and their Epiftles, I have drawn the greatest part of the narrative; but the little that has been added from other sources is not heterogeneous. Here are

thousands Indeed that France had any Mare in the blessings of the gospel within this century, cao only be inferred from the knowledge we have, that it was introduced into Spain. Whether our own country was evangelized at all in this century, is very doubtful. Nor can we be certain that any minilters as yet bad passed into Africa. The assertion therefore that the gospel had spread through the Roman empire, must be understood with a few exceptions, though I think scarce any more than those which have been mentioned.

a

thousands of men turned from all wickedness to all goodness, many very suddenly, or at least in a short space of time, reformed in understanding, in inclination, in affection ; knowing, loving, and confiding in God; from a state of mere selfishness converted into the purest philanthropists; living only to please God, and to exercise kindness toward one another ; and all of them, recovering really, what philosophy only pretended to, the dominion of reason over passion, unfeignedly subject to their Maker, rejoicing in his favour amidst the severest sufferings, and serenely waiting for their dismission into a land of blissful immortality. That all this must be of God, is demonstrative: but the inference which follows of the divine authority of Christ, and of the wickedness and danger of despising or even neg. lecting him, is not always attended to by those who are most concerned in it.

But the christian church was not yet in possession of any external dignity or political importance. No one nation as yet was christian, though thousands of individuals were so, but those chiefly of the middling and lower ranks. The modern improvements of civil society have taught men however, that these are the ftrength of a nation, and that whatever is praise-worthy is far, more commonly diffused among them, than among the noble and great. In the present age then it should be no disparagement to the character of the first christians, that the church was chiefly composed of persons too low in life, co be of any weight in the despotic system of government which then prevailed. We have seen two perfons of the Imperial Family*, and onet of uncommon genius and endowments, but scarce any more of the same

sort, * Clemens and Domitilla. + St. Paul.

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