תמונות בעמוד

that each of these books contains enough to prove the trath of the religion ; that, if any one of them therefore be genuine it is kufficient ; that the genuineness however of all of them is made out, as well by the general argoments which evince the genuineness of the most undisputed remains of antiquity, as also by peculiar and specific proofs ; viz. by citations from them in writings belonging to a period immediately contigaous to that in which they were published; by the distinguished regard paid by early Christians to the authority of these books (which regard was manifested by their colleđing of them into a volume, appropriating to that, volume titles of peculiar refpect, translating them into various languages, digesting them into harmonies, writing commentaries upon them, and still more conspicuously, by the reading of them in their public affemblies in all parts of the world) by an universal agreement with respect to these books, whilft doubts were entertained concerning fome others; by contending feets appealing to them ; by the early adverfaries of the religion not difputing their genuineness, but, on the contra. ry, treating them as the depofitaries of the history upon which the religion was founded ; by many formal catalogues of these, as of certain and authoritative writings, published in different and diftant parts of the Chriftian world ; lastly, by the absence or defect of the above-cited topics of evidence, when applied to any other histories of the same subject.

These are strong arguments to prove, that the books actually proceeded from the authors whose nanies they bear ;. (and have always borne, for there is not a particle of evidence to show that they ever went under any other) but the strict genuineness of the books is perhaps more than is neceffary to the fupport of our propofition. For even supposing that by reafon of the fi lence of antiquity, or the loss of records, we knew not who were the writers of the four gofpels, yet the fået, that they were received as authentic accounts of the tranfation upon which the religion refted, and were received as fach by Christians at or near the age of the apofties, by those whom the apostles. had taught, and by focieties which the apoftles had founded; this fact, I say, conected with the confideration, that they are corroborative of each other's teftimony, and that they are fur. ther corroborated.by another contemporary history, taking up the Aory where they had left it, and, in a warrative borilt upon that Kory, accounting for cite tife and production of changes in the vorld, the effects of which fubfelt at this day; connected, more

over, with the confirmation which they receive, from 'letters written by the apostles themselves, which both affume the same general story, and as often as occafions lead them to do so, allude to particular parts of it'; and connected also with the reflection, that if the apostles delivered any different story, it is loft ; (the present and no other being referred to by a series of Christian writers, down from their age to our own; being likewise recognized in a variety of institutions, which prevailed, carly and universally, amongst the disciples of the religion) and that so great a change, as the oblivion of one story and the substitution of another, under such circumstances, could not have taken place; this evidence would be deemed, I apprehend, fufficient to prove concerning these books, that, whoever were the authors of them, they exhibit the story which the apostles told, and for which, confequently, they acted, and they suffered.

If it be fo, the religion maht be true. These men could not be deceivers. By only not bearing testimony, they might have avoided all their fufferings, and have lived quietly. Would men, in such circumstances, pretend to have been what they never saw ; affert facts which they had no knowledge of ; bring upon themselves, for nothing, comity and hatred, danger and death?


C H A P. I.

far my

Our first proposition was, " that there is satisfactory evidence,

that many, pretending to be orginal witneses of the Christian Miracles, passed their lives in labours, dangers, and sufferings, voluntarily undertaken and undergone, in attesation of the accounts which they delivered, and solely in consequence of their belief of the truth of those accounts ; and that they also submitted, from

the same motives, to new rules of conduq.Our fecond propofition, and which now remains to be treated

of, is, " that there is not fatisfa&ory evidence, that persons pretending to be original witnesses of any other similar miracles, have a&ted in the same manner, in attestation of the accounts which they delivered, and solely in consequence of their belief of the truth of

those accounts.' I ENTER upon this part of my argument, by declaring how belief in miraculous accounts goes.

If the reformers in the time of Wychliff

, or of Luther; or those of England, in the time of Henry the Eighth, or of Queen Mary ; or the founders of our religious sects since, such as were Mr. Whitfield and Mr. Wesley in our times, had undergone the life of toil and exertion, of danger and suffering, which we know that many of then did undergo, for a miraculous story ; that is to say, if they had founded their public ministıy upon the allegation of miracles wrought within their own knowledge, and upon narratives which could not be resolved into delusion or mistake ; and if it had appeared, that their conduct really had its origin in these accounts, I should have believed them. Or, to borrow an instance which will be familiar to every my readers If the late Mr. Howard had undertaken his labours and journies in attestation and in consequence of a clear and sensible miracle, I should have believed him also. Or, to represent the same thing under a third supposition--If Socrates had professed to perform public miracles at Athens ; if the friends of Socrates, Phædo, Cebes, Crito, and Simmias, together with Plato, and many of his followers, relying upon the attestation which these mir, acles afforded to his pretensions, had, at the hazard of their lives, and the certain expense of their ease and tranquillityy-goneabout Greece, after his death, to publish and propagate his doétrines, and if these things had conne to our knowledge, in die fame way, as that in which the life of Socrates is now tranfmitted to us, through the hands of his companions and disciples, that is, by writings received without doubt as theirs, from the age in which they were published to the present, I should have believed this likewise. And

one of

my belief would, in each cafe, be much Itrengthened, if the subject of the miffion were of importance to the conductand happiness of human life; ifit testified any thing which it behøved mankind to know from such authority ; if the nature of what it delivered required the fort of proof which it alleged'; if the occasion was adequate to the interposition, the end worthy of the means. In the last case, my faith would be much confirmed, if the effects of the tranfa&ion remained ; more especially, if a change had been wrought, at the tiine, in the opinion and conduct of such numbers, as, to lay the foundation of an institution, and of a system of doctrines, which had lince overspread the greatest part of the civilized world. I should have believed, I say, the testimony, in these cases ;; yat none of them do more, then come up to the apostolic history

If any one choose to call adfent to this evidence, credulity, it is at least incumbent upon hiin to produce examples, in which the same evidence bath turned out to be fallacious. And this contains the precise question which we are now to agitate.

In ftating the comparison between our cvidence, and what our adversaries may bring into competition with ou's, we will divide the distinctions which we wish to propose into two kinds, those which relate to the proof, and those which relate to the miracles. Under the former head we may lay out of the case,

1. Such accounts of supernatural events as" are found only in histories, by fome ages posterior to the transaction; and of which it is evident that the historian could kaow little more tban his reader. Our's is contemporary history. This differ- , ence alone removes out of our way the miraculous history of Pythagoras, who lived five hundred years before the Christian era, written by Porphyry, and Janblicus, who lived three hundred years after that era ; the prodigies of Livy's history; the fables of the heroic ages; the whole of the Greek and Roman, as well as of the Gothic mythology ; a great part of the legendary bistory of Popish faints; the very best acielted of which is such power.

is extracted from the certificates that are exhibited during the process of their canonization, a ceremony which feldom takes place till a century after their deaths. It applies also with considerable force to the miracles of Apollonius Tyaneus which are contained in a solitary history of his life, published by Philostratus, above a hundred years after his death ; and, in which, whether Philostratus had any prior account to guide him depends upon his single unsupported assertion. Also to some of the miracles of the third century, especially to one ex. traordinary instance, the account of Gregory, bishop of Neocefarea, called Thaumaturgus, delivered in the writings of Gregory of Nyssen, who lived one hundred and thirty years after the subject of his panegyric.

The value of this circumstance is shown to have been accurately exemplified, in the history of Ignatius Loyola, the found. er of the order of Jesuits. His life, written by a companion of his, and by one of the order, was published about fifteen years after his death. In which life, the author, so far from ascribing any miracles to Ignatius, industrioufy states the reafons, why he was not invested with


The life was re-published fifteen years afterwards with the addition of mary circumstances, which were the fruit, the author says, of further inquiry, and of diligent examination ; but still with a total filence about miracles. When Ignatius had been dead near fixty years, the Jesuits conceiving a wish to have the founder of their order placed in the Roman calendar, began, as it hould seem, for the first time to attribute to him a catalogue of miracles, which could not then be distinctly disproved ; and which there was in those who governed the church, a strong dif pofition to admit upon the most slender proofs.

II. We may lay out of the cafe, accounts published in one country, of what pased in a distant

country, without that such accounts were known or received at home. In the cafe of Christianity, Judea, which was the scene of the transaction, was the centre of the mission. The story was published: in the place in which it was acted. The church of Christ was first planted at Jerusalem itself

. With that church others corresponded. From thence the primitive teachers of the institution went forth ; thither they assembled. The church of JerusaJem and the several churches of Judea fubfifted from the be

any proof

a Douglass's Criteriop of Miracles, p. 74.

« הקודםהמשך »