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“ The preachers of their Divine Word only attempt to persuade fools, mean and senseless persons, Naves, women and children.- What harm can there be in being learned, well-informed, and both in being and appearing a man of knowledge? What obstacle can this be to the knowledge of God? Must it not be an advantage ?
“ We see these itinerants fhewing readily their tricks to the vulgar, but not approaching the affemblies of wife men, nor daring there to shew themselves; but wherever they fee boys, a crowd of flaves and ignorant men, there they thrust in themselves and Thew off their doctrine."
“ You may see weavers, taylors, and fullers, illiterate and rustic men in their houses, but not daring to utter a word before persons of age, experience, and respectability; but when they get hold of boys privately, and filly women, they recount wonderful things, that they must not mind their fathers or their tutors, but obey them, as their fathers and guardians are quite ignorant and in the dark, but themselves alone have the true wisdom. And if the children obey them, they pronounce them happy, and direct 'them to leave their fathers and tutors, and to go with the women and their play-fellows into the chambers of the females, or into a taylor's or fuller's shop, that they may learn perfection.'
“In other mysteries, the cryer uses to say, whoever has clean hands, and a good conscience, and a good life, let him come in. But let us hear whom they call. “Whoever is a finner, a fool, an infant, a loft wretch, the kingdom of God will receive him"-" An unjust man, if he humble himself for his crimes, God will receive him; but a just man who has proceeded in a course of virtue
from the beginning, if he look up to him he will not be received."
He compares a christian doctor to a quack, who promifes to heal the sick, on condition that they keep from intelligent practitioners, lest his ignorance be detected.
". You will hear them, though differing fo widely from one another, and abusing one anothet fo foully, making that boast, “ the world is cru:
' cified to me, and I to the world."
“ The same things are better said by the Greeks, and without the imperious denunciation of God, or the Son of God."
“ If one sort introduce one doctrine, another another, and all join in saying, “ Believe, if you would be saved, or depart;" what are they to do, who desire really to be saved ? Are they to determine by the throw of a dye? Where are they to turn themselves, or whom to believe?"
“ Do you not fee, that any man, that will, may carry you away and crucify you and your dæmon, as you say, the Son of God gives you no help?”
But enough of Celsus. He would not deserve a moment's attention, were it not for the light which he throws on the history of the christians of his own times, that is, of the second century.
It appears evident that there was then a fingu: lar sort of persons, su ject to all manner of ill treatment from the rest of the world, and who might be hunted down at pleasure by violence or by calumny. Celfus ipsuits them on account of their defenceless condition. Had they refifted evil with evil, his malignity would have taught him to reproach their turbulence and feditiousness. Undoubtedly then they were a meek, quiet, peaceable, inoffensive people. It appears also that they worNn 2
shipped * Gal. vi.
shipped a perfon named Jesus, who had been cru cified at Jerusalem, and worshipped him as God, and Celsus derides their folly on that account; in his view of things, that the same person should be both God and man was the greatest inconsistency. Their doctrine concerning Christ appears to him foolish beyond measure, fit only for the understanding of fools, and beneath the regard of wise men. Even from his loose and sarcastic views of it one may conclude, that they laid
great stress on faith; that the exercise of it was connected with salvation, but that this exercise in its whole nature was contrary to all that is esteemed wise and great in the world. It was also a great stumbling block to Celsus, that men the most wicked and abandoned might be saved by faith in Jesus, and that men's confidence in moral virtues was a bar to their falvation. Nor does it appear that the number of converts among the wife or great was large; the lower ranks of men were best disposed to receive it, and the bulk of christian profeffors confifted of these.
From these premises, with a careful study of the facred volume, any man, possessed of a humble fpirit, may see what the religion was which Celsus fo vehemently reprobates. It could not be the doctrine of common morality. He owns indeed they taught this, though he says that the philosophers taught it better. One may appeal to any person almost at this day, whether chriftian morals are not immensely superior to any thing that is to be learnt from Plato, Tully, or Seneca. It has been the fashion to extol the moral part of fcripture, I fear with an insidious eye to the doctrinal. What that was in Celsus's days, he himself, in a measure, tells us. “ Christ crucified, the living and true God, the only Saviour
of finful men—the necessity of renouncing our own wisdom and righteousness, salvation through believing alone, dependance on our supposed goodness, ruinous and fatal.” It is certain that moral doctrine, had that been the main part of the christian scheme, would not so much have provoked the enmity of Celsus.
The peculiar doctrines of the gospel, man's fallen state, justification by Jesus Christ alone, divine illumination and influence, these which excite the ill-will of man by nature now as much as then; these were plainly the doctrines which occasioned such misrepresentation and abuse as that we have seen.
If the reader were to dip into some controversial pamphlets published against the revival of godliness in our own times, he would see a strong con. formity of taste and sentiment between Celfus and many who call themselves christian pastors. Circumstances vary; the dresses of religious profession will alter in the world's course of things. The undiscerning will be thence liable to form a wrong estimate. But there is no new thing under the sun. That which, in our times, has been derided as enthusiasın, was thus treated in the second century; and he who pleases may fee in England the same sort of persons, living by the faith of the Son of God, derided by persons of the fame stainp as Celsus. And I add to the remarks made on him by others, as giving a good testimony to the miracles and facts of the gospel, that he testifies also the work of the Spirit of God, in his day, and shews us what sort of doctrine was preached and professed by christians at that time.
Lucian of Samofata was a contemporary of Celsus. He has already been mentioned as throwing considerable light on the history of christians
in the story of Peregrinus. The delusion into which this hypocritical christian was suffered to fall, after his apostacy, deserves to be noticed as a warning to those who use the name of Jesus for a cloke to finifter pursuits.
He publickly burnt himself in the sight of all Greece, soon after the Olympic games were over* He did it to gain himself a name, and he had his reward. Heathen authors speak honourably of him. The lustre ot his philofophic life and oftentatious suicide expiated, in the eyes of men of this world, the guilt and infamy of his juvenile profession of the gospel. A statue was erected to him at Parium in Mysia, which was supposed to be oracular.
The depth of iniquity, in a christian view, may seem the perfection of virtue in a philofophical. The Lord seeth not as man seeth.
Lucian tells us also of one Alexander, a false Prophet, who deluded mankind by oracular false. hoods. Some Epicureans derected and exposed his fallacies, which made him declare that Poncus was full of Atheists and Chrillians, who had the assurance to raise fanderous stories against him. And he excited the people to drive them away with stones. He appointed mysterious rites, like those of Athens, and on the first day of the folemnity proclamation was made as at Athens,
If any Epicurean, Christian, or Atheist, be come hither as a spy upon these mysteries, let him depart with all Tpeed.' And a happy initiation to those who believe in God.” Then they thrust the people away, he going before and saying, “ Away with the christians :” then the multitude cried out again, “ Away with the Epicureans.”
We * Lardner's Collect, chap. xix.