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1. General divifion of the following discourse, with regard to Pagan and Jewish authors, who mention particulars relating to our Saviour. II. Not probable that any fuch should be mentioned by Pagan writers who lived at the fame time, from the nature of such transactions, III. Efpecially when related by the Jews:
IV. And heard at a distance by those who pretend to as great miracles of
V. Befides that no Pagan writers of that age lived in Judea, or its confines;
VI. And because many books of that age are loft.
VII. An inftance of one record proved to be authentic.
VIII. A fecond record of probable, though not undoubted authority.
I. HAT I may lay before you a full state of the fubject under our confideration, and methodize the feveral particulars that I touched upon in difcourfe with you; I fhall firft take notice of fuch Pagan authors as have given their teftimony to the history of our Saviour; reduce these authors under their refpective claffes, and fhew what authority their teftimonies carry with them. Secondly, I fhall take notice of Jewifh authors in the fame light. *
II. There are many reasons why you should not expect that matters of such a wonderful nature fhould be taken notice of by thofe eminent Pagan writers who were contemporaries with Jefus Chrift, or by thofe who lived before his difciples had perfonally appeared among them, and ascertained the report which had gone abroad concerning a life fo full of miracles.
Suppofing fuch things had happened at this day in Switzerland, or among the Grifons, who make a greater figure in Europe than Judea did in the Roman empire, would they be immediately believed by those who live at a great distance from them? or would any certain account of them be tranfmitted into foreign countries, within fo fhort a space of time as that of our Saviour's public ministry? Such
*The author did not live to write this fecond part.
kinds of news, though never so true, feldom gain credit, till fome time after they are tranfacted and expofed to the examination of the curious, who, by laying together circumftances, atteftations, and characters of those who are concerned in them, either receive, or reject, what at firft none but eye-witneffes could abfolutely believe or difbelieve. In a cafe of this fort, it was natural for men of sense and learning to treat the whole account as fabulous, or, at fartheft, to suspend their belief of it, until all things ftood together in their full light.
III. Befides, the Jews were branded not only for fuperftitions different from all the religions of the Pagan world, but in a particular manner ridiculed for being a credulous people; fo that whatever reports of fuch a nature came out of that country, were looked upon by the heathen world as falfe, frivolous, and improbable.
IV. We may further obferve, that the ordinary practice of magic in those times, with the many pretended prodigies, divinations, apparitions, and local miracles among the Heathens, made them lefs attentive to such news from Judæa, till they had time to confider the nature, the occafion, and the end of our Saviour's miracles, and were awakened by many surprising events to allow them any confideration
V. We are indeed told by St. Matthew, that the fame of our Saviour, during his life, went throughout all Syria, and that there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, Judæa, Decapolis, Idumæa, from beyond Jordan, and from Tyre and Sidon. Now, had there been any hiftorians of thofe times and places, we might have expected to have seen in them fome account of thofe wonderful transactions in Judæa; but there is not any fingle author extant in any kind, of that age, in any of thofe countries.
VI. How many books have perifhed, in which poffibly there might have been mention of our Saviour! Look among the Romans, how few of their writings are come down to our times! In the space of two hundred years from our Saviour's birth, when there was fuch a multitude of writers in all kinds, how small is the number of authors that have made their way to the prefent age!
VII. One authentic record, and that the most authentic heathen record, we are pretty fure, is loft; I mean the account fent by the governor of Judæa, under whom our Saviour was judged, condemned, and crucified. It was the custom of the Roman empire, as it is to this day in all the governments of the world, for the præfects and viceroys of diftant provinces to tranfmit to their fovereign a fummary relation of every thing remarkable in their adminiftration. That Pontius Pilate, in his account, would have touched on fo extraordinary an event in Judæa, is not to be doubted; and that he actually did, we learn from Juftin Martyr, who lived about a hundred years after our Saviour's death, refided, made converts, and fuffered martyrdom at Rome, where he was engaged with philofophers, and in a particular manner with Crefcens the Cynick, who could cafily have detected, and would not fail to have expofed him, had
he quoted a record not in being, or made any falfe citation out of it. Would the great apologist have challenged Crefcens to difpute the caufe of Chriftianity with him before the Roman fenate, had he forged fuch an evidence? or would Crefcens have refufed the challenge, could he have triumphed over him in the detection of such a forgery? To which we must add, that the apology, which appeals to this record, was prefented to a learned emperor and to the whole body of the Roman fenate. This father, in this apology, fpeaking of the death and sufferings of our Saviour, refers the emperor, for the truth of what he says, to the acts of Pontius Pilate, which I have here mentioned. Tertullian, who wrote his apology about fifty years after Juftin, doubtless referred to the fame record, when he tells the governor of Rome, that the emperor Tiberius having received an account out of Palestine in Syria of the divine person who had appeared in that country, paid him a particular regard, and threatened to punifh any who fhould accuse the Christians; nay, that the emperor would have adopted him among the deities whom he worshipped, had not the fenate refused to come into the propofal. Tertullian, who gives us this hiftory, was not only one of the moft learned men of his age, but, what adds a greater weight to his authority in this cafe, was eminently skilful and well read in the laws of the Roman empire. Nor can it be faid, that Tertullian grounded his quotation upon the authority of Justin Martyr, because we find he mixes it with matters of fact which are not related by that author. Eufebius mentions the fame ancient record; but, as it was not extant in his time, I shall not infift upon his authority in this point. If it be objected that this particular is not mentioned in any Roman hiftorian, I fhall ufe the fame argument in a parallel cafe, and fee whether it will carry any force with it. Ulpian, the great Roman lawyer, gathered together all the imperial edicts that had been made against the Chriftians. But did any one ever fay that there had been no fuch edicts, because they were not mentioned in the hiftories of thofe emperors? Befides, who knows but this circumftance of Tiberius was mentioned in other hif torians that have been loft, though not to be found in any ftill extant? Has not Suetonius many particulars of this emperor omitted by Ta citus, and Herodian many that are not fo much as hinted at by either? As for the fpurious acts of Pilate, now extant, we know the occafion and time of their writing; and, had there not been a true and authentic record of this nature, they would never have been forged.
VIII. The ftory of Agbarus, king of Edeffa, relating to the letter which he fent to our Saviour, and to that which he received from him, is a record of great authority; and though I will not infift upon it, may venture to fay, that, had we fuch an evidence for any fact in Pagan hiftory, an author would be thought very unreasonable who should reject it. I believe you will be of my opinion, if you will perufe, with other authors, who have appeared in vindication of these letters as genuine, the additional arguments which have been made use of by the late famous and learned Dr. Grabe, in the second volume of his "Spicilegium."
I. What facts in the history of our Saviour might be taken notice of by Pagan authors.
II. What particular facts are taken notice of, and by what Pagan au
III. How Celfus reprefented our Saviour's miracles.
IV. The fame representation made of them by other unbelievers, and proved unreasonable.
V. What facts in our Saviour's history not to be expected from Pagan
I. WE now come to confider what undoubted authorities are extant among the Pagan writers; and here we must premise, that some parts of our Saviour's history may be reasonably expected from Pagans. I mean, fuch parts as might be known to those who lived at a diftance from Judæa, as well as to those who were the followers and eyewitneffes of Chrift.
II. Such particulars are most of these which follow, and which are all attefted by fome one or other of those heathen authors who lived in or near the age of our Saviour and his difciples. 'Auguftus Cæfar had ordered the whole empire to be cenfed or taxed,' which brought our Saviour's reputed parents to Bethlehem: this is mentioned by feveral Roman hiftorians, as Tacitus, Suetonius, and Dion. That a great light, or a new Star, appeared in the East, 'which directed the wife men to our Saviour:' this is recorded by Chalcidius. That Herod, the king of Palestine, so often men'tioned in the Roman history, made a great flaughter of innocent children,' being fo jealous of his fucceffor, that he put to death his own fons on that account: this character of him is given by feveral hiftorians; and this cruel fact mentioned by Macrobius, a heathen author, who tells it as a known thing, without any mark or doubt upon it. That our Saviour had been in Egypt,' this Celfus, though he raises a monstrous ftory upon it, is fo far from denying, that he tells us our Saviour learned the arts of magic in that country. That Pontius Pilate was governor of Judæa; that our
Saviour was brought in judgment before him, and by him con'demned and crucified: this is recorded by Tacitus. That many 'miraculous cures, and works out of the ordinary course of nature, were wrought by him:' this is confeffed by Julian the Apoftate, Porphyry, and Hierocles, all of them not only Pagans, but profeffed enemies and perfecutors of Christianity. That our Saviour fore'told feveral things which came to pafs according to his predictions: this was attefted by Phlegon, in his annals, as we are affured by the learned Origen againft Celfus. That, at the time when ' our Saviour died, there was a miraculous darkness and a great earthquake: this is recorded by the fame Phlegon the Trallian, who was likewife a Pagan, and freeman to Adrian the emperor. We may here observe, that a native of Trallium, which was not fituate at fo great a distance from Palestine, might very probably be informed of
fuch remarkable events as had paffed among the Jews in the age immediately preceding his own times, fince feveral of his countrymen, with whom he had converfed, might have received a confufed report of our Saviour before his crucifixion, and probably lived within the fha e of the earthquake, and the fhadow of the eclipfe, which are recorded by this author. That Chrift was worshipped as a God · among the Chriftians, that they would rather fuffer death than ⚫ blafpheme him; that they received a facrament, and by it entered
into a vow of abstaining from fin and wickedness;' conforming to the advice given by St. Paul; that they had private affemblies of worship, and used to join together in hymns:' this is the account which Pliny the younger gives of Chriftianity in his days, about fe venty years after the death of Chrift, and which agrees in all its cir cumstances with the accounts we have, in Holy Writ, of the first state of Christianity after the crucifixion of our bleffed Saviour. • That
St. Peter, whose miracles are many of them recorded in Holy Writ, ⚫ did many wonderful works,' is owned by Julian the Apoftate, who therefore reprefents him as a great magician, and one who had in his poffeffion a book of magical fecrets, left him by our Saviour. < That the devils or evil fpirits were fubject to them, we may learn from Porphyry, who objects to Christianity, that, fince Jefus had begun to be worshipped, fculapius and the reft of the Gods did no more converse with men. Nay, Celfus himself affirms the fame thing in effect, when he fays, that the power which feemed to refide in Christians proceeded from the ufe of certain names, and the invocation of certain dæmons. Origen remarks on this paffage, that the author doubtless hints at those Chriftians who put to flight evil fpirits, and healed those who were poffeffed with them; a fact which had been often seen, and which he himself had feen, as he declares in another part of his difcourfe against Celfus; but at the fame time affures us, that this miraculous power was exerted by the use of no other name but that of Jefus, to which were added feve ral paffages in his hiftory, but nothing like any invocation to da
III. Celfus was fo hard fet with the report of our Saviour's miracles, and the confident atteftations concerning him, that though he often intimates he did not believe them to be true, yet, knowing he might be filenced in fuch an anfwer, provides himself with another retreat, when beaten out of this; namely, that our Saviour was a magician. Thus he compares the feeding of fo many thoufands at two different times with a few loaves and fifhes, to the ma gical feafts of thofe Egyptian impoftors who would prefent their fpectators with vifionary entertainments, that had in them neither fubftance nor reality: which, by the way, is to fuppose, that a hungry and fainting multitude were filled by an apparition, or ftrengthened and refreshed with fhadows. He knew very well that there were fo many witneffes and actors, if I may call them fuch, in these two miracles, that it was impoffible to refute fuch multitudes, who had doubtless fufficiently fpread the fame of them, and was therefore in