Imatges de pÓgina
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of a hundred years betwixt the publication | Jesus Christ. Besides many references of of the original story and the publication of the second and third kind, we have also Celsus, is filled up by antecedent testimonies, other instances of the same kind of testimony which, in all fairness, should be counted which Clement gave to St. Paul's first Epismore decisive of the point in question. They tle to the Corinthians, than which nothing are the testimonies of Christian writers, and, can be conceived more indisputable. Ignain as far as a nearer opportunity of obtain- tius, writing to the church of Ephesus, takes ing correct information is concerned, they notice of St. Paul's epistle to that church; should be held more valuable than the tes- and Polycarp, an immediate disciple of the timony of Celsus. These references are of apostles, makes the same express reference three kinds:-First, In some cases, their re- to St. Paul's epistle to the Philippians in a ference to the books of the New Testament letter addressed to the people. In carrying is made in the form of an express quotation, our attention down from the apostolical and the author particularly named. Second- fathers, we follow an uninterrupted series ly, In other cases, the quotation is made of testimonies to the authenticity of the cawithout reference to the particular author, nonical scriptures. They get more numerand ushered in by the general words, "as ous and circumstantial as we proceed-a it is written." And, Thirdly, There are thing to be expected from the progress of innumerable allusions to the different parts Christianity, and the greater multitude of of the New Testament, scattered over all the writers, who came forward in its defence writings of the earlier fathers. In this last and illustration. case there is no express citation; but we have the sentiment, the turn of expression, the very words of the New Testament, repeated so often, and by such a number of different writers, as to leave no doubt upon the mind that they were copied from one common original, which was at that period held in high reverence and estimation. In pursuing the train of references, we do not meet with a single chasm from the days of the original common excellence for thought and style, writers. Not to repeat what we have al- in the writers of all characters for several ready made some allusion to, the testimo-ages:"

In pursuing the series of writers from the days of the apostles down to about 150 years after the publication of the pieces which make up the New Testament, we come to Tertullian, of whom Lardner says, "that there are perhaps more and longer quotations of the small volume of the New Tes tament in this one Christian author, than of all the works of Cicero, though of so un

nies of the original writers to one another, We feel ourselves exposed, in this part of we proceed to assert, that some of the fathers our investigation, to the suspicion which adwhose writings have come down to us, heres to every Christian testimony. We were the companions of the apostles, and have already made some attempts to anaare even named in the books of the Newlyse that suspicion into its ingredients, and Testament. St. Clement, bishop of Rome, we conceive, that the circumstance of the is, with the concurrence of all ancient au- Christians being an interested party, is only thors, the same whom Paul mentions in his one, and not perhaps the principal of these epistle to the Philippians. In his epistle to ingredients. At all events, this may be the the church of Corinth, which was written in proper place for disposing of that one inthe name of the whole church of Rome, he gredient, and for offering a few general obrefers to the first epistle of Paul to the former servations on the strength of the Christian church. "Take into your hands the epistle testimony. of the blessed Paul the apostle." He then makes a quotation, which is to be found in Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians. Could Clement have done this to the Corinthians themselves, had no such epistle been in existence? And is not this an undoubted testimony, not merely from the mouth of Clement, but on the part of the churches both of Rome and Corinth, to the authenticity of such an epistle? There are in this same epistle of Clement several quotations of the second kind, which confirm the existence of some other books of the New Testament; and a multitude of allusions or references of the third kind, to the writings of the evangelists, the Acts of the Apostles, and a great many of those epistles which have been admitted into the New Testament. We have similar testimonies from some more of the fathers, who lived and conversed with

In estimating the value of any testimony, there are two distinct objects of consideration; the person who gives the testimony, and the people to whom the testimony is addressed. It is quite needless to enlarge on the resources which, in the present instance, we derive from both these considerations, and how much each of them contributes to the triumph and solidity of the Christian argument. In as far as the people who give the testimony are concerned, how could they be mistaken in their account of the New Testament, when some of them lived in the same age with the original writers, and were their intimate acquaintances, and when all of them had the benefit of an uncontrolled series of evidence, reaching down from the date of the earliest publications to their own times? Or, how can we suspect that they falsified, when there runs

through their writings the same tone of plainness and sincerity, which is allowed to stamp the character of authenticity on other productions; and, above all, when, upon the strength even of heathen testimony, we conclude that many of them, by their sufferings and death, gave the highest evidence that man can give, of his speaking under the influence of a real and honest conviction? In as far as the people who received the testimony are concerned, to what other circumstances can we ascribe their concurrence, than to the truth of that testimony? In what way was it possible to deceive them upon a point of general notoriety? The books of the New Testament are referred to by the ancient fathers, as writings generally known and respected by the Christians of that period. If they were obscure writings, or had no existence at the time, how can we account for the credit and authority of those fathers who appealed to them, and had the effrontery to insult their fellow Christians by a falsehood so palpable, and so easily detected? Allow them to be capable of this treachery, we have still to explain, how the people came to be the dupes of so glaring an imposition; how they could be persuaded to give up every thing for a religion, whose teachers were so unprincipled as to deceive them, and so unwise as to commit themselves upon ground where it was impossible to elude discovery. Could Clement have dared to refer the peoof Corinth to an Epistle said to be received by themselves, and which had no existence? or could he have referred the Christians at large to writings which they never heard of. And it was not enough to maintain the semblance of truth with the people of their own party.

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.

Where were the Jews all the time? and how was it possible to escape the correction of these keen and vigilant observers? We mistake the matter much, if we think that Christianity at that time was making its insidious way in silence and in secrecy, through a listless and unconcerned public. All history gives an opposite representation. The passions and curiosity of men were quite upon the alert. The popular enthusiasm had been excited on both sides of the question. It had drawn the attention of established authorities in different provinces of the empire, and the merits of the Christian cause had become a matter of frequent and formal discussion in courts of judicature. If, in these circumstances, the Christian writers had the hardihood to venture upon a falsehood, it would have been upon safer ground than what they actually adopted. They would never have hazarded to assert what was so open to contradiction, as the existence of books held in reverence among all the churches, and which nobody either in or out of these churches ever heard of.

The falsehood of the Christian testimony on this point, would carry 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 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 the 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 agree ment 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 truth of the Christian testimony, has, in strength and conclusiveness, no parallel in the whole compass of ancient literature. 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

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through their writings; in their general check which the vigilance, both of Jews agreement upon this subject; in the multi- and Heathens, exercised over every Christude of their followers, who never could tian writer of that period,-in all these have confided in men that ventured to com- circumstances, they give every evidence of mit, themselves, by the assertion of what having delivered a fair and unpolluted testiwas obviously and notoriously false; in the mony.


On the internal Marks of Truth and Honesty to be found in the New Testament.

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.

and a contemporary historian to sustain a continued accuracy, through his minutė and numerous allusions to the public policy and government of the times.

Under this head, it may be right to in- Within the period of the Gospel history, sist upon the minute accuracy, which runs Judea experienced a good many vicissitudes through all its allusions to the existing in the state of its government. At one time manners and circumstances of the times. it formed part of a kingdom under Herod To appreciate the force of this argument, it the Great. At another, it formed part of would be right to attend to the peculiar sit- a smaller government under Archelaus. uation of Judea, at the time of our Saviour. It after this came under the direct adIt was then under the dominion of the Ro- ministration of a Roman governor; which man emperors, and comes frequently under form was again interrupted for several the notice of the profane historians of that years, by the elevation of Herod Agrippa to period. From this source we derive a great the sovereign power, as exercised by his variety of information, as to the manner in grandfather; and it is at last left in the form which the emperors conducted the govern-of a province at the conclusion of the evanment of their different provinces; what gelical history. There were also frequent degree of indulgence was allowed to the changes in the political state of the counreligious opinions of the people whom they tries adjacent to Judea, and which are often held in subjection; in how far they were alluded to in the New Testament. A casuffered to live under the administration of price of the reigning emperor often gave their own laws; the power which was vest-rise to a new form of government, and a ed in the presidents of provinces; and a new distribution of territory. It will be number of other circumstances relative to readily conceived, how much these perpetthe criminal and civil jurisprudence of that ual fluctuations in the state of public affairs, period. In this way, there is a great num- both in Judea and its neighbourhood, must ber of different points in which the histori- add to the power and difficulty of that orans of the New Testament can be brought deal to which the Gospel history has been into comparison with the secular historians subjected. of the age. The history of Christ and his On this part of the subject, there is no want apostles contains innumerable references to of witnesses with whom to confront the writhe state of public affairs. It is not the his-ters of the New Testament. In addition to the tory of obscure and unnoticed individuals. Roman writers who have touched upon the They had attracted much of the public at- affairs of Judea, we have the benefit of a Jewtention. They had been before the govern-ish historian, who has given us a professed ors of the country. They had passed through history of his own country. From him, as was the established forms of justice; and some to be expected, we have a far greater quanof them underwent the trial and punishment tity of copious and detailed narrative, relaof the times. It is easy to perceive, then, tive to the internal affairs of Judea, to the that the New Testament writers were led to manners of the people, and those particuallude to a number of these circumstances lars which are connected with their religious. in the political history and constitution of belief, and ecclesiastical constitution. With the times, which came under the cognizance many, it will be supposed to add to the of ordinary historians. This was delicate value of his testimony, that he was not a ground for an inventor to tread upon; and Christian; but that, on the other hand, we particularly, if he lived at an age subsequent have every reason to believe him to have to the time of his history. He might in this been a most zealous and determined enemy case have fabricated a tale, by confining to the cause. It is really a most useful exhimself to the obscure and familiar incidents ercise, to pursue the harmony which subof private history; but it is only for a true sists between the writers of the New Testa

ment, and those Jewish and profane authors, I minute, that varied, that intimate acquaintwith whom we bring them into comparison.ance with the statistics of a nation no longer Throughout the whole examination, our at-in existence, which is evinced in every page tention is confined to forms of justice; suc-of the evangelical writers. We find, in point cessions of governors in different provinces; of fact, that both the Heathen and Christian manners, and political institutions. We are writers of subsequent ages do often betray therefore apt to forget the sacredness of the their ignorance of the particular customs subject; and we appeal to all, who have which obtained in Judea during the time of prosecuted this inquiry, if this circumstance our Saviour. And it must be esteemed a is not favourable to their having a closer strong circumstance in favour of the antiand more decided impression of the truth quity of the New Testament, that on a subof the Gospel history. By instituting a ject, in which the chances of detection are comparison between the evangelists and con- so numerous, and where we can scarcely temporary authors, and restricting our at-advance a single step in the narrative, withtention to those points which come under out the possibility of betraying our time by the cognizance of ordinary history, we put some mistaken allusion, it stands distinthe apostles and evangelists on the footing guished from every later composition; in of ordinary historians; and it is for those, being able to bear the most minute and inwho have actually undergone the labour of timate comparison with the contemporary this examination, to tell how much this cir-historians of that period. cumstance adds to the impression of their authenticity. The mind gets emancipated from the peculiar delusion which attaches to the sacredness of the subject, and which has the undoubted effect of restraining the confidence of its inquiries. The argument assumes a secular complexion, and the writers of the New Testament are restored to that credit, with which the reader delivers himself up to any other historian, who has a much less weight and quantity of historical evidence in his favour.

The argument derives great additional strength, from viewing the New Testament, not as one single performance, but as a collection of several performances. It is the work of no less than eight different authors, who wrote without any appearance of concert, who published in different parts of the world, and whose writings possess every evidence, both internal and external, of being independent productions. Had only one author exhibited the same minute accuracy of allusion, it would have been es

We refer those readers who wish to pro-teemed a very strong evidence of his antisecute this inquiry, to the first volume of Lardner's Credibility of the Gospels. We shall restrict ourselves to a few general observations on the nature and precise effect of the argument.

quity. But when we see so many authors exhibiting such a well-sustained and almost unexpected accuracy through the whole of their varied and distinct narratives, it seems difficult to avoid the conclusion, that they were either the eye-witnesses of their own history, or lived about the period of its accomplishment.

In the first place, the accuracy of the numerous allusions to the circumstances of that period, which the Gospel history embraces, forms a strong corroboration of that When different historians undertake the antiquity, which we have already assigned affairs of the same period, they either deto its writers from external testimony. It rive their information from one another, or amounts to a proof, that it is the production proceed upon distinct and independent inof authors who lived antecedent to the de-formation of their own. Now, it is not difstruction of Jerusalem, and consequently ficult to distinguish the copyist from the about the time that is ascribed to them by original historian. There is something in all the external testimony which has already the very style and manner of an original been insisted upon. It is that accuracy, narrative, which announces its pretensions. which could only be maintained by a con- It is not possible that any one event, or any temporary historian. It would be difficult, series of events, should make such a similar even for the author of some general specu-impression upon two witnesses, as to dislation, not to betray his time by some occa-pose them to relate it in the same language, sional allusion to the ephemeral customs to describe it in the same order, to form the and institutions of the period in which he same estimate as to the circumstances which wrote. But the authors of the New Testa- should be noticed as important, and those ment run a much greater risk. There are other circumstances which should be supfive different pieces of that collection which pressed as immaterial. Each witness tells are purely historical, and where there is a the thing in his own way, makes use of his continued reference to the characters, and own language, and brings forward circumpolitics, and passing events of the day. The stances which the other might omit altodestruction of Jerusalem swept away the gether, as not essential to the purpose of whole fabric of Jewish polity; and it is not his narrative. It is this agreement in the to be conceived, that the memory of a fu- facts, with this variety in the manner of ture generation could have retained that describing them, that never fails to impress

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upon the inquirer that additional conviction | ry, than when employed to distinguish bro-
which arises from the concurrence of sepa-thers who have one name the same. The
rate and independent testimonies. Now, Herod who is called Philip, is just as likely
this is precisely that kind of coincidence a distinction, as Simon who is called Peter,
which subsists between the New Testament or Saul who is called Paul. The name of
writers and Josephus, in their allusions to the high priest, at the time of our Saviour's
the peculiar customs and institutions of that crucifixion, was Caiaphas, according to the
age. Each party maintains the style of evangelists. According to Josephus, the
original and independent historians. The name of the high priest at that period was
one often omits altogether, or makes only a Joseph. This would have been precisely a
slight and distant allusion to what occupies difficulty of the same kind, had not Jose-
a prominent part in the composition of the phus happened to mention, that this Joseph
other. There is not the slightest vestige of was also called Caiaphas. Would it have
any thing like a studied coincidence between been dealing fairly with the evangelists, we
them. There is variety, but no opposition; ask, to have made their credibility depend
and it says much for the authenticity of upon the accidental omission of another
both histories, that the most scrupulous and historian? Is it consistent with. any ac-
attentive criticism can scarcely detect a sin- knowledged principle of sound criticism, to
gle example of an apparent contradiction in bring four writers so entirely under the tri-
the testimony of these different authors, bunal of Josephus, each of whom stands as
which does not admit of a likely, or at least firmly supported by all the evidences which
a plausible reconciliation.
can give authority to a historian; and who
have greatly the advantage of him in this,
that they can add the argument of their
concurrence to the argument of each sep-
arate and independent testimony? It so
happens, however, in the present instance,
that even Jewish writers, in their narrative
of the same circumstance, give the name
of Philip to the first husband of Herodias.
We by no means conceive, that any foreign
testimony was necessary for the vindication
of the evangelists. Still, however, it must
go far to dissipate every suspicion of artifice
in the construction of their histories. It
proves, that in the confidence with which
they delivered themselves up to their own
information, they neglected appearance, and
felt themselves independent of it. This ap-
parent difficulty, like many others of the
same kind, lands us in a stronger confirma-
tion of the honesty of the evangelists; and
it is delightful to perceive, how truth re-

When the difference between two historians is carried to the length of a contra-‍ diction, it enfeebles the credit of both their testimonies. When the agreement is carried to the length of a close and scrupulous resemblance in every particular, it destroys the credit of one of the parties as an independent historian. In the case before us, we neither perceive this difference, nor this agreement. Such are the variations, that, at first sight, the reader is alarmed with the appearance of very serious and embarrassing difficulties. And such is the actual coincidence, that the difficulties vanish when we apply to them the labours of a profound and intelligent criticism. Had it been the object of the Gospel writers to trick out a plausible imposition on the credulity of the world, they would have studied a closer resemblance to the existing authorities of that period; nor would they have laid themselves open to the superficial brilliancy of Vol-ceives a fuller accession to its splendour, taire, which dazzles every imagination, and from the attempts which are made to dis reposed their vindication with the Lelands grace and to darken it. and Lardners of a distant posterity, whose sober erudition is so little attended to, and which so few know how to appreciate.

In the Gospels, we are told that Herod the Tetrarch of Galilee, married his brother Philip's wife. In Josephus we have the same story; only he gives a different name to Philip, and calls him Herod; and what adds to the difficulty, there was a Philip of that family, whom we know not to have been the first husband of Herodias. This is at first sight a little alarming. But, in the progress of our inquiries, we are given to understand from this same Josephus, that there were three Herods of the same family, and therefore no improbability in there being two Philips. We also know, from the histories of that period, that it was quite common for the same individual to have two names; and this is never more necessa

On this branch of the argument, the impartial inquirer must be struck with the little indulgence which infidels, and even Christians, have given to the evangelical writers. In other cases, when we compare the narratives of contemporary historians, it is not expected, that all the circumstances alluded to by one will be taken notice of by the rest; and it often happens, that an event or a custom is admitted upon the faith of a single historian; and the silence of all other writers is not suffered to attach suspicion or discredit his testimony. It is an allowed principle, that a scrupulous resemblance between two histories is very far from necessary to their being held consistent with one another. And, what is more, it sometimes happens, that with contemporary historians there may be an apparent contradiction, and the credit of both parties remain as

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