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it? If the Apostles had been such Cheats as you imagine, how come People, so long after, to discover the Imposture, which the Jerus and Heathens, who lived at the fame Time with them, were not able to do? If this were so, how comes it to pass, that they, who had such advantageous Opportunities to examine into the Matters of Fact, do believe such lying Stories; and that such a late Progeny of Mankind ihould be so lucky, to find out the Cheat? But because the incredulous may receive all pollible Satisfaction, which the most obstinate and unreafonable of them may require ; let us consider, what Satisfaction a Man can posibly require, of the Certainty of Matters of Fact done so long ago, in Relation to the Reporters of them. I know the usual Way is, to have recourse to unexceptionable History of the Time, wlienthey were said to be done; but because I shall have occasion to prove the Authority of the Holy Scriptures hereafter ; I dhall wave that now, and only speak of the first great Witnesses of the Christian Religion, and the Credibility of what they attested.
If a Man was to lay his thoughts together, and pensively to consider, what he would desire in order to his Satisfaction, That the Witnesses of Marters nf Fut so long ago spoke true; he could not desire more than this:
That the Men, who reported those Things, were such good honest Men, that they would not tell a solemn Lie; that they were Men of Understanding enough, to know the full Truth of the Things they related; that they had not Learning or Cunning enough to frame an intricate Imposture; that they were of such a Number, that they could not all be deceived, and their Agreement in their Reports such, that they could not be Deceivers; that they should receive no Advantage by their Relation; that the Time and Place, where they said this was done, were easily to be examined into; And lastly, That they did constantly persist in what they said, lo as to be willing to suffer, or die, for the Truth of it. A Man would be very unreasonable to require half these Qualifications, for every Testimony he assents to; but where
they are all found, a Man must be a Sceptick, who does not give his assent to a Matter, so attested. Now the Apofiles have all these Qualifications in the Tefiimony they
give of our Saviour's Doctrine and Miracles. Because
1. They appear to be honest and good Men. Their Good Áben. main Delign was, To perfuade Men to lead good and holy
Lives; To teach them to leave off Idolatry and Polytheism, and to servis the One and True God; not to place their Holiness in ceremonious Actions, but in Acts of Piety and Charily. And, in the whole Course of their Lives, they were never taxed with any remarkable Wickedness; but contrariwise, they were noted for being eminently Exemplary for Devotion, Mortification, and Self-Denial. Now why should not the Testimony of such Men be believed? What though the Matter they relate be very strange and unusual, as thet our Saviour did such wondrous Miracles in Confirmation of his Doctrines, and rose again from the Dead? Yet it is more incredible, that so many honest and good Men should, on a sudden, abandon all Shame and Hone
sty, and turn Liars and Cheats. Because
2. The Apostles were very good Judges of the Matters they knew they reported, and were suré ihey understood them so well
, the matters that they could not be deceived in them. If they had rethey rela- lated Things which they did not understand, their Te
stimony was not to be valued. Indeed, if some ordinary Mechanicks were to make Report of the Observations of a Learned Mathematician, they might, by Mistake, represent an Astronomer for a Conjurer; because Mathematicks was a Thing as much above their Understanding as Necromancy. But such Mechanicks were as good Judges of what they heard, or felt, or faw, as the best Philosopher in the World. They saw dead Men raised to Life, blind Men have their Eyes, and lame Men have their Limbs restored them; they, several times, faw and handJed Christ after his Resurrection, and viewed him when he was caught up into Heaven. These were Matters of Fact, which required no great Capacities to be Judges of the Truth of; and if Men had but their Senses and common Understandings, it was enough.
3, Neither had the Apostles Learning and Cunning enough, because not .
C 401034 bo to carry on such an intricate Imposture of so many Paris, as
nough to this must consist of. It required a greater Compass of Understanding to framre such an excellent System of Mora- fuch a
lity, to give such an extraordinary Account of the Sarisa Cheat. • faction for th: Sin, and of the Nature and Officeof a Mediator;
to feign the Life and Actions of a Mefias, which should
to exactly correspond with the old Prophecies, and the | Types, and Prefigurations of the Mofaical Law; to fuit
such Rewards and Punishments in another Life, which
4. There might be some Exception against the Testimony of Beecause
, that none of them all should vary in the Relation of the Fallity. Some of them would certainly have been found clashing in their telling such a long tham Story, which the cunningest Man could hardly have told twice the same way. But these
were not all the Witne ses of the Truth of the Gospel: There were many Thousands of bis Auditors which heard him preach, and saw his Miracles, and five hundred Men at once faw him alive after his Crucifixion. Now 'tis impossible that so many Men should all be deceived, or that they should combine together in a Cheat, to impose upon
the World. Because 5. When a Witness has any Interest to carry on, by a strange
Relation, there may be fome Grounds to suspect his Veracuy; zuting by but when Mien could get nothing by it, as was the Case of
the Apostles, what Reason is there why they jsould not be belicved? Indeed, if they could have got more Money by Preaching than by Fishing, there was then some Ground to suspect the Trutii of what they said ; but they, poor Men! got nothing by all their Trouble and Farigue of their Ministry, and lived in as mean a Condition, as they did before. If they had consider'd their Interest and Ease, they would have follow'd their Manual Occuparions still
, which had more Profit attending them, and less Trouble and Darger. If they had a Mind to be Rich or Great, they would have curried Favour with the Jews or Romans, who had the Command of the Wealth and Honour of that Place; but they would never have applied themselves to the common People, who were so far from being able to better the Condition of the Apostles, that, for the most part, they were hardly able to subsist themfelves. 6. If a Witness
, who told a strange Story, had laid the Truth of Scene of the Action many Hundreds of Miles off, in some whit
they unfrequented Part of the World, as Philostratus does many easily exa- of his Stories in the East-Indies; or if he had told a hearmined. say Tale done out of the Memory of Man, there would
be good Reason to distrust his Evidence. But when the Apostles attest Matters of Fait, done in the same City, wherein they gave their Evidence, and some of which (as particularly Christ's Resurrection) they say happen'd but a few Months before, this looks natural and free; especie ally when the Men they declared it to, had the Opportunity of examining inco, and satisfying themselves concerning
it. But if they had made the Story, they would have been Mad-men to have laid the Scene of it so nigh home, and, said it was so lately done, or assign’d so smail a Space of Time since it was done ; thereby manifestly exposing the Cheat to unavoidable Discovery, and themselves to the Disgrace and Punishmen so bold an Imposture deserv’d.
Becaufe There are indeed some Men in the World, who will-chey jufnot stick to tell a strange Lie, it may be several Times fered and over, as long as they are to lose nothing by it; but if this died for be like to bring them into any Trouble, they then fall to mincing and palliating the Matter, or, if they can get off no other Way, will own they did not speak True. For it cannot be supposed, that any Liar has that Regard to the Reputation of speaking Truth, as to venture any Hazard for it. Then how can it ever be supposed, that the Apostles should lay down their Lives, in Defence of an idle Story they had made? They might tell indeed such a strange Tale, of a Man that rose from the Dead, and afcended into Heaven, out of Vanity, when they saw People pleased with the Strangeness of the Relation, and admired them for it; but this could last no longer than they could do it with Impunity. The Banter would be spoiled when they came before the Sanhedrin or Judges, where nothing but Death was to be expected from those, who persisted in a religious Imposture. 'Well, but you may fay, that they, having often told a Lie, rather than undergo the Shame of Retracting it, would suffer any Thing for it. This is altogether as miraculous, if it were true, as those Miracles they vouched; for such a thing was never known in Nature. A Man that has the Baseness to tell a sol mn Lie, can never have the Courage to die for it. We have a Multitude of Instances of Cheats, when they have been brought into Danger, discovering themselves, and Aying to Mercy; but I defy you to give an Instance of any Man who died for a Frand, when he might have been fav’d for detecting it. Or if it was possible, that such a vain glorious Coxcomb could be found once in an Age, you cannot suppose, that all the first Propagators of Christianity were such. Put your self, Philologus, in the Apostles Places, or any other
their Doca trine.