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title CHRIST, or the Anointed, which was not only held by all the kings of Israel, but so commonly assumed by all sorts of impostors, conjurors, and pretenders to supernatural communications, that the very claim to it, is in the gospel itself, considered as an indication of imposture, and a reason and rule for withholding our credence: there being no rule in that gospel more distinct, than, that "if any man shall say to you, lo, here is Christ, or lo, he is there, believe him not," Mark xiv. 21. No reason more explicit, than, that "many false Christs should arise,' Matt. xxiv. 24, Luke xxi, 8; and no statement more definitive, than that, when one of his immediate disciples applied that title to the Jesus of the gospel, he himself disclaimed it," and straitly charged and commanded them to tell no man that thing," Luke ix. 21,† Matt. xvi. 29.
So that should authentic and probable history present us with a record of the existence of a Christ, pretending to a supernatural commission: we should have but that one chance for, against the many chances against the identity of such a Christ with the person of the Jesus of Nazareth.
Should authentic history present us even with a CHRIST who was CRUCIFIED, though such a record would certainly come within the list of very striking coincidences, in relation to the evangelical story; yet as we certainly know that CHRIST was one of the most ordinary titles that religious impostors were wont to assume, and CRUCIFIXION, an ordinary punishment consequent on detected imposture, a CHRIST CRUCIFIED, would by no means identify the "Jesus Christ, and Him crucified," of the New Testament.
The testimony of TACITUS however, which we shall consider in its chronological order, purports to be more specific than this, and to come up nearly to the full amount of the predications necessary to establish the identification required "Christ, who was put to death under the Procurator Pontius Pilate." This is either genuine,
* Even the heathen Prince Cyrus, is called, by Isaiah, the Christ of God. -Isaiah xlv. 1.
+ This is not the usual sense given to these words, but it is borne out by his questions to the Pharisees, "What think ye of Christ? whose son is he?" Matt. xxii. 42. A mode of speaking that no man could use with reference to himself.
It wants only the addition of the name, JESUS. It is however hardly likely that two claimants of the name Christ, should have been crucified under 'he same governor.
authentic, and valid evidence to the full extent to which it purports to extend; or it is the forgery of a wonderfully adroit and well-practised sophisticator.
The extent of its purport will be matter of subsequent investigation. Our respect for it, in the present stage of of our process, stands in guarantee of our willingness and desire to receive and admit whatever bears the character of that sort of rational evidence, which is admitted on all other questions; while we lay to the line and the plummet, that irremeable and everlasting border of distinction that separates the bright focus of truth and certainty, from the misty indistinctness and confusion of fallacy and fable.
But further off, even to an infinite remoteness from any designation or reference to the person of the crucified Jesus, are the complimentary and idolatrous epithets of honour or of worship, which the heathen nations, from the remotest antiquity, were in the habit of applying to their gods, demigods, and heroes, who from the various services which they were believed to have rendered to mankind, were called saviours of the world, redeemers of mankind, physicians of souls, &c., and addressed by every one of the doxologies, even, not excepting one of those which Christian piety has since confined and appropriated to the Jewish Jesus.
Nor are any of the supernatural, or extraordinary circumstances, which either with truth or without it, are asserted or believed of the man of Nazareth, at all characteristic or distinctive of that person, from any of the innumerable host of heaven-descended, virgin-born, wonder-working sons of God, of whom the like supernatural and extraordinary circumstances were asserted and believed, with as great faith, and with as little reason.
To have been the whole world's desideratum, to have been foretold by a long series of undoubted prophecies, to have been attested by a glorious display of indisputable miracles, to have revealed the most mystical doctrines, to have acted as never man acted, and to have suffered as never man suffered, were among the most ordinary credentials of the gods and goddesses with which Olympus groaned.
As our business in this treatise is, with stubborn fact and absolute evidence, I shall subjoin so much of the Christian creed as is absolutely and unquestionably of Pagan origin, and which, though not found as put together in this precise formulary, is certainly to be deduced
from previously existing Pagan writings. That only, which could not, or would not, have expressed the fair sense of any form of Pagan faith, can be peculiarly Christian. That only which the Christian finds that he has to say, of which a worshipper of the gods could not have said the same or the like before him, is Christianity.
THE CHRISTIAN AND PAGAN CREEDS COLLATED.
The Pagan Creed.
I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jasius* Christ his only son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Born of the Virgin Electra. Suffered under (whom it might be.)
Was struck by a thunderbolt.
Dead and buried.
He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven. And sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
From whence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost.
The Holy Catholic Divinity.
The Communion of Saints.
15. The forgiveness of sins.
The forgiveness of sins.
"Jasiusque Pater, genus'a quo principe nostrum." And father Jasius, from which Prince our race is descended.---Virgil.
16. The resurrection of the body.
17. And the life everlasting.
This creed, though not to be found in this form in the Christian Scriptures, is evidently deducible from them as their sense and purport.
"This creed still bears the name of the Apostle's Creed. From the fourth century downwards it was almost generally considered as a production of the Apostles. All, however, All, however, who have the least knowledge of antiquity, look upon this opinion as entirely false and destitute of all foundation. There is much more reason in the opinion of those who think that this creed was not all composed at once, but from small beginnings was imperceptibly augmented, in proportion to the growth of heresy, and according to the exigenIcies and circumstances of the church, from which it was designed to banish the errors that daily arose."-Mosheim, vol. i. p. 116, 117.
The immortality of the soul.
This creed, though not to be found in this form in the Pagan Scriptures, is evidently deducible from them as their sense and purport.
The reader is to throw into this scale, an equal quantity of allowance and apology to that claimed by the advocate of Christianity for the opposite. He will only observe that on this side, apology and palliation for a known and acknowledged imposture and forgery for so many ages palmed upon the world, is not needed.
It is not the Pagan creed that was imposed upon mankind, under a false superscription, and ascribed to an authority from which it was known not to have proceeded. Whether a church, which stands. convicted of having forged its creed, would have made any scruple of forging its gospels; is a problem that the reader will solve according to the influence of prejudice or probability on his mind.
As then, the so called Apostle's Creed, is admitted to have been written by no such persons as the Apostles, and with respect to the high authority which has for so many ages been claimed for it, is a convicted imposture and forgery; the equity of rational evidence will allow weight enough, even to a probable conjecture, to overthrow all that remains of its pretensions. The probability is, that it is really a Pagan document, and of Pagan origination; since, even after the trifling alteration and substitution of one name perhaps for another, to make it subserve its new application, it yet exhibits a closer resem
blance to its Pagan stock, than to the Christian stem on which it has been engrafted.
By a remarkable oversight of the keepings and congruities of the system, the Christian creed has omitted to call for our belief of the miracles or prophecies which constitute its evidence, or for our practice of the duties which should be the test of its utility.
If then, as the learned and judicious Jeremiah Jones, in his excellent treatise on the canonical authority of the New Testament, most justly observes, "In order to establish the canon of the New Testament, it be of absolute necessity that the pretences of all other books to canonical authority be first examined and refuted :”* much more must it be absolutely necessary to establish the paramount and distinctive challenges of Christianity, that we should be able to refute and overthrow all the pretences of previously existing religions, by such a cogency and fairness of argument, as in being fatal to them, shall admit of no application to this, which battering down their air-built castles, shall, when brought to play with equal force on Christianity, leave its defences unshaken and its beauty unimpaired.
STATE OF THE HEATHEN WORLD.
It is manifestly unworthy of any cause, in itself containing an intrinsic and independent excellence, that its advocates should condescend to set it off by a foil, or to act as if they thought it necessary to decry and disparage the pretensions of others, in order to magnify and exalt their own. It is certain that the vileness of falsehood can add nothing to the glory of truth. Showing the various systems of heathen idolatry to be, how vile soever, would be adducing neither evidence nor even presumption for the proof of the divinity of a system of religion that was not so vile, or even if you please, say infinitely superior; as a beautiful woman would certainly feel it to be but an ill compliment to her beauty, to have it constantly obtruded upon her observance, how hideously deformed and monstrously ugly were those, than whom she was so much more beautiful.
* Vol. I. p. 16. Svo. Ed.