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of thought, in the mind of a native of Greece or Rome, than the scripture doctrine of the nature and guilt of sin, of repentance, conversion, faith, love, meekness, and purity of heart. Their languages had scarcely expressions sufficiently approximated to these subjects to admit of their explanation, without the coinage of new words for the purpose. And in many respects the whole race of the Jews, degenerate as they were in the time of the apostles, were as little prepared for a spiritual, heart-searching religion, as any people of the Gentiles.
Then imagine the incipient effort of the disciples of Christ to gain over the nations to the obedience of the gospel. What could they say to them by way of conciliation, of all their systems of religion and habits of living, to which from time immemorial they had been accustomed? Nothing but unqualified, uncompromising reprobation. What could they offer as a substitute, and with what recommendations could they propose it? The unity of God, to the extermination of all idolatry; the fall of man and his entire ruin and condemnation by sin, to the utter subversion of all their proud conceit of their own merit, and of the dignity of their degraded nature; the necessity of a new heart, including repentance and holiness and humility, and the diligent pursuit of all godliness of living, to the complete breaking up of all their philosophy, the mortification of all their pride, and the direct prohibition of all those unbridled passions and odious vices which then held such universal dominion in the world. It was no aid to the work of
the apostles, that besides the above unwelcome truths and requisitions, the gospel stipulated for a habit of secret prayer, a life of faith, a heart animated with patience, gentleness, forgiveness, and benevolence to all mankind; and above all, a single reliance for peace with God upon the death and intercession of One who had been crucified as a malefactor, despised and rejected even by the despised nation of the Jews.
It is easy to perceive from this brief sketch of some of the peculiarities of the gospel, in contrast with all that was loved and practised and gloried in by the nations of the earth, that while a new religion, willing to make terms with the habits and corruptions of men, might, if aided by the fascinations of eloquence, the enticements of worldly interest, and the arm of secular power, have gained some advancement, Christianity, with its uncompromising spirit, its holy requirements, and its twelve unlettered and despised apostles for its whole earthly strength, must have perished in its infancy, had not the mighty Ruler of the universe been its friend.
3. From what has been said, it is manifest that the enterprise of the apostles must have arrayed against it all the influence of every priesthood both among Jews and heathens. In the beginning of Christianity, the priests of the Jews were not only very numerous and degenerate, but exceedingly influential in their nation. They were, in reality, the nobility of Judea. The power of the magistracy was in a great measure in their hands. The people were educated under their charge. They held the reins of
public opinion, and headed all the great public movements of the community. What tremendous resistance they were capable of making to the advancement of Christianity; how bitterly they replied to those claims which pronounced the dissolution of their priesthood and the termination of their authority; and with what deadly concert they persecuted its blessed Author, thinking they had put also his gospel, when they had put his person to the cross, I need not remind you.
We turn to the priests of the Gentiles. The enterprise of the apostles was directly at war with their dignities, their influence, and their gains. What resistance they were capable of making, is obvious from a consideration of the extensive establishment, the high official dignity, the wealth, the political influence, and the superstitious veneration attached, in the first years of Christianity, to a heathen priesthood. "The religion of the nations," says Gibbon, "was not merely a speculative doctrine, professed in the schools or preached in the temples. The innumerable deities. and rites of polytheism were closely interwoven with every circumstance of business or pleasure, of public or of private life; and it seemed impossible to escape the observance of them, without at the same time renouncing the commerce of mankind. The important transactions of peace and war were prepared or concluded by solemn sacrifices, in which the magistrate, the senator, and the soldier were obliged to participate." The Roman senate was always held in a temple or consecrated place. Before commencing
business, every senator performed an act of homage to the gods of the nation. The several colleges of the sacerdotal order in the single city of Rome; the fifteen pontiffs, the fifteen augurs, the fifteen keepers of the sybilline books, the six vestals, the seven epuli, the flamens, the confraternities of the Salians and Lupercalians, etc., furnish an idea of the strong establishment of the priesthood in an empire that embraced the known world. The dignity of their sacred character was protected as well by the laws as the manners of the country. "Their robes of purple, chariots of state, and sumptuous entertainments, attracted the admiration of the people; and they received from the consecrated lands and public revenue an ample stipend, which liberally supported the splendor of the priesthood, and all the expenses of the religious worship of the state." The great men of Rome, after their consulships and military triumphs, aspired to the place of pontiff or of augur. Cicero confesses that the latter was the supreme object of his wishes. Pliny was animated with a similar ambition. Tacitus the historian, after his prætorship, was a member of the sacerdotal order. The fifteen priests, composing the college of pontiffs, were distinguished as the companions of their sovereign. And as an evidence of what accommodations paganism must have had in Rome in the days of her glory, the number of its temples and chapels remaining in the three hundred and eightieth year after the birth of Christ, when for more than three centuries Christianity had been thinning the ranks of its votaries, and
for sixty years had been the established religion of the empire, was four hundred and twenty-four. In connection with all this organization and deep rooted power of heathenism, consider its various tribes of subordinate agents and interested allies-the diviners, augurs, and managers of oracles, with all the attendants and assistants belonging to the temples of a countless variety of idols; the trades whose craft was sustained by the patronage of image-worship, such as statuaries, shrine-mongers, sacrifice-sellers, incensemerchants: consider the great festivals and games by which heathenism flattered the dispositions of the people, and enlisted all classes and all countries in its support the Circensian and other grand exhibitions among the Romans, the Pythian, Nemean, Isthmian, and Olympic games, celebrated with great pomp and splendor in almost every Grecian city of Europe and Asia-the pride of the people, the delight of all the lovers of pleasure or of fame, intimately associated with and specially patronized by the religion of idols, and therefore directly attacked by all the efforts of Christianity: then say, what must have been the immense force in which the several priesthoods of all heathen nations were capable of uniting among themselves, and with the priests of the Jews, in the common cause of crushing a religion by whose doctrines none of them could be tolerated. That with all their various contingents they did unite, consenting in this one object, if in little else, of smothering Christianity in her cradle or of drowning her in the blood of her * Gibbon, vol. 4, ch. 28.