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acter of Trenaus is discoverable from his Work against the Herecies of his time, to that I refer the Reader, who will find him to have been a zealous, though a very credulous, and ignorant inan; for he believed the story of Papias just quoted, and many others equally as absurd. He however furnishes this important intelligence, that in the second century, the Christian World was overrun with Heresy, and a swarm of Apocryphal, and spurious Books were received by many as genuine.
The next witness in favour of the Gospel is Tertullian, who lived in the latter end of the second century. And the soundness of his Judgment, and his capability, to distinguish the genuine Gospels from among a hundred Apocryphal ones, and above all his regard for truth, may be judged of from these proofs given by himself. He asserts upon his own knowledge, 6 I know it,” says he that the corpse of a dead Christian, at the first breath of the prayer made by the Priest, on occasion of its own funeral, removed its hands from its sides, into the usual posture of a supplicant ; and when the service was ended, restored them again to their former situation.” [Tertul. de anima c. 51.] And he relates as a fact, which he, and all the orthodox of his time credited, that the body of another Christian already interred moved itself to one side of the grave to make room for another corpse which was going to be laid by it." And it is on the testimony of such men as these, that the authenticity of the Gospels entirely depends, as to external evidence for these are all the witnesses that can be produced as speaking of them, who lived within two hundred years after Jesus: Three men, (for Justin cannot be reckoned as a witness in fa. vour of the Gospels.) Three men, who are all of them evidently credulous, and two of them certainly Liars.
To convince a thinking man that Histories recording such very extraordinary, ill supported, improbable facts as are contained in the Gospels are divine, or even really written by the men to whom they are ascribed ; and not either some of the many spurious productions with which (as we learn from Trenaus) that early age abounded, calculated to astonish the credulous, and su
perstitious, or else writings of authors who were themselves infected with the grossest superstitious credulity; of what use can it be to adduce the testimony of the very few writers, of the same, or next succeeding age, when the very reading of their works shews him that they themselves were tainted with that same superstitious credulity, of which are acused the real authors of the New Testament ?
It is an obvious rule in the admission of evidence in any cause whatsoever, that the more important the matter to be determined by it is, the more unsullied, and unexceptionable ought the characters of the witnesses to be. And when no court of Justice, in determining a question of fraud to the amount of six pence, will admit the testimony of witnesses who are themselves notoriously convicted of the same offence of which the defendant is accused; how can it be expected, that any reasonable, un-prejudiced person, should admit similar evidence to be of weight, in a case of the greatest importance possible, not to himself only, but to the whole human race?
But there is a still greater defect in the testimony of those early w.riters, than there superstitious credulity, I mean their disregard of honour, and veracity, in whateyer concerned the cause of their particular System.
Though Luke asserts, that many (even before he wrote his histories for the use of Theophilus,) had written upon the same subject: (Who of course must have been of the Jewish nation, and many more must have been written afterwards, whose writings must have been particularly valuable; , yet so singularly industrious have the Fathers, and succeeding sons of the Orthodox Church been, in destroying every writing upon the subject of Christianity, which they could not by some means, or other, apply to the support of their own blasphemous superstition, that no work of importance of any Christian writer, within the three first centuries, hath been permitted to come down to us, except those books which they have thought fit to adopt, and transmit to us as the Canon of Apostolick Scripture; and the works of a few other writers, who were all of them, not only converts from Paganism, but men who had been
educated and well instructed in the Philosophic Schools of the latter Platonists, and Pythagoreans.
The established maxim of these Schools was, that it was not lawful only, but commendable to deceive, and assert falsehoods for the sake of promoting what they considered as the cause of Truth, and Piety, and the effects of this maxim, which was fully acted upon by both orthodox Christians, and Hereticks, produced a multiplicity of false, and spurious writings wherewith the second century abounded.
Nay, they did not spare from the operation of this maxim, the Scriptures themselves. For they stuffed their copies of the Septuagint with a number of interpolated pretended prophecies concerning Jesus, and his death upon the cross ; forgeries as weak, and contemptible, and clumsy in themselves, as they were impious, and wicked. Whoever desires to see a number of them, may find them in the Dispute, or Dialogue of Justin with Trypho the Jew; where he will see the simple Justin bringing them out passage after passage against the stubborn Israelite, who contents himself with cooly answering, that these marvellous prophecies were not to be found in his Hebrew Bible !
There is also another well known, incontrovertable proof of the deceit and falsehood of the leading Christians of early times, of which every person in the least conversant with the Ecclesiastical History of those times must be convinced-their pretended power of working miracles ! On this subject I shall say nothing, but refer the Reader to the work of Dr. Middleton already mentioned, for an ample account of their lying wonders, which they imposed as miraculous upon the simple people.
With regard to the internal evidence for the authenticity of the writings composing the New Testament, it · is still tess satisfactory than the external evidence.And this may be well believed, when the Reader is informed that the Great Semler, after spending his life in the study of Ecclesiastical History, and antiquities, which he is allowed to have understood better than any before him, affirmed to his astonished Coreligionists; that, except the Gospel of John, and the Apocalypse, the whole New Testament was a collection of forgeries written by the Partizans of the Jewish, and Gentile parties in the Christian Church, and entitled Apostolick, in order the better to answer their purpose. "This opinion has been in part adopted in England, by a learned and shrewd Clergyman named Evanson, who has almost demonstrated, that the Greek Gospel of Matthew was written in the second century after the birth of Jesus, by a Gentile. For he proves that it could not have been written by a Jew, on account of Geographical mistakes, and manifest ignorance of Jewish customs, He also gives good reasons for rejecting the authenticity of some of the Epistles. In short he has poured such á flood of light upon the eyes of his terrified Brethren, as will ere long no doubt enable them to see a little clearer than heretofore.
He gives several instances of Geographical blunders in Matthew. I shall mention only one. Matthew says in the 2d ch. that when Joseph the husband of Mary returned from Egypt, “ hearing that Archelaus reigned in Judea, he was afraid to go thither, and therefore turned aside, into the Parts of Galilee.” Now this, as will appear from a map of Palestine, is just like saying, 6 a marr at Philadelphia, intending to go to the State of New York, on his route heard something which made him afraid to go thither, and therefore he turned aside-into Boston !!!
That the author of that Gospel was ignorant of Jewish customs will be evident from the following circumstances. He says Jesus told Peter, that before the cock crew he would deny himn thrice ; and that afterwards, when Peter was cursing and swearing, saying " I know not the man! immediately the cock crew." Now it is unfortunate for the credit of this story, that it is well known, that in conformity with Jewish customs, at that time subsisting, no cocks were allowed to be in Jerusalem, where Jesus was apprehended. This is known, and acknowledged by learned Christians ; who have extricated themselves from this difficulty by proving, that the crowing of the cock here mentioned does not mean, as it appears to mean, absolutely the crowing of a
cock, but that it means-what dost thou think reader ? why it means the sound of a trumpet !!*
According to Luke, as soon as Jesus was dead, Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate, and begged his body; and hasted to bury it, because the Sabbath which began at sunset,) drew on ; that his female disciples attended the burial ; observed how the body was placed in the sepulchre, and returned, and prepared spices, and ointments to embalm it with, before ihe Sabbath commenced; and then rested the Sabbah day, according to the commandment.
The pretended Matthew, however, tells us, that 66 when the even was come," i. e. when the Sabbath day was actually begun, Joseph went to be the body ; took it down, wrapped it in linen, and buried it; and that Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary were sitting over against the sepulchre. From the time that this writer has thought fit to allot for the burial of Jesus, it is evident, that he was not only no Jeue, but so ignorant of the customs of the Jews, that he did not know, that their day always began with the evening ; or he would never have employed Joseph in doing what no Jew would, nor
* That the pretended Gospel of Matthew was not written by Matthew, or by an inhabitant of Palestine, may be also inferred, I think, from the blundering attempts of the author of it to give the meaning of some expressions ultered by Jesus, and used by the Jews, in the language of the country, which was the Syro Chaldaic ; and which the real Matthew could hardly be ignorant of. For instance, he says, that Golgotha signifies the place of a skull,” Mat. xxvii. 33. Now this is not true, for Golgotha, or as it should have been written, Golgoltha, does not signify “the place of a skull,” but sirpply “a skull.” The Gospels according to Mark, and John, are guilty of the same mistake, and thus betray the same marks of Gentilism. Again, the pretended Matthew says, that Jesus cried on the cross, "Eli Eli lama, sabackthani," which he says meant, " My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me ?” (Mat. xxvii. 46.) If the reader will look at what Michaelis, in his Introduction to the New Testament, says upon this subject, he will find the real Syro Chaldaic expression which must have been used by Jesus, to be so different from the one given by the supposed Matthew, that he will, (and the observation is not ineant as a disparagement to the rcal Matthew, who certainly had no hand in the composition of the Gospel covered with his name) I suspect be inclined to beliere, that this pretended Matthew's knowledge of the vulgar language of the Jews used in Christ's time, must have been abont upon a par with the honest sailor's knowledge of French ; who assured his countrymen, on his return home, that the French called a horse a shovel, and a liat a chopper !