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Of the history of the resurrection,

CHAPTER IX.
SECT. I. The propagation of Christianity,
SECT. II. Reflections upon the preceding account,
Sect. III. Of the religion of Mahoniet,

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EVIDENCES

OP

CHRISTIANITY.

the imperfection of their faculties, the misfortune of their situation, or by the loss of some

prior revelation, to want this knowledge, and PREPARATORY CONSIDERATIONS. not to be likely, without the aid of a new

revelation, to attain it :-under these cireumI DEEM it unnecessary to prove that mankind stances, is it improbable that a revelation stood in need of a revelation, because I have should be made is it incredible that God met with no serious person who thinks that, should interpose for such a purpose ? Suppose even under the Christian revelation, we have him to design for mankind a future state, too much light, or any degree of assurance is it unlikely that he should acquaint them which is superfluous. I desire, moreover, that with it? in judging of Christianity, it may be remem- Now, in what way can a revelation be made bered, that the question lies between this but by miracles ? În none which we are able religion and none; for if the Christian reli- to conceive. Consequently, in whatever degree gion be not credible, no one with whom we it is probable, or not very improbable, that a have to do will support the pretensions of revelation should be communicated to manany other.

kind at all; in the same degree is it probable, Suppose, then, the world we live in to have or not very improbable, that miracles should had a Creator ; suppose it to appear, from the be wrought. Therefore, when miracles are repredominant aim and tendency of the provi- lated to have been wrought in the promulgasions and contrivances observable in the uni- ting of a revelation manifestly wanted, and, if verse, that the Deity, when he formed it, true, of inestimable value, the improbability consulted for the happiness of his sensitive which arises from the miraculous nature of creation ; suppose the disposition which die- the things related, is not greater than the tated this counsel to continue ; suppose a part original improbability that such a revelation of the creation to have received faculties from should be imparted by God. their Maker, by which they are capable of I wish it, however, to be correctly underrendering a moral obedience to his will, and stood, in what manner, and to what extent, of voluntarily pursuing any end for which he this argument is alleged. We do not assume has designed them ; suppose the Creator to the attributes of the Deity, or the existence of intend for these, his rational and accountable a future state, in order to prove the reality of agents, a second state of existence, in which miracles. That reality always must be proved their situation will be regulated by their by evidence. We assert only that in miracles behaviour in the first state, by which suppo- adduced in support of revelation, there is not sition (and by no other) the objection to the any such antecedent improbability as divine government in not putting a difference testimony can surmount. And for the purbetween the good and the bad, and the incon- pose of maintaining this assertion, we contend sistency of this confusion with the care and that the incredibility of miracles related to benevolence discoverable in the works of the have been wrought in attestation of a message Deity, is done away; suppose it to be of the from God, conveying intelligence of a future utmost importance to the subjects of this dis- state of rewards and punishments, and teaching pensation, to know what is intended for them; mankind how to prepare themselves for that that is, suppose the knowledge of it to be state, is not in itself greater than the event, call highly conducive to the happiness of the it either probable or improbable, of the two species, a purpose which so many provisions following propositions being true : namely, of nature are calculated to promote : suppose, first, that a future state of existence should be nevertheless, almost the whole race, either by destined by God for his human creation ; and,

no

secondly, that being so destined, he should not having ourselves experienced any thing acquaint them with it. It is not necessary similar to the thing related, or such things not for our purpose, that these propositions be being generally experienced by others. I say capable of proof, or even that by arguments “ not generally:" for to state concerning the drawn from the light of nature they can be fact in question, that no such thing was ever made out to be probable ; it is enough that experienced, or that universal experience is we are able to say concerning them, that they against it, is to assume the subject of the conare not so violently improbable, so contradic- troversy. tory to what we already believe of the divine Now, the improbability which arises from power and character, that either the proposi- the want (for this properly is a want, not a tions themselves, or facts strictly connected contradiction) of experience, is only equal to with the propositions and therefore no farther the probability there is, that, if the thing were improbable than tåey are improbable,) ought true, we should experience things similar to to be rejected at first sight, and to be rejected it, or that such things would be generally by whatever strength or complication of evi-experienced. Suppose it then to be true that dence they be attested.

miracles were wrought on the first promulgaThis is the prejudication we would resist. tion of Christianity, when nothing but miraFor to this length does a modern objection to cles could decide its authority, is it certain miracles go, namely, that no human testimony that such miracles would be repeated so often, can in any case render them credible. I think and in so many places, as to become objects the reflection

above stated, that if there be a of general experience? Is it a probability revelation, there must be miracles, and that approaching to certainty ? is it a probability of under the circumstances in which the human any great strength or force? is it such as no species are placed, a revelation is not impro- evidence can encounter And yet this probabable, or not improbable in any great degree, bility is the exact converse, and therefore the to be a fair answer to the whole objection. exact measure, of the improbability which

But since it is an objection which stands in arises from the want of experience, and which the very threshold of our argument, and, if Mr Humo represents as invincible by human admitted, is a bar to every proof, and to all testimony. future reasoning upon the subject, it may be It is not like alleging a new law of nature, necessary, before we proceed farther, to exa- or a new experiment in natural philosophy mine the principle upon which it professes to because when these are related, it is expected be founded ; which principle is concisely this, that under the same circumstances, the same That it is contrary to experience that a mira- effect will follow universally; and in proporcle should be true, but not contrary to expe- tion as this expectation is justly entertained, rience that testimony should be false. the want of a corresponding experience nega

Now, there appears a small ambiguity in tives the history. But to expect concerning a the term “experience,” and in the phrases miracle, that it should succeed upon a repeti“contrary to experience," or “contradicting tion, is to expect that which would make it experience,” which it may be necessary to cease to be a miracle, which is contrary to its remove in the first place. Strictly speaking, nature as such, and would totally destroy the the narrative of a fact is then only contrary to use and purpose for which it was wrought. experience, when the fact is related to have The force of experience as an objection to existed at a time and place, at which time miracles, is founded in the presumption, either and place we being present did not perceive that the course of nature is invariable, or that it to exist ; as if it should be asserted that, in if it be ever varied, variations will be frequent a particular room, and at a particular hour of and general. Has the necessity of this altera certain day, a man was raised from the dead, native been demonstrated ? Permit us to call in which room, and at the time specified, we the course of nature the agency of an intellibeing present, and looking on, perceived no gent Being; and is there any good reason for such event to have taken place. Here the asser- judging this state of the case to be probable ? tion is contrary to experience, properly so Ought we not rather to expect that such a called ; and this is a contrariety which no Being, on occasions of peculiar importance, evidence can surmount. It matters nothing may interrupt the order which he bad apwhether the fact be of a miraculous nature or pointed, yet that such occasions should return not. But although this be the experience and seldom; that these interruptions consequently the contrariety, which Archbishop Tillotson should be confined to the experience of a few; alleged in the quotation with which Mr that the want of it, thereforo, in many, should Hume opens his Essay, it is certainly not be matter neither of surprise por objection ? that experience, nor that contrariety, which But, as a continuation of the argument from Mr Hume himself intended to object. And, experience, it is said, that when we advance short of this, I know no intelligible significa- accounts of miracles, we assign effects without tion which can be affixed to the term “ causes, or we attribute effects to causes inadetrary to experience,” but one, namely, that of quate to the purpose, or to causes of the opera

con

а

tion of which we have no experience. Of But the short consideration which, inde what causes, we may ask, and of what effects, pendently of every other, convinces me that does the objection speak ? If it be answered, there is no solid foundation in Mr Hume's that when we ascribe the cure of the palsy to conclusion, is the following : When a theorem a touch, of blindness to the anointing of the is proposed to a mathematician, the first thing eyes with clay, or the raising of the dead to a he does with it is to try it upon a simple case, word, we lay ourselves open to this imputa- and if it produce a false result, he is sure that tion; we reply, that we ascribe no such effects there must be some mistake in the demonstrato such causes. We perceive no virtue or tion. Now, to proceed in this way with what energy in these things more than in other may be called Mr Hume's theorem. If twelve things of the same kind. They are merely men, whose probity and good sense I had long signs to connect the miracle with its end. The known, should seriously and circumstantially effect we ascribe simply to the volition of the relate to me an account of a miracle wrouglit Deity; of whose existence and power, not to before their eyes, and in which it was impossay of whose presence and agency, we have sible that they should be deceived ; if the previous and independent proof. We have governor of the country, hearing a rumour of therefore all we seek for in the works of ra- this account, should call these men into his tional agents, a sufficient

power
and an ade-

presence, and offer them a short proposal, quate motive. In a word, once believe that either to confess the imposture, or submit to there is a God, and miracles are not incredible. be tied up to a gibbet ; if they should refuse

Mr Hume states the case of miracles to be with one voice to acknowledge that there a contest of opposite improbabilities; that is existed any falsehood or imposture in the case ; to say, a question whether it be more impro- if this threat were communicated to them sebable that the miracle should be true, or the parately, yet with no different effect ; if it was testimony false ; and this I think a fair ac- at last executed ; if I myself saw them, one count of the controversy. But herein I remark after another, consenting to be racked, burnt, & want of argumentative justice, that, in or strangled, rather than give up the truth of describing the improbability of miracles, he their account : still, if Mr Hume's rule be my suppresses all those circumstances of extenua- guide, I am not to believe them. Now, I untion, which result from our knowledge of the dertake to say, that there exists not a sceptic existence, power, and disposition of the Deity; in the world who would not believe them, or his concern in the creation, the end answered who would defend such incredulity. by the miracle, the importance of that end, Instances of spurious miracles, supported and its subserviency to the plan pursued in by strong apparent testimony, undoubtedly the work of nature. As Mr Hume has repre-demand examination ; Mr Hume has endeasented the question, miracles are alike incre-voured to fortify his argument by some dible to him who is previously assured of the examples of this kind. I hope in a proper constant agency of a Divine Being, and to him place to show, that none of them reach the who believes that no such Being exists in the strength or circumstances of the Christian universe. They are equally incredible, whether evidence. In these, however, consists the related to have been wrought upon occasions weight of his objection ; in the principle itthe most deserving, and for purposes the most self, I am persuaded there is none. beneficial, or for no assignable end whatever, or for an end confessedly trifling or pernicious. This surely cannot be a correct statement. In adjusting also the other side of the balance, the strength and weight of testimony, this

PART I. author has provided an answer to every possible accumulation of historical proof, by telling us, that we are not obliged to explain TIANITY, AND WHEREIN IT IS DISTINGUISHED how the story of the evidence arose. Now, I think that we are obliged; not, perhaps, to show by positive accounts how it did, but by a probable hypothesis how it might, so happen. The two propositions which I shall endeaThe existence of the testimony is a phenome- vour to establish are these : non; the truth of the fact solves the pheno- 1. That there is satisfactory evidence that menon. If we reject this solution, we ought many, professing to be original witnesses of to have some other to rest in ; and none, even the Christian miracles, passed their lives in by our adversaries, can be admitted, which labours, dangers, and sufferings, voluntarily is not inconsistent with the principles that undergone in attestation of the accounts which regulate human affairs and human conduct they delivered, and solely in consequence of at present, or which makes men then to have their belief of those accounts; and that they been a different kind of beings from what also submitted, from the same motives, to new they are now,

rules of conduct.

OF THE DIRECT HISTORICAL EVIDENCE OF CHRIS

FROM THE EVIDENCE ALLEGED FOR OTHER MI-
RACLES.

men.

II. That there is not satisfactory evidence, from the common pleasures, engagements, that persons professing to be original witnesses and varieties of life, and an addiction to one of other miracles, in their nature as certain as serious object, compose the habits of such these are, have ever acted in the same manner,

I do not say that this mode of life is in attestation of the accounts which they deli- without enjoyment, but I say that the enjoyvered, and properly in consequence of their ment springs from sincerity. With a conbelief of those accounts.

sciousness at the bottom of hollowness and The first of these propositions, as it forms falsehood, the fatigue and restraint would the argument, will stand at the head of the become insupportable. I am apt to believe following nine chapters.

that very few hypocrites engage in these undertakings, or, however, persist in them long. Ordinarily speaking, nothing can overcome

the indolence of mankind, the love which is CHAPTER I.

natural to most tempers of cheerful society

and cheerful scenes, or the desire, which is There is satisfactory evidrnce that many, professing to be common to all, of personal ease and freedom, original witnesses of the Christian miracks, passed their lives but conviction. in labours, dangers, and sufferings, voluntarily undergone in

Secondly, it is also highly probable, from attestation of the accounts which they delivered, and solely in consequence of their belief of those accounts ; and that they also the nature of the case, that the propagation of submiltid, from the same motives, to new rules of conduct. the new religion was attended with difficulty

and danger. As addressed to the Jews, it was To support this proposition, two points are a system adverse not only to their habitual necessary to be made out: first, that the foun- opinions, but to those opinions upon which der of the institution, his associates, and im- their hopes, their partialities, their pride, their mediate followers, acted the part which the consolation, was founded. This people, with proposition imputes to them ; secondly, that or without reason, had worked themselves they did so in attestation of the miraculous into a persuasion, that some signal and greatly history recorded in our Scriptures, and solely advantageous change was to be effected in the in consequence of their belief of the truth of condition of their country, by the agency of a this history.

long-promised messenger from heaven.' The Before we produce any particular testimony rulers of the Jews, their leading sect, their to the activity and sufferings which compose priesthood, had been the authors of this perthe subject of our first assertion, it will be suasion to the common people ; so that it was proper to consider the degree of probability not merely the conjecture of theoretical diwhich the assertion derives from the nature of vines, or the secret expectation of a few recluse the case, that is, by inferences from those parts devotees, but it was become the popular hope of the case which, in point of fact, are on all and passion, and, like all popular opinions, hands acknowledged.

undoubting, and impatient of contradiction. First, then, the Christian religion exists, They clung to this hope, under every misforand therefore by some means or other was tune of their country, and with more tenacity established. Now, it either owes the principle as their dangers or calamities increased. To of its establishment, that is, its first publication, find, therefore, that expectations so gratifying to the activity of the person who was the were to be worse than disappointed ; that founder of the institution, and of those who they were to end in the diffusion of a mild were joined with him in the undertaking, or unambitious religion, which, instead of victowe are driven upon the strange supposition, ries and triumphs, instead of exalting their that although they might lie by, others would nation and institution above the rest of the take it up; although they were quiet and world, was to advance those whom they desilent, other persons busied theinselves in the spised to an equality with themselves, in those success and propagation of their story. This very points of comparison in which they most is perfectly incredible. To me it appears valued their own distinction, could be no very little less than certain, that, if the first pleasing discovery to a Jewish mind ; noi announcing of the religion by the Founder could the messengers of such intelligence ex. had not been followed up by the zeal and in- pect to be well received or easily credited. dustry of his immediate disciples, the attempt The doctrine was equally harsh and novel. must have expired in its birth. Then, as to The extending of the kingdom of God to those the kind and degree of exertion which was who did not conform to the law of Moses, was employed, and the mode of life to which these a notion that had never before entered into persons submitted, we reasonably suppose it the thoughts of a Jew, to be like that which we observe in all others who voluntarily become missionaries of a I" Percrebuerat oriente toto vetus et constans opinio, esse in new faith. Frequent, earnest, and laborious

fatis, ut eo tempore Judæâ profecti rerum potirentur."-Sueton.

Vespasian. cap. 4-8. preaching, constantly conversing with reli- "Pluribus persuasio inerat, antiquis sacerdotum literis conti.

neri, co ipso tempore fore, ut valesceret oriens, profectique Judæa gious persons upon religion, a sequestration rerum potirentur." T: cit. llist. lib. v. cap. 9-13.

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