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racles of the apostles, the prophecies relating to the destruction of Jerusalem, and the prophecies of the Old Testament, upon which to ground my faith. With this view, I read a course of lectures upon the subject, giving it every advantage which a predetermined impartiality could confer, and endeavouring to extract from colloquial as well as separate study the several benefits which are attached to both. The result was, that my doubts were completely tranquillized, and where there might be any thing like doubt or anxiety, I found it either in the last eight verses of Mark, or in a various reading, or in the translation of the original text into the Greek language. Four years afterwards, viz. in 1777, the famous fragments from the Library at Wolfenbüttel, in which the whole Christian religion, and, in particular, the history of the Resurrection was most acrimoniously attacked, made their appearance. Without farther enquiry into the name of the author, it may be sufficient to mention that the ignorance displayed in the several parts of the work was completely at variance with the great learning, by which it is said to have been dictated. The investigation. became, from this circumstance, doubly interesting. Connected with this, was an attack upon
the credibility of the interment of Christ, in which the author avails himself of Luther's German translation, more defective in this, than in any other part of the translation, and even more defective than the one, published fifty years before Luther. It became, therefore, necessary, (and the subject rewarded itself,) to give to this point also the advantage of a strict and impartial examination. The course of lectures, which produced the present treatise, was given in 1782. These "Fragments," however, (the vehicle of a most violent attack upon the Christian religion,) made a great impression in Germany; but they are still untenable upon the main point: for allowing the author the benefit of the contradictions which he states to have discovered in the gospels, it does not follow, as Lessing has well observed, that the history of the interment and of the resurrection is false, but that the gospels were not the effect of immediate inspiration, and subject to the same fallibility which all men either confess or feel. If four men write a history of what has taken place in their own time, and do not all rectify their narrations by one and the same standard, it is almost impossible they should perfectly agree, and that they should not be liable to variations.
Take, for instance, two Prussian officers giving an account of the " Seven Years' War," and let them narrate it from strict and painful memory, there will still be variations, and in nothing more than in the two main points of time and number, and yet the groundwork will be essentially true. Writers from memory are more subject to mistakes, than those who copy from some book in which they have confidence, or who have agreed upon some data of history. In using the words "eye-witnesses," I beg to observe, that, in the instance of the resurrection, John, who was present, is the chief and the most important witness; Matthew and Mark are the next in value; and that Luke entirely depends upon what he has heard. Supposing, therefore, a contradiction to exist, namely, that two of the evangelists should say, "the women brought spices, in order to embalm Jesus on Sunday morning," but that another, an eyewitness, should say, "No; this was already done by Joseph and Nicodemus, when he was laid into the grave," this only proves that two have erred in what is by no means a fundamental point, not that the history is fundamentally false. Were this not the fact, we should have no history at all, for contemporary histo
rians are always at variance, and if their writings were examined with the same scrupulous diligence as the New Testament, this would immediately be admitted. There are two things here. to be separated: the investigation of an historian, and the testimony of witnesses in a court of law. The evidence given in the last case, generally takes place soon after the fact, but the historian writes several years afterwards, and this was the situation of the evangelists. In law, we usually hear those only who have been eye-witnesses, and if we appeal to the hearsay evidence of others, it is only for the benefit of more general information, although at the same time, it is not evidence, that we can adduce, or upon which we can rely. In the case of a murder or a theft, the main fact will remain undisputed, although no two witnesses may agree as to the quantity of money the person robbed may have in his strong box, or who struck the first blow: a court of law has the advantage over the historian, because they examine living witnesses, cross-examine them with jealousy, and finally obtain, what they believe to be the truest statement. Even if any contradictions should remain unexplained, the main fact will be still admitted. The conduct of Daniel, when a young man, in the apocry
phal story of Susannah and the elders, is really an elucidation of the question. The main fact may have been true, and a person may take notice of what occurs under a tree, and yet not notice what the tree was. Such, however, is the criticism of a man, inimical to the Christian religion, who inconsistently denies the most important fact in the history of Jesus, solely in consequence of some apparent contradiction between historians, who were eye-witnesses, or who profess to have received their testimony from others, nor does it invalidate the same fact, when they differently relate, that the women saw one or two angels.
The opinion of Lessing deserves here to be recorded, because it is upon this opinion that certain authors have concluded him to be hostile to Christianity. What history, written by another, who lived at the same time, or who drew from books, and therefore more likely to agree, could stand the test of examination, if every collateral circumstance is expected to coincide with its fellow in another work? Take the Roman history, which presents, through different authors, such different statements, that the scholar is at a loss which to credit, although he may never have doubted the existence of a Punic war. A scholar, therefore, will imme