Imágenes de páginas

Historical evidence.

The seal.


universal and irresistible power in changing character, and saving human souls from suffering and sin.


If the Creator should intend to send a communication of his will to his creatures, we might have supposed that he would, at the time of his making it, accompany the revelation with something or other which should be a proof that it really came from him. Monarchs have always had some way of authenticating their communications with their subjects, or with distant officers. This is the origin of the use of seals. The monarch at home possesses a seal of a peculiar character. When he sends any communication to a distance, he impresses this seal upon the wax connected with the parchment upon which the letter is written. This gives it authority. As no one else possesses such a seal, it is plain that no one can give the impression of it, and a seal of this kind is very difficult to be counterfeited. Various other devices have been resorted to by persons in authority to authenticate their communications.

In the same manner we must have expected that Jehovah, in sending a message to men, would have some way of convincing them that it really comes from him. There are so many bad men in the world who are willing to deceive mankind, that we could not possibly know, when a pretended revelation should come to us, whether it was really a revelation from heaven or a design of wicked men, unless God should set some marks upon it, or accompany it with some indications which bad men could not imitate.

The Christian revelation professes to have been thus authenticated by the power of working miracles and foretelling future events, possessed by those who brought the various messages which it contains. It is plain that man, without


Examining witnesses.

The court.

If this

divine assistance, could have had no such power. power then really accompanied those who were the instru ments of introducing the Christian religion into the world, we may safely conclude that it was given them by God, and as he would never confer such a power to sanction imposture, the message brought must be from him.

The way then to ascertain whether these miracles were actually performed, is like that of ascertaining all other matters of fact, by calling upon those who witnessed them for their testimony.

The manner in which these witnesses are to be examined, is similar to that pursued in ordinary courts of justice. It is similar, I mean, in its principles, not in its forms. I know of nothing which shows more convincingly the satisfactory nature of this evidence, than a comparison of it with that usually relied on in courts of justice. In order to exhibit the former then distinctly, I shall minutely describe the course pursued, and, to make my description more definite, I shall select a particular case.

I was once walking in the streets of a large city, in which I was a stranger, looking around for some striking exhibitions of human character or efforts, when I saw several persons, of apparently low rank in life, standing before the door of what seemed to be some public building. I thought it was probably a court-house, and that these were the men who had been called as witnesses, and that they were waiting for their turn to testify. As courts are always open to the public, I concluded to go in and hear some of the causes. I walked up the steps and entered a spacious hall, and at the foot of a flight of stairs saw a little painted sign, saying that the court-room was above. I passed up and pushed open the light baize door, which admitted me to the room itself.

At the end at which I entered there were two rows of seats, one row on each side of an aisle which led up through

The court-room.

the center.

These seats seemed to be designed for spectators; for those on one side were nearly filled with women, and those on the other by men. I advanced up the aisle until I nearly reached the center of the room, and then took my seat among the spectators, where I could distinctly hear and see all that passed. Before me, at the farther end of the room, sat the judge, behind a sort of desk placed on an elevated platform, and in front of him was another desk, lower, which was occupied by the clerk, whose business it was to make a record of all the causes that were tried. There was an area in front of the judge, in which were seats for the various lawyers; and in boxes at the sides were seats for the jury, who were to hear the evidence, and decide what facts were proved. On one side of the room was a door made of iron grating, with sharp points upon the top, which led, I supposed, to an apartment where the prisoners were kept.


The prisoner.

His accusation and trial.

Not long after I had taken my seat, the clerk said that the next cause was the trial of a prisoner for house-breaking. The judge commanded an officer to bring the accused into court. The officer went to the iron door which I have described, unlocked it, and brought out of the room into which it opened, a prisoner; he looked guilty and ashamed, and his face was pale-though the paleness was apparently not that of fear, but such as is caused by the debility and disease resulting from a life of dissipation and vice. The officer brought him into the middle of the room, and placed him in a small inclosure near the center of the room, and shut him in. He leaned against the railing in front, looked at the judge, and began to listen to his trial.

The clerk read the accusation. It was, that he had broken open an unoccupied house once or twice, and taken from it articles belonging to the owner of the house. The judge asked him if he pleaded guilty or not guilty. He said, not guilty. The judge then asked the jury at the side to listen to the evidence, so that they might be prepared to decide whether this man did break open the house or not.

Men, not accustomed to speak in public assemblies, could not easily give their testimony in such a case, so that it would be fully understood on all the important points. In fact, very few know fully what the important points are. Hence it is proper that there should be lawyers present, who can ask questions, and thus examine the witnesses in such a manner as to bring out fully all the facts in the case. There is one lawyer appointed by the government, whose business it is to bring to view all the facts which indicate the prisoner's guilt; and another appointed by the prisoner, who takes care that nothing is omitted or lost sight of which tends to show his innocence. When the prisoner has not appointed any counsel, the judge appoints some one for him. This was done in the case before us

Testimony of the owner.

Testimony of the watchman.

Lawyer's question.

The first witness called was the owner of the house. It

is necessary that each witness should be a man of good character, and that he should testify only to what he saw or heard. No one is permitted to tell what some one else told him; for stories are very likely to be altered in repetition; so that, even in a complicated case, each man goes only so far as his own personal knowledge extends. And, in order to be sure that the jury shall have his own story, he is obliged to come personally into court, and tell the story in presence of all. The owner of this house was probably a man of business; and a great deal of valuable time would have been saved, if he had been permitted to write down his account, and send it in. But no; every witness, where it is possible, must actually come into court, and present his evidence with his own voice. This remark it is important to remember, as the principle will come into view, when we consider the other case.

The witness testified, that he owned a certain house; that. he moved out of it, and locked it up, leaving some articles in an upper chamber; that one day he went in, and found that the house had been entered, I believe by a window, and that the chamber-door had been broken open, and some of the articles taken away. He said that he then employed a watchman to sleep in the house, and to endeavor to catch the thief.

Here this witness was obliged to stop; for, although he knew how the watchman succeeded, he was not permitted to state what he knew, for he did not see it. No man testifies except to what he has seen or heard.

The watchman was next called.

ernment asked him,

The lawyer for the gov

"Were you employed by the owner of this house to watch

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