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of its sincerity. An opinion comes under the cognizance of the understanding, ever liable, as we all know, to error and delusion. A fact comes under the cognizance of the senses, which have ever been esteemed as infallible, when they give their testimony to such plain, and obvious, and palpable appear-on ances, as those which make up the evangelical story. We are still at liberty to question the philosophy of Socrates, or the orthodoxy of Cranmer and Servetus; but if we were told by a Christian teacher in the solemnity of his dying hour, and with the dreadful apparatus of martyrdom before him, that he saw Jesus after he had risen from the dead; that he conversed with him many days; that he put his hand into the print of his sides; and, in the ardour of his joyful conviction, exclaimed, "My Lord, and my God!" we should feel that there was no truth in the world, did this language and this testimony deceive us.
mony follows as a necessary consequence | founding a new faith; but what glory did the latter propose to themselves from being the dupes of an imposition so ruinous to every earthly interest, and held in such low and disgraceful estimation by the world at large? Abandon the teachers of Christianity to every imputation which infidelity, the rack for conjectures to give plausibility to its system, can desire, how shall we explain the concurrence of its disciples? There may be a glory in leading, but we see no glory in being led. If Christianity were false, and Paul had the effrontery to appeal to his five hundred living witnesses, whom he alleges to have seen Christ after his resurrection, the submissive acquiescence of his disciples remains a very inexplicable circumstance. The same Paul, in his epistles to the Corinthians, tells them that some of them had the gift of healing, and the power of working miracles; and that the signs of an apostle had been wrought among them in wonders and If Christianity be not true, then the first mighty deeds. A man aspiring to the glory Christians must have been mistaken as to of an accredited teacher, would never have the subject of their testimony. This suppo- committed himself on a subject, where his sition is destroyed by the nature of the sub-falsehood could have been so readily exject. It was not testimony to a doctrine posed. And in the veneration with which which might deceive the understanding. It we know his epistles to have been preserved was something more than testimony to a by the church of Corinth, we have not dream, or a trance, or a midnight fancy, merely the testimony of their writer to the which might deceive the imagination. It truth of the Christian miracles, but the teswas testimony to a multitude, and a succes-timony of a whole people, who had no insion of palpable facts, which could never terest in being deceived. have deceived the senses, and which preclude all possibility of mistake, even though it had been the testimony only of one individual. But when, in addition to this, we consider, that it is the testimony, not of one but of many individuals; that it is a story repeated in a variety of forms, but substantially the same; that it is the concurring testimony of different eye-witnesses, or the companions of eye-witnesses-we may, af-servation of his senses. Now it so happens, ter this, take refuge in the idea of falsehood that in a number of the epistles, there are and collusion; but it is not to be admitted, allusions to, or express intimations of, the that these eight different writers of the miracles that had been wrought in the difNew Testament, could have all blundered ferent churches to which these epistles are the matter with such method, and such addressed. How comes it, if it be all a fauniformity. brication, that it was never exposed? We know, that some of the disciples were driven, by the terrors of persecuting_violence, to resign their profession. How should it happen, that none of them ever attempted to vindicate their apostacy, by laying open the artifice and insincerity of their Christian teachers? We may be sure that such a testimony would have been highly acceptable to the existing authorities of that period. The Jews would have made the most of it; and the vigilant and discerning officers of the Roman govern
We know, that, in spite of the magnitude of their sufferings, there are infidels, who, driven from the first part of the alternative, have recurred to the second, and have af firmed, that the glory of establishing a new religion, induced the first Christians to assert, and to persist asserting, what they knew to be a falsehood. But (though we should be anticipating the last branch of the argument) they forget, that we have the concurrence of two parties to the truth of Christianity, and that it is the conduct only of one of the parties, which can be account-ment would not have failed to turn it to aced for by the supposition in question. The count. The mystery would have been extwo parties are the teachers and the taught. posed and laid open, and the curiosity of The former may aspire to the glory of latter ages would have been satisfied as to
Had Christianity been false, the reputation of its first teachers lay at the mercy of every individual among the numerous proselytes which they had gained to their system. It may not be competent for an unlettered peasant to detect the absurdity of a doctrine; but he can at all times lift his testimony against a fact, said to have happened in his presence, and under the ob
the wonderful and unaccountable steps by ated, by martyrdom, the guilt which they which a religion could make such head in felt they had incurred by their dereliction the world, though it rested its whole autho- of the truth. This furnishes a strong exrity on facts, the falsehood of which was ample of the power of conviction, and accessible to all who were at the trouble to when we join with it, that it is conviction inquire about them. But no! We hear of in the integrity of those teachers who apno such testimony from the apostates of pealed to miracles which had been wrought that period. We read of some, who, ago- among them, it appears to us a testimony nized at the reflection of their treachery, in favour of our religion which is altogether returned to their first profession, and expi-irresistible.
On the Testimony of Subsequent Witnesses.
IV. BUT this brings us to the last division ] were either agents or eye-witnesses of the of the argument, viz. that the leading facts transactions recorded, who could not be in the history of the Gospel are corrobo- deceived, who had no interest, and no rated by the testimony of others. glory to gain by supporting a falsehood, and who, by their sufferings in the cause of what they professed to be their belief, gave the highest evidence that human nature can give of sincerity.
In this circumstance, it may be perceiv
The evidence we have already brought forward for the antiquity of the New Testament, and the veneration in which it was held from the earliest ages of the church, is an implied testimony of all the Christians of that period to the truth of the Gospel his-ed how much the evidence for Christianity tory. By proving the authenticity of St. goes beyond all ordinary historical evi Paul's Epistles to the Corinthians, we not dence. A profane historian relates a semerely establish his testimony to the truthries of events which happen in a particuof the Christian miracles, we establish the lar age; and we count it well, if it be his additional testimony of the whole church own age, an if the history which he gives of Corinth, who would never have respect-us be the testimony of a contemporary aued these Epistles, if Paul had ventured thor. Another historian succeeds him at upon a falsehood so open to detection, as the distance of years, and, by repeating the the assertion, that miracles were wrought same story, gives the additional evidence among them, which not a single individual of his testimony to its truth. A third hisever witnessed. By proving the authen- torian perhaps goes over the same ground, ticity of the New Testament at large, we and lends another confirmation to the hissecure, not merely that argument, which is tory. And it is thus, by collecting all the founded on the testimony and concurrence lights which are thinly scattered over the of its different writers, but also the testi- tract of ages and of centuries, that we obmony of those immense multitudes, who, in tain all the evidence which can be got, and distant countries, submitted to the New all the evidence that is generally wishTestament as the rule of their faith. The ed for. testimony of the teachers, whether we take into consideration the subject of that testimony, or the circumstances under which it was delivered, is of itself a stronger argument for the truth of the Gospel history, than can be alleged for the truth of any other history, which has been transmitted down to us from ancient times. The concurrence of the taught carries along with it a host of additional testimonies, which gives an evidence to the evangelical story, that is altogether unexampled. On a point of ordinary history, the testimony of Tacitus is held decisive, because it is not contradicted. The history of the New Testament is not only not contradicted, but confirmed by the strongest possible expressions which men can give of their acquiescence in its truth; by thousands who
Now, there is room for a thousand presumptions, which, if admitted, would overturn the whole of this evidence. For any thing we know, the first historians may have had some interest in disguising the truth, or substituting in its place a falsehood, and a fabrication. True, it has not been contradicted, but they form a very small number of men, who feel strongly or particularly intercsted in a question of history. The literary and speculative men of that age may have perhaps been engaged in other pursuits, or their testimonies may have perished in the wreck of centuries. The second historian may have been so far removed in point of time from the events of his narratives, that he can furnish us, not with an independent, but with a derived testimony. He may have copied his ac
count from the original historian, and the falsehood have come down to us in the shape of an authentic and well-attested history. Presumptions may be multiplied without end; yet in spite of them, there is a natural confidence in the veracity of man, which disposes us to as firm a belief in many of the facts of ancient history, as in the occurrences of the present day.
the Christian miracles? There is nothing like this in common history,-the formation of a society, which can only be explained by the history of the Gospel, and where the conduct of every individual furnishes a distinct pledge and evidence of its truth. And to have a full view of the argument, we must reflect, that it is not one, but many societies, scattered over the different countries of the world; that the principle upon which each society was formed, was the divine authority of Christ and his apostles, resting upon the recorded miracles of the New Testament; that these miracles were wrought with a publicity, and at a nearness of time, which rendered them accessible to the inquiries of all, for upwards of half a century; that nothing but the power of conviction could have induced the people of that age to embrace a religion so disgraced and so persecuted; that every temptation was held out for its disciples to abandon it; and that though some of them, overpowered by the terrors of pun
The history of the Gospel, however, stands distinguished from all other history by the uninterrupted nature of its testimony, which carries down its evidence, without a chasm, from its earliest promulgation to the present day. We do not speak of the superior weight and splendour of its evidences, at the first publication of that history, as being supported, not merely by the testimony of one, but by the concurrence of several independent witnesses. We do not speak of its subsequent writers, who follow one another in a far closer and more crowded train, than there is any other example of in the history or literature of the world. We speak of the strong though unwritten testi-ishment, were driven to apostacy, yet not mony of its numerous proselytes, who, in one of them has left us a testimony which the very fact of their proselytism, give the can impeach the miracles of Christianity, or strongest possible confirmation to the Gos- the integrity of its first teachers. pel, and fill up every chasm in the recorded evidence of past times.
It may be observed, that in pursuing the line of continuity from the days of the apostles, the written testimonies for the truth of the Christian miracles follow one another in closer succession, than we have any other example of in ancient history. But what gives such peculiar and unprecedented evidence to the history of the Gospel is, that in the concurrence of the multitudes who embraced it, and in the existence of those numerous churches and societies of men who espoused the profession of the Christian faith, we cannot but perceive, that every small interval of time between the written testimonies of authors is filled up by materials so strong and so firmly cemented, as to present us with an unbroken chain of evidence, carrying as much authority along with it, as if it had been a diurnal record, commencing from the days of the apostles, and authenticated through its whole progress by the testimony of thousands.
In the written testimonies for the truth of the Christian religion, Barnabas comes next in order to the first promulgators of the evangelical story. He was a contemporary of the apostles, and writes a very few years after the publication of the pieces which make up the New Testament. Clement follows, who was a fellow-labourer of Paul, and writes' an epistle in the name of the church of Rome, to the church of Corinth. The written testimonies follow one another with a closeness and a rapidity of which there is no example; but what we insist on at present, is the unwritten and implied testimony of the people who composed these two churches. There can be no fact better established, than that these two churches were planted in the days of the apostles, and that the Epistles which were respectively addressed to them, were held in the utmost authority and veneration. There is no doubt, that the leading facts of the Gospel history were familiar to them; that it was in the power of many individuals amongst them to verify these facts, either by their own personal observation, or by an actual conversation with eye-witness-ings, the danger, and often the certainty of es; and that in particular, it was in the martyrdom, which the profession of Chrispower of almost every individual in the tianity incurred. Is he a Jew? The sinchurch of Corinth, either to verify the mi-cerity of his testimony is approved by all racles which St. Paul alludes to, in his these evidences, and in addition to them by epistle to that church, or to detect and ex- this well known fact, that the faith and docpose the imposition, had there been no trine of Christianity were in the highest defoundation for such an allusion. What do gree repugnant to the wishes and prejudices we see in all this, but the strongest possible of that people. It ought never to be fortestimony of a whole people to the truth of gotten, that in as far as Jews are concerned
Every convert to the Christian faith in those days, gives one additional testimony to the truth of the Gospel history. Is he a Gentile? The sincerity of his testimony is approved by the persecutions, the suffer
Christianity does not owe a single proselyte | renounced the faith of their ancestors, and to its doctrines, but to the power and credit embraced the religion of Jesus, they would of its evidences, and that Judea was the have been equivalent to a thousand adchief theatre on which these evidences were ditional testimonies in favour of Christianiexhibited. It cannot be too often repeated, ty, and testimonies too of the strongest and that these evidences rest not upon argu- most unsuspicious kind, that can well be ments, but upon facts; and that the time, imagined. But this evidence would make no and the place, and the circumstances, ren- impression on the mind of an infidel, and dered these facts accessible to the inquiries the strength of it is disguised, even from of all who chose to be at the trouble of this the eyes of the Christian. These thousand, examination. And there can be no doubt in the moment of their conversion, lose the that this trouble was taken, whether we re-appellation of Jews, and merge into the flect on the nature of the Christian faith, as name and distinction of Christians. The being so offensive to the pride and bigotry Jews, though diminished in number, retain of the Jewish people, or whether we refiect the national appellation; and the obstinacy on the consequences of embracing it, which with which they persevere in the belief of were derision, and hatred, and banishment, their ancestors, is still looked upon as the and death. We may be sure, that a step adverse testimony of an entire people. So which involved in it such painful sacrifices, long as one of that people continues a Jew, would not be entered into upon light and his testimony is looked upon as a serious iminsufficient grounds. In the sacrifices they pediment in the way of Christian evidences. made, the Jewish converts gave every evi- But the moment he becomes a Christian, his dence of having delivered an honest testi- motives are contemplated with distrust. He mony in favour of the Christian miracles; is one of the obnoxious and suspected party. and when we reflect, that many of them The mind carries a reference only to what must have been eye-witnesses, and all of he is, and not to what he has been. It overthem had it in their power to verify these looks the change of sentiment, and forgets, miracles, by conversation and correspond- that, in the renunciation of old habits, and old ence with by-standers, there can be no prejudices, in defiance to sufferings and disdoubt, that it was not merely an honest, but grace, in attachment to a religion so repuga competent testimony. There is no fact nant to the pride and bigotry of their nation, better established, than that many thou- and above all, in submission to a system of sands among the Jews believed in Jesus doctrines which rested its authority on the and his apostles; and we have therefore to miracles of their own time, and their own allege their conversion, as a strong ad- remembrance, every Jewish convert gives ditional confirmation to the written testi- the most decisive testimony which man mony of the original historians. can give for the truth and divinity of our religion.
One of the popular objections against the truth of the Christian miracles, is the gene- But why, then, says the infidel, did they ral infidelity of the Jewish people. We are not all believe? Had the miracles of the convinced, that at the moment of proposing Gospel been true, we do not see how huthis objection, an actual delusion exists in man nature could have held out against an the mind of the infidel. In his conception, evidence so striking and so extraordinary; the Jews and the Christians stand opposed nor can we at all enter into the obstinacy to each other. In the belief of the latter, of that belief which is ascribed to the mahe sees nothing but a party or an interested jority of the Jewish people, and which led testimony, and in the unbelief of the for-them to shut their eyes against a testimony mer, he sees a whole people persevering in that no man of common sense could have their ancient faith, and resisting the new resisted. faith on the ground of its insufficient evi- Many Christian writers have attempted dences. He forgets all the while, that the to resolve this difficulty, and to prove that testimony of a great many of these Chris-the infidelity of the Jews, in spite of the tians, is in fact the testimony of Jews. He miracles which they saw, is perfectly cononly attends to them in their present ca-sistent with the known principles of human pacity. He contemplates them in the light nature. For this purpose, they have enof Christians, and annexes to them all that larged, with much force and plausibility, on suspicion and incredulity which are gene- the strength and inveteracy of the Jewish rally annexed to the testimony of an in- prejudices-on the bewildering influence terested party. He is aware of what they of religious bigotry upon the understandare at present, Christians and defenders of ing of men-on the woeful disappointment Christianity; but he has lost sight of their which Christianity offered to the pride and original situation, and is totally unmindful interest of the nation-on the selfishness of of this circumstance, that in their transition the priesthood-and on the facility with from Judaism to Christianity, they have which they might turn a blind and fanatical given him the very evidence he is in quest multitude, who had been trained, by their of. Had another thousand of these Jews earliest habits, to follow and to revere them..
In the Gospel history itself, we have a measure, a voluntary act; and that it is very consistent account at least of the Jew-often in the power of the mind, both to turn ish opposition to the claims of our Saviour. away its attention from what would land We see the deeply wounded pride of a na- it in any painful or humiliating conclusion, tion, that felt itself disgraced by the loss of and to deliver itself up exclusively to those its independence. We see the arrogance arguments which flatter its taste and its of its peculiar and exclusive claims to the prejudices. All this lies within the range favour of the Almighty. We see the antici- of familiar and every-day experience. We pation of a great prince, who was to deliver all know how much it insures the success them from the power and subjection of their of an argument, when it gets a favourable enemies. We see their insolent contempt hearing. In by far the greater number of for the people of other countries, and the instances, the parties in a litigation are not foulest scorn that they should be admitted merely each attached to their own side of to an equality with themselves in the hon- the question; but each confident and beours and benefits of a revelation from hea- lieving that theirs is the side on which jusven. We may easily conceive, how much tice lies. In those contests of opinion, which the doctrine of Christ and his apostles was take place every day between man and calculated to gall, and irritate, and disap-man, and particularly if passion and inpoint them; how it must have mortified terest have any share in the controversy, their national vanity; how it must have it is evident to the slightest observation, alarmed the jealousy of an artful and in- that though might have been selfishness, terested priesthood; and how it must have in the first instance, which gave a peculiar scandalized the great body of the people, direction to the understanding, yet each of by the liberality with which it addressed it- the parties often comes, at last, to entertain self to all men, and to all nations, and raised a sincere conviction in the truth of his own to an elevation with themselves, those argument. It is not that truth is not one whom the firmest habits and prejudices of and immutable. The whole difference lies their country had led them to contemplate in the observers; each of them viewing the under all the disgrace and ignominy of object through the medium of his own prejudices, or cherishing those peculiar habits of attention and understanding, to which taste or inclination had disposed him.
In addition to all this, we know, that though the evidence for a particular truth be so glaring, that it forces itself upon the understanding, and all the sophistry of passion and interest cannot withstand it; yet
Accordingly, we know, in fact, that bitterness, and resentment, and wounded pride, lay at the bottom of a great deal of the opposition, which Christianity experienced from the Jewish people. In the New Testament history itself, we see repeated examples of their outrageous violence; and this is confirmed by the testimony of many if this truth be of a very painful and huother writers. In the history of the mar-miliating kind, the obstinacy of man will tyrdom of Polycarp, it is stated, that the often dispose him to resist its influence, Gentiles and Jews inhabiting Smyrna, in a and, in the bitterness of his malignant feelfurious rage, and with a loud voice, cried ings, to carry a hostility against it, and that out, "This is the teacher of Asia, the father too in proportion to the weight of the arguof the Christians, the destroyer of our gods, ment which may be brought forward in its who teaches all men not to sacrifice, nor to favour. worship them!" They collected wood, and the dried branches of trees for his pile; and it is added, "the Jews also, according to custom, assisting with the greatest forwardness." It is needless to multiply testimonies to a point so generally understood; as, that it was not conviction alone, which lay at the bottom of their opposition to the Christians; that a great deal of passion en-a possible and a likely thing to every untered into it; and that their numerous acts derstanding, that has been much cultivated of hostility against the worshippers of Jesus, in the experience of human affairs, in the carry in them all the marks of fury and re- nature of mind, and in the science of its sentment. character and phenomena.
Now, if we take into account the inveteracy of the Jewish prejudices, and reflect how unpalatable and how mortifying to their pride must have been the doctrine of a crucified Saviour; we believe that their conduct, in reference to Christianity and its miraculous evidences, presents us with nothing anomalous or inexplicable, and that it will appear
Now we know that the power of passion will often carry it very far over the power of conviction. We know that the strength of conviction is not in proportion to the quantity of evidence presented, but to the quantity of evidence attended to, and perceived, in consequence of that attention. We also know, that attention is, in a great E
There is a difficulty, however, in the way of this investigation. From the nature of the case, it bears no resemblance to any thing else, that has either been recorded in history, or has come within the range of our own personal observation. There is no other example of a people called upon to renounce the darling faith and principles