תמונות בעמוד

of the world I shall say nothing, because, from the nature of the case, I have no means of verifying it The fact that he made this claim, however, is all that is needed for the purpose of my present argument; and I will only observe, that it is not more extraordinary than his other claims, and is in perfect keeping with them. If we admit his other claims, we shall of course admit this.

Such were the condition, the claims, and the character, of Jesus Christ. And now, is it possible that he was either deceived or a deceiver? Was he sincere in making these claims ? If he was, and they are not well founded, then I ask, could a young man, poor, unlearned, brought up in an obscure village, accustomed to an humble employment, make such claims, and not be utterly insane? Can we conceive of a wilder hallucination ? Is there one of all the vagaries entertained by the tenants of our lunatic asylums that is more extravagant than these ? No mere self-exaltation or enthusiasm, nothing short of insanity, can account for such claims. I mention this the rather, because I remember to have been struck by it in reading the New Testament in my early days. When I heard this man, apparently so lowly, saying that he was the light of the world, —“If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink,” – that he was one with God, that all things were delivered to him by his Father, that he that had seen him had seen the Father, that whatsoever the disciples should ask in his name he would do it, that he would rise from the dead, and come in the clouds of heaven, attended by myriads of angels, to judge the world, I felt that I had evidence,

either that those claims were well-founded, or of a hopeless insanity. No wonder those who did not believe said of him, “ He hath a devil, and is mad : why hear ye him?” But then, as now, there was the unanswerable reply, “ These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?” When we look at his discourses, at their calmness, at their deep insight and profound wisdom; when we see that the discoveries of all ages have only shed lustre upon their wisdom, and that the wisest and best portion of the race now sit at his feet as their instructor ; when we see the more than propriety, the self-possession, the dignity, of his deportment under the most trying circumstances, we feel that not a voice from heaven could make it more certain that his was not a crazed, or a weak, or an unbalanced intellect. This fact is borne witness to by the light of its own evidence; it shines by its own brightness.

Did he, then, in the exercise of a sound mind, put forth those claims with the intention to deceive others ? This, as I have just intimated, I hold to have been impossible. No impostor of common sense could have had the folly to prefer such claims. But, if this consideration is conclusive, how much more is that drawn from the moral character of Christ? Look at his unaffected and all-pervading piety, at his universal and self-sacrificing benevolence; look at his purity and elevation above the world; listen to his prayer for his murderers on the cross; and say, is it possible that through all this he was meditating a scheme of deception deeper, more extensive, involving greater sacrifices and sufferings, and more ultimate disappointment

to human hope, than any other? Do we not know that this was not so? If we could believe this, would not that faith in goodness, which is the vital element in the atmosphere of our moral life, be destroyed? And what would remain to us but the stifling, and oppressive, and desolating conviction, that there could be no ground of faith in any indications of goodness ? We cannot believe this, we will not believe it. Take away,

if you will, the vital element of the air, disrobe the sun of his beams, but remove not from me this life of my life; leave to me the full-orbed and unshorn brightness of the character of Christ, the Sun of righteousness.

It only remains that I should refer to what has, indeed, been implied throughout the preceding part of the lecture - that gathering about the person of Christ of so many and such extraordinary circumstances; that clustering upon him of so many wonderful and diverse characteristics and appropriate insignia of a messenger from God; that accumulation of evidences which come in, as it were, from the four winds, and become as a crown of many stars upon the head of the Redeemer. It is to be distinctly noticed, in estimating the evidence, that it is not one only of the surprising offices and characteristics which have been mentioned that he sustained so perfectly, but all of them. It is the same great Teacher around whose system natural religion, and the old dispensation, and all human science, stand up and do obeisance, as did the sheaves of Joseph's brethren around his sheaf, who also set a perfect example, and stands before us as the model man. It is the same person who did no sin," who wrought miracles, who fulfilled the prophecies,

who rose from the dead, around whom there shines, as I shall show hereafter, such an effulgence of external evidence, whose life and death have been followed by such amazing effects. If we were to estimate by the doctrine of chances the probability that so many extraordinary circumstances, each of which could be confirmed by so much evidence, should meet upon a single person, the fraction expressing that probability would be infinitely small. Had any one of these characteristics belonged to any other individual, it would have placed him among the most distinguished personages of history; but when we see them all clustering upon the lowly Jesus, the crucified One, we must say, with one of old, “We have found the Messias.”




When we came into life, we found Christianity existing. It was our business, as independent thinkers, to examine it in its relations to the human constitution and to human well-being. This we have done in the preceding lectures; and if the system be such as it has been represented to be, then we may well feel a deep interest in every thing relating to its origin and history - in what have been called its external evidences. To those evidences, then, we now turn.

In this department of the evidences, the object of our inquiry is, not adaptations, or doctrines, or opinions, or inferences, but simply historical facts.

Was there such a person as Jesus Christ ? Was he crucified ? Did he rise from the dead ? These are questions which we are to settle precisely as we would settle the questions whether there was such a man as Augustus Cæsar, and whether he became the sole ruler of the Roman empire. These are no abstract questions, and we are not to let any of the uncertainty which must often belong to the discussion of such questions connect itself with these. There is

« הקודםהמשך »