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account of this astonishing transaction, as was done by the apostles in all their preaching, and a few years afterwards by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, an open, honest appeal was made to all the hundreds of thousands who had been assembled on that day in Jerusalem, to come forth and deny that these things did then and there occur. Thus was every possible facility afforded for the detection of imposture. Without a miracle for its concealment it could not have escaped. Had there been a detection with regard to but one of all the miracles, we should have heard of it. Judea and Greece and Rome would have rung with the news. The books of Jewish and heathen adversaries would have reiterated its publication in illuminated pages and golden capitals. All the generations of succeeding adversaries would have quoted it as one of the dearest bequests of classic antiquity. Is there any such thing? I sound the inquiry through the whole region of Jewish and Grecian and Roman history, and I hear nothing in answer but the echo of my own voice, "Is there any such thing?" I must answer it myself. There is no such thing, in all that has come to us from antiquity, as even a pretence to the detection of imposture in the gospel miracles.
This I think you will join me in considering a very impressive and conclusive confession, though a silent one, from the whole Jewish nation and gentile world, to the undeniable reality of the miracles of Christ and his apostles. It is all the evidence we could with any reason expect from enemies. When
Deists bid us produce the testimony of enemies as well as friends, it is perfectly unreasonable to require that we should find enemies, in those days of bitter hostility to Christianity, positively acknowledging that it was attested by miracles. That they did not deny it, that Jews and Gentiles, that the Mosaic and the Pagan priesthoods, that the Pharisees of Jerusalem, and the philosophers of Corinth and Ephesus and Rome were silent on this head, one would suppose, is a great deal to get from such adversaries.
But we can go further. Unreasonable as it is to demand more positive testimony from enemies, we can meet the demand. Having in a previous lecture ascertained the credibility of the gospel history, we may now appeal to it for the acknowledgment of enemies. Peter on the day of Pentecost assumed the fact that the multitudes of Israel, to whom he was speaking, acknowledged that Jesus of Nazareth had approved himself among them by "miracles, and wonders, and signs."*"This man doeth many miracles,"t was the confession of the chief priests and Pharisees, in council, relative to Jesus. "What shall we do to these men?" said the Jewish rulers in relation to Peter and John. "For that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it." You know that the only way of escape the Jewish rulers could find, while they could not deny the miracles, was to ascribe them to magic, or the power of demons. "He casteth out devils by Beelzebub." But we
* Acts 2:22.
↑ John 11:47.
Acts 4 16.
have similar testimony without recourse to the Scriptures. The Jewish rabbies, in the Talmud, acknowledge these miracles, and pretend that they were wrought by magic, or by the power attendant upon a certain use of the name Jehovah, called tetragrammaton, which, they pretend, Jesus stole out of the temple. But we have positive testimony also from heathens. Celsus, who wrote in the latter part of the second century, not only allows the principal facts of the gospel history, but acknowledges that Christ wrought miracles, by which he engaged great multitudes to adhere to him as the Messiah. That these miracles were really performed, so far from denying, he tries to account for by ascribing them to magic, which he says Christ learned in Egypt.*
Hierocles, president of Bythinia, and a persecutor of Christians, in a work written against Christianity does not deny the miracles of Christ, but compares them with those which he pretended had been wrought a long time before by one Apollonius of Tyanea, a heathen; complaining at the same time that Christians made so much ado about the works of Jesus as to worship him for God.*
Julian the emperor, in the fourth century, ac
Quod Christus per hoc nomen quoque miracula sua ediderit, probavit ante multos annos Purchetus. Ejus tamen fabulæ illustrandæ causâ, hoc addo, quod apud Talmudicos reperi. Ut Christus in eâ historiâ refertur descriptum Shemhamphorasch, (id est, nomen expositum, quod est ipsum nomen ) inclusisse in discissam cutem pedis, et ex templo eduxisse, ut sic per ejus vim miracula postmodum ediderit. Buxtorf.
Lardner, vol. 4, p. 120-130.
Ibid. 4, 254.
knowledges the miracles of Christ, and contents himself with trying to depreciate their importance. "Jesus," he says, "did nothing worthy of fame, unless any one can suppose that curing the lame and the blind, and exorcising demons in the villages of Bethsaida, are some of the greatest works." He acknowledges that Jesus had a sovereign power over impure spirits, and that he walked on the surface of the deep.* Now, it is a matter of no little wonder, to say the least of it, that in this nineteenth century men should be so sagacious as to discover that Christ and his apostles did not attest their claims and doctrines with miraculous powers, when learned, sagacious, and sufficiently hostile unbelievers of the earliest centuries of Christianity, having opportunities for discovering the state of the case such as none in modern times can pretend to, were constrained to acknowledge precisely the contrary. I marvel that Celsus and Porphyry, and Hierocles and Julian, and the scribes and Pharisees, can rest in their graves, when such reflections are cast upon the zeal and ability with which they searched for imposture in the works of Christ!
14. But we have even better testimony than that of enemies. Had Celsus found himself not only unable to deny the miracles of Christ, but persuaded, by the mere force of their truth, to renounce heathenism, and consecrate his life, in the face of persecution and death, to the service of the gospel, would not his testimony have been greatly increased in importance? * Lardner, vol. 4, pp. 332-342.
Would not the very fact of his becoming a Christian, under the power of evidence, be the consideration which, instead of injuring his testimony as that of a friend, would have given it peculiar force as that of a friend who was once an enemy? Then if I find cases precisely corresponding with this—if I present you with hundreds and thousands of such cases, and tens of thousands, will you not own that their positive testimony is far stronger than even that of the adversaries whom we have cited, and the strongest of which in the nature of things we could be possessed? I find precisely such cases in the apostles of Christ. They are regarded as interested witnesses, because they were friends. But what made them friends? Were they not men, like others? Jews, like others? Consider Paul, once a fierce persecutor of Christians. What made him a friend? Consider the three thousand converted from bitter, persecuting Judaism to the faith of Christ on the day of Pentecost. What made friends and disciples of them? Was it that they expected any earthly honors or gains from taking up the cross of a crucified Master, in whose wonderful works they did not believe? Was it that they coveted reproach, enjoyed suffering, and loved death; or because, by careful consideration, they were so convinced that the miracles of Christ, especially that of his rising from the dead, were true, that no certainty of persecution, no sacrifices of property, character, friends, or life were sufficient to prevent them from confessing him before men? To these add the hundreds of thousands who, during the min