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ment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them." This description is borne out to the letter by the testimonies of heathen writers. Paul has furnished a picture of the morals of his own nation corresponding with it in all essential features. What then could the gospel, with all its holy duties and spiritual doctrines, encounter in such a world, but a most violent opposition from the whole mass of the people?
6. But the wisdom and pride of the heathen philosophers were by no means the least formidable enemies with which the gospel had to contend. Their sects, though numerous and exceedingly various, were all agreed in proudly trusting in themselves that they were wise, and despising others. Their published opinions, their private speculations, their personal immorality, made them irreconcilable adversaries of Christianity. It went up into their schools, and called their wisdom foolishness, and rebuked their self-conceit. It "came not with excellency of speech," or "the enticing words of man's wisdom," "doting about questions and strifes of words;" but, knowing nothing among men, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified, it just bade them repent, be converted, become as little children, and believe in a crucified Saviour for peace with God. This was indeed, "to the Greek, foolishness." "What will this babbler say?" "He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods," were the taunting words of certain of the Epi
* Rom. 1:29-32.
cureans and Stoics, when they encountered St. Paul. Mockery was the natural expression of their minds, "when they heard of the resurrection of the dead." The apostles, therefore, in attempting to propagate the gospel among the Gentiles, were opposed by all the wit and learning and sophistry, all the pride and jealousy and malice, of every sect of philosophers. And how formidable was this hostility, is obvious from the great credit, superior even to that of the priests, among the higher classes of society, which those sects had obtained. "Whoever pretended to learning or virtue, was their disciple; the greatest magistrates, generals, kings, ranged themselves under their discipline, were trained up in their schools, and professed the opinions they taught.”+
7. In connection with these powerful adversaries, consider the character of the age in which the apostles undertook the propagation of Christianity. It was distinguished as one of profound peace among the nations, when the minds of men were peculiarly capable of deliberately investigating the claims of the gospel; it was the Augustan age, when philosophy thronged the cities with her disciples, and every description of polite literature was in the highest cultivation. Its peculiar feature was directly the reverse of credulity. No age of the world, before or since, was so extensively characterized by scepticism. While the great mass of the plebeians were superstitiously given to idolatry, the patricians were no less corrupted with opinions which went to the denial of all religion.
+ Lyttleton's Conversion of St. Paul.
Among the various schools which then divided the learned of the Roman empire, those which declared openly against the most fundamental truths of religion were much the most numerous. Of this description were the Epicureans* and Academics: the former maintaining that the soul was mortal, and that, if gods there were, they took no care of human affairs; the latter, that to arrive at truth was impossiblethat "whether the gods existed or not, whether the soul was mortal or immortal, virtue preferable to vice, or vice to virtue," could not be ascertained. These two sects, the one atheist, the other too sceptical even to believe in atheism, were the most numerous of all in the age of the apostles, and were particularly encouraged by the liberality of the rich and the protection of the powerful. From this prevalence of philosophy, "falsely so called," the age was distinguished for curious and bold inquiry; the learned everywhere, like those of Athens, spending their time in little else but either to tell or to hear some new thing. It was also, for the same reason, an age of special contempt for whatever claimed to be received as supernatural. While every city, through the influence of the priests and magistrates, was wholly given to idolatry, so far as the multitude and the external aspect of all classes were concerned; yet, in the inner schools of philosophy, and the private opinions
* Cicero complains, that of all sects of philosophers, this made the most remarkable progress and gained the most adherents. De Finibus.
+ Mosheim's Hist., part 1, sec. 21.
+ Acts, ch. 17.
of the educated, it was almost entirely pervaded with scepticism. Add to this its necessary companion, the universal prevalence of unprecedented luxury and dissoluteness of living, and you will have a true outline of the character of the age in which the apostles, by "the foolishness of preaching," knowing "nothing among men, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified," were to "destroy the wisdom of the wise," and convert whole nations to Christianity.
Most evidently was the age peculiarly and entirely unpropitious. Nothing, on human calculation, could have been more certain of utter rejection and contempt at such a time, than the simplicity, spirituality, and holiness of the gospel; especially its two cardinal points, humble repentance and submissive faith.
8. Consider, next, to whom the propagation of the gospel was committed. Who were they that received the commission, "Go, preach the gospel to every creature," and "make disciples of all nations?" Men adapted to such a mighty work in no single qualification, except to show, in their weakness, that their success was altogether of God. They were neither philosophers, nor orators, nor educated men. They were from a class of mankind denominated by the ruling nations, barbarians; they were of that nation among the barbarians, whom all the rest of the world par ticularly despised; they were of that portion of the nation which was least esteemed by its own members. They were poor, without the least worldly consideration or influence. They were acquainted
with no craft but that of publicans and fishermen. They had never learned any language but that of Galilee, and yet they were to preach to people of all languages. Such were the men whose work it was to assault the high and fenced walls of Judaism-to break the power of heathenism, though entrenched in the vices of the people, upheld by the craft of their priesthoods, defended by the power of all nations, and sanctioned by the traditions of immemorial ages. Such were the men who were to go into the proud schools of philosophy, show their wisdom to be foolishness, teach their teachers, bring out captives to the humble faith of the crucified Nazarene, and baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost.
9. Consider the circumstances of depression and discouragement in which they commenced this work. The enemies of their Master had just succeeded in putting him to the shame of the cross, under accusation of capital guilt. Their taunting language to the agonizing victim, "If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross," shows what a death-blow they supposed themselves to have given to his cause. All his disciples had forsaken him and fled. The stone upon the mouth of his sepulchre was not heavier than the weight upon their hearts, when they beheld him. dead and buried. After a few days they assembled together again in Jerusalem, when an upper room contained the whole congregation of those that believed in Christ. Their cause was universally supposed to have died with its Master. The fact that