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disproportioned to the relative merits of his historical parts of the New Testament were testimony. written by the disciples of our Saviour. This Let us suppose, for the sake of farther il-is very decisive evidence. But how does it lustration, that Tacitus had included some happen, that it should throw a clearer gleam more particulars in his testimony, and that, of light and satisfaction over the mind of in addition to the execution of our Saviour, the inquirer, than he had yet experienced he had asserted, in round and unqualified in the whole train of his investigation? terms, that this said Christus had risen from Whence that disposition to underrate the the dead, and was seen alive by some hun- antecedent testimony of the Christian wridreds of his acquaintances. Even this would ters? Talk not of theirs being an intenot have silenced altogether the cavils of rested testimony; for, in point of fact, the enemies, but it would have reclaimed many same disposition operates, after reason is an infidel; been exulted in by many a sin-convinced that the suspicion is totally uncere Christian; and made to occupy a fore- founded. What we contend for is, that this most place in many a book upon the eviden- indifference to the testimony of the Chrisces of our religion. Are we to forget all the tian writers implies a dereliction of princiwhile, that we are in actual possession of ples, which apply with the utmost confimuch stronger testimony? that we have the dence to all similar inquiries. concurrence of eight or ten contemporary The effects of this same principle are perauthors, most of whom had actually seen fectly discernible in the writings of even Christ after the great event of his resurrec-our most judicious apologists. We offer no tion? that the veracity of these authors, and reflection against the assiduous Lardner, the genuineness of their respective publi- who, in his credibility of the Gospel history, cations, are established on grounds much presents us with a collection of testimonies stronger than have ever been alleged in be- which should make every Christian proud half of Tacitus, or any ancient author? of his religion. In his evidence for the auWhence this unaccountable preference of thenticity of the different pieces which make Tacitus? Upon every received principle of up the New Testament, he begins with the criticism, we are bound to annex greater con- oldest of the fathers, some of whom were fidence to the testimony of the apostles. It the intimate companions of the original is vain to recur to the imputation of its being writers. According to our view of the an interested testimony. This the apologists matter, he should have dated the commencefor Christianity undertake to disprove, and ment of his argument from a higher point, actually have disproved it, and that by a much and begun with the testimonies of these greater quantity of evidence than would be original writers to one another. In the held perfectly decisive in a question of second Epistle of Peter, there is a distinct common history. If after this there should reference made to the writings of Paul; and remain any lurking sentiment of diffidence in the Acts of the Apostles, there is a reor suspicion, it is entirely resolvable into ference made to one of the four Gospels. some such principle as I have already alluded Had Peter, instead of being an apostle, rankto. It is to be treated as a mere feeling,-a ed only with the fathers of the church, and delusion which should not be admitted to had his epistle not been admitted into the have any influence on the convictions of the canon of scripture, this testimony of his understanding. would have had a place in the catalogue, and been counted peculiarly valuable, both for its precision and its antiquity. There is certainly nothing in the estimation he enjoyed, or in the circumstances of his epistle
The principle which we have been attempting to expose, is found, in fact, to run through every part of the argument, and to accompany the inquirer through all the branches of the investigation. The authen-being bound up with the other books of the ticity of the different books of the New New Testement, which ought to impair the Testament forms a very important inquiry, credit of his testimony. But in effect, his teswherein the object of the Christian Apolo- timony does make a weaker impression on gist is to prove, that they were really written the mind, than a similar testimony from by their professed authors. In proof of this, Barnabas, or Clement, or Polycarp. It there is an uninterrupted series of testimony certainly ought not to do it, and there is a from the days of the apostles; and it was not delusion in the preference that is thus given to be expected, that a point so isoteric to the to the latter writers. It is in fact, another Christian society could have attracted the example of the principle which we have attention of profane authors, till the religion been so often insisting upon. What profane of Jesus, by its progress in the world, had authors are in reference to Christian authors rendered itself conspicuous. It is not then at large, the fathers of the church are in retill about eighty years after the publication ference to the original writers of the New of the different pieces, that we meet with the Testament. In contradiction to every aptestimony of Celsus, an avowed enemy to proved principle, we prefer the distant and Christianity, and who asserts, upon the later testimony, to the testimony of writers strength of its general notoriety, that the who carry as much evidence and legitimate
authority along with them, and who only differ from others in being nearer the original source of information. We neglect and undervalue the evidence which the New Testament itself furnishes, and rest the whole of the argument upon the external and superinduced testimony of subsequent authors.
If it were necessary in a court of justice to ascertain the circumstances of a certain transaction which happened in a particular neighbourhood, the obvious expedient would be to examine the agents and eye-witnesses of that transaction. If six or eight concurred in giving the same testimony-if there was no appearance of collusion among them-if they had the manner and aspect of creditable men-above all, if this testimo
A great deal of all this is owing to the manner in which the defence of Christianity has been conducted by its friends and sup-ny were made public, and not a single indiporters. They have given too much into vidual, from the numerous spectators of the the suspicions of the opposite party. They transaction alluded to, step forward to falsify have yielded their minds to the infection of it, then, we apprehend, the proof would be their skepticism, and maintained, through looked upon as complete. Other witnesses the whole process, a caution and a delicacy might be summoned from a distance to give which they often carry to a degree that is in their testimony, not of what they saw, excessive; and by which, in fact, they have but of what they heard upon the subject; done injustice to their own arguments. but their concurrence, though a happy Some of them begin with the testimony of enough circumstance, would never be lookTacitus as a first principle, and pursue the ed upon as any material addition to the eviinvestigation upwards, as if the evidence dence already brought forward. Another that we collect from the annals of the Ro- court of justice might be held in a distant man historian were stronger than that of country, and years after the death of the orithe Christian writers who flourished nearer ginal witnesses. It might have occasion to the scene of the investigation, and whose verify the same transaction, and for this credibility can be established on grounds purpose might call in the only evidence which are altogether independent of his which it was capable of collecting-the testestimony. In this way, they come at last timony of men who lived after the transacto the credibility of the New Testament tion in question, and at a great distance from writers, but by a lengthened and circuitous the place where it happened. There would procedure. The reader feels as if the argu- be no hesitation, in ordinary cases, about ment were diluted at every step in the pro- the relative value of the two testimonies; cess of derivation, and his faith in the Gos- and the record of the first court could be pel history is much weaker than his faith appealed to by posterity as by far the more in histories that are far less authenticated. | valuable document, and far more decisive Bring Tacitus and the New Testament to an of the point in controversy. Now, what we immediate comparison, and subject them complain of, is, that in the instance before both to the touchstone of ordinary and re- us this principle is reversed. The report of ceived principles, and it will be found that hearsay witnesses is held in higher estimathe latter leaves the former out of sight in tion than the report of the original agents all the marks, and characters, and evidences and spectators. The most implicit credit is of an authentic history. The truth of the given to the testimony of the distant and Gospel stands on a much firmer and more later historians, and the testimony of the independent footing, than many of its de- original witnesses is received with as fenders would dare to give us any concep- much distrust as if they carried the marks tion of. They want that boldness of argu- of villany and imposture upon their forement which the merits of the question heads. The genuineness of the first record entitle them to assume. They ought to can be established by a much greater weight maintain a more decided front to their ad- and variety of evidence, than the genuineversaries, and tell them, that, in the New ness of the second. Yet all the suspicion Testament itself-in the concurrence of its that we feel upon this subject annexes to numerous, and distant, and independent the former; and the apostles and evangelauthors-in the uncontradicted authority ists, with every evidence in their favour which it has maintained from the earliest which it is in the power of testimony to times of the church-in the total inability furnish, are, in fact, degraded from the place of the bitterest adversaries of our religion which they ought to occupy among the acto impeach its credibility-in the genuine credited historians of past times. characters of honesty and fairness which it carries on the very face of it; that in these, and in every thing else, which can give validity to the written history of past times, there is a weight and a splendour of evidence, which the testimony of Tacitus cannot confirm, and which the absence of that testimony could not have diminished.
The above observations may help to prepare the inquirer for forming a just and impartial estimate of the merits of the Christian testimony. His great object should be to guard against every bias of the understanding. The general idea is, that a predilection in favour of Christianity may lead him to overrate the argument. We believe
that if every unfair tendency of the mind should not be looked upon as nugatory when could be subjected to a rigorous computa- applied to the investigation of those facts tion, it would be found, that the combined which are connected with the truth and operation of them all has the effect of im- establishment of the Christian religion, that pressing a bias in a contrary direction. All every prepossession should be swept away, we wish for, is, that the arguments which are and room left for the understanding, to expaheld decisive in other historical questions, tiate without fear, and without incumbrance.
On the Authenticity of the different Books of the New Testament.
THE argument for the truth of the differ-tles, than in believing what he has never ent facts recorded in the gospel history, re-doubted-the history of Alexander, and the solves itself into four parts. In the first, it doctrine of Socrates. Could all the marks shall be our object to prove, that the differ- of veracity, and the list of subsequent testient pieces which make up the New Testa- monies, be exhibited to the eye of the readment, were written by the authors whose er in parallel columns, it would enable him, names they bear, and the age which is com- at one glance, to form a complete estimate. monly assigned to them. In the second, we We shall have occasion to call his attention shall exhibit the internal marks of truth and to this so often, that we may appear to many honesty, which may be gathered from the of our readers to have expatiated upon our compositions themselves. In the third, we introductory principle to a degree that is shall press upon the reader the known situa- tiresome and unnecessary. We conceive, tion and history of the authors, as satisfy- however, that it is the best and most pering proofs of the veracity with which they spicuous way of putting the argument. delivered themselves. And, in the fourth, we shall lay before them the additional the New Testament, were written by the and subsequent testimonies, by which the authors whose names they bear, and at the narrative of the original writers is sup-time which is commonly assigned to them. ported. After the long slumber of the middle ages, the curiosity of the human mind was awakened, and felt its attention powerfully directed to those old writings, which have survived the waste of so many centuries. It were a curious speculation to ascertain the precise quantity of evidence which lay in the information of these old documents. And it may help us in our estimate, first to suppose, that in the researches of that period, there was only one composition
I. The different pieces which make up
In every point of the investigation, we shall meet with examples of the principle which we have already alluded to. We have said, that if two distinct inquiries be set on foot, where the object of the one is to settle some point of sacred history, and the object of the other is to settle some point of profane history, the mind acquiesces in a much smaller quantity of evidence in the latter case than it does in the former. If this be right, (and to a certain degree it undoubt-found which professed to be a narrative of edly is,) then it is incumbent on the defen- past times. A number of circumstances can der of Christianity to bring forward a greater be assigned, which might give a certain dequantity of evidence than would be deemed gree of probability to the information even sufficient in a question of common litera- of this solitary and unsupported document. ture, and to demand the acquiescence of his There si, first, the general consideration, reader upon the strength of this superior that the principle upon which a man feels evidence. If it be not right beyond a cer- himself induced to write a true history, is tain degree-and if there be a tendency in of more frequent and powerful operation, the mind to carry it beyond that degree, than the principle upon which a man feels then this tendency is founded upon a delu- himself induced to offer a false or a disguised sion, and it is well that the reader should be representation of facts to the world. This apprised of its existence, that he may pro- affords a general probability on the side of tect himself from its influence. The supe- the document in question being a true narrarior quantity of evidence which we can tive; and there may be some particulars bring forward, will, in this case, all go to connected with the appearance of the peraugment the positive effect upon his con-formance itself, which might strengthen victions; and he will rejoice to perceive this probability. We may not be able to that he is far safer in believing what has discover in the story itself any inducement been handed down to him of the history of which the man could have in publishing it, Jesus Christ, and the doctrine of his apos- if it were mainly and substantially false.
We can further suppose, that in the progress of these researches, another manuscript was discovered, having the same characters, and possessing the same separate and original marks of truth with the former. If they both touched upon the same period of history, and gave testimony to the same events, it is plain that a stronger evidence for the truth of these events would be afforded, than what it was in the power of either of the testimonies taken separately to supply. The separate circumstances which gave a distinct credibility to each of the testimonies are added together, and give also much higher credibility to those points of information upon which they deliver a common testimony. This is the case when the testimonies carry in them the appearance of being independent of one another. And even when the one is derived from the other, it still affords an accession to the evidence; because the author of the subsequent testimony gives us the distinct assertion, that he believed in the truth of the original testimony.
We might see an expression of honesty, | tives, all of them possessing the same claims which it is in the power of written lan- upon our belief. If it be improbable that guage, as well as of spoken language, to one should be written for the purpose of imconvey. We might see that there was no- posing a falsehood upon the world, it is still thing monstrous or improbable in the nar-more improbable that many should be writrative itself. And, without enumerating ten, all of them conspiring to the same perevery particular calculated to give it the verse and unnatural object. No one can impression of truth, we may, in the pro- doubt, at least, that of the multitude of writgress of our inquiries, have ascertained, that ten testimonies which have come down to copies of this manuscript were to be found us, the true must greatly preponderate over in many places, and in different parts of the the false; and that the deceitful principle, world, proving, by the evidence of its dif- though it exists sometimes, could never opefusion, the general esteem in which it was rate to such an extent, as to carry any great held by the readers of past ages. This gives or general imposition in the face of all the us the testimony of these readers to the value documents which are before us. The supof the performance; and as we are suppos- position must be extended much farther than ing it is a history, and not a work of ima- we have yet carried it, before we reach the gination, it could only be valued on the prin- degree of evidence and of testimony, of which ciple of the information which was laid be-on many points of ancient history, we are at fore them being true. In this way a solitary this moment in actual possession. Many document, transmitted to us from a remote documents have been collected, professing to antiquity, might gain credit in the world, be written at different times, and by men of though it had been lost sight of for many different countries. In this way a great body ages, and only brought to light by the revi- of ancient literature has been formed, from val of a literary spirit, which had lain dor- which we can collect many points of evimant during a long period of history. dence, too tedious to enumerate. Do we find the express concurrence of several authors to the same piece of history? Do we find, what is still more impressive, events formally announced in one narrative, not told over again, but implied and proceeded upon as true in another? Do we find the succession of history, through a series of ages, supported in a way that is natural and consistent? Do we find those compositions which profess a higher antiquity, appealed to by those which profess a lower? These, and a number of other points, which meet every scholar who betakes himself to the actual investigation, give a most warm and living character of reality to the history of past times. There is a perversity of mind which may resist all this. There is no end to the fancies of scepticism. We may plead in vain the number of written testimonies, their artless coincidence, and the perfect undesignedness of manner by which they often supply the circumstances that serve both to guide and satisfy the inquirer, and to throw light and support upon one another. The infidel will still have something behind which he can entrench himself; and his last supposition, monstrous and unnatural as it is, may be, that the whole of written history is a laborious fabrication, sustained for many ages, and concurred in by many individuals, with no other purpose than to enjoy the anticipated blunders of the men of future times, whom they had combined with so much dexterity to bewilder and lead astray.
The evidence may be strengthened still farther, by the accession of a third manuscript, and a third testimony. All the separate circumstances which confer credibility upon any one document, even though it stands alone and unsupported by any other, combine themselves into a much stronger body of evidence, when we have obtained the concurrence of several. If, even in the case of a single narrative, a probability lies on the side of its being true, from the multitude and diffusion of copies, and from the air of truth and honesty discernible in the composition itself, the probability is heigh- to what was true. For many obvious reatened by the coincidence of several narra-sons, the proportion of the false to the true
If it were possible to summon up to the presence of the mind the whole mass of spoken testimony, it would be found, that what was false bore a very small proportion
must be also small in written testimony. | thinks of disputing the fact; and from the Yet instances of falsehood occur in both; extracts which he makes for the purpose of and the actual ability to separate the false criticism, there can be no doubt in the mind from the true in written history, proves that of the reader that it is one or other of the four historical evidence has its principles and its Gospels to which he refers. The single testiprobabilities to go upon. There may be the mony of Celsus may be considered as denatural signs of dishonesty. There may be cisive of the fact, that the story of Jesus and the wildness and improbability of the nar- of his life was actually written by his discirative. There may be a total want of ples. Celsus writes about a hundred years agreement on the part of other documents. after the alleged time of the publication of There may be the silence of every author this story; but that it was written by the for ages after the pretended date of the companions of this Jesus, is a fact which he manuscript in question. There may be all never thinks of disputing. He takes it upon these, in sufficient abundance, to convict the the strength of its general notoriety, and the manuscript of forgery and falsehood. This whole history of that period furnishes nohas actually been done in several instances. thing that can attach any doubt or suspicion The skill and discernment of the human to this circumstance. Referring to a prinmind upon the subject of historical evidence, ciple already taken notice of, had it been have been improved by the exercise. The the history of a philosopher instead of a profew cases in which sentence of condemnation phet, its authenticity would have been adhas been given, are so many testimonies to mitted without any formal testimony to that the competency of the tribunal which has sat effect. It would have been admitted so to in judgment over them, and give a stability speak, upon the mere existence of the titleto their verdict, when any document is ap- page, combined with this circumstance, that proved of. It is a peculiar subject, and the the whole course of history or tradition does men who stand at a distance from it may not furnish us with a single fact, leading us multiply their suspicions and their skepti- to believe that the correctness of this titlecism at pleasure; but no intelligent man ever page was ever questioned. It would have entered into the details, without feeling the been admitted, not because it was asserted most familiar and satisfying conviction of by subsequent writers, but because they that credit and confidence which it is in the made no assertion upon the subject, because power of historical evidence to bestow. they never thought of converting it into a Now, to apply this to the object of our matter of discussion, and because their ocpresent division, which is to ascertain the casional references to the book in question age of the document, and the person who is would be looked upon as carrying in them the author of it. These are points of infor- a tacit acknowledgement, that it was the mation which may be collected from the very same book which it professed to be at performance itself. They may be found in the present day. The distinct assertion of the body of the composition, or they may Celsus that the pieces in question were be more formally announced in the title written by the companions of Jesus, though page-and every time that the book is re-even at the distance of a hundred years, is ferred to by its title, or the name of the an argument in favour of their authenticity, author and age of the publication are an- which cannot be alleged for many of the nounced in any other document that has most esteemed compositions of antiquity. come down to us, these points of informa- It is the addition of a formal testimony to tion receive additional proof from the testi- that kind of general evidence, which is mony of subsequent writers. founded upon the tacit or implied concurrence of subsequent writers, and which is held to be perfectly decisive in similar cases.
The New Testament is bound up in one volume, but we would be underrating its evidence if we regarded it only as one testimony, and that the truth of the facts recorded in it rested upon the testimony of one historian. It is not one publication, but a collection of several publications, which are ascribed to different authors and made their first apearance in different parts of the world. To fix the date of their appearance, it is necessary to institute a separate inquiry for each publication; and it is the unexcepted testimony of all subsequent writers, that two of the Gospels and several of the Epistles, were written by the immediate disciples of our Saviour, and published in their lifetime. Celsus, an enemy of the Christian faith, refers to the affairs of Jesus as written by his disciples. He never
Had the pieces, which make up the New Testament, been the only documents of past times, the mere existence of a pretension to such an age, and to such an author, resting on their own information, would have been sustained as a certain degree of evidence, that the real age and the real author had been assigned to them. But we have the testimony of subsequent authors to the same effect; and it is to be remarked, that it is by far the most crowded, and the most closely sustained series of testimonies, of which we have any example in the whole field of ancient history. When we assigned the testimony of Celsus, it is not to be supposed that this is the very first which occurs after the days of the apostles. The blank