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tion of Jesus, on which the truth of Christianity more particularly depends, underwent a more thorough investigation than any
other fact in history.
This rigorous scrutiny began while the event was recent, and when there was, accordingly, the best opportunity of examining into its truth or falsehood. Paul, who says that Jesus at one time appeared to more than five hundred persons, says that the greater part of them were then living, and of course liable to be interrogated on the subject. Now, had Jesus appeared as publicly after his crucifixion as he did before, and of course the whole Jewish nation had become Christians, we should now have been without this most satisfactory argument for the truth of the fact.
It would, in this case, have been said, that the Jews, always a credulous nation (though this has appeared to have been the reverse of the truth), had, for some reason or other, which it is now impossible to ascertain, changed their religion, or rather made some addition to what they profeffed before, and that as no person objected to it at the time, there is no evidence now before us that the
facts, or reasons, on which it was founded, were properly scrutinized; and that it is impossible to do it at this distance. And thus Christianity might have spread no farther than Judaism.
6. To ensure the credibility of miracles, it must appear that the accounts of them were written while the facts were recent, so that an appeal might be made to living witnesses, and this was never in ancient times questioned with respect to the principal books of the Old or the New Testament. Besides, the internal evidence of the books ascribed to Moses, having been written by him, or by some person under his direction, which to every impartial reader of them must appear stronger than the evidence of any other books having been written by any other persons, whose names they bear, the fact was never doubted by the Hebrew nation, the only proper witnesses in the case, from the earliest times to the present; and nothing stronger than this can be said in favour of the authenticity of any writings whatever.
This argument is peculiarly strong with respect to the writings of Moses, on account of the reluctance with which those writings,
and the whole history of that nation, shows, that they received his instructions. If those of the Israelites, who were addicted to the religious rites of the neighbouring nations, and who were frequently the majority of the
people, could have shewn that the books afcribed to Moses were not written by him, or by his authority, would they not have done it, and thereby have had the best reason for continuing in the religion they preferred ? And what motive could any man have to forge books which would be sure to give the greatest offence, and could not fail to be rejected with contempt and indignation ?
The account of the death of Moses, in the last chapter of the book of Deuteronomy, could not have been written by himself. But what was more natural, than for some person of eminence, acquainted with the fact, perhaps Joshua, or the high priest at the time, adding this account to the writings of Moses, and its being afterwards annexed to them? Also, notes by way of explanation of certain passages, were, no doubt, first inserted in the margin, as has been the case with many antient books, and afterwards added by tranfcribers in the text. But such circumstances
as these are never thought to affect the
genuineness of any ancient writings. Judicious criticism easily distinguishes the casual additions, from the original text.
The internal evidence of the authenticity of the writings of Moses is peculia: ly strong. No other than a person actually present at the transactions could have related them in the manner in which we find his narratives written, with so many particulars of persons, times, and places, and with so natural an account of the impression that was made on the minds of men by the events that he relates *.
* That additions may be made to books, and even such as the writers disapprove of, we have a remarkable instance of in the first part of Mr. Paine's Age of Reason. In the second part, just published in this city, he says, p. 84, “ The former part of the Age of Reason has not been pub“ lished two years, and there is already an expression in it " that is not mine. The expression is, The book of Luke “ was carried by a majority of one vote only. It may be
true, but it is not I that have said it. Some person, “ who might know of that circumstance, has added it in a “ note at the bottom of the page of some of the editions,
printed either in England or in America, and the print“ ers, after that, have erected it into the body of the work, " and made me the author of it. If this has happened
It should also be considered, that books were not forged till men were practised in the art of writing, and many books had been written, so that considerable advances had been made in the art of composition and of criticism. We may therefore conclude with certainty, that the books ascribed to Mofes, which are unquestionably of as great antiquity as any in the world, except perhaps the book of Job, and a very few others mentioned by Moses, are no forgeries. Otherwise,
“ within such a short space of time, notwithstanding the “ aid of printing, which prevents the alteration of copies
individually, what may not have happened in a much
greater length of tiine, where there was no printing.” He adds, “and when any man who would write, could " make a written copy, and call it an original by Matthew, s. Mark, Luke, or John.” But though this might easily happen with respect to flight circumstances, according with the rest of a book, well known to exist, the fabrication of whole books, which were not known to exist at all, and impofing them on the world, when the belief of their contents drew after it the sacrifice of every thing dear to a man in life, and often of life itself, was not so easy.
The insertion Mr. Paine complains of, being a recent thing, and all the editions of his book not very numerous, may be traced to its author, and it behoves him, or his friends, to do it; but this cannot be done with respect to books written two or three thousand years ago. S