« PreviousContinue »
Daniel, relate those events of which they were witnesses; and, when they relate events that took place before their own times, they refer to certain public documents and annals, then extant, which might be appealed to by their readers. In like manner, the writers of the New Testament, as Matthew, John, Peter, James, and Jude, were the immediate disciples of our Saviour; his constant attendants and companions throughout his ministry; eye-witnesses of the facts and miracles, and ear-witnesses of the discourses they relate; and the other sacred writers, as Mark and Luke, though themselves not apostles, yet were the contemporaries and companions of apostles, and in habits of society and friendship with those who had been present at the transactions they record; as St. Luke expressly affirms in the beginning of his Gospel Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed amongst us; even as they delivered them unto us, which, from the beginning, were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word, it seemed good to me, also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee, in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mightest know the certainty of those things wherein thou hast been instructed.'
2. As the sacred writers could not be deceived themselves, so they neither could nor would deceive others. They were so many in number, and lived at such a distance of time and place from each other, that it was utterly impossible for them to carry on any forgery or fraud without being detected; and the writers of the New Testament, in particular, were plain, honest, artless, unlearned men, in very humble occupations of life, and utterly incapable of carrying on such a refined and complicated system of fraud, as the Christian religion must have been, if it was not true. The principal facts and events themselves are of such a nature as totally precludes the possibility of imposition; facts which appeal to the very senses of the men to whom
have persuaded a body of six hundred thousand men (to whom he appeals for the truth and reality of those facts, Deut. xi. 2.) that they had seen rivers turned into blood,-frogs filling the houses of the Egyptians,-their fields destroyed by hail and locusts,—their land covered with palpable darkness, their first-born slain in one night,—the Red Sea forming a wall on the right hand and left for the passage of the Israelites, but overwhelming their enemies,-a pillar of cloud and fire conducting them,-manna falling down from heaven for their food,-water gushing out of the rock to quench their thirst,-and the earth opening and destroying his opponents, if all these things had been false. Nor could the Evangelical historians have succeeded in persuading their countrymen and contemporaries, that a man, whose death was public and notorious, was risen again from the dead, that darkness had covered the land at the time of his execution,-and that there had been an earthquake at the moment of his decease,-if all these events had not taken place. And, as it is thus evident, that the sacred writers could not possibly impose upon others; so it is equally certain that they would not make the attempt. The whole tenor of their lives demonstrated, as even their bitterest enemies have confessed, that they were men of piety and integrity; and they could have no possible motive to induce them to propagate a deliberate falsehood. They sought neither riches nor glory; and their writings bear the most unequivocal marks of veracity, candour, and impartiality. They use no panegyric or flattery; they offer no palliation for their own frailties and follies; they conceal nothing; they alter nothing, however disgraceful to their heroes and sovereigns, to their own nation, or to themselves. How then can they be supposed capable of so gross an imposition as that of asserting and propagating the most impudent fictions? The writers of the New Testament especially could gain by it neither pleasure, profit, nor power. On the contrary, it brought upon them the most dreadful evils, and even death itself. If, therefore, they were cheats, they were cheats without any motive,
and without any advantage; nay, contrary to every motive and every advantage that usually influence the actions of men. They preached a religion which forbids falsehood under pain of eternal punishment and misery; and yet, on this supposition, they supported that religion by falsehood; and, whilst guilty of the basest and most useless knavery themselves, they were taking infinite pains, and enduring the greatest labour and suffering, in order to teach mankind honesty. This is a mode of acting so contrary to all experience, to all the principles of human nature, and to all the motives of human conduct, as to exceed the bounds of belief, and to compel every reasonable being at once to reject such a supposition as absurd and monstrous. Hence the facts related in the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles, especially, even those evidently miraculous, must be true; for the testimony of those who die for what they assert, and of which they are competent judges, is sufficient evidence to support any miracle whatever.
3. Such a multitude of minutely particular circumstances of time, place, person, &c., is mentioned in the books of the Old and New Testaments, as affords a clear and unquestionable proof both of their genuineness and authenticity. No forged or false accounts of things thus superabound with particularities, and no forger, or relater of falsehoods, would mention so great a number of particulars, since this would put into his reader's hands so many criteria by which to detect him; nor, in fact, could he produce such a minute detail of circumstances. It is easy to conceive how faithful records, kept from time to time by persons concerned in the transactions, should contain such a minute account of things; but it would be a work of the highest invention, and greatest stretch of genius, to raise from nothing such numberless particulars as are almost every where to be met with in the Old and New Testaments, particulars, the falsehood of which would most assuredly have been detected by the persons most interested in detecting them, if
lished among the people who witnessed the events related by the historians, and who could, with the greatest ease, have exposed any fraud or falsehood, if there had been any, in the details of such transactions: but they did not attempt to question either the reality of the facts, or the fidelity of the narrators; and their acquiescence with them, as well as their obedience to the injunctions contained in these books, are conclusive evidence in favour both of their genuineness and authenticity, abundantly sufficient to convince every candid inquirer.
4. The authenticity of the Old and New Testaments is further attested, by the principal facts, contained in them, being confirmed by certain commemorative ordinances of great celebrity, which have existed among the Jews and Christians from the time the events took place, which they are intended to commemorate, to the present day, wherever Jews or Christians are to be found. Such, among the Jews, is circumcision, the seal of the covenant with Abraham, their great progenitor;-the passover, instituted to commemorate the protection of the Israelites, when all the first-born of the Egyptians were destroyed, and their deliverance from bondage in Egypt, which was the immediate consequence; the feast of tabernacles, instituted to perpetuate the sojourning of the Israelites for forty years in the wilderness;-the feast of Pentecost, which was appointed fifty days after the passover, to commemorate the delivery of the Law from Mount Sinai ;-and the feast of Purim, kept in memory of the deliverance of the Jews from the wicked machinations of Haman. Now all these institutions, which have been held sacred among the Jews in all ages since their appointment, and are solemnly and sacredly observed among them to this day, in whatever country they sojourn, bear the most unequivocal testimony to the truth of the facts which they are designed to commemorate, and which facts are inseparably interwoven with the history and laws, and even morality and prophecy, of the Old Testament. In like manner, the principal facts of the Gospels
are confirmed by certain institutions which subsist to this day among Christians, and are the objects of men's senses. Such is the initiatory rite of Baptism, which is performed in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, by which those submitting to it renounce every other religious institution, and bind themselves to the profession of the Gospel alone;-the Lord's supper, kept in commemoration of the life, sufferings, death, resurrection, and the promise of the second coming of the Founder of their religion; and the observance of the First day of the Week, as a sacred festival in honour of Christ's resurrection from the dead. Now, as these monuments perpetuate the memory, so they demonstrate the truth, of the facts contained in the Gospel history beyond all reasonable doubt; because, unless the events, of which the Christian rites are commemorations, had really taken place, it is impossible to conceive how these rites could have come into general use. If Jesus Christ neither lived, nor taught, nor wrought miracles, nor died, nor rose again from the dead, it is altogether incredible that so many men, in countries so widely distant, should have conspired together to perpetuate such a series of falsehoods, by commencing the observation of the institution of Baptism, the Lord's Supper, and the Lord's day; and it is equally incredible that by continuing to observe them, they should have imposed these falsehoods on posterity.
5. The wonderful establishment and propagation of Christianity is à most convincing proof of the authenticity of the New Testament; and consequently, of that of the Old Testament, with which it is intimately, and inseparably connected. Before the second century was completed, the Christian doctrine,-unaided by any temporal power, protected by no authority, assisted by no art, not recommended by the reputation of its author, not enforced by eloquence in its advocates, but by the force of truth alone,—had triumphed over the fiercest and most determined opposition,