صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

in such manner that the reader might be alarmed at first view, lest there should be found a contradiction; while such is the actual agreement, that all difficulties vanish before a strict investigation, and, down to the utmost minuteness of statement, their mutual support is undiminished by a single opposing representation. The attempts of infidels to make out the appearance of a contradiction, show to what shifts they have been driven, and how accurate is the concurrence. Now this unfailing agreement of four several, independent, and contemporaneous historians, each so circumstantial, each so full of allusions to the events and institutions and customs of the times, and none contradicted by any evidence whatever, is as convincing an evidence of the honest accuracy of all, as any mind should require. Were the gospel history untrue, such evidence would have been morally impossible. It is peculiar to that history. No other can plead it to any similar extent. And here we feel that we might safely leave the question of credibility. But there are two or three points remaining, which must not be left unnoticed.

Should I occupy enough of your time to take any thing like a full view of the whole of this argument, I should here introduce the uncontradicted acknowledgment of Jewish and heathen enemies of the gospel to the purity and integrity of the primitive disciples of Christ; the strong evidence of their having possessed these virtues, which is exhibited in the peculiarly modest and humble manner of the evangelists in speaking of themselves, never concealing or excus

ing what might make exceedingly against them, but always mentioning what might seem humiliating or honorable to themselves in the same plain, simple way as they relate any other matter of fact. We should also introduce the variety of incidental confirmations obtained from profane writers, and from coins, of various particulars contained in the gospel. history. We should cite especially the testimony of Tacitus to the time and the fact of the Saviour's crucifixion; as well as the records called the Acts of Pilate, bearing witness to the same event, and appealed to by early Christian writers as notoriously laid up among the papers of the Roman senate. But since we have not room for every thing, we must dispense with these particulars.*

Let it be remembered, that we are still employed upon the honesty of the writers of the gospel history. Suppose then, for a moment, that they were not honest in their statements-that they knew they were endeavoring to pass off a downright imposition upon the world. We will not speak of their intellect in such a case, but of their motive. Now, it would be difficult to suppose that any man could devote himself to the diligent promotion of such an imposture without some very particular motive; much more, that without such motive the eight various writers concerned in the New Testament should have united in the plan. What motive could they have had? If impostors, they were bad men; their motive, therefore, must have been bad. It must have been to ad

** See Horne's Introduction, vol. 1.

vance themselves either in wealth, honor, or power. Take either, or all of these objects, and here, then, is the case you have. Four historians, with four other writers of the New Testament-all but one of them poor, unlearned men-undertake to persuade the world that certain great events took place before the eyes of thousands in Judea and Galilee, which none in those regions ever saw or heard of, and which they know perfectly well did never occur. They see beforehand that the attempt to make Jews and heathens believe these things will occasion to themselves all manner of disgrace and persecution. Nevertheless, so fond are they of their contrivance, that though it is bitterly opposed by all the habits, prejudices, dispositions, and philosophy-all the powers and institutions of all people, they submit cheerfully to misery and contempt; they take joyfully the spoiling of their goods; they willingly endure to be counted fools and the offscouring of all things; yea, they march thankfully to death out of a mere desire to propagate a story which they all know is a downright fabrication! At every step of their progress they see and feel, that instead of any worldly advantage, they are daily loading themselves with ruin. At any moment they can turn about and renounce their effort, and retrieve their losses; and yet, with perfect unanimity, these eight, with thousands of others equally aware of the deception, persist most resolutely in their career of ignominy and suffering. Not the slightest confession, even under torture and the strong allurements of reward, escapes the lips of any. Not

the least hesitation is shown, when to each is offered the choice of recantation or death. He that can believe such a case of fraud and folly as this, can believe any thing. He believes a miracle infinitely more difficult of credit than any in the gospel history. I charge him with the most superstitious and besotted credulity. In getting to such a belief, he has to trample over all the laws of nature and of reasoning. Then on what an unassailable rock does the honesty of the writers of the New Testament stand, if it can be attacked only at such sacrifices. How evident it is, not only that they could have had no motive to deceive, but that in all their self-devotion and sacrifices they gave the strongest possible evidence of having published what they solemnly believed was true.*

Now, if I have produced satisfactory proof from all the unquestionable marks of honesty in the gospel history-from the concurrence of profane historians with many of its facts-from their being contradicted by none-from the unprecedented harmony of eight independent writers in their minutest events and allusions-from the impossibility of supposing any motive to deception, and from the sacrifices the apostles endured in the promotion of Christianity: if from these sources I have satisfactorily shown that the

"We cannot make use," says Hume, "of a more convincing argument," in proof of honesty, "than to prove that the actions ascribed to any persons are contrary to the course of nature, and that no human motives, in such circumstances, could ever induce them to such a conduct." Philosophical Essays.

writers of the gospel history could not have intended to record any thing but truth, then, having previously ascertained that they must have known whether what they wrote was true or false, we have those two requisites which insure the credibility of any history, knowledge and honesty. This shuts up the question. But it is not the whole strength of the argument. A question may be shut up and locked, but then it may have bolts and bars besides. The truth of the gospel history is not only sealed, but sealed sevenfold.

5. It has all the testimony that could possibly have been expected, in the nature of things, from the enemies of Christianity. It would have been unreasonable to expect that a heathen or Jew would come forward with a detailed statement to acknowledge the events narrated by the evangelists. We have not this, but we have much better: we have the confession of the whole nation of Jews and of all the Greeks to the same point. None ever ventured in any publication to deny the statements of the evangelists. Unquestionably they would have done it everywhere, had they been able. When Luke published in Jerusalem that a man lame from his birth was healed by Peter and John, while sitting as a beggar at the gate of the temple, and that a great multitude came together on account of the wonderful deed, had the Jews of Jerusalem been able to deny it, would their persecuting enmity have permitted them to be silent? Be it remembered that the gospel history was published in the places where its

« السابقةمتابعة »