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argument: he must give us something more than his own bare assertion, that he has accurately depicted the character of the apostles. And, on the other hand, if he does not wish to include the apostles in his description of the Christian priesthood : then it is hard to comprehend, how he has proved the apostles to be impostors and thence consequentially the Gospel to be a cheat. But Mr. Volney is not very remarkable for close reasoning : his zeal in the cause of irreligion is apt to outrun his judgment.
2. Let us however examine the notion, professedly entertained by infidels, that the primitive missionaries of Christianity were a knot of impostors, whose object was to delude mankind into the belief that they were a company of divinely commissioned teachers.
(1.) Now we readily grant, that, during the life-time of their master, the apostles entertained the ambitious hope, common to them with the rest of their countrymen, that he was about to establish a temporal sovereignty in which his tried adherents might expect the highest places of dignity and emolument. Christ indeed repeatedly told them, what they might expect in his service; contempt, hatred, bonds, imprisonment, spoliation, persecution, death: but we all know the mode, in which a sanguine temper is wont to operate. It is not impossible, that, from an unwillingness to be disturbed in the midst of a golden dream, they might turn a deaf
ear to all such declarations. Probably they might view them, as somewhat exaggerated : probably they might deem them mere trials of their stedfastness and fidelity, propounded in words, but never meant to be carried into effect: probably they might esteem them, as simply setting forth those preliminary hardships and labours, which they who gird themselves up to a mighty enterprize must contentedly endure in the road to victory. Human nature is ever ingenious, in excogitating agreeable solutions of what in the letter it dislikes to hear. Hence it is not at all impossible, that some such explanations might be sought after, as would leave the disciples of Christ in possession of a blissful dream of worldly aggrandizement. On this principle is was perhaps, that, even so late as immediately before the last journey to Jerusalem, Peter, in the name of his fellows, undertook, as it were, to make terms with his master. Behold, said that apostle, magnifying his deserts and apparently expecting an ample temporal reward : Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee : what shall we have therefore? To this question the answer of Jesus was, that they should indeed be promoted to the highest dignities in his kingdom, and that they should be abundantly remunerated for every sacrifice; but that they must look for these rewards only in a future and eternal world. Verily I say unto you, that ye, which have followed me in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one, that hath forsaken houses or brethren or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands for my name's sake, shall receive an hundred fold, and shall inherit everlasting life*
But, whatever expectations of this sort were formed during the life-time of Christ, they must have been speedily dissipated by his unwelcome death. And so, in fact, they were. After the trifling resistance which one of his followers made upon his apprehension in the garden, all the disciples, we are told, forsook him and fled t. With his crucifixion every hope vanished. We are talking, said one of them, full of sad musings and dismal apprehensions: we are talking concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people : and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. But we trusted, that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel I. The turn of the expression implies, that expectation was at an end, and that the bitterness of disappointment had succeeded. Christ's disciples had once indeed believed, that he was the promised Messiah : but the circumstance of his death had led them to suspect, that
Matt. xix. 27-29.
+ Matt. xxvi. 56. Luke xxiv. 19-21.
they had been grievously mistaken in their opinion.
Thus terminated the first stage of that, which, in the judgment of Infidelity, is an imposition upon the credulity of mankind.
(2.) Here, we might suppose, that the matter would have ended : for, when an unsuccessful impostor is cut off in the midst of his project, we constantly find, that the project itself becomes abortive, that his followers are dispersed, and that nothing more is heard or thought of the affair. Such was the case with the several deceptions attempted by Theudas and Judas of Galilee and Coziba *: and such, we might reasonably anticipate from analogy, would have been the case with Christianity, had its author been a mere ambitious adventurer.
But, in truth, the direct opposite to this anticipation took place. Very shortly after the death of Christ, his disciples, lately so dispirited, most unaccountably, on the principles of an infidel, resumed their courage : and, what is not a little paradoxical and extraordinary, they displayed their recovered courage on grounds altogether different from those on which they had heretofore exhibited so much confidence. During the life-time of their master, they thought of nothing but a temporal kingdom; and overlooked his sufficiently explicit declarations, that in his service they must expect hatred and contempt and persecution : but, after his death, we find their tone suddenly changed; for now the prominent object of their ambition was an eternal kingdom in a future world, and they even welcomed all those severe trials which had been announced as their earthly portion. Henceforth we hear nothing more of any worldly and interested and selfish projects. They seem wholly absorbed in the plan of announcing, every where and to every body, their crucified preceptor; as one, whose office it was to save his people from their sins, to break the tyrannous yoke of evil passions, and to conduct his faithful disciples to heaven by the road of much affliction upon earth. . In the prosecution of such a plan, which, overlooking this present and visible world, solely respects a world future and invisible; they are content to endure sufferings, from which human nature revolts. With them, the approbation or disapprobation of man is of little account: they seek only the praise of God, fully satisfied with this, though deprived of every thing else. In poverty, distress, obloquy, and martyrdom, they profess to exult: for the hatred and opposition of their countrymen they stand prepared; since, how could they expect favour and countenance at the hands of those, who had already crucified their venerated master? They are willing to lose all and to resign all, character, wealth, comfort, life, in the discharge of what they believe to be
* Acts v. 36, 37.