« EdellinenJatka »
THE preceeding arguments recommend themselves to the common sense of thinking heathens, and the conscience of reasonable deists; as being all taken from those two amazing volumes, which are open to and legible by all ; the world and man. The following are taken from a third volume, the bible, despised by the wits of the age, merely because they study and understand it, even less than the other two. “ The bible ! says one of them with a smile, save yourself the trouble of producing arguments drawn from that old legend, unless you first demonstrate its authenticity by the noble faculty, to which you appeal in these pages.” For the sake of such objectors, I here premise, by way of digression, a few rational arguments to evince, as far as my contracted plan will allow, the divine authority of the scriptures. • 1. The sacred pen-men, the prophets and Apostles, were holy, excellent men, and would not; artless illiterate men, and therefore could not, lay the horrible scheme of deluding mankind. The hope of gain did not influence them, for they were self-denying men, that left all to follow a master, who had not where to lay his head; and whose grand initiating maxim was, Except a man forsake all that he hath he cannot be my disciple. . They were so disinterested, that they secured nothing on earth but hunger and nakedness, stocks and prisons, racks and tortures; which indeed was all that they could, or did expect in consequence of Christ's express declarations. Neither was a desire of honour the motive of their actions ; for their Lord himself was treated with the utmost contempt, and had more than once assured them, that they should certainly share the same fate : Besides, they were humble men, not above working as mechanics for a coarse maintenance, and so little desirous of human regard, that they exposed to the world the meanness of their birth and occupations, their great ignorance and scandalous falls.
Add to this, that they were so many, and lived at such distance of time and place from each other, that had they been impostors, it would have been impracticable for them to contrive, and carry on a forgery without being detected. And as they neither would, nor could deceive the world ; so they neither could nor would be deceived themselves : For they were days, months, and years, eye and ear-witnesses of the things which they relate : and when they had not the fullest evidence of important facts, they insisted upon new proofs, and even upon sensible demonstrations; as for instance Thomas, in the matter of our Lord's resurrection, John xx. 25. And to leave us no room to question their sincerity, most of them joyfully sealed the truth of their doctrines with their own blood. Did so many and such marks of veracity, ever meet in any other authors ?
2. But even while they lived, they confirmed their testimony by a variety of miracles, wrought in divers places, and for a number of years : sometimes before thousands of their enemies, as the miracles of Christ and his disciples ; sometimes before hundreds of thousands, as those of Moses. These miracles were so well known and attested, that when both Christ and Moses appealed to their authenticity, before their bitterest opposers, mentioning the persons upon whom, as well as the particular times when, and the places where, they had been performed ; the facts were never denied, but passed over in silence, or maliciously attributed to the prince of the devils. By such a pitiful slander 'as this, Porphyry, Hierocles, Celsus, and Julian the apostate, those learned and inveterate enemies of christianity, endeavoured (as the pharisees had done before them) to sap the argument founded upon the miracles of Christ and his disciples. So sure then as God would never have displayed his arm, in the most * astonishing manner for the support of imposture, the sacred pen-men had their commission from the Almighty, and their writings are his lively oracles.
3. Reason itself dictates, that nothing but the plainest matter of fact, could induce so many; thousands of prejudiced and persecuting Jews, to embrace the humbling, self-denying doctrine of the cross, which they so much despised and abhorred. Nothing but the clearest evidence, arising from undoubted truth, could make multitudes of lawless, luxurious heathens receive, follow, and transmit to posterity the doctrine and writings of the Apostles ; especially at a time when the vanity of their pretensions to miracles, and the gift of tongues could be so easily discovered, had they been impostors....at a time when the profession of christianity exposed persons of all ranks to the greatest contempt, and most imminent danger. In this respect the case of the primitive christians, widely differed from that of Mahomet's followers : For those, who adhered to the warlike, violent impostor, saved their lives and properties, or uttained to ho
* Once indeed the Lord permitted the magicians of Egypt so to use their art, as to counterfeit for a time some of Moses' miracles ; but it was only to make the authenticity of others more conspicuous; this being the happy effect of the contest, when those ministers of Satan withdrew confounded, and forced to acknowledge, that thie singer of God was evidently displayed through the rod of their antagonist.
nour, by their new, easy, and flesh-pleasing religion : but those, who devoted themselves to the meek, selfdenying, crucified Jesus, were frequently spoiled of their goods, and cruelly put to death, or if they escaped with their lives, were looked upon as the very dregs of mankind.'
Add to this, that some of the most profound parts of the scriptures, were addressed to the inhabitants of polite Greece, and triumphant Rome, among * whom philosoply and literature, with the fine arts and the sciences, were in the highest perfection ; and who, consequently, were less liable to be the dupes of forgery and imposture. On the contrary, gross ignorance overspread those countries, where Mahomet first broached his absurd opinions, and propagated them with the sword : A sure sign this, that the sacred writers did not, like that impostor avail themselves of the ignorance, weakness, and helplessness of their followers, to impose falsehood upon them.
4. When the authenticity of the miracles was attested by thousands of living witnesses, religious rites were instituted, and performed by hundreds of thousands, agreeable to scripture injunctions, in order to perpetuate that authenticity. And these solemn cere
* Not many noble, not many wise are called, says the Apostle ; nevertheless some of both, even at the rise of christianity, openly stood up for its truth. Among the noble we find Joseph, a member of the great Jewish council, Dionysius one of the judges at Athens, and Flavius Clemens a Roman senator : and among the wise, Quadratus, Aristides, and Athenagoras, Athenian philosophers; Clemens, Arnobius, Ammonius, Annatolius, &c. men of great learning at Alexandria ; and at Rome, Justin Martyr and Tertullian, both famous apologists for the religion of Jesus, the lat. ler. of whom, in the second century, told the Roman governors, that their corporations, councils, and armies, and the emperor's palace, were full of christians : Nor is this improbable, since so early a3 S . Paul's days the saints of Cæsar's household saluted those of the Roman provinces. Phil. iv. 22. How credulous are they who can believe that persons of such rank and learning could be deluded by Jewish fishermen into the worship of a crucified impostor.
monies have ever since been kept up in all parts of the world ; the passover by the Jews in remembrance of Moses' miracles in Egypt; and the eucharist by christians, as a memorial of Christ's death, and the miracles that accompanied it, some of which are recorded by Phlegon the Trallian, an heathen historian.
5. The scriptures have not only the external sanction of miracles, but the internal 'stamp of the omnicient God, by a variety of prophecies, some of which have already been most exactly comfirmed by the event predicted ; witness the rise and fall of the four grand monarchies according to Daniel's prophecy, chap. ii. and vii. and the destruction of the cily and temple of Jerusalem, foretold by Christ, Matt. xxiv. 2. while others are every day fulfilled in the face of infidels, particularly the persecution of the real disciples of Christ in our times, as well as in all ages (See Matt. x. 22, 35. John xv. 20. and Gal. iv. 29.) and the present miserable state of the Jews, so exactly described by Moses above three thousand years ago. See Deut. xxviii. 65.
6. Sometimes the plainest prophecies, the most public miracles, and the annals of kingdoms, well known when those books were first received, wonderfully concur to demonstrate their authenticity. Take one instance out of many. A prophet out of Judah, above 300 years before the event, thus foretold the pollution of Jeroboam's altar at Bethel, before Jerboam himself, who was attended by his priests, his courtiers, and no doubt, a vast number of idolatrous worshippers: O altar, altar, thus says the Lord, behold a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name, who shall burn men's bones upon thee : qd this is the sign : Behold, this very day, the altar shall be rent, and the ashes that are upon it scattered. King Jeroboam, enflamed with anger, stretched forth his hand against the man of God, saying to his guards, Lay hold on him ; but his extended hand was dried up so that he could not pull it in again to him ; the rending of the