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EVIDENCES OF CHRISTIANITY.

try it upon a fimple case ; and, if it produce a false result, be is sure that there must be some mistake in the demonstration. Now to proceed in this way with what may be called Mr. Hume's theorem. If twelve men, whose probity and good sense I had long known, should serioufly and circumstantially relate to me an account of a miracle wrought before their eyes, and in which it was imposible that they should be deceived ; if the governor of the country, hearing a rumor of this account, should call these men into his presence, and offer them a short proposal, either to confess the imposture, or submit to 'be tied up to a gibbet ; if they should refuse with one voice to acknowledge that there existed any falsehood or impofture in the case ; if this threat were communicated to them separately, yet with no different effect ; if it was at last executed ; if I myself saw them, one after another, consenting to be racked, burnt, or strangled, Tather than give up the truth of their account : fill, if Mr. Hume's rule be my guide, I am not to believe them. Now I undertake to say that there exists not a sceptic in the world, who would not believe them; or who would defend such in. credulity.

Instances of spurious miracles supported by strong apparent testimony undoubtedly demand examination. Mr. Hume has endeavoured to fortify his argument by fome examples of this kind. I hope in a proper place to show that none of them reach the strength or circumstances of the Christian evidence. In these however consists the weight of his objection. In the principle itself I am persuaded there is none.

PART THE FIRST.

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OF THE DIRECT HISTORICAL Evidence of CHRISTIANITY,

AND WHEREIN IT IS DISTINGUISHED FROM THE EVIDENCE
ALLEGED FOR OTHER Miracles.

THE ewo propofitions which I shall endeavour to establish,

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are thefe :

I. That there is satisfactory evidence that many, professing to be original witneffes of the Christian miracles, passed their lives in labours, dangers and sufferings, voluntarily undergone in attestation of the accounts which they delivered, and solely in consequence of their belief of those accounts; and that they also submitted, from the same motives, to new rules of conduct.

II. That there is not satisfactory evidence that persons, professing to be original witnesies of other miracles, in their nature as certain as these are, have ever acted in the same manner, in attestation of the accounts which they delivered, and properly io consequence of their belief of those accounts.

The first of these propositions, as it forms the argument, will stand at the head of the following nine chapters.

CHAP. I. There is fatisfaftery evidence that many, profeffing to be original witnesses of the Chriftian Miracles, pared their lives in labours, dangers and sufferings, voluntarily undergone in attestation of the accounts which they delivered, and solely in consequence of their belief of those accounts ; and that they also submitted, from the Jame motives, to new rules of conduct. Το

fupport this proposition two points are necessary to be made out ; first, that the founder of the institution, his associ. ates and immediate followers, acted the part which the propofition imputes to them : fecondly, that they did so, in attestation of the miraculous history recorded in our fcriptures, and solely in consequence of their belief of the truth of this history.

Before we produce any particular testimony to the activity and sufferings which compose the subject of our first assertion, it

will be proper to consider the degree of probability which the assertion derives from the nature of the case, that is, by inferences from those parts of the cafe which, in point of fact, are on all hands acknowledged.

First then, the Christian religion exifts, and therefore by some means or other was established. Now it either owes the principle of its establishment, i. e. its first publication, to the activi. ty of the person who was the founder of the institution, and of those who were joined with him in the undertaking, or we are driven upon the strange supposition, that, although they might lie by, others would take it up; although they were quiet and filent, other persons busied themselves in the success and propagation of their story. This is perfe&ly incredible. To me it appears little less than certain, that, if the firft announcing of the religion by the founder had not been followed up by the zeal and industry of his immediate disciples, the scheme must have expired in its birth. Then as to the kind and degree of exertion which was employed, and the mode of life to which these persons submitted, we reasonably suppose it to be like that, which we observe in all others who voluntarily become missions aries of a new faith. Frequent, earnest and laborious preaching, constantly conversing with religious persons upon religion, a sequestration from the common pleasures, engagements and varieties of life, and an addiction to one serious object, compose the habits of such men. I do not say that this mode of life is without enjoyment, but I say that the enjoyment springs from fincerity. With a consciousness at the bottom, of hollowness and falsehood, the fatigue and restraint would become infupportable. I am apt to believe that very few hypocrites engage in these undertakings; or, however, persist in them long. Ordinarily speaking, nothing can overcome the indolence of mankind, the love which is natural to most tempers of cheerful society and cheerful scenes, or the desire, which is common to all, of personal ease and freedom, but conviction.

Secondly, it is also highly probable, from the nature of the case, that the propagation of the new religion was attended with difficulty and danger. As addressed to the Jews it was a syftem, adverse not only to their habitual opinions, but to those opinions upon which their hopes, their partialities, their pride, their consolation was founded. This people, with or without reason, had worked themselves into a persuasion, that iome figa nal and greatly advantageous change, was to be effected in the condition of their country, by the agency of a long-promised messenger from heaven. The rulers of the Jews, their leading sect, their priesthood, had been the authors of this persuasion to the common people. So that it was not merely the conjecture of theoretical divines, or the secret expectation of a few recluse devotees, but it was become the popular hope and pasfion, and, like all popular opinions, undoubting, and impatient of contradiction. They clung to this hope under every misfortune of their country, and with more tenacity as their dangers or calamities increased. To find, therefore, that expectations so gratifying were to be worse than disappointed, that they were to end in the diffusion of a mild unambitious religion, which, instead of victories and triumphs, instead of exalting their naetion and institution above the rest of the world, was to advance those whom they despised to an equality with themselves, in those very points of comparifon in which they most valued their own distinction, could be no very pleasing discovery to a Jewish mind; nor could the messengers of such intelligence expect to be well received or easily credited. The doctrine was equally harsh and novel. The extending of the kingdom of God to: those who did not conform to the law of Mofes, was a notion that had never before entered into the thoughts of a Jew.

The character of the new institution was, in other respects: allo, ungrateful to Jewish habits and principles. Their own religion was in a high degree technical. Even the enlightened Jew placed a great deal of stress upon the ceremonies of his: law, saw in them a great deal of virtue and efficacy ; the gross and vulgar had fcarcely any thing else; and the hypocritical and oftentatious magnified them above measure, as being the instruments of their own reputation and influence. The Chrif tian scheme, without formally repealing the Levitical code, lowered its estimation extremely. In the place of strictness and zeal in performing the observances which that code prę fcribed, or which tradition had added to it, the new fect preached faith, well-regulated affections, inward purity, and moral rectitude of disposition, as the true ground, on the part of theworshipper, of merit and acceptance with God. This bowev. er rational it may appear, or recommending to us at present, tid not by any means facilitate the plan then. to disparage those qualities which the higbelt characters in the country valued themselves most upon, was a sure way of making powerful enemies. As if the frustration of the'national hope

On the contrary,

was not enough, the long esteemed merit of ritual zeal and punctuality was to be decried, and that by Jews preaching to Jews.

The ruling party at Jerusalem had just before crucified the founder of the religion. That is a fact which will not be disputed. They therefore who stood forth to preach the religion, must neceffarily reproach these rulers with an execution, which they could not but represent as an unjust and cruel murder, This would not render their office more easy, or their fitua.. tion more safe.

With regard to the interference of the Roman government which was then established in Judea, I should not expect, that, defpifing, as it did, the religion of the country, it would, if left to itself, animadvert, either with much vigilance, or much severity, upon the schisms and controversies which arose within it. Yet there was that in Christianity which might easily afford a handle of accusation with a jealous government. The Chrifa tians avowed an unqualified obedience to a new, master. They avowed also that he was the person who had been foretold to. the Jews under the suspected title of king. The spiritual naa ture of this kingdom, the consistency of this obedience with civ. il subjection, were distinctions too refined to be entertained by: a Roman president, who viewed the business at a great distance, or through the medium of very hostile representations. Our . histories accordingly inform us, that this was the turn which the enemies of Jesus gave to his character and pretentions. in their remonftrances with Pontius Pilate. And Justin Mar. tyr, about a huudred years afterwards, complains that the same. mistake prevailed in his time : “ Ye having heard that we are, waiting for a kingdom, fuppofe, without distinguishing, that we mean a human kingdom, when in truth we speak of that which is with God." And it was undoubtedly a natural source of calumny and misconftrnction.

The preachers therefore of Christianity had to contend with. prejudice, backed by power. They had to come forward to a; disappointed people, to a priesthood poffeffing

a priesthood poffeffing a considerable fare of municipal authority, and actuated by strong motives of opposition and resentment; and they had to do this under a foreign government, to whose favour they made po pretensions and which was constantly surrounded by their enemies. The

• Ap. me. p. 10, ed. Thirl,

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