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duct is within the limits of probability, on the supposition of Christianity being “a cunningly devised fable.' And in the circumstance that a charge of a nature so heinous is simply recorded, recorded and left unanswered, unnoticed, is the best possible proof that the writer, unlike the High Priests and Pharisees, had no fear for the issue, but was concerned merely to discharge the duties of a faithful chronicler. He set down simply what he knew, without a thought of the impression it would make on the reader's mind; and was too much occupied with his unpretending story, to affect the skill of the pleader, or the arts of the rhetorician. And the great landmarks in moral science must be entirely changed, before it can be plausibly maintained that the evidence of men thus honest and unsophisticated is unworthy of belief.
It may not be undesirable to form a distinct idea of what is asserted when imposture is charged upon Jesus. If his life were an imposture, it was one of no ordinary complexion ;-perhaps it would be no exaggeration to say that it surpassed in infamy all the frauds that were ever practised in the world, for God was insulted as well as man outraged by it. Jesus wore the garb of benevolence; nay, if he were an impostor, made high and most unwarrantable pretensions to a pre-eminence over other teachers— talked incessantly of truth, duty and purity -of their value, their beauty, their imperishable obligation ;he used the name of God with what, under the supposition, would be an offensive familiarity, and impiously ascribed to Him what was but the expression of his own depravity. In a word, the whole of his character and conduct are changed. The light becomes darkness, the beauty ashes. The details involved in the supposition are too painful to enlarge upon; and we hasten to demand, if the reader is prepared to abide by the charge_if it is not too revolting to be seriously maintained—if it has not in it the elements of its own confutation? The thought may pass through the mind in the hour of guilty excess, when any supposition is grasped at which will relax the restraints of duty—but must be repudiated the moment that coolness and reflection resume their seat, and the natural emotions of the heart reassert their empire.
Should it, however, be alleged that the case does not involve the turpitude supposed, we are then prepared to prove that the allegation itself is altogether untenable, in however mitigated a form it may be put.
Impostors act not without an object. There is risk and there is degradation in the practice of fraud, which it is not in human nature to undergo except for competent considerations. Now what possible object could Jesus have to induce him to attempt an imposition ? Where is the sinister motive that can be assigned ? From the first, it was not difficult for him to see that poverty, persecution, perhaps death, were before him. Are these the reward for which frauds are commonly attempted ? What charm could they have for his breast, which they have not for our's? Yet the fondest imagination could not have pictured forth a fairy land of wealth, and ease, and power, as the haven of his hopes. What ! a carpenter's son expect to raise himself to the pinnacle of earthly good, by engaging in a crusade against all the power and prejudices of high and low in the Jewish state—and by what means ? By associating with himself a few mechanics, humble as himself in position, without possessing any of that mental power which may redeem his own character from contempt, though it could in no way enable him to transcend the insurmountable barrier of his difficulties. It may be alleged that Jesus aimed at the distinction of being the founder of a new religion, and had the motives of his conduct in the anticipated gratification of an extravagant ambition. It would be a sufficient answer to say, that the friends of Christianity are in no way obliged to find arguments for the refutation of every fancy which a teeming and perverse imagination may engender. But let us ask, what was his actual reward during life? Was it distinction, or ignominy? And surely no one, be he ever so little conversant with the mental resources Jesus displayed, can for a moment suppose that he formed so false an estimate of his success as is implied in anticipating honour in what he found nothing but disgrace. Let the supposition be changed to the love of posthumous fame, and we ask again, was his a mind to sacrifice even life itself in the pursuit of an empty shadow? And what fame could he expect in the actual circumstances, and under the supposition ? If dishonour was his portion in life, what promise was there that his name would be embalmed after death? The probability was, that his memory and his existence would come to an end on the same day; or, if the first survived, that it would survive only to be branded with the epithets it deserved. Surely, there was little chance of his name and his undertaking being vindicated after his execution, if even, while alive, he could not escape the condign punishment of his fraudulent attempt. Is it rejoined, that his name did survive and was honoured? We reply, it is true; but why? Because wisdom was justified in this her highly-favoured child; because the stain was wiped away which had been cast on his character ; because a power, too mighty to be withstood, undertook his vindication. Providence displayed itself in events, which, in the torrent of their irresistible course, bore down all opposition ; levelling at once, not only the airy edifices of calumny, but the very temple which God himself had once vouchsafed to honour, and the shrines innumerable of heathen idolatry. These were results which no impostor could have foreseen,"and which stamp the mission of Jesus with the seal of God. Yes, the name of the despised Galilean was hailed, and is hailed, with the rapture of love and admiration ; but it was and is, because the arm of the Almighty was bared in his behalf; because thrones, principalities and powers bowed before its might; because it proved a balm more precious than that of Gilead, and disclosed treasures richer than those of Ophir. The triumph of Christianity is the vindication of Christ—for it was borne along, conquering and to conquer, on the gales of their ardour, who found in it the good which at once satisfied their desires and enriched their souls. We have yet to learn that a fraud could have done this. It was the voice of nature in the breast of man. The essential elements of our moral being attest the sincerity of Christ; finding, as they do, in what he was and what he taught, the bread and water of life. The name of Jesus does survive, not in the feelings of humanity outraged by a wrong attempted on them, but enshrined in the holiest and loftiest affections of which the heart of the holiest and loftiest natures is susceptible.
From these, to our mind, overpowering considerations, let us divert to an investigation of his conduct while in existence.
An impostor would, of course, have attempted to array on his side some of the elements of power which lay before him. In no other way could he have the barest possibility of success. What was the power which Jesus courted ? Here was an ally of a nature too tempting to be rejected by an impostor. It might have been his. The sense of dependence under a foreign yoke was rankling in the breast of the Jewish government, and eagerly were they looking for the long expected deliverer. Jesus had only to have fallen in with their false but inveterate notions, and the same indignant hatred of the Roman domination, and the same untameable pertinacity of will, which subsequently defied for years all the skill and power of the generals and armies of her who knew no rival and would brook no equal—would, beyond a doubt, have borne him as a conqueror from land to land. The religious fanaticism which, at the siege of Jerusalem, was cowed, if it was not conquered, would then have acted under the strongest stimulus, and with the impression that the day of redemption had come, and the deliverer appeared—nay, was heading the armies of the nation, and marshalling the way to victory—would have borne down every impediment, and placed Jesus on the throne of the muchcoveted empire. He not only refused, but he denounced the willing auxiliary. There can be no need of quotation, to exhibit the woes which he uttered against the Scribes and Pharisees, since the malignity with which they pursued him, even to death, shows of itself the intensity of their indignation.
Perhaps, however, he forfeited the favour of the few, in order to gain the affections of the many; and it cannot be denied that multitudes thronged around him whithersoever he went. Why? Did he pander to their prejudices--did he yield to their wishes is his conduct towards them the conduct of a deceiver? One instance will suffice: It is of a nature to put his integrity to the test. Had he been an impostor, now was the time to yield to the favourable turn the current had taken. The splendour of his miracles had drawn multitudes around him, who, in the eagerness of their zeal, had forgotten to make provision for the irresistible cravings of nature. The question arose— Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? Bread was found, without purchase, to feed five thousand, and leave a large superfluity. Gratitude and conviction combined to elicit from the beneficiaries of Christ's miraculous bounty, the confident declaration—. This is of a truth that prophet which was expected to come into the world. And immediately proceeding to give that expression to their feelings which was prompted by their deeply-rooted ideas of what the longed-for prophet was to be, they prepare to take Jesus by force and make him a king. Let the conduct of Christ be carefully noticed. In beautiful simplicity, the historian adds, that on perceiving their design, ‘he departed again into a mountain himself alone.' * Conduct inexplicable, indeed, in an impostor!
And what was the general character of Christ's conduct ? Did he affect secresy—did he envelope himself in a shroud of mystery-were his ordinary haunts the desert and the cell -were his teachings, like the oracles of old, aided by the excitements of frenzy, or clothed in ambiguity, that they might fit any meaning which events might render il desirable to put upon them? Where, we ask, was his machinery of delusionhis caverns in the earth, the false glare of the lightning and the mimic thunder—where the affected pomp of personal grandeur—where the fury of the tripod, the agitated frame, the foaming mouth, the rolling eye-where the drums and cymbals, and raging of the bacchanal ? Christ courted publicity ;-he taught in the eye of day in the synagogue, the market-place, the square of the crowded city, the streets of the hamlet, the roadside, the river's bank, the borders of the lake. So far from shunning, he challenged investigation. And the means he employed was the simplicity and power of his appeal to the mind and heart of man. Cunningly devised, indeed, was his fable; for, with none of the ordinary machinery of fraud, he has succeeded in imposing on the intellect of myriads, of rich and poor, noble and ignoble, the philosopher and the peasant, in such a way, that seeing worth they saw it not, and feeling power they did not perceive it; but what they took to be congenial with all the healthy and natural workings of their souls, was, after all, the meanness of deceit, and the foulness of selfishness.
* Jol.n vi, 15.
Let us, however, for the sake of argument, grant that he succeeded in keeping up the imposition during the general tenor of his life, was it so easy to avoid betraying himself in the complication of difficulties which encircled him in the scenes which accompanied his death ? If this was the hour of darkness, it was also the trial of his integrity. All earthly power was arrayed against him, against him who had but recently quitted the hamlet where he lived, and the bench where he had laboured; and now the cry of the indignant, because disappointed, multitude, rings in his ears—the High Priests scowl upon him—the Pharisees gnash their teeth--the parade of Roman power flings its shade across his sight ;—he is hurried rudely from place to place-evidence is brought against him—he is adjured by the living God, and under all the sanctity of judicial circumstance_still is he firm and self-possessed. The trial ends, a verdict of death is pronounced. • Then did they spit in his face and buffeted him, and others smote him with the palm of their hands,' deriding his pretensions to the gift of prophecy :· Herod, with his men of war, set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe;' and when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand; and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews ! while on all sides arose the cry, Crucify him, crucify him !'-Still no wavering, no betrayal of self-confidence, no sign of any attempt to redeem his life by a disclosure of his false pretensions—but an entire meekness and patience, and even composure. Follow him as he ascends the hill of Calvary, bearing the instrument of his own punishment, amid the clang of arms, the array of troops, the derision of the crowd, and in company with malefactors ! Behold him finally stretched, mangled, and tortured, in the presence, and amid the malignant shouts and cruel taunts of his enemies—his friends, meanwhile, all fled, except his afflicted mother, and a few trembling women, who sat at a distance the darkest spot to him in the dark scene ;—and even still, not a word escapes his lips to betray his secret and now defeated purpose; but as he had braved the rage of man, he is now prepared to brave the judgment of God. It is impossible! Turn to the cross_hear his words ;-are these the words of a deceiver? • Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.” Father, forgive them, they know not what they do. The structure of the human eye has been said to be a cure for Atheism. The crucifixion, if it cannot cure, can hardly fail to confound Deism;