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we do know of human nature, is not consistent with the conduct of the Christian party. Granting that we are not sure whether a miracle would force the Jewish nation to renounce their opinions, all that we can say of the conduct of the Jewish party is, that we are not able to explain it. But there is one thing that we are sure of. We are sure, that if the pretensions of Christianity be false, it never could have forced any part of the Jewish nation to renounce their opinions, with its alleged miracles, so open to detection, and its doctrines so offensive to every individual. The conduct of the Christian party, then, is not only what we are able to explain, but we can say with certainty, that it admits of no other explanation than the truth of that hypothesis which we contend for. We may not know in how far an attachment to existing opinions will prevail over an argument which is felt to be true; but we are sure, that this attachment will never give way to an argument which is perceived to be false; and particularly when danger, and hatred, and persecution, are the consequences of embracing it. The argument for Christianity, from the conduct of the first proselytes, rests upon the firm ground of experience. The objection against it, from the conduct of the unbelieving Jews, has no experience whatever to rest upon.
The conduct of the Jews may be considered as a solitary fact in the history of the world, not from its being an exception to the general principles of human nature, but from its being an exhibition of human nature in singular circumstances. We have no experience to guide us in our opinion as to the probability of his conduct; and nothing, therefore, that can impeach a testimo
of their country, and that upon the authority of miracles exhibited before them. All the experience we have about the operation of prejudice, and the perverseness of the human temper and understanding, cannot afford a complete solution of the question. In many respects, it is a case sui generis, and the only creditable information which we can obtain to enlighten us in this inquiry, is through the medium of that very testimony upon which the difficulty in question has thrown the suspicion that we want to get rid of.
Let us give all the weight to this argument of which it is susceptible, and the following is the precise degree in which it affects the merits of the controversy. When the religion of Jesus was promulgated in Judea, its first teachers appealed to miracles wrought by themselves in the face of day, as the evidence of their being commissioned by God. Many adopted the new religion upon this appeal, and many rejected it. An argument in favour of Christianity is derived from the conduct of the first. An objection against Christianity is derived from the conduct of the second. Now, allowing that we are not in possession of experience enough for estimating, in absolute terms, the strength of the objection, we propose the following as a solid and unexceptionable principle, upon which to estimate a comparison between the strength of the objection and the strength of the argument. We are sure that the first would not have embraced Christianity had its miracles been false; but we are not sure beforehand, whether the second would have rejected this religion on the supposition of the miracles being true. If experience does not enlighten us as to how far the exhibition of
ducing men to renounce their old and favourite opinions, we can infer nothing decisive from the conduct of those who still kept by the Jewish religion. This conduct was a matter of uncertainty, and any argument which many be extracted from it cannot be depended upon. But the case is widely different with that party of their nation who were converted from Judaism to Christianity. We know that the alleged miracles of Christianity were perfectly open to examination. We are sure, from our experience of human nature, that in a question so interesting, this examination would be given. We know, from the very nature of the miraculous facts, so remote from every thing like what would be attempted by jugglery, or pretended to by enthusiasm, that, if this examination were given, it would fix the truth or falsehood of the miracles. The truth of these miracles, then, for any thing we know, may be consistent with the the conduct of the Jewish party; but the falsehood of these miracles, from all that
a real miracle would be effectual in in-ny which all experience in human affairs leads us to repose in as unquestionable. But after this testimony is admitted, we may submit to be enlightened by it; and in the history which it gives us of the unbelieving Jews, it furnishes a curious fact as to the power of prejudice upon the human mind, and a valuable accession to what we before knew of the principles of our nature. It lays before us an exhibition of the human mind in a situation altogether unexampled, and furnishes us with the result of a singular experiment, if we may so call it, in the history of the species. We offer it as an interesting fact to the moral and intellectual philosopher, that a previous attachment may sway the mind even against the impression of a miracle; and those who believe not in the historical evidence which established the authority of Christ and of the apostles, would not believe even though one rose from the dead.
We are inclined to think, that the argument has come down to us in the best possible form, and that it would have been en
feebled by that very circumstance, which anity were partial. We, in this way, sethe infidel demands as essential to its vali- cure all the support which is derived from dity. Suppose for a moment that we could the inexplicable fact of the silence of its give him what he wants, that all the priests enemies, inexplicable on every supposition, and people of Judea were so borne down by but the undeniable evidence and certainty the resistless evidence of miracles, as by one of the miracles. Had the Roman empire universal consent to become the disciples made a unanimous movement to the new of the new religion. What interpretation religion, and all the authorities of the state might have been given to this unanimous lent their concurrence to it, there would have movement in favour of Christianity? A been a suspicion annexed to the whole hisvery unfavourable one, we apprehend, to tory of the Gospel, which cannot at present the authenticity of its evidences. Will the apply to it; and from the collision of the infidel say, that he has a higher respect for opposite parties, the truth has come down the credibility of those miracles which to us in a far more unquestionable form than ushered in the dispensation of Moses, be- if no such collision had been excited. cause they were exhibited in the face of a The silence of Heathen and Jewish wriwhole people, and gained their unexcepted ters of that period, about the miracles of submission to the laws and the ritual of Ju-Christianity, has been much insisted upon daism? This new revolution would have by the enemies of our religion; and has received the same explanation. We would even excited something like a painful suspihave heard of its being sanctioned by their cion in the breasts of those who are attachprophecies, of its being agreeable to their ed to its cause. Certain it is, that no anprejudices, of its being supported by the cient facts have come down to us, supportcountenance and encouragement of their ed by a greater quantity of historical priesthood, and that the jugglery of its mi- evidence, and better accompanied with all racles imposed upon all, because all were the circumstances which can confer crediwilling to be deceived by them. The ac- bility on that evidence. When we demand tual form in which the history has come the testimony of Tacitus to the Christian down, presents us with an argument free miracles, we forget all the while that we of all these exceptions. We, in the first in- can allege a multitude of much more destance, behold a number of proselytes, cisive testimonies; no less than eight conwhose testimony to the facts of Christianity temporary authors, and a train of succeedis approved of by what they lost and suffer- ing writers, who follow one another with a ed in the maintenance of their faith; and closeness and a rapidity, of which there is we, in the second instance, behold a num- no example in any other department of anber of enemies, eager, vigilant, and exaspe- cient history. We forget that the authentirated at the progress of the new religion, city of these different writers, and their who have not questioned the authenticity pretensions to credit, are founded on consideof our histories, and whose silence, as to rations, perfectly the same in kind, though the public and widely talked of miracles of much stronger in degree, than what have Christ and his apostles, we have a right to been employed to establish the testimony interpret into the most triumphant of all of the most esteemed historians of former estimonies. ages. For the history of the Gospel, we behold a series of testimonies, more con
The same process of reasoning is applicable to the case of the Gentiles. Many adopt-tinuous, and more firmly sustained, than ed the new religion, and many rejected it. there is any other example of in the whole We may not be sure, if we can give an compass of erudition. And to refuse this adequate explanation of the conduct of the evidence, is a proof that in this investigalatter on the supposition that the evidences tion there is an aptitude in the human mind are true; but we are perfectly sure, that we to abandon all ordinary principles, and to ean give no adequate explanation of the con- be carried away by the delusions which we duct of the former, on the supposition that have already insisted on. the evidences are false. For any thing we know, it is possible that the one party may have adhered to their former prejudices, in opposition to all the force and urgency of argument, which even an authentic miracle carries along with it. But we know that it is not possible that the other party should renounce these prejudices, and that too in the face of danger and persecution, unless the miracles had been authentic. So great is the difference between the strength of the argument and the strength of the objection, that we count it fortunate for the merits of
But let us try the effect of that testimony which our antagonists demand. Tacitus has actually attested the existence of Jesus Christ; the reality of such a personage; his public execution under the administration of Pontius Pilate; the temporary check which this gave to the progress of his religion; its revival a short time after his death; its progress over the land of Judea, and to Rome itself, the metropolis of the empire:all this we have in a Roman historian; and, in opposition to all established reasoning upon these subjects, it is by some more firmthe cause, that the conversions to Christi-ly confided in upon his testimony, than upon
the numerous and concurring testimonies | becoming a Christian in consequence of it. of nearer and contemporary writers. But Yet the moment that this transition is be this as it may, let us suppose that Taci- made-a transition by which, in point of tus had thrown one particular more into his fact, his testimony becomes stronger-in testimony, and that his sentence had run point of impression it becomes less; and, thus; "They had their denomination from by a delusion, common to the infidel and Christus, who, in the reign of Tiberius, was the believer, the argument is held to be put to death as a criminal by the procura- weakened by the very circumstance which tor Pontius Pilate, and who rose from the imparts greater force to it. The elegant and dead on the third day after his execution, accomplished scholar becomes believer. and ascended into heaven.". Does it not The truth, the novelty, the importance of strike every body, that however true the this new subject, withdraw him from every last piece of information may be, and how- other pursuit. He shares in the common ever well established by its proper historians, enthusiasm of the cause, and gives all his this is not the place where we can expect talents and eloquence to the support of it. to find it? If Tacitus did not believe the Instead of the Roman historian, Tacitus resurrection of our Saviour, (which is pro- comes down to posterity in the shape of a bably the case, as he never, in all likelihood, Christian father, and the high authority of paid any attention to the evidence of a faith his name is lost in a crowd of similar testiwhich he was led to regard, from the outset, monies. as a pernicious superstition, and a mere modification of Judaism,) it is not to be supposed that such an assertion could ever have been made by him. If Tacitus did believe the resurrection of our Saviour, he gives us an example of what appears not to have been uncommon in these ages-he gives us an example of a man adhering to that system which interest and education recommended, in opposition to the evidence of a miracle which he admitted to be true. Still, even on this supposition, it is the most unlikely thing in the world, that he would have admitted the fact of our Saviour's resurrection into his history. It is most improbable, that a testimony of this kind would have been given, even though the resurrection of Jesus Christ be admitted; and, therefore, the want of this testimony carries in it no argument that the resurrection is a falsehood. If, however, in opposition to all probability, this testimony had been given, it would have been appealed to as a most striking confirmation of the main fact of the evangelical history. It would have figured away in all our elementary treatises, and been referred to as a master argument in every exposition of the evidences of Christianity. Infidels would have been challenged to believe in it on the strength of their own favourite evidence, the evidence of a classical historian; and must have been at a loss how to dispose of this fact, when they saw an unbiassed heathen giving his round and unqualified testimony in its fa
Let us now carry the supposition a step farther. Let us conceive that Tacitus not only believed the fact, and gave his testimony to it, but that he believed it so far as to become a Christian. Is his testimony to be refused, because he gives this evidence of its sincerity? Tacitus asserting the fact, and remaining a heathen, is not so strong an argument for the truth of our Saviour's resurrection, as Tacitus asserting the fact and
A direct testimony to the miracles of the New Testament from the mouth of a heathen, is not to be expected. We cannot satisfy this demand of the infidel; but we can give him a host of much stronger testimonies than he is in quest of the testimonies of those men who were heathens, and who embraced a hazardous and a disgraceful profession, under a deep conviction of those facts to which they gave their testimony. "O, but you now land us in the testimony of Christians!" This is very true; but it is the very fact of their being Christians in which the strength of the argument lies: and in each of the numerous fathers of the Christian church, we see a stronger testimony than the required testimony of the heathen Tacitus. We see men who, if they had not been Christians, would have risen to as high an eminence as Tacitus in the literature of the times; and whose direct testimonies to the gospel history would, in that case, have been most impressive, even to the mind of an infidel. And are these testimonies to be less impressive, because they were preceded by conviction, and sealed by martyrdom?
Yet though, from the nature of the case, no direct testimony to the Christian miracles from a heathen can be looked for, there are heathen testimonies which form an important accession to the Christian argument. Such are the testimonies to the state of Judea; the testimonies to those numerous particulars in government and cus toms, which are so often alluded to in the New Testament, and give it the air of an authentic history; and above all, the testimonies to the sufferings of the primitive Christians, from which we learn, through a channel clear of every suspicion, that Christianity, a religion of facts, was the object of persecution at a time, when eye-witnesses taught and eye-witnesses must have bled for it.
The silence of Jewish and heathen wri
the evangelical story.
If we are to look for direct testimonies to the miracles of the New Testament, we must look to that quarter, where alone it would be reasonable to expect them,-to the writings of the Christian fathers, men who were not Jews or heathens at the moment of recording their testimony; but who had been Jews or heathens, and who, in their transition to the ultimate state of Christians, give a stronger evidence of integrity, than if they had believed these miracles, and persisted in a cowardly adhe
ters, when the true interpretation is given impress on every person, who is at the trouto it, is all on the side of the Christian argu-ble of making the comparison, the truth of ment. Even though the miracles of the Gospel had been "believed to be true, it is most unlikely that the enemies of the Christian religion would have given their testimony to them; and the absence of this testimony is no impeachment therefore upon the reality of these miracles. But if the miracles of the Gospel had been believed to be false, it is most likely that this falsehood would have been asserted by the Jews and heathens of that period; and the circumstance of no such assertion having been given, is a strong argument for the reality of these miracles. Their silence in not as-rence to the safest profession. serting the miracles, is perfectly consistent with their truth; but their silence in not denying them, is not at all consistent with their falsehood. The entire silence of Josephus upon the subject of Christianity, though he wrote after the destruction of Jerusalem, and gives us the history of that period in which Christ and his apostles lived, is certainly a very striking circumstance. The sudden progress of Christianity at that time, and the fame of its miracles, (if not the miracles themselves,) form an important part of the Jewish history. How came Josephus to abstain from every particular respecting it? Will you reverse every principle of criticism, and make the silence of Josephus carry it over the positive testimony of the many historical documents which have come down to us? If you refuse every Christian testimony upon the subject, you will not refuse the testimony of Tacitus, who asserts, that this religion spread over Judea, and reached the city of Rome, and was looked upon as an evil of such importance, that it became the object of an authorised persecution by the Roman government; and all this several years before the destruction of Jerusalem, and before Josephus composed his history. Whatever opinion may be formed as to the truth of Christianity, certain it is, that its progress constituted an object of sufficient magnitude, to compel the attention of any historian who undertook the affairs of that period. How then shall we account for the scrupulous and determined exclusion of it from the history of Josephus? Had its miracles been false, this Jewish historian would gladly have exposed them. But its miracles were true, and silence was the only refuge of an antagonist, and his wisest policy.
But though we gather no direct testimony from Josephus, yet his history furnishes us with many satisfying additions to the Christian argument. In the details of policy and manners, he coincides in the main with the writers of the New Testament; and these coincidences are so numerous, and have so undesigned an appearance, as to
We do not undertake to satisfy every demand of the infidel. We think we do enough, if we prove that the thing demanded is most unlikely, even though the miracles should be true; and therefore that the want of it carries no argument against the truth of the miracles. But we do still more than this, if we prove that the testimonies which we actually possess are much stronger than the testimonies he is in quest of. And who can doubt this, when he reflects, that the true way of putting the case between the testimony of the Christian father, which we do have, and the testimony of Tacitus, which we do not have, is that the latter would be an assertion not followed up by that conduct, which would have been the best evidence of its sincerity; whereas the former is an assertion substantiated by the whole life, and by the decisive fact of the old profession having been renounced, and the new profession entered into,-a change where disgrace, and danger, and martyrdom were the consequences?
Let us, therefore, enter into an examination of these testimonies.
This subject has been in part anticipated, when we treated of the authenticity of the books of the New Testament. We have quotations and references to those books from five apostolic fathers, the companions of the original writers. We have their testimonies sustained and extended by their immediate successors; and as we pursued the crowded series of testimonies downwards, they become so numerous, and so explicit, as to leave no doubt on the mind of the inquirers, that the different books of the New Testament are the publications of the authors whose names they bear; and were received by the Christian world, as books of authority, from the first period of their appearance.
Now, every sentence in a Christian father, expressive of respect for a book in the New Testament, is also expressive of his faith in its contents. It is equivalent to his testimony for the miracles recorded in it. In the language of the law, it is an act by which he homologates the record, and superinduces his
own testimony to that of the original writers. It would be vain to attempt speaking of all these testimonies. It cost the assiduous Lardner many years to collect them. They are exhibited in his Credibility of the New Testament; and in the multitude of them, we see a power and a variety of evidence for the Christian miracles, which is quite unequalled in the whole compass of ancient history.
one other narrative of the life and miracles of our Saviour had been composed, and, to give all the value to this additional testimony of which it is susceptible, let us suppose it to be the work of an apostle. By this last circumstance, we secure to its uttermost extent the advantage of an original testimony, the testimony of another eyewitness, and constant companion of our Saviour. Now, we ask, what would have been the fate of this performance? It would have been incorporated into the New Testament along with the other gospels. It may have been the Gospel according to Philip. It may have been the Gospel according to Bartholomew. At all events, the whole amount of the advantage would have been the substitution of five Gospels instead of four, and this addition, the want of which is so much complained of, would scarcely have been felt by the Christian, or acknowledged by the infidel, to strengthen the evidence of which we are already in possession.
But, in addition to these testimonies in the gross, for the truth of the evangelical history, have we no distinct testimonies to the individual facts which compose it? We have no doubt of the fact, that Barnabas was acquainted with the Gospel by Matthew, and that he subscribed to all the information contained in that history. This is a most valuable testimony from a contemporary writer; and a testimony which embraces all the miracles narrated by the evangelist. But, in addition to this, we should like if Barnabas, upon his own personal conviction, could assert the reality of any of these miracles. It would be multiplying the original testimonies; for he was a companion and a fellow-labourer of the apostles. We should have been delighted, if, in the course of our researches into the literature of past times, we had met with an authentic record, written by one of the five hundred, that are said to have seen our Saviour after his resurrection, and adding canonical scriptures. Had this history been his own narrative of this event to the nar-preserved, it would have been transmitted ratives that have already come down to us. to us in a separate state; it would have Now, is any thing of this kind to be met stood out from among that collection of with in ecclesiastical antiquity? How much writings, which passes under the general of this kind of evidence are we in ac- name of the New Testament, and the additual possession of? and if we have not tional evidence thus afforded, would have enough to satisfy our keen appetite for evi- come down in the form most satisfactory to dence on a question of such magnitude, those with whom we are maintaining our how is the want of it to be accounted for? present argument. Yet though, in point of form, the testimony might be more satisfactory; in point of fact it would be less so. It is the testimony of a less competent witness,-a witness who, in the judgment of his contemporaries, wanted those accomplishments which entitled him to a place in the New Testament. There must be some delusion operating upon the understanding, if we think that a circumstance, which renders an historian less accredited in the eyes of his own age, should render him more accredited in the eyes of posterity. Had Mark been kept out of the New Testament, he would have come down to us in that form, which would have made his testimony more impressive to a superficial inquirer; yet there would be no good reason for keeping him out, but precisely that reason which should render his testimony less impressive. We do not complain of this anxiety for more evidence, and as much of it as possible; but it is right to be told, that the evidence we have is of far more value than the evidence demanded,
Let it be observed, then, that of the twenty-seven books which make up the New Testament, five are narrative or historical, viz. the four Gospels, and the Acts of the Apostles, which relate to the life and miracles of our Saviour, and the progress of his religion through the world, for a good many years after his ascension into heaven. All the rest, with the exception of the Revelation of St. John, are doctrinal or admonitory; and their main object is to explain the principles of the new religion, or to impress its duties upon the numerous proselytes who had even at that early period been gained over to the profession of Christianity.
Besides what we have in the New Testament, no other professed narrative of the miracles of Christianity has come down to us, bearing the marks of an authentic composition by any apostle, or any contemporary of the apostles. Now, to those, who regret this circumstance, we beg leave to submit the following observations. Suppose that
But to vary the supposition, let us suppose that the narrative wanted, instead of being the work of an apostle, had been the work of some other contemporary, who writes upon his own original knowledge of the subject, but was not so closely associated with Christ, or his immediate disciples, as to have his history admitted into the