« PreviousContinue »
her vulnerable points, by the daring and extended sweep, that she has thus taken among the affairs
There is something incredible in a compact or conspiracy of deceivers, the scheme and spirit of which were handed down from one to another through a whole millenium; but that one and all of them should have sustained such a general historic consistency through the whole of that period, that no glaring contradiction has' yet been detected, between the multitude of incidental notices that the penmen of Scripture have made to the countries around Judea, and at a great distance from it, and the actual state of the world—that sacred and profane history should so have harmonized, as that a consistent erudition, made up of an immense variety of particulars, has actually been raised and established out of the connection* between them that there should be such a sustained coincidence from the first dawnings of history, and extended by means of prophetic anticipation to the present day—truly, apart from the peculiar evidence of prophecy altogether, there is much in the artless and unforced agreements which are everywhere spread over so broad a surface of comparison, as to stamp the strongest appearance of truth both on the general narrative of the bible, and by implication, on the miraculous narrative, that, without the slightest appearance of ingenuity or elaborate design, is so incorporated therewith. CHAPTER II.
See Shuckford, Prideaux, and Russel on the connections betweeu sacred and profane History.
On the Moral Evidence for the Truth of the
1. The argument of the last chapter is of frequent application in questions of general criticism ; and upon its authority alone many of the writers of past times have been admitted into credit, and many have been condemned as unworthy of it. The numerous and correct allusions to the customs and institutions, and other statistics of the age in which the pieces of the New Testament profess to have been written, give evidence of their antiquity. The artless and undesigned way in which these allusions are interwoven with the whole history, impresses upon us the perfect simplicity of the authors, and the total absence of every wish or intention to palm an imposture upon the world. And there is such a thing, too, as a general air of authenticity; which, however difficult to resolve into particulars, gives a very close and powerful impression of truth to the narrative. There is nothing fanciful in this species of internal evidence. It carries in it all the certainty of experience, and experience too upon a familiar and well-known subject, the characters of honesty in the written testimony of our fellow-men. We are often called upon, in private and every-day life, to exercise our judgment upon the spoken testimony of others;
both feel and understand the powerful
evidence which lies in the tone, the manner, the circumstantiality, the number, the agreement of the witnesses, and the consistency of all the particulars with what we already know from other sources of information. Now, it is undeniable, that all those marks which give evidence and credibility to spoken testimony, may also exist to à very impressive degree in written testimony; and the argument founded upon them, so far from being fanciful or illegitimate, has the sanction of a principle which no philosopher will refuse; the experience of the human mind on a subject on which it is much exercised, and which lies completely within the range of its observation.
2. We now enter on the consideration of the moral evidence for the truth of the New Testament, as gathered, however, not from the present character of the witnesses, but from the nature of that ethical system which they delivered; or, more generally still, not from themselves but from the subject matter of their testimony. Doubtless, we may collect from the performance itself, such marks of truth and honesty, as entitle us to conclude, that the human agents employed in the construction of this book were men of veracity and principle. But this argument has already been resorted to,* and a very substantial argument it is.
Our present attempt is to found an internal evidence for the divinity of scripture on the morality of its doctrines, or the purity of that moral light which
* In Chap. iii. of Book II., where we also adverted to the argument of the last chapter, but not with such particularity or fulness, as 10 prevent our again recurring to it. VOL. IV.
beatns from its pages; and which, as distingaished from other systems of religion, whether from revengeful and licentious Paganism on the one hand, or from a corrupted Judaism on the otherseems to invest the New Testament with a sort of celestial radiance, and so to be no unambiguous token of the Heaven from whence it came.
3. But a certain preliminary question requires to be adjusted, ere it is made perfectly clear, that an internal evidence can be raised on the superior and recognized excellence of the Christian morality. For if man be capable of recognizing this excellence, does it not argue him to be alike capable of having conceived it at the first, and so of bringing it forth originally to the view and admiration of the world? The faculty, one might think, of discerning the worth or goodness of any system, would seem to bespeak the faculty of discovering or devising it. If the pure and perfect morality of the gospel be now the theme of universal acknowledgment, and that by minds of every order—why might not some mind of the highest order, at the era of its publication, have been able to originate the ethical system, that was afterwards to command the assent and acquiescence of the enlightened and the virtuous in all ages ?
The same faculties, it can naturally be imagined, by which we are enabled to appreciate the inherent truth and value of any doctrine, might have also suggested that doctrine so that not only might men have become its obedient disciples, but a man might have been the inventor of it. In short, it is not perceived, why a thing of earthly recognition, inight not be a thing of earthly origination also-or how if man, in virtue of his natural powers, can justly estimate the merits of any practical code or directory of human conduct, he might not, in virtue of the same powers, have been competent to frame it. It is on this ground that Christianity might be argued, notwithstanding the lustre of its moral superiority over every other faith, to be still a thing of terrestrial growth; and that therefore the hypothesis of a divine revelation is altogether uncalled for.
4. Now, in opposition to this, we hold that many are the truths, which never could have sprung up within the mind-but which, when brought to it from without, meet with the full consent and coalescence of the judgment—and that in virtue, not of any external evidence, but of their own inherent recommendations. There is many a truth, the credibility of which does not serve to indicate it before it is announced, but which abundantly serves to recommend it afterwards. It may have no such light as shall guide the way to it; and yet as much light, as that it may be seen and recognized as truth, on the moment of its being presented. The intellect might remain in a state of darkness and dormancy, as to many a truth which it never could have found; but awakened, as if like a candle by ignition, at the moment of contact with that truth when it is told-it, in a medium of vision thus created, might be led to discern things, and on their own intrinsic evidence too, which it never could have discovered. Of this. the experience of the mind itself supplies us with many familiar illustrations. . In mathematics, where every doctrine has the ground of conviction