by John A. Broadus - 1890
PROFESSOR Huxley, in his "Life of David Hume" and in some recent magazine articles, admits that Hume's once celebrated position in regard to miracles cannot be maintained. Hume held that from the nature of the case, no amount of testimony can establish a miraculous event. Huxley prefers to say that alleged miraculous events require "evidence of a cogency proportionate to their departure from probability." To this, as a general principle, we should all readily agree. The testimony for a miracle must be exceedingly strong and clear. Tell me that a man who died in Washington last week has come to life, and if the matter seemed worthy of attention I should scrutinize the evidence narrowly and patiently, and engage others to do likewise with the most earnest and unwearied effort, before I could think of admitting that the alleged occurrence is real.
But in the case of Christ's miracles this need of immensely strong evidence is in a great degree offset by the fact that the miracles stand in immediate and inseparable connection with his perfect character and his peerless teachings. We have tried on former occasions to attain some conception of the Saviour's personal character, and of his exalted ethical instruction. Now in the records these are inextricably interwoven with his supernatural works. Tear out all the supernatural elements from the gospels, and the remainder will be no history at all, but a mass of shattered and broken matters worse than the ruins of so many noble buildings which the other day I left shapely and useful in the city where I dwell. Jesus himself speaks of his miracles as real. In several instances he promises beforehand, as in regard to Lazarus, and especially in regard to his own resurrection. In other cases he points back to his past miraculous work. Take the gospels as they stand, in all their beauty and simplicity, their pathos and power, and if Jesus of Nazareth did not perform supernatural works, he many times spoke falsely. The very suggestion is painful, even to many who altogether deny the supernatural. But whatever efforts may be made to evade it, the alternative faces us squarely. Either he who spake as never man spake, and in whose character no criticism can discern a fault, who shines as clear and sweet as the very morning star of humanity, either he did perform supernatural works or he spoke falsely. It might be possible that in some cases bystanders should be mistaken; but he himself could not be mistaken. Thus then there is a highly important difference between the common run of alleged miracles, ancient or modern, and the miracles of Jesus Christ. And I am not reasoning in a circle - not proving the person by the miracles and the miracles by the person; but they stand like the opposite parts of an arch, upholding each other, and both together upholding all that rests upon them, even the divinity of Christ's mission, and the truth of all his personal claims.
Moreover, when we survey the supernatural works ascribed in the New Testament to Jesus Christ, we find them to differ very widely as to their intrinsic character from many alleged miracles. They are all beneficent, ministering to human need, relieving human distress. "He went about doing men good." The one or two cases in which his miracles seemed not beneficent are of the very slightest importance and could be easily accounted for. Again, the miraculous healing of diseases on the part of Jesus cannot be explained by the faith of those concerned. He usually required faith in the applicants, and probably a good many persons at the present time have an uneasy feeling that this resembles what is now popularly called faith-cure, and that perhaps it might be explained by the mere natural influence of awakened expectation and confidence. But the Saviour healed in various instances where the sufferer was at a distance, and only the friends making the application had faith. He raised the widow's son at Nain without any request or expectation. He rose himself from the dead when his followers were not at all expecting it. He wrought miracles upon inanimate nature, the winds and the waters, and the food which he multiplied. So we cannot explain the healings by the mere natural effect of faith. Why then, it may be asked, did he so generally condition, his miraculous healings upon faith? The answer seems to be, that he was always wishing to make bodily healing the occasion of spiritual benefit, and for this it was indispensable that they should have faith in him and his teachings. We can also see that his miracles were dignified, and worthy to be associated with a revelation from God. These superhuman events were the sign-manual of the Most High, given to authenticate messages sent forth from the headquarters of the universe. There is an unspeakable difference between alleged miracles sometimes trivial in themselves, and having no connection with divine revelation, and the miracles of Jesus Christ. To confound them as some objectors do, to place them all on the same footing, is to commit a profound and far-reaching error. The Saviour gave no encouragement to those who would value miracles for their own sake. He never wrought a miracle when it was demanded. Rebukhigly he said, "Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe." What he offered them was high spiritual and moral instruction, to be prized on its own merits, and at the same time given by one having a divine mission, one of whom Nicodemus the Sanhedrist said, for himself and others, "We know that thou hast come from God as a teacher, for no man can do these signs which thou doest, except God be with him." He did not wish to be heeded simply because of the supernatural works. Yet he distinctly and repeatedly appealed to these as attestation "The works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me." "But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins - he said to the paralytic, Arise and walk." And so he bade John's messengers carry back word that they found him healing the blind, raising the dead, and preaching good news to the poor. Thus we see that he gave no warrant for over-valuation of the miraculous, nor yet for undervaluing and neglecting it.
But how about the evidence that Jesus of Nazareth really did perform supernatural works? This is a matter upon which great stress is naturally laid by thoughtful inquirers, and which deserves the most earnest consideration.
Attempts are made in various ways to cut the matter short. Some claim that theological writers and all defenders of orthodox Christianity are constrained by hopeless prejudice, or by the necessities of their intellectual or their temporal position, to take the views they hold, and that only skeptical or agnostic writers are unprejudiced seekers after truth. Well, we human beings are all subject to prejudice, all liable to be constrained by the logical limitations of any undertaking whatsoever. They who wish to judge wisely must recognize this as a difficulty attending all human investigation. I do not at all deny that the danger exists for those who advocate the truth of Christianity as a supernatural revelation; but how strange it is for men who oppose Christianity to imagine themselves exempt from this danger. These men are compelled to explain away the Christian evidences, or else they must admit that Christianity is true; and they will feel this admission to be important just in proportion as they are men of earnest soul. For here Christianity is, in the world-often grievously corrupted, to be sure, taken by Constantine and others as a plank in their political platform, often held as the mere maid-servant of government, sometimes honeycombed with errors, encompassed with hypocrisies and yet what a power through all the centuries · how inseparably and influentially associated with the best civilization! Now the Christ of the gospels accounts for Christianity. It rests its strongest claim upon his resurrection. And the evidence of his resurrection is immediately associated with his personal character and his noble teachings. The objectors, just in proportion as they have moral earnestness, are absolutely compelled to invalidate the evidence. They are not at all impartial nor disinterested. It is just as necessary for their intellectual and moral position to assail the evidences of Christianity as for others to maintain them.
"Well then," some one might be tempted to say, " since both sides are liable to be prejudiced and warped in judgment, we cannot hope to reach any satisfactory conclusion on the questions involved." That view of the matter, if consistently carried out, would lead us to doubt everything, since human infirmity may attach, in some way or other, to every exercise of the human faculties. But we cannot doubt everything. Some things must be true. In other directions we do rely on our faculties; why so ready just here to decry them? We must aU earnestly endeavor, whichsoever side we assume with regard to any great question, to escape the dominion of prejudice and to see things as they are. And we must remember that it is the cheapest and most facile, and perhaps the most blinding of all prejudices, to take for granted that other men are prejudiced, and we alone are exempt.
Moreover, everybody knows that a skilful lawyer, who has a case to make out, can of course give some plausibility to his contention, and cast some suspicion upon opposing testimony and argument. One who is very ingenious may temporarily perplex many of his hearers in regard to a sufficiently clear case. Now the methods which some skeptical writers employ in casting a cloud of doubt about the evidences as to the character, teachings and supernatural works of Jesus, could be made just as effective in regard to many of the best known persons and events of history. This has been illustrated many times, notably by Archbishop Whately in his taking brochure, "Historic Doubts Concerning Napoleon Bonaparte." I knew of a University student who read this work, and said with every appearance of sincerity that he very much questioned whether such a man as Napoleon Bonaparte ever lived. An interesting example is also given by Henry Eogers in a chapter of his work entitled "The Eclipse of Faith."
Another short method of ending the question asserts that "nothing is certain but what is demonstrated or demonstrable." Then a man can never be certain that his wife loves him, or that his departed mother did. Then a man cannot be certain as to any historical occurrence, or any current events that lie beyond his own observation, and even our senses are quite as apt to err as our mental faculties. Then a man cannot be certain that anything is right, or any other thing is wrong. Human life rests mainly upon practical certainties, accompanied by other matters of reasonable probability, and not exclusively or chiefly upon things demonstrated or demonstrable.
(* It frequently happens that a young man just grown is rather skeptical about the truth of Christianity, but after some years these doubts have disappeared, without any obvious cause. The explanation is commonly this. When his mind first expanded to comprehend things, and to discriminate sharply, he craved absolute certitude about everything. But entering the various practical relations and pursuits of life, he becomes accustomed to decide important questions of duty and interest upon a mere practical certainty, or even upon fairly probable grounds, and thus he learns by degrees in the school of life a lesson which Butler's "Analogy" has enabled some other young men to anticipate, that in many of our most important affairs "probability is the law of life." What a pity when a young man takes such early questionings as an excuse for falling into habits of immorality, or assumes a position of antagonism to Christianity, or habitually neglects its instructions and influences, so as to become disqualified for profiting by these important lessons of life's experience.)
Another class of objectors end the matter by saying that such miracles are impossible, if not theoretically impossible, yet practically and inevitably incredible. They simply cannot believe in any such interruption as they think a miracle involves in the uniform action of physical forces according to those beautiful fixed laws, about which we have been learning so much and which we ought all not only to admire with delight, but to respect and obey. But if this is a reason for summarily rejecting the possibility of miracles, that it involves such a change in the uniformity of natural action, one thing will certainly follow: The person who thus maintains will be utterly inconsistent if he does not also hold that creation is an impossible conception. If one cannot believe that a superior power has ever caused physical forces to act otherwise than according to the observed uniformity, then how can he believe that these ever went through the unspeakable change of passing out of non-existence into existence ? Say that miracles are essentially incredible, and how can you consistently be a Theist? Surely the Creator of these grand physical forces, who caused them to work according to these beautiful laws, surely he can interpose his higher force to control them into some unwonted action, without violating their essential nature or disturbing the harmony of the universe he created. Some, alas! accept the alternative, and say that they cannot believe in creation or a Creator. And the popular fashion at present is to call themselves Agnostics. They do not care to maintain that there is no God, and no future life for mankind; they simply do not know. Now and then one says this seriously and therefore of necessity sadly, and such persons deserve respect and consideration. But others seem to say it with easy indifference or even with arrogance. They do not know, nor care. Or they do not know, and feel proud of the recognized ignorance, and liken themselves to Socrates. Some people might remember our political Agnostics, the "Know-Nothings" of 35 years ago, and how short a time that " fad" lasted. Mr. Spurgeon remarks that this boasted name Agnostic means the same thing as ignoramus. But it is more common at the present day to impeach the contemporary testimony to the supernatural works of Jesus on the ground that the witnesses were predisposed to believe in miracles. Suppose we state this baldly. If men are willing to believe in miracles, their testimony as to the occurrence of miracles must be rejected; only men who begin by rejecting miracles can be believed on that subject. John Stuart Mill says that the commonest of all fallacies is begging the question. I know of course that the unbelieving critic would wish to state the matter otherwise. He would say, If men strongly incline to believe in miracles their testimony on that subject must be taken with reserve and discount, though they be quite credible on other subjects. Very well, only remember that the witnesses to the Christian miracles have also presented us the character of Christ and his ethical teachings. But on the other hand, if men instantaneously reject a miracle whenever presented to their mind, then their judgment on that question is subject to a like discount. Those who hold that miracles are practically impossible, are they good judges of the testimony to a miracle? Those who follow Matthew Arnold in one of his favorite neat phrases, and oracularly say that "miracles simply do not happen," are they good judges? Those who admit that the question of miracles is a question of evidence, but when asked to consider the evidence for any particular miracle, obviously reject the miracle in advance, and investigate the evidence with a manifest and exclusive view to weaken it, are they good judges?
There are of course various kinds of testimony, and each requires a certain training, that we may with critical care and sound judgment determine its value. The great facts and principles of modern astronomy have had to work their way into general reception through immense opposition, not only from the ignorant masses of mankind, who would not believe what seemed to contradict their senses, but from many cultivated men, whose mental training had been exclusively on other sides, so that most of them could not appreciate the testimony of astronomical experts, and some gravely doubted whether the Integral Calculus was not a mere work of imagination, and Celestial Mechanics a figment of fancy. In like manner, a lack of qualification to appreciate the evidence has caused many to be very slow in accepting the best attested results of geology, or of biology, or of sociology. But the same thing is true of some admirable adepts in, physical observation, some eminent specialists in one department or another of physical science, when called to judge of historical evidence. A long-continued exclusive mental devotion to facts and methods of quite a different kind has made it as difficult for them to estimate rightly the evidence of some great historical event as the classes of persons previously described have found it to judge rightly concerning the results of physical science. The fact is, that knowledge has become so widely developed, and specialized into so many distinct lines of investigation, and each of these pushed into such a multiplication of facts and inquiries, awakening such eagerness of effort to go farther still, as to involve all of us who are earnestly devoted to the pursuit of knowledge in great peril of becoming one-sided in our development, and correspondingly ill-qualified to judge concerning the offered results of investigation in departments quite unlike our own. I am often grieved, aud sometimes angry, to see theologians and preachers undertaking to pass judgment upon any and every question in the exact sciences and appearing to think that their views on these subjects carry the authority which attaches to the religious and moral lessons they draw from revelation. Shall I then think it wise for men who have given their whole lives to matters of physical observation and mathematics, and in those directions have gained deserved reputation, to take it for granted that they are equally qualified to pass judgment off-hand upon questions of general philosophy, or upon the validity of historical testimony? Yet not more ready are some preachers to settle authoritatively in a single sermon the most difficult questions as to evolution, than are some sensation preachers of physical science to settle in a fugitive essay the largest questions of religious history and belief, really seeming to imagine that their views of any and all subjects are entitled to as much respect as men justly pay to the results of their life-long devotion in their own lines of investigation. In this respect we are all in danger of error. And what shall be the remedy for this tendency to growing narrowness of view and one-sidedness of judgment? Just in proportion as knowledge is becoming more specialized it seems increasingly important that a man's early training, what we call in the technical sense his education, should not be exclusively special, but so far as possible general and symmetrical. And then as we push out into our several lines of busy investigation, we should try through life to keep in sight and in hail of all our fellow investigators on whatsoever other lines across the broad and busy fields of inquiry. Mr. Darwin, to whom we are all so much indebted, stated, toward the close of his life, that he had lost all relish for poetry. Was not that a pity and really a blunder? I remember a few years since to have asked in a circle of some twenty cultivated gentlemen, that each would tell who was his favorite poet. Even a dear lover of poetry might be at a loss to make instant reply, but it was amusing to see how some eminent judges and other lawyers, some highlyintelligent and well-read bankers and merchants, would take on a far-away look at the very idea of having any favorite poet at all. Now ought not all of us in our several specialties of investigation or of practical activity to keep at least in general sympathy with all the other great departments of knowledge and reflection and living interest? Even if this should restrict somewhat a man's acquaintance with the actual and possible knowledge pertaining to his specialty, would it not more than compensate by giving a sounder judgment and a healthier mental action, even in regard to his own proper pursuits?
When we turn to examine the evidence that Jesus wrought supernatural works, we find one of these standing out in singular prominence, namely his own resurrection. He is recorded as having repeatedly predicted to his disciples that he would be killed and would rise again after three days. Let us attentively consider, so far as can be done in a short time, the evidence that this predicted resurrection actually occurred. I trust you will bear me witness that throughout these lectures I have tried to avoid extravagance of language and vehemence of assertion, have tried to speak soberly, in words duly weighed. It is to my mind only an apparent departure from this course to make the following statement: If I do not know that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead, then I know nothing in the history of mankind. If the evidence, when fully examined with a calm willingness to be convinced, does not in this case warrant a practical certainty, then there is no adequate evidence of any historical event. Let us rapidly look at the principal testimonies, remembering that such a view must necessarily be quite incomplete.
No person whatever, so far as I know, now questions that the Apostle Paul wrote the Epistles to the Corinthians, the Galatians and the Romans. There is, in fact, equally good reason to believe that he wrote other Epistles, but let that pass for the present. In the latter part of Paul's life we reach firm ground as to the dates, because Roman history tells when Festus succeeded Felix as procurator of Palestine. We thus determine that First Corinthians was written A. D. 57. Now the death of Christ cannot have been earlier than A. D. 30. So the time which had elapsed when Paul wrote this Epistle was at most 27 years, just the time from the battle of Gettysburg to the present day. Take any intelligent man among us, who has reached middle age, and consider how near to him seem the events of that great war, how clear and sure is his recollection of them. Well, in the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians, that wonderful passage which has invested so many Christian funerals with immortal hope and unspeakable consolation, Paul declares that Christ was raised on the third day, that he appeared to Cephas and James, twice to the Twelve, and once to above five hundred brethren at once, the greater part of whom he declares to be still living. Nothing could be more explicitly asserted. And it would have been folly to make the assertion, in the face of so many skeptical and inquisitive Greeks, and so many hostile Jews in constant connection with Palestine, and the height of folly to build upon this asserted resurrection of Christ, his entire argument for a Christian doctrine which some of the Church at Corinth were explicitly denying, if there had been the least doubt that these numerous surviving witnesses existed and could be found. Paul risks his own veracity and all his influence as an Apostle, risks the entire truth of Christianity, upon the one point. "If Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, your faith also is vain." He builds everything upon this great fact. Several times in Second Corinthians also he speaks of the Lord Jesus as raised from the dead; also in Galatians, and again and again in the great Epistle to the Romans, written a few months after those to the Corinthians. Here he again makes the fact of Christ's resurrection the starting point for proofs concerning him and his mission and work, and he declares that to believe that God raised Jesus from the dead is the faith of the gospel, carrying everything with it. In his earlier epistles to the Thessalonians, written as much as five years before Corinthians, he not only speaks of Jesus as raised from the dead, but argues from that fact. "If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with him." The same fact is also asserted in his later epistles, as Colossians, Ephesians, Timothy. And besides formal assertions, he often speaks of it as a matter of course, recognized by all.
Now Paul the Apostle was assuredly no ordinary man. It does not require life-long study such as I have given to his history and writings to perceive that he was a man of powerful intellect, immense force of character, unimpeachable sincerity, and-a matter which will grow upon one when his attention has been turned to it - a man of singular common sense. We know that he was at first utterly opposed to the faith of the Christians, denying, despising, persecuting with all the passionate ardor of his soul, and sincerely believing that in all this he was doing his duty. He had been the foremost student in the leading College at Jerusalem; the highest prizes of attainment, distinction and power that pertained to his country and his calling were easily within the reach of his ardent and ambitious soul. When he turned from all this to join the few thousands of the sect which he had persecuted and seemed likely to crush, and which had nothing worldly to offer, it was assuredly a notable event, one which has profoundly impressed itself upon thoughtful minds through all the ages. Let me tell an old story. In the middle of the last century an Englishman, Lord Lyttelton, and his friend Gilbert West, a brother of the great painter, concerted together, being unbelievers in the Bible as a revelation, that each should select some Bible topic and after thorough study prepare a small treatise upon it, for the purpose of showing the absurdity of the Christian claims. West chose the Resurrection of Christ, and Lyttelton the Conversion of Paul. When they met some time afterwards each expected to surprise and grieve the other by confessing that his researches had led him to believe in Christianity and the Bible, and each published a short treatise on the subject to that effect. West's has been superseded by more vigorous discussions. But Lord Lyttelton's little work, "Observations on the Conversion of St. Paul," is still current. Gruff old Dr. Johnson called it " a treatise to which infidelity has never been able to fabricate a specious answer." Lyttelton has most impressively argued that Paul's conversion cannot be explained as due to imposture or fanaticism; and his conversion occurred only a few years after Christ's departure. This highly intelligent and strongly prejudiced man had every opportunity of knowing the facts, and every inducement to examine them with care, and he became fully convinced that Jesus of Nazareth had risen from the dead, and in that conviction lived and labored, suffered and died. Keim, in his " Jesus of Nazara," a work of great compass and of unsurpassed learning and ability, is sufficiently skeptical and destructive as a critic, for he rejects the fourth gospel, and cuts away from the others whatever he pleases; yet Keim declares, " Paul's help supplies the whole question with its fixed point, its Archimedean fulcrum; and the universal conviction of earliest Christendom acquires the historical basis which gives it certainty and clothes it with flesh and tlood. This universal conviction was of itself able to stand against a doubt of its truth; but in the face of the testimony of Paul, the force of such a doubt is doubly lost." Keim held that historical science is bound within the limits of "material perception and the natural order of the world." With this definition he of course thought that there can be no scientific proof of Christ's resurrection. But he insists that Christian faith in that resurrection "is not only beyond the reach of refutation, since science is compelled to leave the mystery of the final events of Jesus' career unsolved without weakening the foundations of faith by a single comment; but it completes and illumines what to science remained an obscure point and a vexatious limitation of its knowledge." And where is the propriety of thus limiting historical science to the range of material perception, and the sphere of natural order? If any supernatural events have really occurred, they are a part of the facts of history, and can not be omitted from the view of a just historical science. As well justify the Ptolemaic astronomy, which held that the heavens revolve round the earth, and being unable to account for the changing position of certain bright stars, simply called them "wanderers," planets. Thus likewise some produce very symmetrical systems of theology, by omitting inconvenient facts of revelation or of consciousness. In excluding the supernatural from history by his very definition, Keim makes, I think, an arbitrary assumption. But all the more remarkable and significant is the practical conclusion he so strongly announced as to the fact of Christ's resurrection.
Now remember that the testimony of Paul's contemporary letters, accompanied by his remarkable conversion and his noble character and career, though many regard it as in itself ample evidence, by no means stands alone. Peter also speaks of the Saviour's resurrection in his first epistle, speaks of it as a matter of course, recognized by all his readers, just as Paul had often done. And Peter repeatedly makes strong statements to the same effect in his speeches recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. This book of Acts was forty years ago vehemently assailed by Baur, and the once famous Tubingen school which he founded, for whom it was necessary to throw the book overboard because forsooth it conflicted with their theory. Baur held that the conflict between Paul and certain Jewish Christians, who insisted that all Gentile converts ought to be circumcised and live as Jews, and who claimed Peter and James as their leaders and declared Paul to be no apostle, was really a conflict between the apostles themselves; that Paul and his followers on the one hand, and Peter and James with their followers on the other hand, were bitterly hostile. Baur thought he could find proof of this in the second chapter of Galatians especially, and also to some extent in Romans and in First and Second Corinthians. He could not discern any semblance of such proof in the other epistles of Paul, and it waa for this reason, and so far as I can see for this reason alone, that he declared Corinthians, Gralatians and Romans to be the only genuine epistles of Paul. This statement or expression was taken up by second-hand organs of skeptical opinion, and has continued fashionable to the present time. We are perfectly at liberty to show that these four epistles which all acknowledge to be genuine contain ample proof of the resurrection of Christ, and also contain all the leading facts as to his person and work, and the leading doctrines of the Christian system. But there is positively no reason, apart from Baur's theory, for refusing to recognize Thessalonians and Philippians, which so closely resemble the four above-mentioned. Nor is there any good reason for rejecting Colossians and Ephesians, or Titus and Timothy. For, while these differ from the earlier groups in their leading topics, they are simply the topics suggested by the rise of new errors to be combated. And while the style of these later groups of epistles is unlike that of the earlier, it is only such a change of style as will always be observable in a firstrate writer when his subjects change-a fact which Bishop Westcott once happily expressed in a private letter by borrowing a phrase from the higher mathematics and saying that "style is a function of the subject as well as of the author." Holding then that Paul was really at enmity with Peter and James, as supposed to be shown by Gralatians, and finding that the book of Acts represents these apostles as repeatedly consulting together and entirely harmonious, Baur coolly declared that the book of Acts was spurious; that it was written at a later period when the Paul party had triumphed, for the purpose of concealing the original conflict. But all this Tubingen theory, which once attracted immense attention and threatened to darken the whole heavens, has blown away, leaving scarce a rack behind. Bishop Lightfoot, Dr. Fisher of Yale and others, as well as many in Germany, conclusively showed that the second chapter of Gralatians not only fails to confirm the theory, but actually disproves it. There is to-day no historical ground to maintain that Paul was arrayed against the other apostles; no reason to question the account given in the book of Acts, that while some Judaizers claiming Peter and James as their leaders, were hostile to Paul, there was no hostility nor disagreement between the apostles themselves. And if any still assert the contrary, they belong to that class of English and American writers who set forth as surprising novelties, or as the best results of recent inquiry, Grerman theories long ago dead and buried in their native land. Whether some popular and very noisy theories now prevalent as to the Old Testament will in like manner pass away, is not for me to predict. But we hear scarcely anything now against the authenticity of the book of Acts, much of it so evidently the work of an eye-witness, and all giving proof of careful research and remarkable accuracy. Its accuracy at various points has been curiously confirmed by recent excavations in Cyprus and Ephesus, and by researches concerning the account of Paul's voyage and shipwreck. Renan, who is surely skeptical enough for ordinary demands, has stated that there is little or no reason to question that the third gospel and the book of Acts, which are evidently from the same hand, are the works of Luke, a companion of the Apostle Paul.
Now this book of Acts, as already said, abounds in passing references as well as express assertions concerning the resurrection of Christ. And Part I. of the same work on the Beginnings of Christianity, or what we call the Gospel according to Luke, gives details of that wonderful event, and touchingly narrates appearances of the risen Lord to some of his followers.
This reminds us that each of the four gospels not only states but describes with more or less detail, the Saviour's resurrection, and some of his subsequent appearances. It is a strange thing to find some objectors still repeating that these four accounts are contradictory in their details, and therefore not trustworthy. One charitably supposes that they must be merely repeating without personal investigation what used to be said when the socalled "discrepancies" of the gospels were the stock in trade of certain critical assailants. Over and over again it has been shown, and I think conclusively shown, that here and elsewhere the difference in details of the parallel narratives in the gospels must really strengthen their credibility. Persons who have often attended upon trials in court, to say nothing of these who have studied legal treatises on evidence, are well aware that when several witnesses in narrating a series of events agree as to the main facts, their united testimony is only strengthened and confirmed by disagreement in minor details, even if occasionally we do not quite see how some slight point of disagreement is to be explained. If they coincided in every minute particular, we should know the witnesses had put their heads together, and should not believe them at all. The application of this to the gospels has for a good many years been so well recognized by most of those who really examine the matter, that we find the allegation of contradiction in the gospel narratives now rarely made except by secondhand writers, who borrow from older works. I have sometimes half imagined that the change in Germany of late years is partly due to the introduction, after 1848, of trial by jury. I wonder whether those magnificent devotees to study who lead the world in scholarly attainment, have per haps mixed enough with the active world, or looked in enough upon the courts of justice, to get some inkling of the laws of evidence in respect to this matter. However that may be, the change is doubtless mainly due to the usual oscillations of speculation and inquiry. Instead of now troubling themselves with points of disagreement in the gospels, many German critics, and some in other countries, are greatly exercised to account for the agreement. Various theories have been proposed to explain the fact that considerable portions of Matthew, Mark and Luke contain not only the same substantial matter, but often quite similar phraseology. Thus some hold that Matthew and Luke drew from Mark; others that Mark and Luke drew from Matthew; yet others that all three drew from some pre-existing document or documents which soon perished. A view which I should prefer, if compelled to choose, is that the apostles in their oral teaching gradually fell into a certain cycle of selected sayings and actions of their Master; and that we can thus account for the agreement at many points. Many of us, however, have really no theory to offer as to the agreement of the three gospels, and are patiently waiting to see if any valuable results will come from the tossing to and fro of ingenious speculations and elaborate inquiries.
But what proof have we that the gospels are of apostolic origin? For any thorough examination of this question, most persons have to rely on those who make it a specialty. We need not be surprised at such a necessity. We have to rely on lawyers as to the titles to our property, on physicians to determine our diseases and prescribe remedies, and on druggists to prepare the medicine. Any one of these may err and ruin us, but we have to make the best selection in our power, and take the consequences. Why wonder that a similar situation exists as to determining the external proof for the canon of Scripture? As regards the internal evidences, every thoughtful reader can largely judge for himself. And if only men would thoughtfully read the gospels, coming near in historical imagination to the person they exhibit, and listening with simple candor to his words of wisdom and love, many who are skeptical now would feel all that is best in them drawn toward him in living sympathy and devotion. The Scriptures in general, and the four gospels in particular, carry credentials of their own on every page.
In respect then to the external evidence, I shall say but little. Yet it may be mentioned that interesting progress has been made within a few years. The Tubingen school used to maintain that the fourth gospel was not written till after the middle of the second century. Their really able and learned efforts to maintain this theory have led to thoroughgoing investigation, and the date of this gospel's historically ascertained existence has been pushed back farther and farther, until one of the representatives of the school admitted that it existed as early as A. D. 120, which is only some twenty-five years later than the ordinarily assigned date of its composition. The late Professor Ezra Abbot of Harvard, probably the foremost American scholar in this particular department, undertook some years ago to investigate the origin of the fourth gospel, with a pre-disposition (as he afterward avowed) to regard it as decidedly post-apostolic. Going into the matter with his usual thoroughness and patience, he reached the opposite conclusion, and published an elaborate essay to prove that the fourth gospel was written by the Apostle John. This work, along with various discussions in Germany and England, must in my judgment be regarded as practically settling that question. The Tubingen school has broken down here as completely as with reference to the book of Acts; and as often occurs in every department of human inquiry, patient examination has at length overtaken and overcome the most fleet footed and shrill-voiced hypothesis.
We have long known from ample historical evidence that our four gospels were unhesitatingly received in every section of the Christian world in the latter part of the second century. This is fully shown by the statements of Irenseus, Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian, by the use of the four gospels in the two Egyptian versions, in the Old Latin version or versions, and in the Old Syriac version, which was discovered some thirty years ago. Quite recently we have regained the long-lost Diatessaron of Tatian, the earliest known Harmony of the gospels, prepared soon after the middle of the second century; and it makes at once manifest the fact that Tatian's four gospels were ours. Important light has also been thrown upon the numerous citations from the gospels in the works of Justin Martyr, now believed by many to have been written earlier than A. D. 150. Justin's quotations, though evidently the same in substance with passages in our gospels, differ widely in the expressions employed and often confound or mingle similar passages; and sometimes he adds curious statements of things said or done which must have been traditional. Accordingly some objectors have earnestly contended that his gospels must have been different from ours, though they have found it hard to account for the sudden disappearance of every vestige of these supposed earlier writings. Now it has long been observed, as is shown in Dr. Gildersleeve's excellent edition of Justin's Apologies, that he quotes with great looseness from the Septuagint also, and greatly alters the phraseology of favorite passages in Plato and Xenophon which must have been thoroughly familiar to the philosophic emperors he addressed. We see that his memory was quite inaccurate as to details, though he scarcely ever misrepresents the substance. Even in our day of convenient printed editions and concordances, inexact quotation of Scripture is quite frequent. But still, Justin's additional statements drawn from tradition were not accounted for. Now the epoch-making labors of Westcott and Hort concerning the Greek text of the New Testament have shown that Justin habitually used what is technically called the "Western" type of text, which was very corrupt and had various additions from tradition, and was widely diffused before the middle of the second century; and existing documents of that "Western" text present in one case or another the very additions which Justin gives. So there is no longer any particle of reason to think that he had different gospels; he simply used our gospels in the "Western" text. If one is startled at the idea that a very corrupt text of the gospels was used in many quarters before the middle of the second century, a little reflection will show in this fact a clear and strong proof that the gospels had been long in existence and widely received - an argument which Tischendorf already wrought out in his little work on the "Origin of the Gospels.''
The historical existence of the gospels of Matthew and Mark is pushed still further back by wellknown statements of Papias, written about A. D. 130 to 140; and the gospel of Matthew is quoted as Scripture in the so-called Epistle of Barnabas, which must have been written very early in the century. The recently discovered and already famous little treatise entitled "Teaching of the Apostles," upon which Professor Rendel Harris and many others have labored, certainly belongs to the second century, and is by most writers referred to the beginning of the century; and it contains numerous quotations from Matthew and Luke. There are also gospel quotations in the Epistles of Ignatius, and in the Epistle of Clement of Rome, which was written before the end of the first century, the earliest extant Christian writing after the New Testament.
On the historical evidence thus briefly stated I may remark two things. We find references to the gospels wherever we could possibly expect to find them, considering the paucity of early Christian literature, and the character and design of the extant writings. The other remark is, that the Christians of the first centuries had much more copious information than they have transmitted to us, and however uncritical they may seem to us in some respects, were extremely solicitous about the ascertainment and recognition of apostolic writings.
Now let us return to the resurrection of Jesus. Besides the great and varied testimony of Paul, which many careful enquirers have regarded as in itself amply sufficient, besides the testimony of Peter in his epistles and the numerous and implied statements in the book of Acts, we have the four gospels, giving their four independent narratives, with multiplied details, of the resurrection of Christ. Even if Matthew, Mark, and Luke be supposed to have drawn some statements from a pre-existing document, or from a common cycle of oral instruction, they separately adopt these statements and thus separately endorse them. I wish there was time to dwell on the beautifully diversified and yet not really conflicting details with which the four gospels describe the Lord's resurrection; and on the varied, suggestive, and deeply impressive appearances after the resurrection which one or another of them records. I should like to present, as I have tried to do elsewhere in print, some obvious considerations, which go to account for his appearing to believers only, as for example that any public appearance would have stirred the Jewish multitude into fanatical frenzy, and with their notions concerning the Messiah, into mad revolution, and would likely enough have aroused the Jewish rulers into some scheme of putting him to death again, as they had muttered a purpose of doing with Lazarus.
Those who are determined not to accept the various and multiplied evidence of the Saviour's resurrection must of course suggest some explanation of the unquestionable belief in it among the first Christians. Nobody now calls the story an imposture; all that passed away with such writers as Tom Paine. Some imagine that the Saviour had not really died. But remember Pilate's special inquiry and the official examination, remember the soldier's spear, upon which special stress is laid by the apostolic eye-witness who wrote the fourth gospel, remember the Saviour's personal veracity in predicting that he would die and in saying afterwards that he had died and risen again, remember the agreement with prophecies, which were not understood by the apostles in advance, but became clear afterwards. Some say that certain followers of Jesus saw mere visions of him and pursuaded the rest that these were real appearances. Renan actually imagines that the whole belief came from Mary Magdalene, whom he calls "a hallucinated woman" and who led the apostles and above five hundred persons, and finally all Christians, to believe that the Saviour had appeared to her alive. Yet in the records the apostles and others seem to us passing slow to believe, almost rudely repelling the first testimonies of the women, and convinced only when Jesus appeared in the midst of their circle, inviting examination of his person, and giving irrefragable proof that here was no vision, but a body with flesh and bones, and bearing the marks of crucifixion. As was long ago said, "they doubted, that we might not doubt." And if others are imagined to have presently shared the visions and thought them actual appearances, why were these visions so few, so brief and orderly and sober, and why did they so early cease? How can those who have given us the character and teachings of Jesus, before which all the world stands in admiration, and who were so despairing and slow of belief, have been convinced by mere dreams? The Apostle Paul says he had several visions, giving him divine direction and encouragement at turningpoints of his ministry, but he expressly distinguishes from these the appearance which occasioned his conversion, saying that it occurred at midday, while he was journeying, and that Jesus spoke to him out of heaven, and that he saw Jesus Christ the Lord. " Oh but it was all so long ago." Yet we must remember that their testimony was recorded, and was confirmed by a new and permanent religious organization, and by new and significant symbols of ceremony, which have come down all the centuries parallel with the records. "But how do we know that the supernatural elements of the gospels were not added by other writers in the generation immediately following the apostolic age, from which we have so little historical information?" I answer, What reason is there for thinking that they were so added? The writings have unity, of character and aim, and of style and tone. Nobody would dream of cutting out large portions of such writings, without the slightest external ground, except persons who were determined beforehand to reject at all hazards whatever savors of the supernatural. And what is this but simply and flagrantly begging the question? There is a homely story of a Scotchman who said, " I am open to conviction, but I'd like to see the mon that could convince me." Now I do not apply this to every one who questions, or hesitates to accept, the reality of our Lord's resurrection-by no means; but only to those who without the slightest external warrant or internal opening would pluck out and relegate to a later period the supernatural elements of the gospels, and then coolly say that the genuine records of Jesus contain nothing supernatural.
It has not been possible in so brief a compass to give any adequate statement of the evidences which to my mind so conclusively show that the Founder of Christianity did actually rise from the dead, as all his first followers believed, including those who wrote the wonderful books we call the New Testament, as they attested by all manner of sacrifice and heroism, and many of them by martyr deaths. The proofs are eminently cumulative in their character, and in many cases depend greatly on appreciation of the details. But I am fully persuaded that whoever will read over the references to this subject in the Acts and Epistles, and the descriptions given in the four gospels, and will consider all the circumstances, and reflect upon the power which a belief in the Lord's resurrection gave to Christianity, whoever will examine the whole matter with the evidence that is open to us all, and with ordinary human willingness to be convinced, must be very profoundly impressed by the multiplied evidence; and I see not how such a one can fail to accept that sublime fact which from the outset formed the central pillar of the Christian evidences."
When once this great supernatural work of Jesus is accepted, there is little need to argue as to the intrinsic probability or attendant circumstances of his other miracles."- If he rose from the dead, according to his own prediction, this authenticates all his teachings and all his claims. Then indeed, as Paul wrote to the Romans, he "was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and was declared to be the Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead." For this resurrection set the seal of divine approval upon all that he claimed, and he claimed to be the Son of God. If he rose from the dead, then his teachings, which profess to be a revelation from God, are to be so received, with all confidence and all submission. Revelation itself, however given, is necessarily supernatural; and other supernatural works accompanying a revelation may well seem to us altogether in place, acting as external credentials in harmony with its own internal claims and adaptations. If Jesus Christ rose from the dead, then his immediate followers, to whom he promised the special mission of the divine Spirit, to bring all things to their remembrance which they had heard from him, and to guide them into all the truth, are themselves also authoritative instructors concerning him and in his name. If" he rose from the dead, then we need have no difficulty in accepting whatever is clearly and surely taught in the accompanying revelation concerning his Incarnation, his Atonement, and the work of Regeneration by the Spirit whom he sent as his successor. Then also Jesus Christ authenticates for us the Old Testament. For he and his apostles have repeatedly declared the Scriptures to be from God, and to be of indestructible authority. But we know from ample Jewish and Christian evidence, that what his hearers would inevitably understand by the term Scriptures, and what he therefore must have meant, would be exactly the books which we call the Old Testament. And behold, what new views we gain as to the meaning of that wonderful collection of ancient and varied writings, the Old Testament, when it is seen how all their teachings converge toward him, and become one great History of Redemption.
But still, I can imagine some one saying, it is so hard to bring that first Christianity near to ourselves. It shines like a star, but it seems so distant. Christianity has indeed been by many sadly corrupted, grievously abused. But consider, every gift of genius is abused by many, every form of government has been corrupted, every dearest relation of life that ought to make us blessed may be so misused as to render us miserable. And think how much good Christianity has done, and how much more good it assuredly would do, if we who call ourselves Christians would live more faithfully according to its requirements and in the inspiration of its motives and hopes, and would more zealously carry out the departing Saviour's commission, and preach repentance and remission of sins unto all nations.
Let us remember too that believing in Jesus Christ and his religion is not like believing in some mathematical formula, or some metaphysical conclusion, or some ascertainment of general history. If Christianity be true, it is gloriously true - yea, and tremendously true. Remember furthermore; Christianity is not only a system of ethics, or a system of doctrines, it is embodied in a person. Egotism is often ridiculous; but take one step upward, and behold it is a sublime egotism when Jesus Christ says, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one cometh unto the Father but through me." Through him, then, let us draw near, on him let us personally rely. It may be that differences of doctrinal conception are at present unavoidable, but why shall we not all trust and lovingly obey the personal Saviour? Nor must we forget that to hold aloof from Christianity is not simply rejecting some creed, or system of opinion, it is rejecting Jesus Christ himself, the Son of God, the Saviour of men. Cannot each one of us say at least so much as this, "Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief?" Behold, he who one day said that to Jesus was heard and blessed.