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that to question the truth of the supernatural works which are recorded in the Gospels, especially the visible resurrection of Jesus, was tantamount to an entire repudiation of those writings as credible documents. He would not admit a plea that they might have been honestly mistaken; but assumed that, if Christ did not arise from the dead and appear, as they record that he did, they must be false witnesses. Then, placing himself in the attitude of an inquirer, he asked, "What, shall we not receive from them what they have said that is true ?" To which question, he replied "No, not from them. We will apply for truth to better authority than false witnesses."*
Without endeavoring to show whether this syllogistic process of reasoning is logically correct or faulty, let us apply the rule it involves to the subject of the credibility of those from whom we have received the evangelical writings, and whom we suppose to have obtained possession of the original manuscripts; viz. the Christian believers in the second century. We have adduced the testimony of Rev. Dr. Ballou, (which is founded upon high ecclesiastic authority) to show that the best of them were superstitious and would lie. Do you exclaim,
Rev. S. Cobb, in a Dedication Sermon preached in Beverly, June 16th, 1846, and since published in pamphlet-form.
Whether Mr. Cobb believes that all mankind are to be raised bodily, or not, I am unable to say. But in the discourse referred to in this note, he says that Jesus taught his disciples "to regard and to preach his resurrection as a sumple and proof of a future life for our race." Mr. C. does not, however, discuss the question whether Jesus manifested himself to his disciples in a spiritual body, or one of flesh and blood. He only contends (in the sermon here referred to, at least) for a bona fide, personal manifestation.
"What, shall we not receive from them what they have said that is true?" If I reasoned as do some I wot of, I should reply by saying, "No, not from them. We will apply for truth" concerning the genuineness of the New Testament writings "to better authority than" those who considered it right to "lie for the truth," and who "forged books" and "propagated" false stories of "frequent miracles"!
But to whom else, or whom more veracious, can we apply? The reputed evangelical scriptures, in coming down to us, passed through their hands.
MANY OF THE BIBLE WRITINGS DO NOT CLAIM TO BE DIVINELY INSPIRED.
This is especially the case with some of the historical books of the Old Testament. Not the remotest claim to anything like divine illumination, as that subject is commonly understood, is put forth by their authors. The same is true, also, of the poetic books-Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon; and of the Gospels bearing the names of Mark and Luke, and the book of Acts, as well as some of the Epistles. Yet we are required to accept these as canonical; and to doubt the accuracy of the narratives which some of them contain, is by many pronounced rank Infidelity.
Some, however, who believe in supernaturalism, and who regard Moses as miraculously endowed, are free to acknowledge that several of the other reputed authors of the Old Testament do not claim to have been super
humanly directed. The following is the frank admission of the learned Dr. Palfrey, a distinguished Unitarian, formerly Pastor of the Brattle-street Church in Boston, late Professor in Harvard College, and now State Secretary in Massachusetts:
"Upon evidence which satisfies my mind, I recognize Moses as a teacher supernaturally instructed, and empowered to prove his divine mission by miraculous works; while I do not find proof that the other Hebrew writers had either received, or pretended to have received, supernatural communications or endowments of any kind."*
The Doctor thinks it would be as improper to place the books of Kings, for instance, by the side of the Pentateuch, as respects the inspiration of the author, as to reckon the works of the Christian Fathers equally divine and authoritative with the Acts of the Apostles. The books of Kings, it will be remembered, contain the history of the marvellous exploits of Elijah and Elisha.
SOME EVENTS RECORDED IN THE BIBLE, WHICH ARE COMMONLY SUPPOSED TO HAVE BEEN MIRACULOUS, MAY BE ACCOUNTED FOR ON NATURAL PRINCIPLES.
Several of the narratives of apparently miraculous occurrences, do not, after all, necessarily imply the intervention of supernatural agency. This fact I will endeavor to illustrate, with regard to some of them,
* Preface to vol. ii. "Academical Lectures on Jewish Scriptures and Antiquities. By John Gorham Palfrey, D. D., LL. D."
by the citation of geographic testimony and learned criticism.
Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Death of Lot's Wife.
These incidents are thus briefly detailed: "The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zoar. Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt."*
The commonly prevalent supposition is that these events were supernatural. When a small boy, I was taught that Lot's wife was miraculously metamorphorsed into a column of salt. I supposed that the elements of her body were all completely changed. But fair criticism entirely dissipates this whimsical idea. I believe that the raining of "brimstone and fire upon Sodom from the Lord out of heaven," was nothing more than a perfectly natural occurrence. It may have been lightning, which perhaps struck and ignited the ground, which was exceedingly bituminous and therefore quickly set on fire;-or possibly it was all the result of a natural eruption. As for the statement that the Lord sent this destruction as an especial judgment upon the people for their wickedness, I do not believe it. The representa
* Genesis, xix. 23-26. Ibid, chap. xviii.
tion is altogether degrading to the character of the Deity. But perhaps the ignorant semi-barbarians of that time supposed it to have been the especial and vindictive work of God. Whatever may be the truth on this point, the awful occurrence did not prove morally restraining to those whose lives were spared; for they soon after committed a crime as filthy as any of those for which we are told the inhabitants of the doomed cities were destroyed.* The idea that God overwhelmed them for the express reasons stated, coming down beforehand, and talking about it, very familiarly,† and yet saved the lecherous daughters of Lot, is to me exceedingly ridiculous and very abhorrent.
Even those who have considered this event as a veritable manifestation of God's displeasure, have in some instances argued that the means by which it was effected were purely natural.
Different opinions have been expressed in regard to the meaning of the statement that Lot's wife "became a pillar of salt." One writer, though he does not himself favor the supposition, tells us that "some modern interpreters are of opinion that the saline statue, here mentioned, was a monument erected by posterity to the memory of Lot's wife."
The following observations are from the pen of Dr. Priestly:
*See Gen. xix. 30-36. Ibid, xviii. 20-33.
Dr Alexander Geddes' "Critical Remarks on the Hebrew Scriptures," vol. i. p. 101.