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a companion of his, and by one of the order, was published about fifteen years after his death. In which life, the author, so far from ascribing any miracles to Ignatius, industriously states the reasons why he was not invested with
The life was republished fifteen years afterwards, with the addition of many circumstances, which were the fruit, the author says, of further inquiry, and of diligent examination ; but still with a total silence about miracles. When Ignatius had been dead nearly sixty years, the Jesuits, conceiving a wish to have the founder of their order placed in the Roman kalendar, began, as it should seem, for the first time, to attribute to him a catalogue of miracles, which could not then be distinctly disproved ; and which there was, in those who governed the church, a strong disposition to admit upon the slenderest proofs.
II. We may lay out of the case, accounts published in one country, of what passed in a distant country, without any proof that such accounts were known or received at home. In the case of Christianity, Judea, which was the scene of the transaction, was the centre of the mission. The story was published in the place in which it was acted. The church of Christ was first planted at Jerusalem itself. With that church, others corresponded. From thence the primitive teachers of the institution went forth ; thither they assembled. The church of Jerusalem, and the several churches of Judea, subsisted from the beginning, and for many ages * ; received also the same books, and the same accounts, as other churches did.
This distinction disposes, amongst others, of the above-mentioned miracles of Apollonius Tyaneus, most of which are related to have been performed in India, no evidence remaining that either the miracles ascribed to him, or the history of those miracles, were ever heard of in India. Those of Francis Xavier, the Indian missionary, with many others of the Romish
* The succession of many eminent bishops of Jerusalem, in the first three centuries, is distinctly preserved, as Alex. ander, A. D. 212, who succeeded Narcissus, then 116 years old.
breviary, are liable to the same objection, viz. that the accounts of them were published at a vast distance from the supposed scene of the wonders *.
III. We lay out of the case transient
Upon the first publication of an extraordinary account, or even of an article of ordinary intelligence, no one, who is not personally acquainted with the transaction, can know whether it be true or false, because any man may publish any story. It is in the future confirmation, or contradiction, of the account; in its permanency, or its disappearance ; ils dying away into silence, or its increasing in notoriety ; its being followed up by subsequent accounts, and being repeated in different and independent accounts, that solid truth is distinguished from fugitive lies. This distinction is altogether on the side of Christianity. The story did not drop. On the contrary, it was succeeded by a train of action and events dependent upon it. The accounts, which we have in our hands, were composed after the first reports must have subsided. They were followed by a train of writings upon the subject. The historical testimonies of the transaction were many and various, and connected with letters, discourses, controversies, apologies, successively produced by the same transaction.
* Douglas's Crit. p. 84.
IV. We may lay out of the case what I call naked history. It has been said, that if the prodigies of the Jewish history had been found only in fragments of Manetho, or Berosus, we should have paid no regard to them: and I am willing to admit this. If we knew nothing of the fact, but from the fragment; if we possessed no proof that these accounts had been credited and acted upon, from times, probably, as ancient as the accounts themselves ; if we had no visible effects connected with the history, no subsequent or collateral testimony to confirm it; under these circumstances, I think that it would be undeserving of credit. But this
But this certainly is not our case. In appreciating the evidence of Christianity, the books are to be combined with the institution ; with the prevalency of the religion at this day; with the time and place of its origin, which are acknowledged points ; with the circumstances of its rise and progress, as collected from external history; with the fact of our present books being received by the votaries of the institution from the beginning; with that of other books coming after these, filled with accounts of 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 show that they were founded in a common original, 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.