Imatges de pÓgina
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have hazarded to assert what was so open to contradiction, as the existence of books held in reverence among all the churches, and which yet nobody either in or out of these churches ever heard of. They would never have been so unwise as to commit in this way a cause, which had not a single circumstance to recommend it but its truth and its evidences.

41. The falsehood of the Christian testimony on this point, carries along with it a concurrence of circumstances, each of which is the strangest and most unprecedented that ever was heard of. First, That men, who sustained in their writings all the characters of sincerity, and many of whom submitted to martyrdom, as the highest pledge of sincerity which can possibly be given, should have been capable of falsehood at all.. Second, That this tendency to falsehood should have have been exercised so unwisely, as to appear in an assertion perfectly open to detection, and which could be so readily converted to the discredit of that religion, which it was the favourite ambition of their lives to promote and establish in the world. Third, That this testimony could have gained the concurrence of the people to whom it was addressed, and that, with their eyes perfectly open to its falsehood, they should be ready to make the sacrifice of life and of fortune in supporting it. Fourth, That this testimony should never have been contradicted by the Jews, and that they should have neglected so effectual an opportunity of disgracing a religion, the progress of which they contemplated with so much jealousy and alarm. Add to this, that it is not ihe testimony of one writer, which we are making to pass through the ordeal of so many difficulties. It is the testimony of many writers, who lived at different times, and in different countries, and who add the very singular circumstance of their entire agreement with one another, to the other circumstances equally unaccountable, which we have just now enumerated. The falsehood of their united testimony is not to be conceived. It is a supposition which we are warranted to condemn, upon the strength of any one of the above improbabilities taken separately. But the fair way of estimating their effect upon the argument, is to take them jointly, and, in the language of the doctrine of chances, to take the product of all the improbabilities into one another. The argument which this product furnishes for the trath of the Christian testimony, has, in strength and conclusiveness, no parallel in the whole compass of ancient lit

erature.

42. The testimony of Celsus is looked upon as peculiarly valuable, because it is disinterested. But if this consideration gives so much weight to the testimony of Celsus, why should so much doubt and suspicion annex to the testimony of Christian writers, several of whom, before his time, have given a fuller and more express testimony to the authenticity of the gospels ? In the persecutions they sustained ; in the obvious tone of sincerity and honesty which runs through their writings; in their general agreement upon this subject; in the multitude of their followers, who never could have confided in men that ventured to commit themselves, by the assertion of what was obviously and notoriously false; in the check which the vigilance, both of Jews and Heathens exercised over every Christian writer of that period ; in all these circumstances, they give every evidence of having delivered a fair and unpolluted testimony.

43. II. We shall now look into the New Testament itself, and endeavour to lay before the reader the internal marks of truth and honesty, which are to be found in it.

44. Under this head, it may be right to insist upon the minute accuracy, which runs through all its allusions to the existing manners and circumstances of the times. To appreciate the force of this argument, it would be right to attend to the peculiar situation of Judea, at the time of our Saviour. It was then under the dominion of the Roman emperors, and comes frequently under the notice of the profane historians of that period. From this source we derive a great variety of information, as to the manner in which the emperors conducted the government of their different provinces ; what degree of indulgence was allowed to the religious opinions of the people, whom they held in subjection; in how far they were suffered to live under the administration of their own laws; the power which was vested in the presidents of provinces, and a number of other circumstances relative to the criminal and civil jurisprudence of that period. In this way there is a great number of different points in which the historians of the New Testament can be brought into comparison with the secular historians of the age. The history of Christ and his apostles contains innumerable references to the state of public affairs. It is not the history of obscure and unnoticed individuals. They had attracted much of the public

attention. They had been before the governors of the country. They had passed through the established forms of justice ; and some of them underwent the trial and punishment of the times. It is easy to perceive, then, that the New Testament writers were led to allude to a number of these circumstances in the political history and constitution of the times, which came under the cognizance of ordinary historians. This was delicate ground for an inventor to tread upon; and particularly, if he lived at an age subsequent to the time of his history. He might in this case have fabricated a tale, by confining himself to the obscure and familiar incidents of private history; but it is only for a true and a cotemporary historian, to sustain a continued accuracy, through his minute and numerous allusions to the public policy and government of the times.

(To be continued.)

EXTRACT FROM BEATTIE'S ESSAY ON TRUTH.

Fatalists are fond of inferring moral necessity from physical, in the way of analogy. But some of their arguments on this topic are most ridiculously absurd. “ There is," says Voltaire's Ignorant Philosopher, “nothing without a cause. An effect without a cause, are words without meaning. Every time I have a will, this can only be in consequence of my judgment good or bad; this judgment is necessary; therefore so is my will.” All this hath been said by others : but what follows, is, I believe, peculiar to the Ignorant Philosopher. “In effect,” continues he, "it would be very singular, that all nature, all the planets, should obey eternal laws, and that there should be a little animal, five feet high, who, in contempt of these laws, could act as he pleased, solely, according to his caprice.” Singular! aye, singular indeed. So very singular, that yours, Sir, if I mistake not, is the first human brain that conceived such a notion. If man be free, no body ever conceived, that he made himself so in contempt of the laws of nature ; it is in consequence of a law of nature, that he is a free agent. But passing this, let us attend to the reasoning. The planets are not free agents ;-therefore it would be very singular that man should be one. Not a whit more singular, than that this same animal of five feet should perceive,

Vol. I,

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and think, and read, and write, and speak; attributes, which no astronomer of my acquaintance has ever supposed to belong to the planets, notwithstanding their brilliant appearance, and stupendous magnitude. We do too much honour to such reasoning, when we reply to it in the bold, but sublime words of a great genius :

“Know'st thou th' importance of a soul immortal ?.
Behold this midnight glory, worlds on worlds !
Amazing pomp! redouble this amaze ;
Ten thousand add : and twice ten thousand more;
Then weigh the whole ; One Soul outweighs them all,
And calls th' astonishing magnificence
Of unintelligent creation, poor.”

Some fatalists deny, that our internal feelings are in favour of moral liberty.. “ It is true," says a worthy and ingenious author, " that a man by internal feeling, may prove his own free will, if by free-will be meant the power of doing what a man wills or desires ; or of resisting the motives of sensuality, ambition, &c. that is free-will in a popular sense. Every person may easily recollect instances, where he has done these several things. But these are entirely foreign to the present question. To prove that a man has free-will in the sense opposite to mechanism, he ought to feel that he can do different things, while the motives remain exactly the same. And here I apprehend the internal feelings are entirely against free-will, where the motives are of a sufficient magnitude to be evident : where they are not, nothing can be proved.” (Hartley.) Questions of this kind would be more easily solved, if authors would explain their doctrine by examples. When this is not done, we cannot always be sure that we understand their meaning, especially in abstract subjects; where language, after all our care, is often equivocal and inadequate. If I rightly understand this author, and am allowed to examine his principles hy my own experience, I must conclude that he very much mistakes the fact. Let us take an example. A man is tempted to the commission of a crime : his motive to commit it, is the love of money, or the gratification of appetite : his motive to abstain, is a regard to duty or to reputation. Suppose him to weigh these motives in his mind, for an hour, a day, or a week : and suppo:c, that during this space, no additional consideration

occurs to him on either side: which, I think, may be supposed, because I know it is possible, and I believe often happens.While his mind is in this state, the motives remain precisely the same ; and yet it is to me inconceivable, that he should at any time, during this space, feel himself under a necessity of committing, or under a necessity of not committing the crime. He is indeed under a necessity either to do or not to do: but every man in such a case, feels that he has it in his power to choose the one or the other.

Again : suppose two men in the circumstances above-mentioned, to yield to the temptation, and to be differently affected by a review of their conduct; the one repining at fortune, or fate, or providence, for having placed him in too tempting a situation, and solicited him by motives too powerful to be resisted ; the other blaming and upbraiding himself for yielding to the bad motive, and resisting the good. I would ask, which of these two kinds of remorse or regret is the most rational ? The first, according to the doctrine of the fatalists; the last, according to the universal opinion of mankind. No divine, no moralist, no man of sense, ever supposes true penitence to begin, till the criminal becomes conscious, that he has done or neglected something which he ought not to have done or neglected ; a sentiment which would be not only absurd, but impossible, if all criminals and guilty persons believed, from internal feeling, that what is done could not have been prevented. Whenever you can satisfy a man of this, he may continue to bewail himself, or repine at fortune, but his repentance is at an end. It is always a part of the language of remorse, “ I wish the deed had never been done : wretch that I was, not to resist the temptation." Does this imply, that the penitent supposes himself to have been under a necessity of committing the action, and that his conduct could not possibly have been different from what it is ? To me, it seems to imply just the contrary. And am not I a competent judge of this matter ? Has not this been often the language of my soul ? And will any man pretend to say, that I do not understand my own thoughts, or that he knows them better than I! All men, indeed, haye but too frcquent experience of at least this part of repentante; then why multiply words, when by facts it is easy to determine the controversy?

I have conversed with many people of sense on the subject of this controversy, concerning liberty and necessity. To the great

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