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lations. How could they do it? How could those interpolations and forgeries be so interwoven with the facts in the life of Jesus, that all should make, as they now do, one harmonious and consistent whole ? Let any one read of the resurrection of Lazarus, the healing of the blind man, or the stilling of the tempest, where the personal bearing and the words of Jesus so harmonize with those miraculous deeds, and say whether the mind of an interpolator could create such scenes, and, adapting to them the fitting words, carry them out with such marvellous consistency and naturalness through the wbole ministry of Jesus. We do not believe that it is within the compass of human genius thus to create and fill out one such scene. Wherever it has been tried, though by men of the sublimest genius, as Milton in bis Paradise Regained, the failure is palpable and almost painful to witness. No work of poetic genius in which Jesus is introduced as an important character has ever succeeded, and it never can succeed; for it is not within the compass of man's powers to invent deeds, words, and characters grand enough to sustain their place in such a connection. Human powers are dwarfed and enfeebled when in their poetic creations they have attempted thus to set forth in living words and acts “the beginning of the creation of God."
In the early ages of the Church, that is, some time after the fourth century, attempts were made to prepare Gospels, as some have supposed that ours were prepared, by adding newly invented scenes and feigned words to old facts. These attempts have been preserved to us in what are called the “ Apocryphal Gospels," and a sadder contrast cannot well be conceived than that which is found between these wretched fictions and the honest, truth-like features of the four Gospels which have come down, as we believe, from the days of the Apostles. The difficulties in the way of adding fictitious embellishments to a life like that of Jesus cannot be over-estimated, especially when we consider that all the additions made to that life, so simple, so truthful and majestic in all its parts, must have been the work of falsehood or of credulity. It is utterly impossible that either falsehood or credulity could so far comprehend the sublime and holy elements of his character, as to interweave through its
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whole living texture the miraculous deeds which, with his common actions and his words, like the tree, its branches, leaves, and fruit, make one living and organic whole. Myths, growing out of a superstitious or at least a credulous state of mind, yet harmonizing with the purest and sublimest truths, — the most simple, the greatest and most truthful character ever drawn, marked in every feature by the most perfect naturalness and truth, yet made up, in three different generations, from the inventions of reverent falsehood or of a weak and superstitious credulity! The Apocryphal Gospels are just what we should expect from such a process; but the Gospels which have been received, as all admit, for nearly seventeen centuries, could not have been fabricated in this way, without a miracle more unnatural and incredible than all the miracles which they record.
Another fact we would here add, which is admitted by all distinguished scholars, even those who deny the genuineness and authenticity of the Gospels. St. Paul's Epistles to the Romans, the Corinthians, and the Galatians are received without doubt as the genuine writings of the Apostle to whom they are ascribed. Here, then, we have, by the general assent of all scholars, writings prepared within thirty or forty years of the death of Jesus, by a distinguished actor in the extraordinary events which then took place, and these writings testify over and over again to the miraculous character of Christ and his religion. Except the crowning miracle of all, his resurrection, they do not often formally declare the reality of the Christian miracles; — but from the beginning they proceed on the supposition of their truth. Their reasonings, their exhortations, their doctrines, the fine enthusiasm that runs through them, the lofty strains of thought and emotion, so depend on a miraculous dispensation, so presuppose something like the Gospel narratives, that, unless those or similar facts were believed in by the writer, there is no meaning in them. Letters, so alive with the Christian spirit of those times, so towering to heaven with the earnestness of their faith, indicating such vigor and comprehensiveness of thought and such an impassioned sincerity of utterance, are all collapsed, without intelligence or life, unless the writer himself thoroughly believed in his religion as one which had been
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recently revealed and approved by signs and wonders. We are here brought into the very arena on which the great moral and religious revolution of which we have spoken was going on. We are brought into intimate connection with one of the ablest leaders in that movement. We see the intensity of his feelings, the undoubting assurance of his faith, the breadth and calmness of his wisdom, the sacrifices he made, all resting upon and implying a belief in the miraculous facts which he, at first a violent opponent, had had the fullest opportunity to examine. Here, then, in the existence and character of these writings, is another extraordinary fact, easily accounted for if we admit the Christian miracles, but utterly inexplicable on any other supposition.
We might also, on the strongest internal evidence, -evidence a hundred times stronger than would be required to establish as genuine any classical writing of antiquity, - assume the genuineness of the book of Acts; but as we are here dealing only with undisputed facts, we defer that for the present, and stop here, for a moment, to consider precisely how the argument now stands in its relation to the genuineness of the Gospels.
The great reason why a large class of writers cannot believe in their genuineness is, that the miraculous events which they relate are in a very high degree improbable. We admit that the miracles in themselves are in a very high degree improbable ; but here are facts admitted by every one, of a most extraordinary character, which, without the miracles, are improbable in a far higher degree than the miracles themselves. The improbability of the miracles, therefore, is more than balanced by the greater improbability of the facts without them, and we are obliged to admit the credibility of the miracles as the only rational way of accounting for the facts. The miracles, then, taken in connection with the facts on which we have dwelt, furnish no presumption against the authenticity of the Gospel narratives in which we find them, but rather the reverse; since without them we could have no clew to any rational explanation of the facts which all must adınit, and which would stand before us as prodigies and wonders more incredible than any miracles that are reported in the Gospels. In short, the question is reduced to this, — whether it is more improbable that miracles should take place by a divine intervention or without it; since, in one or the other case, they must be admitted.. The miraculous accounts, then, create no presumption against the authenticity, and therefore none against the genuineness, of the Gospels ; for if the miracles -furnish no presumption against the truthfulness of the narratives, they furnish none against the supposition that they were written by men so sit, uated as to be able to know the truth of what they wrote.
But on this point, the facts create a presumption on the other side. The fact that such a revolution as we have spoken of did take place at that precise period of time; that all the documents relating to it point to a miraculous interposition as its cause ; that Jesus Christ did then live and die; that less than a century and a half after his death, all the Christians of whom any account has come down to us, from the Euphrates to the Atlantic, numbering in their ranks the most able and learned men throughout the most civilized portions of the globe, did believe in miracles as lying at the basis of their religion, and everywhere received the Gospel nar. ratives as authentic accounts of transactions handed down and believed in from the beginning; and the other fact, as unquestioned, that the Epistles of Paul were actually written in the midst of the events which they assume or relate, – a portion of the life of that period daguerreotyped and preserved to our days, - and that these writings are in harmony with the Gospels, imply. ing their leading facts and indicating a state of things naturally growing out of them and in their progress perpetuating themselves in historical monuments and events such as we can account for in no other way; these undisputed and indisputable facts prove that from the days of the Apostles the followers of Jesus did receive and propagate his religion as a miraculous dispensation. They may have been deceived, or they may have sought to deceive others. But it is, beyond all question, à fact, that every historical document connected with Christianity at that early period, from the Epistles of Paul to the writings of Irenæus, Tertullian, and Origen, do assert or assume the reality of miracles, and
the earliest heathen writers * who speak of Christianity speak of it in such a way as to imply on the part of the Christians a belief in something miraculous and supernatural. As, then, the recognition of miracles enters as an essential element into all the writings of the early Christians back to St. Paul, the distinguished contemporary and associate of the Apostles, and as he on the authority of the Apostles distinctly mentions the resurrection of Jesus as a fact made known by his personal presence to above five hundred at once, the presumption is, that all the leaders in that wonderful movement did maintain Christianity as a miraculous dispensation. If any of their number had prepared written memoirs of Jesus, though they had never come down to us, the presumption would be, that they also would relate miraculous events, and if, in our times, writings should be found purporting to come from the Apostles, giving an account of the life of Jesus without any thing to indi. cate his miraculous endowments, this fact alone, even if our four Gospels had been lost, would create a presumption against their genuineness.
Having now, on historical grounds, removed all presumption against the genuineness of the Gospels growing out of their miraculous character, we are prepared, as we should be in regard to any other ancient writings, to consider the direct historical evidence of their genuineness. The same amount of evidence that would satisfy us in any other case ought also to satisfy us in this. We repeat and insist on this point, because, both among the friends and the enemies of our religion, there is an undefined and unreasonable impression that the genuineness of our sacred books is to be established by proofs different in kind and degree from those which are regarded as sufficient to prove the genuineness of any other writings. If the evidence is sufficient to remove every reasonable doubt in any other case, it ought to remove every reasonable doubt in this, and it is neither reasona
* The “exitiabilis superstitio" of Tacitus (Ann., Lib. XV. c. xliv.) and the “ maleficæ superstitionis” (magical superstition) as well as the “carmen Christo, quasi Deo" of Pliny (Lib. X. Epist. 96 [al. 97): C. Plinius
Trajano), could in no way be applied to the religion of the Christians, unless, in the opinion of those writers, they had laid claim to some miraculous agency or authority.