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HAVING shown, in the preceding chapter, that miracles may be so attested as to be credible, I come now to examine the evidence by which the miraculous facts recorded in the New Testament, may be established.

This is the main point in our inquiry; for, after all that has been said, it must be admitted, that unless the Christian religion is attended with sufficient evidence, we cannot believe in it, even if we would.

Before entering directly on this discussion, it may be useful to premise a few things respecting the nature and force of testimony, which, it is presumed, will be admitted by all who have attended to the subject.

This species of evidence admits of all conceivable degrees, from the weakest probability to the fullest assurance; for while, on this ground, we yield to some reports, the most hesitating assent, we are as certainly persuaded of others, as of those things which we perceive by our senses, or have demonstrated by mathematical reasoning.

The exact force of testimony cannot be calculated by rule, nor estimated by reason; but is known, only from experience. Many things are believed on testimony, with the most unwavering confidence, when we are utterly unable to explain the precise ground on 90which our conviction rests. The sources of our information have been so numerous, and the same facts presented to us in so many forms, that it is impossible to attribute to each its influence in gaining our assent. If we were asked, on what particular testimony we believe there is such a place as Rome, or why we believe that such a person as Buonaparte lately figured in Europe, we could only answer, in the general, that multiplied testimonies of these facts, had reached us, so that all possibility of doubting was excluded. The same assurance, and resting on the same grounds, is experienced in relation to facts, which occurred in ages (; long past. Who can bring himself to doubt, whether such persons as Julius Cæsar, Paul, Mohammed, Columbus, or Luther, ever existed?

When we have obtained evidence to a certain amount, nothing is gained by the admission of more. The mind becomes, as it were, saturated, and no increase of conviction is produced, by multiplying witnesses. One sound demonstration of a theorem in mathematics, is as good as a hundred. A few upright witnesses who agree, and are uncontradicted by other evidence, are as satisfactory as any conceivable number. On a trial for murder, if there were a thousand witnesses who could attest the fact, a judicious court would not deem it necessary to examine more than half a dozen, or at most, a dozen, if there were a perfect agreement in their testimony. Experience only can inform us, what degree of evidence will produce complete conviction; but we may judge from former experience, what will be the effect of the same evidence, in future: and from the effect on our own minds, what it will be on the minds of others.

Testimony, not of the strongest kind, may be so 91corroborated by circumstances, and especially by the existing consequences of the facts reported, that it may be rendered credible, and even irresistible. Should a historian of doubtful credit attest, that an eclipse of the sun occured, on a certain day, and was visible in a certain place; if we possessed no other evidence of the fact, it might be considered doubtful, whether the testimony was true or false; but if by astronomical calculation, it should be found, that there must have been an eclipse of the sun at the time, and visible at that, place, the veracity of the witness, in this case, would be confirmed, beyond all possibility of doubt. Or, should we find it recorded by an anonymous author, that an earthquake, at a certain time, had overthrown a certain city; without further evidence, we should yield but a feeble assent to the statement; but if, on personal observation, or by the report of respectable travellers, it was ascertained, that the ruins of an ancient city existed in that place, we should consider the truth of the history as sufficiently established.

The evidences of the Christian religion may be sufficient, and yet not so strong as inevitably to produce conviction. Our conduct in the pursuit and reception of truth, may be intended by our Creator, to be an important part of the probation to which we are subjected; and, therefore, the evidence of revelation is not so great as to be irresistible; but is of such a kind, that the sincere and diligent inquirer will be in no danger of fatal mistake; while men of pride and prejudice, who prefer darkness to light, will be almost sure to err.77   See Pascal’s Thoughts.

It is natural for all men to speak the truth; falsehood requires an effort. Wicked men lie, only when they 92have some sinister end in view. Combinations to deceive, are never formed, but with a view to accomplish some object desirable to those concerned. No set of men will be at the trouble of forging and propagating a falsehood, which promises them no profit or gratification. Much less will they engage in such an enterpriser with the view of bringing evil on themselves; or, when they foresee, that it can be productive of nothing,. but pain and reproach.

Between truth and falsehood there is so great a difference, that it is extremely difficult for the latter, so. effectually to assume the garb, and exhibit the aspect of the former, as, upon a strict scrutiny, not to be detected. No imposture can stand the test of rigid inquiry; and when the inquisition is made, the truth seldom, remains doubtful: the fraud is pretty sure to become manifest. The style and manner of truth are entirely different from those of falsehood. The one pursues a direct course, is candid, unaffected, and honest; the other, evasive, cunning, tortuous, and inconsistent; and is often betrayed, by the efforts made to avoid detection.

When both sides of a question are pressed with difficulties, reason teaches us to choose that which is attended with the fewest. Objectors to Christianity often forget to notice the difficulties of their own hypothesis. Every question has two sides—if we, reject the affirmative, we, of necessity, receive the negative with the consequences with which it may be burdened. If we reject the evidence of Christianity, and deny that miracles ever existed, we are bound to account for the existence of the Christian church, and for the conduct of the first preachers and primitive believers, on other principles. And whoever seriously 93undertakes this, will impose on himself a difficult task. Gibbon, has put forth his strength, on this subject, with very small success. His account of the origin of Christianity is very unsatisfactory, and is totally defective in historical evidence.88   Decline and fall of the Roman Empire, c. iv., & xvi.

If the evidences, on both sides of an important question, appear to be pretty equally balanced, it is the dictate of wisdom to lean to the safe side. In this question, undoubtedly, the safe side is that of religion; fir, if we should be mistaken here, we shall suffer no loss, and obtain sonic good by our error; but a mistake on the other side, must prove fatal.

When a proposition has been established by proper and sufficient evidence, our faith ought not to be shaken by every objection, which we may not be able to solve. To admit this, would be to plunge into skepticism, on all subjects; for, what truth is there to which some objection may not be raised that no man can fully answer? Even the clearest truths in science are not exempt from objections of this sort. It must be so, as long as our minds are so limited, and the extent of human knowledge so narrow. That man judges incorrectly, who supposes, that when he has found out some objection to Christianity which cannot be satisfactorily answered, he has gained a victory. There are, indeed, objections, which relate to the essence of a proposition, which, if sustained, do overthrow the evidence; but there are other numerous objections which leave the substantial evidence undisturbed. Concerning them, I speak, when I say, that objections, though not capable of an answer, should not be permitted to unsettle our faith.


Let us now proceed to the examination of the testimony for the miracles recorded in the Gospel. In this. discussion we shall take. it for granted, that such a person as Jesus Christ lived in. Judea, about the time mentioned by the evangelists;—that he inculcated a pure and sublime morality; lived a virtuous and unblamable life; and was put to death by Pontius Pilate, at the, instigation of the Jewish rulers. Also,. that his, apostles went forth into various countries preaching to the people, and declaring that this crucified Jesus was, a person sent from God,. for the salvation of the world; and that many were induced to connect themselves with the Christian church. These facts not being of a miraculous nature, and it being necessary to suppose-some such events, deists have commonly been disposed, to admit them. But Volney, in his Ruins, and some others, have imagined, that such a person as Jesus Christ never existed;—that this is the name of one of the celestial luminaries;—and that the Gospel history is an allegory. Such visionary theories do not deserve a serious answer; they are subversive of all historical truth, and have not a shadow of evidence. They may be well left to sink by the weight of their own, extravagance. Mons. Volney, however, has received a learned answer from a gentleman,99   Mr. Roberts. who has met him, on his own, ground; and being as much attached to astronomical allegories as the Frenchman, has vanquished him with his own weapons.

In the examination of written testimony, the first thing requisite, is to prove the authenticity of the documents, in which it is recorded. The evidence, on which we depend, for the truth of the miracles performed 95by Jesus Christ, and by his apostles, is contained in the New Testament. Here we have four distinct narratives of the life, miracles, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus of Nazareth; and also a history of the acts and sufferings of the apostles in preaching the Gospel, and laying the foundation of the first Christian churches, after the resurrection and ascension of their Master. We have, also, in this collection of writings, a number of epistles, addressed to. the church in general, to particular churches, and to individuals. These, with a book of prophecy, corn-. pose the volume, called the New Testament.

These books are certainly not of recent origin; for there are extant, copies of the New Testament, in the. original Greek, which are, at the least, twelve hundred, years old. And before the time when these manuscripts were penned, we have, in other books, numerous testimonies to the existence of die Christian. Scriptures. They are not only mentioned, but quoted, expounded, and harmonized so that if every copy of. the New Testament had been lost, a large portion of it might be recovered, by means of the numerous quotations in the early Christian writers. Besides, there, are extant, versions of the New Testament, into several languages, made at a very early period. By these means, we are able to trace these writings up to the time, in which the apostles lived.

There is also ample proof, not only from Christian, but heathen authors, that a society, calling themselves Christians, existed as early as the reign. of Nero, who was contemporary with the apostles. It is evident, from the necessity of the case, that some such accounts as those contained in the Gospels, must have been received as true, from the first existence of the Christian 96church. Unless it had been preached and believed that Christ was a divine Teacher, and performed extraordinary works in attestation of his mission, how is it possible that such a society could have been formed? To suppose such a thing, would be to conceive of a, superstructure, without a foundation. The resurrection of Christ from the dead, must have been an article of the faith of Christians, from their very origin; for it is the corner stone of the whole edifice. Take the belief of this away, and the Christian system has no existence. There are also some external institutions peculiar to Christianity, which we must suppose to be coeval with the formation of the society, for they are the badges of the Christian profession, and constitute a part of their worship. I refer to baptism, and the eucharist. To suppose, that, in some way, Christianity first existed, and afterwards received these articles of faith, and these institutions of worship, is too improbable to be admitted by any impartial man. It would be to suppose that a religious society existed without any. principles; or that they rejected their original principles, and adopted new ones; and that they who imposed these upon them, had the address to persuade them, that they had always belonged to their system;—than which is not easy to conceive any thing more improbable. Let us, for a moment, attempt to imagine, that previously to the publication of the Gospels, the Christian Church had among them no report of the miracles, and no account of the institutions, recorded in these books. When they opened them, they would read, that their society was founded on the belief of the resurrection of Jesus; and that baptism and the eucharist were instituted by him before he left the world, and had existed among them ever since. Nothing can 97be more evident, therefore, than that the substance of what is contained in the Gospels, was believed and practised by Christians, from the commencement of the society.

As these books have come down to us under the names of certain apostles and disciples of Jesus Christ, so they were ascribed to the same persons, from the earliest mention of them. It is, by the ancient Fathers, spoken of as a fact, universally believed among Christians, and contradicted by nobody. And we must not suppose, that in the first ages of Christianity, there was little care or discrimination exercised, in ascertaining the true authors and genuine character of the books in circulation. The very reverse is the fact, The most diligent inquiries were instituted into matters of this kind. Other books were published in the name of the apostles, professing to give an account of. Jesus Christ, which were not genuine. The distinction between the books of the New Testament, and all others, of every class, was as clearly marked, in the earliest ages, as it has ever been since. The writings of the apostles were held in great veneration; were received by the churches, all over the world, as the rule of their faith, and directory of their lives; and publicly read at their meetings for the instruction of the people., When any controversy arose, they were appealed to as an authoritative standard. As soon as published, they were so widely scattered, and so carefully guarded, that no persons had it in their power to make any alteration in them.

The style, or dialect, in which these books are written, furnishes an evidence of their authenticity, of peculiar kind. It does not, indeed, ascertain the persons of the writers, but proves, that they must have 98been exactly in the circumstances of those to whom these books have been uniformly ascribed. The words are Greek but the idiom is Hebrew, or rather Syro-Chaldaic, the vernacular tongue of Judea, in the time of Christ and his apostles. This is a peculiarity which none could counterfeit, and which demonstrates, that the New Testament was not composed by men of a different country and age, from those in which the apostles lived.

In the New Testament, there are numerous references to rivers, mountains, seas, cities, and countries, which none but a person well acquainted with the geography of Judea and. the neighboring countries, could have made, without falling into innumerable errors. There is, moreover, incidental mention, of persons and facts, known from other authorities to have existed, and frequent allusions to manners and customs, peculiar to the Jews.

From all these considerations, it ought to be admitted without dispute, that these are indeed the writings of the apostles, and of those particular persons to whom they are ascribed. It would not, however, destroy their credibility, even if other persons had written them,. since they were certainly composed iai that age, and were received by the whole body of Christians. But what imaginable reason is there for doubting of the genuineness of these books? What persons were so likely to write books to guide the faith of the church, as the apostles? If they did not write them, who would? And why would they give the credit of them to others? But their universal reception, without opposition or contradiction, should silence every cavil. The persons who lived at this time, knew the apostles, and were deeply interested in the subject, and these are the 99 proper judges of this question. And they have decided it, unanimously, as it relates to the historical books of the New Testament. From them the testimony has come down, through all succeeding ages, without a chasm. Even heathen writers and heretics are witnesses, that the Gospels were written by the persons whose names they bear.1010   See Lardner’s Heathen Testimonies.

In other cases, we usually possess no other evidence of the genuineness of the most valued writings of antiquity, except the opinion of contemporaries, handed down by uncontradicted tradition. How soon would Homer be deprived of his glory, if such evidence was insisted on as is required for the genuineness of the New Testament? Certainly, as it respects evidence of genuineness, no books of antiquity stand upon a level with the books of the New Testament. The works of the Greek and Latin historians and poets, have no such evidence of being the writings of the persons whose names they bear, as the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. For we have the testimony, not merely of individuals, but of numerous societies, widely scattered over the world. We have internal evidence, of a kind, which cannot be counterfeited. We have, in short, every species of evidence, of which the case admits. It may, therefore, be considered, as an established fact, that the books of the New Testament are the genuine productions of the apostles; and consequently, contain their testimony to the miracles of Jesus Christ, and also to those miracles, which, in his name, they performed after his ascension.

It is also certain, that the books of the New Testament have not undergone any material change, since they 100were written; for there is a general agreement in all the copies, in all the versions, and in all the quotations. There are, it is true, small discrepancies, which have occurred, through the ignorance or carelessness of transcribers; but, not more than might naturally be expected. There is no ancient book which has come down to us so entire as the Scriptures, and which is accompanied by so many means of correcting an erroneous reading, where it has occurred. This representation may appear surprising to those, who have heard of the vast multitude of various readings, which learned critics have collected from a collation of the manuscripts; but it ought to be understood by all who have ever heard of these discrepancies, that not one in a thousand of them, is of the least consequence;—that a great majority of them are merely differences in orthography, in the collocation of words, or in the use of words perfectly synonymous, by which the sense is not in the least affected. A cursory reader would find as little difference in the various manuscripts of the New Testament, as in the different printed editions of the English version.

Having established the authenticity of the record which contains the testimony, we shall next proceed to consider its credibility.

The serious and candid attention of the reader, is requested to the following remarks:

I. Many of the facts related in the Gospels, are undoubtedly of a miraculous nature. It is declared that Jesus Christ, in several instances, raised the dead;—in one of which, the person had been dead four days, so that the body began to be offensive to the smell. In every case, this miracle was wrought instantly, and without any other means, than speaking a word. It 101is declared, that he healed multitudes of the most inveterate and incurable diseases;—that he gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb, and active limbs to the withered and the maimed: that he delivered those who were furious and unmanageable, by reason of the possession of demons; that, on different occasions, he fed thousands of people with a few loaves and fishes until they were satisfied; and that the fragments which were gathered up, were much greater in quantity than the original materials; that he walked upon the sea, and with a word allayed the raging storm, and produced a great calm. And, finally, it is repeatedly and solemnly declared, by all the witnesses, that Jesus Christ, after being crucified, and after having continued in the sepulchre three days, rose from the dead, and after showing himself, frequently, to his disciples, ascended to heaven, in their presence.

That all these were real miracles, none can for a moment doubt. It is true, we do not know all the powers of nature; but we do know, as certainly as we know any thing, that such works as these could not be performed, but by the immediate power of God. The same remark may be extended to the miracles wrought by the apostles, in the name of the Lord Jesus; and especially, to that stupendous miracle on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Ghost descended on the apostles, in visible form, and conferred on them the gift of tongues, and other extraordinary endowments. All must admit, that if these events ever occurred, then there have existed undoubted miracles.

II. The miracles of Jesus were performed, for the most part, in an open and public manner, in the presence of multitudes of witnesses, under the inspection of learned and malignant enemies; in a great variety 102of circumstances, and for several years in succession. There was here no room for trick, sleight of hand, illusion of the senses, or any thing else, which could impose on the spectators. This circumstance is important, because it proves to a certainty, that the apostles themselves could not be deluded and deceived, in the testimony which they have given. To suppose that they could think that they saw such miracles every day, for years, and yet be deceived, would be nearly as extravagant a supposition, as that we were deceived in all that we ever experienced.

III. The character of the miracles recorded in the Gospels, ought to be carefully observed. They were all worthy of the majesty, justice, and benevolence of the Son of God. They are characterized by dignity, propriety, and kindness. Most of them, indeed, were acts of tender compassion to the afflicted. Although so many miracles were performed, in so great a variety of circumstances, yet there is nothing ludicrous, puerile, or vindictive, in any of them. Christ never exerted his power to gratify the curiosity of any, or to supply his own daily wants. Ile made no ostentatious display of his wonderful power, and never used it to acquire wealth and influence. While he fed hungry multitudes by a miracle, he submitted to hunger and want himself; while he could command all nature, he remained in poverty;—not having so much as a home of any kind, to which he could retire to find repose. Although he was rejected and ill-treated by the Jews, yet he never refused to relieve any who sincerely sought his aid. His life, in consequence of the multitudes who flocked to him, was fatiguing, and on many accounts unpleasant, but he never grew weary in doing good.


Let any man compare the narrative of the miracles of Christ, contained in the genuine Gospels, with those fictitious accounts, which may be found in the apochryphal and spurious Gospels, still extant, and he will be struck with the remarkable contrast between them. The same result will be the consequence of a comparison of the miracles of Christ, with those, ascribed by the followers of Mohammed, to the impostor; or those contained in the legends of the church of Rome. I know not how any impartial man can read attentively the account of the miracles recorded in the Gospels, and not be convinced, from the very nature and circumstances of the facts reported, that they were real.

IV. There are no signs of fraud or imposture to be discovered in the record itself. There is, on the contrary, every indication of truth, honesty, and good intention, in the writers. Although they differ from each other in style and manner, so much, that it is evident, that the same person did not compose the four Gospels; yet there is a character of style which belongs to the whole of them, and which is without a parallel among any writers but the penmen of the Sacred Scriptures. It is an apparent exemption from the passions and frailties of human nature. The most stupendous miracles, are related without one exclamation of wonder from the historian: and without the least appearance of a desire to excite the wonder of the reader.

The character of Christ is drawn in no other way, than by simply telling what he did and said. There is no portraying of character in the way of general description, or by using strong epithets to set him forth. There is, perhaps, no such thing, in the Gospels, as an expression of admiration of any discourse or action, by the evangelists. 104If they relate such things, they are the words of others, which they faithfully set down. When they describe the sufferings of Christ, they never fall, as men usually do, into pathetic declamation. They are never carried away from their simple course by the power of sympathy. The facts are related, as though the writer felt nothing, but the strong purpose of declaring the truth, without giving any color whatever to the facts. Neither do they indulge themselves in those vehement expressions of indignation against the enemies of Christ, which we should naturally have expected. They never give utterance to a harsh expression against any one. They relate the treachery of Judas with the same unaffected simplicity, as if they had no feelings relative to his base conduct.

But there is something which exhibits the true character of the writers, in a light still stronger. It is the manner in which they speak of themselves. Few men can write much concerning themselves, without betraying the strength of self-love. Weak men, when they get on this topic, are commonly disgusting: and even when persons seem willing to let the truth be known, there is usually an effort discoverable, to seek compensation, in something, for every sacrifice which they make of reputation. But we may challenge any one to designate any instance, in which the least indication of this moral weakness has been given by the evangelists? They speak of themselves, and their companions, with the same candor, which characterizes their narrative in regard to others. They describe, in the most artless manner, the lowness of their origin, the meanness of their occupation, the grossness of their ignorance, the inveteracy of their prejudices, their childish contentions for superiority, their cowardice in 105the hour of danger, and the fatal apostacy of one, and temporary delinquency of another of their number. If any person supposes that it is an easy thing to write as the evangelists have done, he must have attended very little to the subject. The fact is, it cannot be imitated now, when the model is fully before us. That these unlearned men should be able to write books at all, with propriety, is a wonderful thing. Few fishermen, or mechanics, confined all their lives to laborious occupations, and untutored in the art of composition, could produce, without committing great faults, a narrative of their own lives. But that men of such an education should possess such self-command and self-denial, as is manifest in these compositions, cannot be easily accounted for, on common principles.

That, however, which deserves our special attention, is the absence of all appearance of ill design. I should like to ask a candid infidel, to point out, in the Gospel, some fact, or speech, which in the remotest degree, tends to prove, that the writers had a bad end in view. I need not say, that he could find nothing of the kind. Then, upon his hypothesis, we have this extraordinary fact; that four books, written by impostors, who have imposed on the world a series of falsehoods, do, in no part of them, betray the least appearance of ill design, or sinister purpose. Certainly, no other books, written by deceivers, possess the same characteristics.

We have some instances of men of learning and piety, manifesting uncommon candor, in the accounts which they have left of their own errors, prejudices, and faults; but in all of them you perceive the semblance, if not the reality of human frailty. These works, however, are very valuable. Some eminent 106infidels, also, have come forward before the world, with CONFESSIONS, and narratives of their lives, and even of their secret crimes.

None has made himself more conspicuous in this way, than J. J. Rosseau, who professes to exhibit to the world, a full confession of his faults, during a period of many years. And to do him justice, he has exposed to view moral turpitude enough, to make, if it were possible, a demon blush. But this infatuated man gloried in his shame: and declared it to be his purpose, when called before the tribunal of Heaven, to appear with his book in his hand, and present it to his Judge, as his confession and apology. Through the transparent covering of affectation, we may observe the most disgusting pride and arrogance. While common sense and decency are outraged, by a needless confession of deeds which ought not to be once named, he is so far from exhibiting any thing of the character of a true penitent, that he rather appears as the shameless apologist of vice. By his unreserved disclosures, he aspired to a new sort of reputation and glory. Perhaps, there is not, in any language, a composition mom strongly marked with pride and presumption. His confessions were manifestly made, in a confidence of the corruption of mankind, from whom he expected much applause for his candor, and small censure for his vices; but as he has appealed, also, to another tribunal, we may be permitted to doubt, whether he will there find as much applause, and as slight condemnation, as he affected to expect. Between such impious confessions as these, and the simple, humble, and sober statements of the evangelists, there can be no comparison.

There is only, one other thing, in the style of the apostles, which I wish to bring into view. In all the 107detailed narratives which they have given of Jesus Christ, no allusion is ever made to his personal appearance. We are as much unacquainted with his stature, his aspect, his complexion, and his gait and manner, as if the Gospels had never been written. There is profound wisdom in this silence: yet I doubt whether any writers, following merely the impulse of their own feelings, would have avoided every allusion to tilts subject.

V. There is no just ground of objection to the testimony, on account of the paucity of the witnesses. In regard to most facts handed down to us by authentic history, it is seldom, that we have more than two or three historians, testifying the same things; and in many cases, we receive the testimony of one as sufficient, if all the circumstances of the fact corroborate his narrative. But here, we have four distinct and independent witnesses, who were perfectly acquainted with the facts which they relate. Two of these, Matthew and John, were of the number of the twelve, who accompanied Jesus, wherever he went, and saw, from day to day, the works which he performed. Mark and Luke might also have been eye-witnesses. Many think that they were of the number of the seventy disciples, sent out by Christ to preach; but if they were not, they might have been his followers, and have been often present, in Jerusalem and other places, where he exhibited his miracles. It is not necessary, however, to resort to either of these suppositions. They were contemporaries, early disciples, constant companions of the apostles, and travelled much among the churches. Mark was, at first, the companion of Paul and Barnabas, and afterwards, attached himself to Peter, from whose preaching, according to the universal tradition of the 108early Fathers, he composed his Gospel. Luke was chosen by the churches in Asia to accompany Paul in his labors, and was almost constantly with him, until his first imprisonment at Rome; at which time, his history of the life and labors of that apostle terminates

Besides these four evangelists, who have professedly written an account of the miracles of Jesus Christ, we have the incidental testimony of those apostles, who wrote the epistles, especially of Paul. It is true, Paul was not one of the twelve apostles who accompanied Christ on earth; but lie became an apostle, under such circumstances, as rendered his testimony as strong, as that of any other witness. He informs us, that he was met by Jesus near to Damascus, when he was “breathing out threatning and slaughter” against the disciples of Christ: who appeared to him in the midst of a resplendent light, and spoke to him. From that moment he became his devoted follower, and the most laborious and successful preacher of the Gospel. He abandoned the most flattering worldly prospects, which any young man in the Jewish nation could have. He possessed genius, learning, an unblemished character for religion and morality; was in high favor with the chief men of his nation, and seems to have been more zealous than any other individual, to extirpate Christianity. How can it be accounted for, that he should suddenly become a Christian, unless he did indeed see the risen Jesus? Instead of bright worldly prospects, which he had before, he was now subjected to persecution and contempt, wherever he went. The catalogue of only a part of his sufferings, which he gives in one of his epistles, is enough to appal the stoutest heart; yet, he never repented of his becoming a Christian, but continued to devote all his energies to the promotion of 109the Gospel, as long as he lived. This change, in a person of Paul’s character and prospects, will never be accounted for upon principles of imposture, or enthusiasm.1111   See Lord Lyttleton’s Conversion of Paul. Here, then, we can produce what. deists often demand, the testimony of an enemy. Not of one who was unconvinced by the evidence of Christianity, which would be an inconsistent testimony, and liable to great objections; but of one whose mind had been long inflamed with zeal against Christianity; and yet, by the force of evidence, was converted to be a zealous disciple, and retained, all his life, a deep and unwavering conviction of the truth of the Gospel.1212   There is a remarkable testimony to the extraordinary character and works of Jesus Christ, in Josephus, which has been rejected as spurious by modern critics; not for want of external evidence, for it is found in all the oldest and best MSS., but principally because it is conceived, that Josephus being a Jew, and a Pharisee, never could have given such a testimony in favor of one is whom he did not believe. This man, although he has not written a Gospel, has given repeated testimonies to the truth of the leading facts, which are now in question. Especially, he is one of the best witnesses on the subject of the resurrection of Christ; for he not only saw and conversed with Jesus after his ascension, but has informed us of some circumstances, of great importance, not mentioned by any of the evangelists. He asserts that Christ was seen by five hundred persons at one time, most of whom were still living when he wrote. If there had been any falsehood in this declaration, how soon must it have been detected? His letters, no doubt, were immediately transcribed, and conveyed to every part of the church; and how easy would it have been to prove 110the falsehood of such a declaration, if it had not been a fact? But almost every page of Paul’s writings recognises as true, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. his constantly assumed as a truth most assuredly believed by all Christians. It is the great motive of exertion and source of consolation, in all his epistles. And when he would convince certain heretics of the absurdity of denying the resurrection of the body, he reduces them to this conclusion, that “if the dead rise not, then is Christ not risen,” which would be, at once, to subvert the Christian religion. His appeal to the common assured belief of Christians, is remarkably strong, and pertinent to our purpose; “If,” says he, “Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ, whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.” Would any man in his senses, have written thus, if the resurrection of Christ had not been a fundamental article of faith among Christians; or if he had not been fully persuaded of its truth? Had Paul been an impostor, would he have dared to appeal to five hundred persons, most of whom were living, for the truth of what he knew to be false? How easy, and how certain, must have been the detection of an imposture thus conducted?

The same is evident from the epistles of the other apostles, and from the Apocalypse.

Now, when we can clearly ascertain what any persons believed in relation to a we have, virtually their testimony to that fact; because, when they come forward and give testimony, explicitly, they do no more than express the conviction of their own minds. Certainly, 111then, if we can by any means, ascertain what the primitive Christians believed in regard to the resurrection of Christ, and other miraculous facts, we are in possession of all the testimony which they could give.1313   See Dr. Channing’s Dudleian Lecture. This is an important point as it relates to the number of witnesses. Now, that all Christians, from the beginning, did believe in the facts recorded in the Gospels and Epistles of the apostles, we have the strongest possible evidence. It is proved incontestably, from the fact of their becoming Christians; for how could they be Christians without faith in Christianity? unless any one will be so extravagant as to believe, that not only the apostles, but all their converts, were wilful deceivers. It is proved also from the manner in which Christians are addressed by the apostles, in all the epistle. Suppose, for a moment, that the Corinthian church had no belief in the resurrection of Christ, when they received the above-mentioned epistle from Paul; would they not have considered him perfectly insane? But the universal reception of the Gospels and Epistles, by all Christian churches, throughout the world, is the best possible evidence that they believed what they contained. These books were adopted as the creed and guide of all Christians. It is manifest, therefore, that we are in possession of the testimony of the whole primitive church, to the truth of the miracles recorded in the Gospels. Suppose a document had come down to us, containing a profession of the belief of every person who embraced the Christian religion, and a solemn attestation to the facts on which Christianity is founded, would any 112man object, that the witnesses were too few? The fact is, that we have substantially, this whole body of testimony. I do not perceive, that its force would have been sensibly greater had it been transmitted to us with all the formalities just mentioned. There is, therefore, no defect in the number of witnesses. If every one of the twelve apostles had written a Gospel, and a hundred other persons had done the same, the evidence would not be essentially improved. We should have no more, after all, than the testimony of the whole primitive church, which, as has been proved, we possess already.

VI. The credibility of the testimony is not impaired by any want of agreement among the witnesses. In their attestation to the leading facts, and to the doctrines and character of Christ, they are perfectly harmonious. The selection of facts by the several evangelists is different, and the same fact is sometimes related more circumstantially by one, than another; yet there is no inconsistency between them. In their general character, and prominent features, there is a beautiful harmony in the Gospels. There is no difference which can affect, in the judgment of the impartial, the credibility of the testimony, which they contain. If all the evangelists had recorded precisely the same facts, and all the circumstances, in the same order, the Gospels would have the appearance of having been written in concert, which would weaken their testimony. But it is almost demonstrable, from internal evidence, that the evangelists, with the exception of John, never had seen each other’s productions, before they wrote. Their agreement, therefore, ought to have the effect of witnesses examined apart from each other; and their 113 discrepancies serve to prove, that there could be no concerted scheme to deceive; for in that case every appearance of this kind would have been carefully removed.

I am aware, however, that on the ground of supposed contradictions, or irreconcilable discrepancies, the most formidable attacks have been made on Christianity. It is entirely incompatible with the narrow limits of this essay, to enter into a consideration of the various methods which have been adapted for harmonizing the Gospels, and removing the difficulties which arise from their variations. I can only make a few general observations, with the view of leading the reader to the proper principles of solution.

It ought to be kept in mind, that the Gospels were written almost two thousand years ago, in a language not now spoken; in a remote country, whose manners and customs were very different from ours. In all such cases, there will be obscurities and difficulties, arising entirely from the imperfection of our knowledge.

The Gospels do not purport to be regular histories of events, arranged in exact chronological order, but a selection of important facts, out of a much greater number left unnoticed. The time when, or the place where, these facts occurred, is of no consequence to the end contemplated by the evangelists. In their narratives, therefore, they have sometimes pursued the order of time; and in other cases, the arrangement has been suggested by the subject previously treated, or by some other circumstance.

In recording a miracle, the number of persons benefitted, is not of much consequence; the miracle is the same, whether sight be restored to one person, or two; or whether demons be expelled from one, or many. If one historian, intent on recording the extraordinary 114facts, selects the case of one person, which might, in. some accounts, be more remarkable; and another mentions two, there is no contradiction. If they had professed to give an accurate account of the number healed, there would be ground for this objection; but this was no part of the design of the evangelists.

If a writer, with a view of exhibiting the skill of an oculist, should mention a remarkable instance of sight being restored to a person who bad been long blind, it could not be fairly inferred from the narrative, that no other person received the same benefit, at that time; and, if, another person should give a distinct account of all the cases, there would be no contradiction between these witnesses. All the difference is, that one selects a prominent fact out of many; the other descends to all the particular.

There is no source of difficulty more usual, than the confounding of things which are distinct. The narratives of events truly distinct, may have so striking a similarity, that the cursory reader will be apt to confound them. It has been remarked by a learned man,1414   Dr. Macknight. that if the two miracles of feeding the multitude, bad been mentioned by two different evangelists, each giving an account of one case, it would have been supposed by many that they were accounts of the same occurrence, and that the evangelists did not agree in their testimony: but in this case, both these miracles are distinctly related by the same evangelist, and distinctly referred to by Christ, in his conversation with his disciples. This confounding of distinct things is never more commonly done, than when a fact was attended with a great number of circumstances and occurrences, rapidly succeeding 115each other, and the historian mentions only a few out of many. This remark is fully verified with respect to Christ’s resurrection. The narrative of all the evangelists is very concise. Few particulars are mentioned; and yet from the nature of the case, there must have been an extraordinary degree of agitation among the disciples; a great running from one part of Jerusalem to another, to tell the news; and a frequent paging to and from the sepulchre. It is not wonderful, therefore, that, as each evangelist mentions only a few of the accompanying occurrences; there should seem, at first view, to be some discrepancy in their accounts.

Companies of women are mentioned by each, and it is hastily taken for granted, that they were all the same; and the objector proceeds on the supposition, that these women all arrived at the sepulchre, at the same time, and that they continued together. He forgets to take into view, that the persons who might agree to meet at the sepulchre, probably lived at very different distances from the place, and allows nothing for the agitation and distraction produced by the reports and visions of this interesting morning. But on this, as on several other subjects, we are indebted to the enemies of revelation for being the occasion of bringing forward able men, who have shed so much light on this part of the Gospel history, that even the appearance of discrepancy is entirely removed.1515   See West on the Resurrection; Townson; Macknight; Ditton; Sherlock; &c.

The genealogy of Jesus Christ, as given by Matthew and Luke, has furnished to modern infidels much occasion of cavil; but it ought to be sufficient to silence 116these objectors, that the early enemies of Christianity made no objections on this ground. If one of these is the genealogy of Joseph and the other of Mary, there will be no discrepancy between them. Why it was proper to give the descent of Joseph, the husband of Mary, it is not now necessary to inquire. But on this whole subject, I would remark, that we are very little acquainted with the plan on which genealogical tables were constructed. It seems to have been a very intricate business, and it is not surprising that we should be at a loss to elucidate every difficulty.

Again, it is highly probable, that these lists were. taken from some genealogical tables of the tribe and family of the persons to whom they refer. Every family must have had access to such tables; on account of their inheritance. Public tables of acknowledged authority, would be far better for the purpose which the evangelists had in view, than new ones, even though these should have been more full and accurate. These genealogies had no other object than to prove that Jesus of Nazareth was a lineal descendant of David and Abraham; which purpose. is completely answered by them; and there are no difficulties which may not be accounted for by our ignorance of the subject.

Finally, it may be admitted, that some slight inaccuracies have crept into the copies of the New Testament, through the carelessness of transcribers. It is impossible for men to write the whole of a book, without making some mistakes; and if there be some small discrepancies, in the Gospels, with respect to names and numbers, they ought to be attributed to this cause.

VII. The witnesses of the miracles of Christ could have had no conceivable motive for propagating an 117imposture. That they were not themselves deceived is manifest from the nature of the facts, and from the full opportunity which they had of examining them. It is evident, therefore, that if the miracles recorded by them never existed, they were wilful impostors. They must have wickedly combined, to impose upon the world. But what motives could have influenced them to pursue such a course, we cannot imagine; or how men of low condition and small education, should have ever conceived it possible to deceive the world, in such a case, is equally inconceivable. These men had worldly interests, which it was natural for them to regard; but every thing of this kind, was fully relinquished. They engaged in an enterprise not only dangerous, but attended with certain and immediate ruin to all their worldly interests. They exposed themselves to the indignation of all authority, and to the outrageous fury of the multitude. They must have foreseen, that they would bring down upon themselves the vengeance of the civil and ecclesiastical powers, and that every species of suffering awaited them. Their leader was crucified, and what could they expect from declaring that he was alive, and had performed wonderful miracles? If they could have entertained any hopes of exemption from evils so apparent, experience must soon have convinced them, that they had engaged not only in a wicked, but most unprofitable undertaking. It was not long after they began their testimony, before they were obliged to endure unrelenting persecution from Jews and Gentiles. Could they have been influenced by a regard to fame? What renown could they expect from proclaiming a crucified man to be their master, and the object of all their hope and confidence? If this was their object, 118why did they give. all the glory to another who was. dead? But the fact is, that instead of fame, they met with infamy. No name was ever more derided and hated than that of Christian. They were vilified as the most contemptible miscreants that ever lived; as the refuse and offscouring of all things; as the pests and disturbers of society, and the enemies of the gods. They were pursued as outlaws, and punished for no other reason, but because they acknowledged themselves to be Christians. Would men persevere in propagating an imposture for such fame as this? It cannot be supposed that they expected their compensation in another world; for, the supposition is, that they were wilful impostors, who were, every day, asserting, in the most solemn manner, that the murderer or highway robber is influenced in the commission of his atrocious crimes, by the hope of a future reward.

The only alternative is, to suppose, that they were fanatics; as it is known, that men under the government of enthusiasm, contemn all the common considerations, which usually influence human conduct; and often act in a way totally unaccountable. This representation of enthusiasm is just, but it will not answer the purpose for which it is adduced. Enthusiasts are always. strongly persuaded of the truth of the religion which they wish to propagate; but these men, upon the hypothesis under consideration, knew that all which they said was false. Enthusiasm, and imposture are irreconcilable. It is true, that, what begins in enthusiasm, may end in imposture; but in. this case, the imposture must have been the beginning, as well as the end, of the whole business. There was no room for enthusiasm; all was imposture, if the facts reported, were not true. But the best evidence, that 119the evangelists were not wild fanatics, is derived front their writings. These are at the greatest remove from the ravings or reveries of enthusiasm. They are the most simple, grave, and dispassionate narratives, that ever were written. These books, certainly, were not the production of crazy fanatics. The writers are actuated by no frenzy; they give no indication of a heated imagination; they speak, uniformly, the language of “truth and soberness.”

VIII. But if we could persuade ourselves, that the apostles might have been actuated by some unknown and inconceivable motive, to forge the- whole account of Christ’s miracles; and were impelled by some unaccountable phrensy, to persevere, through all difficulties and sufferings, to propagate lies; yet, can we believe, that they could have found followers, in the very country, and in the very city, where the miracles were stated to have been performed?

When these accounts of stupendous and numerous miracles were published in Jerusalem where the apostles began their testimony, what would the people think? Would they not say, “These men bring strange things to our ears? They tell us of wonders wrought among us, of which we have never before heard. And they would not only have us to believe their incredible story, but forsake all. that we have, abandon our friends, and relinquish the religion of our fore-fathers, received from God: and not only so, but bring upon ourselves and families, the vengeance of those that rule over us, and the hatred and reproach of all men.” Is it possible to believe, that one sane person, would have received their report?

Besides, the priests and rulers who had put Jesus to death, were deeply interested to prevent the circulation 120of such a story. It implicated them in a horrid crime. Would they not have exerted themselves to lay open the forgery, and would there have been the least difficulty in accomplishing the object, if the testimony of these witnesses had been false? The places of many of the miracles are recorded, and the names of the persons healed, or raised from the dead, mentioned. It was only one or two miles to the dwelling of Lazarus; how easy would it have been to prove that the story of his resurrection was a falsehood, had it not been a fact? Indeed, Jerusalem itself, and the temple, were the scenes of many of the miracles ascribed to Christ. As he spent much time in that city, it is presumable, that not a person residing there, could have been totally ignorant of facts which must have occupied the attention and excited the curiosity of every body. An imposture like this could never be successful, in such circumstances. The presence of an interested, inimical, and powerful body of men, would soon have put down every attempt at an imposition so gross and groundless. If the apostles had pretended, that at some remote period, or in some remote country, a man had performed miracles, they might have persuaded some weak and credulous persons; but they appealed to the people to whom they preached, as the witnesses of what they related. No more than a few weeks had elapsed after the death of Jesus, before this testimony was published in Jerusalem: and, notwithstanding all the opposition of those in authority, it was received, and multitudes willingly offered themselves as the disciples of him, whom they had recently crucified.

The success of the Gospel, under the circumstances of its first publication, is one of the most wonderful’ effects recorded in history; and it is a fact beyond all 121dispute. In a little time, thousands of persons embraced the Christian religion, in Jerusalem, and in other parts of Judea. In heathen countries, its success was still more astonishing.

Churches were planted in all the principal cities of the Roman Empire, before half a century had elapsed from the resurrection of Christ. The fires of persecution raged; thousands and tens of thousands of unoffending Christians were put to death, in a cruel manner; yet this cause’ seemed to prosper the more, so that it became a proverb, that “the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the Church.” And it went on increasing and prevailing, until, in less than three centuries, it became the religion of the empire.

Learned infidels have in vain attempted to assign an adequate cause for this event, on natural principles. Gibbon, as has been before stated, exerted all his ingenuity to account for the progress and establishment of Christianity; but although he has freely indulged conjecture, and disregarded the testimony of Christians, his efforts have been unavailing. The account which he has given, is entirely unsatisfactory. Upon the deistical hypothesis, it is a grand revolution, without any adequate cause. That a few unlearned and simple men, mostly fishermen of Galilee, should have been successful in changing the religion of the world, without power or patronage, and employing no other weapons but persuasion, must, forever, remain an unaccountable thing, unless we admit the reality of miracles, and supernatural aid.

The argument from the rapid and extensive progress. of the Gospel may be estimated, if we consider the following circumstances:

1. The insufficiency of the instruments to accomplish 122such a work, without supernatural aid. They had neither the learning nor address to make such an impression on the minds of men, as was requisite, to bring about such a revolution.

2. The places in which the Gospel was first preached and had greatest success, furnish proof, that it could not have been propagated merely by human means. These were not obscure corners, remote from the lights of science, but the most populous and polished cities, where every species of the learning of the age was concentrated, and whither men of learning resorted. Damascus, Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, Phillippi, and Rome, furnished the theatre for the first preachers of the Gospel. It is believed, that there was no conspicuous city, in the central part of the Roman, empire, in which a Christian church was not planted, before the death of the apostles. And it ought to be remembered, that this did not occur in a dark age, but in what is acknowledged by all, to be the most enlightened age of antiquity: it was the period which immediately succeeded the Augustan Age, so much, and so deservedly celebrated, for its classical authors. If the Gospel had been an imposture, its propagators would never have gone to such places, in the first instance; or if they had, they could not have escaped detection.

3. The obstacles to be overcome were great, and insurmountable by human effort. The people were all attached to the respective superstitions, in which they had been educated, and which were all adapted to retain their hold on corrupt minds. How difficult is it to obtain, even a hearing, from people in such circumstances, is manifest from the experience of all missionaries, in modern times. Philosophers, priests, and rulers, ‘were combined against them. All that learning, eloquence, 123prejudice, interest, and power, could oppose to them, stood in their way.

4. It would have been impracticable for a few unlettered Jews to acquire the languages of all the nations, among whom the Gospel spread, in so short a time. They must have had the gift of tongues; or this conquest could never have been achieved. Besides, it ought to be remembered, that Jews were held in great contempt, by all the surrounding nations. A few persons of this nation, exhibiting a very mean appearance, as must have been the case, would have called forth nothing but derision and contempt, in any of the large cities of the Empire. It is more unlikely that they should have been able to make many converts, than it would be now, for a few poor Jewish mechanics to proselyte to Judaism, vast multitudes, in all the principal cities of Europe and America.1616   See Dr. S. S. Smith’s Lectures on the Evidences of Christianity.

5. The terms of discipleship, which the apostles proposed, and the doctrines which they preached, were not adapted to allure and flatter the people, but must have been very repulsive to the minds of men.

6. Many Christians were cut off by persecution, but still Christianity made progress, and was extended in all directions. Because Christianity increased and flourished under bloody persecutions, many persons have adopted it as a maxim, that persecution has a tendency to promote any cause; than which it is difficult to conceive of any thing more contrary to common sense and experience. In most cases, by cutting off the leaders of a party, however furious their fanaticism, the cause will decline, and soon become extinct. The 124increase of Christianity, under ten bloody persecutions, can only be accounted for, by supposing, that God by his grace on the hearts of men, persuaded them to embrace the truth, and inspired them with more than heroic fortitude, in suffering for the sake of their religion.

IX. The apostles and many of the primitive Christians, attested the truth by martyrdom. They sealed their testimony with their blood. To this argument it is sometimes answered, that men may suffer martyrdom for a false as well as a true religion; and that, in fact, men have been willing to die for opinions, in direct opposition to each other. While this is admitted, it does not affect the argument now adduced. All, that dying for an opinion can prove, (and of this it is the best possible evidence,) is, the sincerity of the witnesses But in the case before us, the sincerity of the witnesses proves the facts in question; for we have seen, that they could not themselves have been deceived. Every martyr had the opportunity of knowing the truth of the facts on which Christianity was founded; and by suffering death in attestation of them, he has given the most impressive testimony that can he conceived.1717   See Addison’s Evidences.

The sufferings of the primitive Christians, for their religion, were exceedingly great, and are attested by heathen, as well as Christian writers. It is a circumstance of great importance, in this argument, that they could at once have escaped all their torments, by renouncing Christianity. To bring them to this, was the sole object of their persecutors; and, uniformly, it was put to their choice, to offer sacrifice or incense to 125the heathen gods, or be tormented. One word would have been sufficient to deliver them; one easy action would have restored them to worldly comforts and honors: But they steadfastly adhered to their profession. Some, indeed, were overcome by the cruelty of their persecutors; but was it ever beard that any of them confessed that there was any fraud or imposture, among them? So far from it, that they, whose courage had failed them in the trying hour, were commonly deep penitents on account of their weakness, all the rest of their days. Let it be remembered, that no person suffered for Christianity through necessity. Every martyr made a voluntary sacrifice of himself, to maintain the truth, and to preserve a good conscience.

There is yet another light in which these sufferings of the primitive Christians ought to be viewed. It is the temper with which they endured every kind of torment. Here again is a problem for the deist to solve. Persons of all ages, of all conditions of life, and of both sexes, exhibited under protracted and cruel torments, a fortitude, a patience, a meekness, a spirit of charity and forgiveness, a cheerfulness, yea, often a triumphant joy, of which there are no examples to be found in the history of the world. They rejoiced when they were arrested; cheerfully bid adieu to their nearest and dearest relatives; gladly embraced the stake; welcomed the wild beasts let loose to devour them; smiled on the horrible apparatus by which their sinews were to be stretched, and their bones dislocated and broken; uttered no complaint; gave no indication of pain when their bodies were enveloped in flames; and when condemned to die, begged of their friends to interpose no obstacle to their felicity, (for such they esteemed martyrdom,) not even by prayers for their 126deliverance.1818   See the Epistles of Ignatius and Polycarp. What more than human fortitude watt this? By what spirit were these despised and persecuted people sustained? What natural principles, in the human constitution, can satisfactorily account for such superiority to pain and death? Could attachment to an impostor inspire them with such feelings? No; it was the promised presence of the risen Jesus which upheld them, and filled them with assurance and joy. It was the Paraclete, promised by their Lord, who poured into their hearts a peace and joy so complete, that they were scarcely sensible of the wounds inflicted on their bodies.

Proud and obstinate men may, for aught I know, suffer death for what they are secretly convinced is not true; but that multitudes, of all conditions, should joyfully suffer for what they knew to be an imposture, is impossible. Tender women, and venerable old men, were among the most conspicuous of the martyrs of Jesus. They loved not their lives unto the death, and having given their testimony and sealed it with their blood, they are now clothed in white robes, and bear palms in their hands, and sing the song of Moses and the Lamb. Blessed martyrs, they have rested from their labors, and their works have followed them!

X. The last particular which I shall mention, to set the testimony of the witnesses to the miracles of the Gospel in its true light, is, that there is no counter testimony. These witnesses have never been confronted and contradicted by others. Whatever force or probability their declarations are entitled to, from the circumstances of the case, and from the evidences which we possess of their integrity and intelligence, suffers no 127deduction, on account of other persons giving a different testimony.

The Jewish priests and rulers did, indeed, cause to be circulated, a story, relative to the dead body of Christ, contrary to the testimony of the apostles, which has been handed down to us by the evangelists. They hired the soldiers to report., that Christ’s disciples had come by night, and stolen the body, while they slept—a story too absurd and inconsistent to require a moment’s refutation. But as the body was gone out of their possession; they could not, perhaps, have invented any thing more plausible. It proved nothing, however, except that the body was removed while the soldiers slept, and for aught they could testify, might have risen from the dead, according to the testimony of the apostles.

Deists sometimes demand the testimony of the enemies, as well as the friends of Christianity. To which I would reply, that the silence of enemies, is all that can reasonably be expected from them. That they should come forward, voluntarily, with testimony in favor of a religion, which, through prejudice, or worldly policy, they opposed, could not reasonably be expected. Now, since they would have contradicted these facts, if it had been in their power, their not doing so, furnishes the strongest negative evidence, which we can possess. And no other evidence than that which is negative, or merely incidental, ought to be expected from the enemies of the Gospel; unless, like Paul, they were convinced by the evidence exhibited to them. But no denial of the reality of the miracles of Christ has reached us from any quarter. As far as we have any accounts, there is no reason to think, that they were ever denied by his most implacable 128enemies. They said, that he performed his works by the help of Beelzebub. The first heathen writers against Christianity, did not dare to deny Christ’s miracles. Neither Celsus, Porphyry, Hierocles, nor Julian, pretend, that these facts were entirely false; for they attempted to account for them. The Jewish Rabbies, in the Talmud, acknowledge these miracle`, and pretend that they were wrought by magic, or by the power of the venerable name of Jehovah, called, tertragrammaton, which they ridiculously pretend, Jesus stole out of the temple, and by which they say he performed wonderful works.

From what has been said, I trust it is sufficiently manifest, that we have such testimony for the miracles of the New Testament, as will render them credible, in the view of all impartial persons. We have shown that the miracles recorded are real miracles;—that. they were performed in an open and public manner;—that the witnesses could not possibly have been deceived themselves;—that enemies had every opportunity and motive for disproving the facts if they had not been true;—that there is every evidence of sincerity and honesty in the evangelists;—that the epistles of the apostles furnish strong collateral proof of the same facts;—that all Christians from the beginning, must have .believed in these miracles, and they must, therefore, be considered competent witnesses;—that none of the. witnesses could have any motive to deceive;—that they never could have succeeded in imposing such a fraud on the world, if they could have attempted it;—that it would have been the easiest thing in the world, for the Jewish Rulers to have silenced such reports if they had been false;—that the commencement of preaching. at Jerusalem, 129and the success of Christianity there, cannot be accounted for, on any other principles, than the truth of the miracles;—that the conduct of the apostles in going to the most enlightened countries and cities, and their success in those places, can never be reconciled with the idea that they were ignorant impostors;—that the astonishing progress of the Gospel, in the midst of opposition and persecution, and the extraordinary temper of the primitive Christians, under sufferings of the most cruel kind, can only be accounted for, on the supposition of a full persuasion of the truth of the facts, and that this persuasion is proof of their reality;—and, finally, that no contrary evidence exists: but that even the early enemies of Christianity have been obliged to admit, that such miracles were performed.

Now, when all these things are fairly and fully considered, is it not reasonable to conclude, that it is more probable that miracles should have been performed, than that such a body of testimony, so corroborated by circumstances, and by effects reaching to our own times, should be false?

If all this testimony is false, we may call in question all historical testimony whatever; for what facts ever have been so fully attested?

But why should this testimony he rejected? No reason has ever been assigned, except that the facts, were miraculous; but we have shown, that it is not unreasonable to expect miracles in such a case; and that miracles are capable of satisfactory proof from testimony. It is, therefore, a just conclusion, That the Miracles of the Gospel are credible.

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