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mulgation of christianity were such as that nothing of this kind can ever be advanced by any unbeliev- , ers, at all acquainted with the history of the times; because it is evident, that Jesus Christ, and his religion, and especially the account of his resurrection, on which the whole of it hinged, immediately engaged the closest attention of great numbers, and that thousands felt themselves interested in the highest degree to examine into the truth of it.
In the first place, the apostles, and other primitive christians, were certainly interested not to give up their ease, their little fortunes, and their lives, for an idle tale. And, on the other hand, the chief priests and rulers of the Jews, who had been so much exasperated at Jesus as to procure his death, even with some risque to themselves, from his popularity with the common people, would feel themselves more strongly interested to suppress his followers, and his religion, after his death, and this they evidently did, without losing any time in the business.
Not more than fifty days elapsed between the crucifixion of Jesus and the most open publication of the account of his resurrection, an event spoken of even before his death, against any imposition with respect to which all possible precautions had been taken, and concerning which may rumors must have prevailed from the passover' to pentecost (for no secrecy was enjoined with respect to it) from the very day of his appearance. On the day of Pentecost, however, it was boldly asserted by such a number of persons, who were witnesses of the fact, that some thousands (who had themselves seen the miracles of Jesus) were fully convinced of its truth, and gave public testimony of their faith by being immediately baptized.
been power, long
Observe in how full and explicit a manner Peter, on this occasion, gave his testimony, Acts ii. 22. Ye men of Israel, hear my words. Jesus of, Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles, and wonders, and signs, which God did by him, in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know; him ýe have taken, and with wicked hands have crucified -and slain. This Jesus hath God raised up, where of we all (and about one hundred and twenty were then with him) are witnesses.
The boldness of the apostles in giving this pub lic testimony to the resurrection of Jesus, a testía mony which his audience evidently could not contradict, exasperated the rulers of the country to the highest degree; and theevent being then recent, they would, no doubt, do every thing that men in power, could do in order to discover the cheat, if any such had been used.
This endeavour to suppress christianity began in the very country, and in the very city, in which it was first promulgated, where Jesus had always appeared in public, and consequently where himself, and all that he had done, were known to thousands. And this violent opposition, than which we know of nothing in the history of mankind more -violent, and which began as early as it was possible for it to begin, was continued by the Jews, with very few interruptions, till it was taken up by the Romans, who were alarmed at the rapid spread of the new religion, which soon appeared to be hostile to all the old ones, on the observance of which it was universally imagined that the temporal prosperity of states depended. And this persecution of christianity did not end till about three hundred years after its promulgation, that is, till all farther scrutiny into the facts was equally impossible and needless.
Did not this situation of things most strongly invite all persons to make the most rigorous inquiry
into the truth of the facts on which christianity was founded, and especially that of the resurrection of Jesus? Would not all the five hundred as
long as they lived (and according to Paul many of them were living in the year 52, and the apostle John, it is supposed, did not die till about A. D. 90.) be continually speaking of it, and examined concerning it? This would certainly be the case if any such event had happened at this day, and human nature, we cannot doubt to have been the same in all ages.
What, then, could any of those who are now unbelievers in christianity have done, if they had 'been living at the time of the promulgation of it, more than other unbelievers then did, who, what. ever else they might do, or say, could not discover any marks of imposture. No other facts in the whole compass of history, we may safely venture to assert, ever underwent a thousandth part of the investigation that, from the nature of the circum. stances, these must have done; and, what is of particular consequence, at the time when the in. vestigation was the most easy.
Though Jesus did not appear in public after his resurrection, the miracle of the descent of the holy Spirit, enabling the apostles and other disciples to speak intelligibly languages which they had not been taught, and also many other miracles wrought by them, were' as public' as possible; and every
miracle wrought by the apostles was, in fact, a proof of the resurrection of their master. If his mission, confirmed by, and implying the truth of, his resurrection, was not from God, neither was theirs ; for both were part of the same scheme, and therefore they imply one another.
Thus our faith does not rest on the testimony of the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, who wrote the history of Christ, and of the promulgation of christianity. We have, in fact, the testimony of the age in which they lived, to the great events recorded by them. These books, or ever so many of the same nature, could never have been received, and transmitted to us, as aur thentic histories, in the circumstances that I have described, if the contents of them could have been
The inconsistencies that we discover in the ac. *counts of the four evangelists imply no defect in the evidence; being no greater than are usually found in the narratives of any important event written by different persons; who will always attend chiefly to what is most essential to the story, and less to the minute circumstances of it; and these nærsatives were all written a considerable time after the event. But the most important consideration