Imatges de pàgina

tionate intercoursethe disciple whom he specially loved, who accompanied him in all his journeyings, followed him into his retirements, stood beneath his cross, and was a constant companion of the other disciples, and a witness of their actions--you will readily grant that John must have possessed all desirable opportunities of knowing, and must actually have known the gospel history so perfectly as to be fully competent to write an accurate account. I shall therefore refrain from any further remarks upon this branch of the argument, and shall pass to the second, in entire confidence that I leave no mind in any reasonable doubt of the adequateness of our his torian's knowledge.

II. The second and the main question to be pursued is this: HAVE WE REASON TO RELY WITH IMPLICIT

HONESTY OF THIS HISTORIAN? Believing him to have known enough to relate the truth, may we also believe that he was too honest to relate any thing but the truth? This is a fair and plain question. Prove the negative, and John's history must be given up. Prove the affirmative, and it is “worthy of all acceptation.” We begin the argument for the affirmative with the history itself. There are certain characteristic marks of historical honesty which can hardly be counterfeited to any extent, and always produce a favorable inipression Take up the history written by St. Jolin. I call your attention to the obvious facts that,

1. Its narrative is in a very high degree circumstantial. A false witness will not need to be cau.



tioned against the introduction of many minute circumstances into his statement. The more he connects it with the particulars of time and place and persons, so as to locate his facts, and bring in living men as associated with them, the more docs he multiply the probabilities of detection. He gives the cross-examination every advantage. It would te impossible for a false statement abounding in such details, and at the same time exciting general interest in the neighborhood where, and soon after they are alleged to have occurred, to escape exposure. Conse. quently, when we take up a narrative thus minutely circumstantiai, and which we are sure did excite among all classes where its events are located, the very highest and most scrutinizing interest, and that too within a short time after the period to which the events are referred, we always feel irnpressed with a strong persuasion that the writer had the consciousness of truth and the fearlessness of honesty. It is evident that he had no disposition, and therefore no cause, to shun the closest investigation. On the other hand, if you take up any books professing to be

, histories of events within the reach and investigation of those among whom they were first published, but yet in a great measure untrue, you will find a great deficiency of such minute details of time, place, and persons, as would serve to test their faithfulness. Compare them with the histories of the Peloponnesian and Gallic wars, by Thucydides and Julius Cæsar, and you will see directly how strong a feature of true narrative, in distinction from whatever is in a great Iegree invented, is a circumstantial detail of minute particulars.

Generality is the cloak of fiction. Minuteness is the natural manner of truth, in proportion to the importance and interest of the subject. Such is the precise manner and continual evidence of the honesty of St. John. His history is full of the most minute circumstances of time, place, and persons. Does he record, for example, the resuscitation of Lazarus ? He tells the name of the village, and describes the particular spot where the event occurred. He gives the names of some of the principal individuals who were present, mentions many unbelieving Jews as eye-witnesses, states the precise object for which they had come to the place, what they did and said, the time the body had been buried, how the sepulchre was constructed and closed, the impression which the event made upon the Jews, how they were divided in opinion in consequence of it, the particular expressions of one of them whose name is given, and the subsequent conduct of the Jews in regard to Lazarus. This, you perceive, is being very circumstantial. It is only a specimen of the general character of St. John's gospel. It looks very much as if the writer were not afraid of any thing the people of Bethany, or the survivors of those who had been present at the tomb of Lazarus, or the children of any of them, might have to say with regard to the resurrection. Now, when you consider that John's history was widely circulated while many were yet living in Bethany, who, had these events never occurred, must have known it, and among a people who in addition w w every facility had every desire to find out the least departure from truth, I think you will acknowledge that the circumstantial character of this book is very strong evidence that the author must have written in the confidence of truth.

2. Another striking evidence to the same point is seen in this, that the author exhibits no conscious. ness of narrating any thing about which, as a matter of notorious fact, there was the smallest doubt He takes no pains, evinces no thought of attempting to convince his reader of the truth of what he relates. On the contrary, the whole narrative is conducted with the manner and aspect of one who takes for granted the entire notoriety of his statements. He comes before the public as one familiarly known, needing no account of himself or of his pretensions to universal confidence. He goes straight forward with his story, delivering the least and the most wonderful relations in the same simple and unembarrassed manner of ease and confidence, which nothing but an assurance of unimpeachable consistency can explain. Nothing is said to account for what might seem inexplicable—to defend what would probably be cavilled at—to anticipate objections which one feeling himself on questionable ground would naturally look for. The writer seems to be conscious, that with regard to those for whom especially he wrote, all this were needless. He is willing to commit his simple statement alone, undefended, unvarnished, into the hands of friend or foe.


Nothing is more remarkable in this connection, than that while he could not have been ignorant that te was relating many very extraordinary and wonlorful events, he shows no wonder in his own mind, and seems to expect no wonder among his readers. This looks exceedingly like one who writes, not of extraordinary events just contrived in his own imagination, but of extraordinary events which, whatever the wonder they excited when first known, are now perfectly familiar not only to himself, but to his read

it is one thing to relate a series of astonishing occurrences which we feel are perfectly new to the readers, and a very different thing to relate the same to those who have long since been familiarly acquainted with their prominent particulars, and desire only a more circumstantial and confidential account. In the former case, the writer would naturally and almost necessarily betray in his style and the whole texture of his statement an expectation of the wonder and probable incredulity of his readers. In the latter, he would deliver his narrative as if he were thinking only of an accurate detail of truth, without particular reference to whether it were astonishing or the contrary. Thus it is with St. John. There is no appearance of his having felt as if any of his gospel would be new, or would excite any new emotions of 'wonder in his readers. The marvellous works of Christ were at that time notorious. When first hearel of, they excited universal astonishment. “His fame went abroad, and all the people were amazed.” But so much time had now elapsed, that emotions of

« AnteriorContinua »