Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

Now, though these things do not prove absolutely the former exist. ence of those cities, and the fruitfulness of the country around them; yet, when considered as coming from persons who were adverse to the truths of the Bible, they add greatly to the weight of evidence in favor of the Mosaic narrative, by relieving the mind from the necessity of confiding solely in the naked facts upon the simple testimony of the narrator; though even this would be sufficient to command our assent, standing, as it does, unimpeached by any contradictory statement, either ancient or modern.

But the testimony of Moses not only stands unimpeached by any writer who wrote either cotemporaneously with him, or at a subsequent period; but the truth of his narrative is corroborated by several writers of the Bible, who have expressly referred to the facts as universally admitted truths of undisputed and undisputable authority. See, for instance, Deut. xxix, 22–25; Isa. xii, 19, 20; Jer. xlix, 17, 18; 1, 40; Luke xvii, 28–32. These references, considering them as having no more weight than merely human testimonies, show that the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah was a fact generally believed by those Jewish writers. And the question is, how they came thus to believe it? They certainly founded their belief on the credibility of their sacred historian. It was an admitted fact of their nation. Put, then, all these testimonies together, and see if there be not sufficient weight in them to justify a belief in the truth of the whole transaction, independently of the Divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. Is it not better attested than almost any fact of remote antiquity? And hence, by rejecting this as a fable, should we not for the same reason reject all historical facts which have come down to us from a remote

age?

We will now present the facts of the birth, miracles, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

1. His birth. This event, which, according to the Scriptural account, was miraculous, is not involved in that obscurity which generally envelopes facts of extremely remote antiquity. It took place when imperial Rome was at the height of its grandeur, when its sceptre was peacefully swayed over the greater proportion of the known world-at a period when the history of its conquests, its renown in arts and sciences, was sounded abroad among the nations of the earth—and when all events of public notoriety were recorded, and therefore would be thoroughly canvassed, and their claims to credibility admitted or rejected upon the force of testimony only. At such a time, under such circumstances, it is not likely that an event of so extraordinary á character could obtain such a general belief, without being attended with strong evidences of its truth.

It is somewhat singular, that, at this period, almost the whole world

men.

were in expectation of some grand event, of the appearance of an august personage, who should produce a mighty revolution among

The people of Israel were not alone in looking for the • Desire of all nations,' a . Prince, and a Savior ;' but a tradition was in circulation, probably founded on the numerous predictions of the Jewish prophets, which produced a general impression among the nations that an extraordinary person would make his appearance about this time. This expectation is openly avowed by some of the most considerable writers of that age, both poets and historians. Suetonius and Tacitus both state it as a common opinion, that. the east should prevail.' It was, doubtless, under the influence of this general expectation, that the eastern magi, or • wise men of the east,' had their curiosity excited by the appearance of the star, as being ominous of the near approach of this august personage; and a belief that it indicated the accomplishment of some prediction with which they had been made acquainted, no doubt induced them to undertake the journey, which conducted them, guided as they were by this prophetic appearance in the heavens, to the spot where they saw their expectations realized in the person of the young child.'

Among the remarkable predictions found upon record respecting the coming of this great personage, it is generally believed that Virgil must have had his eye on some such person in the following passage :

• Sicilian muses, let us attempt more exalted strains! The last era, foretold in Cumean verse, is already arrived. The grand series of revolving ages commences anew. Now a new progeny is sent down from lofty heaven. Be propitious, chaste Lucina, to the infant boy. By him the iron year shall close, and the golden age shall arise on all the world. Under thy secular sway, Pollio, shall this glory of the age make his entrance, and the great months begin their revolutions. Should any vestiges of guilt remain, swept away under thy direction, the earth shall be released from fear for ever ; and with his Father's virtues shall he enter the tranquil world. The earth shall pour before thee, sweet boy, without culture, her smiling first fruits. The timid herds shall not be afraid of the large, fierce lions. The venomous asp shall expire, and the deadly, poisonous plant shall wither. The fields shall become yellow with golden ears of corn; the blushing grape shall hang upon the wild bramble ; and the stubborn oak shall distil soft, dewy honey. Yet still shall some vestiges of pristine vice remain; which shall cause the sea to be ploughed with ships—towers to be besieged—and the face of the earth to be wounded with furrows. New wars shall arise-new heroes be sent to the battle. But, when thy maturity is come, every land shall produce all necessary things, and commerce shall cease.

The ground shall not endure the harrow, nor shall the vine need the pruning hook. As they wove their thread, the Destinies sang this strain, “Roll on, ye years of felicity!" Bright offspring of the gods! thou great increase of Jove! advance to thy distinguished honors! for now the time approaches! Behold, the vast globe, with its ponderous convexity, bows to thee!—the lands—the expansive seas—the sublime heavens! See how all things rejoice in this advancing era! 0! that the closing scenes of a long life may yet hold out, and so much tire remain, as shall enable me to celebrate thy deeds!'

Though the Prophet Isaiah struck a deeper shade, and sung in much more elevated strains of inspired eloquence, than did the Roman bard ; yet, it must be acknowledged, that the latter has poured forth the meltings of his soul in lofty strains of poetry. This sublime eclogue was sung about forty years before the birth of our Savior ; and from whatever source he derived his prophetic information respecting this grand event, whether from tradition or from intercourse with the Jews, it is certain that the advent of our Savior is here portrayed in no obscure terms, together with the blessings which should accompany and follow that event. This passage, and others to which we have referred, are quoted to show that an expectation respecting the coming of some extraordinary personage to bless the world with peace and prosperity, was not confined to the people of Israel, but prevailed very generally among the other nations of the earth.

Others have spoken of the star, which made its appearance about that time. Pliny speaks of a certain splendid comet, scattering its silver hair, and appearing a god in the midst of men.' Chalcidius writes concerning the rising of a certain star, not denouncing death and diseases; but the descent of a mild and compassionate God to human converse.' Josephus bears the following testimony to the life of Jesus Christ, which proves that he, at least, believed that there had been such a person on the earth :

• At this time there was one Jesus, a wise man, if I may call Him a man; for He did most wonderful works, and was a teacher of those who received the truth with delight. He won many to his persua. sion, both of the Jews and of the Gentiles. This was CHRIST ; and although He was, at the instigation of our nation, and by Pilate's sentence, suspended on the cross, yet those who loved Him at the first, did not cease so to do: for He came to life again the third day, and appeared to them. And to this day, there remains a set of men, who from Him have the name of Christians. The objection of infidels, that this passage is an interpolation of some Christian for the purpose of verifying the Gospel history of our Savior, has no weight, as it has all the marks of genuineness with any other parts of that celebrated history. Beside, it is just such a testimony as we might expect from such a historian as Josephus was; for it would have been very strange, indeed, if Josephus, who died within ninety-three years after Christ, in writing the history of the Jewish wars, at the very time when it is

confessed on all hands that such a person as Jesus of Nazareth did make His appearance among that nation, should have omitted the notice of an event of such notoriety. Nor is it to be wondered at that the enemies of Christianity should wish to invalidate the authority of this testimony, seeing it authenticates the whole history of the life, the miracles, the death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

2. We notice, in the second place, the death of the Lord Jesus. And the first source of evidence in support of this event, in corroboration of the Scriptural account of it, is the universal testimony of ancient writers, that, at the time of His sufferings and death, those identical rulers, mentioned in the evangelists by their name, actually were the governors of that day in the land of Judea, and the other places designated. Secondly, the evangelical histories, which record the death of Jesus Christ, were written soon after that event happened ; and hence, had it been false, there were persons alive who could have easily refuted it to the shame and everlasting confusion of its authors. But no such refutation has ever appeared, or even been attempted ; and for this very obvious reason, that the death of Jesus Christ upon

the

cross, in the manner related by the evangelists, was a fact of such notoriety, and so universally admitted as true, that an attempt at its refutation would have been stamped with the utmost folly.

In the third place, we may remark, that it was customary for the prefects and rulers of the distant provinces of the Roman empire to transmit to the emperor a summary account of all the extraordinary events and transactions of their administration. And that Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea at that time, did send a relation of this event, is most evident from the following facts :—Justin Mar-, tyr, who lived about a century after our Saviour's death, and who suffered martyrdom in Rome, was largely engaged with the philosophers of that age in controversy respecting the truth of Christianity, and more particularly with Crescens, the Cynic. In this controversy he challenged Crescens to dispute the cause of Christianity with him before the Roman senate. But Crescens declined the combat. Now it is not to be believed that he would have declined this contest, or have missed the opportunity of confounding his adversary, before such an august body as the Roman senate, if he could have had the smallest hope of doing so by detecting any forgeries in the writings of the evangelists relating either to the life or death of Jesus Christ. This same Christian father, in his Apology, speaking of the death of our Savior, refers the emperor for the truth of his assertions to the acts of Pontius Pilate. This would have been the merest folly imaginable, had there been no such acts in existence in the imperial records. Tertullian, who wrote his apology about fifty years after Justin

VOL. V. - October, 1834. 35

Martyr, says that the Emperor Tiberius, having received an account out of Palestine in Syria of the Divine Person who appeared in that country, paid him a particular regard, and threatened to punish any who should abuse the Christians ; and even affirms, that the emperor would have admitted him among the deities whom he worshipped, had not the senate refused their consent. Tertullian was one of the most learned men of his age, and well skilled in the Roman laws. And he certainly would not have hazarded his reputation among his countrymen by asserting a fact so publicly, when he must have known, that, if false, it would have been easily proved so, to his own confusion.

The death of our Lord, and the manner of it, under Pontius Pilate, in the reign of Tiberius, have been mentioned both by Tacitus and Lucian.

Among the phenomena which appeared at the time of our Savior's crucifixion, it is said that the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst.' This eclipse of the sun, if it happened at all, must have been supernatural. The feast of the passover, the day on which Jesus suffered, was celebrated on the fourteenth day of the month, which was the day of the full moon; at which time there could be no natural eclipse of the sun, as the moon at that time is on the side of the heavens opposite to the sun, and our earth is then between the two bodies; consequently this eclipse was an extraordinary, or a supernatural one. Another proof of its being supernatural, level to the understandings of every one, is that, in the ordinary eclipses of the sun, the darkness cannot continue more than from twelve to fifteen minutes; whereas this awfully ominous darkness lasted no less than three hours. If there were indeed such a darkness as here mentioned at that time in that land, it is but reasonable to suppose that it would be alluded to by other writers. Accordingly we find that Phlegon, a famous astronomer, who flourished during the reign of the Emperor Trajan, according to the testimony of Origen, said, that in the fourth year of the twenty-second Olympiad, which was the time of Christ's death, there was such a total eclipse of the sun at noon day, that the stars were plainly visible.' It is also related of Dionysius the Areopagite, who was then at Heliopolis in Egypt, on beholding this wonderful phenomenon, exclaimed, Either the Author of nature is suffering, or He sympathizes with some one that does—or the frame of the world is dissolving.'

Though these testimonies have been disputed by some as fabulous, yet they have been very generally received as authentic ; and so far as they may be relied on they confirm the truth of the evangelical narrative of the death of the Lord Jesus.

3. As to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the dead, His appearing to His disciples, and going in and out among them for forty

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »