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of their followers? Now these books come
up in their accounts to the full extent of the proposition which we maintain. We have four histories of Jesus Christ. We have a history taking up the narrative from his death, and carrying on an account of the propagation of the religion, and of some of the most eminent persons engaged in it, for a space of nearly thirty years. We have, what some may think still more original, a collection of letters, written by certain principal agents in the business, upon the business, and in the midst of their concern and connection with it. And we have these writings severally attesting the point which we contend for, viz. the sufferings of the witnesses of the history, and attesting it in every variety of form in which it can be conceived to appear: directly and indirectly, expressly and incidentally, by assertion, recital, and allusion, by narratives of facts, and by arguments and discourses built upon these facts, either referring to them, or necessarily presupposing them.
I remark this variety, because, in ex
amining ancient records, or indeed any species of testimony, it is, in my opinion, of the greatest importance to attend to the information or grounds of argument which are casually and undesignedly disclosed; forasmuch as this species of proof is, of all others, the least liable to be corrupted by fraud or misrepresentation.
I may be allowed therefore, in the inquiry which is now before us, to suggest some conclusions of this sort, as preparatory to more direct testimony.
1. Our books relate, that Jesus Christ, the founder of the religion, was, in consequence of his undertaking, put to death, as a malefactor, at Jerusalem. This point at least will be granted, because it is no more than what Tacitus has recorded. They then proceed to tell us, that the religion was, notwithstanding, set forth at this same city of Jerusalem, propagated thence throughout Judea, and afterwards preached in other parts of the Roman empire. These points also are fully con
firmed by Tacitus: who informs us that the religion, after a short check, broke out again in the country where it took its rise; that it not only spread throughout Judea, but had reached Rome; and that it had there great multitudes of converts; and all this within thirty years after its commencement. Now these facts afford a strong inference in behalf of the proposition which we maintain. What could the disciples of Christ expect for themselves when they saw their Master put to death? Could they hope to escape the dangers in which he had perished? If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you, was the warning of common sense. With this example before their eyes, they could not be without a full sense of the peril of their future enterprise.
2. Secondly, all the histories agree in representing Christ as foretelling the persecution of his followers :
"Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you, and ye shall
be hated of all nations for my name's sake*"
"When affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are. offended +."
"They shall lay hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake :and ye shall be betrayed both by parents and brethren, and kinsfolks and friends, and some of you shall they cause to be put to death +
"The time cometh, that he that killeth you, will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them §.".
* Matt. xxiv. 9.
† Mark, iv. 17. See also chap, x. 30.
‡ Luke, xxi. 12-16. See also chap. xi. 49,
I am not entitled to argue from these passages, that Christ actually did foretel these events, and that they did accordingly come to pass; because that would be at once to assume the truth of the reli gion but I am entitled to contend, that one side or other of the following disjunction is true; either that the Evangelists have delivered what Christ really spoke, and that the event corresponded with the prediction; or that they put the prediction into Christ's mouth, because at the time of writing the history, the event had turned out so to be: for, the only two re-. maining suppositions appear in the highest degree incredible; which are, either that Christ filled the minds of his followers with fears and apprehensions, without any reason or authority for what he said, and contrary to the truth of the case; or that, although Christ had never foretold any such thing, and the event would have contradicted him if he had, yet historians who lived in the age when the event was known, falsely, as well as officiously, ascribed these words to him,