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tuation, to the different descriptions of people to whom he was commissioned to preach the Gospel, and while he brought forward to all men the Gospel in all its purity, he yet accommodated himself to their different opinions or prejudices in those points which did not affect its real excellence and value. If there is any weight in the observations which I formerly submitted to you, respecting the gradual adaptation of the Truths of the Gospel to the minds of those to whom it was first preached, it will appear, that St Paul, in adopting the practice which he here mentions, had both caught the spirit of its Divine Founder, and was an accurate observer of that order of Providence according to which its doctrines were opening upon the world.
In pursuing the view upon which, perhaps, I have too boldly ventured, of the adaptation of the Gospel to the varying circumstances of its situation among men, one of the most remarkable occurrences which we meet with immediately after it was left in the hands of the Apostles, is the appearance of St Paul himself, a man so wonderfully gifted with the very qualities that were requisite for its promulgation at
that particular period in which he was commissioned to carry it to the Gentiles. The boldness, and, at the same time, the insinuation of his address, his thorough acquaintance with the Parent Religion from which the Gospel sprung, and the happy facility with which he could seize on the aspects of idolatry itself, and accommodate them to the enlightened truths which he unfolded to the nations; the unwearied zeal which was the natural fruit of his conversion; these resistless qualifications which would almost have been lost, or, perhaps, might have done harm in an earlier period of the history, while the Gospel was confined within the narrow district of Judea-bore down every thing before them, when a field was opened for their exertion, and the Roman world itself was to be conquered by "the sword of the spirit." conquest, which now presents itself to our view, is undoubtedly the most wonderful occurrence which has happened in the history of the world, and those Historians are singularly blind who can contemplate the triumphs of the Gospel, without tracing the finger of Providence in so unparalleled a series of events, or can conceive that they may be accounted for by the common B b
causes to which the ordinary revolutions of society are ascribed. There is not, indeed, any inquiry more useful than that of tracing the influence of what seem to be natural causes, even upon this most unexampled change in the religious constitution of the world; but it is only useful when we perceive that the order and arrangement of such causes has been regulated by a Divine and Providential wisdom. This is, in fact, the view which I am now attempting, very imperfectly, indeed, to lay before you, and which, in this age of the world, may, perhaps, afford a more striking proof of the Divine origin of Christianity than even the consideration of those miracles which aided its first rise and progress, and without which, no doubt, we cannot fully and satisfactorily account for the progress which it made.
I. In entering upon the great field which still lies before me, and in which it is evident I can do nothing more within the bounds of a discourse than to select some prominent points of view from which your own meditations may be conducted, I remark, in the first place, that, during the period which preceded its establish
ment as the Religion of the Roman world, we may perceive several circumstances in Christianity which wonderfully adapted it both to the situation of those who preached, and of those who received it. It was fraught with the most powerful arguments to animate the zeal, and to soothe the sufferings of the Preachers, and it was addressed in a great measure to a description of people, who, in the views which it presented to them, could find the only solace of their misfortunes. The zeal of the first Preachers of the Gospel was animated by the strong belief which they entertained of the stupendous truths which they announced. The Apostles
of our Lord had themselves "seen with their eyes, looked upon, and handled. with their hands, the word of life;" they had, most of them, accompanied him through his life-and beheld him after his Resurrection-and their successors, to whom these truths were delivered, had a conviction of them approaching to the certainty of actual vision. They were "the things most surely believed among them, even as they delivered them unto them, who, from the beginning, were eye-witnesses, and ministers of the word." Men who had this powerful conviction upon their minds, must
naturally have disregarded every worldly obstacle, and have looked with contempt upon all the rage of the Heathen, and all the gathering together of kings and rulers. Besides, their Religion invited them to submit to suffering and shame; the Cross was the badge of their glory-could they refuse that cup which their great Leader had drank before them? It was now no worldly splendour which they courted, and that they might enter into the joy of their Lord, they saw no course before them but that rugged path which He had trode. It is impossible, therefore, to conceive any form of doctrine so perfectly suitable as the Gospel to circumstances which required in its first Preachers and adherents the most persevering zeal, and the utmost submission and alacrity in suffering;nor was it less adapted to soothe the depression of one large class of those to whom its animating truths were at first unfolded. I need here only remind you, that a great portion of the Heathen world were actually in the condition of slaves, men whom the fortune of war had placed beyond all hope of rising from the debasement and misery of their chains,—yet many of them possessed of all the intellectual acquire