« ZurückWeiter »
being received by the votaries of the institution from the beginning; with that of other books coming after these, filled with accounts of the effects and consequences resulting from the transaction, or referring to the transaction, or built upon it ; lastly, with the consideration of the number and variety of the books themselves, the different writers from which they proceed, the different views with which they were written, so disagreeing, as to repel the suspicion of confederacy, so agreeing, as to shew that they were founded in a common origin, i. e. in a story substantially the same. Whether this proof be satisfactory or not, it is properly a cumulation of evidence, by no means a naked or solitary record.
V. A mark of historical truth, although only in a certain way, and to a certain degree, is particularity in names, dates, places, circumstances, and in the order of events preceding or following the transaction ; of which kind, for instance, is the particularity in the de. scription of St. Paul's voyage and shipwreck, in the 27th chapter of The Acts, which no man, I think, can read without being convinced that the writer was there ; and also in the account of the cure and examination of the blind man, in the ninth chapter of St. John's gospel, which bears every mark of personal knowledge on the part of the historian.* I do not deny that fiction has often the particularity of truth ; but then it is of a studied and elaborate fiction, or of a formal attempt to deceive, that we observe this. Since, however, experience proves that particularity is not confined to truth, I have stated that it is a proof of truth, only to a certain extent, i. e. it reduces the question to this, whether we can depend or not upon the probity of the relator; which is a considerable advance in our present argument; for an express attempt to deceive, in which case alone particularity can appear without truth, is charged upon the evangelists by few. If the historian acknowledge himself to have received his intelligence from others, the particularity of the narrative shows, prima facie, the accuracy of his enquiries, and the fulness of his information. This remark belongs to St. Luke's history. Of the particularity which we alledge, many examples may be found in all the gospels. And it is very difficult to conceive, that such numerous particulars, as are almost every where to be met with in the scriptures, should be raised out of nothing, or be spun out of the imagination, without any fact to go upon.t
It is to be remarked, however, that this particularity is only to be looked for in direct history. It is not natural in references or allusions, which yet, in other respects afford often, as far as they go, the mosť unsuspicious evidence.
* Both these chapters ought to be read for the sake of this very observation.'
f" There is always some truth where there are considerable particularities related ; and they always seem to bear some proportion to one another. Thus there is a great want of the particulars of time, place, and persons, in Mane. tho's account of the Egyptian Dynasties, Etesias's of the Assyrian kings, and those which the technical chronologers have given of the ancient kingdoms of Greece ; and agreeably thereto, these accounts have much fiction and false. hood, with some truth ; whereas Thucydides's history of the Peloponnesian war, andCæsar's of the war in Gaul, in both which the particulars of time, place, and persons are mentioned, are universally esteemed true to a great de gree of exactness."-Hartley, vol. II. p. 102.
VI. We lay out of the case such stories of supernatural events, as require on the part of the hearer, nothing more than an otiose assent ; stories upon which nothing depends, in which no interest is involved, nothing is to be done or changed in consequence of believing them. Such stories are credited, if the careless assent that is given to them deserve that name, more by the indolence of the hear. er than by his judgment; or, though not much credited, are passed from one to another without enquiry or resistance.
To this case, and to this case alone, belongs what is called the love of the marvellous. I have never known it carry men further. Men do not suffer persecution from the love of the marvellous. Of the indifferent nature we are speaking of, are most vulgar errors and popular superstitions : most, for instance, of the current reports of apparitions. Nothing depends upon their being true or false. But not surely, of this kind were the alledged miracles of Christ and his Apostles. They decided, if true, the most important question, upon which the human mind can fix its anxiety. They claimed to regulate the opinions of mankind, upon subjects in which they are not only deeply concerned, but usually refractory and obstinate. Men could not be utterly careless in such a case as this. If a Jew took up the story, he found his darling partiality to his own nation and law wounded ; if a Gentile, he found his idolatry and polytheism reprobated and condemned. Whoever entertained the account, whether Jew or Gentile, could not avoid the following reflection :- If these things be true, I must give up the opinions and principles in which I have been brought up, the religion in which my fathers lived and died.” It is not conceivable that any man should do this upon any idle report or frivolous account, or, indeed, without being fully satisfied and convinced of the truth and credibility of the narrative to which he trusted. But it did not stop at opinions. They who believed Christianity, acted upon it. Many made it the express business of their lives to publish the intelligence. It was required of those, who admitted that intelligence, to change forth with their conduct and their principles, to take up a different course of life, to part with their habits and gratifications, and begin a new set of rules and system of behaviour. The Apostles, at least, were interested not to sacrifice their ease, their fortunes, and their lives, for an idle tale; multitudes beside them were induced, by th same tale to encounter opposition, danger and sufferings.
If it be said, that the mere promise of a future state, would do all this, I answer, that the mere promise of a future state, without any evidence to give credit or assurance to it, would do nothing. A few wandering fishermen talking of a resurrection of the dead could produce no effect. If it be further said, that men easily believe what they anxiously desire, I again answer that in my opinion, the very contrary of this is nearer the truth. Anxiety of desire, earnestness of expectation, the vastness of an event, rather causes men to disbelieve, to doubt, to dread a fallacy, to distrust, and to examine. When our Lord's resurrection was first reported to the Apostles, they did not believe, we are told, for joy. This was natural, and is agreeable to experience.
VII. We have laid out of the case those accounts which require no more than a simple assent; and we now also lay out ofthe case those which come merely in affirmance of opinions already formed. This last circumstance it is of the utmost importance to notice well. It has long been observed, that Popish miracles happen in Popish countries; that they make no converts; which proves that stories are accepted, when they fall in with principles already fixed, with the public sentiments, or with the sentiments of a party already engaged on the side the miracle supports, which would not be attempted to be produced in the face of enemies, in opposition to reigning tenets or favourite prejudices, or when if they believed, the belief must draw men away from their pre-conceived and habitual opinions, from their modes of life and rules of action. In the former case, men may not only receive a miraculous account, but may both act and suffer on the
side and in the cause which the miracle supports, yet not act or suffer for the miracle, but in pursuance of a prior persuasion. The miracle, like any other argument which only confirms what was befort believed, is admitted with little examination. In the moral, as in the natural world, it is change which requires a cause. easily fortified in their old opinions, driven from them with great difficulty. Now, how does this apply to the Christian history the miracles there recorded were wrought in the midst of enemies, under a government, a priesthood and a magistracy decidedly and vehemently adverse to them, and to the pretensions which they supported. They were Protestant miracles in a Popish country, they were Popish miracles in the midst of Protestants. They produced a change; they established a society upon the spot adhering to the belief of them; they made converts, and those who were converted, gave up to the testimony their most fixed opinions, and most favourite prejudices. They who acted and suffered in the cause, acted and suffered for the miracles; for there was no anterior persuasion to in. duce them, no prior reverence, prejudice or partiality to take hold of. Jesus had not one follower when he set up his claim. His miracles gave birth to his sect. No part of this description belongs to the ordinary evidence of heathen or Popish miracles. Even most of the miracles alledged to have been performed by Christians, in the second and third century of its era, wants this confirmation. It constitutes indeed a line of partition between the origin and progress of Christiainty. Frauds and fallacies might mix themselves with the progress, which could not possibly take place in the commence, ment of the religion; at least according to any laws of human conduct that we are acquainted with. What should suggest to the first propagators of Christianity, especially to fishermen, tax-gatherers, and husbandmen, such a thought as that of changing the religion of the world ; what could bear them through the difficulties, in which the attempt engaged them ; what could procure any degree of success to the attempt ; are questions which apply, with great force, to the setting out of the institution, with less to every future stage of it.
To hear some men talk, one would suppose the setting up of a religion by miracles to be a thing of every day's experience, whereas the whole current of history is against it. Hath any founder of a
new sect amongst Christians pretended to miraculous powers, and succeeded by his pretensions? “ Were these powers claimed or exercised by the founders of the sects of the Waldenses and Albigenses? Did Wichliff in England pretend to it ? Did Huss or Jerome in Bohemia? Did Luther in Germany, Zuinglius in Switzerland, Calvin in France, or any of the reformers advance this plea ?"* The French prophets, in the beginning of the present century, ventured to alledge miraculous evidence, and immediately ruined their cause by their temerity. “Concerning the religion of ancient Rome, of Turkey, of Siam, of China, a single miracle cannot be named, that was ever offered as a test to any of those religions before their establishment.”+
We may add to what has been observed, of the distinction which we are considering, that, where miracles are alledged merely in affirmation of a prior opinion, they who believe the doctrine may sometime propagate a belief of the miracles which they do not themselves entertain. This is the case of what are called pious frauds; but it is a case, I apprehend, which takes place, solely in support of a persuasion already established. At least it does not hold of the apostolical history. If the Apostles did not beiieve the miracles, they did not believe the religion ; and, without this belief, where was the piety, what place was there for any thing which could bear the name or colour of piety, in publishing and attesting miracles in its behalf? If it be said that many promote the belief of revelation, and of any accounts which favour that belief, because they think them, whether well or ill founded, of public and political utility ; I answer, that if a character exist, which can with less justice than another, be ascribed to the founders of the Christian religion, it is that of politicians, or of men capable of entertaining political views. The truth is that there is no assignable character, which will account for the conduct of the Apostles, supposing their story to be false. If bad men, what could induce them to take such pains to promote virtue? If good men, they would not have gone about the country with a string of lies in their mouths.
[To be continued.]
CASTELLIO'S TRANSLATION OF THE BIBLE.
THE third chapter of the Prophet Habakuk has always justly been considered as a wonderful specimen of the sublime and beautiful in composition. But beautiful as it is in our translation, it is more so according to Castellio. Where the sense is the same, by a mere difference in phraseology, he has added spirit and sublimity, and greatly improved its poetic beauty; and in some passages his sense is more lucid and inteligible. A literal rendering of his Latin into English, and comparing it with the Bible, will at once make this manifesi. Verse 2...O Lord, hearing the fame of thee, I tremblem Cast. O Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid-Bib. Verse 3...The Holy God coming from Teman, from mount Paran, his Majesty covered the heavens, and the earth was filled with his praise. He had korns of brandished lightning in his hand, where was the hiding place of
* Campbell on Miracles, p. 120. ed. 1766. † Adams on Mir. p. 75.
his power-Cast. God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. And his brightness was as the light. He had horns coming out of his hand, and there was the hiding of his power-Bib. Here, according to Castellio, the Almighty comes forth, and by so doing covers the heavens with glory,and fills the earth with praise; in his hand he brandishes the forked lightning, and holds the horned thunderbolt, which contains an emblem of his mighty power. A great deal of this sublimity disappears in our Bible translation : the horns coming out of his hand, do not appear at first sight, to be intended for lightning ; the expression is obscure, and loses its force; it requires study and attention to know what can be its meaning. But by Castellio's rendering, the sense is at once clear, forcible, and striking to the imagination.
Verse 6...At a stand he measured the earth; by a look he drove asunder the nations ; then did the perpetual mountains lean, the everlasting hills subsided for his eternal footsteps to pass-Cast. He stood and measured the earth; he beheld, and drove asunder the nations ; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow : his ways are everlasting-Bib. In the former part of this verse there is no material preference; but in the latter part, Castellio's is a far more sublime rendering: We behold the perpetual mountains leaping out of the way, and the hills subsiding for the Almighty to pass over ; of which there is hardly any thing discernible in the common translation.
Verse 9...Thy bow was displayed, as thou hadsl sworn unto the tribes of the earth. Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers-Cast. Thy bow was made quite naked, according to the oaths of the tribes, even thy word. Thon didst cleave the earth with rivers-Bib. This passage, by Castellio, manifestly refers to God's promise of setting his bow in the clouds; whereas in the Bible rendering, it is extremely obscure, and we know not what to make of the oaths of the tribes ; it seems to allude to to something unknown.
Verses 10, 11... The mountains seeing thee, were smitten asunder, the gushing waters passed by; and at the tifting up of thy hands, the deep uttered his voice. The sun and moon stood still in their station ; but by the light of thine arrows, by the brighiness of thy glittering speare they moved-Cast. The mountains saw thee and they trembled; the overflowing of the waters passed by; the deep uttered his voice, and lifted up his hands on high. The sun and moon stood still in their habitation ; at the light of thine arrows they went, and at the shining of thy glittering speare--Bib. In the former of these verses, for beauty and sublimity of thought, the preference is manifestly with Castellio. According to him the mountains are smitten asunder, and the waters gush forth at the appearance of the Almighty. The deep also utters his voice ; the sea cries out, and why ? God lifts his hand. Of this beauty, there is but little in the English bible; here the deep only utters his voice and lifts up his hands; but these marks of terror are not so clearly ascribed unto God. In the latter verse, both translations are inimitably sublime. The sun and moon stand still ; but by the lightning of God's arrow and speare, they can see their way, and pursue their course.