صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

Testament as a book of correct narrative; certified that, because authentic, it is therefore, as to all important matters of fact, credible. But we are not restricted to a single method of proof. The subject is compassed about with a cloud of witnesses. We take up another and broader plan of argument, the force of which none can mistake.

Let me ask by what sort of evidence you would feel assured of the credibility of any history professing to relate events of a past age? Suppose you should discover a volume hitherto concealed, professing to have been written by some well-known individual of the Augustan age, and to contain a narrative of events in the personal history and domestic life of Augustus Cæsar. You would first examine into its authenticity. That settled, you would inquire into the credibility of its narrative. The first question would be, did the writer possess every advantage of knowing the events in the personal history of Augustus? May I depend on the sufficiency of his knowledge? Now, he may not have lived with. Augustus, and yet his knowledge may have been perfectly adequate. But your mind would be fully satisfied on this head, should it appear that the writer was not only a contemporary, but that he was domesticated with Augustus-conversed familiarly with him, lived at his table, assisted at his councils, accompanied him on his journeys.

The question of adequate knowledge being thus at rest, another would remain: May I depend on the honesty of the writer? In ordinary cases, you

would be satisfied if nothing appeared in the book itself, or in the testimony of contemporaneous writings, impeaching his honesty. But your satisfaction would be much increased should you discover, in the style and spirit of the narrative, in its simplicity, modesty, and freedom of manner, in the circumstantial character of its details and the frequency of its allusions to time, place, and persons, those internal features of honesty which it is so extremely difficult, if not impossible, to counterfeit. Your confidence would grow exceedingly if, on a comparison of the book with other well-established histories of the same times, you should discover not only that there is no contradiction in any particular, but that all its allusions to the customs, institutions, prejudices, and political events of the times, are abundantly confirmed from other sources. This would set the honesty of the writer in a very favorable light.

But suppose, that at this stage you should discover three other books upon the same subject, each evidently written by a person in the family and confidence of Augustus, or else with equally favorable opportunities of knowing him-each evidently an independent work, and having all the inward and outward marks of truth before detailed. Suppose, that on comparing these four histories together, you find that while each contains some minor facts which the others do not, and relates in its own style and language what all contain in common, there is yet no disagreement among them; but on the contrary, . the most perfect confirmation one of another. Surely,

after this no further evidence could be demanded of the veracity of all those historians. But still, though you would have no right to require, you might perhaps discover additional evidence. You might search collateral history for the private characters of those writers; and how would it heighten your satisfaction to find that universally they were esteemed beyond reproach, even by their personal opponents. You might also inquire what motive they could have had for deception; and how conclusive would it seem in their favor to discover, that so far from any suspicion of such a motive attaching to them, they had undertaken to publish what they did with the certainty of sacrificing every thing earthly, and actually plunged themselves by it into poverty, contempt, and suffering. One can hardly imagine stronger evidence of truth. None could, with any reason, require it.

But yet there might be additional evidence. These historians perhaps had many and bitter personal adversaries. How did they treat their books? The books were published during the lifetime of many who had seen Augustus, and had witnessed the principal events described; they were published in the very places where those events took place, and in the midst of thousands who knew all about them. How, then, did their enemies treat these histories? Now, should you discover that the personal adversaries of these four writers, however disposed, were unable to deny, but on the contrary acknowledged, assumed, and reasoned upon their narratives as true; and furthermore, that the thousands who had wit

nessed the principal events recorded, never contradicted those narratives, but in numerous instances afforded all the confirmation they were capable of; I am sure you would think the whole evidence for the credibility of those four histories not only conclusive, but singularly and wonderfully so.

I have thus sketched a mass of evidence, and a variety of adequate evidence, which, were the half of it required for any book of ancient history but the Bible, would bring its credibility into utter condemnation. If a book, with all this in its favor, ought not to be believed, historical truth, or the possibility of ascertaining it, must be given up. But who would think of resisting such evidence? What would be thought of the intellect, not to speak of the candor of the man who, with all this before him, should take up the memoir of the life of Augustus Cæsar, as above supposed, and not feel that it were the absurdest folly to question the accuracy of its statements? In laying out this sketch, I have exhibited a general view of the evidence for the credibility of the gospel history. In proceeding to more particular details, I hope to show you that every branch of the evidence I have glanced at, however vain to seek it in favor of any other ancient history, can be cited in attestation of the credibility of that in the New Testament.

From the brief view we have taken of the evidence which may be brought for the credibility of any historical document, it appears that the great points to be made out in favor of the writer are these

two competent knowledge and trustworthy honesty. Did he know enough to write a true account? and then, was he honest enough to be unable to write any other than a true account? Establish these, and the book is established-the question is closed. Let us take this plan as to the history before us. We have several independent writings containing the gospel history. Let us select that of St. JOHN, and try the question first upon it. We begin, then, with this most important inquiry:

I. Had the writer of this book SUFFICIENT OPPOR

TUNITIES OF POSSESSING ADEQUATE KNOWLEDGE AS TO THOSE MATTERS OF FACT WHICH HE HAS RELATED? I do not suppose that much array of argument can bet necessary to prove that he had every opportunity. It is to be first considered, that the amount of knowledge required to enable John, or either of the other evangelists, to give an accurate account of so much of the life of Christ and of the transactions connected with his cause as he has embraced in his narrative, was not very considerable. contained in a small space.

The gospel history is Thirty pages of a com

There

mon family Bible comprise the whole of what John has related. It is a plain, straightforward account of a very simple, intelligible train of events. are no labyrinths of historical truth to trace out; no perplexed involutions of circumstances to unravel. Consequently, when you consider that John, by the testimony of all tradition, as well as that of the gospel history, was a member of the household of Christ-admitted into his most unreserved and affec

« السابقةمتابعة »