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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farty among them gave him any help; all
eyes were open and watchful to dete6l his
impoftures, all hands ready to punifli him
as foon as detefted. Had he remained in Ju-
daea, he would at lead have had many con-
federates, all the apoflles, all the difciples of
Chrift, at that time pretty numerous ; but in
preaching to the Gentiles he was often alone,
never with more than two or three compa*
nions or followers. Was this a confederacy
powerful enough to carry on fuch a cheat,
in fo many different parts of the world,
againft the united oppofition of the magif-
trates, priefts, philofophers, people, all com-
bined to dete£l and expofe their frauds?

Let it be alfo confidered, that thofe upon
whom they pradifed thefe arts were not. a
grofs or ignorant people, apt to miftake any
uncommon operations of nature, or juggling
tricks, for miraculous afts. The churches
planted by St. Paul were in the moft en-

E 2 lightened


lightened parts of the world, among the
Greeks of Aiia and Europe, among the Ro-
mans, in the midft of fcience, philofophy,
freedom of thought, and in an age more in-
quilitively curious into the powers of nature,
and lefs inclined to credit religious frauds,
than any before it. Nor were they only the
loweft of the people that he converted. Ser-
gius Paulus the proconful of Paphos, Eraf-
tus* chamberlain of Corinth, and Dionyhus
the Areopagite, were his profelytes.

Upon the whole, it appears beyond contra-
diction, that his pretention to miracles was
not affifted by the dijpojitlon of thofe whom
he defigned to convert by thofe means, nor
by any powerful confederacy to carry on and
abet the cheat ; without both which concur-
ring circumftances, or one at leaft, no fuch
pretenfion was ever fupported with any fuc-

Both thefe circumftances concurred even in
the late famous miracles fuppofed to be done
at Abbe Paris's tomb. They had not indeed
the fupport of the government, and for that
reafon appear to deferve more attention than
other Popifn miracles j but they were Sup-
ported by all the Janfenifts, a very powerful
and numerous party in France, made up
partly of wife and able men, partly of bigots
and enthufiafts. All thefe confederated toge-
. ther to give credit to miracles, faid to be

^ Q\:K<iVQiJ.^i rviTrohtaii treafurer or bailiff of the city.

\ "** worked

O F S T. P A U L. S3

worked in behalf of their party; and thofe
who believed them were ftrongly difpofed to
that belief And yet with thefe advantages
how ealily were they fuppreffed ! only by
walling up that part of the church, where
the tomb of the faint, who was fuppofed to
work them, was placed ! Soon after this was
done, a paper was fixed on the wall, with
this infcription :

De par le roy defenfe a Dieu

De faire miracle en ce lieu.
By command of the king^ God is forbidden to
ivork any more miracles here. The pafquinade
was a w4tty one ; but the event turned the
point of it againft the party by which it was
made : for if God had really worked any
miracles there, could this abfurd prohibition
have taken effedl? would he have fuffered
his purpofe to be defeated by building a wall ?
When all the apoftles were fhut up in prifon
to hinder their working of miracles, theAasv.
angel of the Lord opened the prifon doors, 16—26,
and let them out. But the power of abbe
Paris coqld neither throw down the wall
that excluded his votaries, nor operate through
that impediment. And yet his miracles are
often compared with, and oppofed by unbe-
lievers to, thofe of Chrift and his apoftles ;
which is the reafon of my having taken this
particular notice of them here. But to go
back to the times nearer to St. Paul's. There,

^ . ^ Ses the

is in L/UCian an account or a very extraor- pfeudo-
dinary and fuccefsful impofture carried on in^^^^^^ ®^

E 3 his


his days^ by one Aleiander of Potitub, \vb6
introduced a new god into that country, whole
prophet he called himfeif, and in whoft name
he pretended to miracles, and delivered ora-
cles, by which he acquired great wealth and ,
power. All the arts by which this cheat wa^
managed are laid open by Lncian ; and no-
thing can better point out the difference be^
tween impofture and truth, than to obferve
the different condud of this man and St,
Paul. Alexander made no alteration in the
religion eftablifhed in Pontus before ; he only
Vudtn^' g^^ft^d '^^^ ^wn upon it; and fpared no pains
Vaiior. to iutereft in the fuceeft of it the whole bea^
n^Si 766. ^^^^ prieilhood, not only in Pontus, but all
over the world; fending great numbers of
thoie who came tp confult him to other ora-^
cles, that were kt that tiiiie in the highefl
jHd. 763. vogue ; by which means he engaged them all
to lupport the reputation of his, and abet his
impoilure. He fpoke with the greatefl re^
fped of all the feds of philofophers^ except
the. Epicureans, who from their principles he
was fure would deride and oppofe his fraud;
for though they prefumed not to innovate,
and overturn eftabliflied religions, yet they
very freely attacked and expofed all innova-
tions that were introduced under the name of
religion, and had not the authority of a legal
Ibid. 76,2, eitablilhment. To get the better of their
773» 774- oppofition, as well as that of the Chriflians,
777- he called in the aid of perfecution and force^
exciting the people againft them, and anfwer-

O F S T. P A U L. ss

ing objedions with ftones. That he might
be fure to get money enough, he delivered
this oracle in the name of his God : ^" I com'-
mand you to grace with gifts my prophet and
mimjier ; for I have no regard for riches myfelf
but the greateji for my prophet. And he fhared
the gains that he made, which were immenfe,
among an infinite number of aflbciates and
inftruments, whom he employed in carrying
on and fupporting his fraud. When any
declared themfelves to be his enemies againft
whom he durft not proceed by open force, he
endeavoured to gain them by blandifhments,
and, having got them into his power, to
deftroy them by fecret ways; which arts he
pradiled againft Lucian himfelf. Others he ^^'^'^- y^^
kept in awe and dependance upon him, by '
detaining in his owai hands the written
queftions they had propofed to his god upon
ftate affairs ; and as thefe generally came from
men of the greateft power and rank, his
being poffeffed of them was of infinite fer-
vice to him, and made him mafter of all their ibid. 767.
credit, and of no little part of their wealth.

He obtained the protedllon and friendihipibid. 76?.
of Rutilianus, a great Roman general, by
flattering him with promifes of a very long
life, and exaltation to deity after his death ; and
at laft, having quite turned his head, enjoined
him by an oracle to marry his daughter, w^hom
he pretended to have had by the rnoon\ which ibid, -si,'

* Muneribus decorate menm vatem atqiie miniftrum prs?-
cipio— nee opum mihi cura, at maxima vatis.

E \ command


command Rutilianus obeyed, and by his
alliance fecured this impoftor from any danger
of punifhment ; the Roman governor of Bi-
thynia and Pontus excufing himfelf on that

Jbid. 753. account from doing juftice upon him, when
Lucian and feveral others offered themfelves
to be his aecufers.

He never quitted that ignorant and bar-
barous country, which he had made choice
ofatfirft as the ficteft to play his tricks in
undifcovered: but, refiding himfelf among
thofe fuperftltious and credulous people, ex-
tended his fame to a great diftance by the

■jbid. 76^-emiffaries which he employed all over the
world J efpecially at Rome, who did not pre-
tend themfelves to work any miracles, but
only promulgated his, and gave him intel-
ligence of all that it was uieful for him to


Thefe were the methods by which this re-
markable fraud was conducted, every one of
which is directly oppoiite to all thofe ufed by
St, Paul in preaching the gofpel ; and yet
fuch methods alone could give luccels to a
cheat of this kind. I will not mention the
many debaucheries and wicked enormities
committed by this falfe prophet under the
malk of relie:ion, which is another charac-
ceriftical difference between him and St. Paul;
nor the ambiguous anfwers, cunning evafions,
and juggling artifices, which he made ufe of ;
in all which it is eafy to fee the evident marks
of an impofture, as well as in tlie objects he



plainly appears to have had in view. That
which I chiefly infift upon, is the ftrong confe-
deracy with which he took care to fupport his
pretenfion to miraculous powers, and the apt
difpofition in thofehe impofed upon to concur
and aflifl: in deceiving themfelves ; advantages
^entirely wanting to the apoftles of Chrift.

From all this, I think, it may be con-
cluded, that no human means employed by
St. Paul, in his delign of converting the
Gentiles, were or could be adequate to the
great difficulties he had to contend with, or
to the fuccefs that we know attended his
work ; and we can in reafon afcribe that fuc-
cefs to no other caufe but the power of God
going along with and aiding his miniftry,
becaufe no other was equal to the effefl:.

Having then Ihewn that St. Paul had no
rational motives to become an apoftle of Chrift,
without being himfelf convinced of the truth
of that gofpel he preached > and that, had he
engaged in fuch an impofture without any
rational motives, he would have had no poj-
fible means to carry it on with any fuccefs:
having alfo brought reafons of a very ftrong
nature, to make it appear that the fuccefs he
undoubtedly had in preaching the gofpel was
an effed: pf the diyine ppwer attending his
miniftry : I might reft all my proof of the
Chriftian religion being a divine revelation
upon the arguments drawn from this head
^Igne. But, to confider this fubjeft in all
poflible lights, I (ha}l purliie the propofition



58 O N T H E C O N V E R S I O N, &c.

which I kl out with through each of its
fev^eral paits : and having proved, as I hope,
to the conviClion of any impartial man, that
St. Paul Was not an impoftor, who faid what
he kne\^' to be falfe with an intent to de-
ceive, I come next to confider whether he
was an enthufiaft, who, by the force of an
over-heated imagination, impofed upon him-

Now thefe are the ingredients of which
elithufiafm is generally compofed ; great heat
of temper, melancholy, ignorance, credulity,
and vanity or felf-conceit. That the firfl: of
fhefe qualities was in St. Paul, may be con-
cluded from that fervour of zeal with which
he aSed, both as a Jew and Chriftian, in
maintaining that which he thought to be
right ; and hence, I fuppofe, as well as from
the impoffibility of his having been an im-
poftor, fome unbelievers have chofen to con-
sider him as an enthufiaft. But this quality
alone will not be fufficient to prove him to
have been fo, in the opinion of any reafonable
man. The fame temper has been common
to others, who undoubtedly were not en-
thufiafts, to the Gracchi, to Cato, to Brutus,
to many more among the beft and wifeft of
men. Nor does it appear that this difpolition
had fuch a maftery over the mind of St. Paul,
that he was not able at all times to rule and
controul it by the diftates of reafon. On the
contrary, he was fo much the mafter of it,
Z3, in matters of an indifferent nature, to

O F S T. P A U L. 59

h'e-come all things to all men^ bending his notions^ -^' '^^'
and manners to theirs, fo far as his duty to
God would permit, with the mofl: pliant con-
defcenfion ; a eondufl: neither compatible
with the itiffnefs of a bigot, nor the violent
impulfes of fanatick delufions. His zeal was
Cciger and warm, but tempered with pru-
dence, and even with the civilities and de-
corums of life, as appears by his behaviour
to Agrippa, Feftus, and Felix; not the bUnd,
inconfiderate, indecent zeal of an enthufiaft.

Let us now fee if any one of thofe other
qualities which I have laid down, as difpofing
the mind to enthufiafm, and as being cha-
ra£leriftical of it, belong to St. Paul. Firft,
as to melancholy, which of all difpofitions
of body or mind is moft prone to enthufiafm, jofephus
it neither appears by his writings, nor by^^^^^^^
any thing told of him in the Acls of the lib. ii.
Apoftles, nor by any other evidence, that St.*^' ^^'
Paul was inclined to it more than other men^
Though he was full of remorfe for his former
Ignorant perfecution of the church of Chrifl,
we read of no gloomy penances, no e^ctra-?
vagant mortifications, fuch as the pran^ins,
the Jaugues, the Monks of L^ Trappe, and
other melancholy enthufiafts, infli(£l on them-
felves. His hofinefs only confifted in the
(implicity of a good life, and the unwearied
performance of thofe apoftolic;^! duties to
which he was called. The fuflrerings he
met with on that account he chear fully bore,
,ind even rejoiced in them for the love of



Chrifl: Jefus : but he brought none on him-
felf; we find, on the contrary, that he
pleaded the privilege of a Roman citizen, to
avoid being whipped. I could mention more
inftances of his having vifed the beft methods
that prudence could fuggeft, to efcape danger,
and Ihun perfecution, whenever it could be
done without betraying the duty of his
office, or the honour of God*.

Compare with this the conduct of Francis
of Aflili, of Ignatius Loyola, and other enthu-
iiails fainted by Rome; it will be found the
reverfe of St. PauTs. " He wijhed indeed to
*' die^ and to be with ChrijlT But fuch a
wifli is no proof of melancholy, or of en-
thiMiafm ; it only proves his conviftion of

A5ls xvij. * A remarkable iiiflance of this appears in his condu6t among
Jofephus the Athenians. There was at Athens a law, which made it
cont. qapital to introduce or teach any new gods in their (late. There-

^^pion, fore, when Paul was preaching Jejus and the rcfurreHwn to the
'Athenians, lome of them carried him before the court of
Areopagus, the ordinary judges of criminal matters, and in a
particular manner entrulled with the care of religion, as having
broken this law, and being a Jitter-firth of Ji range gods. Now,
in this cafe, an impollor would have retraced his do6trine to
fave his life, and an enthufiaft would have loft his life without
trying to fave it by innocent means. St. Paul did neither the
one nor the other; he availed himfelf of an altar which he
had found in the city, infcribed To the unhioivn Gcd; and
pleaded that he did not propofe to them the worfhip ot any new
God, but only explained to thein one whom their government
had already received: Whom therefore ye ignorantly ivorfjip, him
I dedure unto you. By this he avoided the law, and efcaped
being condemned by the Areopagus, without departing in the
leail from the truth ot the gofpel, or violating the honour of
God. An admirable proof, in my opinion, ot the good fenfe
with wiiich he afted, and one that fiievvs (here was n^ mixture
aX fanaticifm in his religion !


1. i:. c.

O F S T. P A U L. 6i

the divine truths he preached, and of the
happinefs laid up for him in thofe bleffed
abodes which had been Ihewn to him even
in this life. Upon the whole, neither in
his aftions, nor in the inftruQions he gave
to thofe under his charge, is there any
tindlure of melancholy; which yet is fo
effential a charafteriftick of enthufiafm, that
I have fcarce ever heard of any enthufiaft,
ancient or modern, in whom fome very
evident marks of it did not appear.

As to ignorance, which is another ground
of enthuliafm, St. Paul was fo far from it,
that he appears to have been mafter not of
the Jewifli learning alone, but of the Greek,
And this is one reafon why he is lefs liable
to the imputation of having been an enthu-
fiaft than the other apoftles, though none of
them were fuch any more than he, as may
by other arguments be invincibly proved.

I l^sve mentioned credulity as another
charafteriftlck and caufe of enthufiafm; which
that it was not in St. Paul, the hiftory of
his life undeniably (hews. For, on the con-
trary, he feems to have been flow and hard
of belief in the extremeft degree, having
paid no regard to all the miracles done by
our Saviour, the fame of which he could
not be a ftranger to, as he lived in Jerufalem ;
nor to that fignal one done after his refur-
reftion, and in his name, by Peter and John, A£t3 jiL
upon the lame man, at the beautiful gate of
the temple; nor to the evidence given in



confequence of it by Peter, in prefence of the

high-piieft, the rulers, elders, and fcribes,

Aasv. is.that Chrlft was raifed from the dead. He

*i— 23- xxiufl alfo have known, that when alt thB

2^. 27. ,

as— 3^- apojlles had ht^njlmt up tn the common pr if on ^
(^nd the high-priefl^ the council^ and all the
fe?iate of the children of Ifrael had fet their
officers to bring th^m before them^ the officers
came andfound them not in prifon ; but retiirned^
^nd made this report : " T^he prifon truly
" found we fbut "with all fafety^ and th^
*' keepers fianding without before the door si
>"^ but when we had opened^ we found no man
" within^ And that the council was im-
mediately told, that the men they had put in
prifon were fianding in the temple^ and teaching
the people. And that, being brought from
thence before the counciU they had fpoken thefe
memorable words : JVe ought to obey God
rather than men, The God of our fathers raifed
up Jefus^ whom yefew^ and ha?iged on a tree.
Him hath God exalted with his right hand^ to
he a Prince and a Saviour^ for to give repentance
to IfraeU and for given efs of fns, And we are
his witnefes of thefe things ; and fo is alfo the
Holy Ghoft^ "whom God hath given to them that
Aaiviii I. obey him. All this he refifted; and was con-
fenting to the murder of Stephen, who
preached the fame thing, and evidenced it
l^y miracles. So that his mind, far from
being difpofed to a credulous faith, or a too
eafy reception of any miracle worked in
proof of the Chriftian religion, appears to
I have

O F S T. PAUL. 63

have been barred againfl: It, by the moft ob-
ftinate prejudices, as much as any man's
could poffibly be ; and from hence we may
fairly conclude, that nothing lefs than th^
irrefiftible evidence of his own fcnfes^ clear
from all poffibility of doubt, could have
overcome his unbelief.

Vanity or felf-conceit is another circum-
ftance that for the moft part prevails in the
character of an enthufiaft. It leads men of a
warm temper and religious turn, to think
themfelves warthy of the Ipecial regard and
extraordinary favours of God ; and the breath
of that infpiration to which they pretend is
often no more than the wind af this vanity,
which puffs them up to fuch extravagant
imaginations. This ftrongly appears in the
writings and lives of fome enthufiaffical
hereticks, in the myfticks both ancient and
modern, in many founders of orders and
faints both male and female amongft the
Papifts, in feveral Proteftant fe£i:aries of the
laft age, and even in fome of the Methodiji^
now*^. All the divine communications, il-
luminations, and extafies, to which they have
pretended, evidently fprang from much felf-
conceit, working together with the vapours

* See the account of Montaniis and his followers, the wri-
tings of the counterfeit Dionyiius the Areopagite, Santa Therefa,
St. Catharine of Sienna, Madame Bourignon, the lives of St.
Francis of Allift and Ignatius Loyola j iee alfo an account of
the lives of George Fox and of Rice Evans, and Whitefield's
and Wefley's Journals.



of melancholy upon a warm imagination^
and this is one reafon, befides the contagious
nature of melancholy or fear, that makes
enthuliafm fo very catching among weak
minds. Such are moft ftrongly difpofed to
vanity ; and, when they fee others pretend to
extraordinary gifts, are apt to flatter them-^
felves that they may partake of them as well
a-8 thofe whofe merit they think no more
than their own. Vanity therefore may juftly
be deemed a principal fource of enthuliafm.
But that St. Paul was as free from it as any
man, I think, may be gathered from all that
we fee in his writings, or know of his life.
Throughout his epiftles, there is not one
word that favours of vanity ; nor is any
aftion recorded of him, in which the leaft
mark of it appears.

Eph.iii. 8. In his epiftle to the Ephefians he calls
himfelf lefs than the leaft of all faint Si And

jCor. XV. to the Corinthians he fays, he is the leaft

9- of the apojlles^ and not meet to he called

an aprfle^ becaufe he had perfecuted the church

iTim. 5. of God. In his epiftle to Timothy he fays,
'« This is a faithful faying, and worthy of
" all acceptation, That Chrift Jefus came
*' into the world to fave finners ; of whom I
^' am chief Howbeit, for this caufe I ob-
*' tained -mercy, that in me firft Jefus Chrift
" might fliew forth all long-futFering, for a
'' pattern to theiTi which fhould hereafter
*« believe on him to life everlafting."

3 It


OF S T. P A U L. 65

It is true indeed that, in another epiftle,
he tells the Corinthians^ that he was not ^^-Q'-'^'-^*
'whit hehind the very chiefejl of the apojlles. But
the occafion which drew from him thefe words
mull: be confidered. A falfe teacherj by fac*
tion and calumny, had brought his apoftle-
iliip to be in queilion among the Corinthians^
Againft fuch an attack, not to have alferted
]us apoftolical dignity would have been a be-
traying of the office and duty committed
to him by God. He was therefore con-
ftrained to do himfelf juftice, and not let
down that chara&r, upon the authority of
which, the whole fuccefs and efficacy of his
.miniftry among them depended. But how
did he do it? Not w^th that wantonnefs
which a vain man indulges, when he can get
any opportunity of commending himfelf;
not with a pompous detail of all the amazing
miracles which he had performed in different
parts of the world, though he had fo fair an
occafion of doing it, but with a modefl ^nd
iimple expolition of his abundant labours and
fufferings in preaching the gofpel; and barely
reminding them, *' that the iigns of an ^ ^^•- -"^"'f
** apoftle had been wrought among them^ in
*' all patience, in iigns, and wonders, and
•* mighty deeds." Could he fay lefs than
this? Is not fuch boafting humility Itfelf?
And yet for this he makes many apologies, ^Cor.xi.i.
exprefling the greateft iineafmefs in being ^^~*^"^°'
obliged to fpeak thus of himfelf, even in his
own vindication. When, in the fame epiitle.

Vol. IL F and

Vcr. 6.


and for the fame purpofe, he mentions the
viiion he had of Heaven, how modeftlj does
zCot.xna. i^Q do it! not in his own name, but in the
third per (on, I knew a man in Chrijl^ &c. caught
up into the third Heaven, And immediately
after he adds, hut now I forbear y leji any 7nan
Jhoiild think of me above that which he feeth
me to he^ cr that he hearetb of me. How
contrary is this to a fpirit of vanity! how
different from the prafliice of enthufiaftick
pretenders to raptures and vitions, who never
think they can dwell long enough upon
thofe fubje£ls, but fill whole volumes with
their accounts of them ! Yet St. Paul is not
fatisfied with this forbearance ; he adds the
Gonfeffion of fome infirmity^ which, he tells
the Corinthians, was given to him as an alloy,
^^' 7* that he might not be above 7neafure exalted
through the abundance of his revelations, I
would alfo obferve, that he fays this rapture,
or vifion of paradife, happened to him above
fourteen years before. Now, had it been
the effe£l of a meer enthufiaftical fancy, can
it be fuppofed that, in fo long a period of
time, he would not have had many more
raptures of the fame kind?" would not his
imagination have been perpetually carrying
Sec their him to Hcavcu, as we find St. Therefa, St,
sadTivcs. Bridget, and St. Catharine, were carried by
theirs? And if vanity had been predominant
in him, would he have remained fourteen
years in abfolute filence upon fo great a mark
of the divine favour ? No j we fliould cer-

O F S T. P A U L. 67

tainly Hive feen his epiftles filled with no-
thing elfe but long accounts of thefe vifions,
conferences with angels, with Chrifi, with
God Almighty, myftical unions with God,
and all that we read in the works of thofe
fainted elithufiafts whom I have mentioned
before. Biit he only mentions this vifion in^j£°^\^'"

1 2 4 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

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 4 of 22)