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Why therefore Jefus, if he was, like them, either an enthusiast or impoftor, dia not pursue the fame conduct as they did, in framing his character and pretenfions, it will be found difficult to explain. A miffion, the operation and benefit of which was to take place in another life, was a thing unthought of as the fubject of these prophecies. That Jefus, coming to them as their Meffiah, fhould come under a character totally different from that in which they expected him; fhould deviate from the general perfuafion, and deviate into pretenfions abfolutely fingular and original; appears to be inconsistent with the imputation of enthusiasm or impofture, both which, by their nature, I fhould expect, would, and both which, throughout the experience which this very fubject furnishes, in fact have, followed the opinions that obtained at the time.
If it be faid, that Jefus, having tried the other plan, turned at length to this; I anK 2
fwer, that the thing is faid without evidence; against evidence; that it was competent to the reft to have done the fame, yet that nothing of this fort was thought of by any.
ONE argument, which has been much re
lied upon (but not more than its juft weight deferves), is the conformity of the facts occafionally mentioned or referred to in fcripture, with the state of things in thofe times, as reprefented by foreign and independent accounts. Which conformity proves, that the writers of the New Teftament poffeffed a fpecies of local knowledge, which could only belong to an inhabitant of that country, and to one living in that age. This argument, if well made out by examples, is very little short of proving the abfolute genuineness of the writings. It carries them up to the age of the reputed authors, to an age, in which it must have been difficult to impose upon the Chriftian public, forgeries in the names of thofe authors, and in which there is no evidence that any forgeries were attempted. It proves at leaft, that the books, K 3 whoever
whoever were the authors of them, were composed by persons living in the time and country in which these things were tranfacted; and confequently capable, by their fituation, of being well informed of the facts which they relate. And the argument is ftronger, when applied to the New Teftament, than it is in the cafe of almost any other writings, by reafon of the mixed nature of the allufions which this book contains. The fcene of action is not confined to a fingle country, but difplayed in the greatest cities, of the Roman empire. Allufions are made to the manners and principles of the Greeks, the Romans, and the Jews. This variety renders a forgery proportionably more difficult, especially to wri ters of a posterior age. A Greek or Roman Chriftian, who lived in the fecond or third century, would have been wanting in Jewish literature; a Jewish convert in those ages would have been equally deficient in the knowledge of Greece and Rome*.
Michaelis's Introduction to the New Teftament (Marfh's tranflation), c. ii. fec. xi. ̧
This, however, is an argument which depends entirely upon an induction of parti culars; and as, confequently, it carries with it little force, without a view of the instances upon which it is built, I have to requeft the reader's attention to a detail of examples, diftinctly and articulately proposed.In collecting these examples, I have done no more than epitomize the first volume of the first part of Dr. Lardner's Credibility of the Gospel Hiftory. And I have brought the argument within its prefent compass, first, by paffing over fome of his fections in which the accordancy appeared to me less certain, or upon fubjects not fufficiently appropriate or circumftantial; secondly, by contracting every fection into the fewest words poffible, contenting myself for the moft part with a mere appofition of paffages; and, thirdly, by omitting many disquisitions, which, though learned and accurate, are not abfolutely neceffary to the understanding or verification of the argument.
The writer principally made use of in K 4