Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

We have however stated, that in cases where we are not witnesses of the miracles, and auditors of the predictions, but obtain information respecting them from some record, we must, before we can admit the force of the argument drawn from them, be assured, that the record was early and faithfully made, and has been uncorruptly kept, with respect to the miracles; and, with respect to the prophecies, that they were also uttered and recorded previously to those events occurring which are alleged to be accomplishments of them. These are points necessary to be ascertained before it is worth the trouble to enquire whether the alleged miracles have any claim to be considered as miraculous in the proper sense, and the predictions, as revelations from an omniscient, and, consequently, of a Divine Being.

The first step in this enquiry is, to ascertain the existence, age, and actions of the leading persons mentioned in Scripture as the instruments by whom, it is professed, the revelations they contain were made known.

With respect to these PERSONS it is not necessary that our attention should be directed to more than two, MOSES and CHRIST, -one the reputed agent of the Mosaic, the other the author of the Christian Revelation; because the evidence which establishes their existence and actions, and the period of both, will also establish all that is stated in the same records as to the subordinate and succeeding agents.

The Biblical record states, that Moses was the leader and legislator of the nation of the Jews near Sixteen Hundred years before the Christian era, according to the common chronology. This is grounded upon the tradition and national history of the Jews; and it is certain, that so far from there being any reason to doubt the fact, much less to suppose, with an extravagant fancy of some modern infidels, that Moses was a mythological personage, the very same principles of historical evidence which assure us of the truth of any unquestioned fact of profane history, assure us of the truth of this. It cannot be doubted but that the Jews existed very anciently as a nation. It is equally certain, that it has been an uninterrupted and universally received tradition among them in all ages, that Moses led them out of Egypt, and first gave them their system of laws and religion. The history of that event they have in writing, and also the laws attributed to him. There is nothing in the leading events of their history contradicted by authentic remaining historical records of those nations with whom they were geographically and politically related, to support any suspicion of its accuracy;

and as their institutions must have been established and enjoined by some political authority, and bear the marks of a systematic arrangement, established at once, and not growing up under the operation of circumstances at distant periods, to one superior and commanding mind they are most reasonably to be attributed. The Jews refer them to Moses, and if this be denied, no proof can be offered in favour of any other person being entitled to that honour. The history is therefore uncontradicted by any opposing evidence, and can only be denied on some principle of scepticism which would equally shake the foundations of all history whatever.

The same observations may be made as to the existence of the Founder of the Christian religion. In the records of the New Testament he is called JESUS CHRIST, because he professed to be the Messias predicted in the Jewish Scriptures, and was acknowledged as such by his followers; and his birth is fixed upwards of eighteen centuries ago. This also is at least uncontradicted testimony. The Christian religion exists, and must have had an author. Like the institutions of Moses, it bears the evidence of being the work of one mind; and, as a theological system, presents no indications of a gradual and successive elaboration. There was a time when there was no such religion as that of Christianity, and when pagan idolatry and Judaism universally prevailed; it follows that there once flourished a teacher to whom it owed its origin, and all tradition and history unite in their testimony, that that lawgiver was Jesus Christ. No other person has ever been adduced, living at a later period, as the founder of this form of religion.

To the existence, and the respective antiquity ascribed in the Scriptures to the founders of the Jewish and Christian religion, many ancient writers give ample testimony; who being themselves neither of the Jewish nor Christian Religion, cannot be suspected of having any design to furnish evidence of the truth of either. MANETHO, CHEREMON, APOLLONIUS, and LYSIMACHUS, besides some other ancient Egyptians whose histories are now lost, are quoted by Josephus, as extant in his days; and passages are collected from them, in which they agree that Moses was the leader of the Jews when they departed from Egypt, and the founder of their laws. STRABO, who flourished in the century before Christ, (Geog. 1. 16,) gives an account of the law of Moses, as forbidding images, and limiting Divine worship to one Invisible and Universal Being. JUSTIN, a Ro man historian, in his 36th Book, devotes a chapter to an account

of the origin of the Jews; represents them as sprung from ten sons of Israel, and speaks of Moses as the commander of the Jews who went out of Egypt, of the institution of the Sabbath, and the Priesthood of Aaron. PLINY speaks of Moses, as giving rise to a sect of magicians, probably with reference to his contest with the magicians of Egypt. TACITUS says, "Moses gave a new form of worship to the Jews, and a system of religious ceremonies, the reverse of every thing known to any other age or country." JUVENAL, in his 14th Satire, mentions Moses as the author of a volume, which was preserved with great care among the Jews, by which the worship of images and eating swine's flesh were forbidden; and circumcision and the observation of the Sabbath strictly enjoined. LONGINUS cites Moses as the lawgiver of the Jews, and praises the sublimity of his style in the account he gives of the creation. The ORPHIC verses, which are very ancient, inculcate the worship of one God as recommended by that law "which was given by him who was drawn out of the water, and received two tables of stone from the hand of God." (9) DIODORUS SICULUS, in his first book, when he treats of those who consider the Gods to be the authors of their laws, adds, "Among the Jews was Moses, who called God by the name of Iaw, Jao," meaning Jehovah. JUSTIN MARTYR expressly says, that most of the historians, poets, lawgivers, and philosophers of the Greeks, mention Moses as the leader and prince of the Jewish nation. From all these testimonies, and many more were it necessary might be adduced, it is clear that it was as commonly received among ancient nations, as among the Jews themselves, that Moses was the founder and lawgiver of the Jewish state.

As to CHRIST, it is only necessary to give the testimony of two historians, whose antiquity no one ever thought of disputing. SUETONIUS mentions him by name, and says, that Claudius expelled from Rome those who adhered to his cause.(1) TACITUS records the progress which the Christian religion had made; the violent death its founder had suffered; that he flourished under the reign of Tiberius; that Pilate was then procurator of Judea; and that the original author of this profession was Christ. (2) Thus not only the real existence of the founder of Christianity, but the period in which he lived is exactly as

(9) Eus. Præp. Ev. 1. 13, c. 12.

(1) Judæos impulsore Christo assidue tumultuantes Româ expulit. — SUET. Edit. Var. p. 544.

(2) Auctor nominis ejus Christus, qui Tiberio imperitante, per procuratorem Pontium Pilatum supplicio affectus erat.-Annal. L. 5.

certained from writings the genuineness of which has never been doubted.

The ANTIQUITY OF THE BOOKS which contain the history, the doctrines, and the laws of the Jewish and the Christian lawgivers, is next to be considered, and the evidence is not less satisfactory. The importance of this fact in the argument is obvious. If the writings in question were made at, or very near, the time in which the miraculous acts recorded in them were performed, then the evidence of those events having occurred is rendered the stronger, for they were written at the time when many were still living who might have contradicted the narration if false; and the improbability is also greater, that, in the very age and place when and where those events are said to have been performed, any writer would have dared to run the hazard of prompt, certain, and disgraceful detection. It is equally important in the evidence of Prophecy; for if the predictions were recorded long before the events which accomplished them took place, then the only question which remains is, whether the accomplishment is satisfactory; for then the evidence becomes irresistible.

With respect to the Scriptures of the Old Testament, the language in which they are written is a strong proof of their antiquity. The Hebrew ceased to be spoken as a living language soon after the Babylonish captivity, and the learned agree that there was no grammar made for the Hebrew till many ages after. The difficulty of a forgery at any period after the time of that captivity is therefore apparent. Of these books too there was a Greek translation made about two hundred and eighty-seven years before the Christian era, and laid up in the Alexandrian library.

Josephus gives a catalogue of the Sacred Books among the Jews, in which he expressly mentions the five books of Moses, thirteen of the Prophets, four of Hymns and Moral Precepts; and if, as many critics maintain, Ruth was added to Judges, and the Lamentations of Jeremiah to his Prophecies, the number agrees with those of the Old Testament as it is received at the present day.

The Samaritans who separated from the Jews many hundred years before the birth of Christ, have in their language a Pentateuch, in the main exactly agreeing with the Hebrew; and the pagan writers before cited, with many others, speak of Moses not only as a lawgiver and a prince, but as the author of books esteemed sacred by the Jews. (3)

(3) See Note A at the end of this Chapter, for a larger proof of the above particulars.

If the writings of Moses then are not genuine, the forgery must have taken place at a very early period; but a few considerations will shew, that at any time this was impossible.

These books could never have been surreptitiously put forth in the name of Moses, as the argument of LESLIE most fully proves : "It is impossible that those books should have been received as his, if not written by him, because they speak of themselves as delivered by Moses, and kept in the ark from his time. And it came to pass when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book until they were finished, that Moses commanded the Levites who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying, Take the book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.' Deut. xxxi, 24-26. A copy of this book was also to be left with the King: And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites; and it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life," &c. Deut. xviii, 18. This book of the law thus speaks of itself, not only as a history or relation of what things were done, but as the standing and municipal law and statutes of the nation of the Jews, binding the king as well as the people. Now in whatever age after Moses this book may be supposed to have been forged, it was impossible that it could be received as truth, because it was not then to be found (as it professed to be) either in the ark, or with the King, or any where else; for when first invented, every body must know that they had never heard of it before.

"Could any man, now at this day, invent a book of statutes or acts of parliament for England, and make it pass upon the nation as the only book of statutes that ever they had known? As impossible was it for the books of Moses (if they were invented in any age after Moses) to have been received for what they declare themselves to be, viz. the statutes and municipal law of the nation of the Jews: and to have persuaded the Jews, that they had owned and acknowledged these books, all along from the days of Moses, to that day in which they were first invented; that is, that they had owned them before they had ever so much as heard of them. Nay, more, the whole nation must, in an instant, forget their former laws and government, if they could receive these books as being their former laws. And they could not otherwise receive them, because they vouched

« AnteriorContinuar »