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making a strange abuse of it to pretend, that what is founded on the evidence denominated moral is not so certain as that which is founded on what is denominated mathematical evidence. Two reasons persuade me of this, which I submit to your consideration.
(i) It involves no less contradiction, that a complex concurrence of circumstances should unite with respect to a false testimony, than that there should be falsehood in a consequence deduced immediately from the nature of a subject. It involves no less contradiction to affirm, that all the witnesses, who assure me there is a city called Constantinople, have agreed to impose upon me, than it involves a contradiction to allege, that this proposition is illusory, From the addition of two even numbers there results an even number.
(ii) The second reason is still more forcible. It is taken fromthe nature of God himself. We have mathematical evidence for this, that God cannot take pleasure inleading men into error. But God would take please ure in leading men into error, if after having made the truth of their religion to rest on the existence of certain facts, which are susceptible only of proofs of fact, he had bestowed on imaginary facts, the same characters of truth which he has impressed on such as are real. The truth of our religion is founded on these facts: Jesus Christ is risen, and has ascended into heaven: but this exaltation is supported by all the eridence of which facts are susceptible. If the exaltation of Jesus Christ is merely imaginary,God has permitted imaginary facts to assume all the evidence of real facts. God therefore, betrays men into error. But we have mathematical evidence, that it is impossible for God to betray men into error. It is clear, therefore, as I think, that moral evidence, when carried to a certain degree, ought to be ranked in the same class with mathematical evidence. The truth of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, therefore, will not produce the lively impressions wbich we have mentioned, so long as men abuse, which is the case with certain philosophers, the distinction between moral evidence and mathematical evidence.
2. The proofs of the exaltation of Jesus Christ produce not impressions so lively as they ought, because the mind is under the influence of a prejudice, unworthy of a real philosopher, namely, that moral evidence changes its nature, according to the nature of the things to which it is applied. What is dernonstration of a fact, which is in the sphere of natural things, seems to cease to be such respecting facts of a supernatural kind. A certain species of proof will be sufficient to demonstrate that Cæsar existed: and that same species of proof shall be deemed insufficient to ascertain that Moses existed. What a strange disposition of mind! The truth of a fact, which does not in itself imply a contradiction depends not on the nature of that fact, but on the proofs by which it is supported.
I am ready to admit, that stronger proof will be expected, in order to produce belief, of extraordinary events, than is necessary to establish the truth of what happens every day; to produce belief, for ins stance, that a great scholar is humble, calls for stronger proof than that he is vain; to produce belief, that a friend is as faithful in adversity as he was in prosperity, than that he is less so. But what is evidence with respect to ordinary facts, is likewise so with respect to such as are extraordinary. What is evidence with respect to natural things, is likewise so with respect to such as are supernatural. Nothing more unreasonable can be conceived than the disposition expressed by the apostle Thomas. All the members of the apostolic college, unanimously assure him that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. They adduce this proof of it, that they had beheld him with their own eyes. No, says he, “except I see in bis hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe,” John xx. 25. Wherefore does that which would have been evidence to him on another occasion, cease to be so on this? It is because the matter in question is something supernatural. But the question is not, whether the resurrection of Jesus Christ be within the sphere of natural things, but whether it is founded on proofs sufficient to constitute satisfying evidence.
3. The proofs of the exaltation of the Lord Jesus produce not impressions sufficiently lively, because the necessary discrimination has not been employed in the selection of those proofs, on which some have pretended to establish it. This remark has a reference to certain of the learned, who imagined that they were rendering essential service to the church, when they multiplied proofs, with an indiscreet zeal, and produced every thing which they deemed favourable to the Christian religion. Fraud, fair dealing, all, all appeared equal in their eyes, provided it could contribute to this end. Wretched method! Why was it not confined to the propagators of falsehood ; and why has it been so frequently adopted by the partisans of truth! I pretend not to deterınine whether there be much solidity in the idea of some who have alleged, that the reason why Jesus Christ so strictly prohibited the demons to publish that he was the Messiah, was an apprehension that a testimony borne to his mission by lying spirits, might render the truth of it suspected. But I am well assured that if any thing could have excited a suspicion in my mind unfavourable to the exaltation of the Son of God, it would have been that medley of proofs, solid and without foundation, which we find in the writings of certain ancient doctors of the church on this subject. No one will ever attain to a complete conviction of the exaltation of Jesus Christ, so long as he neglects to discriminate the proofs on which the truth of it rests. The discovery of the slightest falsehood in those which we had believed to be true, will go far toward invalidating the proof of those which we had good reason to believe founded in truth.
4. The proofs of the exaltation of Jesus Christ produce not impressions sufficiently lively, because we are too deeply affected by our inability to resolve certain questions, which the enemies of religion are accustomed to put, on some circumstances relative to that event. The evangelists have recorded all those which are necessary to convince us of the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Their silence respecting circumstances of another kind, and our inability to satisfy the demands of those who insist upon them, present nothing to excite suspicion against the fidelity of their narration. They do not tell us, for example, what Jesus Christ did immediately after his resurrection, and before his appearing to the devout women, and to the apostles. They do not tell us what he did during the forty days which he passed upon the earth before hisascension. They do not tell us to whom those dead persons appeared, who came into the holy city to attest his resurrection, nor what became of them after their apparition. The Holy Spirit, perhaps, was not pleased to reveal such things to those inspired men. Perhaps they did not think proper to declare them, though they might have had perfect information on the subject. But is there any thing in this, to invalidate the proofs on which the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is founded ? Is there any one ancient history, I say any one without exception, that goes into a certain detail of circumstances ? Are we acquainted with all the circumstances of the life of Alexander, or of Darius ? Does our ignorance respecting such and such particulars suggest a doubt whether those persons ever existed ? Do we know all the circumstances attending the battle of Cannæ, and that of Pharsalia ? Does our ignorance of these, suggest a doubt whether such battles were actually fought ? Is it fair to prescribe to the sacred authors rules which we readily dispense with in the case of prosane authors ?