Page images
PDF
EPUB

6. And Eusebius's testimony is valid to the full effect for which we claim it, and that is, to the proof of what the origin of the Christian scriptures was, AS IT APPEARED

TO HIM.

7. And the validity of his testimony cannot be impeached in this particular instance, without overthrowing the authority of evidence altogether, opening the door to everlasting quibbling, turning history into romance, and making the admission of facts depend on the caprice or prejudice of a party.*

8. And if what Eusebius has delivered in this chapter, cannot be reconciled to what he may seem to have delivered in other parts of his writings, it will be for those who refuse to receive his testimony, here, to show how, or where he ever hath, or could have, delivered a contrary testimony more explicitly, intelligibly, and positively, than he has this.

9. Nor can they claim from us, that we should respect his testimony in any other case, when they themselves refuse to respect it, where it stands in conflict with their own foregone conclusion.

10. And if, what he may anywhere else have said, be found utterly irreconcileable with what he hath here delivered, so as to convict him of being an author who cared not what he said; the Christian again is welcome to the conclusion on which his own argument will drive him, i. e. the total destruction of all evidence that rests on the veracity of Eusebius.

11. And if Eusebius be not competent testimony to what Christianity was in his day, as it appeared to him; we hold ourselves in readiness to receive and respect any other testimony of the same age, which those who shall bring it forward, shall be able to show to be superior to that of Eusebius.

12. But the conflict itself, which this most important passage has excited in the learned world, has thoroughly winnowed it from all the chaff of sophistication, and in the admissions of those who have contended most strenuously against its pregnant consequences; we possess the strongest species of evidence of which any historical document whatever, is capable.

* In these Corollaries, be it observed, we respect the wide distinction between his testimony to miracles; in which he speaks as a divine, from whom therefore truth is not to be too rigidly expected; and his testimony as an historian, from whom nothing but truth is to be endured.

13. The learned Basnage* has been at the pains of examining with the most critical accuracy, the curious treatise of Philo, on which our Eusebius builds his argument, that the ancient sect of the Therapeuta were really Christians so many centuries before Christ, and were actually in possession of those very writings which have become our gospels and epistles.

14. Gibbon, with that matchless power of sarcasm, which, in so little said, conveys so much intended, and which carries instruction and conviction to the mind, by making what is said, knock at the door to ask admission for what is not said,† significantly tell us that, "by proving that this treatise of Philo was composed as early as the time of Augustus, Basnage has demonstrated, in spite of Eusebius, and a crowd of modern Catholics, that the Therapeuta were neither Christians nor monks. It still remains probable, (adds the historian,) that they changed their name, preserved their manners, adopted some new articles of faith, and gradually became the fathers of the Egyptian Ascetics."—Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, chap. 15, note.

15. Under the overt sense of this important criticism, the sagacious historian protects his call on our observance of the monstrous absurdity of a modern theologian attempting to demonstrate what primitive Christianity was, in spite of the only authority from which our knowledge of primitive Christianity can be derived, and challenging our surrender to his peculiar view of the subject, in preference to the conclusions of a crowd of modern Catholics, who are certainly as likely to know, and as able to judge, as himself.

16. Nor are we to overlook the palpable inference, that a demonstration that this treatise of Philo was written as early as the time of Augustus; so far from demonstrating the conclusion which the demonstrator aims to establish, demonstrates all the premises and grounds of the very opposite conclusion.

* Basnage, Histoire des Juifs, 1. 2, c. 20, et seq.

+ Could any jibe be keener than his remark on the convenience of the time fixed on by divine providence, for the introduction of Christianity; when the Pagan philosophers, and the Pagans generally, were become quite indifferent to the old forms of idolatry :-"Some deities of a more recent and fashionable cast, might soon have occupied the deserted temples of Jupiter and Apollo, if in the decisive moment, the wisdom of providence had not interposed a genuine revelation."-Chap. 15. How honest must the Pagan priests have been, to have owned that their revelations were not genuine!

17. The apology for this dilemma, so sarcastically suggested by Gibbon, that "it is probable that these Therapeutæ changed their name," conveys the real truth of the matter, in the equally suggested probability, that their name was changed for them. It was not they who embraced Christianity, but Christianity that embraced them.

18. We know that those most admired compositions of Shakspeare and Otway, the "Hamlet" and "Venice Preserved," as now presented to the public, are but little like the first draughts of them, as they fell from the pen of those great authors; yet no one doubts their proper origination, nor thinks of ascribing the merit of them to any other than those authors, though they be re-edited with thousands of various readings, and we are now content to recognise as the best copies, the "Hamlet" according to Malone or Garrick, and the "Venice Preserved" according to Colley Cibber.

19. Considering the remote antiquity in which all evidence on the subject must necessarily be obscured. So positive and distinct an avowal as this, of the very highest authority that could possibly be, or be pretended, that the gospels and epistles of the New Testament, constituted the sacred writings of the ancient sect of the Therapeutæ, before the era which modern Christians have unluckily assigned as that of the birth of Christ; supported as that avowal is, by internal evidence and demonstrations of those scriptures themselves, even in the state in which they have come down to us, and explaining and accounting as that avowal does, for all the circumstances and phænomena that have attended those scriptures, which no other hypothesis can explain or account for, without calling in the desperate madness of supposing the operation of supernatural causes :-we hold ourselves to have presented a demonstration of certainty, than which history hath nothing more certain-that the writings contained in the New Testament, are hereby clearly traced up to the Therapeutan monks before the Augustan age; and that no ancient, or equally ancient work, was ever by more satisfactory evidence, shown to have been the composition of the author to whom it has been ascribed, than that by which the writings of the New Testament are proved to have been the works of those monks.

20. To be sure they have been re-edited from time to time, and all convenient alterations and substitutions made upon them, "to accomodate them to the faith of the

remembrance of me. After the same manner also, he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the New Testament in my blood: this do, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

This passage, indeed, has the appearance of being a direct quotation from the text of Luke's gospel, xxii. verses 19, 20. "And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body, which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup, after supper, saying, This cup is the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you."

If there were no relieving alternative, but that the former of these passages must be acknowledged to be a quotation from the latter, as certainly no work could be quoted before it existed; the arrangement, which it will be seen by Dr. Lardner's table, makes the Epistle to have been written at least six years before the Gospel, is convicted of anachronism; and as far as this evidence is concerned, divines are thrown again upon the stakes of all the difficulties that attend the hypothesis they have been at such pains to evade.

1. But the evidently mystical sense of the words themselves.

2. The distinct declaration of the apostle in this place, that he had received what he delivered from the Lord;

3. And in other places (Gal. i. 11), that "the gospel which he preached was not after man; for he neither received it of man, neither was he taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ;

4. The most striking resemblance and coincidence of these words with the formularies and ritual of the Pagan mysteries of Eleusis;

5. And the admission in the preface of Luke's Gospel, that his work was only a compilation of previously existing documents, and derived in common with the works which many had taken in hand before him to copy from the DIEGESIS,* or original narration preserved in the sacred archives of the church:

These are arguments entirely sufficient to relieve the dilemma, and to leave it rather probable that Luke took

[ocr errors]

*The first verse of St. Luke's Gospel, if Gospel-readers could but see what was under their nose, would prevent their ever more pretending that the Gospels were original compositions. Forasmuch as many had taken in hand to set the DIEGESIS in order," which was the original from which the Apocryphal Gospels were taken, and afterward, the improved versions ascribed to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which obtained final approbation, and so caused not only the previous versions, but the DIEGESIS itself, from which they were all taken, to be laid aside.

his account from the same document which the apostle had previously quoted, or even from the text of the apostle himself.

Thus, no exception from the general rule remains; and we must admit, with all its consequences, the prior existence of these epistolary writings, detailing, as they do, the history of communities of Christians, and fully established churches in Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colosse, and Thessalonica," rooted and grounded in the faith,"-" beloved of God,"-" called of Christ Jesus,”—“ in every thing enriched, in all utterance and all knowledge," coming behind in no good gift," and having, as the apostle, in the case of the Galatian church, emphatically declares, so certainly received the only true and authentic Gospel, that if even the apostle himself, or an angel from heaven, should preach any other gospel than that which they had received, LET HIM BE ACCURSED." Gal. i. 8.-See Syntagma of the Evidences, p. 75.

66

66

6. Here we find the Gospel already so fully established, that there was a sense in which it could be said that it had been preached unto every creature under heaven (Colos. i. 23), before the date assigned to any one of the gospels that have come down to us, before any one of the disciples had suffered martyrdom, before any one of them could have completed his commission. Here we find a spiritual dynasty established, exercising the most tremendous authority ever grasped by man, not merely over the lives and fortunes, minds and persons, but over the supposed eternal destinies of its enslaved and degraded vassals, and confirmed by so strong an influence over all their powers of resistance, that its haughty possessor could bear them witness that they were ready to pluck their eyes out, and give them to him. Here we find churches already perfectly organized" to their power," yea (and the Apostle boasts), beyond their power, contributing to the pomp and splendour of their ministers, and beseeching them, with much entreaty, to take their money from them.* (2 Cor. viii. 4).

7. Here we find the distinct orders of bishops and deacons already reigning in the plenitude of their distinctive authorities; and the bishops, forsooth, the proudest of the proud, already of such long prescription in their seat of power, as often to have abused that power, and to need admonitions" not to be self-willed, not to be given to wine, no strikers,

* And what goes with the story of the Apostles, meeting with such ill success as to have to lay down their lives for their testimony? It is not only not true, but not conceivable to be true; it out-herod's Herod, and outlies the consistency of romance itself.

« PreviousContinue »