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these interruptions consequently should be the strength and weight of testimony, this confined to the experience of a few; that author has provided an answer to every posthe want of it, therefore, in many, should sible accumulation of historical proof by be matter neither of surprise nor objection ? telling us, that we are not obliged to explain
But as a continuation of the argument how the story of the evidence arose. Now from experience, it is said that, when we I think that we are obliged ; not, perhaps, advance accounts of miracles, we assign to show by positive accounts how it did, but effects without causes, we attribute by a probable hypothesis how it might so effects to causes inadequate to the purpose, happen. The existence of the testimony is or to causes, of the operation of which we a phenomenon ; the truth of the fact solves have no experience. Of what causes, we the phenomenon. If we reject this solution, may ask, and of what effects does the objec- we ought to have some other to rest in; tion speak? If it be answered that, when and none, even by our adversaries, can be we ascribe the cure of the palsy to a touch, admitted, which is not inconsistent with the of blindness to the anointing of the eyes principles that regulate human affairs and with clay, or the raising of the dead to a human conduct at present, or which makes word, we lay ourselves open to this imputa- men then to have been a different kind of tion ; we reply, that we ascribe no such beings from what they are now. effects to such causes. We perceive no But the short consideration which, indevirtue or energy in these things more than pendently of every other, convinces me that in other things of the same kind. They are there is no solid foundation in Mr. Hume's merely signs to connect the miracle with conclusion is the following. When a theits end. The effect we ascribe simply to orem is proposed to a mathematician, the the volition of the Deity; of whose existence first thing he does with it is to try it upon and power, not to say of whose presence a simple case, and if it produce a false and agency, we have previous and inde- result, he is sure that there must be some pendent proof. We have, therefore, all mistake in the demonstration. Now to prowe seek for in the works of rational agents, ceed in this way with what may be called - a sufficient power and an adequate Mr. Hume's theorem. If twelve men, whose motive. In a word, once believe that there probity and good sense I had long known, is a God, and miracles are not incredible. should seriously and circumstantially relate
Mr. Hume states the case of miracles to to me an account of a miracle wrought bebe a contest of opposite improbabilities, fore their eyes, and in which it was imposthat is to say, a question whether it be sible that they should be deceived ; if the more improbable that the miracle should be governor of the country, hearing a rumour true, or the testimony false: and this I of this account, should call these men into think a fair account of the controversy. his presence, and offer them a short proBut herein I remark a want of argumenta- posal, either to confess the imposture, or tive justice, that, in describing the impro- submit to be tied up to a gibbet; if they bability of miracles, he suppresses all those should refuse with one voice to acknowledge circumstances of extenuation, which result that there existed any falsehood or imposfrom our knowledge of the existence, power, ture in the case ; if this threat were comand disposition of the Deity; his concern in municated to them separately, yet with no the creation, the end answered by the mira- different effect; if it was at last executed ; cle, the importance of that end, and its if I myself saw them, one after another, subserviency to the plan pursued in the consenting to be racked, burnt, or strangled, work of nature. As Mr. Hume has repre- rather than give up the truth of their acsented the question, miracles are alike incre- count;-still, if Mr. Hume's rule be my dible to him who is previously assured of guide, I am not to believe them. Now I the constant agency of a Divine Being, and undertake to say, that there exists not a to him who believes that no such Being sceptic in the world who would not believe exists in the universe. They are equally them, or who would defend such incredulity, incredible, whether related to have been Instances of spurious miracles supported wrought upon occasions the most deserving, by strong apparent testimony, undoubtedly and for purposes the most beneficial, or for demand examination ; Mr. Húme has endeano assignable end whatever, or for an end voured to fortify his argument by some confessedly trifling or pernicious. This examples of this kind. I hope in a proper surely cannot be a correct statement. In place to show that none of them reach the adjusting also the other side of the balance, strength or circumstances of the Christian
TINGUISHED FROM THE EVIDENCE ALLEG-
evidence. In these, however, consists the it will be proper to consider the degree of weight of his objection : in the principle probability which the assertion derives from itself, I am persuaded, there is none. the nature of the case, that is, by inferences
from those parts of the case which, in point of fact, are on all hands acknowledged.
First, then, the Christian Religion exists, PART I.
and therefore by some means or other was
established. Now it either owes the prinOF THE DIRECT HISTORICAL EVIDENCE OPciple of its establishment, i. e. its first puCHRISTIANITY, AND WHEREIN IT IS DIS- blication, to the activity of the Person who
was the founder of the institution, and of
those who were joined with him in the The two propositions which I shall endeavour undertaking, or we are driven upon the to establish are these,
strange supposition, that, although they I. That there is satisfactory evidence that might lie by, others would take it up; many professing to be original witnesses of although they were quiet and silent, other the Christian miracles, passed their lives in persons busied themselves in the success and labours, dangers, and sufferings, voluntarily propagation of their story. This is perfectly undergone in attestation of the accounts incredible. To me it appears little less than which they delivered, and solely in con- certain, that, if the first announcing of the sequence of their belief of those accounts; religion by the Founder had not been foland that they also submitted, from the same lowed up by the zeal and industry of his motives, to new rules of conduct.
immediate disciples, the attempt must have II. That there is not satisfactory evidence, expired in its birth. Then as to the kind that persons professing to be original wit- and degree of exertion which was employed, nesses of other miracles, in their nature as and the mode of life to which these persons certain as these are, have ever acted in the submitted, we reasonably suppose it to be same manner, in attestation of the accounts like that which we observe in all others who which they delivered, and properly in voluntarily become missionaries of a new consequence of their belief of those accounts. faith. Frequent, earnest, and laborious
The first of these propositions, as it forms preaching, constantly conversing with religithe argument, will stand at the head of the
ous persons upou religion, a sequestration following nine chapters.
from the common pleasures, engagements, and varieties of life and an addiction to one serious object, compose the habits of
such men. I do not say that this mode of CHAPTER I.
life is without enjoyment, but I say that the There is satisfactory evidence that many, consciousness at the bottom, of hollowness
enjoyment springs from sincerity. With a professing to be original witnesses of and falsehood, the fatigue and restraint the Christian miracles, passed their lives in labsurs, dangers, and sufferings, volunta- believe that very few hypocrites engage in
would become insupportable. I am apt to rily undergone in attestation of the accounts which they delivered, and solely in them long. Ordinarily speaking, nothing
these undertakings; or, however, persist in consequence of their belief of those accounts; and that they also submitted, from the love which is natural to most tempers of
can overcome the indolence of mankind, the same motives, to new rules of conduct. cheerful society and cheerful scenes, or the To support this proposition, wo points are desire, which is common to all, of personal necessary to be made out: first, that the ease and freedom, but conviction. Founder of the institution, his associates and Secondly, it is also highly probable, from immediate followers, acted the part which the nature of the case, that the propagation the proposition imputes to them : secondly, of the new religion was attended with diffithat they did so in attestation of the miracu- culty and danger. As addressed to the lous history recorded in our Scriptures, and Jews, it was a system adverse not only to solely in consequence of their belief of the their habitual opinions, but to those opinions truth of this history.
upon which their hopes, their partialities, Before we produce any particular testi- their pride, their consolation, was founded. mony to the activity and sufferings which This people, with or without reason, had compose the subject of our first assertion, worked themselves into a persuasion, that
some signal and greatly advantageous change tions, inward purity, and moral rectitude of was to be effected in the condition of their disposition, as the true ground, on the part country, by the agency of a long-promised of the worshipper, of merit and acceptance messenger from heaven.* The rulers of the with God. This, however rational it may Jews, their leading sect, their priesthood, appear, or recommending to us at present, had been the authors of this persuasion to did not by any means facilitate the plan the common people; so that it was not then. On the contrary, to disparage those merely the conjecture of theoretical divines, qualities which the highest characters in the or the secret expectation of a few recluse country valued themselves most upon, was devotees, but it was become the popular a sure way of making powerful enemies. hope and passion, and like all popular opi. As if the frustration of the national hope nions, undoubting, and impatient of contra- was not enough, the long-esteemed merit of diction. They clung to this hope under ritual zeal and punctuality was to be decried, every misfortune of their country, and with and that by Jews preaching to Jews. more tenacity as their dangers or calamities The ruling party at Jerusalem had just increased. To find, therefore, that expecta- before crucified the Founder of the religion. tions so gratifying were to be worse than That is a fact which will not be disputed. disappointed : 'that they were to end in the They, therefore, who stood forth to preach diffusion of a mild unambitious religion, the religion must necessarily reproach these which, instead of victories and triumphs, rulers with an execution, which they could instead of exalting their nation and institu- not but represent as an unjust and cruel tion above the rest of the world, was to murder. This would not render their office advance those whom they despised to an more easy, or their situation more safe, equality with themselves, in those very points With regard to the interference of the of comparison in which they most valued Roman government which was then estatheir own distinction, could be no very blished in Judea, I should not expect, that, pleasing discovery to a Jewish mind; nor despising as it did the religion of the country, could the messengers of such intelligence it would, if left to itself, animadvert, either expect to be well received or easily credited with much vigilance or much severity, upon The doctrine was equally harsh and novel. the schisms and controversies which arose The extending of the kingdom of God to within it. Yet there was that in Christianity those who did not conform to the law of which might easily afford a handle of accuMoses, was a notion that had never before sation with a jealous government. The entered into the thoughts of a Jew.
Christians avowed an unqualified obedience The character of the new institution was, to a new master. They avowed also that in other respects also, ungrateful to Jewish he was the person who had been foretold to habits and principles. Their own religion the Jews under the suspected title of King. was in a high degree technical. Even the The spiritual nature of this kingdom, the enlightened Jew placed a great deal of stress consistency of this obedience with civil subupon the ceremonies of his law, saw in them jection, were distinctions too refined to be a great deal of virtue and efficacy; the entertained by a Roman president, who gross and vulgar had scarcely any thing viewed the business at a great distance, or else; and the hypocritical and ostentatious through the medium of very hostile repremagnified them above measure, as being the sentations. Our histories accordingly ininstruments of their own reputation and form us, that this was the turn which the influence. The Christian scheme, without enemies of Jesus gave to his character and formally repealing the Levitical code, low- pretensions in their remonstrances with ered its estimation extremely. In the place Pontius Pilate. And Justin Martyr, about of strictness and zeal in performing the a hundred years afterwards, complains that observances which that code prescribed, or the same mistake prevailed in his time: which tradition had added to it, the new “Ye, having heard that we are waiting for sect preached up faith, well-regulated affec- a kingdom, suppose, without distinguishing,
that we mean a human kingdom, when in stans opinio, esse in fatis, ut eo tempore And it was undoubtedly a natural source of
truth we speak of that which is with God."* Judæå profecti rerum potirentur.” -Sueton. Vespasian, cap. 48.
calumny and misconstruction. “ Pluribus persuasio inerat, antiquis sacerdotum literis contineri, eo ipso tenipore føre, fore to contend with prejudice backed by
The preachers of Christianity had there. I ut valesceret oriens, profectique Juda & rerum potirentur."--Tacit. Hist. lib. v. cap. 9-13.
* Ap. Ima. p. 16. Ed. Thirl.
* “ Percrebuerat oriente toto vetus et con
power. They had to come forward to a
Secondly, it ought also to be considered, disappointed people, to a priesthood possess- that this was not the case of philosophers ing a considerable share of municipal autho- propounding, in their books, or in their rity, and actuated by strong motives of schools, doubts concerning the truth of the opposition and resentment; and they had popular creed, or even avowing their disto do this under a foreign government, to belief of it. These philosophers did not go whose favour they made no pretensions, and about from place to place to collect prosewhich was constantly surrounded by their lytes from amongst the common people; to enemies. The well-known, because the form in the heart of the country societies experienced fate of reformers, whenever the professing their tenets; to provide for the reformation subverts some reigning opinion, order, instruction, and permanency of these and does not proceed upon a change that societies; nor did they enjoin their folhas already taken place in the sentiments lowers to withdraw themselves from the of a country, will not allow, much less lead public worship of the temples, or refuse a us to suppose, that the first propagators of compliance with rites instituted by the Christianity at Jerusalem and in Judea, laws. * These things are what the Chrisunder the difficulties and the enemies they tians did, and what the philosophers did had to contend with, and entirely destitute not; and in these consisted the activity and as they were of force, authority, or protec- danger of the enterprise. tion, could execute their mission with Thirdly, it ought also to be considered, personal ease and safety.
that this danger proceeded not merely from Let us next inquire, what might reason- solemn acts and public resolutions of the ably be expected by the preachers of Chris- state, but from sudden bursts of violence at tianity when they turned themselves to the particular places, from the license of the heathen public. Now the first thing that populace, the rashness of some magistrates strikes us is, that the religion they carried and negligence of others; from the influence with them was exclusive. It denied with- and instigation of interested adversaries, out reserve the truth of every article of and, in general, from the variety and warmth heathen mythology, the existence of every of opinion which an errand so novel and object of their worship. It accepted no extraordinary could not fail of exciting. I compromise ; it admitted no comprehension. can conceive that the teachers of Christianity It must prevail
, if it prevailed at all, by the might both fear and suffer much from these overthrow of every statue, altar, and temple, causes, without any general persecution in the world. It will not easily be credited, being denounced against them by imperial that a design, so bold, as this was, could in authority, Some length of time, I should any age be attempted to be carried into suppose, might pass, before the vast machine exécution with impunity.
of the Roman empire would be put in For it ought to be considered, that this motion, or its attention be obtained to reliwas not setting forth, or magnifying the gious controversy : but, during that time, a character and worship of some new compe- great deal of ill usage might be endured, titor for a place in the Pantheon, whose by a set of friendless, unprotected travellers, pretensions might be discussed or asserted telling men, wherever they came, that the without questioning the reality of any religion of their ancestors, the religion in others; it was pronouncing all other gods to which they had been brought up, the relibe false, and all other worship vain. From gion of the state, and of the magistrate, the the facility with which the polytheism of rites which they frequented, the pomp ancient nations admitted new objects of which they admired, was throughout à worship into the number of their acknow. system of folly and delusion. ledged divinities, or the patience with Nor do I think that the teachers of Chriswhich they might entertain proposals of tianity would find protection in that general this kind, we can argue nothing as to their disbelief of the popular theology, which is toleration of a system, or of the publishers and active propagators of a system, which
* The best of the ancient philosophers, Plato, swept away the very foundation of the exist- Cicero, and Epictetus, allowed, or rather en
joined, men to worship the gods of the country, ing establishment. The one was nothing and in the established form. See passages to more than what it would be, in popish this purpose, collected from their works, countries, to add a saint to the calendar ; by Dr. Clarke, Nat. and Rev. Rel. p. 180,
ed. 5.-Except Socrates, they all thought the other was to abolish and tread under
it wiser to comply with the laws than to foot the calendar itself.
supposed to have prevailed amongst the of those times, however ill supported by intelligent part of the heathen public. It is evidence, had been long established. The by no means true that unbelievers are ancient religion of a country has always usually tolerant. They are not disposed many votaries, and sometimes not the fewer, (and why should they?) to endanger the because its origin is hidden in remoteness present state of things, by suffering a religion and obscurity. Men have a natural veneraof which they believe nothing, to be dis- tiou for antiquity, especially in matters of turbed by another of which they believe as religion. What Tacitus says of the Jewish, little. They are ready themselves to con- was more applicable to the heathen estaform to any thing ; and are, oftentimes, blishment ; Hi ritus, quoquo modo inducti, amongst the foremost to procure conformity antiquitate defenduntur.” It was also a from others, by any method which they splendid and sumptuous worship. It had think likely to be efficacious. When was its priesthood, its endowments, its temples, ever a change of religion patronised by Statuary, painting, architecture, and music, infidels? How little, notwithstanding the contributed their effect to its ornament and reigning scepticism, and the magnified libe- magnificence. It abounded in festival shows rality of that age, the true principles of and solemnities, to which the common peotoleration were understood by the wisest ple are greatly addicted, and which were of men amongst them, may be gathered from a nature to engage them much more than two eminent and uncontested examples. any thing of that sort among us. These The younger Pliny, polished as he was by things would retain great numbers on its all the literature of that soft and elegant side by the fascination of spectacle and period, could gravely pronounce this mon- pomp, as well as interest many in its strous judgment :- -". Those who persisted preservation by the advantage which they in declaring themselves Christians, I ordered drew from it. “ It was moreover interto be led away to punishment (i. e. to execu- woven," as Mr. Gibbon rightly represents tion), for I DID NOT DOUBT, whatever it was it, “ with every circumstance of business that they confessed, that contumacy and or pleasure, of public or private life, with all inflexible obstinacy ought to be punished." the offices and amusements of society;" On His master, Trajan, a mild and accomplished the due celebration also of its rites, the peoprince, went, nevertheless, no further in ple were taught to believe, and did believe, his sentiments of moderation and equity, that the prosperity of their country in a than what appears in the following rescript: great measure depended. “ The Christians are not to be sought for ; I am willing to accept the account of the but if any are brought before you, and con- matter which is given by Mr. Gibbon : “The victed, they are to be punished.” And this various modes of worship which prevailed direction he gives, after it had been reported in the Roman world, were all considered by to him by his own president, that, by the the people as equally true, by the philosopher most strict examination nothing could be as equally false, and by the magistrate as discovered in the principles of these persons, equally useful :” and I would ask from but “ a bad and excessive superstition,” which of these three classes of men were accompanied, it seems, with an oath or the Christian missionaries to look for promviual federation, “ to allow themselves tection or impunity? Could they expect it in no crime or immoral conduct whatever.” from the people, “whose acknowledged The truth is, the ancient heathens considered confidence in the public religion” they subreligion entirely as an affair of state, as verted from its foundation ? From the much under the tuition of the magistrate, philosopher, who, “considering all religions as any other part of the police. The religion as equally false," would of course rank of that age was not merely allied to the theirs among the number, with the addition state ; it was incorporated into it. Many of of regarding them as busy and troublesome its offices were administered by the magis- zealots? Or from the magistrate, who, trate. Its titles of pontiffs, augurs, and satisfied with the “utility” of the subsisting flamens, were borne by senators, consuls, religion, would not be likely to countenance and generals. Without discussing, there- a spirit of proselytism and innovation ;-a fore, the truth of the theology, they resented system which declared war against every every affront put upon the established wor- other, and which, if it prevailed, must end ship, as a direct opposition to the authority in a total rupture of public opinion; an of government.
upstart religion, in a word, which was not Add to which, that the religious systems content with its own authority, but must