תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

that they have not been produced by meditation, or by any fraudulent contrivance. But coincidences, from which these causes are excluded, and which are too close and numerous to be accounted for by accidental concurrences of fiction, mult necessarily have truth for their foundation.

This argument appeared to my mind of so much value (efpecially for its affuming nothing beside the existence of the books) that I have pursued it through St. Paul's thirteen epistles, in a work published by me four years ago under the title of Hoæ Paulinæ. I am sensible how feebly any argument, which depends upon an induction of particulars, is represented without examples. On which account, I wished to have abridged my own volume, in the manner in which I have treated Dr. Lardner's in the preceding chapter. But, upon making the attempt, I did not find it in my power to render the articles intelligible by fewer words than I have there used. I must be content, therefore, to refer the reader to the work itself. And I would particularly invite his attention to the observations which are made in it upon the three first epistles. I persuade myself that he will find the proofs, both of agreement and undesignedness, supplied by these epistles, sufficient to support the conclusion which is there maintained, in favour both of the genuineness of the writings, and the truth of the narrative.

It remains only, in this place, to point out how the argument bears upon the general question of the Christian history.

First, St. Paul in these letters affirms, in unequivocal terms, his own performance of miracles, and, what ought particularly to be remembered, that miracles were the signs of an apostle.If this testimony come from St. Paul's own hand, it is invaluable. And that it does so, the argument before us fixes in my mind a firm assurance.

Secondly, it shows that the series of action, represented in the epistles of St. Paul, was real; which alone lays a foundation for the propoftion, which forms the subject of the first part of our present work, viz. that the original witnesses of the Christian history devoted themselves to lives of toil, suffering, and danger, in consequence of their belief of the truth of that history, and for the fake of communicating the knowledge of it to others.

[ocr errors]

* Robi, XV, 18, 19. 2 Cor. xii, 12.

Thirdly, it proves that Luke, or whoever was the author of the Acts of the apostles (for the argument does not depend upon the name of the author, though I know no reason for ques. tioning it) was well acquainted with St. Paul's history, and that he probably was, what he professes himself to be, a companion of St. Paul's travels : which, if true, establishes, in a considerable degree, the credit even of his gospel, because it shows that the writer, from his time, situation, and connexions, poffeffed opportunities of informiog himself truly concerning the transactions which he relates. I have little difficulty in applying to the gospel of St. Luke what is proved concerning the Acts of the apostles, considering them as two parts of the fame history; for, though there are instances of second parts being forgeries, I know none where the second part is genuine, and the first not fo.

I will only observe, as the fequel of the argument, though not noticed in my work, the remarkable fimilitude between the style of St. Jobn's gospel, and of St. John's first epistle. The style of St. John's is not at all the style of St. Paul's epistles, though both are very singular ; nor is it the style of St. James's or of St. Peter's epistle ; but it bears a resemblance to the style of the gospel inscribed with 'St. John's name, so far as that resemblance can be expected to appear, which is not in fimple narrative, so much as in reflections, and in representation of discourses. Writings, so circumstanced, prove themselves, and one another, to be genuine. This correspondency is the more valuable, as the epistie itself

afferts, in St. John's manner indeed, but in terms fufficiently explicit, the writer's perfonal knowledge of Christ's history : “ That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life ; that which we have seen and heard, declare we unto you. ”a Who would not defire, who perceives not the value of an account, delivered by a writer so well informed as this ?

a C. i. V. I, 3.

CHA P. VIII.

Of the History of the Resurrection. The history of the resurrection of Christ is a part of the er. idence of Christianity; but I do not know, whether the proper strength of this paffage of the Christian history, or wherein its peculiar value as a head of evidence, consists, be generally understood. It is not that, as a miracle, the resurrection ought to be accounted a more decisive proof of supernatural agency than other miracles are ; it is not that, as it stands in the gospels it is better attested than some others ; it is not, for either of these reasons, that more weight belongs to it than to other miracles, but for the following, viz. that it is completely certain, that the apostles of Christ, and the first teachers of Christianity, asserted the fact. And this would have been certain, if the four gospels had been lost, or never written. Every piece of fcripture recognizes the resurrection. Every epistle of every apostle, every author contemporary with the apostles, of the age immediately succeeding the apostles, every writing from that age to the pres. ent, genuine or spurious, on the side of Christianity or against it, concur in representing the resurrection of Christ as an article of his history, received without doubt or disagreement by all who called themselves Christians, as alleged from the beginning by the propagators of the institution, and alleged as the centre of their teftimony. Nothing, I apprehend, which a man does not himself fee or hear, can be more certain to him than this point. I do not mean that nothing can be more certain than that Christ rose from the dead ; But that nothing can be more certain, than that his apostles, and the first teachers of Christianity, gave out that he did fo. In the other parts of the gospel narrative, a question may be made, whether the things, related of Christ, be the very things which the apostles and firft teachers of the religion delivered concerning him. And this queftion depends a good deal upon the evidence we posless of the genuineness, or rather, perhaps, of the antiquity, credit, and reception of the books. Upon the subject of the resurrection no such discussion is neceffary, because no such doubt can be entertained. The only points, which can enter into our confideration, are, whether the apostles knowingly put 1.!hed a falsehood, or whether they were themfelves deceived : whether either of ihese suppofitions be possible. The first, I think,

is pretty generally given up. The nature of the undertaking, and of the men ; the extreme unlikelihood that such men should engage in such a measure as a scheme ; their personal toils and dangers and sufferings in the cause ; their appropriation of their whole time to the object; the warm and seeminge ly unaffected zeal and earnestness with which they profess their sincerity, exempt their memory from the suspicion of impofture, The folution more deserving of notice, is that which would resolve the conduct of the apostles into enthusiasm ; which would class the evidence of Christ's resurrection with the numerous stories that are extant of the apparitions of dead men. There are circumstances in the narrative, as it is preserved in our histories, which destroy this comparison entirely. It was not one person, but many, who saw him; they saw him not only separately, but together, not only by night but by day, not at a distance but near, not once but several times ; they not only saw him, but touched him, conversed with him, ate with him, examined his person to satisfy their doubts. These particulars are decisive : bat they stand, I do admit, upon the credit of our records. I would answer, therefore, the insinuation of enthusiasm, by a circumstance which arises out of the nature of the thing, and the reality of which must be confessed by all, who allow, what I believe is not denied, that the resurrection of Christ, whether true or false, was asserted by his disciples from the beginning ; and that circumstance is the nonproduction of the dead body. It is related in the history, what indeed the story of the resurrection neceffarily implies, that the corpse was missing out of the fepulchre : it is related also in the history, that the Jews reported that the followers of Christ had stolen it away. And this account, though loaded with great improbabilities, such as the fituation of the disciples, their fears for their own safety at the time, the unlikelihood of

a “ And this saying," St. Matthew writes, “is commonly reported amongst the Jews until this day.”. (xxviii. 15.) The evangelist may be thought good authority as to this point, even by those who do not admit his evidence in every other point; and this point is sufficient to prove that the body was missing.

It has also been rightly, I think, observed by Dr. Townsend, (Dir. upon the Ref. p. 126) that the story of the guards carried collusion upon the face of it :--" His disciples came by night, and stole him away, while we llept.” Men in their circumstances would not have made such an acknowledgment of their negligence, without previous assurances of protection and impunity,

their expecting to succeed, the difficulty of a&ual success, and the inevitable consequence of detection and failure, was nevertheless the most credible account that could be given of the matter. But it proceeds entirely upon the fuppofition of fraud, as all the old objections did. What account can be given of the body, upon the supposition of enthusiasm? It is imposlible our Lord's followers could believe that he was risen from the dead, if his corpfe was lying before them. No enthusiasm ever reached to such a pitch of extravagancy as that : a spirit may be an illusion, a body is a real thing; an object of sense, in which there can be no mistake. All accounts of spectres leave the body in the grave. And, although the body of Christ might be removed by fraud, and for the purposes of fraud, yet, without any such intention, and by fincere but deluded men, which is the representation of the apostolic character we are now examining, no such attempt could be made. The presence and the absence of the dead body are alike inconfiltent with the hypothesis of enthusiasm ; for if present, it must have cured their enthusiasm at once ; if absent, fraud, not enthusiasm, must have carried it away.

But further, if we admit upon the current testimony of all the histories so much of the account as states that the religion of Jesus was set up at Jerusalem, and fet up with asserting, in the very place in which he had been buried, and a few days after he had been buried, his resurrection ont of the grave,

it is evident that if his body could have been found, the Jews would have produced it as the shortest and completest answer possible to the whole story. The attempt of the apostles could not have survived this refutation a moment. If we also admit, upon the authority of St. Matthew, that the Jews were advertised of the expectation of Christ's followers, and that they had taken due precaution in consequence of this notice, and that the body was in marked and public custody, the observation re. ceives more force still. For, notwithstanding their precaution, and although thus prepared and fore warned ; when the story of the resurrection came forth, as it immediately did ; when it was publickly asserted by his disciples, and made the ground and basis of their preaching in his name, and collecting follow

a « Especially at the full moon, the city full of people, many probably passing the whole night, as Jesus and 'his disciples had done, in the open air, the fepulchre lo near the city as to be now inclosed within the walls." Priestly on the Refur. p. 24.

« הקודםהמשך »