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events are said to have occurred, in the lifetime of many enemies who are said to have seen them. Now it is certain that no adversaries, either in Judea, or Greece, or Rome, rested their opposition to the gospel, in any degree, on the denial of these events. What is the consequence? They could not deny them. What is the meaning of this silence? Being interpreted, it is nothing less than a universal testimony from all Jews and heathens who were capable of knowing any thing of the matter, that these things were SO. But they did not stop here. Tacitus the Roman historian positively asserts some of the chief events of the gospel. Celsus, a bitter antagonist of Christianity, in the second century;† Porphyry, a learned as well as earnest opposer, in the third; and Julian, the apostate emperor, in the next century, all acknowledge not only the authenticity of the New Testament books, but, so far as they refer to them, the historical correctness of their narratives, even as to the most extraordinary particulars, not excluding the miracles of Christ.
But we have stronger witness still.
About thirty-two years after the crucifixion, took place the first Roman persecution under Nero. The number of Christians discovered in the one city of Rome, and condemned, is called by Tacitus "a vast multitude."| Of course they must have been exceedingly numerous in all other places taken together.
* Lardner, vol. 3, p. 611. Ibid. 4, 234-238.
† Ibid. 4, 121-130, 133, 134. Ibid. 4, 341, 342.
Tac. Annal., lib. 15, ch. 44; Lardner 3, 610-614.
These but a few years before were all either Jews or heathens. Many resided in Jerusalem, Capernaum, Antioch, Philippi, Ephesus, Corinth, etc. By the time of this persecution, all the gospels but one, as well as the Acts of the Apostles, had been published. The events recorded in these books are said to have taken place before the eyes of the people of the cities just mentioned. It was an easy thing for those people to ascertain whether they or their neighbors, or parents, had seen them. What did they do? They came forward in great multitudes; they threw off Judaism; threw off paganism; espoused the gospel, and sooner than renounce it, suffered unto death. This was but thirty-three years after the events recorded of Christ; it was in the lifetime of Paul. I say, therefore, that every Christian of those days was a witness, the strongest witness-far more impressive in his attestation than any enemy could have been to the shining, powerful truth of the gospel history. We are compassed about, therefore, with a great "cloud of witnesses"-witnesses who did not just acknowledge these things and still remain what they were before; but witnesses adding to their acknowledg ment the testimony of their conversion, the evidence of their lives which were wholly devoted to these things, the seals of ten thousand martyrdoms endured solely on account of their perfect assurance of these things.
Now, consider a moment the utter impossibility that the gospel history should have gained such currency for a single year, had it not been notoriously
true. In about eight years after the crucifixion, Matthew publishes his gospel among the Jews. He tells the people of Jerusalem, that only eight years before that time, while a great multitude of them were witnessing the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus, there was darkness over the whole land from twelve to three o'clock in the afternoon, and "the veil of the temple was rent in twain, and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent." Suppose all this to have been a fabrication, would Jerusalem have held her peace? Could a book of such barefaced untruth have lived an hour?
The book of the Acts of the Apostles was published about thirty years after the ascension of Christ, and was immediately circulated among the churches, and open to the perusal of the enemies of Christianity. It is related in the second chapter of that work, that on the day of Pentecost soon after the death of Christ, when a great multitude collected from all parts of the earth were assembled at Jerusalem, a deep impression of astonishment was produced on the public mind by a rumor of certain miraculous events in the company of the apostles, so that "the multitude came together and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language." Parthians and Medes and Elamites and Cretes and Arabians, dwellers in all countries, men of every speech, were amazed at hearing those Galileans, who were well known to have learned no other tongue than that of Palestine, speaking in all varieties of foreign. languages the wonderful works of God. Such is the
relation in the Acts of the Apostles. How could a writer in his senses attempt to pass it upon his readers, had it not been notorious that such things had actually occurred? The lapse of thirty years could not have so obliterated every recollection of that feast, or so swept the world of surviving witnesses, as to prevent the certainty that wherever this book should circulate, it would meet with persons capable of remembering or of ascertaining whether these things were so. Had not the fact of the apostles having spoken in the presence of thousands in various tongues been undeniable, witnesses innumerable would have arisen against the book that related it. Had no such event occurred, the Acts of the Apostles could have gone into no part of the world without finding those who would stand up and declare that they were at the feast referred to, and saw nothing and heard nothing of the marvellous things declared by its author. I say, therefore, the fact that the gospel history was received, loved, and read everywhere among Christians-that it has outlived all the withering of time, and all the weapons of enemies-that Jews could not gainsay it, nor heathens resist it-that eighteen centuries of scrutiny and trial have only added new assurance to its truth, is one which reduces the supposition of imposture to a perfect and ridiculous absurdity. Therefore was it not in the power of such modern infidels as Hobbes and Chub and Bolingbroke to deny the point in question. The last, not to quote from the others, speaking of John and Matthew, acknowledges that "they recorded the doctrines of
Christ in the very words in which he taught them; and they were careful to mention the several occasions on which he delivered them to his disciples or others. If therefore Plato and Xenophon tell us, with a good deal of certainty, what Socrates taught, these two evangelists seem to tell us, with much more, what the Saviour taught and commanded them to teach."
Here, I think, we may safely leave the question of credibility. So conclusive and certain have seemed to my mind the several consecutive arguments to which you have listened, that instead of feeling at each step as if any candid hearer would wait for additional proof, I have felt not unfrequently as if I were tiring your attention with an unnecessary accumulation. Why this heaping of argument upon argument, one may say, when from the very outset of the question, from the certain authenticity of the gospels, united with their internal evidence, we have a proof of credibility with which any rational mind should be perfectly satisfied? We acknowledge the reasonableness of the inquiry. If the history under consideration related to the life of Alexander the Great and his generals, instead of that of the meek and lowly Jesus and his apostles, who would think it necessary to go into all this detail of evidence to establish its truth? That it contained no internal marks of dishonestythat it was uncontradicted by contemporaneous ers and by other histories of the same times-that it had been received ever since as a true account, would be considered an ample warrant of its historical cor