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brothers. Yet they anxiously study the increase of their numbers; and, on that account, deem it impious to put any one of their offspring to death. In short, their lawgiver Moses, that he might the more effectually bind the nation to himself, gave them rites wholly new and altogether contrary to the rest of mankind. So that, what we deem sacred, they reckon profane: and, again, what we count abominable, are freely allowed among them *.
In the same disgraceful light that the Jews were contemplated abroad, the punishment of crucifixion was viewed by the Romans at home. Horrible as it was, it was no less disgraceful than horrible. None, save the vilest slaves and malefactors were subjected to it: the penalty never attached to a free Roman citizen, whatever might have been his crimes : it was reserved solely for those, who were esteemed the basest of mankind. Our own law has established a difference between the block and the gallows: death by the one is a punishment without ignominy; death by the other is a punishment, which brings disgrace both upon the culprit and upon his family. But, though this difference is felt and understood among ourselves, it presents only a very faint idea of the extremity of shame, which attended an execution by the cross. To us, associated as it is with the mysteries of our religion, industriously borne as an ensign by the noble and the
* Tacit. Hist, lib. v. § 5, 4.
brave, and never mentioned but with a certain holy feeling of sacred awe: to us, with all our earliest notions thrown into a totally different train from those of the ancient Romans, the mention of the cross conveys no vivid sense of ignominy; rather indeed it exhibits to the imagination every thing great and sublime and compassionate and benignant and venerable. To form a just idea of it, we must carefully divest ourselves of modern impressions, and take our station in the times of antiquity. Thither transported, we must familiarize ourselves with the thought, that one, who has expiated his crimes against society by suspension from the gibbet, might be deemed a highly respectable character, when contrasted with the vile and base and abandoned wretch who had disgracefully suffered the extreme ignominy of crucifixion *.
Now the founder of the Christian religion united in his own single person the two characteristics, which among the ancients were deemed specially shameful. He was at once a Jew, and a condemned person who had undergone the penalty of crucifixion. His Jewish origin alone were sufficient disgrace in the eyes of the Greeks and Romans : but, as if this were not base enough, he was further presented to them under the aspect of a crucified malefactor.
* See on this subject Bp. Pearson on the Creed. Art. iv. note n. vol. ii. p. 260, 261. Edit. Oxon. 1797. From the circumstance of crucifixion being peculiarly the punishment of slaves, it was familiarly termed by the Romans servile supplicium,
Of the same degraded race with their servilelypunished master, was the whole college of the apostles and the greater part of the earliest missionaries of the Gospel. With the exception of Paul, who to his Hebrew character accidentally superadded that of a municipal Roman citizen, all the apostles, and with them most of the primitive teachers, were equally subject to the punishment of crucifixion : and, in the issue, many of them were actually thus put to death*.
Nor was even this the whole depth of abjectness, in which Christ and his followers were placed by the circumstances of their birth. They were not only of the despised stock of Israel, but they were likewise among the lowest of that despised stock. Instead of occupying a comparatively honourable station in the higher ranks of the Jewish republic, Christ himself bore the character of being the son of a labouring carpenter in a country-town, and his apostles were either fishermen or publicans or mechanics.
Such were the instruments, by whom Christianity was first excogitated, and through whom it was afterwards successfully offered to the Pagans.
Under what aspect then must the Gospel have appeared, when it was originally presented to the gentile world? A number of obscure lowborn men, sprung from the despised nation of the Jews, suddenly issue forth from what Tacitus deemed the sink of every thing disgraceful, and address the lofty Romans and the lettered Greeks. They call upon them to renounce the deities, under whom Greece had flourished and Rome had attained the sovereignty of the universe: deities, whose venerable worship had prevailed from the remotest antiquity; deities, whose solemn rites were incorporated with the very essence of the ancient polities ; deities, whom philosophers thought it wise and just and decorous to honour; deities, whom statesmen and priests were alike interested to uphold. They charge them to reject, as impious and abominable, a religion, which combined itself with all their early habits and associations; a religion, which freely permitted the indulgence of all their sensual inclinations ; a religion, which had been professed by heroes and philosophers, by kings and by statesmen ; a religion, which formed the basis of the noblest strains of poetry; a religion (wben its darker shades were happily concealed) of joy and pleasure, of festivity and elegance and cheerfulness. These deities and this religion they peremptorily command them to forsake : and, in the place of them, they sternly enjoin the acceptance of an upstart theological system, which had been first struck out by a crucified Jew; which was now
* Thus Tacitus speaks of them, in the time of Nero, as being crucibus affixi. Annal. lib. xv. § 44.
preached by a combination of Jews of the very lowest rank; which had not received the sanction of the ruling powers, even among the Jews themselves ; which contradicted all the previous notions entertained by the Gentiles; which called them to a life of holiness, and abstinence, and mortification, and self-denial; which thwarted their inclinations, and crossed their purposes,
and injured their interests, and disturbed their comforts; which set their philosophy at nought, and derided the most venerable of their institutions ; which appeared to be little short of treason to the state; and which speedily brought on the contempt and hatred and persecution and torture and death of those, who in an evil hour to themselves had been led to embrace it. As an inducement to adopt the new system, they assure their gentile hearers, that, if they become converts to it, they must look for nothing but trouble in this present world : yet they venture to declare, that, provided only they will renounce in its favour the ancient religion of their forefathers, they may certainly promise themselves eternal happiness after death in a world to come. With respect to the crucified Jew, whom they acknowledge as their master and whom they mention as the original author of their scheme; they assert, that, in some incomprehensible manner, salvation hereafter must be expected only through his meritorious death upon the cross; and that the circumstance of his ignominious execution is not so