George Lyttelton Lyttelton.

The works of George Lord Lyttelton : formerly printed separately: and now first collected together, with some other pieces never before printed (Volume 2) online

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this affair, his whole fcheme of iniDolltire
muft have been nipt in the bud. Nor were
they at Jerufalem, whofe commiffion he bore,
lefs concerned to difcover fo provoking a cheat.
But we find that, many years afterwards, when
they had had all the time and means they
Gould deiire to make the ftricleft enquiry, he
was bold enough to appeal to Agrippa, in the
prefence of Feftus, upon his own knowledge ^^^^-"^^^
of the truth of his ftory ; who did not con-
tradidi: him-, though he had certainly heard
all that the Jews could alledge againft the
credit of it, in any particular. A very re-
markable proof both of the notoriety of the
fail and the integrity of the man,, who with
fo fearlefs a confidence could call upon a king
to give teftimony for him, even while he was
luting in judgement upon him !

But to return to i^nanias. Is it not flrange,
if this ftory had been an impofture, and he
had been joined with Paul in carrying it on,
that, after their meeting at Damafcus, we
never fhould hear of their conforting together,
or adling in concert ; or that the former drew
any benefit from the friendfhip of the latter,
when he became fo confiderable amon<r the
Chriftians ? Did Ananias engage and continue . . .:
in fuck a dangerous fraud, without any hope
or deiire of private advantage? or was it fafe
for Paul to fhake him oiT, and rifque his re-
fentment? There is, I thmk, no other way
to get over this difficulty, but by fuppofing

D 2 that


that Ananias happened to die foon after. the
other's converiion. Let us then ta'ke that
for granted, without any authority either of
hiftory or tradition ; and let us fee in what
manner this wondrous impofture was carried
on by Paul himfelf. His firft care ought to
have been, to get himfelf owned and received
as an apoftle by the apoftles. Till this was
done, the bottom he flood upon was very
narrow, nor could he h^ve any probable
means of fupporting himfelf in any efteem ot
credit among the difciples. Intruders into
impoftures run double rifques ; they are in
danger of being detefted, not only by thofe
upon whom they attempt to praclife their
cheats, but alfo by thofe whofe fociety they
force themfelves into, who mnft always be
jealous of fuch an intrufion, and much more
from one who had always before behaved as
their enemy. Therefore, to gain the apoftles,
and bring them to admit him into a partici-^
pation of all their myfteries, all their defigns^
and all their authority, was abfolutely necef*
larv at this time to Paul. The leaft delav
Was of dangerous confequence, and might
expofe him to fuch inconveniences as he never
Gal. i. 17? afterwards could overcome. But, ihftead
of attending to this neceffity, he went into
Arabia, and then returned again to Pamafcus-;
nor did he go to Jerufalem till three years
were paft*

Now this conduct: may be accounted for, if
it be true that (as he declares in his epiftle

4. tOf


OF ST. P A U L. 37

to the Galatians) '' he neither received the^^^i-^^*
*^ gofpel of any man, neither was he taught
^' it, but by the revelation of Jefus Chrift,"
Under fuch a rriafter, and with the affiftanee
of his divme power, he might go on boldly
without any human aflociates ; but an im-
poftor, fo left to himfelf, fo deprived of all
help, all fupport, all recommendation, could
not have fucceeded.

Further; we find that at Antioch he was
not afraid to withfxand Peter to his face^ andGai.ii. n,
even to reprove him before all the dijciples^ be-^ ^^'
caufe he was to be blamed. If he was ah im-
poftor, how could he venture to offend that
apoftle, whom it fo highly concerned him to
agree with, and pleafe ? Accomplices in a
fraud are obliged to fhew greater regards to
^ach other ; luch freedom belongs to truth

But let us confider what difficulties he had
to encounter among the Gentiles them fe Ives,
in the eiiterprize be undertook of going ta
them^ making himfelf their apojile^^ and con-
verting them to the religion of Chrift. As
this undertaking was the diftinguifhing part
of his apoftojical funftions ; that which, \v\
the language of his epiftles, he was parti-
cularly called to ; or which, to fpeak like an
unbeliever, he chofe and ailigned to himfelf;
it deferves a particular confideration : but I
ihall only touch the principal points of it as
concifely as I can, becaufe you have iii a
great meafure exhaufted the fubjed in your


late excellent book on the refurreftion, where
you diicourfe with fuch ftrehgth of reafon
and eloquence upon the dlfSculties that op-
pofed the propagation of the Chriflian reli-
gion, in all parts of the world.

Now in this enterprize St. Paul was to
contend, ift, with the policy and power of
the magiilrates ; 2dly, with the intereft,
credit, and craft, of the priefts-; ^dly, with
the prejudices and paffions of the people;
4thly, w^ith the wifdom and pride of the

That in all heathen countries the efta-
bliihed religion was interwoven with their
civil conftitution, and fupported by the ma-f
giftrates as an eilential part of the govern-
ment, W'hcever has any acquaintance with
antiquity cannot but know. They tolerated
indeed many different worfhips (though not
with fo entire a latitude as fome people
fuppofe) ; as they fuiTered men to diicourfe
very freely concerning religion, provided they
would fubmit to an exterior conform-ity v/ith
the eftabilflied rites ; nay, according to the
genius of paganifm, which allowed an inter*
community of v/orfnip, they in moft places
admitted without any great difficulty new gods
and new rites: but they no v/here endured
any attempt to overturn the eftablifned reli-
gion, or any dircfl: oppofition made to it;
efteeming that an unpardonable offence, not
to the gods alone, but to the ftate. This
was fo univerfal a notion, and fo conflant a



maxim of heathen policy, that when the
Chriftian religion fet itfelf up in oppofition
to all other religions, admitted no intercom-
munity with them, but declared that the
gods of the Gentiles were not to be wor/hiped^
nor any fociety fufFered between them and
the only true God ; when this dodlrine began
to be propagated, and made fuch a progrefs
as to fall under the notice of the magiflrate,
the civil power was every where armed with
all its terrors againft it. When therefore
St. Paul undertook the converfion of the
Gentiles, he knew very well, that the moft
fevere perfecutions muft be the confequence
pf any fuccefs in his delign.

Secondly, This danger was rendered more
certain, by the oppolition he was to expert,
from the intereft, credit, and craft, of the
priefts. How gainful a trade they, with all
their inferior dependants, made ofthofefu-
perflitions which he propofed to deftroy;
how much credit they had with the people.
as well as the ftate by the means of them,
and how much craft they employed in
carrying on their impoitures ; all hiftory
fhews. St. Paul could not doubt that all
thefe men w^ould exert their ucmoft abilities,
to flop the fpreading of the dodrines he
preached ; doftrines which ft ruck at the
root of their power and gain, and were much
more terrible to them than thofe of the
moft atheiftical feft of philofophers, becaufe
the latter contented themfelves with denying

D 4 their


their priupiples, but at the fame time-de^
clared for fupporting their praclices as ufeful
cheats, .or at leaft acquiefced in them as
eftabliihments authorized by the fanflion of
law. Whatever therefore their cunning
could do to fuppprt then' own worfliip,
whatever aid they could draw from the ma-
giftrate^ whatever zeal they pould raife in
the people, St. Paul vv^as to contend with,
iznfupported by any human aiiiftancje.

And "thirdly^ This he was to do in direct

oppofition to all the prejudices and paffions

ef the people.o Now had he confined his

preaching to Judisa alone, this difficulty

%vould not have occurred in iiear fo great ^.

degree. The people there were fo moved by

the miracles jthe apoftles had wropght, as

well as by the memory of thofe 4one by

Jeius, that^ in fpite of thejr rulers, they

began to be favourably difpofed towards them ;

^nd wc even find thajt the hj^gh-prieft and the

Aas iv, council had more thaii once been with-held

from treating the apoftles with fo much

feverity as they defired to do ^ for fear of the

people. But in the peopk among the Gentiles,

no fuch djfpoiitipn could be expefted : their

prejudices were violent, not only in favour

pf their own fuperftitions, but in a patticulja^

jnanner againft any doftrines taught by a

Jew. As, from their averfion to all idqlatry,

and irreconcileable feparatioj:i from all other

religions, the Jews were accufed of hating

fiiankind, io were they hated bj all other

pations ;

«^.. -2-6„

OF ST. P A U L. 4t

nations : nor were itbey hated alone, but
defpifed. To what a degree that contempt
was carried, appears as well by the mention
made of them in heathen authors, as by the
complaints Jofephus makes of the unrea-
fonablenefs and injuftice of it in his apology.
What authority then could St. Paul flatter
Jiimfelf that his preaching would carry along
with it, among people to v/hom he was at
once both the object of national hatred and
national fcorn? But, belides this popular pre-
judice againft a Jew, the doctrines he taught
>vere fuch as fhocked all their moft ingrafted
religious opinions. They agreed to no prin-
ciples of which he could avail himfelf, to
procure their aflent to the other parts of the
ffofpel he preached. To convert the Jews to
.Chrifl: Jefus, he was able to argue from their
pwn fcriptures, upon the authority of books
which they owned to contain divine revela-
tions, and from which he could clearly con-
vince them that Jefus was the very ChriJA^^'^'^
But all thefe ideas were new to the Gentiles ; "^*
they expe£led no Chrift, they allowed no
fuch fcriptures, they were to be taught the
X)!d Tejiament as well as the iV^i^. How
was this to be done by a man not even au-
thorized by his own nation ; oppofed by
thofe who wete greatefl and thought wifeft
^mong them ; either quite fingle, or only
attended by one or two more under the fame
difadvantages, and eyea of lefs confideratioa
ihaa he?

a?. 2


Acts XIV. The light of nature indeed, without ex-
17! 28. * prefs revelation, might have condufted the
- Gentiles to the knowledge of one God, the
creator of all things ; and to that light St.
Paul might appeal, as Vve find that he did.
But, clear as it was, they had almoft put it
Horn. i. out by their fuperftitions, having changed the
glory of the uncorruptible Godj tnto an image
made hke to corruptible 7nan^ and to hirds^ and
to four-footed beafts^ and creeping things^ and
ferving the creature more than the Creator,
And to this idolatry they w^ere ftrongly at-
tached, not by their prejudices alone, but by
their paffions, which were flattered and gra-
tified in it, as they believed that their deities
would be rendered propitious, not by virtue
and holinefs, but by offerings, and incenfe,
and outward rites ; rites which dazzled their
fenfes by magnificent Ihews, and allured
them by pleafures often of a very impure and
immoral nature. Inflead of all this, the
, golpel propofed to them no other terms of
acceptance with God, but a worfliip of him
in fbirit and truths iincere repentance, and
perfedl fubmiffion to the divine lavvS, the
flricleft purity of life and manners, and re-
nouncing of all thofe lufts in which they
had formerly w^alked. Hov/ unpalatable a
doftrine was this to men fo given up to the
power of thofe lufts, as the whole heathen
world was at that time! If their philofophers
could be brought to approve it, there could
be no hope that the people would rellfh if,


OF S T. P A U L. 43

or exchange the eafe and indulgence which
thofe religions they were bred up in allowed
to their appetites, for one fo harfli and fevere.
But might not St. Paul, in order to gain
them, relax that feverity ? He might have
done fo,. no doubt ; and probably would, if
he had been an Impoftor : but it appears by
all his epiftles, that he preached it as purely,
and enjoined it as ftrongly, as Jefus himfelf.

But fuppofing they might be perfuaded to
quit their habitual fenfuality for the purity of
the gofpel, and to forfake their idolatries,
which St. Paul reckons amongft t/je zvorks of^^^- ^' ^^»
the jiejhy for the fpiritual worfhip of the one
invijtble God-, how were they difpofed to re-
ceive the doftrine of the falvation of man by
the crofs of Jefus Chrift ? could they, who
were bred in notions fo contrary to that
great myjlery, to that hidden wijdom of God^ J ^


which none of the princes of this world knew^
inchne to receive it. againll the inftructions
of all their teachers, and the example of all
their fuperiors ? could they, whofe gods had
almofl: all been powerful kings, and mighty
conquerors, they, who at that very time paid ^•
divine honours to the emperors of Rome,
whole only title to deification was the im-
perial power; could they, I fay, reconcile ^^L li. 15^
their ideas to a crucified Son ofGod^ to a Re-
deemer of mankind on the crofs? would they
look tl'iere for him who is the image of the
ijjvifible God, the firf-born of every creature : i Cor.-iL
by whom and for whom were all things created ^^'



that ciJ"e in heaven and that are in earth ^^
^whether they he thrones^ or dominions^ or prifi-
cipalities^ or powers ? Now, moft furely,
the natural man (to fpeak in the words of St.
Paul) received not thefe things^ for they are
■fooli/lmefs to him ; neither could he know them^
hecaufe they are Jpiritually difcerned. I may
therefore conclude, that, in the enterprlze of
converting the Gentiles, St, Paul was to
contend, not only with the policy and power
of the magiftrates, and with the intereft,
credit, and craft, of the priefts, but alfo with
the prejudices and pafiions of the people.

I am next to fhew, that he was to expeft
no lefs oppolition from the wifdom and pride
of the philofophers. And though foqie may
imagine, that men who pretend to be raifed
and refined above vulgar prejudices and vul-
gar paflions would have been helpful to him
in his defigp, it will be found upon examina-
tion that, inftead of afiifting or befriending
the gofpel, they were its worit and moft irre-
concileable enemies. For they had prejudices
of their own, ft ill more repugnant to the
doctrines of Chrifl: than thofe of the vulgar,
more deeply rooted, and m.ore obftinately
fixed in their minds. The wifdom upon
which they vahied thcmfelves chiefly con-
fined in vain metaphyfical fpeculations, in
logical fubtlctics, in endlefs difputes, in high-
fiown conceits of the perfeSion and fclf-
fufficiency of human wifdom, in dogmatical
pofuivenefs about doubtful opinions, or fcep-


OF ST. PA U L. 45

tical doubts about the moft clear and certain
truths* It muft appear at firfl: fight, that
nothing could be more contradiflory to the
firft principles of the Chriftian religion, than
thofe of the atheiftical or fceptical feds,
which at that time prevailed very much both
among the Greeks and the Romans ; nor fhall
we find that the athelftical fedls were much
lefs at enmity with it, when we confider the
doctrines they held upon the nature of God
and the foul.

But I will not enlarge on a fubje£l which
the mod learned Mr;* Warburton has handled
fo well ^, If it were neceffary to enter par-
ticularly into this argument, I could eafily
prove, that there was not one of all the dif-
ferent philolbphical fects then upon earthy
not even the Platonicks themfelves who ar©
thought to favour it moft, that did not
maintain fome opinions fundamentally con*
trary to thofe of the gofpeL And in this
they all agreed, to eicplode as moft unphilo-
fophical, and contrary to every notion that
any among them maintained, that great
article of the Chriftian religion, upon which
the foundations of it are laid, and without
which St. Paul declares to his profelyte.^^
ikeir faith would be vain^ the refurredlion ofiCor. x^,
the dead with their bodies^ of which refur-'^*^^*

* See the Divine Legati-on of Mofes, 1. iii. See alfo ^
late pamphlet, intituled, A Critical Eaquiry into the Opinions
and Pradice ot the Ancient Philofophers, concerning the Nature
©f the SouL and a Future State,


Col. i. is. reftion Chrift was the fiji-born. Befides the
coiatrariety of their tenets to thofe of the
gofpel, the pride that was common to all the
philofophers was of itfelf an almoft invincible
obftacle againft the admilTion of the evange-
lical doftrines, calculated to humble that

Rom. i.2i. pride, and teach them^ that, profejjing them-
Jehes to be wife^ they became fools , This pride
was no lefs intraftable, no lefs averfe to the
inftruflions of Chrift or of his apoftles, than
that of the Scribes and Pharifees. St. Paul
was therefore to contend, in his enterprize
of converting the Gentiles, with all thg op-
pofition that could be made to it by all the
different lefts of philofophers. And how
formidable an oppofitiou this was, let thofe
confider, who are acquainted from hiftory
with the great credit thofe fe£l:s had obtained
at that time in the world, a credit even
fuperior to that of the priefts. Whoever
pretended to learning or virtue was their
dlfciple ; the greateft magiftrates, generals,
kings, ranged themfelves under their dif-
cipline, were trained up in their fchools, and
profeffed the opinions they taught.

All thefe fedts made it a maxim, not to dif-
turb the popular worfhip, or eftabli(hed
religion; but under thofe limitations they
taught very freely whatever they pleafed, and
110 religious opinions were more warmly fup-
ported than thofe they delivered were by
"their followers. The Chriftian religion at
once overturned their feveraiiyflems, taught
2 ^ morality

O F S T. P A U L. 47

z morality more perfefl: than theirs^ and
eflablifhed It upon higher and much
ftronger foundations, mortified their pride,
confounded their learning, difcqvered their
ignorance, ruined their credit. Againil fuch
a» enemy, what would they not do? would
they not exert the whole power of their
rhetorick, the whole art of their logick,
their influence over the people, their iatereft
with the great, to diicredit a novelty lo
alarming to them all? If St. Paul had had
nothing to trpft to but his own natural facul-
ties, his own underftanding, knowledge, aiid
eloqueace, could he have hoped to be fingly
a match for ail theirs united again ft him?
could a teacher unheard-of before, from aii
obfcure and unlearned part of the world,
have withftood the authority of Plato, Arif-
totle, Epicurus, Zeno, Arcefilaus, Carneades,
and all the great names which held the firil
rank of human wifdom ? He might as well
have attempted alone, or with the help of
Barnabas and Silas, of Timotheus and Titus,
to have eredied a monarchy upon the ruins of
all the feveral dates then in the world,, as to
have eredired Chnftianity upon the deftruftioa
of all the feveral (efts of philofophy which
reisyned in the minds of the Gentiles amonsr
whom he preached, particularly the Greeks
and the Romans.

Having thus proved (as I think) that, in
the work of converting the Gentiles, St. Paul
could have no a-ffiflance, but was fure on


4i ON THE CdNVERSidN, Sec.

the contrary of the utmoft repugnance and
oppofition to it imaginable, from the maglf-
trates, from the priefts, from the people,
and from the philofophers : it neeeflarily fol*^
lows, that to fucceed in that work, he muft
have called in fome extraordinary aid, iomt
llronger power than that of reafon and prgu-
nient. Accordingly we fifid^ he tells the Corinthians, i^at his fpeech and preaching
was not with enticing words of mans wifdom^
but in demonJiratio?i of the fpirit and of power.

t ThefT. i. And to the TheSalonians he fays, our

^' S^fP^^' ^^^^ ^^^ ^^^^ y^^ ^^ word only^ but alfo in

power ajid in the Holy Ghoji, It was to th^
efficacy of the divine po^ver that he afcribed
all his fuccefs in thofe countries, and wherever
elfe he planted the gofpel of Chrift. If that
power really went with him, it would enable
him to overcome all thofe difficulties thi^t
obftruflred his enterptxze ; b-ut then he liw.s not
tin impofor : our enquiry therefore mnft be,
xvhether (fuppofing him to have been an im«
poftorj he could, by pretending to miracles ^
have overcome all thofe difficulties, and caf-
tied on his work with fuccefs?

Now to give miracles, falfely pretehded tet-
any reputation, two cireumftances are prin-
cipally neceflary, an apt dlfpoJitioH in thofe
they are deligned to impole upt^n, and a
powerful confederacy to carry on and abet the
cheat. Be th thefe cireumftances^ or at leaft^
one of them, have always accompanied ^11
the falfe miracles, ancient a^nd modern,


O F S T. P A U L. #

^hich have obtained any credit aniong man-
kind. To both thefe was owing the general
faith of the heathen world in oracles, aufpices,
angurieSj and other impoftures, by which the
priefts, combined with the magiftrates, fup-
ported the national worfhip, and deluded a
people prepolTeffed in their favour, and wil-
ling to be deceived. Both the fame caufes
likewife co-operate in the belief that is givea
to Popifii miracles among thofe of their own
church. But neither of thefe affifted St.
PauK What prepofleffions could there have
been In the minds of the Gentiles, either in
favour of him, or the doftrines he taught?
or rather, what prepofleffions could be ftronger
than thofe which they undoubtedly had
againftboth? If he had remained in Jud^a^
it might have been fuggefted by unbelievers^
that the Jews were a credulous people^ apt to
feek after miracles^ and to afford them an eafy
belief; and that the fame of thofe faid to be
done by Jefus himfelf, and by his apotUes,
before Paul declared his converfion, had pre-
difpofed their minds, and warmed their ima-^
ginations, to the cldmiffion of others fuppofed
to be WTought by the fame power.

The fignal miracle of the apoftles fpeakiilg.^^^sii.H*
with tongues oil the day oi Penteco/}^ had*''"^'
made three thoufmd converts ; that of healing
the lame man at the gate of the temple, five
thoufaiid more. Nay, fuch was the faith of
the multitude, that thev brought forih the

Vol. II. E fick


fick into the ftreets, and laid them on beds
Acrsx. 15. ^i^(j couches, that at the leajl the fiadow of
Peter faffing by might over-JJoadow fome of them.
Here was therefore a good foundation laid for
Paul to proceed upon, in pretending to fimilar
miraculous works: though the priefts and the
rulers were hardened againft them, the people
Were inclined to give credit to them ; and there
was reafon to hope for fuccefs among them^
both at Jerufalem, and in all the regions be-
longing to the Jews. But no fuch difpofitions
were to be found in the Gentiles. There was
among them no matter prepared for impofture
to work upon, no knowledge of Chrift, no
thought of his power, or of the power of thole
Aas xiv. ^vi^Q came in his name. Thus, when at Lyftra
St. Paul healed the man who was a cripple from
his birth, fo far were the people there from
fuppofing that he could be able to do fuch a
thing lis an apojile ^Chrift, or by any virtue
derived f:om him^ that they took Paul and
Barnabas to be gods of their own, come down
In the Ukenefs of ?nen^ and would have facri'
feed to them as fuch.

Now I aik, did the citizens of Lyftra
concur in this matter to the deceiving them-
lelves? were their imaginations overheated
with any conceits of a miraculous powder be-
longing to Paul, which could difpole them to
think he worked fuch a miracle when he did
not? As the contrary is evident; fo in all
other places to which he carried the gofpel,
it may be proved to demonftrationj that he


OF S T. P A U L. 351

coul4 find no difpofitiGM, no aptnefs, no bias
to aid his impofture, if the miraeies, by which
he ^very where GOBfirmed his preaching, had
not been true.

On the other hand, ht ns examine whe-
ther without the advantage of fuch an affift-
ance there was any confederacy ftrong enough
to impofe his falfe miracles upon the Gen-
tiles, who were both unprepared and undif-
pofed to receive them. The contrary is ap-
parent. He was in no combination with
their prtejis or their magijirates ; no fe^ or

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Online LibraryGeorge Lyttelton LytteltonThe works of George Lord Lyttelton : formerly printed separately: and now first collected together, with some other pieces never before printed (Volume 2) → online text (page 3 of 22)