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hierarchy of the Jews, and advancing its victories over the ruins of heathenism, they roused at once into united and stern opposition all the civil power of the governments, all the enmity of Jewish and pagan priesthoods, all the partialities and prejudices and national attachments of all people. The enmity of the scribes and Pharisees, of the doctors and lawyers and priests, of the Jews, must have been fired with peculiar indignation. As miracles multiplied and disciples increased, the deepest interest must have been awakened in relation to them among all classes of society. This we know to have been the case. Hence, it is certain that they did not escape the most thorough examination; that all the ingenuity and diligence of contemporaries and eye-witnesses, animated by the strongest motives, and favored by every conceivable advantage, were enlisted in the trial; and this not for a day or a week or a month, but as long as miracles were professed and a hope of detection remained.
9. It is a matter deserving of special remembrance, that the adversaries of the gospel were placed in the most favorable circumstances for a thorough investigation of the reality of its miracles, by their being published and appealed to immediately after, and in the very places where they occurred. The miracles ascribed to the founder of the society of Jesuits are sufficiently answered by the fact, that during his life, and for many years after his death, nothing was heard of them. Those of Francis Xavier, one of the first disciples of Loyola, are deficient in
evidence, because having been wrought, it is stated, in the far distant East, they were first published in the western world; and the narratives, if they ever reached the places to which they relate, could not have been known there till long after the opportunity of a close investigation had passed away, and must have been published among a people too indifferent to be at the pains of inquiring into their truth or falsehood. But the miracles of the gospel were published immediately after, and in the very places of their occurrence. It is true, indeed, that the earliest gospel, that of St. Matthew, is not by any supposed to have been published earlier than the seventh or eighth year after the death of Christ. Supposing this to have been the first publication of the miracles, it was sufficiently near their date to afford every reasonable opportunity of investigation.
But we know from the gospel history, that during the three years of the Saviour's ministry, and all the while the apostles labored, their miracles were notorious. The scribes and Pharisees met in council on the subject. Many, unable to deny them, ascribed them to demoniacal power. Herod, when he heard. of them, said, "This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do show forth themselves in him."* The fame of the miracles of Jesus, at the beginning of his ministry, "went throughout all Syria;" so that multitudes, with all kinds of afflictions, flocked to him from all quarters to be healed, and when healed, returned to publish
*Matt. 14: 2.
still more widely the works of their deliverer. The rising of Lazarus was so widely published in Bethany, where it took place, and in the region round about, that in a few days "much people of the Jews came, not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead."t When, at the word of Peter and John, the impotent man at the gate of the temple had been made whole, they immediately published the miracle on the spot to the multitude of Jerusalem, appealing to it in evidence of the power of their Lord. "His name, through faith in his name, hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know; yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all." Only about fifty days was Jesus risen from the dead when his disciples began to proclaim everywhere, and first at Jerusalem, among those who slew him and had set the guard at the sepulchre, this greatest of miracles. They appealed to it in every discourse, challenged every examination, defied all contradiction. All the miracles of Christ they declared before the very people whom they asserted to have witnessed them. "Ye men of Israel, hear these words," said Peter; "Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know." How eminently this bold and immediate publication must have aided as well as stimulated
* Matt. 4: 23-25.
† John 12: 9.
§ Acts 2: 22.
the investigation of the enemies of the gospel, furnishing those who had every disposition, and all power, and all intelligence and cunning, with every opportunity to try the minutest circumstance, and ferret out every clue to the detection of imposture, I need not show.
10. Now, consider who the agents were, whose works were obliged to stand such trials. Had they been men of learning, of power, of wealth, accustomed to any thing that was calculated to furnish them for the work of imposing upon mankind, the case would not be quite so strong. But on the supposition that Christ was a mere man and pretender, what was he, or what were his apostles, by education or standing in society, that they should be qualified for such an unparalleled effort of ingenuity and concealment? Is there any miracle more marvellous than that which is involved in the idea of a poor and, humanly speaking, unlearned individual of Nazareth, followed by twelve obscure, unlettered Jews, for the most part accustomed to nothing but their nets and fishingboats, having practised such a system of imposture, under such circumstances of risk and exposure, without an individual among their numerous enemies being able to discover their secret, or detect the deceit ?
11. Consider, moreover, that notwithstanding all that was done to entice and intimidate the early Christians who were eye-witnesses of what Jesus or his apostles wrought, none were induced to confess themselves deceived, or that they had seen any thing but truth in those miraculous gifts by which
they had been persuaded to embrace the gospel. It is not asserted that none who professed to be converted from Judaism or paganism to Christianity, ever renounced the profession of Christianity. The persecution of enemies was sometimes successful in forcing their victims to forsake the gospel, and do sacrifice to idols, rather than be burned at the stake or thrown to wild beasts. But the case cannot be brought of one such unhappy deserter, whether man or woman, having been persuaded to bear witness against the Christian miracles. A convert, after having united himself to the apostles, been received to the fellowship of the church, and become an agent in advancing its cause, must have become acquainted with its secrets. He must have often looked behind the scenes, and had many opportunities of knowing the hidden machinery by which the imposition, if any existed, was carried on. Had the evidence of contrivance and forgery been ever seen by the primitive Christians, those who deserted the cause had every motive to divulge it. Their own indignation at having been deceived, the rewards which they might have expected from the enemies of Christianity, would have been sufficiently persuasive. That none ever went a step further than simply to give up the profession of the gospel, through fear of torture; that none ever turned round upon the apostles by whose miracles they had been convinced, and charged them with fraud, is absolutely inexplicable on any other supposition than their thorough conviction that fraud did not exist.