« AnteriorContinuar »
For let us consider it in the Instance of any other Historian, of Cœjar, for Example, who wrote his Commentaries, or an Account of his own Expeditions and Exploits; or of Livy, who flourish'd in the Time of Augustus, and wrote the Roman History; neither of them very far distant from the Time of those Evangelical Writers, whose Character is now under Examination. Now what is the Evidence that any one has of the Truth of Cæsar'% Account of the Galtick War, his passing the Rubicon, his building a Bridge over the Rhine, &c. or of Livy's Relation of the Rise and Fortunes of the Roman People, their different Forms of Government, and the many remarkable Battles and Actions, wherein they were concerned? what Evidence, I fay, has any one now of this, but that these Things were certainly recorded by the Writers, whose Names they bear, and have since that time been faithfully transmitted down to us?
These Histories we believe to have been written by the Authors, whose Names they bear, because, as to the Substance and chief Circumstances of them, they have all along been acknowledg'd for the Writings of such Persons, and have the Testimonies likewise of several Contemporary Authors confirming them, as B 3 such,
such, by the References they make, and the Commendations they give of them.
These Histories we believe to be true^ because their Authors had sufficient Means and Opportunity of right Information; the one being an Eye-witness and principal Agent in the Events he relates, and the other compiling his Account of Things from the publick: Records presery'd in the Reman Archieves: and these Histories we believe to be genuine, and faithfully transmitted to us without any considerable Alteration, by reason of the Regard, which was all along paid to them, the many Copies, which, from the very first, were taken of them, and the concurring Testimony of every subsequent Age, without any manner of Suspicion, or Mark of Imposture upon them.
This is the Proof, and all the Proof we have of the Truth and Authority of these Histories: And yet does any Man pretend to doubt, whether Cx/ar wrote his Commentaries, or Livy the Roman History; or whether the Relations concerning the Foundation and great Turns of Government, or the remarkable Battles and Events which happened, were true? The Man that stiould call in Question either the Reality of these Facts, or the" Authority of
the, the Relation, would hardly escape being
accounted unreasonably prejudic'd, and
■unaccountably singular, in affecting thus
to oppose the common Sense of Mankind;
To apply this to the present Case, we need only to fay, that the GospelHistory is of as clear and unquestionable Authority as any other antient History whatever, and in that Respect stands at least upon an equal Foot with Cæsar or Livy.
The Evangelists, we own, were the Friends and Followers of Jesus; but if this must affect their Credit as Historians, by parity of Reason, every thing we read in any Raman or Greek Author may come under the fame Fate. We have hitherto indeed belived them implicitly, and upon their own T'ejlimony; bur (if the Question mould be put) how do we know, whether ever the Roman Empire prevailed, and extended it self to the Bounds of the then-known World, as is pretended? a For Was not this related by Persons of the fame Country, and, for that Reason, bound to aggrandize its Fame? And may not a thousand Records be lost, which, if they were now extant, would give a quite different turn to the Story? Carthage might have the better in the Contest j HanniB 4 bal bal overthrow Scipio, and the Persians quite subdue the Macedonians, for anything we know, since the present Histories were written by Men of the Roman Interest in one Cafe, and, in the other, all our Accounts of Alexander's Expedition were originally from the Greeks. These Authors, it is certain, had the fame Biaft of national Affe&ion upon their Minds j but none of them gave the thousand part of that Evidence for their Fidelity, which the Writers of the Evangelical'History did: and yet, what should we think of a Person, who should call in Question the best Histories of all Nations, merely because they were written by those of the fame Country? What indeed, but that he was going to destroy all hijlori.cal Faith at once, since Books of this kind must not be wrote by Friends and Acquaintance, for fear of Partiality; nor could they be wrote by Strangers or Enemies, without giving a much greater Umbrage to suspect both the Sufficiency of their Knowledge, and the Strength of their Integrity,
'A Letter to a Deist, p, i % .
The Truth is, no tolerable Reason can be assigned,- why Credit should not be given to sacred, as well as profane History, unless it should appear, that there is not the fame Evidence of Credibility, hility, or the same Marks of historical Truth inherent in the one, as may be supposed to be found in the dther j which is the Question we are now going to consider.
That, in the Reign of Tiberius, there The prelived such a Person as Jesus Christ t and 2j,thSuw suffered Death under Pontius dilate, the cofrets. Roman Governour in Judæa, is what Christians in all Countries profess; what Jews of* all Ages have acknowledged; and what even Heathen Authors, (such b as Suetonius, Tacitus, and Pliny, jun.) have recorded. That this Jesus had, from the very first, a Succession of Men to publish his Doctrines, and to testify to the World the History of his Life and Afitions; and that, in a short space of Time, a certain Number of approved Historians recorded them in Writing, to be the Pillar and Foundation of all Truth (as the Ancients call it) is what the earliest Writers in the Christian Church relate, and our present Wojpjfion of the Books themselves does imply. That the Books, which have descended to us, are the fame which these Historians indited, c the Writers of the very next Age, and every Age since, have asserted; both Jews and Heathens, in their Tracts
* Vid. Grot, de veritate Christ. Rel. ! Bp. Gibson's first pastoral Letter.