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I. General division of the following discourse, with regard to Pagun
and Jewish authors, who mention particulars relating to our Saviour. II. Not probable that any such should be mentioned by Pugan writers
who lived at the same time, from the nature of such transactions : III. Especially when related by the Jews : IV. And heard at a distance by those who pretended to as great miracles
of their own. V. Besides that, no Pagan writers of that age lived in Judæu or its con
fines. VI. And because many books of that age are lost. VII. An instance of one record proved authentic. VIII. A second record of probable, though not undoubted, authority.
That I may lay before you a full state of the subject under our consideration, and methodise the several particulars that I touched upon in discourse with you; I shall first take notice of such Pagan authors as have given their testimony to the history of our Saviour; reduce these authors under their respective classes, and show what authority their testimonies carry with them. Secondly, I shall take notice of Jewish authors in the same light.
II. There are many reasons, why you should not expect that matters of such a wonderful nature should be taken notice of by those eminent Pagan writers, who were contemporaries with Jesus Christ, or by those who lived before his disciples had personally appeared among them, and ascertained the report which had gone abroad concerning a life so fuil of miracles.
Supposing such things had happened at this day in Switzerland, or among the Grisons, 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 transmitted into foreign countries, within so short a space of time as that of our Saviour's public ministry ? Such kinds of news, though never so true, seldom gain credit, till some time after they are transacted and exposed to the examination of the curious, who, by laying together circumstances, attestations, and characters of those who are concerned in them, either receive or reject what at first none but eye-witnesses could absolutely believe or disbelieve. In a case of this sort, it was natural for men of sense and learning to treat the whole account as fabulous, or at farthest to suspend their belief of it, until all things stood together in their full light.
III. Desides, the Jews were branded not only for superstitions different from all the religions of the Pagan world, but in a particular manner ridiculed for being a credulous people; so that whatever reports of such a nature came out of that country, were looked upon by the Heathen world as false, frivolous, and improbable.
IV. We may further observe, that the ordinary practice of magic in those times, with the many pretended prodigies, divinations, apparitions, and local miracles among the Heathens, made them less attentive to such news from Judea, till they had time to consider the nature, the occasion, and ihe end of our Savioar's miracles, and were awakened by many surprising events to allow them any consideration at all.
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, Judea, Decapolis, Įdumæa, from beyond Jordan, and from Tyre and
Sidon. Now bad there been any historians of those times and places, we might have expected to have seen in them some account of those wonderful transactions in Judea; but there is not any single author extant, in any kind, of that age, in any of those countries.
VI. How many books have perished, in which possibly there might have been mention of our Saviour? Look among the Romans, how few of their writings are come down to our tiines? In the space of two hundred years from our Saviour's birth, when there was such a multitude of writers in all kinds, how small is the number of authors that have made their way to the present age?
VII. One authentic record, and that the most authentic Heathen record, we are pretty sure is lost. I mean the account sent by the Governor of Judea, under whom our Saviour was judged, condemned, and crucified. It was the custom in the Roman empire, as it is to this day in all the governments of the world, for the præfects and viceroys of distant provinces to transmit to their sovereign a summary relation of every thing remarkable in their administration. That Pontius Pilate, in his account, would have touched on so extraordinary an event in Judea, is not to be doubted; and that he actually did, we learn from Justin Martyr, who lived about a hundred our Saviour's death, resided, made converts, and suffered martyrdom at Rome, where he was engaged with philosophers, and in a particular manner with Cresceps the cynic, who could easily have detected, and would not fail to have exposed him, had he quoted a record not in being, or made any false citation out of it. Would the great apologist have challenged Crescens to dispute the cause of Christianity with him before the Roman senate, had he forged such an evidence? or would Crescens have refused the challenge, could he have triumphed over him in the detection of such a forgery? To which we must add, that the apo