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personate the Messiah," and when strangers journeyed from the East to Jerusalem in quest of him. The Magi came to the court of Herod, expecting there to have found the babe, who was to be the king of the Jews. Their inquiry alarmed the jealousy of this monarch: and in consequence of it, when he learned that Christ was to be born in Bethlehem, “he sent and slew all the children in Bethlehem, and in the coast thereof, from two years old and under.” This, alas, was public enough! The voice of lamentation in Rama, when Rachel wept for her children because they were not, surely was loud; and the history of the Evangelists would have been blasted for ever in the eyes of their contemporaries, had they attempted imposition in so public an event. But Josephus does not record this slaughter. We answer, that Josephus, who wrote about seventy years after this event, drew all his history from the public records; and we may imagine that an act so cruel, and so inglorious to the memory of Herod, would hardly be transmitted to posterity through the medium of a public record. But Josephus does record many instances of the cruelty of Herod: is it therefore an objection to Matthew, that he records one more? Josephus relates those things which appertained immediately to state affairs: Matthew, those only connected with Jesus Christ. The history is not at all improbable, from the general character of Herod, who was one of the most sanguinary tyrants that ever disgraced humanity. Is it probable, that he who slew Hyrcanus, his wife's grandfather, at she age of eighty, and who on a former occasion had saved his life: who publicly executed his lovely and
* Acts. v., 36, 37.
virtuous partner;" and who privately slaughtered three of his own children; and all these on principles of jealousy, should, on the same principles, be sparing of the blood of the children of others? In his last illness, a little before he died, he convened all the chief men of Judea, and after havingshut them up in the Circus, he called his family together, and said—“I know that the Jews will rejoice at my death. You have these men in your custody. So soon as I am dead, and before it can be known publicly, let in the soldiers upon them, and kill them! All Judea, and every family, will then, although unwillingly, mourn at my death!”t “Nay”— adds Josephus, “with tears in his eyes, he conjured them by their love to him, and by their fidelity to God, not to fail to obey his orders!”—We ask, whether, upon a consideration of this monster's disposition, such a deed as that ascribed to him by Matthew is improbable?—Macrobius, an heathen author, who flourished at the close of the fourth century, asserts it as a fact well known and indisputable. That our Savior had been in Egypt, is so far from being denied, that it is asserted by Celsus, who affirms that there he learned the arts of magic, to which he imputes his miracles. The testimony of Josephus to the LIFE of Christ is as follows: “At this time there was one Jesus, a wise man, if I may call him a man: for he did most wonderful works, and was a teacher of those who received the truth with * Mariamne. i Testimonies of Josephus to the cruel disposition of Herod, manifested especially in his last moments. Jos. de Bello Jud. Tom II. lib. i.
Cap. xxxiii. p. 1041. Hudsoni edi, see also Jos. de Antiq. Jud, Tom. II. Lib. xvii. Cap. vii. p. 769; &c.
delight. He won many to his persuasion, both of the Jews, and of the Gentiles. This was CHRrst; and although he was, at the instigation of some of our nation, and by Pilate's sentence, suspended on the cross, yet those who loved him at the first, did not cease so to do: for he came to life again the third day, and appeared to them. And to this day, there remains a sect of men, who from him have the name of Christians.” We claim this, as the testimony of a learned, yet bigoted Jew! In this short passage is a corroboration of all the prominent declarations of the gospel respecting the Savior—his teaching—his death—at the instigation of the Jews—by the judgment of Pilate— on the cross—his resurrection—on the third day—his appearance to his followers—and their unshaken attachment to him. We are told by Matthew, that the same of our Savior during his life was reverberated throughout all Syria; and that there followed him, great multitudes from Galilee, Judea. Decapolis, Idumaea, from beyond Jordan, and from Tyre and Sidon. Had the records of these countries remained, or were the works of their historians extant, we might expect a large confirmation of the gospel history. However, the evidence which we shall produce to our Savior's life and ministry must be admitted on all hands, because we shall take the testimony of three enemies. JULIAN, commonly called the apostate, acknowledges that Jesus and his disciples performed many wonderful works; and he therefore calls the Savior an eminent magician. Porphyry allows that evil spirits were subject to him: for he says, that “after Jesus was worshipped, Esculapius and the other gods did no more converse with * See note 5 of this Lecture, at the end of the volume.
men.” Celsus, unable to dispute the miracles of Jesus Christ, also flies to that childish plea, the imputation of them to magic. The Jews themselves likewise, when they could not controvert the gospel history, nor deny these facts, ascribed them to Beelzebub. We have the same evidences relative to the DEATH of Jesus. We can produce the universal testimony of ancient writers, that at the time of our Lord's life and sufferings, the rulers mentioned in the Evangelists by their name, actually were the governors of the day. One authentic heathem record, which is now lost, but the remembrance of which is perfectly preserved, and the existence of which can be clearly proved, was the account written by the governor of Judea, under whom our Lord was judged, condemned, and crucified. It was customary at Rome, as indeed it is in every empire to the present hour, for the prefects and rulers of distant provinces, to transmit to their sovereign, a summary relation of all the extraordinary events in their administration. That Pontius Pilate should send such an account to Rome, cannot be doubted: that he really did, is evident from the following testimony. JustiN MARTYR, who lived about a century after our Savior's death, and who suffered martyrdom in Rome, was engaged in a controversy with the philosophers at large, and particularly with Crescens the cynic. In this controversy he challenged Crescens to dispute the cause of christianity with him before the Roman senate. It is not to be believed that Crescens would have declined the contest, or have lost the opportunity of exposing his adversary before so august a body, if he could have triumphed over him in the detection of any palpable forgeries in the
writings of the Evangelists, relative to either the life or the death of our Lord. This father in his Apology, speaking of the death and sufferings of the Savior, refers the emperor, for the truth of his assertions, to the acts of Pontius Pilate. TERTULLIAN, who wrote his Apology about fifty years after Justin, says, that the emperor Tiberius, having received an account out of Palestine in Syria of the Divine PERSON who appeared in that country, paid him a particular regard, and threatened to punish any who should accuse the Christians; nay, that the emperor would have admitted him among the number of the deities whom he worshipped, had not the senate refused their consent. Tertullian was one of the most learned men of his age, and well skilled in the laws of the Roman empire.* The acts of Pilate now extant, are spurious: for those to which we refer as authentic, had perished before the days of Eusebius, although they are mentioned by him. The death of our Lord, and the manner of it, under Pontius Pilate, and in the reign of Tiberius, are mentioned both by Tacitus and Lucian. The last melancholy scenes of the Savior's sufferings are also fully attested. The gospel history exactly coincides with the Jewish, and with the Roman customs; and the circumstances attending his dying agonies are universally admitted. Behold the Lord of life and glory hanging upon a cross! There could be no deception. He really suffered, he really died. The blood which stained his body, and moistened the ground, was his own heart's blood; and the tears which fell from his eyes, were the bitter tears of real and unspeakable serrow. “The sun beheld it—no, the shocking scene drove back his chariot!” Nature sym