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As these are complete proofs of the facts in question, so they are always equally complete. The evidence which they contain admits of no gradations, but is always entire, always the same, and in every supposable case perfectly satisfactory. Nor is there an instance within our experience, nor an instance in the records of history, which has impaired this evidence at all, or rendered it capable of being even remotely suspected.
Were this evidence not entire in every instance, considered by itself, were it capable of being suspected in the smallest degree, we should be obliged when we met, conversed, or bargained with each other, to settle the question whether we were mutually living beings. The farmer would be obliged, before he bought a piece of land of his neighbour, to settle by a formal investigation the question whether he was about to buy it of a real man, or a phantom of the imagination. The judge, when called upon to try a prisoner, would in the same manner be compelled, before he began the trial, to decide, whether he had brought to him for adjudication a living being, or a spectre. The religious assembly would be equally necessitated to examine whether such an assembly was really gathered, and whether a real and living preacher was in the desk, or whether what seemed to be a preacher and a congregation were only the phantasms of a waking dream.
As these proofs are in every instance complete, so they are the only evidence of the fact in question. If then they can deceive us, we are left wholly without a remedy: for we have no other possible inode of coming to the knowledge of the fact.
To the case of the stranger, whom I have supposed, all these proofs have obviously a perfect application. We know as well as we can possibly know, we know beyond any possible doubt, that he is a living man. But we do not and cannot know, that he has never been dead, and afterward raised to life. To prove this, we must be supplied with totally new evidence, derived from totally other sources, than any hitherto supposed to be furnished by him. The evidence, therefore, that he is a living man, is wholly independent of the fact that he has, or has not, been raised from the dead; and is, by itself, absolutely complete. If, then, we should be afterwards informed, with evidence which could not be questioned, that
this stranger had been actually dead, and buried, and had been afterwards raised to life, the evidence which we had before received, that he was a living man, from the time when we first became acquainted with him, could not in the least degree be affected by the fact, that he had before been dead. The story of his death and resurrection we should undoubtedly admit, if we acted rationally, only with extreme slowness and caution, and upon decisive evidence. But no one of us would or could hesitate to believe the man, circumstanced as above, to be alive. Otherwise, it is plain we could not know that any man is alive; for all the proofs which can attend this subject actually attend it in the case supposed. If, therefore, the evidence can be justly doubted in one case, it can with equal propriety be doubted in all.
That the apostles possessed all the means of judging accurately concerning the existence and the nature of these proofs, cannot be denied. They were possessed of the commou sense, and had the usual senses of man. No judges could be better qualified for this purpose. Had Newton, Bacon, or Aristotle been employed in examining these proofs, they must have used exactly the same means of examination which were used by Peter and John. Had they summoned philosophy to their assistance, it could only have told them that it had no concern with cases of this nature.
2. The apostles were unprejudiced judges.
Enthusiasm is a persuasion that certain religious doctrines are true, derived from a peculiar strength of imagination and feeling, relying on internal suggestions supposed to come from God, and not relying on facts or arguments. In the whole history, preaching, and writings of the apostles there is not the least appearance of this character. According to their own accounts of themselves (which in this case we readily believe, because in their view they were accounts of their defects,) they were slow of belief, even to weakness and criminality. For this conduct they were often and justly reproved by their Master; and, as we see in their writings, received bis declarations with difficulty when their evidence was complete. Nor were they finally convinced, even when uninfluenced by this sceptical spirit, except by evidence of the
best kind, to wit, that of facts. These also existed before their eyes and
ears, in the presence of multitudes and onemies, who were equally convinced with themselves. Nor were they witnesses of such facts once, twice, or a few times only ; but beheld them in an uninterrupted succession for several years. Had they not yielded to them in such circumstances, they must have been either idiots, or madmen.
Enthusiasts also appeal to their internal suggestions, as proof which plainly ought, in their view, to satisfy others. The apostles bave never made such an appeal; nor demanded belief on any other considerations, except those which reason in the highest exercise perfectly approves.
Enthusiasts always boast of the leaders whom they professedly follow, The apostles, although following the most extraordinary leader ever seen in the world, have written the history of his life without a single panegyric, and recorded the unparalleled injustice, abuse, and cruelty which he suffered from his enemies, both in his life and death, with only a single direct censure of those enemies, contained in these words, · For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.'
Enthusiasts always boast of their own excellencies, and attainments. The apostles had higher reason for such boasting than ever fell to the lot of men. They set up a new religion, and to the belief and profession of it converted a great part of mankind. They wrought, or were certainly believed to work, miracles of the most stupendous nature, rose to an intluence which kings never possessed, and ruled more human beings than most monarchs have been able to claim as their subjects, To this height of influence they ascended also from the humble employments of fishing, collecting taxes, and making tents. How few of the human race, nay, who beside these very men, would not have become giddy in the ascent from such a lowly condition to such distinguished eminence. Yet Matthew records nothing of himself, except that he was a publican, that he followed Christ, and that he once entertained bim at his table. Mark and Luke do not even mention their own names. John says nothing of himself by way of commendation, unless that he was the disciple, whom Jesus loved,' and this he expresses obscurely, in the most modest manner conceivable.
Indeed, the subject of self-commendation seems never to have entered their thoughts.
There is, I acknowledge, one apparent exception to this remark in the writings of the apostles. I mean St. Paul's commendation of himself to the Corinthian church. This, however, is prefaced with a quotation from the Old Testament as the word of God, in which it is declared, that' pot he who commendeth himself is approved, but he whom the Lord commendeth. He then pronounces boasting to be folly ; and declares himself to be compelled to this folly by the Corinthian church, because some of its members had denied his apostleship ; a denial fraught with the utmost mischief to the Christian cause, and particularly in that city. The things which he recites are calculated in the most perfect manner to establish his character as an apostle, and to refute the unworthy, calumnies which they had uttered against him. At the same time they are accompanied with such proofs of ingenuousness, truth and modesty, as leave irresistibly on the mind a stronger impression of these attributes in St. Paul, than we could have felt, if he had not written this passage. Let it be remembered, that this is the conduct of a person who had converted half the civilized world.
In the mean time the apostles, in the most frank, artless, and faithful manner possible, do that, which enthusiasts never do at all; that is, they record their own mistakes, follies, and faults, and those of very serious magnitude, acknowledged to be such by themselves, and severely censured as such by their Master. No example of this nature can be found in the whole history of enthusiasm, and no other such example in the whole history of man. Enthusiasm is always a proud, vain, boasting spirit, founded in the belief that the enthusiast is the subject of immediate and extraordinary communications from heaven, and, therefore, designated by God as his peculiar favourite ; raised of course above the human level; and irresistibly prompted to publish on every occasion this peculiar testimony of heaven to its pre-eminent worth, and to unfold to the view of all around it a distinction too flattering to be concealed.
Enthusiasts also, in all their preaching and conversation on religious subjects, pour out with eagerness the dictates of passion and imaginatio... and never attempt to avail themselves
of the facts or arguments on which reason delights to rest. Strong pictures, vehement effusions of passion, violent exclamations, loudly vociferated, and imperiously enjoined as objects of implicit faith and obedience, constitute the substance and the sum of their addresses to mankind. They themselves believe because they believe, and know because they know. Their conviction, instead of being, as it ought to be, the result of evidence, is the result of feeling merely. If you at. tempt to persuade them that they are in an error by reasoning, facts, and proofs, they regard you with a mixture of pity and contempt, for weakly opposing your twilight probabilities to their noon-day certainty, and for preposterously labouring to illumine the sun with a taper.
How contrary is all this to the conduct of the apostles ! When a proof of their mission or doctrine was demanded of them, they appealed instantly and invariably to arguments, facts, and miracles. These convinced mankind then, and produce the same conviction now. The lapse of seventeen centuries has detected in them no error, and in no degree enfeebled their strength. Their discourses were then and are now the most rational, noble, and satisfactory discourses on moral and religious subjects ever witnessed by mankind. There is not an instance in them all in which belief is demanded on any other grounds than these, and on these grounds it is always rightfully demanded. But on these grounds it is never demanded by enthusiasts. There is not in the world a stronger contrast to the preaching of enthusiasts, than that of Christ and his apostles.
2. The apostles were unprejudiced judges of this fact, because every thing respecting it contradicted their favourite prejudices.
In common with their countrymen, they expected a conquering, reigning, glorious Messiah, who was to subdue and control all the nations of men. With him, also, they themselves expected to conquer and reign, together with the rest of the Jews, as princes and nobles in the splendid earthly court of this temporal Messiah. No expectation ever flattered the predominant passions of man so powerfully as this. It was the source of almost all their follies and faults, and, in spite of Christ's instructions and their piety, it broke out on every occasion, and clung to them with immoveable ad