« ПредишнаНапред »
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 a 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, philosopher, over the prejudices of the Gentiles, and the bigotry of the Jews, and extended its conquests over the whole Roman empire, which then comprised nearly the whole known world. Nothing, indeed, but the plainest matter of fact could induce so many thousands of prejudiced and persecuting Jews, to embrace the humiliating and self-denying doctrines of the Gospel, which they had held in such detestation and abhorrence ; nor could any thing but the clearest evidence, arising from undoubted truth, make multitudes of lawless and luxurious heathens receive, follow, and transmit to posterity, the doctrines and writings of the apostles; especially at a time when the vanity of their pretensions to miracles, and to the gift of tongues, could have been easily detected, had they been impostors; and at a time when the profession of Christianity exposed persons of all ranks and ages to the greatest contempt, and to the most imminent danger.
6. In addition to the above evidence of the authenticity of the Sacred Scriptures, it is to be observed, that many of the facts and circumstances recorded in them are confirmed by the accounts of ancient heathen authors; which demonstrates their perfect agreement with the most authentic records extant. Thus in the Scriptures of the Old Testament, the first origin and creation of the world out of chaos; the completion of this great work in six days; the formation of man in the image of God, and his existence in a state of innocence ; his fall, and the introduction of sin into the world ; the longevity of the antediluvians; the destruction of the world by a deluge; the circumstance of the ark and the dove; the building of the tower of Babel ; the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah ; many particulars relating to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses ; the departure of the Israelites from Egypt, and their miraculous passage of the Red Sea ; the giving of the law, and Jewish ritual; the fertility of Palestine ; the destruction of the Canaanites by Joshua and the Israelites; Jephthah's devoting his daughter; the history of Samson ; the his
tory of Samuel and Saul; the slaying of Goliath by David; many remarkable circumstances respecting David and Solomon ; the invasion of Israel by Shalmaneser, and deportation of the twelve tribes; the destruction of Sennacherib's army; the defeat of Josiah by Pharaoh-necho, the reduction of Jerusalem, and captivity of Jehoahaz; these facts, and others of the same -kind, are confirmed by the testimony of profane authors, and even some of them by traditions, which still exist among heathen nations, and others by coins, medals, and other monuments. Not less striking and decisive is the testimony of both Roman historians and Jewish writers to the truth of the principal facts detailed in the New Testament; such as Herod's murder of the infants, under two years old, at Bethlehem ; many particulars respecting John the Baptist and Herod; the life and character of our Lord ; his crucifixion under Pontius Pilate; and the earthquake and miraculous darkness that attended it; the miserable death of Herod Agrippa ; and many other matters of minor importance related in these writings. Nay, even many of the miracles which Jesus himself wrought, particularly in curing the blind and lame, and casting out devils, are, as to matter of fact, expressly owned and admitted by Jewish writers; and by several of the earliest and most implacable enemies of Christianity; for, though they ascribed these miracles to magic, or the assistance of evil spirits, yet they allowed that the miracles themselves were actually wrought. And this testimony of our adversaries, to the miraculous parts of the sacred history, is the strongest possible confirmation of the truth and authority of the whole. Add to this, that in the sacred history, both of the Old and New Testaments, there are continual allusions and references to things, persons, places, manners, customs, and opinions, which are perfectly conformable to the real state of things in the countries and ages to which they stand related, as represented in the most authentic records that remain; while the rise and fall of empires, the revolutions that have