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miracles. Under the former head we may lay out of the case,
I. Such accounts of supernatural events as found only in histories by some ages posterior to the transaction, and of which it is evident that the historian could know little more than his reader. Ours is contemporary history. This difference alone removes out of our way, the miraculous history of Pythagoras, who lived five hundred years before the Christian vra, written by Porphyry and Jamblicus, who lived three hundred years after that era ; the prodigies of Livy's history; the fables of the heroic ages; the whole of the Greek and Ro. man, as well as of the Gothic mythology; a great part of the legendary history of Popish saints, the very best attested of which is extracted from the certificates that are exhibited during the process of their canonization, a ceremony which seldom takes place till a century after their deaths. plies also with considerable force to the miracles of Apollonius Tyaneus, which are contained in a solitary history of his life, published by Philostratus, above a hundred years after his death; and in which, whether Philostratus had any prior account to guide him, depends upon his single unsupported assertion. Also to some of the miracles of the third century, especially to one extraordinary instance, the account of Gregory, bishop of Neocesarea, called Thaumaturgus, delivered in the writings of Gregory of Nyssen, who lived one hundred and thirty years after the subject of his panegyric.
The value of this circumstance is shown to have been accurately exemplified in the history of Ignatius Loyola, founder of the order of Jesuits. His life, written by a companion of his, and by one of the order, was published about fifteen years after his death. In which life, the author, so far from ascribing any miracles to Ignatius, industriously states the reasons why he was not invested with any such power. The life was republished fifteen years afterward, with the addition of many circum. stances, which were the fruit, the author says, of farther inquiry, and of diligent examination ; but
* Douglas': Criterion of Miracles, p. 74
still with a total silence about miracles. When Ignatius had been dead nearly sixty years, the Je. suits, conceiving a wish to have the founder of their' order placed in the Roman calendar, began, as it should seem, for the first time, to attribute to him a catalogue of miracles, which could not then be distinctly disproved; and 'which there was, in those who governed the church, a strong disposition to admit upon the slenderest proofs.
II. We may lay out of the case, accounts published in one country, of what passed in a distant country, without any proof that such accounts were known or received at home. In the case of Christianity, Judea, which was the scene of the transaction, was the centre of the mission. The story was published in the place in which it was acteda The church of Christ was first planted at Jerusalem itself. With that church, others corresponded. From thence the primitive teachers of the institution went forth; thither they assembled. The church of Jerusalem, and the several churches of Judea, subsisted from the beginning, and for many ages ;* received also the same books and the same accounts, as other churches did.
This distinction disposes, amongst others, of the above-mentioned miracles of Apollonius Tyaneus, most of which are related to have been performed in India ; no evidence remaining that either tle miracles ascribed to him, or the history of those miracles, were ever heard of in India. Those of Francis Xavier, the Indian missionary, with many others of the Romish breviary, are liable to the same objection, viz. that the accounts of them were published at a vast distance from the supposed scene of tlre wonders.
III. We lay out of the cage transient rumours. Upon the first publication of an extraordinary account, or even of article of ordinary intelligence, no one, who is not personally acquainted with the transaction, can know whether it be true false, because any man may publish any story.
It The succession of maoy eminent bishops of Jerusalem in the first three centuries, is distinctly preserved; as Alexander. A ) 212, who succeeded Narcissus, then 116 years old
Douglas's Crit. p. 84.
is in the future confirmation, or contradiction, of the account; in its permunency, or its disappearance; its dying away into silence, or its increasing in notoriety; its being followed up by subsequent accounts, and being repeated in different and independent accounts ; that solid truth is distinguished from fugitive lies. This distinction is altogether on the side of Christianity. The story did not drop. On the contrary, it was succeeded by a train of actions and events dependant upon it. The accounts, which we have in our hands, were composed after the first reports must have subsided. They were followed by a train of writings upon the subject. The historical testimonies of the transaction were many and various, and connected with letters, discourses, controversies, apologies, successively produced by the same transaction.
IV. We may lay out of the case what I call naked history. It has been said, that if the prodigies of the Jewish history had been found only in fragments of Manetho, or Berosus, we should have paid no regard to them: and I am willing to admit this. If we knew nothing of the fact, but from the fragment; if we possessed no proof that these accounts had been credited and acted upon, from times, probably, as ancient as the accounts themselves; if we had no visible effects connected with the history, no subsequent or collateral testimony to confirm it; under these circumstances, I think that it would be undeserving of credit. But this certainly is not
In appreciating the evidences of Christianity, the books are to be combined with the institution; with the prevalency of the religion at this day ; with the time and place of it origin, which are acknowledged points ; with the circumstances of its rise and progress, as collected from external history; with the fact of our present books being received by the votaries of the institution from the beginning with that of other books coming after these filled with accounts of effects and consequences resulting from the transaction, or referring to the transaction, or built upon it; lastly, with the consideration of the number and variety of the books themselves, the different writers from which they proceed, the different views with which they were
written, so disagreeing as to repel the suspicion of confederacy, so agreeing as to show that they were founded in a common original, i. e. in a story substantially the same. Whether this proof be satisfactory or not, it is properly a cumulation of evidence, by no means a naked or solitary record.
V. A mark of historical truth, although only a certain way, and to a certain degree, is particularity, in names, dates, places, circumstances, and in the order of events preceding or following the transaction : of which kind, for instance, is the particu: larity in the description of St, Paul's voyage and shipwreck, in the 27th chapter of the Acts, which no man, I think, can read without being convinced that the writer was there; and also in the account of the cure and examination of the blind man, in the ninth chapter of St. John's Gospel, which bears every mark of personal knowledge on the part of the historian.* ' I do not deny that fiction has often the particularity of truth; but then it is of studied and elaborate fiction, or of a formal attempt to deceive, that we observe this. Since, however, experience proves that particularity is not confined to truth, I have stated that it is a proof of truth only to a certain extent, i. e. it reduces the question to this, whether we can depend or not upon the probity of the relater? which is a considerable advance in our present argument; for an express attempt to deceive, in which case alone particularity can appear without truth, is charged upon the evangelists by few. If the historian acknowledge himself to have received his intelligence from others, the particularity of the narrative shows, prima facie, the accuracy of his inquiries, and the fulness of his information. This remark belongs to St. Luke's history. Of the particularity which we allege, many examples may be found in all the Gospels. And it is very difficult to conceive, that such numerous particularities, as are almost every where to be met with in the Scriptures, should be raised out of nothing, or be spun out of the imagination without any fact to go upon.t
* Both these chapters ought to be read for the sake of this very ohservation. 7 There is always some truth where there are considerable par.
It is to be remarked, however, that this particularity is only to be looked for in direct history. It is not natural in references or allusions, which yet, in other respects, often afford, as far as they go, the most unsuspicious evidence.
VI. We lay out of the case such stories of supernatural events, as require, on the part of the hearer, nothing more than an otiose assent; stories upon which nothing depends, in which no interest is involved, nothing is to be done or changed in consequence of believing them. Such stories are credited, if the careless assent that is given to them deserve that name, more by the indolence of the hearer, than by his judgment: or, though not much credited, are passed from one to another without inquiry or resistance. To this case, and this case alone, belongs what is called the love of the marvellous. I have never known it carry men farther. Men do not suffer persecution from the love of the marvellous. Of the indifferent nature we are speak. ing of, are most vulgar errors and popular superstitions : most, for instance, of the current reports of apparitions. Nothing depends upon their being true or false. But not, surely, of this kind were the alleged miracles of Christ and his apostles. They decided, if true, the most important question upon which the human mind can fix its anxiety. They claimed to regulate the opinions of mankind, upon subjects in which they were not only deeply concerned, but usually refractory and obstinate. Men could not be utterly careless in such a case as this. If a Jew took up the story, he found his darling partiality to his own nation and law wounded ; if a Gentile, he found his idolatry and polytheism ticularities related; and they always seem to bear some proportion to one another. Thus there is a great want of the particulars of time, place, and persons, in Manetho's'account of the Egyptian Dynasties, Ctesias's of the Assyrian Kings, and those which the technical chronologers have given of the ancient kingdoms of Greece ; and agreeably thereto, the accounts have much fiction and falsehood, with some truth : whereas Thucydides's History of the Peloponnesian War, and Cæsar's of the War in Gaul, in both which the particulars of time, place, and persons, are mentioned, are universally esteemed true to a great degree of exactness." Hartley, rol. ii. 1. 109.