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the least hesitation is shown, when to each is offered the choice of recantation or death. He that can believe such a case of fraud and folly as this, can believe any thing. He believes a miracle infinitely more difficult of credit than any in the gospel history. I charge him with the most superstitious and besotted credulity. In getting to such a belief, he has to trample over all the laws of nature and of reasoning. Then on what an unassailable rock does the honesty of the writers of the New Testament stand, if it can be attacked only at such sacrifices. How evident it is, not only that they could have had no motive to deceive, but that in all their self-devotion and sacrifices they gave the strongest possible evidence of having published what they solemnly believed was true.*
Now, if I have produced satisfactory proof from all the unquestionable marks of honesty in the gospel history-from the concurrence of profane historians with many of its facts-from their being contradicted by none-from the unprecedented harmony of eight independent writers in their minutest events and allusions-from the impossibility of supposing any motive to deception, and from the sacrifices the apostles endured in the promotion of Christianity if from these sources I have satisfactorily shown that the
"We cannot make use," says Hume, "of a more convincing argument," in proof of honesty, "than to prove that the actions ascribed to any persons are contrary to the course of nature, and that no human motives, in such circumstances, could ever induce them to such a conduct." Philosophical Essays.
writers of the gospel history could not have intended to record any thing but truth, then, having previously ascertained that they must have known whether what they wrote was true or false, we have those two requisites which insure the credibility of any history, knowledge and honesty. This shuts up the question. But it is not the whole strength of the argument. A question may be shut up and locked, but then it may have bolts and bars besides. The truth of the gospel history is not only sealed, but sealed sevenfold.
5. It has all the testimony that could possibly have been expected, in the nature of things, from the enemies of Christianity. It would have been. unreasonable to expect that a heathen or Jew would come forward with a detailed statement to acknowledge the events narrated by the evangelists. We have not this, but we have much better: we have the confession of the whole nation of Jews and of all the Greeks to the same point. None ever ventured in any publication to deny the statements of the evangelists. Unquestionably they would have done it everywhere, had they been able. When Luke published in Jerusalem that a man lame from his birth was healed by Peter and John, while sitting as a beggar at the gate of the temple, and that a great multitude came together on account of the wonderful deed, had the Jews of Jerusalem been able to deny it, would their persecuting enmity have permitted them to be silent? Be it remembered that the gospel history was published in the places where its
events are said to have occurred, in the lifetime of many enemies who are said to have seen them. Now it is certain that no adversaries, either in Judea, or Greece, or Rome, rested their opposition to the gospel, in any degree, on the denial of these events. What is the consequence? They could not deny them. What is the meaning of this silence? Being interpreted, it is nothing less than a universal testimony from all Jews and heathens who were capable of knowing any thing of the matter, that these things were SO. But they did not stop here. Tacitus the Roman historian positively asserts some of the chief events of the gospel. Celsus, a bitter antagonist of Christianity, in the second century;† Porphyry, a learned as well as earnest opposer, in the third ; and Julian, the apostate emperor, in the next century,' all acknowledge not only the authenticity of the New Testament books, but, so far as they refer to them, the historical correctness of their narratives, even as to the most extraordinary particulars, not excluding the miracles of Christ.
But we have stronger witness still.
About thirty-two years after the crucifixion, took place the first Roman persecution under Nero. The number of Christians discovered in the one city of Rome, and condemned, is called by Tacitus "a vast multitude."|| Of course they must have been exceedingly numerous in all other places taken together.
* Lardner, vol. 3, p. 611. Ibid. 4, 234-238.
† Ibid. 4, 121-130, 133, 134. Ibid. 4, 341, 342.
|| Tac. Annal., lib. 15, ch. 44; Lardner 3, 610–614.
These but a few years before were all either Jews or heathens. Many resided in Jerusalem, Capernaum, Antioch, Philippi, Ephesus, Corinth, etc. By the time of this persecution, all the gospels but one, as well as the Acts of the Apostles, had been published. The events recorded in these books are said to have taken place before the eyes of the people of the cities just mentioned. It was an easy thing for those people to ascertain whether they or their neighbors, or parents, had seen them. What did they do? They came forward in great multitudes; they threw off Judaism; threw off paganism; espoused the gospel, and sooner than renounce it, suffered unto death. This was but thirty-three years after the events recorded of Christ; it was in the lifetime of Paul. I say, therefore, that every Christian of those days was a witness, the strongest witness-far more impressive in his attestation than any enemy could have been to the shining, powerful truth of the gospel history. We are compassed about, therefore, with a great "cloud of witnesses"-witnesses who did not just acknowledge these things and still remain what they were before, but witnesses adding to their acknowledgment the testimony of their conversion, the evidence of their lives which were wholly devoted to these things, the seals of ten thousand martyrdoms endured solely on account of their perfect assurance of these things.
Now, consider a moment the utter impossibility that the gospel history should have gained such currency for a single year, had it not been notoriously
true. In about eight years after the crucifixion, Matthew publishes his gospel among the Jews. He tells the people of Jerusalem, that only eight years before that time, while a great multitude of them were witnessing the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus, there was darkness over the whole land. from twelve to three o'clock in the afternoon, and "the veil of the temple was rent in twain, and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent." Suppose all this to have been a fabrication, would Jerusalem have held her peace? Could a book of such barefaced untruth have lived an hour?
The book of the Acts of the Apostles was published about thirty years after the ascension of Christ, and was immediately circulated among the churches, and open to the perusal of the enemies of Christianity. It is related in the second chapter of that work, that on the day of Pentecost soon after the death of Christ, when a great multitude collected from all parts of the earth were assembled at Jerusalem, a deep impression of astonishment was produced on the public mind by a rumor of certain miraculous events in the company of the apostles, so that "the multitude came together and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language." Parthians and Medes and Elamites and Cretes and Arabians, dwellers in all countries, men of every speech, were amazed at hearing those Galileans, who were well known to have learned no other tongue than that of Palestine, speaking in all varieties of foreign languages the wonderful works of God. Such is the