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gather around these pillars of our evidence. The keen eye of the infidel saw it, and he hoped to show that they rested upon rubbish alone. But, like every similar attempt, at whatever point directed, a full examination has served only to show how firm is the rock upon which that church rests which is “ the pillar and ground of the truth.”
CREDIBILITY OF THE BOOKS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.
Our subject this evening, as will have been anticipated, is the credibility of the books of the New Testament; and I proceed directly to the discussion. This question is purely one of historical evidence; and if there is left for me very little that is new, either in the matter or in the manner of presenting it, I shall yet hope for the attention of the audience, from the important place which this point holds, and always must, in the Christian argument.
And the first consideration which I adduce in favor of the credibility of these books is their authenticity. It was because I regarded every testimony adduced, in the last lecture, to prove the authenticity of the gospel histories as also a testimony to their truth, that I dwelt so fully on that subject. The fathers did not quote so largely from those books because they were written by apostolical men, but because they regarded them as true, and as having an authority paramount to all others. The testimony of antiquity, therefore, thus given to the authenticity of these books, is equivalent to its testimony to the reality of the facts which they contain.
Moreover, when men publish an account of facts under their own names, especially of facts that are within the immediate knowledge of the most of their readers, and facts, too, that have excited great attention, they must either publish what is substantially true, or wilfully, and without motive, sacrifice both character and reputation. There is no instance on record of the publication by any one, under his own name, of an account purporting to be of facts that were public, and recent, and concerning which a deep interest was felt by the community, which was not mainly true. But here are four men who claim to have been witnesses of most of the events which they relate, or, if not, to have had a perfect knowledge of them. These events must have been known, at the time the books were published, to thousands of others, both friends and foes, as well as to them. Nothing could have prevented the instant detection of any falsehood; and yet these men published their histories at the time, in the face of the world, and on the spot where the transactions took place. This consideration alone ought to be decisive, and in any other case it would be.
But, secondly, these books are credible because the authors of them had the best possible means of knowing the facts which they state. For the most part, , they had a personal knowledge of them. Compare our evidence, in this respect, with that for other ancient events. The main facts were not such as were concealed in cabinets, or in the intrigues of a court, but were few, and such as all might know. But of the events of the life of Alexander, we have no contemporary historian; and yet they are not doubted. Of
how few of the events in the histories of Livy, or of Tacitus, had they personal knowledge! With how few of the men, whose lives he wrote, had Plutarch personal acquaintance! In some cases, indeed, -as in the account of the Retreat of the Ten Thousand, or the Commentaries of Cæsar, - we have the story of a person who was present, and saw what he narrates; and no one can fail to feel that the credibility of those accounts is greatly increased by that circumstance. In these cases, however, we have but a single witness, and the writers are the heroes of their own story; and still these writings are received with entire confidence. And this leads me to observe,
Thirdly, that the events recorded in our books are worthy of credit from the number of witnesses. To put this in its true light, let us suppose that there should now be discovered, among the ruins of Herculaneum, the writings of an officer and companion of Cæsar, giving an account of the same campaigns and battles. Let us suppose that there was a substantial agreement, but such incidental differences as to show that the writings were entirely independent of each other; then, if we had before been inclined to call the whole a fiction, or to attribute any thing to the ignorance, or the prejudices, or the vanity, of Cæsar, we should feel all our doubts removed on those points in which the accounts agreed. And if, after this, we should still find another independent manuscript, and still another, differing entirely in style and general manner, and yet agreeing in regard to the facts, — if, moreover, there should be found letters written in that day incidentally confirming these accounts by many allusions and undesigned coincidences, - we
should feel that historical evidence could not go farther, and that skepticism would be preposterous. If events thus attested are not to be believed, it will not be for want of evidence. If they are not to be believed, no ancient history can be; for there is no one for which we have any thing like this amount of evidence. But all this evidence we have for the facts of the gospel. The fact, that the four Gospels and the Acts are bound up together, is not to be permitted to weaken their force as separate testimonies. This is as far as historical testimony can go with respect to ordinary events; but the facts of Christianity are of such a character that even this may,
, and does, receive additional confirmation. If Cæsar's wars had given rise to parties, and these different parties had all appealed to these writings as of undoubted authority, and if, moreover, we had, at no distant day, the distinct admission of the enemies of Cæsar that these books were trustworthy as to matters of fact, then I think we can conceive of nothing that could be added ; and all this we have in favor of the facts of the New Testament. If we lay aside all consideration of the nature of the events, and look at the evidence alone, we shall see that it has all the force of which historical evidence, as such, is capable.
Still I observe, fourthly, that this evidence is powerfully confirmed by the peculiar testimony which was given by their authors to the truth of these books. To state one of the fundamental propositions of Paley: “ There is satisfactory evidence that many, professing to be original witnesses of the Christian miracles, passed their lives in labors, dangers, and sufferings, voluntarily undergone in attestation of the accounts