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ous to it, or only incidentally connected with it. Of points clearly extraneous to the religion, nothing need be said. Of points incidentally connected with it, something may be added: Demoniacal possession is one of these points, concerning the reality of which, as this place will not admit the examination, or even the production of the arguments, on either side of the question, it would be arrogance in me to deliver any judgment. And it is unnecessary. For what I am concerned to observe is, that even they, who think that it was a general, but erroneous opinion, of those times ; and that the writers of the New Testament,
; in common with other Jewish writers of that age, fell into the manner of speaking and of thinking upon the subject, which then universally prevailed; need not be alarmed by the concession, as though they had any thing to fear from it, for the truth of Christianity. The doctrine was not what Christ brought into the world. It appears in the Christian records, incidentally and accidentally, as being the subsisting opinion of the age and country in which his ministry was exercised. It was no part of the object of his revelation, to regulate men's opinions concerning the actions of spiritual substances upon animal bodies. rate, it is unconnected with testimony. If a dumb person was by a word restored to the use of his speech, it signi. fres little to what cause the dumbness was ascribed; and the like of every other cure, wrought upon those who are said to have been possessed. The malady was real, the cure was real, whether the popular explication of the cause was well founded or not. The matter of fact, the change, so far as it was an object of sense, or of testimony, was in either case the same.
Secondly, that in reading the apostolic writings, we distinguish between their doctrines and their arguments. Their doctrines came to them by revelation properly, so called; yet in propounding these doctrines in their writings or discourses, they were wont to illustrate, support, and enforce them, by such analogies, arguments, and considerations as their own thoughts suggested. Thus the call of the Gentiles, that is, the admission of the Gentiles to the Christian profession without a previous subjection to the law of Moses, was imparted to the apostles by revelation; and was attested by the miracles which attended the Christian ministry amongst them. The apostles' own assurance of the matter rested upon this foundation. Nevertheless, St Paul, when treating of this subject, offers a great variety
of topics in its proof and vindication. The doctrine itself must be received; but it is necessary, in order to defend Christianity, to defend the propriety of every comparison, or the validity of every argument, which the apostle has brought into the discussion ? The same observation applies to some other instances; and is, in my opinion, very well founded. 66 When diyine writers argue upon any point, we are always bound to believe the conclusions that their reasonings end in, as parts of divine revelation ; but we are not bound to be able to make out, or even to assent to, all the premises made use of by them, in their whole extent, unless it appear plainly, that they affirm the premises as expressly as they do the conclusions proved by them."*
CHAP. III. The Connexion of Christianity with the Jewish History.
UNDOUBTEDLY, our Saviour assumes the divine ori. gin of the Mosaic institution; and, independently of his authority, I conceive it to be very difficult to assign any other cause for the commencement or existence of that institution ; especially for the singular circumstance of the Jews adhering to the unity, when every other people slid into polytheism ; for their being men in religion, children in every thing else; behind other nations in the arts of peace and war, superior to the most improved in their sentiments and doctrines relating to the Deity. Undoubtedly also our Saviour recognizes the prophetic character of many of their ancient writers. So far, therefore we are bound as Christians to go. But to make Christianity answerable with its iife, for the circumstantial truth of each separate passage of the Old Testament, the genuineness of every book, the information, fidelity, and judgment of every writer in it, is to bring, I will not say great, but unnecessary difficulties into the whole system. These books were universally read and received by the Jews of our Saviour's time. He and his apostles, in common with all other Jews, referred to them, alluded to them, used them. Yet, except where he expressly ascribes a divine authority to particular predictions, I do not know that we can strictly draw any conclusion from the books being so used and applied,
* Burnet's Expos. Art. 6. +" In the doctrine, for example, of the unity, the eternity, the omnipotence, the onniscence, the omnipresence, the wisdom and the goodness of God; in their opinions con cerning providence, and the creation, preservation and governnient of the world.-Campbell on Mir. p. 207.
beside the proof, which it unquestionably is of their notoriety and reception at that time. In this view our scriptures afford a valuable testimony to those of the Jews. But the nature of this testimony ought to be understood. It is surely very different from, what it is sometimes represented to be, a specific ratification of each particular fact and opinion; and not only of each particular fact, but of the motives assigned for every action, together with the judgment of praise or dispraise bestowed upon them. St. James, in his epistle,* says, “Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord.” Notwithstanding this text, the reality of Job's history, and even the existence of such a person, has been always deemed a fair subject of inquiry and discussion amongst Christian divines. St. James's authority is considered as good
. evidence of the existence of the book of Job at that time, and of its reception by the Jews, and of nothing more. St. Paul, in his second epistle to Timothy, i nas inis simne itude, “Now, as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth.” These names are not found in the Old Testament. And it is uncertain, whether St. Paul took them from some apocryphal writing then extant, or from tradition. But no one ever imagined, that St. Paul is here asserting the authority of the writing, if it was a written account which he quoted, or making himself answerable for the authenticity of the tradition ; much less, that he so involves himself with either of these
questions, as that the credit of his own history and mission should depend upon the fact, whether 6 Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses or not.' For what reason a more rigorous interpretation should be put upon other referen. ces it is difficult to know. I do not mean, that other passages of the Jewish history stand upon no better evidence than the history of Job, or of Jannes and Jambres, (I think much otherwise) but I mean, that a reference in the New Testament to a passage in the Old, does not so fix its authority, as to exclude all inquiry into its credibility, or into the separate reasons upon which that credibility is founded; and that it is an unwarrantable, as well as unsafe rule to lay down concerning the Jewish history, what was never laid down concerning any other, that either every particular of it must be true, or the whole false.
I have thought it necessary to state this point explicit. ly, because a fashion, revived by Voltaire, and pursued by the disciples of his school, seems to have much prevailed
+ 1. .
* 1. 11.
of late, of attacking Christianity through the sides of Judaism. Some objections of this class are founded in misconstruction, some in exaggeration ; but all proceed upon a supposition, which has not been made out by argument, that the attestation, which the author and first teachers of Christianity gave to the divine mission of Moses and the prophets, extends to every point and portion of the Jewish history; and so extends, as to make Christianity responsible in its own credibility, for the circumstantial truth, I had almost said, for the critical exactness, of every narrative contained in the Old Testament.
Rejection of Christianity. WE acknowledge that the Christian religion, although it converted great numbers, did not produce an universal, or even a general conviction in the minds of men, of the age and countries in which it appeared. And this want of a more complete and extensive success, is called the rejection of the Christian history and miracles; and has been thought by some, to form a strong objection to the reality of the facts which the history contains.
The matter of the objection divides itself into two parts, as it relates to the Jews, and as it relates to heathen nations ; because the minds of these two descriptions of men may have been, with respect to Christianity, under the influence of very different causes. The case of the Jews, inasmuch as our Saviour's ministry was originally addressed to them, offers itself first to our consideration.
Now, upon the subject of the truth of the Christian religion, with us there is but one question, viz. whether the miracles were actually wrought? From acknowledging the miracles we pass instantaneously to the acknowledgment of the whole. No doubt lies between the premises and conclusion. If we believe the works, or any one of them, we believe in Jesus. And this order of reasoning is become 80 universal and familiar, that we do not readily apprehend how it could ever have been otherwise, Yet it appears to me perfectly certain, that the state of thought, in the mind of a Jew of our Saviour's age, was totally different from this. After allowing the reality of the miracle, he had a great deal to do to persuade himself that Jesus was the Messiah. This is clearly intimated by various pas*
sages of the gospel history. It appears that, in the apprehension of the writers of the New Testament, the mir: acles did not irresistably carry, even those who saw them, to the conclusion intended to be drawn from them; or so compel assent, as to leave no room for suspense, for the exercise of candour, or the effects of prejudice. And to this point at least, the evangelists may be allowed to be good witnesses ; because it is a point, in which exaggeration or disguise would have been the other way. Their accounts, if they could be suspected of falsehood, would rather have magnified, than diminished, the effects of the miracles.
John vii. 21, 31. « Jesus answered, and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel-if a man on the Sabbath-day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken, are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the Sabbath-day? Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he whom they seek to kill ? but lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing to him; do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ? howbeit, we know this man whence ke is ; but when Christ cometh, no man man knoweth whence he is. Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am; and 1 am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not; but I know him, for I am from him, and he hath sent me. Then they sought to take him, but no man laid bands on him, because his hour was not yet come; and many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than those which this man hath done?"
This passage is very observable. It exhibits the reasoning of different sorts of persons upon the occasion of a miracle, which persons of all sorts are represented to have acknowledged as real. One sort of men thought, that there was something very extraordinary in all this; but that still Jesus could not be the Christ, because there was a circumstance in his appearance, which militated with an opinion concerning Christ, in which they had been brought up, and of the truth of which, it is probable, they had never entertained a particle of doubt, viz. that " when Christ cometh no man knoweth whence he is." Another sort were in clined to believe him to be the Messiah. But even these did not argue as we should ; did not consider the miracle as