« הקודםהמשך »
ginning, and for many ages, received also the fame books and the same accounts as other churches did.
This distinction disposes, amongst others, of the abovementioned miracles of Apollonius Tyaneus, most of which are related to have been performed in India, no evidence remaining that either the miracles ascribed to him, or the history of those miracles, were ever heard of in India. Those of Francis Xavier, the Indian missionary, with many others of the Romith breviary, are liable to the same objection, viz. that the accounts of them were published at a vast distance from the supposed scene of the wonders.b
III. We lay out of the cafe tranfient rumours. Upon the first publication of an extraordinary account, or even of an article of ordinary intelligence, no one, who is not personally acquainted with the transaction, can know whether it be true or false, because any man may publish any story. It is in the fu•ture confirmation, or contradiction of the account ; in its permanency, or its disappearance ; its dying away into filence, or its increasing in notoriety ; its being followed up by fubfequent accounts, and being repeated in different and independent accounts, that folid truth is distinguished from fugitive lies. This distinction is altogether on the fide of Christianity. The story did not drop. On the contrary, it was fucceeded by a train of actions and events dependent upon
it. The accounts which we have in our hands were composed after the firft reports must have subsided. They were followed by a train of writings upon the subject. The historical testimonies of the transaction were mamy and various, and connected with letters, discourfes, contro. versies, apologies, fuccellively produced by the same transaction.
IV. We may lay out of the case what I call naked history: It has been said, that if the prodigies of the Jewish history had been found only in fragments of Manetho, or Berofus, we fhould have paid no regard to them : and I am willing to ada mit this. If we knew nothing of the fact but from the fraga ment ; if we poffefled no proof that these accounts had been credited and acted upon, from times, probably, as ancient as the accounts themselves ; if we had no visible effects connected with the history, no fubfequent or collateral testimony
* The succession of many eminene bishops of Jerusalem, in the three first centuries, is distinctły preserved, as Alexander, A. D. 212, who fuçcceded Narcissus, then 116 years old,
b Doug. Crit, p. 84.
to confirm, it ; under these circumstances, I think that is would be undeserving of credit. But this certainly is not our cafe. In appreciatiog the evidence of Christianity, the books are to be combined with the inlticution, with tdre prevaleocy of the religion at this day,; with the time and place of its origin, which are acknowledged points ;, vvich the circumitane ces of its rise and progress, ao collected from external hiltory; with the fact of our present books being received by the votaries of the institution from the beginning i with that of other books coming after these, filled with accounts of the effects and con fequences resulting from the transaction, or referring to the traní. action, or built upon it ; lastly, with tie conaderation of the pumber, and variety of the books themselves, the different wrie ters from which they proceed, the different views with which they were written, fo disagreeing, as, to repel the suspicion of confederący, so agreeing, as, to thow that they were founded in a common original, i, e., in a fony, fubftantially the same. Whether this proof be satisfactory or not, it is properly a cumhis lation of evidence, by.no nigans 2; naked or solitary record,
V. A mark of historical truth, alihongh only in a certain way, and to a certain-degree, is particularity in names, dates, plages, circumstances, and in the order of events preceding or fob lowing the transaction : of, which kind, for instance, is the particularity in the description of St. Paul's voyage and bipwreck, in the 27th chapter of the Acts, which no inan, I think can read, without being convinced that the writer, was there ; and also in the accuunt of the cure and examination of the blind: man, in the ninth chapter of St. John's gospel, which bears ep. ery, mark of perfonal knowledge on the part of the' historian. a . I do not deny that fiction has often the particularity of truth; but then it is of studied and elaboratė fiệtion, or of a formal attempt to deceive, that we observe this. Since, however, experiepce proves that particularity is not confined to truth, I have ltated that it is a proof of truth, only to a certain extent, i. e. it reduces the question to this, whether we can depend or not upon. the probity of the relator,; which is a.considerable advance in our present argument ; for an express attempt to deceive, in whichi case alone particularity, can appear without truth, is charged upon the evangelists by few. If the historian acknowledge himself to have received his intelligence from others, the
a Both these chapters ought to be icad for the sake of this very oba fervation...
particularity of the narrative shows, primâ facie, the accuracy of his inquiries, and the fulness of his information. This remark belongs to St. Luke's history. Of the particularity which we allege, many examples may be found in all the gospels
. And it is very difficult to conceive, that such numerous particulari. ties, as are almost every where to be met with in the scripiures, should be raised out of nothing, or be spun out of the imagination, without any fact to go upon.
It is to be remarked, however, that this particularity is only to be looked for in direct history. It is not natural in references or allusions, which yet, in other respects afford often, as far as they go, the most unsuspicious evidence.
VI. We lay out of the case such stories of supernatural events, as require, on the part of the hearer, nothing more than an otiofe affent ; stories upon which nothing depends, in which no interest is involved, nothing is to be done or changed in consequence of believing them. Such stories are credited, if the careless affent that is given to them deserve that name, more by the indolence of the hearer than by his judgment ; or, though not much credited, are passed from one to another without inquiry or resistance. To this case, and to this cafe alone, belongs what is called the love of the marvellous. I have never known it carry men further. Men do not suffer persecution from the love of the marvellous. Of the indifferent nature we are speaking of, are most vulgar errors and popular superstitions : most, for instance, of the current reports of apparitions. Nothing depends upon their being: true or false. But not, surely, of this kind were the alleged miracles of Chrilt and his apoftles. They decided, if true, the most important question, upon which the human mind can fix its anxiety. They claimed to regulate the opinions of mankind, upon subjects in which they are not only deep
a « There is always some truth where there are considerable particularities related ; and they always seem to bear some proportion to one another. Thus there is a great want of the particulars of time, place, and perfons, in Manetho's account of the Egyptian Dynasties, Etefias's of the Assyrian kings, and those which the technical chronologers have given of the ancient kingdoms of Greece; and agreeably thereto, these accounts have much fiction and falsehood, with some truth : whereas Thucydides's history of the Peloponnesian war, and Cæsar's of the war in Gaul, in both which the particulars of time, place, and persons are mentioned, are universally esteemed true to a great degree of exactucfs,” Hartley, vol. II. p. 109,
ly concerned, but usually refractory and obstinate. Men could Bot be utterly careless in such a case as this. If a Jew took op the story, he found his darling partiality to his own nation and law wounded ; if a Gentile, he found his idolatry and polytheism reprobated and condemned. Whoever entertained the ac. count, whether Jew or Gentile, could pot avoid the following geflection :" If these thjogs be true, I must give up the opinions and principles in which I have been brought up, the religion ia which my fąjbers lived and died.” It is not conceivable that any man should do this upon any idle report or frivolous account, er, indeed, without being fully fatisfied and convioced of the truth and credibility of the narrative to which he trusted. But it did not stop at opinions. They who believed Christianity, acted upon it. Many made it the express business of their lives to publish the intelligence. It was inquired of thofe, who admitted that intelligence, to change forth with their conduct and their principles, to take up a different course of life, to part with their habits and gratifications, and begin a new fet of rules and system of behaviour. The apostles, at least, were interelted pot to sacrifice their ease, their fortunes, and their lives, for an idle tale ; multitudes beside them were ipduced, by the fame fale to encounter opposition, danger and sufferings.
If it be faid, that the mere promise of a future date would do all this, I answer, that the more promise of a future Hate, with out any evidence to give credit or assurance to it, would do nothing. A few wandering filhermen talking of a refurre&tions of the dead eould produce no effect. If it be further fail, that men eady believe, what they anxiously desire, I again answer that in my opinion, the very contrary of this is nearer the truth Apxiety of desire, earneltness of expectation, the valtness of an event, rather causes men to disbelieve, to doubt, to dread a fallacy, to distrust, and to examine. When our Lord's refurreetion was first reported to the apostles, they did not believe, we are told, for joy. This was natural, and is agreeable to experience.
VII. We have laid out of the cafe thofe accounts, which require no more than a simple aflent; and we nou alto lay out of the case those which come merely i affärmana of apiacoas already formed. This lált circumstance it is of the acmoft importance to notice well. It has long been observed, that Popish miracles happen in Popith countries; that they make no converts; which proves that stories are accepted, when they fall
in with principles already fixed, with the public sentinents, or with the sentiments of a party already engaged on the side the miracle supports, which would not be attempted to be produced in the face of enemies, in opposition to reigning tenets or favourite prejudices, or when if they believed, the belief must draw men away from their pre-conceived and habitual opinions, from their modes of life and rules of action. In the former cafe, men may not only receive a miraculous account, but may both act and fuffer on the fide and in the canfe which the miracle fupports, yet not act or suffer for the miracle, but in parfuance of a prior perfuafion. The miracle, like any other argument which only confirms wliat was before believed, is ad. mitted with little examination. In the moral, as in the natural world, it is change which requires a cause. Men are easily futcified in their old opinions, driven from them with great difficulty. Now, how does this apply to the Christian history ? the miracles there recorded were wrought in the midst of enemies, under a government, a priesthood and a magiftraey decidedly and vehemently adverse to them and to the pretenfions which they supported. They were Protestant miracles in a Popish country ; they were Popish miracles in the midst of Protestants. They produced a change ; they establithed a fociety upon the fpot adhering to the belief of them, they made converts, and those who were converted, gave up to the testimony their molt fixed opinions, and most favourite prejudices. They who acted and saffered in the cause, acted and fuffered for the miracles ; for there was no anterior perfaafion to induce them, no prior reverence, prejadice or partiality to take hold of. Jefus had not owe follower when he set up his claim. His nýracles gare bith to his feet. No part of this defcription belongs to the ordinary evidence of heathen or Popish miracles. Event prost of the miracles alleged to have been performed by Christians, in the second and third century of its era, want this confirmation. h comitates indeed a line of partition between the origin and progrels of Christianity. Frauds and fallacies might nix themfelves with the progrefa, which conld not pollibly take place in the commencement of the religion ; at least according to aning laws of human conduct that we are acquainted with. What hould fugget to the first propagators of Chriftianity, especially to fishermen, tax-gatherers, and husbandmen, such a thought as that of changing the religion of the world; what could bear them through the difficulties, in which the attempt* engaged