« AnteriorContinua »
regret that so little comparatively of it has been published.
Michaelis died the 22d of August 1791, aged 74 years. Germany seems to be ashamed that she has done so little for the memory of a man to whose vast learning and genius she owes, in conjunction with Europe, the most powerful arguments in favour of Christianity. His leading character was the love of truth; and, although parsimonious in money matters, he was charitable upon principle. It was a fine thing, said a subsequent writer, to see Michaelis enter the lecture room, the bible under his arm, booted and spurred, with his sword by his side and his order on his breast, and fix the attention of a delighted and crowded audience by the charms of his delivery, the felicity of his language, and the originality and efficiency of his information.
Heyne and Eichhorn, names well known to scholars, both wrote and spoke his eulogy in the society of which he was so long director. The Latin of Heyne is peculiarly elegant. There is here no necessity to recount the numerous and important works which will gradually exalt the fame of Michaelis. He was twice married. His son, Christian Frederick, who died at Marburg in 1814, was high in rank as an army physician, and equally so as a man of character, and distinguished professional attainments.
When I first read Bishop Marsh's Translation of the Introduction to the New Testament by Michaelis, I regretted that so much learning and such genuine criticism should not be more accessible to the generality of readers ; and remembering what Pascal says in his Provincial Letters, that his first object was to make them easy and popular, reserving the more abstruse parts for the end of his works, I have endeavoured to give to a subject, in which every one is equally and eternally interested, the advantages of familiarity and clearness. Of the Oriental languages I am unfortunately ignorant. To my competency in the Greek, Latin, and German, those who know me will bear witness; and if the following faithful, but imperfect translation, shall excite or confirm in any one a lively faith in the divinity and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I shall have been amply rewarded.
BURIAL AND RESURRECTION
I must first acquaint my readers with the origin of the present treatise. No part of the history of Christ has created such difficulties, as that which relates to the Resurrection. Many of these have been obviated by commentators, but many still remained to excite curiosity or doubt. I admit, that there is no part of evangelical history which, upon the whole, is so little satisfactory. One reason, perhaps, may be, that what we ourselves steadfastly believe, we conclude others will believe with equal readiness : another reason is, that, in examining the question, too little attention has been paid to the circumstances, whether eye-witnesses and
apostles spoke, as in the gospels of Matthew and of John, or whether Mark and Luke, who were not so, were the narrators : and thirdly, whether the last eight verses of Mark are to be considered as undoubtedly genuine. Clergymen, whose profession leads them to preach upon given subjects, frequently take things for granted ; and unbelievers seeing, as they fancy, the weak side of the question, attack them upon points, upon which the majority are unprepared. When I first lectured upon the Christian religion, I so implicitly followed my predecessor, that it was a considerable time, before these doubts operated with such force upon my mind, as to induce me seriously to discuss, and to endeavour if I could to remove, them. The resurrection of Christ is the corner-stone of Christianity; the apostles made it the foundation of their faith, and with reason, for a dead man, publicly crucified, coming again to life, cannot be an imposition, which it is possible to practise successfully. Any apparent contradictions, however, in the writings of the four evangelists are to me no argument against the truth of Christianity. They are an argument only against the divine inspiration of the evangelists, and reduce the question at once to the standard of credible history;
and in fact, where is the history told by distinct persons, in which, however true the basis, the details are not tinged with variations. For myself, I have always believed the history, independent of the narration of even the three first evangelists; I have already shown in my “ Introduction to the New Testament,” that the truth of Christianity does not depend upon the fact of the divine inspiration of its penmen, and that he, who wishes to convince another of its truth, must begin by considering the four evangelists as human beings, who wrote with all the conviction and sincerity of faith, but with all the fallibility of men. Time, however, and investigation gradually diminished the number of my doubts, and I felt convinced that the adoption of this principle, as applying equally to sacred and profane historians, would eventually and entirely remove them. Any apparent contradiction between Luke and Mark, especially in the last eight verses of the latter, gave me little uneasiness. Assuming even that the deficiency of our religious history had left the great question of the resurrection doubtful, and to those who lived in the first century it was not doubtful, still I had the miracles of Christ, which even the Jews admitted, the mi