صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

them again to their former situation; and relates as a fact, which he and all the orthodox of his time credited, that the body of another Christian already interred moved itself to one side of the grave, to make room for another corpse, which was going to be laid by it. It is an obvious rule in the admission of evidence in any cause whatsoever, that the more important the matter to be determined by it is, the more unsullied and unexceptionable ought the characters of the witnesses to be. And when no court of justice, in determining a question of fraud to the amount of a few pounds, will admit the testimony of witnesses who are themselves notoriously convicted of the same crime of which the defendant is accused; how can it be expected, that any reasonable, unprejudiced person should admit similar evidence to be of weight, in a case of the greatest importance possible, not to himself only, but to the whole human race?

W. But there is still a greater defect in the

testimony of those early writers, than even

their superstitious credulity. I mean their

disregard of honour and veracity in whatC

ever concerned the cause of their particular system. . Though Luke assures us, that many, even before he wrote his histories for the use of his friend Theophilus, had written upon the same subject, who of course were chiefly converts from amongst the Jews; and many more must have written afterwards, some of them, without doubt, like Timothy, educated from their infancy in the religion of Jesus Christ, as taught by the Apostles themselves, whose writings, on that very account, would have been particularly valuable: so singularly industrious have the Fathers and succeeding Sons of the orthodox Church been in destroying every writing upon the subject of Christianity, which they could not by some means or other apply to the support of their own blasphemous superstition, that no work of importance of any Christian writer within the three first centuries hath been permitted to come down to us, except those books which they have thought fit to adopt and transmit to us, as the canon of apostolic scripture; and the works of a few other writers, who were all of them, not only converts from Pa-ganism, but men who had been educated and

[ocr errors]

well instructed in the philosophic schools of
the later Platonists and Pythagoreans.
The established maxim of those schools
was, that it was not lawful only, but com-
nendable, to deceive and assert falsehoods,
for the sake of promoting, what they thought,
the cause of truth and piety: and the effects
of this maxim, which was soon adopted by

the orthodox and other sects of nominal Chris

tians, produced that multiplicity of false and

spurious writings, wherewith the latter end

of the second and succeeding centuries abounded. For, as Professor Mosheim hath very justly observed,” “the Christian teach“ers, who had been instructed in the schools “ of Sophists and Rhetoricians, transferred “ the arts of their masters to the Christian “ discipline, and adopted that mode of con“tending with their adversaries, in which

“truth was not so much their aim as victory; “ and they were confirmed in this practice

“ by the Platonists, who asserted, that a man

“ did no wrong who supported truth, when

“hard pressed, by deceit and lies. This vi“cious eagerness, not to vanquish their ad“versaries by reason and fair argument, but

[merged small][ocr errors]

nues the Professor, “produced so many “books, falsely attributed to persons of great “eminence and renown. For, since great “part of mankind are guided more by autho“rity than by reason, or the word of God “itself, they thought it their best way to coun“terfeit the authority of writers of the great“est renown, to oppose to their antagonists.” There is also another well-known, incontestable proof of the deceit and falsehood of the , orthodox Christians of early times, of which every person in the least conversant with the ecclesiastical history of those times, must be convinced—their pretended power of working miracles. From the history of the first age of the Gospel dispensation, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, we learn that the supernatural power of working miracles, which could only be intended to gain the new religion attention from the world, and to be a present testimony of its divine origin and authority, till the more lasting and more satisfactory proof of completed prophecy could take place, was communicated only two ways; first, by the signal, miraculous effusion of the holy inspiration, whereof there were but two instances, the one general, at the feast of Pentecost, which followed our

Lord's ascension; the other particular, in the house of Cornelius: and, secondly, by the laying on of the hands of the Apostles, a privilege confined, as appears from the story of Simon the Magician, and other circumstances, solely to the persons of the Apostles themselves. And as there is no record of their ever delegating, or of their having the power to delegate, this privilege to any other persons, it is manifest, that all the supernatural effects of that divine inspiration which was vouchsafed to the Christians of the apostolic age, must have ceased and determined with the lives of Christians of that generation; that is, before the expiration of the first half of tly second century. Yet it is well known, that both the Fathers of the orthodox Church of the latter half of that century, and of the third, and the members of the same Church, after it was established by Constantine, during several succeeding centuries, pretended to the supernatural power of working miracles. But so indeed it was predicted” of the antichristian apostasy, that it should establish itself by lying wonders, and deceive the world by falsehood and pretended miracles.

*2 Thess, ii. 9, &c. and Apoc, xiii. 14.

« السابقةمتابعة »