Page images
PDF
EPUB

orthodox."* Some entire scenes of the drama have been rejected, and some suggested emendations of early critics have been adopted into the text; the names of Pontius Pilate, Herod, Archelaus, Caiaphas, &c. picked out of Josephus's and other histories, have been substituted in the place of the original dramatis persona: and since it has been found expedient to conceal the plagiarism, to pretend a later date, and a wholly different origination, texts have been introduced, directly impugning the known sentiments and opinions of the original authors: by an exquisite shuffle of ecclesiastical management, what was really the origination of Christianity, has been represented as a corruption of it. The epocha and reign of monkish influence and monkish principles, has been wilfully misdated; those who are known, and demonstrated by the clearest evidence of independent history, to have existed for ages before the Christian era, are represented to have sprung up, in the second, third, or fourth century of that era; and in spite of the still remaining awkwardness and hideousness of the dilemma, that so pure and holy a religion, should come so soon to have been so universally misunderstood; the monks who originated, are branded as the monks who corrupted; the makers for the marrers: and it has remained for Protestant illumination, after sixteen hundred years of dark ages, to discover evidence that escaped the observance of the very authorities from which it is derived, and to show us divine inspiration, and more than human means for the exaltation and improvement of the human character, in the hands of monks and solitaries, eremites and friars.

21. We have here the clearest and most complete solution of the difficulty that seems to have so much perplexed the faith of the Unitarian Christian, Evanson, in his Dissonance of the Four Gospels ; namely-that though

* See Manifesto of the Christian Evidence Society.

+ This very ingenious and interesting work, as published by one who was a preacher in the Unitarian connection, and who professes himself to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, is another, added to the many instances we meet with, of the correct and even powerful acting of the mind, in most able criticism, in deep research, and shrewd discernment, while yet labouring under an insanity, with respect to some particular modifications of thought, so egregious as to betray itself even to the observance of a child. Mr. Evanson rejected the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John, and very many parts of St. Luke; he rejected the Epistles to the Romans, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to Titus, and the Hebrews, the two Epistles of Peter, the three of John, and the Revelations; each of which he convicts of evident interpolation, and strong marks of forgery; yet, he believed in the resurrection of Christ, and in all the obvious and simple, but important truths, of the new covenant of the gospel."-Page 289, (the last.)

[ocr errors]

they are to be received as the composition of Jews, cotemporaries, and even witnesses of the scenes and actions they describe; those compositions do nevertheless betray so great a degree of ignorance of the geography, statistics, and circumstances of Judea at the time supposed, as to put it beyond all question, that the writers were neither witnesses nor cotemporaries-neither Jews, nor at any time inhabitants of Judea. This, the learned Dr. Bretschneider* has demonstrated with respect to St. John in particular, most convincingly, in his admirable work, modestly entitled, Probabilia de Evangelii Johannis indole et origine; in which he points out such mistakes and errors of the geography, chronology, history, and statistics of Judea, as no person who had ever resided in that country, or had been by birth a Jew, could possibly have committed.

22. The Therapeutæ, we see, though not Jews, nor inhabitants of Palestine, were, says Eusebius, "it is likely, descended from Hebrews, and therefore were wont to observe very many of the customs of the ancients, after a more Jewish fashion." Now, as those customs of the ancients could have been none other than ancient Pagan customs, their hereditary respect for every thing Jewish, accounts for their observing those ancient customs "after a more Jewish fashion," and for the Jewish complexion which the ancient Oriental or Grecian mythology would be made to wear, after passing through their hands.

23. This account of the matter is the more confirmed, from the entirely incidental and undesigned character of the admission, as it appears in Eusebius, who lets it fall, without the least observance of the argument with which it teems, and without any intention of subserving the uses that that argument will supply; and still further, by the known character of the Jews themselves, who have introduced the stories of the Pagan heroes, disguised in a Jewish garb, into their Old Testament, turning Ipthigenia into Jeptha's daughter, Hercules into Sampson, Deucalion into Noah, and Arion on the dolphin's back, into Jonah in the whale's belly; &c. &c.

24. "The extensive commerce of Alexandria, (says

Bretschneider's work has been answered, but very ridiculously, by the learned professor STEIN, of Brandenburgh, in a work entitled, Authentia Evangelii Johannis Vindicata, in which Stein throws himself on the unanswerable argument, of having felt that gospel so particularly comfortable to his soul; as a proof of its genuineness.

G

Gibbon,) and its proximity to Palestine, gave an easy entrance to the new religion. It was, at first,* embraced by great numbers of the Therapeutæ, or Essenians, of the lake Mareotis, a Jewish sect which had abated much of its reverence for the Mosaic ceremonies. The austere life of the Essenians, their feasts and excommunications, the community of goods, their love of celibacy, their zeal for martyrdom, and the warmth, though not the purity of their faith, ALREADY offered a very lively image of the primitive discipline. It was in the school of Alexandria, that the Christian theology appears to have assumed a regular and scientifical form; and when Hadrian visited Egypt, he found a church composed of Jews and Greeks, sufficiently important to attract the notice of that inquisitive prince."-Gibbon, chap. 15.

The progress of Christianity was for a long time confined within the limits of this single city (of Alexandria); and so slow was the progress of this religion, that notwithstanding the rhetorical flourishes and hyperbolical exaggerations of the Fathers, "we are possessed of an authentic record, which attests the state of religion in the first and most populous city of the then known world. In Rome-about the middle of the third century, and after a peace of thirty-eight years; the clergy consisted but of one bishop, forty-six presbyters, fourteen deacons, forty-two acolythes, and fifty readers, exorcists and porters. We may venture, (concludes the great historian) to estimate the Christians at Rome, at about fifty thousand, when the total number of inhabitants cannot be taken at less than a million; and of the whole Roman Empire, the most favourable calculation that can be deduced from the examples of Antioch and of Rome, will not permit us to imagine that more than a twentieth part of the subjects of the Empire had enlisted themselves under the banner of the cross, before the important conversion of the Emperor Constantine."--Ibid.

25. It should never be forgotten, that miraculously rapid as we are sometimes told the propagation of the gospel was, it was first preached in England by Austin, the monk, under commission from Pope Gregory, towards the end of the seventh century. So that the good news of salvation, in travelling from the supposed scene of action

* Yes, at first! at first! Before the disciples were called Christians at Antioch-before the name of Jesus of Nazareth had been heard of at Jerusalem.

to this favoured country, may be calculated as having posted at the rate of almost an inch in a fortnight.

26. This however, when compared with the rate at which the evidence of any beneficial effects of the religion upon the morals of its professors hath advanced, may be admitted to be surprising velocity; for certain it is, that not the most distant hearsay of such effects, had reached the Court of King's Bench, Westminster, so late as the 7th of February, 1827.

27. Here then have we, in the cities of Egypt, and in the deserts of Thebais, the whole already established system of ecclesiastical polity, its hierarchy of bishops, its subordinate clergy, the selfsame sacred scriptures, the selfsame allegorical method of interpreting those scriptures, so convenient to admit of the evasion or amendment from time to time, of any defects that criticism might discover in them; the same doctrines, rites, ceremonies, festivals, discipline, psalms, repeated in alternate verses by the minister and the congregation, epistles and gospels-in a word, the every-thing, and every iota of Christianity, previously existing from time immemorial, and certainly known to have been in existence, and as such, recorded and detailed by an historian of unquestioned veracity, living and writing at least fifty years before the earliest date that Christian historians have assigned to any Christian document whatever.

28. Here we see through the thin veil that would hide the truth from our eyes, in the admissions that Christians have been constrained to make, that the Therapeuta were certainly the first converts to the faith of Christ; and that the many circumstances of doctrine and discipline, that they had in common with the Christians, had previously prepared and predisposed them to receive the gospel. We find that the faith of Christ actually originated with them, that they were in previous possession, and that those who, by a chronological error, or wilful misrepresentation, are called the first Christians, were not the converters of the Therapeutæ, but were themselves their

converts.

29. This accounts for a phenomenon that every where meets us, and which were otherwise utterly unaccountable; that the religion of one who had expressly admonished his disciples, that his kingdom was not of this world, and which purports to have been first preached by unambitious and illiterate fishermen, should in the very

first and earliest documents of it that can be produced, present us with all the full ripe arrogance of an already established hierarchy; bishops disputing for their prerogatives, and throne-enseated prelates demanding and receiving more than the honours of temporal sovereignty, from their cringing vassals, and denouncing worse than inflictions of temporal punishment against the heretics who should presume to resist their decrees, or dispute their authority.

30. We find the episcopal form of government, even before the end of the first century, fully established; and if not the very Galilean fishermen themselves, at least those who are called the apostolic fathers, and who are supposed to have received their authority and doctrine immediately from them, established in all the pride, pomp, and magnificence of sovereign pontiffs, and lords of the lives and fortunes,* as well as of the faith of their flocks; and every where inculcating, as the first axiom of all morality and virtue, that there was no sin so great, as that of resistance to the authority of a bishop.

31. "Since the time of Tertullian and Irenæus, it has been a fact, as well as a maxim, Nulla ecclesia sine episcopo -no church without a bishop."-Gibbon.

32. We find Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, even while the Apostles, or John, at least, is supposed to have been living, venturing to stake his soul for theirs, and himself the expiatory offering, for those who should duly obey their bishop; and,

33. Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria the very seat and centre of the Therapeutan doctrine, in his epistles to Novatius, maintains that schismatics, or those who should venture to follow any opinions unsanctioned by the bishop, were "renegadoes, apostates, malignants, parricides, anti-christs, blasphemers, the devil's priests, villainous, and perfidious, were without hope, had no right to the promises, could not be saved, were, no more Christians than the devil, could not go to heaven, the hottest part of hell their portion, their preaching poisonous, their baptism pestiferous, their persons accursed, &c.

* St. Peter put Ananias and Sapphira to death, for not giving him all the money he wanted.-Acts v. St. Paul ordered the Corinthian "to be delivered to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, for having overlooked the rules of the Therapeutan college, in a love affair."-1 Corinth. v. The power of the church could never have been more fully established than when such outrageous injustice was above all responsibility.

« PreviousContinue »