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eharacter, as represented in the Gospels, had been peculiar in of evidence, that though the prophecies of the Old and New every respect; but especially, remarkable for the union of Testaments chiefly relate to the Messiah, and are all so meekness and constancy which it displayed.
constructed as, in their accomplishment, to add strength to “Of unknown origin and humble parentage, he had attract- the evidence which confirms the Christian revelation, they ed considerable notice, and many followers; yet he had not are by no means confined to the delineation of his character been generally acknowledged among his countrymen, and and claims. They occupy a range most extensive, and carry those who adhered to him were not the great and powerful. the mind over the eventful history of the Jewish nation, and His life, upon the whole, was one of trial and hardship, not of almost all the nations of heathen antiquity. Let it never one of triumph and exaltation. In the end, he was sentenced to be forgotten, that Nineveh's predicted ruin has come upon it; death with the notoriously wicked ; and suffered a punish- that Babylon, in all its boasted splendour, has been * swept ment, which even his judge confessed that his conduct had with the besom of threatened destruction;" that Tyre, the not deserved. Yet, though dying with malefactors, he was great port of the ancient world, has become, according to the laid in a rich and honourable tomb.
warnings of Ezekiel, a place only for the drying of fisher"A character answering this description was portrayed by men's nets; that Egypt, the mother of arts, has become the that prophet who had always been considered as most parti- basest of kingdoms," and has never since been able “ to exalt cular in what respected the future Messiah.
herself among the nations,” as if to show that all the events “ It cannot be denied that the existence of these ancient of futurity are naked and open to that omniscient Spirit who prophecies would be very advantageous to men setting out foretold her doom, and predicted her permanent humiliation. with the purpose in question. But it is time to ask in our Nor, in contemplating the great scheme of prophecy, and turn, how they came to find these prophecies ready to their the support which it yields to the truth of Revelation, must hand ? prophecies of such a nature, that no man could have we lose sight of the destines of the Jewish nation.* In the contrived a scheme dependent upon them, because they could fearful destruction of Jurusalem by the Roman army; in the not command the fact by which they were to be fulfilled. dispersion and long-continued peculiarity of the seed of AbraWith respect to the birth-place, for example: in order that it ham; in the contempt, persecution, and infamy which they might happen to be Bethlehem, it was requisite that a gene- have so long endured ; in the promulgation of the gospel ral census should be held, convening all the inhabitants of among Gentile tribes; in the many and hateful corrup, the country to their chief town; by which means alone the tions of the religion of Jesus which have been introduced mother of Jesus was called away from her usual residence, through the medium of Anti-Christian powers; and in the and her infant born at Bethlehem, instead of Nazareth. The preservation and growing triumphs of the Christian faith, we preparatory ministry of the Baptist was equally beyond the have such indubitable fulfilments of the prophetic record, that control of the disciples. So were the minute details of inci-he who refuses to embrace, as divine, the wondrous volume dents, which agree in a wonderful manner with the circumstantial narrative. The entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, at ception: By John Bird Sumner, D.D., Lord Bishop of Chester. once humble and triumphant.(a) The manner of his death, and
* « « The great lawgiver of the Jews, observes Mr. Horne, (in his own countrymen the cause. The peculiar indignities his Introduction, vol. i. p. 327), foretold that they should be remove which he underwent: the very words of mockery used against ed into all the kingdoms of the earth,—scattered among all peohim.(6) The price which Judas received for his treachery. ple from one end of the earth, even unto the other; -find no ease or The purpose to which that money was applied.(c)
rest,-be oppressed and crushed always,-be left few in number Passages of this nature could not have been introduced among the heathen,-pine away in their iniquity in their enemies? by the apostles into the existing scriptures, because, as their land,
and become an astonishment, a proverb, and a bye-word unto
all nations. These predictions were literally fulfilled during their countrymen were generally hostile to the design, such an at- subjection to the Chaldeans and Romans ; and, in later times, in all tempt must have proved fatal to their pretensions. And fur- the nations where they have been dispersed. Moses foretold that ther, because the books among which these scattered sentences their enemies would besiege and take their cities ; and this proare found, had now been extensively diffused during a period phecy was fulfilled by Shishak, King of Egypt ; Shalmaneser, King of three hundred years in a foreign language, defying the im- of Assyria; Nebuchadnezzar, Antiochus, Epiphanes, Sosius, and posture of the whole nation, if ihe whole nation
had concur- famines should prevail during those sieges, that they should eat red in the design.
the flesh of their sons and daughters. This prediction was fulfilled “ We are reduced, then, to the necessity of supposing that about six hundred years after the time of Moses, when Samaria was the followers of Jesus, desiring to deify their teacher, selected besieged by the King of Syria ; also, about nine hundred years from their national Scriptures these pointed allusions to cir- after that time, among the Jews, during the siege of Jerusalem, becumstances like his, which happened to be written there, and fore the Babylonish captivity ; and finally, fifteen hundred years brought them forward to confirm his pretensions.
after, at the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans. Though the He
brews were to be as the stars of heaven for multitude, Moses * But surely to ascribe coincidences like these to chance, predicted that they should be few in number, and his prophecy was to allege that all these passages were thrown out at random fulfilled : for, in the last siege of Jerusalem, Josephus tells us that in the Jewish Scriptures, and that the circumstances of the an infinite multitude perished by famine ; and he computes the birth, and life, and character, and death of Jesus, turned out total number who perished by it, and by the war in Jerusalem, and so as to agree with them, is to attribute to chance what never other parts of Judea, at one million two hundred and forty thousand did or could take place by chance; and in itself far more im- four hundred and ninety, besides ninety-nine thousand two hundred
who were made prisoners, and sold unto their enemies for bondmen probable than the event which such a solution is intended to and bondwomen; and after their last overthrow by Hadrian, many disprove. For, allow to Jesus the authotity which he claims, thousands of them were sold ; and those for whom purchasers and every difficulty vanishes. We should then expect to find could not be found (Moses foretold that no man would buy them) prophetic intimations of his great purpose, and of the way in were transported into Egypt, where they perished by shipwreck or which it was to be effected. "We should expect to find them, famine, or were massacred by the inhabitants. Since the destructoo, just what they are; not united and brought together in a tion of Jerusalem, they have been scattered among all nations ; way of formal description, which could only be a provision among whom they have found no ease, nor have the soles of their feet for imposture; but such scattered hints and allusions as, after in the East, where the tyranny exercised over them is so severe, as the event has occurred, serve to show that it was predicted, to afford a literal fulfilment of the prediction of Moses,—Thy life by a comparison of the event and the prophecy.
shall hang in doubt before thee, and thou shalt fear day and night, “It ought to be observed, in addition, that if the disciples and shall have no assurance of thy life. Yet, notwithstanding all of Jesus had framed their story and their representation of their oppressions, they have still continued a separate people
, withfacts, with a view of obtaining this collateral support, they tonishment and a bye-word among all the nations whither they have would have been more diligent and ostentatious in pointing been carried since their punishment has been inflicted. The very out the circumstances of resemblance. They would have an- name of a Jew has been used as a term of peculiar reproach and ticipated the labours of those writers who have made it their infamy. Finally, it was foretold, that their plagues should be wonbusiness to show the completion of prophecy in the events re- derful, even great plagues, and of long continuance. And have lated in the gospels. But, on the contrary, they bring these not their plagues continued more than seventeen hundred years? things forward in an historical rather than an argumentative during their captivity in Chaldea, Ezekiel and Daniel prophesied ; way, and commonly leave the deductions which may be drawn but now they have no true prophet'to foretell the end of their calamfrom them to the discernment of after times."*
ities. What nation has suffered so much, and yet endured so long? I must be allowed to remark, before dismissing this branch What nation has subsisted as a distinct people in their own country
so long as the Jews have done in their dispersion into all countries? (a) Com. Matt. xxi. 1, &c. with Zech. ix. 9.
And what a STANDING MIRACLE is thus exhibited to the world in b) Com. Isa, i, 6. Ps. xxii., lxix. 20. with Matt. xxvii.
the fulfilment, at this very time, of prophecies delivered considerc) Com. Zech. xi. 12. with Matt. xxvi. 15. xxvii. 3, &c.
ably more than three thousand years ago! What a permanent • The Evidence of Christianity derived from its Nature and Re- attestation is it to the divine legation of Moses!"
of which it forms such a distinguished part, sins against all an inveterate superstition which had spread itself, not only the laws of moral evidence, and, at the same time, risks through cities, but over villages and the whole country.* It his eternal salvation by rejecting the council of God against is a fact, that Christian churches were established in every himself.
province of the Roman empire within a very brief period of 4. The evidence of Christianity derived from a correct estimate the death of Christ,† and that thousands and tens of thouof its early success.
sands of new converts maintained, with unshaken confidence, It would be most inconclusive to infer the supernatural their adherence to the facts and promises of the gospel amidst origin of Christianity from the mere fact of its success; inas- the heaviest persecutions and calamities that ever befel mormuch as some of the greatest impostures the world ever tals in this vale of tears. It is a fact that the first propagaknew have obtained, for many ages, a most powerful and tors of Christianity were only fishermen of Galilee, and that extensive dominion over the human mind. The early preva- they sought and obtained no aid from human power in the lence of the gospel is, in itself, no decisive proof of its divine prosecution of their extraordinary undertaking. It is a fact, origin. Ere it can be regarded as such, a number of circum- that the experiment of Christianity was made in one of the stances must combine with the fact of its success, which most enlightened and refined periods in the history of the admit of no just or rational solution but the admission of the world, and on a theatre which laid it open to the scrutiny and finger of God. The question then is, did such circumstances detection of all Greece and Rome. It is a fact, that the first evince themselves in the early triumphs of Christianity ? messengers of the cross entered into no compromise with And, if they did, wherein did they consist? and how do they admit of being exhibited in the shape of a conclusive argu- account of their privilege of citizenship, I reserved to be sent to
trate. Some where infected with the same madness whom, on ment for the truth and divinity of the gospel ?
It is then a fact that Jesus of Nazareth was put to death Rome to be referred to your tribunal. In the course of this busiin the reign of Tiberius, by the order of Pontius Pilate, his mess, informations pouring in, as is usual when they are encouraged,
more cases occurred. An anonymous libel was exhibited with a Procurator.* It is a fact that as early as the time of Clau- catalogue of names of persons, who yet declared that they were not dius, who died within twenty years of the crucifixion, the Christians then, or ever had been ; and they repeated after me an religious assemblies of the Christians were proscribed under invocation of the gods and of your image, which, for this purpose, open pretext that they were withdrawing men from the wor- I had ordered to be brought with the images of the deities ;-they ship of the gods.t. It is a fact, that in the reign of Nero, Christ ; none of which things, I am told, a real Christian can ever the followers of Christ endured persecutions of the most fear- be compelled to do. On this account I dismissed them. Others, ful kind, and that this wicked despot endeavoured to fix upon named by an informer, first affirmed, and then denied the charge of them the stigma of burning Rome, though it was justly and Christianity ; declaring that they had been Christians, but had loudly charged on himself. It is a fact that Pliny the younger, ceased to be so ; some three years ago, others still longer, some a Proconsul under the Emperor Trajan, who was contempo-leven twenty years ago. All of them worshipped your image and rary with Ignatius, and who flourished about seventy-five the account which they gave of the nature of the religion they once
the statues of the gods, and also execrated Christ. And this was years after the death of Christ, describes the Christian assem- had professed, whether it deserves the name of crime or error ;blies in Bithynia and Pontus as consisting of “a vast multi- namely, that they were accustomed, on a stated day, to meet before tude"S of all ages and sexes, and speaks of Christianity as day-light, and to repeat among themselves an hymn to Christ as to a
god, and' to bind themselves by an oath, with an obligation of not See Tacitus, Anal. xv. 44. + See Suetonius in Claud. 25. commiting any. wickedness, but, on the contrary, of abstaining from # See Tacitus, as above. I give Paley's translation. “But thefts, robberies, and adulteries ;- also of not violating their proneither these exertions, nor his largesses to the people, nor his mise, or denying a pledge ;-after which, it was their custom to offerings to the gods, did away the infamous imputation under which separate, and meet again at a promiscuous harmless meal, from Nero lay, of having ordered the city to be set on fire. To put an which last practice they however desisted after the publication of end therefore to this report, he laid the guilt and inflicted the most my edict, in which, agreeably to your orders, I forbade any sociecruel punishments upon a set of people who were held in abhor-ties of that sort ; on which account, I judged it the more necessary rence for their crimes, and called by the vulgar, Christians. The to inquire, BY TORTURE, from two females, who were said to be founder of that name was Christ, who suffered death in the reign deaconesses, what is the real truth. But nothing could I collect, of Tiberius, under his
Procurator, Pontius Pilate. The pernicious except a depraved and excessive superstition. Deferring, theresuperstition, thus checked for a while, broke out again, and spread fore, any further investigation, I determined to consult you; for not only over Judea, where the evil originated, but through Rome the number of culprits is so great, as to call for serious consultaalso, whither every thing bad upon earth finds its way, and is praction. Many persons are informed against, of every age, and both tised. Some who confessed their sect were first seized ; and after- sexes; and more still will be in the same situation. The contagion wards, by their information, a vast multitude were apprehended, of the superstition hath spread, not only through cities, but even who were convicted, not so much of the crime of burning Rome, as villages and the country. Not that I think it impossible to check of hatred to mankind. Their sufferings and their execution were and to correct it. The success of my endeavours hitherto forbids aggravated by insult and mockery, for some were disguised in the such desponding thoughts; for the temples, once almost desolate, skins of wild beasts and worried to death by dogs, some were cruci- begin to be frequented, and the sacred solemnities, which had long fied, and others were wrapt in pitched shirts and set on fire when been intermitted, are now attended afresh ; and the sacrificial victhe days closed, that they might serve as lights to illuminate the tims are now sold everywhere, which once could scarce find a purnight. Nero lent his own gardens for these executions; and chaser. Whence I conclude, that many might be reclaimed were exhibited at the same time a mock Circensiąn entertainment, being the hope of impunity, on repentance, absolutely confirmed.” a spectator of the whole in the dress of a charioteer, sometimes
The Emperor Trajan's reply to Pliny. mingling with the crowd on foot, and sometimes viewing the spec- “ You have done perfectly right, my dear Pliny, in the inquiry tacle from his car. This conduct made the sufferers pitied ; and which you have made concerning Christians. For truly no one though they were criminals, and deserving the severest punishments, general rule can be laid down which will apply itself to all cases. yet they were considered as sacrificed, not so much out of regard to These people must not be sought after: if they are brought before the public good, as to gratify the cruelty of one man."
you and convicted, let them be capitally punished, yet with this $" Ingens multitudo," a vast multitude, is the historian's expres- restriction, that if any renounce Christianity, and evidence his sion. I insert the whole letter according to Milner's translation, sincerity by supplicating our gods, however suspected he may be though he has not preserved the full force of the original in his for the past, he shall obtain pardon for the future, on his repentrendering of this expression.
But anonymous libels in no case ought to be attended to ; “ C. Pliny to Trajan, Emperor.
for the precedent would be of the worst. sort, and perfectly incon“ Health.—It is my usual custom, Sir, to refer all things of gruous to the maxims of my government.” which I harbour any doubts to you. For who can better direct my * See Plin. Epist. Lib. x. Ep. 91. judgment in its hesitation, or instruct my understanding in its ¢ “The rapidity and extent of the propagation of the gospel were ignorance? I never had the fortune to be present at any examina- such as to prove its divine origin. On the very first day of its protion of Christians before I came into this province. l'am, there- mulgation, three thousand were converted; these soon increased to fore, at a loss to determine what is the usual object either of inquiry five thousand. Multitudes, both of men and women, were afteror of punishment, and to what length either of them is to be carried. wards daily added to the new religion. Before the end of thirty It has also been with me a question very problematical, whether years, the gospel had spread through Judea, Galilee, Samaria, any distinction should be made between the young and the old, the almost all the numerous districts of Lesser Asia ; through Greece, tender and the robust ;--whether any room should be given for and the Islands of the Ægean Sea, and the sea-coast of Africa, and repentance, or the guilt of Christianity once incurred is not to be had passed on to the capital of Italy. Great multitudes believed at expiated by the most unequivocal retraction ;-whether the name Antioch in Syria, at Joppa, Ephesus, Corinth, Thessalonica, Beræa, itself, abstracted from any Hagitiousness of conduct, or the crimes Iconium, Derbe, Antioch in Pisidia, at Lydda and Saron. Converts connected with the name, be the object of punishment. In the also, are mentioned at Tyre, Cæsarea, Troas, Athens, Philippi, mean time, this has been my method, with respect to those who Lystra, Damascus. Thus far the sacred narrative conducts us. The were brought before me as Christians. I asked them whether they religion being thus widely diffused, the New Testament carries were Christians : if they pleaded guilty, I interrogated them twice (us no further. But all ecelesiastical and profane history concurs in afresh, with a menace of capital punishment. In case of obstinate describing the rapid progress of the new doctrine. Tacitus, Suetoperseverance, I ordered them to be executed. For of this I had nius, Juvenal, Pliny, Martial, Marcus Aurelius, sufficiently testify no doubt, whatever was the nature of their religion, that a sullen the propagation of Christianity.”-See Bishop Wilsou’s Evidences, and obstinate inflexibility called for the vengeance of the magis- vol. i. p. 260, 12mo.
the vices and corruptions of mankind, but that they denounced former accumulated its materials by a progressive departure every system of evil, and sought only to win men's applause from all right notions of the moral character of God, and by its by bringing them to perceive and acknowledge the exquisite marked coincidence with every thing base and polluted in huloveliness of truth, and by teaching them to submit to a course man nature; and the latter was propagated at the edge of the of religious and moral discipline, which made them kind sword, and amidst all those promises of sensual indulgence and forgiving, peaceful and holy. It is a fact, that the doc- which are so grateful to a nature prone to the love of sin.trine taught by the Apostles of Jesus of Nazareth was, in But Christianity stood forth in the spotless purity of its divine many respects, new; that it proclaimed facts of a strictly Author, and refused to own any as its true disciples who remiraculous nature; that it sternly opposed every existing mained under the dominion of their crimes. It assailed men system of religion; that it rebuked and condemned those with none of the weapons of human power, but made its trivices and depraved habits which nniversally prevailed; that, umphant appeal to the understanding and the heart. It boastnevertheless, it rapidly spread, and that in less than three ed of no earthly patronage; but went forth in a secret and hidcenturies it subverted the religion of pagan Rome, and es- den power, which was "mighty to the pulling down of strong tablished itself on the throne of the Cæsars.
holds." All weakness in its exterior agencies, it became Had Christianity been adapted to the depraved inclinations the wisdom of God, and the power of God to the salvation” of the human heart; had it flattered men's pride, ambition, of thousands and tens of thousands who embraced its merciand vain-glory; had it promised or secured worldly honour ful provisions. It changed the very face of society, and efand prosperity; had it been hailed by the great and noble of fected revolutions in the manners, customs, and laws of manmankind; had it been supported by human power, and de- kind, which all other systems had failed to achieve. It is unfended by the swords and shields of the earth; had conquer-philosophical in the highest degree to trace its early prevaing armies been its heralds, and the spoils of enemies its re- lence to the mere influence of ordinary and secondary causes. wards ; ils success would then have been no mystery, and its There is no problem of the world's history bearing the least triumphs would then have afforded no proof of supernatural resemblance to it. The experience of mankind supplies no ilinterference. But if the reverse of all this was the case ; lustration of any thing like the successes of Christianity springif Christianity had nothing in it to pamper human corruption; ing from mere human instrumentality, whether well or ill-dinothing to administer to the pride of the human heart; nothing rected. Must men then acknowledge a miracle in their zeal to present to its disciples in the shape of worldly allurement; to get rid of a miraculous history? This is indeed very prenothing to draw around it men of high renown; nothing of posterous; but it is nevertheless the condition to which those power to terrify or subdue ; nothing to support the courage reduce themselves who would attempt to account for the of its professors but the testimony of a good conscience and mighty revolution produced by Christianity upon mere natuthe hopes of a better life; what shall be said if after all it ral principles. They discard the doctrine of miracles, they triumphed? Yes, if while it opposes itself to all the world it repudiate the testimony by which the miraculous facts of the prevail, what shall be said ? it in the absence of all the ordi- Gospel are handed down to mankind; but they call upon their nary causes and weapons of success it prevail, what shall be disciples to believe, without a title of evidence, that the fishsaid? Let us look at the facts of this case, and impartially ermen of Galilee could have done all that they did, and that determine if there was any thing merely human in the ori- Christianity could have gained all its conquests, without the ginal agencies of Christianity to account for the results which slightest aid from heaven, nay, though imposture and decepfollowed their employment. The results are these : the tion were written on the entire undertaking. We demand of whole Roman empire, in a few short years, was pervaded by them an illustrative example, and we are sure that they canthe gospel; multitudes of Jews and Pagans were won over not produce it. In the absence, then, of all experience to to the sincere belief of the facts of Christianity; the very guide our course, and in opposition to all enlightened calcuaspects and institutions of society were completely changed lations of what human agency can effect, in certain given inand re-modelled by the new doctrine ;—the flames of perse- stances, we are called upon by infidels to believe that the cution were borne with exemplary fortitude, patience, and early successes of Christianity might be traced to the operaforgiveness; the cause triumphed by means of its very disas- tion of secondary causes. To the mind of any unprejudiced ters; and the power which attempted to crush it at last person, this will present all the startling difficulty of a mirayielded to its mysterious influence.
cle, without any of that credible testimony by which alone a Such are the results; and what are the apparent agencies by miracle can be shown to have taken place. which they were effected? The doctrine of one who was It is nothing short of an insult offered to my understanding, crucified at Jerusalem between two thieves, the preaching of first to point me to the great moral and intellectual revolution a few illiterate fishermen of Galilee, and the exemplary zeal which was produced by Christianity, within a very short peand consistency of those who ranked themselves as the disci-riod of the death of its founder, and then to assign as its sole ples of the cross.
cause, the zeal, energy, and talent of the fishermen of GaliIf, then, the agencies of Christianity were merely human, lee; and the credulity, love of novelty, and versatility which or if they were nothing more than a system of deliberately obtain among mankind. adjusted imposture, how comes it to pass that there was so Upon every sceptical theory, the early triumphs of the goslittle in the apparent process to account for the effect produced? pel are not only unaccounted for, but totally unaccountable. If all was of man, how did it happen that he constructed a Such a change was never wrought by mere human means. scheme in the very teeth of human prejudice? and, more than this, how did it happen that a scheme so constructed obtained Heathenism was never a matter of dissemination or conversion. It a footing among mankind? Was it so easy a thing to subvert had no creed, no origin distinct from the corrupt traces of a remote Jewish prejudice, in the very city of Jerusalem, and to silence fabulous antiquity. It was a creature of human mould, contrived for the oracles of heathenism where they had ruled with despotic the sake of human legislation. The Greeks
and Romans imposed it sway, that twelve fishermen, just quitting their nets, and de- not on their subject nations. Mahomedanism was the triumph of the termining to become the founders of a new religion, should be sword.. Conquest, not religious
its manifest object; rapine,
violence, and bloodshed were its credentials. deemed equal to the task? Let such a case be imagined to “No religion was ever attempted to be spread through the world take place in our own age and nation. . For if Christianity be by the means of instruction and persuasion, with an authority of its not from heaven, nothing forbids the success of such another own, but Christianity. The idea never came into the mind of man experiment on the credulity of mankind now any more than to propagate a religion having for its set design and exclusive object formerly. But does any one in his sober senses
believe that Christianity said to her disciples, “Go ye into all the world, and
the enlightening of mankind with a doctrine professedly divine, till it would succeed, or that it would produce even any conside- preach the Gospel to every creature.” See “ the Evidences of Chrisrable impression? We have had, it is true, occasional excite- tianity stated, &c. &c,” in two vols. 12mo. Second edition, pp. 259, ment produced by certain extravagant persons, but their par- 260. tial success has mainly depended upon their appeal to the ge- * The reader will perceive that the author has not taken any disDeral data of Christianity, and upon their professed adherence tinct notice of Gibbon's attempt to trace the success of Christianity to to its cardinal doctrines. We might challenge all the philo- the influence of second causes. The reason is simply this, that he sophers who ever lived to invent
or to propagate any impos- any specific reference to the special pleadings and inconclusive reature answering to the character of Christianity. The thing is sonings of that great but unhappy day. The objections, however, impossible. Its facts and its success are solitary examples in have been met, though they have not been alluded to; and, indeed, the history of our world. Paganism and the religion of the it is a matter of just surprise that arguments so weak and futile False Prophet have nothing in common with them.* The should have ever been raised to the notoriety of a grave refutation.
Those who wish to see this sceptical philosopher exhibited in his
proper light, are recommended to read the Rev. A. Reed's discourse *"No religion, purely as a religion,” observes Dr. Wilson, the on The Evidence of Revelation derived from the success of the present Bishop of Calcutta, " was ever propagated but the Christian. Gospel.” See Note, p. 182.
The entire experience of the race, and all the great facts of was tried in the heart of Europe and Asia, when philosophy history, combine to show the utter irrationality of supposing and arts had reached their greatest eminence, and when the that a few obscure fishermen and mechanics could have baf- human mind had been nurtured in the schools to prodigious fled all the wisdom of the wise, brought to nothing the coun- greatness. In a thousand forms the task of bettering man's sel of the prudent, and levelled in the dust the mightiest moral condition had been tried, but without even the shadow fabrics of superstition and vice.
of success. Many of the precepts, indeed, of the heathen But when we admit the doctrine of a supernatural influ- philosophers were good; but the motives urged by them were ence, according to the distinct announcements of Christianity sometimes absurd, often vicious, and always powerless upon itself, we are reminded of a cause adequate to produce the the great mass of the people. Their own standard of morals, effects witnessed. Then we wonder not that the weakest in- in not a few instances, was glaringly defective; and as it res. struments should prevail, that disaster should lead to triumph, pected the community at large, the theories of the schools did and that the blood of the martyrs should be the seed of the not so much as reach even the outward ear. church. If the mighty power of God was with the apostles, In all their pomp and magnificence, when poetry, and no wonder that thousands and tens of thousands should be painting, and statuary, and arms, and empire had reached come obedient to their message. If the quickening energy of the very zenith of their glory, Greece and Rome were as little the living Spirit was seen, on the one hand, in external signs purged from crime and moral degradation as were the savaga and wonders, rendering all gainsayers inexcusable; and, on hoards of the north, who, in wild fury, broke in upon the the other, in inward, powerful, and all-subduing movements empress of the world's destiny. The extreme of refinement, of the heart and conscience, what wonder was it if the con- and the extreme of moral turpitude, met on the same theatre, gregated multitudes of Pentecoste trembled, repented, and and in the same actors. A base and monstrous idolatry every turned to God; and if the Pagan world responded to the mighty where prevailed, and every where associated itself with crimes and gracious impulse? By the nature of the facts to be ac- which are reserved in Christian countries for the worst of counted for, then, no less than by the actual data of Christi- men, and for the most hidden recesses of the basest and most anity, are we driven to the conclusion, that there was an in-degraded of mankind. “It is a shame even to speak of those terior and hidden but all controlling power, which accompa- things which were done of them in secret.” The very temnied and rendered effectual the first propagation of Christian- ples of the gods were the dwelling-places of sin. There ity, which has watched over it from age to age, and which virgin innocence was sacrificed at the shrine of the most occasions all its success and all its blessed influence in the scandalous lusts; there human victims were immolated upon day in which we live. I conclude this branch of evidence in the blood-stained altars of a vile and unmeaning idolatry; the language of an eloquent living author :-" Here is a re- and there every species of impurity and heartless cruelty religious system, denominated Christian, which enters the ceived the sanction of a priesthood whose hands reeked with world at a most inauspicious period, supposing it to be an blood, and whose hearts were steeped in impenitence and imposture. It has not one principle in common with the re-covetous desire. ligions which then prevailed. It is attempted to be propa- It is a fact, too, that all other nations have shown the same gated by a few persons who are signally disqualified for the propensities, and have been distinguished by the same moral undertaking, and are hated of all nations. It is opposed, from habits as Greece and Rome. It might have been supposed, the very first, by Jew and Gentile, and chiefly by those who indeed, that they would have been much more vicious; and that had most power and influence in their hands. Moreover, this in proportion as they receded from the schools of philosophy, religion is hostile to human opinion, human prejudice, human and from the sphere of the arts, they would put on a hue of interest, human nature; and this is apparent from the admit-pollution far deeper and more hideous. This, however, is by ted nature of man and the avowed principles of the gospel, as no means the case. The crimes of classic antiquity have never well as from the facts, that when men have been induced to been exceeded in the African hoard, or in the Polynesian wild. adopt the Christian name, they have remained at enmity to Idolatry, human sacrifice, polygamy, female degradation, the Christian faith, and that there has been, in every age, a have every where abounded in heathen lands; while thers predominant disposition to misunderstand and misrepresent, stands not upon the record of this world's history one solitary to pervert and degrade it. Yet has this religion been propa- instance of a nation rising, by its own energy, from the worgated over the earth with a facility altogether unparalleled by ship of false gods, or from the moral debasement and crimes any art or science. Yet has it found a place for itself in ma- which it uniformly involves. ny a mind and country, to which the simplest mathematical It is a fact, too, that Christianity did operate, and still demonstrations are at this moment unsolved problems. continues to operate, a wondrous change upon the state of
“ What is the conclusion? It is-it must be this—that the society. This change it produced, at first, by means the religion of Christ could not have been propagated by any most unlikely. By preaching salvation through the cross of earthly power—that it could not have been propagated by any Christ, the first heralds of Messiah's kingdom, though inmerc external agency of Providence that it could have been dividuals comparatively obscure, brought about a revolution propagated only by a spiritual and supernatural influence ad- of public opinion and of outward manners such as had never dressed to the perceptions and affections of men,--and there- been the result of any preceding attempt to enlighten and to fore that the religion of Christ is divine, and its propagation purify mankind. In all the heathen provinces of the Roman through all ages is a distinct, INDEPENDENT, and SPEAKING empire, and in the very capital itself
, idolatry was every EVIDENCE of its divINITY."*
where laid aside or proscribed. The oracles of paganism 5. The Evidence derived from a survey of the moral and social were silenced by the living oracles of God; and the horrid benefits conferred on mankind by Christianity.
practices of the temples and the groves were exchanged for This branch of evidence may be treated, like the prece- the decent solemnities of Christian worship, and for the ding one, as a question simply of fact. For if it can be shown sober and virtuous habits of Christian citizens. At Athens, that Christianity has done more than all other causes com- and Corinth, and Ephesus, and, indeed, all the chief cities bined to augment the resources of man's present enjoyment; of heathen antiquity, the doctrine of Christ was the instruif it can be shown that it has heightened, to an almost incon-ment of changing and remodelling the whole frame-work of ceivable degree, all the social virtues; if it can be shown that society. Wherever it reached, it meliorated human life; and human nature has risen to an unheard-of elevation under its wherever it was actually embraced, it ennobled and purified benign auspices, it will follow, as by resistless consequence, individual character. I'he limits of Christianity have been, after all the fruitless experiments of Greece and Rome, that it from its first propagation to the present moment, the boundary owes its origin to the Fountain of all wisdom and benevo-wall beyond which idolatry has not dared, in its direct forms, lence.
to pass. It has raised the standard of public morals abore It is a fact, then, that “the world by wisdom” never re- the most favoured models of pagan antiquity, not excepting formed itself. For the space of four thousand years effort af- those even of the far-famed kingdoms of Sparta and Syrater effort was made, but without avail, to reduce mankind to cuse. Where Christianity has waved her triumphant banner, some standard of obedience, and to rescue them from the do- she has given birth to a state of things altogether new. The minion of selfishness and crime. This process of renovation worship of dumb idols* in every palpable shape, she has utwas attempted in the fairest portions of the globe, and amidst terly abolished; the cruel and bloody rites which were pracall the advantages of the highest intellectual cultivation. It tised for ages and generations under the auspices of the gods benevolent call; the shameless, and even murderous, sports the reign of peace and happiness, drove idolatry from the of the Colisseum she has frowned into total annihilation; the high places of the earth, and to the full extent of their triumph, destruction of slaves and of female children finds no sanction paved the way for the realization of another paradise. where her voice of mercy is distinctly heard ; the deprecia- The power which scattered so much darkness, and which tion of the rights which belong to woman is no where counte-spread so much light; which wrought a change on mankind nanced beneath the mild sway of the gospel; the abominations so pure and beneficial ; which diffused such a mass of happiof polygamy and capricious divorce are but little felt in any ness, and checked such a mighty current of misery; which, Christian state; the vassalage of domestic slavery has ceased like an electric shock, blasted and withered all the ancient to foster tyranny on the one hand, and ignoble baseness on fabrics of idolatry, and on their ruins erected a system of docthe other;* the direful practice of private assassination, f by trine and a form of worship which promised and yielded peace the dagger or by the poisoned bowl, finds no advocates in and joy and happiness to all the dwellers upon earth, such a countries upon which the religion of Christ has exerted its power as this could only have emanated from that throne from beneficial tendency; the horrors of war, great as they must which issued originally the high behests of creation. ever be, are mitigated in a tenfold degree under the generous And, 0! if a triumph which can yet only be regarded as dictation of the gospel; the poor, the aged and the afflicted partial, affords such intimation of the benevolent interposition are treated with a degree of consideration in Christian coun- of the Infinite Mind, what an evidence of the divine origin of tries altogether unknown in pagan lands; and all the rights Christianity will be supplied to mankind when its moral of property and of personal safety are guaranteed, with a de-transformations are complete, when all nations are subjected gree of precision, in nations blessed with the light of re- to its righteous sway, when its disciples shall drink more vealed truth, to which Rome, in all the glory of empire, never deeply into its pure and benignant spirit, when that blesses attained.
of heathenism, have been laid aside at her enlightened and See a Discourse by the Rev. A. Reed, on “ The Evidences of Revelation derived from the success of the Gospel," in a Volume en- * The idolatry of the Church of Rome, though practised under the titled “ Lectures on some of the Principal Evidences of Revelation, Christian name, is of common origin with that of the Pantheon, and delivered at the Monthly Meetings, &c. pp. 225, 226.
can be no lese hateful in the sight of God.
influence which is now partial shall be universal, and when All this is matter of fact, which no one who wishes his the church of the living God, vocal with his praise, shall reunderstanding to be respected will venture for a moment to flect with sweetest lustre the radiance of his moral image. deny. So palpably, indeed, is it such, that the traveller, Great as were the first triumphs of the gospel, there can be blind-folded, may be able to tell when he passes from Chris- no doubt but that greater triumphs yet await its peaceful tian territories into pagan lands. The heathen world was heralds. In the morning of its strength it subdued the Roone vast theatre of crime, relieved, indeed, by here and there man empire, and stood confessed the prevailing religion of the some heroic example of virtuous conduct, but sunk as a whole civilized world; but the time is fast approaching when it shall into the abyss of moral putridity and vice. But when Chris- be proclaimed the religion of the whole earth, and when the tianity arose in the East, like some bright and glorious lumi-mighty changes it shall work in the opinions, manners, and nary, it dispelled the darkness of the pagan world, and, in little hopes of mankind, shall compel the most thoughtless of a remore than two centuries from the time of its first publication, bellious race to exclaim, “ this is the finger of God!" Then it shivered to atoms the whole system of idol worship, recon- when the people shall be all righteous," and when the structed the entire fabric of society, introduced new inaxims Spirit of God shall be “poured out upon all flesh," shall it of government and of personal conduct, changed the manners be seen that Christianity is the balm of bleeding hearts, the and habits of mankind, drove vice from its ancient Jurking parent of peace and good will, and the angel of God's mercy places, shut the temples of the gods, abolished the sacrifices to heal all the miseries and vices of an apostate race. of an idolatrous priesthood, and made the hopes and fears of immortality the governing principles of thousands and tens of thousands of the human race.
Whence, then, sprung the power of a triumph so great, so speedy, and so benignant?-a triumph which proclaimed peace on earth, and good will to men; a triumph bloodless
CHAPTER IV. and serene; a triumph which delivered such a large portion of the human race from the vassalage of the most cruel and
On the Transmission of the Sacred Books. abominable idolatries; a triumph which issued in a melioration in all the social relations of man which the wisdom of Though Christianity be a divine religion, it may be possithis world could never produce? Whence, I ask, sprung the ble, in the lapse of ages, that the record which discloses its power of such a triumph ? Not from man assuredly; for it leading doctrines and facts has undergone some serious muwas unlike all the other manifestations of his mental charac- tilation. Is this or is it not the case ? This is an important ter; and it was followed by such benign and holy results that inquiry, and it admits of an easy and satisfactory reply; a reit stood solitary and alone upon the page of this world's ply which must carry conviction to every candid mind as to history. Nor was there any thing whatever in its origin to the genuineness, authenticity, and incorruptness of the Sacred indicate the wisdom of man. Had man constructed a scheme Books. of moral renovation, it would have been introduced to the no- That they were written by the men whose names they bear tice of his fellow-creatures in a way very different from that is a thing quite as well established as that the Æneid was in which Christianity began its auspicious career. Let two composed by Virgil, the Iliad by Homer, and the Cyropædia considerations then fully possess the mind, and it will be by Xenophon. The very literary character of the old and impossible to resist the conclusion, that Christianity is from New Testament Scriptures would go far to prove that they heaven. In the first place, recollect that of all agencies that are genuine productions. They exhibit a diversity of style, could be contemplated, the first heralds of the cross were the which shows that they were written by various authors, and least likely to succeed in the proposed undertaking of con- they display an idiomatic peculiarity corresponding to the verting the world; and, in the second place, bear in mind, as ages and circumstances in which they were written. Thus, a matter of fact, that in spite of prejudice, in spite of a huge in the Pantateuch we meet with a slight mixture of Egyptian system of idolatry, in spite of all interest and power and words, as might be expected if Moses was the writer ; while terror, they did succeed in such manner as never before had in the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, there is a conbeen known; and in doing so changed the whole face of so- siderable infusion of Chaldee and Persian, connecting them ciety, purified all the springs of human action, established beyond all reasonable doubt with a period in Jewish history
subsequent to the Babylonish captivity. If, moreover, we In ancient Attica there were 450,000 inhabitants, out of which turn to the New Testament, we find its several parts written population only 40,000 are said to have been free. It is a dreadful in a species of Greek partaking largely of Hebrew, Chaldee, blot upon the character of this country, that still she permits eight Syriac, and Latin words and phrases, a circumstance exactly haundred thousand British subjects to be bought and sold, in the colo- answering to all that might have been anticipated upon the nies, at the will of their masters. Christians should combine, as supposition that men in the precise condition of the Evansin. Alas ! that any of the American states should be found, to this gelists and Apostles had furnished their contents. day, engaged in the slave traffic! Surely the word liberty must
Nor is it within the range of probability to imagine for a mofreeze upon the tongues of such Americans, and surely Christianity ment that the sacred books are forgeries. If they are, then itself can be known among them only as a name!
they must have been palmed upon the world by persons whose + It was no uncommon thing for a Roman prætor to convict, in one imposture could not be detected. Bat how could this occur short season, in Italy, three or four thousand individuals for the crime in the matter of giving currency to the records of a public of private assassination; and among these, husbands were often con- faith? Take, for instance, the Books of the Old Testament dowry; and wives for the murder of their husbands in order to se. Scriptures. If they are not genuine productions, I ask who aire a union to the miscreants who had seduced them from the paths were the parties concerned in the iniquitous forgery? It of virtue.
could not be the men of heathen antiquity, for they were im.