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Clem. Alex. Strom, lib. ii p. 365. 




Philadelphia : 
Printed by James Kay, Jun. & Co- 
Race above 4th Street, 



bishop of st david's, 

the subject of which was proposed by himself, 
and to which the premium was adjudged by 







The theological system of a Christian is, that God, who, at 
sundry limes and in divers manners, spake in time past unto 
the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto 
us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, and 
by whom also he made the worlds : who, being the brightness 
of his glory, and the express image of his person and uphold- 
ing all things by the word of his power, when he had by 
himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the 
majesty on high,* 

The theological system of the infidel is, that all religions, 
claiming to be revelations from heaven, are alike impostures 
upon the blind credulity of mankind; that the only religion, 
worthy of a philosophical deist, is uninspired natural religion $ 
and that, as human reason alone is amply sufficient to guide us 
into all needful truth, a divine communication is no less unne- 
cessary in the abstract, than all pretensions to such communi- 
cation are false in the concrete. 

If we ask the specific ground, on which the latter system is 

* Heb. i. 1—3. 


preferred to the former ; we are told, that the religion of the 
Bible is hampered by too many difficulties to be rationally cred- 
ible : and these difficulties are forthwith produced and expa- 
tiated upon with no small degree of triumphant satisfaction. 

But here a question naturally rises, whether the deistical 
scheme itself, in all its component parts, be free from difficul- 
ties and objections : for that which is preferred to Christianity, 
on the express score of the difficulties attendant upon revealed 
religion, ought certainly in reason to be as free as possible from 
all liability to the unpleasantness of a direct and well-founded 

In the following discussion, the question now before us is 
answered in the negative. Its purpose is to show, not only 
that Infidelity has its own proper difficulties as well as Chris- 
tianity, but that those difficulties are incomparably greater and 
more formidable : for, while the alleged difficulties attendant 
upon Christianity have repeatedly met with an adequate solu- 
tion, though deistical writers are accustomed confidently to 
urge and re-urge them, without taking the slightest notice of 
the answers which have been so often afforded ; the difficul- 
ties attendant upon Infidelity are of such a nature, that they 
never can be solved to the satisfaction of an unbiassed and 
rational inquirer. Hence results the plain and self-evident 
conclusion, that, since Infidelity is encumbered by more and 
greater difficulties than Christianity, to adopt the infidel system 
evinces more credulity than to adopt the Christian system. 

The principle, in fine, of the argument, which has been pro- 
secuted throughout the ensuing pages, is the reductio ad ah- 
surdum. By a specification of the immense and insuperable 
difficulties which on all sides beset his system, the deistical 


infidel, even on ground of his own selection, is convicted of 
gross irrationality. 

August 6, 1823. 

It will be proper to state, that this work was written as a 
competitory Treatise on the proposition, That there is more 
credulity in the disbelief of Christianity, than in the belief of 
it : a proposition, which was adopted by the Church Union 
Society in the Diocese of St David's, as the subject of their 
Essay for the year 1823. 

January 20th, 1824. 



The difficulties attendant upon deistical Infidelity in regard to its possible 
grounds and reasons, p. 17. 

It is useful not to suffer Infidelity to be always the assailant of revealed 
religion, but occasionally to carry the war into the country of the 
enemy himself. By such a process it will be found, that to reject 
revelation evinces more credulity than to retain it: because the diffi- 
culties attendant upon unbelief are greater than the difficulties atten- 
dant upon belief, p. 17. 
I. A statement of the possible grounds and reasons of Infidelity, p 18. 

1. A discussion of the first possible ground, that a revelation from hea- 

ven cannot, in the very nature of things, take place, p. 19. 

2. A discussion of the second possible ground, that a revelation from 

heaven is in itself so improbable an occurrence that it beggars all 
credibility, p. 19. 

3. A discussion of the third possible ground, that the evidences, upon 

which our reception of a system claiming to be a divine revelation 
is demanded, are so unsatisfactory, that they are insufficient to 
command our reasonable assent, p. 21. 

4. A discussion of the fourth possible ground, that numerous objections 

exist in the case of each system claiming to be a divine revelation ; 
which objections cannot be answered, p. 22. 

5. A discussion of the fifth possible ground, that, as various theolo- 

gical systems have alike claimed to be revelations from heaven, 
the presumption is, that all these systems are equally impostures, 
p. 24. 

6. A discussion of the sixth possible ground, that our unassisted rea- 

son is sufficient, and therefore that a revelation is unnecessary, p, 


II. A summary of the grounds of a Christian's belief, p. 2& 

III. A summary of the grounds of an infidel's unbelief, p. 29. 

IV. Conclusion, p. 30. 


The difficulties attendant upon deistical Infidelity, in the abstract rejection 
of all revelation from God. p. 31. 

Deism presents so many difficulties, that, unless they can be satisfacto- 
rily removed, the presumption will be, that a revelation from God 
to man has actually been made. p. 31. 
I, Though the deist may be able to prove from the frame of the world, 
that it must have been created, he is unable to prove that it 
was created by one only God. p. 31. 
II. If it be allowed to him for the sake of argument, that there is one 
only God, he is unable to demonstrate the moral attributes of that 
being, p. 34. 

1. He cannot demonstrate the justice of God. p. 35. 

2. He cannot demonstrate the mercy of God. p. 38. 

3. He cannot demonstrate the goodness of God. p. 40. 

III. Thus unable to demonstrate the moral attributes of God, he is of 

necessity ignorant what service will be pleasing to him. p. 42. 

IV. All these difficulties in the deistical scheme draw after them the 

crowning difficulty, that God, whose works evince his wisdom, 
yet acted 'so unwisely as to place his creature man in the world 
without giving him the least instruction or information relative 
to his duty. p. 45. 


The difficulties attendant upon deistical Infidelity in regard to historical 
matter of fact. p. 49. 

From the fact of the general deluge, taken as a specimen of the mode of 
reasoning from historical matter of fact, may be demonstrated the 
additional fact of a direct intercourse between man and his Creator, 
or (in other words) of a revelation from God to man. p. 49. 
I. Proofs of the fact of the universal deluge, p. 50. 
1. Historical proof, built upon the attestation of all nations to the fact 
of a general deluge, p. 50. 
(1.) The substance of the tradition prevalent among all nations* p. 


(2.) The tradition embodied in the national mythology and reli- 
gion of every people, p. 52. 

2. Physiological proof, built upon the existing phenomena of the globe 

which we inhabit, p. 53. 

(1.) No circumstance is more thoroughly established in geology, 
than that the crust of our globe has been subjected to a great 
and sudden revolution by the agency of water, p. 54. 

(2.) Various physical matters testify, that this great revolution can- 
not have happened at a more remote period than five or six 
thousand years ago. p. 55. 

3. Moral proof, built upon the progress of civilization, p. 61. 

(1.) Civilization has always a natural tendency to spread itself more 
and more widely, while barbarism has a natural tendency to 
contract itself within more and more narrow limits, p. 61. 
(2.) With this view of the matter, all history, down to the present 

time, perfectly agrees, p. 62. 
(3.) The necessary inference from such facts, p. 63. 
II. The additional fact, of a direct intercourse between man and his 
Creator or (in other words) of a revelation from God to man, de- 
monstrated from the established fact, of an universal deluge, p. 64. 

1. The supposition, that the deluge did not cover the tops of the 

mountains and that men and animals preserved themselves by 
escaping to their summits, shown to be untenable, p. 65. 

2. The supposition, that a family escaped in a ship built accidentally 

and not in consequence of a divine revelation, shown to be equally 
untenable, p. 66. 

3. The final result is, that, if the fact of the deluge be admitted we 
: shall find ourselves compelled to admit also the additional fact, 

that a revelation of God's purposes to his creature man has assu- 
redly taken place as we find it recorded in Holy Scripture, p. 68* 


The difficulties attendant upon deistical Infidelity in regard to actually ac- 
complished prophecy, p. 69. 

The prediction, selected as a specimen of the argument from accom- 
plished prophecy, shall be that of Moses respecting the future des- 
tinies and fortunes of the Jews. p. 70. 
I. Abstract of the prophecy, p. 70. 
II. View of the accomplishment of the prophecy, p. 72. 
1. Its accomplishment has taken plaee in all the numerous particu- 
lars of which it is composed, p* 72. 


(1.) The first particular, p. 73. 
(2.) The second particular, p. 73. 
(3.) The third particular, p. 74. 
(4.) The fourth particular, p. 74. 
(5.) The fifth particular, p. 74. 
(6.) The sixth particular, p. 75. 
(7.) The seventh particular, p. 75. 
(8.) The eighth particular, p. 75. 
(9.) The ninth particular, p. 76. 
2. The estimate of their own situation by the Jews themselves, p. 76, 

III. The train of reasoning, which springs from the prophecy and its 

accomplishment, p. 80. 

1. Insufficiency of the first possible deistical solution : the political 

foresight and sagacity of Moses, p. 81. 

2. Insufficiency of the second possible deistical solution: a lucky acci- 

dent, p. 82. 

(1.) Essential difference between the leading characteristic of the 
real prophecy of Moses, namely complexity ; and the leading 
characteristic of the pretended prophecy of Seneca, namely in- 
definite simplicity, p. 83. 

(2.) Dissimilarity in the grounds and reasons, on which each pro- 
phecy is supported, p. 86. 

(3.) A tradition of the discovery of America by the Phenicians was 
not unknown to Seneca : whence his prophecy becomes a mere 
poetical ornament, p. 87. 

IV. Summary of the argument, p. 90. 


The difficulties attendant upon deistical Infidelity in regard to the facts and 
circumstances and character of the Christian Dispensation, p. 91. 

No small difficulties also attend upon Infidelity in regard to the facts and 

circumstances and character of the Christian Dispensation, p. 91. 

I. The present existence of Christianity is a naked fact j hence the 

only question between the believer and the unbeliever is, how 

it first started into existence, p. 91. 

3. The account of its rise and progress is contained in the historical 

books of the New Testament, p. 91. 
2 Suppressing for the present the question of miraculous interference^ 
we may say, that to deny the praise of general veracity to the 
narrative, is to unhinge all historical evidence, p. 92. 


3. Speculations of Mr Volney as to the personal existence of Christ. 

p. 95. 

4. Conclusion as to the character of the evangelical histories, p. 96. 
II. The infidel, on his principles, must maintain, that Christ was either 

an impostor or an enthusiast, p. 96. 

1. The difficulties attendant upon the hypothesis, that Christ was ar. 

impostor, p. 97. 

(1.) Statement and practical demonstration of the necessary con- 
duct of an impostor, as an impostor, in the times during which 
Christ appeared, p. 98. 

(2.) Statement of the actual directly opposite conduct of Christ, p. 

2. The difficulties attendant upon the hypothesis, that Christ was an 

enthusiast, p. 110. 
(1.) The sobriety of Christ's conduct, as exemplified in his words. 

p. 111. 
(2 ) The sobriety of Christ's conduct, as exemplified in his actions. 

p. 114. 

3. Numerous contingencies were associated with his claim of the Mes- 

siaship, which were quite out of the control either of an impostor 
or of an enthusiast, p. 116. 
111. The conduct of the apostles and first preachers of Christianity, p. 

1 . The common notion entertained by infidels respecting the apostles. 

p. 121. 

2. The difficulties attendant upon this notion, p. 122. 

(1.) The first stage of the proceedings of the apostles, p. 123. 
(.2.) The second stage of the proceedings of the apostles, p. 124. 

3. The effects produced by the alleged resurrection of Christ. Grounds 

for believing the truth of the alleged fact. Difficulties attendant 
upon the denial of it. p. 131. 

4. Evidence specially afforded by the conduct of two of the apostles. 

p. 137. 
(1.) Conduct of Judas the traitor, p. 137. 
(2.) Conduct of Paul, first a persecutor, then a convert, p. 140. 


The difficulties attendant upon deistical Infidelity in regard to the rapid 
propagation of Christianity, and the evidence by which the performance 
of miracles is supported, p. 149. 

The necessity of accounting for the fact of the rapid propagation of 
Christianity is felt and acknowledged by all. p. 149. 


I. A consideration of the five natural reasons or causes proposed by 
Mr Gibbon as sufficient to account for the fact. p. 149. 

1. The first reason: the inflexible and intolerant zeal of the early 

Christians, p. 150. 

2. The second reason : the doctrine of a future life. p. 151. 

3. The third reason : the miraculous powers ascribed to the primitive 

church, p. 153. 

4. The fourth reason : the pure and austere morals of the primitive 

Christians, p. 154. 

5. The fifth reason : the union and discipline of the church, p. 155. 

II. Concerning the aspect, which Christianity must have presented to 
the Gentiles at its first promulgation among them : and whether 
Mr Gibbon's five reasons are sufficient to account for its success. 
p. 156. 

III. A consideration of the two supernatural reasons proposed in Scrip- 
ture, p 163. 

1. The first reason: the operation of the Holy Spirit to incline the 

heart, p. 163. 

2. The second reason : the performance of miracles to convince the 

head. p. 165. 
(1.) The testimony, by which the performance of works purport- 
ing to be miraculous, is established, p. 169. 
(2.) The evidence, by which these works are proved to have been 
real, not simulated miracles, p. 178. 


The difficulties attendant upon deistical Infidelity in regard to the internal 
evidence of Christianity, p. 185. 

In discussing the internal evidence of Christianity, two particulars only 
shall be selected, as a specimen of the mode of reasoning from it. p. 
I. The character of Christ, p. 185. 

1. The favourite ideal character of a hero variously exemplified, p. 186. 

2. The opposite character of Christ, p. 188. 

3. Conclusion drawn from the contrast, p. 190. 
II. The spirit of Christianity, p. 191. 

1. The spirit of confessedly false religions, p. 191. 
(1.) The Scandinavian theology of Odin. p. 192. 
(2.) The Arabic theology of Mohammed, p. 192. 
(3.) The imposture of Alexander of Pontus. p. 194. 
(4.) The theologico-political system of Hindostan. p. 196. 


2. The directly opposite spirit of Christianity, p. 197. 

3. Conclusion drawn from the contrast, p. 199. 


Recapitulation and conclusion, p. 201. 

Previous to the general conclusion, the several difficulties which encum- 
ber the march of Infidelity, shall be briefly recapitulated, p. 201. 

1. The difficulties in question are as follows, p. 201. 

.1. The insufficient grounds and reasons of Infidelity itself, p. 201. 

2. The impossibility, on infidel principles, of either proving the unity 

of God, or of developing his moral attributes, p. 201. 

3. The difficulties of Infidelity in regard to historical matters of fact. 

p. 202. 

4. The difficulties of Infidelity in regard to accomplished prophecy, p. 


5. The difficulties of Infidelity in regard to the facts and circumstances 

and character of the Christian Dispensation, p. 203. 

6. The difficulties of Infidelity in regard to the rapid propagation of 

Christianity, p. 203. 

7. The difficulties of Infidelity in regard to the internal evidence of 

Christianity, p. 203. 
II. General conclusion from the whole discussion, that the rejection of 
Christianity involves a higher degree of credulity than the ac- 
ceptance of it, and that we find it more difficult to pronounce 
the Gospel an imposture than to admit it as a revelation from 
heaven, p. 204. 



In their various controversies with infidel writers, the advo- 
cates of Revelation have generally contented themselves with 
standing upon the defensive. Against the enemies of their 
faith they have rarely undertaken offensive operations. Diffi- 
culties indeed they have removed, and objections they have 
answered, when started by the ingenuity of a deistical oppo- 
nent : but they have for the most part neglected to urge the 
manifold objections and the serious difficulties, which attend 
upon his own system. Hence, so far as I can judge, they 
have needlessly given him the advantage, which an assailant 
will always at least seem to possess over a person assailed. 

With this view of the question, it is not my purpose to con- 
sider the sundry matters, which from time to time have been 
brought forward by deistical authors against the Holy Scrip- 
tures : such a task, in the present state of the controversy, 
may well be deemed superfluous ; for, in truth, it would be 
merely to repeat and to answer objections, which have already 
been made and answered again and again. I am rather in- 
clined to state a few of the numerous difficulties with which 
the infidel scheme itself is encumbered. Whence, unless in- 
deed they can be satisfactorily removed, there will arise a strong 
presumption, that, at some time, and in some place, and after 
some manner, the Supreme Being has expressly revealed him- 


self to his creature man : and, as the Christian Dispensation, 
viewed as grounding itself upon the preceding Patriarchal and 
Levitical Dispensations, is the only form of religion, which, 
with any reasonable show of argument, can claim to be a reve- 
lation from heaven ; we may not impossibly be brought to a 
conclusion, that, however much has been said by infidels re- 
specting the easy faith of those who have embraced the Gos- 
pel, there is, after all, more real credulity in the disbelief of 
Christianity than in the belief of it. 

I. A discussion of this nature will not improperly commence 
with a brief examination of what we may suppose to be the 
possible grounds and reasons of deistical infidelity. 

Now, except the following, I am unable to discern, upon 
what principles an unbeliever can take his stand with even a 
moderate share of plausibility. 

Either a revelation from heaven is a matter in itself ab- 
stractedly impossible. 

Or, a revelation from heaven is so utterly improbable an oc- 
currence, that it beggars all credibility. 

Or, the evidences upon which our reception of every system 
claiming to be a revelation from heaven is demanded, are so 
weak and unsatisfactory, that they are insufficient to command 
our reasonable assent. 

Or, in the case of every system claiming this divine charac- 
ter, numerous objections and difficulties exist ; which objec- 
tions and difficulties are so formidable, that they cannot be 
answered and removed. 

Or, as various systems have alike claimed to be revelations 
from heaven, and as the advocates of each system are equally 
forward in maintaining their own to the exclusion of every 
other, the shrewd presumption with a philosophical inquirer 
will be, that all these systems are, without exception, mere in- 
terested impositions upon the credulity of mankind. 

Or, lastly, as our unassisted reason is the sole instrument 
by which our duty is to be determined ; so our natural reason, 
when properly and honestly used, is, in itself, quite sufficient 
for this purpose: consequently, a revelation from God is no 

Sect. I.] OF INFIDELITY. 19 

less unnecessary in the abstract, than the claim of any parti- 
cular theological system to be received as a revelation from 
God is unfounded in the concrete. 

These several grounds and reasons of Infidelity shall be con- 
sidered in the order wherein they stand. 

1. The first possible ground is the position, that, in the very 
nature of things, a revelation from heaven cannot take place. 

If this position has ever been seriously maintained by any 
writer of the deistical school, the difficulty, inseparably attend- 
ant upon it, will be found in the necessary consequence which 
it involves ; a consequence no less formidable than an eventual 
denial of God's omnipotence. 

That such is indeed its necessary consequence, will appear 
from the following syllogism. 

God can do every thing, which is not in itself a contradic- 
tion. But it can never be shown, that a revelation from God 
to man implies any contradiction. Therefore a revelation from 
God to man is abstractedly possible. 

From the terms of this syllogism it is evident, that the ab- 
stract possibility of a revelation from God to man cannot be 
denied, without a concomitant denial of God's omnipotence. 
A denial therefore of God's omnipotence is the necessary con- 
sequence of maintaining the position before us. Whence it 
follows, that the present position, involving a denial of God's 
omnipotence, involves also, in the creed both of the deist and 
of the Christian, a gross and palpable absurdity. 

2. The second possible ground of Infidelity is the position, 
that a rev elation from heaven is in itself so improbable an oc- 
currence, that it beggars all credibility. 

Respecting this position, the deist himself will allow, that 
man, a rational and intellectual being, has been placed in the 
present world by no other than by an all-wise Creator. 

But, that he must have been placed here for some adequate 
purpose correspondent with the rational and intellectual cha- 
racter both of his Creator and of himself, cannot be contro- 
verted, without controverting at the same time the wisdom of 
God : for it could be no proof of wisdom, that man should have 


been placed in his present sphere of existence purely through 
unmeaning caprice, and without any suitable definite end being 

This point, therefore, being granted (as I presume it must 
be granted by a candid and sensible deist), the question imme- 
diately arises : whether God's purpose in creating intellectual 
man, would more probably be accomplished, by a regular com- 
munication, or by a systematic withholding, of instruction ? 

Such is the question, which forthwith arises from the neces- 
sary concession before us. 

Now for any one gravely to assert, that the most probable 
mode, in which God could accomplish his purpose, would be 
studiously to withhold all instruction from his rational crea- 
ture, seems so very paradoxical, and so entirely contrary to 
every analogy which presents itself to us, that I can scarcely 
believe such an assertion would ever be made in sober earnest. 
But to allow, that the most probable mode in which God could 
accomplish his purpose, would be to communicate instruction 
to man, is the same as to allow, that communicating of a di- 
vine revelation is a more probable circumstance, than the with- 
holding of one. 

Nor can this conclusion be ever avoided, save through the 
medium of demonstrating, that the best mode of insuring the 
accomplishment of God's purpose in creating man, is carefully 
to refrain from giving him the least instruction or information ; 
so that, thus having the full benefit of complete ignorance, he 
may be the more amply qualified to answer the end and pur- 
pose of his creation. For, let it only be granted that God is 
all-wise, and then it must also be granted, that he will always 
take the most effectual means to accomplish his purpose. 
Hence the question will finally be brought to the following 
point: whether it be easier to believe, that knowledge or igno- 
rance on the part of man, respecting the purpose of his Crea- 
tor, is the most efficacious in the way of securing its accom- 
plishment. They who contend for the superior efficacy of 
ignorance, will adhere to the party of the deist : they, on the 
contrary, who maintain the superior efficacy of knowledge, 

Sect. I.] OF INFIDELITY. 21 

will join the ranks of the Christian. A difference of opinion 
on this subject there doubtless may be : but the question in 
that case must ever remain, whether the deist who pleads for 
the efficacy of ignorance, or the Christian who pleads for the 
efficacy of knowledge, evinces the higher degree of credulity. 
3. A third possible ground of Infidelity is the position, that 
the evidences upon which our reception of every system claim- 
ing to be a revelation from heaven is demanded, are so weak 
and unsatisfactory, that they are insufficient to command our 
reasonable assent. 

Should this position be assumed by the unbeliever, while we 
disclaim the vindication of any theological system except that 
which is propounded in the Bible, as being a matter wholly 
foreign to the question at issue between us, we have a clear 
right to expect and demand a regular confutation of the argu- 
ments, which are advanced in our best treatises on the evi- 
dences of Judaism and Christianity; such, for instance, as the 
well-known and popular writings of Leslie and Paley : for it 
is nugatory to say, that the evidences in favour of the Bible 
being a divine revelation are weak and unsatisfactory ; while 
yet no regular confutation of the arguments, upon which those 
evidences rest, is pretended to be brought forward. To start 
difficulties is one thing : to answer arguments, another. Now 
the mere starting of an insulated difficulty is no answer to a 
regular argument. The work, which we have a right to de- 
mand, is a work in which the author shall go regularly through 
the treatises (we will say) of Leslie and Paley ; taking argu- 
ment after argument, successively showing their utter incon- 
clusiveness, and then bringing out the triumphant result, that 
the evidences of a divine revelation are too weak and unsatis- 
factory to command our reasonable assent. Let this be done ; 
and we may allow the present ground of infidelity to be tena- 
ble : but simply to assert that the evidences are insufficient, 
while not an attempt is made to give a regular answer to the 
various arguments which have been brought forward by wri- 
ters on the evidences, is plainly an assertion without proof. If 
the evidences be indeed insufficient, it must doubtless be easy 
c 2 


to answer the arguments. Why, then, has no reply been given 
to them 1 Why is a mere naked, gratuitous assertion made, as 
to the insufficiency of the evidences, while the arguments yet 
remain unanswered? Such silence is not a little suspicious: 
and it is difficult to refrain from conjecturing, that vague as- 
sertion is found to be more easy than regular confutation, and 
a starting of insulated difficulties less toilsome than a formal 
reply to a series of close reasoning. 

4. Accordingly, a fourth ground of Infidelity is the position, 
that numerous objections and difficulties exist in the case of 
each system claiming the character of a divine revelation ; 
which objections and difficulties cannot be answered and re- 

Here, as before, it may be remarked, that with the objec- 
tions and difficulties which exist in the case of any system, 
save that contained in the Bible, we have no concern : the 
only point between the infidel and the Christian is, whether 
any such position can be reasonably taken up in regard to that 
scheme of religion, which is set forth in Scripture as being of 
divine origin and authority. 

The present position, as being likely to produce a very con- 
siderable effect with but a small expense of labour and trou- 
ble, has ever been a prime favourite with the deistical school, 
from generation to generation : and, accordingly, it is upon 
this principle, that the works of infidel writers are generally 
constructed. As I have already observed, no attempt is made 
to combat the strong and invincible arguments, by which the 
divine authority of Judaism and Christianity is established : 
but various difficulties are industriously produced, more or 
less plausible ; and on the strength of these difficulties it is 
contended, that our religion has no legitimate claim to the 
character of a revelation from heaven. 

Now, even if the objections and difficulties in question could 
not be answered and removed, it may be doubted whether the 
argument of the deist, which is founded upon them, could well 
be deemed logically conclusive. When honestly thrown into 
the form of a syllogism, the argument will run as follows : 


A religion, claiming to be a revelation from heaven, is de- 
monstrated to be such by a train of close reasoning upon its 
evidences ; which it has been found impossible to confute 
through the medium of a regular answer, article by article. 
But, in regard to sundry matters connected with this religion, 
objections may be made and difficulties may be started. There- 
fore such religion has no legitimate claim to be deemed a re- 
velation from heaven. 

Here, when divested of much noise and smoke, we have 
the sum and substance of the argument, which, in the opinion 
of the infidel, is sufficient to overturn Christianity. A fact is 
established by the highest possible degree of moral evidence : 
but certain difficulties may be started : therefore the fact must 
not be credited. 

In good truth, if we admit the conclusiveness of such rea- 
soning as this (and it is the only reasoning which occurs in 
the writings of most authors of the infidel school), we shall 
make but short and sorry work with history. Where is the 
best established fact, against which objections may not be rais- 
ed? But, if objections may be raised against it ; then, accord- 
ing to the deistical argument before us, it is not to be believed. 

By way of specimen, let us take the case of Cyrus, and 
reason upon it after the deistical fashion. 

The fact of the existence of Cyrus, as the sovereign of the 
Medo-Persian and the subverter of the Babylonian Empire, 
is established by such strong moral evidence, that, if we reject 
it, we must reject all history and sink into universal scepticism. 
But, in regard to this fact, a serious difficulty occurs : for He- 
rodotus and Xenophon give us two accounts of Cyrus so es- 
sentially different, that by no human ingenuity can they be re- 
conciled together. Therefore no such person as Cyrus ever 

What should we think of the credulity, which could impli- 
citly adopt this mode of reasoning as valid and conclusive ? 
Yet such is the precise mode of reasoning, which of all others 
is the most commonly employed by infidel writers against 
Christianity. The clear evidence in favour of it they preter- 


mit without an answer : they content themselves with starting 
difficulties : and then, on the score of these difficulties alone, 
they take upon themselves to reject it, though in the face of 
the very strongest conceivable evidence. 

A process of this description would, I apprehend, be wholly 
unsatisfactory on any intelligible principles of ratiocination, 
even if the objections could not be answered and the difficul- 
ties removed: for, if objections and difficulties are to be ad- 
mitted against positive unanswered evidence ; there is an end 
of all moral certainty, and the reign of universal scepticism 
is forthwith introduced. What then shall we say, when the 
various objections and difficulties, started by infidels in the 
case of divine revelation, have again and again been met and 
answered and solved ? There is nothing new under the sun. 
It may probably be asserted with truth, that not a single cavil 
is to be found in the writings of modern deists, which has not 
been both adduced and answered long before they themselves 
were born. 

The sum, therefore, of the present matter is, that in direct 
opposition to positive unanswered evidence, the infidel calls 
upon us to reject Christianity on the strength of certain insu- 
lated objections ; which objections have repeatedly been most 
fully answered. 

5. A fifth ground of Infidelity is the position, that, as va- 
rious theological systems have alike claimed to be revelations 
from heaven, and as the advocates of each system have been 
equally forward in maintaining their own to the exclusion of 
every other, the shrewd presumption with a philosophical in- 
quirer will be, that all these systems are, without exception, 
mere interested impositions upon the credulity of mankind. 

This is the position, which has been taken by Mr Volney. 
With a considerable degree of picturesque stage-effect, all 
nations upon the face of the earth, accompanied by the priests 
of their several religions, appear before the French philoso- 
pher and his attendant hierophantic genius. Each sacerdotal 
college claims, for its own theological system, the character of 
a divine revelation. Now it is perfectly clear, that every claim 

Sect. I.] OF INFIDELITY. 25 

of this description cannot be deemed valid. Hence Mr Vol- 
ney and his genious sagaciously conclude, that no such claim 
can be rationally admitted. 

Such, when stripped of its gaudy plumage, is the formida- 
ble argument, by which this gentleman proposes to destroy 
Christianity root and branch. Less adventurous inquirers 
would probably have acted somewhat differently. Various 
theological systems are presented to them. All equally claim- 
ing the authority of a divine revelation. In this emergency 
what is to be done ? The most natural answer to such a ques- 
tion might, I presume, be given in the words of Holy Writ: 
Prove all things ; holdfast that which is good.* Let us care- 
fully examine the evidences, by which these various theologi- 
cal systems are supported. If there be no sufficient evidence 
for any one of them, then let them all be equally rejected. 
But, if in any single case the evidence be sufficient, while in 
every other case it is insufficient ; then let the well attested 
system be received, while the ill-attested systems are rejected. 

This mode of proceeding appears to be obvious and rational, 
notwithstanding it happens to be recommended by an apos- 
tle of the Christian faith : at least, we are very apt, in the 
common affairs of life, to resort to what is strictly analo- 
gical. Numerous persons put in their respective claims to a 
vacant estate. Every one of them, it is quite plain, cannot 
be the legitimate heir. What then is to be done ? Is a calm 
and regular investigation to be entered upon, for the purpose 
of determining the validity or the invalidity of each claim ; so 
that the lawful heir may be admitted to his just right, while 
every unwarranted pretender is set aside ? Or is the whole 
body of claimants to be forthwith dismissed, without ceremony 
and without inquiry, on the principle adopted by Mr Volney 
and luminously set forth by his attendant genius ; that, be- 
cause every one cannot be the lawful heir, therefore no one 
can ? Truly, if the principle of our philosophic Frenchman 
were to be acted upon in our courts of justice, it would occa- 

* 1 Thessal. v. 21. 


sion no small amazement and speculation : and I cannot help 
suspecting, that if Mr Volney himself were with many others 
the claimant of a valuable estate, and if his pretensions were 
to be as rapidly disposed of as he is pleased to dispose of the 
pretensions of Christianity, he would not be quite satisfied with 
the equity of the adjudication, but would be apt to move for a 
new decision in a higher court. 

Let us, however, throw Mr Volney's argument into a re- 
gular syllogism ; which operation I have always found specially 
useful in dispelling the dense artificial fogs, raised at will by 
infidel controversialists. 

Various theological systems equally and respectively claim 
to be a revelation from heaven, But it is impossible, that every 
one of these systems can be a divine revelation. Therefore no 
one of them is a revelation from heaven. 

In this single syllogism we have the sum total of the argu- 
ment, which pervades the entire celebrated work of Mr Vol- 
ney. Its validity will be readily estimated by a familiar appli- 
cation of its principle. 

Various bank-notes equally and respectively claim to be 
genuine. But it is positively ascertained, that many of them 
are forgeries. Therefore, by every rule of sound logic, all 
of them must inevitably be forgeries likewise. 

6. A sixth ground of infidelity is the position, that, as our 
unassisted reason is the sole instrument by which our duty is to 
be determined, so our reason when properly and honestly used 
is in itself quite sufficient for this purpose : consequently, a 
rev elation from God is no less unnecessary in the abstract, than 
the claim of any particular theological system to be received as 
a revelation from God is unfounded in the concrete. 

When Mr Volney has happily rid himself of all religions by 
the compendious process already noticed, he then confidently 
takes the position now before us. 

Investigate, says the assembled multitude to his college of 
imaginary legislators : Investigate the laws, which nature, for 
our direction, has implanted in our breasts; and form from 
thence an authentic and immutable code. Nor let this code be 

Sect. I.] OF INFIDELITY. 27 

calculated for one family or one nation only, but for the whole 
without exception. Be the legislators of the human race, as 
you are the interpreters of their common nature. Show us the 
line, that separates the zaorlcl of chimeras from that of realities $ 
and teach us, after so many religions of error and delusion, the 
religion of evidence and truth. 

With respect to the sufficiency or the insufficiency of the 
light of nature, it is obviously a matter of opinion. Mr Vol- 
ney deems it so sufficient, that he thinks nothing can be more 
easy than to frame from it an authentic and immutable code, to 
which the whole race of mankind, without a single dissentiffg 
voice, will readily subscribe : Socrates, on the contrary, deems 
it so palpably insufficient, that, in the well known and familiar 
record of his pupil Plato, he avows his despair of attaining to 
any thing like certainty, until some divine teacher shall leave 
his native skies for the purpose of communicating sure and 
tangible knowledge.* 

Here, even in limine, we have a most important difference 
of opinion between two celebrated characters : the one ancient, 
the other modern ; the one the pride of reasoning Greece, the 
other the glory of emancipated France. How then are we to 
decide between these two illustrious luminaries of Athens and 
of Paris ? 

All is quite clear and certain by the light of nature alone : 
we want no revelation to illuminate our pretended darkness. 
So speaks Mr Volney to the deeply thinking philosophers of 
the Gallic metropolis. 

Ml is quite dark and obscure by the unassisted light of na- 
ture : we can never attain to certain knowledge, save by a re- 
velation from him who careth for us. So of old spake Socra- 
tes to his anxiously inquisitive pupil Alcibiades. 

* 2). AvuyxcLtcv cvv te-ri Trs^i/ueveiv, zace <*v nru {laSh Tras Jet ?rgog Becvs 
ksli 7rpog cLvBftoTrcvs StctKiia-Qcti. A. IIots cvv trap err at o Xi ovog ° ljT0 ^i » 
2a»x/)atT€? 5 km tis o 7rcti<?iu<rav j hAitta y&g civ juvt Sckod tSuv tovtqv rev 
a?B£a>7rov, rig errtv. 2. 'Ouroc zc-riv, a /uexu regt <rcv. Plat. Alcib. ii. 

in Dial. Select, ed. Cantab, p. 255, 256. 


Now, with such an immense difference of opinion before ns, 
what hope can we reasonably entertain of the easy formation of 
an authentic and immutable code, in which all mankind shall 
cheerfully and unanimously acquiesce : or how can we build 
with any confidence on the infidel position, that, as the light 
of nature is in itself sufficient without any revelation from 
God, such a revelation is thence altogether useless and unne- 
cessary ? Socrates thinks with the Christian: Mr Volney, 
with the deist. Shall we symbolize with the Greek or with 
the Frank ? 

But, whatever may be thought on this point (and I shall 
hereafter consider, somewhat largely, the capabilities of the 
light of nature),* it appears to be rather an extraordinary pro- 
cess to reject Christianity, on the disputed ground that human 
reason alone is sufficient, while the various arguments, on 
which is built the evidence of its claim to be received as a di- 
vine revelation, still remain unanswered. An abstract notion, 
itself all the while a disputed notion, Mr Volney maintaining 
and Socrates denying its propriety ; an abstract notion, so cir- 
cumstanced, can never be rationally admitted against direct 
unconfuted evidence to a fact. He therefore, who can be con- 
tent to found his system upon so insecure a basis, may, I think, 
be more justly charged with an easy faith or a fond credulity, 
than he, who cautiously deems such a basis inadequate to sup- 
port the supposed superstructure. 

II. In the present stage of the argument then, the believer 
admits Christianity to be a revelation from God on the follow- 
ing several grounds. 

A revelation from heaven is, in the abstract, a circumstance 
clearly possible. 

From a consideration of the wisdom of the Creator and the 
ignorance of the created, the fact of a divine revelation is highly 

The evidence in favour of Christianity being a divine reve- 
lation is so strong, that it cannot be reasonably controverted ; 

* See below Sect. ii. 


more especially as the arguments, upon which the evidence 
rests, have never yet been confuted. 

Mere difficulties, even if unanswerable, cannot set aside direct 
and positive evidence ; still less therefore can they set it aside, 
when they have been fully and repeatedly solved. 

Numerous pretended revelations, like copious issues of base 
coin, are no proof of the non-existence of that which is genu- 
ine : but the false may be readily distinguished from the true 
by a careful and honest examination of their respective evi- 

Finally, as our unassisted reason is an insufficient teacher, 
a matter long since acknowledged by the wisest of the Greeks, 
a revelation from God is no less necessary in the abstract, than 
the claim of Christianity to be received as such a revelation is 
well founded in the concrete. 

III. On the other hand, still in the present stage of the argu- 
ment, the unbeliever denies Christianity to be a revelation from 
God on the following several grounds. 

Although a revelation may perhaps in itself be possible, yet 
the fact of one is very highly improbable : because it is to the 
last degree unlikely, that an all-wise Creator should deem it 
necessary to give any instructions to a rational but inevitably 
ignorant being, whom he had created. 

The evidence, in favour of Christianity being a divine reve- 
lation, is insufficient; though no infidel has hitherto been able 
to confute the arguments, on which it rests. 

Insulated objections to a fact, notwithstanding they may 
have been repeatedly answered, are quite sufficient with a rea- 
sonable inquirer to set aside the very strongest unanswered 

As many pretended revelations are confessedly impostures, 
therefore all alleged revelations must clearly be impostures, 

Lastly, as our unassisted reason is held by some philosophers 
to be a sufficient teacher, while others declare it to be wholly 
insufficient. A revelation from God is quite unnecessary : nor 



ought any claim of this character to be admitted, though it may 
rest on the very strongest uneonfuted arguments. 

IV. Such are the principles, and such the systems, of the 
Christian and the Infidel. 

Whether it argues a high degree of credulity to receive, as 
a divine revelation, Christianity thus evidenced ; or, in order 
to the rejection of it, contentedly to bow beneath such an ex- 
traordinary mass of contradictory difficulties, as the theory of 
the infidel is constrained to support: let the prudent inquirer 
judge and determine for himself. 



Mr Volney and other writers of the same school, in plain 
defiance of the more modest confession of Socrates, contend, 
that the light of nature alone is an amply sufficient teacher : 
so that, by its sole aid, an authentic and immutable code, 
which shall readily command the assent of all mankind, may 
very easily be formed. Show us, say the people freed (as Mr 
Volney expresses it) from their fetters and prejudices, the line, 
that separates the world of chimeras from that of realities ; and 
teach us, after so many religions of error and delusion, the re- 
ligion of evidence and truth. To this humble request the 
French philosopher kindly assents ; and for the instruction of 
the disabused multitude, draws up, what he styles, The Law 
of Nature, or principles of morality deduced from the physical 
constitution of Mankind and the Universe. 

Now, unfortunately, some of the very first principles, on 
which this with other similar schemes of natural religion is 
founded, cannot themselves be certainly known without the 
aid of a revelation from heaven. Hence it is clear, that such 
a system, instead of being a religion of evidence and truth 
(the character much too hastily claimed for it by Mr Volney), 
is in fact nothing better than a religion of vague conjecture 
and unauthorized speculation. 

I. The deist, as his very title implies, lays it down as the 


basis of that natural religion which he advocates, that there is 
one God the Creator and Moderator of all things. 

This dogma may appear so obvious, that few, it might be 
suspected, would controvert it, even placing revelation alto- 
gether out of the question, save the atheist ; and, laboriously 
to answer his folly, might equally, both by the deist and by the 
Christian, be well deemed labour thrown away. Yet the very 
first objection, which I would make to the deistical scheme, 
is the defect of legitimate proof under which its leading dogma 
most certainly labours. 

There is one only God, says the deist, the Creator and Mod- 
erator of all things ; by whom the universe was brought origi- 
nally into being, and through whom it subsists. 

In reply, I request to be informed, upon his principles, how 
he knows, that there is only one God, respecting whom such 
matters may be truly predicated. 

His answer, no doubt, will be, that the existence of a God 
is decidedly proved by the very frame of the universe. Evi- 
dent design must needs imply a designer. But evident de- 
sign is conspicuous in every part of the universe : and, the 
wider our physical researches are extended, the more con- 
spicuously does this design appear. Therefore, just as we 
argue the existence of a watchmaker from the evident design 
which may be observed in a watch, so we argue the existence 
of a Creator from the evident design which may be observed 
in the universe. To bring out any other conclusion involves 
the same palpable absurdity, as to contend, that a watch as- 
sumed its orderly form by chance, and that it certainly never 
had a maker. 

The cogency of this argument I most readily allow, so far 
as its principle is concerned : but I must be permitted to doubt, 
how far it will serve the purpose of a deist, who depends sole- 
ly upon his own reason and who rejects the authority of re- 
velation. It is perfectly true, that evident design must needs 
imply a designer ; and it is equally true, that evident design 
shines out in every part of the universe. But we reason in- 
conclusively, if, with the deist} we thence infer the existence 


of one and only one, supreme designer. That a universe, upon 
which design is so evidently impressed, must have been creat- 
ed, is indeed abundantly clear: nor will this point be ever 
controverted, save by the gross folly of atheism. But, that 
a universe thus characterized, was created by one Supreme 
God, is not at all clear upon the principles of deistical infi- 
delity. It may, for aught the deist knows to the contrary, 
have been created by a collective body of Gods, perfectly har- 
monizing in design, and jointly bringing the great work to a 
completion. The argument, from the evident design impress- 
ed upon the universe, proves indeed, that the universe must 
have been first designed and then created : but it is incapable of 
proving, that the universe had no more than a single designer. 
Whether we suppose one designer or many designers, and 
thence one creator or many creators, the phenomenon of evi- 
dent design in the creation will be equally accounted for : and, 
beyond this, the argument in question, as managed upon de- 
istical principles, neither does nor can reach. The deist, I 
allow, can prove very satisfactorily and without the aid of re- 
velation, that the universe, marked as it is in all its parts by 
evident design, must have been itself designed and therefore 
created : but he never did, and he never can, prove, without 
the aid of revelation, that the universe was designed by a 
single designer. He rejects', however, the aid of revelation : 
therefore, on his own principles, he cannot prove so much as 
the very dogma from which he borrows his name. 

To this objection he will answer (I am fully aware), that 
the theory of one designer is much more simple than the the- 
ory of many designers, and therefore that it ought to be pre- 
ferred and adopted. 

What he says may be true enough : but still, on deistical 
principles, where is the proof? On those principles, it is 
highly probable, that there is no more than one God. But 
probability is not certainty : and I will venture to say, without 
any fear of well-grounded contradiction, that, even in the first 
article of his creed, the deist can attain to no greater elevation 
than bare probability. Nay, were we so disposed, we might 
D 2 


contest even this point with him. On the same ground, that 
he pleads for the higher probability of a single designer, in the 
case of the universe ; he stands pledged, would he preserve 
consistency, to plead for the higher probability of a single de- 
signer, in the case of a watch. Yet that instrument, as we 
all know, was not struck out at a heat, by one intellect ; and 
still less are its several component parts fashioned by a single 
hand. In short, when the deist has arrived at the conclusion, 
that the universe must have been designed and created : he 
must search for some new argument to prove that it had 
only a single designer and creator. If he fail in demonstrat- 
ing this vital point, his system will leap from its very birth : 
and, to style himself a deist rather than a polytheist, will be 
a virtual begging of the question. He has no solid ground 
for maintaining either the unity of the Godhead on the one 
hand, or a plurality of Gods on the other hand. For aught 
he knows to the contrary, there may be only one God : and, 
for aught he knows to the contrary, there may be many Gods. 
He thinks fit indeed to worship only one God ; and, from that 
circumstance, he chooses to borrow his title : but, whether he 
be right or wrong in so doing, and whether his title be pro- 
perly or improperly adopted, he is of necessity, on his princi- 
ples, wholly and irremediably ignorant. 

II. Let us however suppose, that by some powerful argu- 
ment hitherto unproduced, the deist has satisfactorily proved 
the existence of one only God : we shall then have next to 
inquire, what certain information he possesses respecting the 
divine attributes. 

He will be quite sure, that God is a very powerful being ; 
because, otherwise, he plainly could not be the creator and 
governor of the universe : and he will perhaps guess that he is 
omnipotent, though he may find it difficult absolutely to prove 
that point. He will also not unreasonably infer, that God must 
be eternal : for, unless he be eternal retrospectively, his exist- 
ence will have commenced without a cause ; and, unless he be 
eternal prospectively, his existence must needs cease through 
the instrumentality of some cause brought by himself into being 


and therefore weaker than himself, which is a palpable contra- 
diction. But in the present enigmatical state of the world, 
enigmatical to all who reject revelation, how will the deist es- 
tablish, what I presume he holds, the moral attributes of the 

1. The deist and the Christian, unless I wholly mistake, 
alike contend, that God is a God of perfect justice. Here the 
Christian, taking his stand upon revelation, feels himself to be 
planted upon sure ground ; but how does the deist make good 
this position ? 

If we look around us into the world, we shall find nothing 
more proverbially common than the triumph of successful 
worthlessness and the depression of unsuccessful worthiness. 
The worst of mankind perpetually enjoy the largest share of 
the good things of life, while they seem to receive them as if 
for the sole purpose of abusing them ; and the best of mankind 
are often destitute even of bare necessaries, though they of all 
others would plainly make the best use of riches. Nor yet is 
this the whole that may be remarked in the perplexing world, 
which we inhabit. If there be any such thing as the moral 
sense, and if we can form any clear idea of an impartial moral 
governor, we must be compelled to anticipate a priori, that 
rewards will uniformly follow virtue, and that punishment will 
uniformly follow vice. But, if we look out into the world, no 
arrangement of this description actually takes place. The 
whole is one mass of inextricable confusion. Bodily pain and 
sickness, bodily comfort and health, are indifferently distributed 
with little or no regard to moral character. Some vices, it is 
true, are apt to bring after them their own punishment ; but, 
this is by no means the case invariably. So far from it, in very 
many instances, the vicious are almost wholly free from pain 
and sickness, while the virtuous never know what it is to be 
exempt from them. Now, if God be a God of perfect justice, 
how will the deist account for these notorious facts ? He may 
say indeed, that worldly prosperity and adversity, depending as 
they do in a good measure upon the exertions either of men 
themselves or of their ancestors, cannot be described as so 


directly proceeding from the Deity, and therefore cannot be 
alleged as so directly affecting our estimate of his justice. But 
this solution will by no means hold good in the case of pain 
and sickness and (what are styled) casualties, together with 
the opposites of each : because they are wholly out of the reach 
of man, and depend altogether upon the will of God, the moral 
governor of the universe. How then does the deist reconcile 
such a disposition of things with God's attribute of perfect 
justice ? Or rather, to put the question in a more correct form, 
by what process of reasoning does he prove, that the attribute 
of perfect justice belongs to God ? 

Can he prove the point by any thing, which passes under his 
eyes in this present world ? I think not : for it is obvious, that 
the mere occasional good health and prosperity of the virtuous, 
and the mere occasional sickness and adversity of the vicious, 
will be very far from proving that God is a perfectly just being. 
To bring out the result of perfect justice, their proper moral 
consequences, in the way of reward and punishment, ought uni- 
formly to follow virtue and vice. But, that such is actually 
the case in the present constitution of things, no one will pre- 
tend to assert. Therefore it is but lost labour for the deist to 
attempt to demonstrate the perfect justice of God from the 
present constitution of the world. 

Will he seek then to prove the point, by calling in a future 
state of retribution, when all the moral irregularities of this 
world, for whatever cause permitted by its governor, will be 
rectified and compensated ? 

With respect to such a solution, when propounded on deis- 
tical principles, it lies open to two very palpable objections. 

In the first place, if we concede to the deist that God will 
administer a future world with perfect justice, this circumstance 
will not do away the previous circumstance, that (on deistical 
principles) he has confessedly administered this present world 
with injustice. Would the deist prove that the attribute of 
perfect justice belongs to God, he must establish his justice not 
only in the next world but in the present world also. Yet, by 
the very turn of the argument, he quite gives the matter up, so 


far as this present world is concerned. Therefore, allowing 
his premises, we must still contend, that he has wholly failed of 
establishing the perfect justice of God. 

But, in the second place, we cannot allow to the deist, on his 
principles, the validity of his premises. His premises are the 
existence of a future state of retribution. But how does the 
deist establish these premises themselves without the aid of 
revelation ? How does he know, that there is a future state of 
retribution ? Before he can be allowed to argue from it, he 
must prove its existence. How then does he prove, that any 
such state exists at all ? On his principles, it is clearly inca- 
pable of proof: unless we admit the circulating syllogism to be 
sound reasoning. The deist may indeed prove a future state 
of retribution from the perfect justice of God: but then he 
cannot be allowed also to prove the perfect justice of God from 
a future state of retribution. What he is at present called 
upon to demonstrate is the perfect justice of God. But this he 
can only do through the medium of a future state of retribu- 
tion. — And it is utterly impossible for him to demonstrate a 
future state of retribution except through the medium of the 
perfect justice of God. Therefore he is quite unable to prove, 
that God is a perfectly just being. He may indeed choose to 
assert the perfect justice of God : but, in his case, it is bare 
assertion and nothing else. His reasoning, in short, when 
thrown into a scholastic form, will run as follows. Unless 
there be a future state of retribution, God is not a God of per- 
fect justice. But God is a God of perfect justice. Therefore 
there is a future state of retribution. Here a future state of 
retribution is demonstrated through the medium of God' s perfect 
justice : but, unfortunately, the deist has to demonstrate God's 
perfect justice itself also. What then is to be done in this emer- 
gency ? Invert the terms of the syllogism, or, in other words, 
reason in a circle ; and the business will be accomplished. If 
there be no future state of retribution, then God is not a God 
of perfect justice. But there is a future state of retribution. 
Therefore God is a God of perfect justice. Here God's per- 
fect justice is demonstrated through the medium of a future 
state of retribution. 


2. The deist alike and the Christian, I believe, further main- 
tain, that God is a God of mercy no less than a God of justice. 
But how, upon his own principles, can the deist vindicate his 

If he beheld a fellow-mortal, racking and torturing another 
fellow mortal by every refinement of the most ingenious cru- 
elty ; not forthwith bringing his misery to a termination, but 
industriously prolonging it through days and through weeks 
and through months and through years : he would certainly, 
without hesitation, pronounce the disposition of that man to be 
strongly and indisputably characterized by cruelty. Now he 
need not cast his eyes very far abroad, in order to behold pre- 
cisely the same deeds performed by God : and that too, not 
once merely and as it were accidentally, but repeatedly and 
perpetually. Let him consider the case of a man, labouring 
for years under the torment of the stone, or gradually devoured 
by a cancer, or wasting away inch by inch under the baleful 
influence of the scrophula. The bitter sufferings of such a 
man are plainly both caused and prolonged by the immediate 
hand of God. Did it suit his good pleasure, he might either 
have never caused them at all, or he might bring them to a 
speedy termination through the agency of death, or he might 
grant instantaneous relief to the sufferer. Not one of these, 
however, is the line of conduct, which he thinks fit to adopt. 
On the contrary, he places a miserable being upon the rack, 
and there he retains him. It is true indeed, that bodily suffer- 
ings inflicted by the hand of God, and bodily sufferings in- 
flicted by the hand of man, do not with equal force strike upon 
our imagination : because, on the scaffold, we actually behold 
the executioner tearing and straining the sinews of his victim ; 
while, in the chamber of languishing pain and sickness, the 
mysterious Being, who inflicts the torment, is to mortal eyes 
invisible. — But the agent of misery is not more real, because 
he is seen ; neither is he less real, because he is unseen. Many 
men have been found, who appear to delight both in the inflic- 
tion and in the view of the most horrid corporeal sufferings ; 
these the deist pronounces to be palpably merciless. The Su- 


preme Being perpetually condemns his creatures to bodily tor- 
ment, no less severe, and much more prolonged than any tor- 
ture of human invention : him the deist pronounces to be doubt- 
less a God of mercy. Now why does he come to two such 
directly opposite conclusions from the very same premises ? 
Upon his own principles, he can know nothing of the moral 
attributes of God, save what he can collect from the divine 
operations. Why then does he call him a God of mercy, when 
yet he is observed to perform the identical actions which pro- 
cure for a human being the undisputed character of the most 
revolting cruelty ? 

Probably the deist may reply, that the cruelty of an action 
depends upon its intent: for the very same deed, which under 
some circumstances is horribly cruel, under other circumstances 
will present an aspect wholly the reverse. Thus the tyrant, 
who delights wantonly to torture his victims, and to feast upon 
their groans, we denominate cruel: but the skilful practitioner, 
who inflicts even the most acute pain upon a diseased patient, 
we respect as a man both of science and humanity. On this 
principle, we are not to suppose that God sends bodily suffer- 
ing upon his creatures because he has any abstract delight in 
their misery : but he sends it, as a powerful instrument of 
moral discipline, to reclaim them from error, and to draw them 
more closely to himself. 

Such an answer (and, I think, we may safely assert it to be 
the only possible answer to the present difficulty), is perfectly 
valid and conclusive in the mouth of a Christian :* but it is not 
quite so easy to conceive the propriety of its appearance in the 
mouth of a deist, who systematically discards revelation. If 

* Heb. xii. 5 — 11. The same answer, when given by a Christian, is 
perfectly conclusive also in regard to the absolute justice of God both 
in this world and in the next, as discussed under the last head : for, when 
the doctrine of moral discipline is introduced (a doctrine taught explicitly 
in Scripture, but incapable of any legitimate proof on deistical principles); 
we readily perceive, that the trials of the good, and the prosperity of the 
bad, during the present state of things, are no impeachment of the divine 


the life of a man be confined to his present state of existence, 
we may well doubt the moral utility of a protracted and pain- 
ful sickness which terminates only with the death of the sub- 
ject. We may readily indeed comprehend the beneficial effects 
of such a malady, provided it occurs in youth or in middle age, 
and provided the sufferer be finally restored to sound health : 
but we shall not very readily comprehend them, if the malady 
end only with death, and if death be followed by annihilation. 
Allow a future state : and then, no doubt, every difficulty will 
vanish ; for pain and sickness will then appear under their pro- 
per aspect of a merciful moral discipline, by which the aspirant 
is weaned from this world and gradually fitted for the glories 
of a better world ; just as, analogically, boys are fitted, by the 
severe and irksome discipline of school, honourably to play 
their parts in the future state of manhood. But I see not how 
a deist can consistently avail himself of this solution. Before 
he can be allowed to argue from a future state of retribution, 
he must prove its existence. But its existence he never can 
prove upon his principles. For he will encounter precisely 
the same difficulty in vindicating the mercy of God, as he 
encountered in vindicating his justice. He cannot demonstrate 
the mercy of God, save through the medium of a future state 
of retribution : and he cannot prove the existence of a future 
state of retribution, save by the vicious and inconclusive expe- 
dient of reasoning in a circle ; that is to say, by alternately 
demonstrating a future retributory state from the moral attri- 
butes of God, and the moral attributes of God from a future 
retributory state. 

3. The deists, again, and the Christian equally maintain, 
that God is a God of goodness : but still, as before, the argu- 
ments of the deist will be found, I fear, to labour. 

In the prosecution of this topic, he may indeed expatiate 
largely upon the beneficence so conspicuous in the works of 
the creation, and he may urge that moral arrangement by 
which virtue is its own best reward : but we may doubt, whe- 
ther, with his scanty materials, he can effect more than the 
probability that God is a being of a mixed nature. Much, 


certainly, may be said on the side of his goodness : but then, 
unfortunately, much also may be said on the other side of the 
question. If God be good, we may ask the deist, why does 
he so often stamp the impress of his seeming approbation upon 
vice, by suffering it to be prosperous and triumphant? If God 
be good, why does he so often stamp the impress of his seem- 
ing disapprobation upon virtue, by suffering it to be afflicted, 
and depressed, and trampled under foot ? If God be good, 
why has he created man with such a strange tendency to evil, 
that, in despite of his better judgment, he is ever prone to 
choose the bad and to reject the good? If God be good, 
why has he made the road of virtue even proverbially rough 
and difficult, and disagreeable, while the road of vice is pleasant, 
and smooth, and easy, and inviting ?* If God be good, why 
are populous cities, with all their inhabitants, swallowed up by 
earthquakes ? Why are the tremendous devastations of volca- 
noes permitted ; why does the tempestuous ocean yearly in- 
gulph thousands ? In one word, why is death, with all its 
horrors permitted ; why, if the existence of man be designedly 
finite, is he not quietly dismissed at the appointed time, without 
any circumstances of pain and sickness to himself, without 
any circumstances of anxious terror and secret misgivings to 
the survivors ? It is not enough to say, that it is as natural 
for a man to fall sick and to die, as it is for him to be born. 
A palpable truism, framed upon his present condition, is no 
answer to a difficulty. The question will still recur, if God be 
good, why did he make it natural for man to sicken and to 
die : why did he send him into the world, circumstanced as 
we all know by mournful experience that he is circumstanced : 
why did he form him with a propensity to evil, rather than to 
good ? We want not to be told, that such things are : we 

* T»v juevroi KOKorytTct km ixafov to-<riv t\i7§'Ai 

T>k cT' ct£eTns iSzoava. Btoi Tr^oTntgotBiV eQuxav 
A0*v*to/' /unxpos cfi jceti o^Btos otfAos *7r 9 olvdiv, 
Kati £{*£"** Hesiod. Oper. et dier. lib. i. ver. 284 — 289. 


rather want to be told, if God be indeed a God of goodness* 
why such things are. 

All these difficulties are solved by revelation : but as the 
deist rejects revelation, he stands pledged, either to account 
for them satisfactorily by the unassisted light of human rea- 
son, or else to acknowledge himself incapable of proving that 
God possesses the moral attribute of goodness. By what pro- 
cess he will seek to establish his point I pretend not to say : 
on deistical principles, I see not how we can reach higher 
than the probability that God is a being of a mixed nature, 
not very unlike to man himself (as in truth the old pagans 
feigned their deities to be), partly good and partly bad. 

III. Thus wholly unable to ascertain the moral attributes 
of the Godhead, the deist cannot but be utterly in the dark, as 
to what service will be most acceptable to him: for if he be 
ignorant of the nature of those attributes, he must plainly be 
ignorant also, as to what actions will be pleasing or displeas- 
ing to the Divinity. 

The bare difference indeed between virtue and vice, justice 
and injustice, mercy and cruelty, he can readily discern ; just 
as he can perceive the difference between hot and cold, wet 
and dry, hard and soft. He can likewise discern the social 
utility of virtue and virtuous actions ; whence he will be led 
to praise those human laws, which encourage rectitude and 
which punish crimes. But I see not how, upon his principles, 
he can ever be a virtuous man in reference to the Deity : in 
other words, I see not how, upon his principles, it is possible 
for him to have any religion properly so called. The reason 
is obvious. He cannot be certain that he will please God by 
acting justly, until he first knows that God is a God of justice. 
He cannot be certain that he will please God by acting merci- 
fully, until he first knows that God is merciful, and that he de- 
lights in mercy. He cannot be certain that he will please God 
by labouring after goodness, until he first knows that God is a 
God of Goodness. Without a previous certain knowledge, in 
short, of the moral attributes of the Deity, it is wholly impos- 
sible for him to determine, what line of conduct will be most 


pleasing to his Creator. Doubtless, if God be just, and good, 
and merciful, then justice, and goodness, and mercy will be ac- 
ceptable to him : for like ever delights in like. But here is 
the difficulty. The deist has no means of ascertaining whe- 
ther God be just, and good, and merciful, or whether he be 
unjust, and bad, and unmerciful. Nay, he cannot so much as 
tell, whether there may not be many Gods, concurring indeed 
in the creation of the world, but widely differing in their moral 
attributes ; he cannot tell, whether there may not be two inde- 
pendent principles of good and evil. Under these circum- 
stances of total ignorance, how is he to frame a religion for 
himself? He may fondly imagine, that, by cultivating virtue, 
he is rendering an acceptable service to the Deity : when, all 
the while, he is doing what is most abhorrent from the divine 
nature, and therefore most displeasing. He can have no cer- 
tainty that the very actions which gratify one God, may not 
offend another, 

Perhaps he will say, that, as it is much more simple, and 
much more probable, that there one God rather than 
many Gods ; so it is much more probable, that that one God 
should be a lover of virtue than a lover of vice. Consequently, 
since, for want of better evidence, a wise man will act upon 
the greater probability, a prudent deist will prefer and culti- 
vate virtue. 

Now what is this but a confession* that the sole religion, 
which Deism can produce, is a religion of mere probabilities ? 
Such being the case, the matter of probability may be very 
differently estimated by different persons. One may deem it 
by far the most probable conjecture, that there is only one 
God, and that that God is a God of justice, and mercy, and 
goodness. Another, perplexed by the. prevalence of evil, and 
yet discerning a considerable mixture of good, may, not un- 
reasonably, while under the tuition of no better guide than the 
light of nature, incline to think, that the old doctrine of two 
independent principles bids fairest for the truth, inasmuch as it 
solves, with the greatest show of plausibility, that enigmatical 
contrariety which on every side presents itself. Of these two 


systems, when viewed abstractedly from revelation, and with a 
sole reference to what meet the unassisted eye, it is perhaps 
not very easy to determine which is the most probable. What 
then is to be done, and how is the religion of the deist to be 
arranged ? If the former system be the nearest to the truth, 
he will act wisely in cultivating virtue : but if all the while the 
latter be the reality, it behoves him then to take heed to his 
ways ; for what is pleasing to the good God, will infallibly be 
displeasing to the bad God, and what delights the bad God, 
will assuredly offend the good God. Which of the systems is 
true, and which is false, or whether each of them be not alike 
unfounded, the deist, so far as I can comprehend, has no means 
of determining. Hence, however he may please to modify 
what is called the religion of nature, he can never know whe- 
ther his religion, with the line of conduct grafted upon it, be a 
delight or an abomination to the Divinity whom he wishes to 

* Mr Volney, having represented the general assembly of nations, 
as beseeching the legislators to show them the line that separates the 
world of chimeras from that of realities, and to teach them, after so many 
religions of error and delusion, the religion of evidence and truth ; makes 
his legislators set forth this unerring religion in the following manner : 

The law of nature is the regular and constant order of events, accord- 
ing to which God rules the universe ; the order, which his wisdom pre- 
sents to the senses and reason of mankind, to serve, them as an equal and 
general rule of action, and to conduct them without distinction of country 
or sect, towards happiness and perfection. 

Here, then, we have the foundation of what Mr Volney calls an au- 
thentic and immutable code, not calculated for one family or one nation 
only, but for the whole human race, without exception. But how is such 
a code to be built upon such a foundation ? And where is that regular 
and constant order of events, according to which God rules the universe ? 
If physical regularity be meant ; it may doubtless be perceived without 
any difficulty : but how is a religion of evidence and truth, proudly con- 
tradistinguished from religions of error and delusion, to be founded up- 
on the physical regularity of the mundane system? If moral regularity 
be meant, which is plainly the only regularity capable of sustaining a 
scheme of natural religion : where is it to be found in the world as 
now constituted? I readily grant, that if the virtuous were always 
healthy, and prosperous, and fortunate, every thing turning out agree- 


IV. These, in regard to the general question of a revelation 
from heaven, are some of the many difficulties, with which 
deistical Infidelity is on every side surrounded. 

The deist cannot certainly pronounce, whether there is one 
God, or whether there are many Gods; whether there is one 
independent principle of good which mysteriously permits evil 
to exist and to triumph, or whether there are two independent 
principles of good and evil. On the supposition that there is 
only one God, the deist is quite ignorant as to the nature of 
his moral attributes : he may form a guess indeed ; but he has 
no sure means of determining, whether this one Godbe just and 
good and merciful, or whether he be unjust and bad and un- 
merciful, or whether he be of a mixed character partly good 
and partly bad. Thus ignorant as to God's moral attributes, 
he is of necessity ignorant also as to his own moral obligations 
so far as the will and pleasure of the Divinity is concerned. 

These difficulties, viewed complexly, draw on and involve 
yet another difficulty. Whatever uncertainty, on the deistical 
system, may attend on the moral attributes of God ; there can 
be no doubt, as to his vast wisdom and power : these shine 
out too conspicuously in every part of the creation, to be either 
doubted or overlooked. Hence, therefore, immediately and 
inevitably springs up the following difficulty. 

The Creator is doubtless a being of vast wisdom and con- 
trivance. Every portion of his works, by its admirable adap- 
tation to a manifest end, is a fixed proof of this his surpassing 

ably to their wishes, and nothing occurring which could occasion to 
them the least sorrow or disappointment; while the vicious were al- 
ways sickly, and poor, and unlucky, every thing crossing their inclina- 
tions, and nothing occurring which could give them the least pleasure 
or satisfaction : in one word, if rewards and punishments as invariably 
followed virtue and vice, as the earth revolves round its axis, as fire 
burns, and as like produces like ; we should then have a regular and 
constant order of events, which, being presented to the senses and reason 
of mankind, might serve them as an equal and general rule of action. 
But where can Mr Volney find this regular and constant order of moral 
events? Where is the foundation upon which he builds his religion of 
evidence and truth ? 
E 2 


wisdom : and, the more we are enabled by observation and 
experiment to comprehend his works, the more forcibly does 
his wisdom strike upon our apprehension.* Yet, wise as the 
Creator may be, and wonderfully skilled in adapting the means 
to the end, he formed, if the system of the deist be well found- 
ed, his rational creature man with a total disregard to all such 
adaptation. He gave him reason : but, by affording him no 
fixed data, he made his reasoning faculty, in regard to its em- 
ployment on the noblest subjects, altogether useless. He 
gave him the power of discerning good from evil : but he gave 
him no means of discerning their moral difference, by any 
sure reference to the will and nature of the Creator. This 
being, unquestionably gifted so largely, unquestionably the 
masterpiece of the visible creation, he turned loose into the 
world, wholly ignorant and uninstructed in all matters which 
respect both his Maker and his own future destiny. A care-* 
ful father is anxious to give every information to his child, 
which may qualify him to play a useful and respectable part in 
society : and should any parent systematically withhold know- 
ledge from his son, we should deem his plan an extraordinary 
mark of extreme folly. But the deist, on his own principles, is 
obliged to believe, that what we reasonably deem the very 
perfection of folly in man, is precisely the line of conduct 
adopted by a God of confessedly surpassing wisdom in regard 
to the whole intelligent human species. This wonderfully wise 
Being created man ; and placed him, as a sovereign, in our 
nether world. But he left him in a state of profound igno- 
rance, both as to the unity or plurality of his Creator, both 
as to the moral attributes of the Deity, and his own consequent 
moral obligation. Not the slightest lesson did he give him ; 
not the least care did he take, that he should well answer any 
supposable end of his creation. On the contrary, he indus- 
triously withheld from him all knowledge of his most import- 
ant concerns and interests. Nor did he merely refrain from 
giving him the requisite information. Some knowledge may 

* See Paley's Natural Theology, passim. 


not be imparted, because the acquisition of it is in our own 
power: and to communicate knowledge, which maybe ac- 
quired by industry, is only to foster idleness. But this was 
not the case with the knowledge systematically denied to man, 
though knowledge of the last importance to him to possess. 
The knowledge was at once systematically denied to him; and 
the means of acquiring that knowledge, by any possible exer- 
tion of industry, were studiously withheld. Man was never 
taught, that there is one only God : and he is utterly unable 
to attain to any certainty respecting the unity of the Godhead. 
Man was never taught, that God is just and good and merciful : 
and he is utterly unable to demonstrate, that the moral attri- 
butes of God are justice and goodness and mercy. Man was 
never taught, what actions are pleasing to God : and he is ut^ 
terly unable to prove, that virtue is more pleasing to him than 
vice. Much of this knowledge need not to have been revealed s 
had man been placed in a world differently constituted from 
the present : because if virtue w r ere uniformly followed by re- 
ward and vice by punishment, if pain and misery and sickness 
were unknown except as the evident and unfailing penalty of 
injustice, if no instance of suffering or trouble in the case of a 
good man were ever known to occur, and if a removal from 
the present state of existence were never attended with horror 
and agony save in the case of a bad man ; the character and 
will of God might then be as unerringly ascertained, as if he 
had formally declared them. But the truth is, that the world, 
in which man is actually placed, is a complete enigma, a tissue 
of jarring contradictions. Perplexed and distracted, he can 
arrive at no certainty : labour as he may, he is of necessity 
still tossed in endless doubtings. Yet, in such a world, the 
deist supposes man to be placed : not by babbling folly, care- 
less whether an end be attained or not : but by consummate 
wisdom, which in every other instance carefully and effectu- 
ally adapts the mean to the end. 

To take up, with a full conviction of its truth, this extraor- 
dinary and paradoxical supposition, is not one of the least 
difficulties which attend upon deistical infidelity ; and many 


perhaps will think it a greater mark of credulity, to believe 
that an all- wise God has placed in the world his rational creature 
man without giving him the slightest instruction as to those 
points in which his welfare is immediately concerned, than to 
believe that an all-wise God has authoritatively communicated 
to his rational creature man that knowledge and information 
which may best and most certainly fit him to answer the moral 
ends of his creation. 




It has been so ordered by a wise and over-ruling Providence , 
that, in the case of various historical matters of fact, the deist 
is inevitably reduced to the alternative, either of denying the 
fact itself or of admitting that a revelation from God to man 
must have taken place. If, on the one hand, he boldly denies 
the fact; then he unsettles the whole rationale of historical 
evidence, and brings himself (would he preserve the character 
of consistency) into a state of universal scepticism as to all 
past occurrences : if, on the other hand, he admits the fact; 
then he will find himself compelled to admit along with it the 
necessary concomitant fact of a divine revelation. So that, 
under this aspect of the question, the point will be, whether 
a man evinces a higher degree of credulity, by persuading him- 
self that a recorded fact is absolutely false, notwithstanding it 
rests upon the very strongest historical evidence ; or by believing 
the fact, and thence admitting its necessary consequence a re- 
velation from heaven. 

Many matters of this description might easily be adduced 
and commented upon : I shall however, for the sake of brevity, 
confine myself to a single remarkable case, as affording an apt 
specimen of the present mode of reasoning. 

The case, which I shall produce, is the naked historical fact 
of the general deluge : and my position is, that the deist must 


either deny this fact altogether, or admit the actual occurrence 
of a revelation from God to man. 

It might seem as if the school of unbelievers had anticipated 
the possibility of some such use being made of the fact in ques- 
tion : whence perhaps we may account for the zeal, with which, 
from time to time_, they have wished wholly to set aside the 
fact. For, doubtless, if it could be satisfactorily shown that 
the deluge never occurred, no argument of any description could 
be drawn from it. The proofs however of its actual occur- 
rence are so strong and so multiplied and so decisive, that, if 
this fact be denied, we must forthwith close the volume both of 
history and of physiology : in history, we must learn to believe 
nothing, whether near or remote ; in physiology, we must 
learn to disbelieve the very evidence of our senses. 

Some of these proofs shall be briefly exhibited : and, when 
the absolute necessity of the fact has been thus established, we 
may then be allowed fairly and reasonably to draw from it the 
proposed inference. 

I. The proofs are partly historical, partly physiological, and 
partly moral. 

1. With respect to historical proof, I so designate the 
universal attestation of mankind to the alleged fact, that a gene- 
ral deluge once took place, and that all animated nature per- 
ished save a single family with those birds and beasts and rep- 
tiles which they were instrumental in preserving. 

This universal attestation I call a proof: because, if it be 
deemed incapable of establishing a fact, there is an end of all 
historical evidence. 

The circumstance of a general deluge is asserted by Moses. 
Now, when we consider the tremendous magnitude of such an 
event, and when we further consider that the Hebrew legislator 
has ventured to ascribe to it so comparatively recent a date as the 
year 2349 before the Christian era according to the chronology 
of the Hebrew Fentateuch, or the year 2939 before the same 
era according to the chronology of the Samaritan Pentateuch : 
when, I say, we consider these two points ; we may be mo- 
rally sure, that, if the fact stood recorded in the Israelitish 


annals alone while the rest of mankind were quite ignorant 
of its occurrence, it must have been a mere fiction and could 
never have really happened. For, had an event of such a 
nature indeed taken place at the epoch fixed by Moses, it ne- 
ver could have been forgotten in so comparatively short a time 
by the posterity of the solely preserved family. Hence the 
ignorance of all the rest of mankind, save the Israelites, would 
have been proof presumptive, that the whole Hebrew narrative 
of the deluge was a palpable fabrication. Or again, if some 
few neighbouring nations only were acquainted with the fact, 
while the more remote nations including the bulk of mankind 
had never heard of it, the obvious presumption would then be, 
that no general deluge had occurred, though a partial and 
local inundation might have taken place, which had been ex- 
aggerated into a story of an universal flood with its present 

(1) Such, I think, would have been the natural and reasona- 
ble inferences on either of those two suppositions. But, in 
truth, neither of the two suppositions is well founded. 

So far from all mankind being ignorant of the alleged fact, 
save the Israelites alone ; so far from the neighbouring nations 
only knowing it, conjunctively with the Israelites : there is 
scarcely a people on the face of the whole globe, to whom the 
fact is not perfectly familiar. Nor am I speaking of those 
modern nations, whether Pagan or Mohammedan, to whom 
the fact might have been circuitously conveyed through the 
medium of Christianity : I speak of ancient nations, who flour- 
ished long before the promulgation of the Gospel ; and I speak 
of those modern nations, modern Imean in the persons of 
their present representatives, who plainly received their know- 
ledge of the fact from remote primeval independent tradition. 
All mankind unite in attesting the same circumstance : and 
they all agree, with surprising uniformity, in their details. 
From north to south, and from east to west; in Europe, in 
Asia, in Africa, in America : the story of a general deluge 
never fails to present itself. A former world had attained to 
a height of daring wickedness. The gods were resolved to 


destroy it. A single pious family, with a sufficient number of 
birds and beasts and reptiles, were preserved in a large ship, 
while every thing else perished beneath the waters of an uni- 
versal inundation. The family consisted of eight persons : 
and old man and his wife, his three sons and their wives. 
When the waters began to abate, they sent out a raven and a 
dove : and, when the deluge had sufficiently subsided, their 
ship came to land upon the summit of a lofty mountain. By 
their descendants the present world was gradually filled with 

This, in substance, is the general tradition of all nations in 
every quarter of the globe. The story may be told more fully 
or less fully, more intermingled with fable or more free from 
fable : but still, under every modification, such is its universal 
drift and purport. 

(2) Nor does the tradition merely float down the stream of 
time in a state of vague subsistence : the facts, which it em- 
braces, are embodied in the national mythology and religion of 
every people. 

We are expressly assured, that the gods, whom the Gentiles 
worshiped, were illustrious men, who had flourished during 
the golden age or in the infancy of the world :t and agreeably 
to this assurance we invariably find a notion prevalent, that 
their principal divinity, the common father both of Gods and of 
men, was the parent of three sons among whom the whole 
earth was divided ; that one of the forms of his consort was a 
ship ; that, during a time when the waters overspread the face 
of all lands, he was inclosed within the womb of this myste- 
rious vessel ; that, thus confined, he floated upon the surface of 
a shoreless ocean ; and that, at length, when the flood retired, 

* See Bryant's Anal, vol ii. p. 195—251. Faber's Orig. of Pagan 
Idol, book iii. chap. 4. and Boras Mosaic book i. sect. 1. chap. 4. 2d 

t Hesiod. Oper. et dier. lib. i. ver. 320—125. August, de Civ. Dei. 
lib. iv. cap. 27. lib. viii. cap. 5. Cicer. Tusc. Disp. lib. i. cap. 12, 13. 
De nat. deor. lib. i. cap. 42. Jul. Firm, de error, prof. rel. cap. vi. 

Sect. III.] OF INFIDEL1TV. 53 

he disembarked, planted the first vine, and transmitted every 
useful art and science to his posterity.* 

Such facts constituted the basis of the ancient Mysteries :t 
and, though they are sometimes told in a wild strain of fabu. 
lizing, they are always abundantly intelligible. For the sake 
of brevity, let a single instance only be produced from the 
mythology of Hindostan. Satyavrata having built the ark, 
and the flood increasing, it was made fast to the peak of JYau- 
bandha with a cable of prodigious length. During the flood, 
Brahma or the creative power was asleep at the bottom' of the 
abyss ; while the generative powers of nature, or the great god 
Siva and the great goddess Isi, were reduced to their simplest 
elements ; the latter assuming the shape of a ship's hull since 
typified by the Argha, and the former becoming the mast of the 
vessel. In this manner they were wafted over the deep, under 
the care and protection of Vishnou. When the waters had re- 
tired, the female power of nature appeared immediately, in the 
character of Capoteswari or the dove : and she was soon joined 
by her consort, in the shape of Capoteswara or the male dove.% 
On this legend it is quite superfluous to offer any explanatory 
observations : suffice it to say, that strong indeed must have 
been the recollections of the deluge, when its leading facts 
are thus systematically embodied in the popular mythology of 
every pagan nation. 

Now whence could such an universal belief in a general 
deluge have arisen, if no such catastrophe had ever really hap- 
pened ? It is utterly incredible, that all mankind should have 
agreed in attesting the circumstance, if the circumstance itself 
had never occurred. This universal attestation then, on every 
principle of historical evidence, I shall venture once more to 
denominate a proof of the alleged fact : for it is a proof, which 
can never be invalidated by any rational process of discussion. 

2. The only plausible objection or rather difficulty, which 
could be fairly started, would be this. If an event of such 

* See Bryant's Anal, and Eaber's Orig. of Pagan Idol, passim, 
t Orig. of Pagan Idol, book v. chap. 6. 
X Asiat. Research, vol. vi. p. 523. 


terrific magnitude as the general deluge ever really took place, 
it must have left indelible marks of its ravages upon the coats 
of the earth. Hence, if no such marks can be traced, the 
language of nature contradicts the language of historical tra- 
dition : and the former, involving as it does naked tangible 
facts, must certainly be deemed more cogent than the latter. 

(1.) Of this objection, did truth allow it to be started, I 
would readily acknowledge the force : but in reality, the lan- 
guage of nature, as decyphered by our best physiologists, in- 
stead of contradicting, perfectly agrees with the language of 
universal historical tradition. 

" I am of opinion," says Mr Cuvier, " with Mr de Luc and 
Mr Dolomieu, that, if there is any circumstance thoroughly 
established in geology, it is, that the crust of our globe has 
been subjected to a great and sudden revolution, the epoch of 
which cannot be dated much farther back than five or six thou- 
sand years ; that this revolution had buried all the countries, 
which were before inhabited by men and by the other animals 
that are now best known ; that the small number of individu- 
als of men and other animals, that escaped from the effects of 
that great revolution, have since propagated and spread over 
the lands then newly laid dry ; and, consequently, that the hu- 
man race has only resumed a progressive state of improvement 
since that epoch, by forming established societies, raising 
monuments, collecting natural facts, and constructing systems 
of science and learning."* 

" The surface of the earth, which is inhabited by man," 
says Mr Parkinson, " displays even at the present day, mani- 
fest and decided marks of the mechanical agency of violent 
currents of water. Nor is there a single stratum that does 
not exhibit undeniable proofs of its having been broken, and 
even dislocated by some tremendous power, which has acted 
with considerable violence on this planet, since the deposition 
of the strata of even the latest formation."! 

Essay on the theory of the earth, § 34. p. 173, 174. 4th edit. 
Organic Remains of a former world, vol. iii. p. 454. 


(2.) Thus strongly does the very texture of the globe pro- 
claim the occurrence of a great diluvian revolution, which 
overwhelmed a former race of men and animals, and from the 
effects of which only a small number of each escaped : nor 
does it less distinctly proclaim, that the revolution itself must 
have occurred at a comparatively recent era. Moses, accord- 
ing to the chronological numbers of the Hebrew Pentateuch, 
places it 4171 years anterior to the present day;* or, accord- 
ing to what I deem the preferable chronological numbers of 
the Samaritan Pentateuch, 4761 years anterior to the same 
time : Mr Cuvier, drawing his inference from the observation 
of actual phenomena, pronounces, that its epoch cannot be 
dated much farther back than five or six thousand years. 

The train of reasoning, through which he arrives at such a 
conclusion, is singularly curious and interesting. 

" By a careful investigation," says he, " of what has taken 
place on the surface of the globe, since it has been laid dry 
for the last time, and since its continents have assumed their 
present form (at least in such parts as are somewhat elevated 
above the level of the ocean), it may clearly be seen, that this 
last revolution, and consequently the establishment of our ex- 
isting societies, could not have been very ancient. This result 
is one of the best established, and least attended to, in rational 
zoology : and it is so much the more valuable, as it connects 
natural and civil history together in one uninterrupted series. 

" When we endeavour to estimate the quantity of effects, 
produced in a given time, by any causes still acting, by com- 
paring them with the effects which these causes have produced 
since they began to operate, we may determine nearly the pe- 
riod at which their action commenced : which must necessa- 
rily be the same period, with that in which our continents 
assumed their present existing forms, or with that of the last 
retreat of the waters. It must have been since that last re- 
treat of the waters, that the acclivities of our mountains have 
begun to disintegrate and to form slopes or taluses of the de? 
bris at their bottoms and upon their sides ; that our rivers 

# I write m the year 1823. 


have begun to flow in their present courses and to form allu- 
via] depositions ; that our existing vegetation has begun to 
extend itself, and to form vegetable soil ; that our present 
cliffs, or steep sloping coasts have begun to be worn away by 
the waters of the sea ; that our actual downs or sand-hills have 
begun to be blown away by the winds : and, dating from the 
same epoch, colonies of the human race must have then be- 
gun, for the first or for the second time, to spread themselves 
and to form new establishments in places fitted by nature for 
their reception. 

" De Luc and Dolomieu have most carefully examined the 
progress of the formation of new grounds, by the collection 
of slime and sand washed down by the rivers : and, although 
exceedingly opposed to each other on many points of the the- 
ory of the earth, they agree exactly on this. These formations 
augment very rapidly : they must have increased with the great- 
est rapidity at first, when the mountains furnished the greatest 
quantity of materials to the rivers : and yet their extent still 
continues to be extremely limited. 

" The memoir of Mr Dolomieu, respecting Egypt, tends 
to prove, that the tongue of land on which Alexander caused 
his famous commercial city to be built, did not exist in the 
days of Homer : because they were then able to navigate di- 
rectly from the island of Pharos into the gulf, afterwards called 
Lacus Mareotis ; and this gulf, as indicated by Menelaus, was 
between fifteen and twenty leagues in length. Supposing this 
to be accurate, it has only required the lapse of nine hundred 
years, from the days of Homer to the time of Strabo, to bring 
matters to the situation described by the latter author, when 
that gulf was reduced to the state of a lake only six leagues 

"It is a more certain fact, that since that time, a still greater 
change has taken place. The sands, which have been thrown 
up by the sea and the winds, have formed between the isle of 
Pharos and the site of ancient Alexandria, an isthmus more 
than four hundred yards broad, on which the modern city is 
now built. These collections of sand have also blocked up 
the nearest mouth of the Nile, and have reduced the lake Ma- 


reotis almost to nothing; while, in the course of the same 
period, the Nile has deposited alluvial formations all along the 
rest of the coast. In the time of Herodotus, the coast of the 
Delta extended in a straight line, and is even represented in 
that direction in the maps constructed for the geography of 
Ptolemy ; but, since then, the coast has so far advanced as to 
have assumed a semicircular projection into the Mediterra- 

" We may learn in Holland and Italy, how rapidly the Rhine, 
the Po, and the Arno, since they have been confined within 
dykes, now elevate their beds, and push forward the alluvial 
grounds at their mouths towards the sea, forming long project- 
ing promontories at their sides ; and it may be concluded from 
this assured fact, that these rivers have not required the lapse 
of many centuries to deposit the low alluvial plains through 
which they now flow. 

46 Many cities, which were flourishing sea- ports in well- 
known periods of history, are now several leagues inland ; 
and some have even been ruined by this change. The inhabi- 
tants of Venice at present find it exceedingly difficult to pre- 
serve the lagunes, by which that once celebrated city is sepa- 
rated from the continent of Italy, from filling up : and there 
can be no doubt, that she will some day become united to the 
main land, in spite of every effort to preserve her insular situa- 

" We learn from Strabo, that Ravenna stood among lagunes 
in the time of Augustus, as Venice does now : but Ravenna is 
at present a league distant from the sea. Spina had been ori- 
ginally built by the Greeks on the sea-coast : but, in the time 
of Strabo, the sea was removed to the distance of ninety stadia. 
This city has been long since destroyed. Adria, which gave 
name to the Adriatic, was, somewhat more than twenty cen- 
turies ago, the chief port of that sea, from which it is now at 
the distance of six leagues. The Abbe Fortis has even pro- 
duced strong evidence for believing, that the Euganean hills 
may have been islands at a period somewhat more remote. 

"Mr de Prony, having been directed by the French gov- 
f 2 


ernment to examine and report upon the precautions which 
might be employed for preventing the devastations occasioned 
by the floods of the Po, ascertained, that this river has so 
greatly raised the level of its bottom since it was shut in by 
dykes, that its present surface is higher than the roofs of the 
houses in Ferrara. At the same time, the alluvial additions 
produced by this river have advanced so rapidly into the sea, 
that, by comparing old charts with the present state, the coast 
appears to have gained no less than fourteen thousand yards 
since the year 1604, giving an average of an hundred and 
eighty to two hundred feet yearly. The Adige and the Po 
are both at present higher than the intervening lands : and the 
only remedy for preventing the disasters, which are now 
threatened by their annual overflowings, would be to open new 
channels for the more ready discharge of their waters through 
the low lands which have been formed by their alluvial deposi- 

" Similar causes have produced similar effects along the 
branches of the Rhine and the Maese ; owing to which, all the 
richest districts of Holland have the frightful view of their great 
rivers held up by dikes, at the height of twenty or even thirty 
feet above the level of the land. 

" This formation and increase of new grounds, by alluvial 
depositions, proceeds with as much rapidity along the coasts 
of the North Sea as on those of the Adriatic. These additions 
can be easily traced in Friesland and Groningen, where the 
epoch of the first dikes, constructed by the Spanish governor, 
Gaspard Robles, is well known to have been in the year 1570, 
A hundred years afterwards, the alluvial depositions had added 
in some places three quarters of a league of new land on the 
outside of these dikes : and the city of Groningen, partly built 
upon the ancient soil, which has no connexion with the pre- 
sent sea (being a calcareous formation, in which the same spe- 
cies of shells are found as in the coarse limestone formations 
near Paris), is only six leagues from the sea. The same phe- 
nomenon is as distinctly observable all along the coasts of 
East-Friesland and the countries of Bremen and Holstein, as the 


period, at which the new grounds were inclosed by dikes for the 
first time, is perfectly well known ; and the extent, that has been 
gained since, can be easily measured. These new alluvial 
lands, left by the sea and the rivers, are of astonishing fertility: 
and they are so much the more valuable, as the ancient soil of 
these countries, being mostly covered by barren heaths and peat- 
mosses, is almost incapable of cultivation : so that the alluvial 
lands alone produce subsistence for the many populous cities, 
that have been built along these coasts since the middle age, 
and which probably might not have reached their present flour- 
ishing condition without the aid of these rich grounds which 
have been (as it were) created by the rivers, and to which they 
are continually making additions. 

" The downs or sand-hills, which are thrown up by the sea 
upon low flat coasts when the bed of the sea happens to be 
composed of sand, have been already mentioned. Wherever 
human industry has not succeeded to fix these downs, they 
advance as securely and irresistibly upon the land as the allu- 
vial formations from the rivers encroach upon the sea. In their 
progress inland, they push before them great pools of water, 
formed by the rain which falls on the neighbouring grounds, 
and which has no means of running off in consequence of the 
obstructions interposed by the downs. In several places they 
proceed with a frightful rapidity, overwhelming forests, houses, 
and cultivated fields, in their irresistible progress. 

" Those upon the coast of the Bay of Biscay has over- 
whelmed a great number of villages, which are mentioned in 
the records of the middle age : and, even at present, in the 
single department of Landes, they threaten no fewer than ten 
with almost inevitable destruction. One of these, named Mi- 
migan, has been in danger for the last fifteen years from a 
sand-hill of more than sixty feet in perpendicular height, which 
obviously continues to advance. 

"In the year 1802, the pools overwhelmed five farm-houses 
belonging to the village of St Julian. They have long covered 
up an ancient Roman road, leading from Bourdeaux to Bay- 
onne, which could still be seen about thirty years ago, where 


the waters were lower than they are now. The river Adour, 
which is known to have formerly passed Old Boucat to join 
the sea at Cape Breton, is now turned to the distance of more 
than 2400 yards. 

"Mr Bremontier, who made several extensive works to 
stop the progress of these downs, estimated it at sixty feet 
yearly, and in some places at seventy-two feet. According to 
this calculation, it would require two thousand years to enable 
them to arrive at Bourdeaux : and, on the same data, they have 
taken somewhat more than four thousand years to reach their 
present situation. 

" The Turbaries, or peat-mosses, which have been formed 
so generally in the northern parts of Europe by the accumula- 
tion of the remains of sphagnum and other aquatic mosses, 
afford another mean of estimating the time which has elapsed 
since the last retreat of the sea, from our present continents. 
These mosses increase in height in proportions which are 
determinate in regard to each. They surround and cover up 
the small knolls, upon which they are formed ; and several of 
these knolls have been covered over within the memory of 
man. In other places, the mosses gradually descend along 
the valleys, extending downward like the glaciers: but these 
latter melt away every year at their lower edges, while the 
mosses are not stopped by any thing whatever in their regular 
increase. By sounding their depth down to the solid ground, 
we may form some estimate of their antiquity ; and it may be 
asserted respecting these mosses, as well as respecting the 
downs, that they do not derive their origin from an indefi- 
nitely ancient epoch. 

" The same observations may be made in regard to the slips 
or fallings, which sometimes take place at the bottom of all 
steep slopes in mountainous regions, and which are still very 
far from having covered these over. But, as no precise mea- 
sures of their progress have hitherto been applied, we shall not 
insist upon them at any greater length. 

" From all that has been said, it may be seen, that nature 
every where distinctly informs us, that the commencement of 


the present order of things cannot be dated at a very remote 

3. With the language of nature and with the general tradi- 
tions of all nations, the evidence, afforded by what I have called 
a moral proof , will still be found exactly to accord. 

(1.) As all the nations upon the face of the earth, which 
possess any records or ancient traditions, unanimously declare, 
that a universal deluge once took place, and that society recom- 
menced from the epoch of that grand revolution : so every ac- 
count which has come down to us of the progress of civilization, 
with its concomitant arts and sciences, tends to demonstrate 
the comparative newness of social order and thence incidentally 
its commencement from some remarkable epoch of no stupen- 
dously remote antiquity. 

On the supposition, that the general deluge really took place, 
and that a single family alone was preserved in the midst of 
surrounding destruction; it is easy to conceive, what in lapse 
of time would be the almost certain consequence of such an 
event. For a season, mankind would remain together, and 
would industriously preserve and cultivate that knowledge 
which had been saved from the wreck of a former world. But, 
ere long, increase of numbers would produce emigration: and 
emigration would take place in every direction from the cen- 
tral spot, which was first inhabited. Those who remained 
together in the originally established society, and those who 
had the good fortune to plant themselves in rich and fertile 
countries, retaining the arts and sciences derived from their 
antediluvian forefathers, would gradually form civilized and 
well politiecl communities. But those who emigrated in small 
bodies, and who plunged into the depths of trackless forests or 
fixed themselves in hopelessly barren districts, would soon 
sink into a state of ignorance and barbarism : for, either the 
labour of clearing the ground would so occupy them as to pre- 
clude much cultivation of mind, or an adoption of the pastoral 
or hunting life would prove equally unfavourable to the pre- 

* Essays on the theory of the earth. § 31, 32. p. 135—242. 


servation and diffusion of knowledge. Thus, by the very ne- 
cessity of things, mankind would in a very short time be distri- 
buted into the two classes of the civilized and uncivilized. 

Yet so great are the advantages of knowledge and union, 
that, although barbarous nations may often have made success- 
ful inroads into the territories of civilized nations, there is a 
natural tendency in civilization to spread itself and in the end 
to prevail over and exterminate barbarism. Hence, after a 
certain number of years, civilization gradually extending and 
barbarism gradually contracting its limits, the inevitable result 
must be the universal diffusion of the light of knowledge. I 
mean not to say, that various impediments may not, from time 
to time, obstruct the progress of civilization, or that once civil- 
ized nations may not occasionally retrogade to at least com- 
parative barbarism : but this I will venture to say, that, in the 
natural course of things, civilization on the whole must ever 
be in a state of increase, and barbarism on the whole must 
ever be in a state of decrease. 

(2.) With this view of the matter, all history down to the 
present time, perfectly agrees. 

Many tribes and nations now exist in the variously graduated 
state of barbarism, from defective civilization down to absolute 
brutal savageness. Not more than some fifteen or sixteen Gen* 
turies ago, the ancestors of the highly polished and civilized 
Europeans were still in the barbarous state, though they had 
emerged from the condition of complete savages. At a still 
more distant period, even after every allowance has been made 
for Grecian vanity, many of the nations, which touched upon 
the various Hellenic republics and colonies, were in the strictly 
proper sense of the word, barbarians. If we carry our re- 
searches yet farther back, w r e find the forefathers of the Greeks 
themselves in the very same barbaric condition as that, with 
which they afterwards indiscriminately reproached all their 
neighbours. In short, whenever the character of a very ancient 
lawgiver is delineated, the reclamation of his people either 
from savage or from barbarous life never fails to be insisted 
upon as a leading feature of his character. Yet, while such is 


the unvaried tenor of history and tradition, it is always ac- 
knowledged, that civilization has, from the very earliest times, 
prevailed in the East : nor is it less acknowledged, that the 
east was the aboriginal cradle of the human race immediately 
after that terrible revolution which stands more or less distinctly 
recorded in the annals of almost every nation upon the face of 
the globe. Barbarism then is not a state of nature, but a state 
of degeneracy. The East preserved, what the primeval emi- 
grants from the East lost by the labours and difficulties attend- 
ing upon their locomotion : and the East gradually communicated 
the sacred deposit to those who had forfeited it. Egypt and 
Phenicia borrowed from Chaldea and Assyria : Greece derived 
her civilization from Egypt and Phenicia : Rome and Italy 
were largely indebted to Greece : the Gothic conquerors of 
the West received the torch of knowledge from the van- 
quished Empire of Rome : and now, by navigation and coloni- 
zation and an almost perpetual intercourse with the most 
widely separated nations, their descendants are rapidly carry- 
ing it in every possible direction. 

(3.) What then is the plain inference from these well known 
and familiar facts ? 

Doubtless it is this : that the population of the world is com- 
paratively recent. 

For, had the world begun to be peopled at some immensely 
distant period, or had the human race existed from all eternity, 
though the individual man be liable to death, civilization and 
good polity, with the arts and sciences in their train, must 
many ages ago have diffused themselves over the whole habitable 
globe ; the savage and barbaric states must long since have 
become extinct ; and, even on what is called the doctrine of 
chances, every modern invention must already have been an- 
cient in the days of our remote ancestors. Not more sure is 
the physical progress of alluvial depositions and encroaching 
sands, than the moral progress of knowledge and of civiliza- 
tion. Each alike proclaims the recent population of the earth. 
But what shall we place before the commencement of this 
recent population ? The voice of all nations, and the indelible 


marks imprinted upon the globe itself, concur in declaring, that 
the recent population of the present world was immediately 
preceded by an awful diluvian revolution, from which a few 
individuals only of men and animals were suffered to escape. 

II. Such are the proofs, upon which the fact of the universal 
deluge is firmly established : nor do I see, how any man can 
resist such evidence, unless he will throw aside all history, 
resolutely shut his eyes against the researches of physiology, 
and boldly controvert the necessity of moral testimony. The 
fact therefore otthe universal deluge I consider as demonstrated : 
whence we may fairly claim to argue from it, as we would do 
from any other established fact. On these reasonable princi- 
ples, I may be allowed to employ it as a medium of proving the 
additional fact, of a direct intercourse between man and his 
Creator, or, in other words, of a revelation of God's purposes 
to his creature man. 

The established fact is, that an universal deluge took place 
not more than five or six millenaries ago ; from which a few 
individuals only of men and animals, the progenitors of the 
present race of men and animals, effected their escape. 

If then these few individuals only, human and bestial, ef- 
fected their escape ; the question is, how they happened to 
efTect it, while the great mass of their respective fellows per- 
ished ? 

To such a question it is unanimously replied by the voice of 
all nations, that the pious head of a single pious family con- 
structed an immense ship, and that in this vessel were preserved 
those individuals of men and animals by whose descendants the 
present world has been replenished. 

Now here another question arises. If a ship were con- 
structed and used for this special purpose, the person, who so 
constructed and used it, must have foreseen the approaching 
deluge. But man, naturally, possesses not foreknowledge. — 
Whence then did the builder of the ship derive that prescience, 
by which he foresaw and provided against the approaching 
deluge ? 

It is not easy to conceive, what reply can be given to this 


question, save what is doubtless the true one. The builder of 
the ship must have derived his prescience from an immediate 
intercourse with God. But, if this be admitted (and surely we 
have here a knot, which nothing save the intervention of a 
Deity, can untie) ; the fact of a direct intercourse between man 
and his Creator, or, in other words, the fact of a revelation of 
God's purposes to his creature man, is fully and incontroverti- 
bly established. 

Against such a conclusion I see not what can be urged, save 
either the one or the other of the two following solutions of 
the difficulty. 

It may be said, that the deluge, though universal in one 
sense of the word, yet did not cover the tops of all the highest 
hills ; and that, upon their summits, certain individuals, human 
and bestial, preserved themselves from destruction. 

Or it may be admitted, that the deluge was strictly univer- 
sal ; while it may be contended, that the individuals in ques- 
tion fortunately saved themselves on board of a ship, which, 
without any necessary revelation from heaven, had been pre- 
viously built just as many other ships might have been previ- 
ously built. 

Neither of these solutions, I fear, will untie the knot : they 
shall, however, be considered in their order. 

1. Let us first suppose, that the deluge did not cover the 
tops of the highest mountains, and that certain individuals of 
each genus preserved themselves upon their summits. What 
will be the result of this supposition ? It will, I presume, be 
the following. 

Though many men and many animals would perish, many 
men and many animals in every quarter of the globe would 
escape : for, as the summits of the mountains would be open 
to all, we may be quite sure, that great numbers would eagerly 
seize such an opportunity of self-preservation. Had this then 
been the mode of escape afforded to men and animals, it is 
perfectly clear, that no tradition of any escape effected through 
the medium of a ship could have been in existence. The 
accounts of the several nations of the earth would indeed have 


so far agreed, that their respective ancestors had saved them- 
selves upon the tops of their own territorial mountains : but 
their accounts could never have agreed in the single striking 
circumstance, that the preservation both of men and animals 
was effected by the instrumentality of a large ship built for 
that special purpose, if all the while no such circumstance had 
ever occurred. 

Upon the supposition before us, it is abundantly manifest, 
that traditions of the deluge must have exhibited a totally dif- 
ferent aspect from what they do at present. In some chance 
country, we might possibly have heard of an individual who 
escaped in a ship : but the generally prevailing account would 
certainly have been, that men and animals took refuge on the 
tops of the mountains, which remained dry while the plains 
were inundated. 

2. Let us next suppose, that, although the deluge was 
strictly universal, yet the mode, in which individual men and 
animals escaped, was not in a ship specially built for the pur- 
pose by reason of a divine revelation, but in a ship which (like 
many other ships) had been accidentally built in the ordinary 
course of war or traffic. Now what w T ill be the result of this 
supposition ? It will, I apprehend, be the following. 

If one family thus escaped, there is no assignable reason 
why many other families might not equally have escaped. 
Hence, under such circumstances, though tradition would have 
made a ship the medium of preservation, it would have told 
the thousand escapes in a thousand different manners. 

But this is not the fact. In every quarter of the globe, the 
matter is related with surprizing uniformity. We are invaria- 
bly told, not that many families, but that a single family alone, 
escaped ; that this family consisted of eight persons ; that the 
head of it was the father of three sons ; and that from these 
three sons descended ail the nations of the present world. It 
is true indeed, that, with a not unnatural vanity, every people 
has delighted to claim the father of the preserved family as 
their own peculiar countryman, and to place the appulse of the 
ship upon some lofty mountain in their own peculiar territory : 


but still, iii the fact that only a single family was saved, all 
nations agree ; and the palpable circumstance, that the East 
was the cradle of mankind and the centre whence every post- 
diluvian emigration took place, clearly demonstrates that the 
ship can only have come to land in the continent of Asia. 

I may add, that the supposition before us does not at all ac- 
count for a matter, which involves no slight degree of difficulty. 

The progenitors of the present existing birds and beasts 
must have been preserved from the general deluge, as well as 
the ancestors of the present existing race of mankind. Now 
the testimony of history and the researches of geology agree 
in declaring, that the deluge was not more a great than a sud- 
den revolution.* If then man received no warning from hea- 
ven of its approach, and if he merely fled to such ships as had 
previously and accidentally been constructed ; how happened 
it, that the various genera of birds and beasts and reptiles, 
which are now in actual existence, were preserved no less 
than man ? Is it likely, that there would be a curious research 
after land-animals and a painful endeavour to take alive the 
several tribes of birds which wing their airy way through the 
midst of heaven, while the waters were rapidly rising and 
threatening immediate destruction ? Or, if any such extraor- 
dinary efforts should have been made, is it possible that they 
could have been crowned with success ? Nay, even granting 
the rise of the waters to have been gradual, even granting it to 
have afforded sufficient time to catch every variety of animals ; 
would man, if left to himself, have been anxious to preserve 
noxious creatures ? Would he have painfully saved the lion, 
the tiger, the bear, the serpent ? Would he have been careful 
to preserve those many smaller animals; which, though not 
formidable to him as combatants, are troublesome or destruc- 
tive to his property, and which therefore he now incessantly 
labours to exterminate ? The present supposition is clearly 
quite insufficient to account for the fact of the existence of ani- 
mals as they now exist, notwithstanding the certain occur- 

* Cuvier's Essay on the theory of the earth. § 34. p. 174. 


rence of the deluge at a comparatively recent period. Their 
progenitors could not have been collected together in order to 
embarkation, without a previous knowledge of the approach- 
ing flood on the part of their collector. But this previous 
knowledge he could not have had, save by a divine communi- 
cation. Therefore a divine communication must have taken 
place: otherwise, the progenitors of our present birds and 
beasts and reptiles could not have been preserved. 

3. Thus we are finally brought to the very same conclusion 
as before. 

Admit the fact of that great and sudden revolution, which, 
according to Mr Cuvier, is a circumstance in geology most 
thoroughly established, and the epoch of which cannot be dated 
much farther bach than five or six thousand years: admit, I 
say, this fact ; and you must inevitably admit the additional 
fact also, that a revelation of God' s purposes to his creature 
man has assuredly taken place as we find it recorded in Holy 

On the other hand, deny the fact of the deluge; and you 
must then run counter to the testimony both of universal his- 
tory and of strictly corresponding geology, thus shaking all 
moral evidence to its very basis, and thus introducing a com- 
plete uncertainty as to every past event both ancient and mo- 

Which of these two iavolves a greater difficulty, an admis- 
sion of the historical fact of the deluge or a denial of it in the 
face of the strongest and most varied evidence, does not, I 
think, require any prolonged discussion. 



The same, or (if possible) still greater, difficulties attend 
upon deistical Infidelity in regard to actually accomplished 

Political sagacity may sometimes anticipate events, on the 
mere principle of cause and effect: but the sagacity can pene- 
trate to no very great distance of time ; it is uncertain in its 
operation, even when causes are accurately known ; and if the 
causes of future events be altogether unknown, its operation 
wholly ceases. 

Prophetic sagacity, on the other hand, is so totally differ- 
ent from political sagacity, that, on no rational grounds, can 
the two be ever confounded together. Various instances may 
be easily produced, in which matters most remotely distant in 
point of time have been accurately foretold, in which such 
unerring certainty is exhibited that not a failure can be detected 
even in the most minute circumstance, and in which the pro- 
phet must clearly have been ignorant of all those political 
causes which in the course of God's providence were destined 
to bring about the predicted effects. 

Such being the case, we have an undoubted fact to explain. 

A mere man, like ourselves, authoritatively and confidently 

declares, that a particular tissue of events will assuredly come 

to pass. His word is accurately accomplished; and yet, so 

g 2 


far as his own natural powers were concerned, he possessed 
no greater facility of developing futurity than any other man. 
This is the fact to be accounted for : and, as the fact itself is 
indisputable, we certainly have a right to expect, either that 
the infidel on his own principles should give a satisfactory so- 
lution of it, or that he should renounce his principles as clogged 
with too many difficulties to be rationally tenable. 

To run through the whole volume of prophecy, would far 
exceed my present limits : I must, therefore, as in the recent 
case of the historical fact of the deluge, select some one spe- 
cial prediction, which may serve as a specimen of the mode 
of reasoning from accomplished prophecy in general. 

The prediction, selected for this purpose, shall be that of 
Moses respecting the future condition of a people, who, at the 
time of its delivery, were on the eve of victoriously taking pos- 
session of the land of Palestine : and I the rather select this 
prediction, both on account of its remote antiquity, for it was 
uttered fifteen centuries before it began to be accomplished ; 
and on account of the demonstration, which, by a necessary 
consequence, it affords to the divine authority of the Levitical 

I. In a somewhat abbreviated form, the prophecy in question 
runs as follows : 

" It shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the 
voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his command- 
ments and his statutes which I command thee this day ; that 
all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee — And 
they shall be upon thee for a sign and for a wonder, and upon 
thy seed for ever. 

"The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far, from 
the end of the earth, as the eagle flieth ; a nation whose tongue 
thou shalt not understand ; a nation of fierce countenance, 
which shall not regaid the person of the old, nor show favour 
to the young. And he shall eat the fruit of thy cattle and the 
fruit of thy land, until thou be destroyed : which also shall not 
leave thee either corn, wine, or oil, or the increase of thy kine, 
or flocks of thy sheep, until he have destroyed thee. And he 


shall besiege thee in all thy gates, until thy high and fenced 
walls come down, wherein thou trustedst, throughout all thy 
land : and he shall besiege thee in all thy gates throughout all 
thy land, which the Lord thy God hath given thee. 

" And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, the flesh 
of thy sons and of thy daughters which the Lord thy God hath 
given thee, in the siege and in the straightness wherewith thine 
enemies shall distress thee — The tender and delicate woman 
among you, which would not adventure to set the sole of her 
foot upon the ground for delicateness and tenderness, her eye 
shall be evil toward the husband of her bosom, and toward her 
son, and toward her daughter, and toward her young one that 
cometh out from between her feet, and toward her children 
which she shall bear: for she shall eat them for want of all 
things secretly in the siege and straightness, wherewith thine 
enemy shall distress thee in thy gates — 

"Then the Lord will make thy plagues wonderful, and the 
plagues of thy seed, even great plagues and of long continu- 
ance, and sore sicknesses, and of long continuance — 

" And it shall come to pass, that as the Lord rejoiced over 
you to do you good and to multiply you ; so the Lord will 
rejoice over you to destroy you and to bring you to nought : 
and ye shall be plucked from the land, whither thou goest to 
possess it. 

" And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the 
one end of the earth even to the other — 

" And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither 
shall the sole of thy foot have rest : but the Lord shall give 
thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow 
of mind : and thy life shall hang in doubt before thee : and 
thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance 
of thy life. In the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were 
even ! and at even thou shalt say, Would God it were morn- 
ing ! for the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and 
for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see. 

" And the Lord shall bring thee into Egypt again with ships, 
by the way whereof I spake unto thee, Thou shalt see it no 


more again : and there ye shall be sold unto your enemies for 
bond-men and bond-women, and no man shall buy you — 

" And thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a 
by-word, among all nations, whither the Lord shall lead thee — 

" So that the generation to come of your children that shall 
rise up after you, and the stranger that shall come from a far 
land, shall say ; — What meaneth the heat of this great anger ? 
Then men shall say ; Because they have forsaken the covenant 
of the Lord God of their fathers, which he made with them 
when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt: — the 
Lord rooted them out of their land in anger and in wrath, and 
in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is 
this day."* 

II. Thus runs the prophecy : a prophecy which cannot be 
said to be dark, and obscure, and ambiguous, and unintelligible ; 
but which is delivered in terms plain, simple, and perspicuous 
to the meanest intellect. 

1. Its minute accomplishment in every particular, however 
that accomplishment is to be accounted for, is not a matter of 
doubt, or dispute, or speculation : on the contrary, it is a 
naked matter of fact, which is recorded by history, and which 
even at the present day we behold with our own eyes. Fa- 
miliarly does it meet us, wherever we direct our steps : and, 
extraordinary as it is in itself, the very circumstance of its 
familiarity, like the periodical rising and setting of the sun, 
causes it to produce the less vivid effect upon our imagination 
and the less forcibly to arrest our languid attention. Among 
the heedless and the inconsiderate, even the notoriety of the 
fact tends to diminish its impressiveness. 

Yet, while the general accomplishment of the prophecy is 
seen and acknowledged, its minute accomplishment in a great 
variety of particulars is not always equally attended to ; though 
such is eminently the matter, which best serves for the basis 
of an invincibly conclusive argument. That the full weight 
of this remarkable circumstance may be felt and perceived, 

* Deut. xxviii. xxix. 


let us consider the prediction in all its leading points, article 
by article. 

(1.) Moses begins with foretelling, that the threatened 
curses, when they overtake the wretched Israelites, shall be 
religiously viewed as a sign and a wonder : and he concludes 
with declaring, that, when men should behold their strange and 
unparalleled condition, they would be stirred up by curiosity 
to inquire into the grounds and reasons of it ; intimating at the 
same time, that the never-failing answer would be, that these 
calamities were judicial. The Lord rooted them out of their 
land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation ; and cast 
them into another land, as it is this day. 

Such, accordingly, is the precise aspect under which these 
curses are now beheld by all nations : such is the invariable 
solution which is given of the phenomenon. It is universally 
taught and believed, that the Jews labour under the special 
curse of God. Their troubles are not viewed as a matter of 
ordinary occurrence, which may reasonably deserve and at- 
tract little attention : but they are considered as something out 
of the common course of nature ; and they are contemplated 
as an awful indication of the divine displeasure. According to 
the prophecy, this opinion, whether justly founded as the 
Christian believes, or unjustly founded, as the infidel imagines ; 
yet, at all events, as a simple fact, this opinion is to be generally 
entertained : and, in the accomplishment of the prophecy, this 
opinion always has been entertained. 

(2.) The agent, that in the first instance inflicts these trou- 
bles upon the Jews, is described, as a nation of a fierce coun- 
tenance, a nation distant in point of locality from Palestine, a 
nation whose language should be unintelligible to the suffer- 
ers : and this agent is represented, as besieging them in a for- 
tified town of extraordinary strength, and as completely suc- 
ceeding in his enterprise notwithstanding the confidence which 
they should place in their lofty and well-defended towers. 

Eemarkable, though perfectly familiar to every student of 
history, is the accomplishment of this particular also. With 
the several languages of their immediate neighbours, the Jews 


were not unacquainted : for the Hebrew, the Phenician, the 
Syriac, the Chaldee, and the Arabic, are all dialects of one 
and the same primitive tongue : but the Latin which was spoken 
by the Romans, and the various barbaric western languages 
which were spoken by their auxiliaries, were utterly unknown 
to the Jews as a nation. From far distant Italy came this peo- 
ple of a proverbially fierce countenance : and the strong forti- 
fications of Jerusalem, in which the besieged obstinately placed 
their trust, and which excited the admiration even of Titus 
himself, were unable to defend them in the day of trouble. 

(3.) The horrors of the blockade are prophetically announced 
to be so great, that even delicate women, while they grudged 
every morsel to their husbands and adult children, should mer- 
cilessly slaughter and devour their own infants. 

I need scarcely repeat the often told and well known facts 
recorded by the Jewish historian Josephus. Such was the 
scarcity produced by the siege, that the scanty morsel was 
greedily snatched by wives from the very mouths of their hus- 
bands, by sons from the mouths of their fathers, by mothers 
from the mouths of their infants.* Nor was this the worst 
misery, to which they were reduced ; a still more dreadful 
portent was necessary to the accomplishment of the prophecy. 
That portent was the unutterable abomination of a worse than 
Thyestean banquet : a woman of high rank, impelled by the fury 
of raging hunger, slew and devoured her own sucking child.t 

(4.) The troubles, which should come upon the Jews, are 
foretold to be at once great in extent and long in continuance. 

Such, accordingly, they have been. Affecting the whole 
nation both generally and individually, they have continued 
without remission for the space of more than seventeen centu- 

(5.) It is further predicted, that this extraordinary people 
should not only be brought to great and lasting misery ; but 
that they should likewise be violently plucked from the land, 

* Joseph, de bell. Jud. lib. v. c. 10. § 3. p. 1245. lib. vi. c. 3. § 3. p. 
1274. edit. Hudson, cited by Bp. Newton. 

t Ibid. lib. vi. c. 3. § 4, cited by Bp. Newton. 


which, when the prophecy was delivered, they were on the 
point of occupying as conquerors. 

Here again we cannot but observe the exact completion of 
the oracle. Instead of being merely conquered and subjugated, 
the general fate of other nations attacked by the Romans, it 
was the harder lot of the Jews to be torn from their native coun- 
try and on pain of death to be prohibited from setting foot upon 
its soil.* 

(6.) Nor were the Jews to be simply transplanted, like colo- 
nists, from Palestine into some other region, which might better 
suit the policy or convenience of the victors : it is additionally 
foretold, that the Lord would scatter them among all people, 
from the one end of the earth even to the other. 

This remarkable fact lies open to universal notice. Where 
is the region, in which the dispersed children of Israel are not 
to be found ? Plucked violently from their own land, they 
meet us alike in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America. 

(7.) Thus widely scattered, they were further destined to 
find no ease among the nations whose territories should receive 
them : but their standing characteristics should be a trembling 
heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind, and a perpetual 
anxiety even respecting life itself. 

For the exact accomplishment of the present particular, we 
may confidently appeal to simple matter of fact. The descrip- 
tion could not have been more vivid, had it been written in the 
present day, instead of many ages before the predicted disper- 
sion of the house of Israel. 

(8.) It is added, that, at the time of their desolation, many of 
the Jews should be sold as slaves into Egypt ; and yet y so little 
should they be valued, or so slight should be the care taken of 
them, that, comparatively speaking, no man should buy them. 

The circumstance here announced is remarkable on account of 
its minuteness : nor is it less remarkable on account of its accu- 

* Justin Martyr. Apol. i. p. 71. Euseb. Eccles. Hist. lib. iv. c. 6 
Tertull. Apol. c. 21. Hieron. in Tsai. c. vi b. 65. in Dan, c. ix. p. 1117, 

cited by Bp. Newton. 


rate completion. When Jerusalem was taken by Titus, the 
captives above seventeen years of age were sent bound, in 
great numbers, to the works in Egypt ; and those under sev- 
enteen years of age were sold as slaves : but so little care 
was taken of them, that eleven thousand perished for want. 
And, at a subsequent period, after their last overthrow by 
Adrian, many thousands of them were sold : while those, who 
from their inferior quality would fetch no price, were trans- 
ported into Egypt, where they either perished through famine 
and shipwreck, or were barbarously massacred by the inhabi- 

(9.) The prophecy finally declares, that the dispersed Jews 
should become an astonishment, a proverb, and a by-word, 
among all nations, whither the Lord should lead them. 

Of this unhappy people, such has now been notoriously the 
condition during the space of many centuries. That Chris- 
tians should have viewed them with detestation, as the mur- 
derers of the promised Messiah, may not perhaps be a matter 
of much wonder. But there is no particular natural reason 
why, among the intolerant Mohammedans, they should be more 
a proverb and a by-word than any other unbelievers in the Ko- 
ran : and it is wholly unaccountable on common principles, 
why they should be viewed in the very same degraded light by 
pagan nations. Yet so it has ever been : and so, in a great 
degree, it still is. How should we expect, by any reasoning 
a priori, that they would be trodden down of the heathen 
world, who never heard of the Saviour ? Behold the Hindoo, 
at this day, punishing the Jew, without knowing the crime of 
which he has been guilty. t 

2. Such has been the accomplishment of a prophecy, deliv- 
ered fifteen centuries before the commencement of the pre- 
dicted desolation : and, in connexion with it, we shall find it 
not uninteresting to hear the sentiments of the Jews them- 
selves respecting their present depressed condition. 

* Joseph, de bell. Jud. lib. vi. c. 9. § 2. p. 1291. Hieron. in Zachar. 
c. xi. vol. iii. p. 1774, cited by Bp. Newton. 

t Buchanan's Christian Researches in Asia, p. 297, 298. 


"Soon after the establishment of Christianity," says one of 
their writers, "the Jewish nation, dispersed since the second 
destruction of its temple, had totally disappeared. By the 
light of the flames which devoured the monuments of its an- 
cient splendour, the conquerors beheld a million of victims 
dead or expiring on their ruins. The hatred of the enemies 
of that unfortunate nation raged longer than the fire which had 
consumed its temple : active and relentless, it still pursues and 
oppresses them in every part of the globe over which they are 
scattered. Their persecutors delight in their torments too 
much to seal their doom by a general decree of proscription, 
which would at once put an end to their burthensome and pain- 
ful existence. It seems, as if they were allowed to survive 
the destruction of their country, only to see the most odious 
and calumnious imputations laid to their charge, to stand as 
the constant object of the grossest and most shocking injustice, 
to be as a mark for the insulting finger of scorn, and as a sport 
to the most inveterate hatred : it seems, as if their doom was 
incessantly to suit all the dark and bloody purposes which can 
be suggested by human malignity, supported by ignorance and 
fanaticism. Weighed down by taxes, and forced to contribute 
more than Christians for the support of society, they had 
hardly any of the rights which it gives. If a destructive 
scourge happened to spread havoc among the inhabitants of a 
country, the Jews had poisoned the springs ; or those men, 
cursed by heaven, had nevertheless incensed it by their prayers, 
against the nation which they were supposed to hate. Did 
sovereigns want pecuniary assistance to carry on their wars ? 
The Jews were compelled to give up those riches,, in which 
they sought some consolation against the oppressing sense of 
their abject condition: as a reward for their sacrifices, they 
were expelled from the state which they had supported, and 
afterwards recalled, to be stripped again. Compelled to wear 
exteriorly the badges of their abject state, they were every 
where exposed to the insults of the vilest populace. When 
from his solitary retreat an enthusiastic hermit had preached 
the crusades to the nations of Europe, and when a part of its 

78 the difficulties [Sect. IV. 

inhabitants left their country, to moisten with their blood the 
plains of Palestine ; the knell of promiscuous massacre tolled 
before the alarm-bell of war. Millions of Jews were then 
murdered, to glut the pious rage of the crusaders. It was by 
tearing the entrails of their brethren, that these warriors sought 
to deserve the protection of heaven. Skulls of men and bleed- 
ing hearts were offered as holocausts, on the altars of that God, 
who has no pleasure even in the blood of the innocent lamb : 
and ministers of peace were thrown into a holy enthusiasm by 
these bloody sacrifices. It is thus, that Basil, Treves, Cob- 
lentz, and Cologne, became human shambles. It is thus, that 
upwards of 400,000 victims of all ages and of both sexes, lost 
their lives at Cesarea and Alexandria. 

" And is it after they have experienced such treatment, that 
they are reproached with their vices ? Is it, after being for 
eighteen centuries the sport of contempt, that they are re- 
proached with being no longer alive to it? Is it, after having 
so often glutted with their blood the thirst of their persecu- 
tors, that they are held out as enemies to other nations ? Is it, 
when they have been bereft of all means to mollify the hearts 
of their tyrants, that indignation is roused, if now and then 
they cast a mournful look towards the ruins of their temple, 
towards their country, where formerly happiness crowned their 
peaceful days, free from the cares of ambition and of riches ? 

"Since the light of philosophy began to daw T n over Europe, 
our enemies have ceased to satisfy their revenge with the sa- 
crifice of our lives. Jews are no longer seen, who generously 
refusing to bend under the yoke of intolerance, were led with 
solemn pomp to the fatal pile. But, although the times of 
these barbarous executions are past long ago, although the 
hearts of sovereigns are now strangers to this cruelty ; yet 
slavery itself and prejudices are still the same. By what crimes 
have we then deserved this furious intolerance ? What is our 
guilt ? Is it in that generous constancy which we have mani- 
fested in defending the laws of our fathers ? But this constancy 
might to have entitled us to the admiration of all nations, and 
it has only sharpened against us the daggers of persecution. 


Braving all kinds of torments, the pangs of death, the still more 
terrible pangs of life, we long have withstood the impetuous 
torrent of time, sweeping indiscriminately in its course nations, 
religions, and countries. What is to become of those cele- 
brated empires, whose very name still excites our admiration, by 
the ideas of splendid greatness attached to them, and whose 
power embraced the whole surface of the known globe ? They 
are only remembered as monuments of the vanity of human 
greatness. Rome and Greece are no more : their descendants, 
mixed with other nations, have lost even the traces of their 
origin; while a population of a few millions of men, so often 
subjugated, stands the test of thirty revolving centuries, and the 
fiery ordeal of thirteen centuries of persecution! We still 
preserve laws which were given to us in the first days of the 
world, in the infancy of nature ! The last followers of a reli- 
gion which had embraced the universe, have disappeared these 
fifteen centuries ; and our temples are still standing ! We 
alone have been spared by the indiscriminating hand of time, 
like a column left standing amidst the wreck of worlds and the 
ruins of nature ! The history of this people connects present 
times with the first ages of the world, by the testimony which 
it bears of the existence of those early periods : it begins at 
the cradle of mankind, and its remnants are likely to be pre- 
served to the very day of universal destruction. All men, 
whatever may be their opinions, and the party which they have 
adopted : whether they suppose, that the will of God is to 
maintain the people, which he has chosen: whether they con- 
sider that constancy which characterizes the Jews, as a repre- 
hensible obstinacy ; or, lastly, if they believe in a God, who, 
regarding all religions with equal complacency, needs no other 
wonders to exemplify his greatness, but the incessant and 
magnificent display of the beauties of nature; all, if their minds 
are susceptible of appreciating virtue and tried firmness, will 
not refuse their just admiration to that unshaken constancy- 
unparalleled in the annals of any nation."* 

* An appeal to the justice of kings and nations, cited in Transactions 
of the Parisian Sanhedrim, p. 64. 


III. We have now seen both the prophecy and its minute 
accomplishment: we have next to consider the train of reason- 
ing, which obviously and naturally springs from them. 

On the one hand, then, we have a very ancient prophecy, 
not couched in dark and ambiguous terms, but perfectly plain 
and intelligible : a prophecy, which is contained in the sacred 
books of the Jews, though it explicitly sets forth their own 
condemnation; a prophecy, universally believed by them, from 
generation to generation, to have been uttered by their great 
legislator, Moses, more than fourteen centuries before the 
Christian era; a prophecy, which, on every sound principle 
of historical evidence, the infidel himself cannot but allow to 
have been in existence long anterior to the dispersion of the 
Jews first by Titus, and afterwards by Adrian.* 

On the other hand, we have, partly recorded in history, and 
partly at this very moment taking place even under our own 
eyes, a most minute and exact accomplishment of the prophe- 
cy : so minute and exact indeed, that it does not merely cor- 
respond with the prophecy in some vague and general outlines, 
but agrees with it in a vast number of separate and indepen- 
dent particulars. 

This, whatever we may think of it, is at least the naked and 
indisputable matter of fact : on the one hand we have a pro- 
phecy, confessedly delivered long before its accomplishment ; 
and, on the other hand, we have its accomplishment so marked 
and decided, that the circumstance of an exact completion can- 
not possibly be controverted. 

So stands the fact : the only question therefore is, how we 
are to account for it. 

The believer, whether Jew or Christian, conceiving himself 
to have a knot which the Deity alone can untie, finds the solu- 
tion of the problem in a divine revelation. God only can 

* It may be briefly remarked, that the Samaritan Pentateuch and 
the Greek version of the Seventy, afford a collateral evidence to the ge- 
nuineness and high antiquity of the prophecy of Moses: but, in truth, I 
know not, that any infidel writer has ever ventured to deny its priority 
to its accomplishment. 


evolve the roll of futurity : but the roll of futurity has here 
been evolved, even to a considerable number of very minute 
particulars : therefore God, speaking by the mouth of Moses, 
has evolved that roll. 

Thus reasons the believer upon an indisputable matter of 
fact, which alike presents itself to the attention of all mankind. 
But then, if his reasoning be admitted as just, the divine au- 
thority of the Levitical Dispensation, with its whole train of con- 
comitant circumstances, follows immediately, as a necessary 
consequence. For, if God spake by Moses, then was Moses 
a true prophet, and not a base impostor ; and, if Moses were 
a true prophet inspired by God, then the code of religion, which 
he delivered to the Israelites, was not a politico-sacerdotal 
fraud, but a genuine revelation from heaven. 

What then is to be done by the infidel : and how is he to 
account for the naked fact of the accomplishment of the pro- 
phecy, so as to evade the necessity of calling in the aid of inspi- 
ration ? 

I am unable to form any idea to myself of more than two pos- 
sible modes of attempted solution. 

1. The first is, that Moses, being endowed with a large 
share of political sagacity, foresaw, with the keen eye of a 
profound statesman who ventures to predict effects from well- 
known existing causes, that the Israelites being a compara- 
tively weak people, would sooner or later be conquered and 
dispersed by some more powerful nation. 

With respect to this theory, it is far too vague and indefinite 
to afford any satisfaction to a reasoning mind. 

What causes could be so plainly and palpably in operation 
fifteen centuries before the desolation of the Jews, as to enable 
a sagacious politician to deduce from them the effects which 
stand developed in the prophecy of Moses ? Had it been 
merely foretold, that the Israelites would be conquered and 
subjugated by some more powerful nation ; it might perhaps 
have been somewhat difficult absolutely to prove the divinity 
of the prophecy from its faithful accomplishment : for the sub- 
jugation of a weaker by a stronger people is an event of fami- 


liar and perpetual occurrence. But the infidel must be aware, 
that such is not the sole purport of the prophecy before us. — 
By what knowledge of cause and effect could Moses anticipate, 
at the distance of fifteen centuries, that the Jews would finally 
be subdued by a remote and not by a neighbouring people, by 
a nation whose language was unintelligible to them and not by 
a nation whose language they understood ? How could he 
foresee, that they would be scattered over the whole world; and 
not merely, as in the ordinary course of victory, reduced to sub- 
jection ? How could he securely pronounce, that their disper- 
sion, when effected, would not be temporary, but of an im- 
mensely long duration ? How could he know, that many of 
them would be sold as despised slaves into that Egypt, from 
which he was then triumphantly conducting them ? What con- 
ceivable train of thought could lead him to declare, that a peo- 
ple, then prosperous and triumphant and dreaded, should become 
an astonishment and a proverb and a by-word in every varied 
country of their dispersion ? All these several matters form 
integral parts of the prophecy, and they have all minutely taken 
place. If. then we be required to account for the accomplish- 
ment of the oracle, on the ground that Moses sagaciously 
anticipated effects from known existing causes : we have cer- 
tainly a right to demand, what causes were in existence more 
than fourteen centuries before the Christian era, from which 
such varied "and multiplied and extraordinary effects might be 
securely foreseen and announced. The person, who can believe 
in their existence without much stronger evidence than (I sus- 
pect) will ever be produced, evinces a degree of abject credulity, 
which to men ignorant of the vagaries of Infidelity might well 
seem absolutely impossible. 

2. The second conceivable mode of solving the difficulty is 
to ascribe, at once, the whole circumstance of the completion 
of the prophecy, to a lucky accident. 

Singular co-incidences, it may be argued by the infidel, some- 
times occur : and a remarkable case even of a prophecy may 
be adduced, which, notwithstanding its accurate accomplish- 
ment, no one supposes to have been a revelation from heaven. 


If Moses had predicted the dispersion of the Jews, Seneca has 
foretold the discovery of America. Hence, if, in the one case, 
the completion of the prophecy demonstrates the inspiration of 
the prophet ; it must equally do so, in the other case : or con- 
versely, if completion be deemed, in the one case, no proof of 
inspiration ; then neither is it in the other. " Give me" says 
Collins, " a prophecy from your Bible, which may be as clearly 
predictive of any event which you may choose to allege for 
the accomplishment, as the verses of Seneca have by mere 
accident proved to be, of the discovery of America by Christo- 
pher Columbus. Give me such a prophecy from your Bible, 
as I have produced to you from a heathen poet, who yet was 
no prophet nor claimed the character ; and I will turn believer." 

Now, even if we allow the utmost praise of accuracy to the 
prediction of Seneca ; it still would have been no very difficult 
matter, to adduce a prophecy from the Bible quite as minutely 
fulfilled, and thence to claim from Collins the ratification of his 
own voluntary promise : for, with whatever exactness the pro- 
phecy of Seneca may have been accomplished, it can scarcely 
be asserted that the prediction of Moses has experienced a less 
accurate fulfilment. But such a retort, whether satisfactory 
or unsatisfactory to the infidel, is by no means satisfactory to 
the Christian. Admitting the divine inspiration of Moses, and 
denying the divine inspiration of Seneca, he stands pledged, on 
his own principles, to give an adequate reason why he draws two 
such different conclusions from two equally fulfilled prophecies. 
To perform this task is happily no very difficult matter. 

(1.) We may begin with observing, that the characteristics 
of the two prophecies differ essentially in a point of prime im- 

The prophecy of the Hebrew lawgiver comprises a very con- 
siderable number of distinct particulars ; each of which must 
be shown to have been accurately fulfilled : otherwise, if there 
be a failure in any one article, the defence of the entire pro- 
phecy, as a revelation from God, is rendered untenable. In the 
case of a prophecy thus constructed, it is not enough to be able 
to say, that it has been fulfilled in this particular or in that par- 


ticular ; we stand pledged, either to show its completion in every 
particular, or to give up its divine inspiration. The prediction 
of Moses, had it been delivered as a mere random guess, might 
have been partly fulfilled, and partly unfulfilled. Thus the 
Jews might have been subdued, not by a distant nation with 
whose language they were unacquainted, but by a neighbour- 
ing nation whose speech was familiar to them : or they might 
have been subdued by a distant nation with whose language 
they were unacquainted, but not torn away from their own 
land and dispersed over the face of the whole earth : or they 
might have been torn away and scattered but soon restored : or 
they might have continued long in a dispersed state, but treated 
all the while with great kindness and indulgence : or they might 
actually have become a proverb and a by-word, but still in the 
day of their desolation might have been sold as slaves into 
Italy and not into Egypt. All these and many more changes 
might be rung at pleasure upon the various particulars speci- 
fied by Moses : and, if a failure of accomplishment could have 
been detected in any one point, the prophecy, viewed as a 
whole, would not have been accurately fulfilled ; and therefore 
no argument, in favour of a divine revelation, could have been 
legitimately built upon it. Now, according to any fair and 
rational computation of what is called the doctrine of chances, 
how immense is the improbability, that the minute accom- 
plishment of a prediction, in no less than seventeen distinct 
particulars (for such is their amount, as summed up article 
after article by Bp. Newton), should after all be a mere lucky 
accident.* It would be curious to calculate what are styled 
the odds. The result, I am persuaded, would be this : that he, 
who could contentedly ascribe the exact completion of such a 
complicated prophecy to absolute chance, would exhibit a 
much greater degree of credulity, than he who believed it to 

* I have not noticed all the particulars marked out by Moses : for the 
sake of brevity, I have only discussed those which are most prominent. 
Ml the particulars, however, without a single exception, have come to 
pass; a matter, most copiously and fully demonstrated by Bp. Newton. 
See his Dissert, on the Prophecies, dissert, vii. 


be a revelation from heaven. For let it be observed, that the 
present argument is founded, not upon the completion of a 
simple prophecy, but upon the completion of a highly compli- 
cated prophecy ; of a prophecy comprehending seventeen dis- 
tinct particulars, all of which, without a single exception, have 
been accurately and fully accomplished. 

On the other hand, the prophecy of Seneca, if prophecy we 
must call it, sets forth a single solitary insulated matter. In 
late years ages shall arrive, ivhen the ocean shall relax the 
bounds of the universe, and a mighty land shall be laid open, 
and Tiphys shall unveil new worlds, and Thule shall no longer 
be the utmost extremity of the earth * The naked fact of the dis- 
covery of a new continent, is announced : and this is the whole 
that is foretold. Not a single particular is added. We are 
not taught, whether the discovery should be made in the east 
or in the west, in the north or in the south : nor, so far as the 
verbal precision of the oracle is concerned, can we be posi- 
tive, whether America, or Greenland, or New Holland, is 
specially designated ; for the prediction is so vague, that it 
would have been equally fulfilled in the discovery of any one 
of them. We hear nothing of the opposition made to Colum- 
bus, or of the ingratitude with which he was subsequently 
treated. We are left wholly in the dark, as to the produc- 
tions of the new world, the character of its inhabitants, and 
the cruelty of the conquerors. We receive no information as 
to the people by whom the discovery should be made. Not a 
hint is given of the peculiarities of Mexico and Peru. No- 
thing, in short, is told us, save that, at some time or another, 
a new world should be discovered. Hence it is clear, that the 
leading characteristics of the two prophecies before us are 
wholly different : the badge of the one being definite com- 
plicacy : the badge of the other, indefinite simplicity. Had 
Moses merely foretold, that, sooner or later, the Jews would 
be conquered by a nation more powerful than themselves ; his 

* Senec. Med. ver. 375—380. 


prophecy would have been strictly analogous to that of Se- 
neca : and I should then have readily allowed, that no argu- 
ment in favour of a divine inspiration could be built upon the 
one, which might not with equal propriety be built upon the 
other. But weak indeed must be the discriminating powers 
of that person, who cannot see the grand and essential differ- 
ence between a prophecy like that of Seneca, confined to a 
single particular ; and a prophecy, like that of Moses, com- 
prehending no less than seventeen perfectly distinct particu- 

(2) We may next observe a marked dissimilarity in the 
grounds and reasons on which each prophecy is supported. 

Moses as we have already seen, could not possibly have 
foretold the future destiny of his people by a sagacious induc- 
tion of probable effects from already existing and well known 
causes. We can form no idea of the train of thought, by which 
a mere uninspired legislator, fifteen centuries even before the 
commencement of the events predicted, could have been led 
gratuitously to hazard a prophecy, at once singularly minute 
and abstractedly most unlikely to be ever accomplished. 

But, in the poetical vaticination of Seneca, we trace with 
perfect facility the train of thought, which was passing through 
his mind : we observe him, in the verses which he puts into 
the mouth of his Chorus, deducing from well known and al- 
ready existing causes their highly probable ultimate effects. 
"The sea has now yielded, and patiently endures all laws. 
No Argo, compacted by the hand of Pallas, and impelled illus- 
trious by the oars of princes, is now sought after: any vulgar 
bark safely wanders over the deep. Every ancient boundary 
is removed : and cities have placed their new walls in new 
lands. The pervious globe has left nothing in the situation 
where once it was. The Indian drinks the cold Araxes : the 
Persians taste the Elb and the Rhine. In late years ages shall 
arrive, when the ocean shall relax the bounds of the universe, 
and a mighty land shall be laid open, and Tiphys shall unveil 
new worlds, and Thule shall no longer be the utmost extremi- 


ty of the earth."* Who does not here perceive, at a single 
glance, the mode in which the poet reasons ? Navigation has 
been brought to a much higher degree of excellence, than it 
was at the time of the Argonautic expedition. Most probably, 
in the course of years, it will be carried to a state of perfec- 
tion far beyond its present condition. Whenever that takes 
place, men will boldly tempt the main ocean; and then a new 
world, hitherto wrapt in obscurity and darkly concealed in the 
bosom of the mighty waters, will be familiarly unveiled to the 
eyes of the adventurous mariner. 

(3.) Such, I think, was clearly enough the train of thought 
which occupied the mind of Seneca, when he penned the ora- 
cle brought forward so triumphantly by Mr Collins : and I 
more than suspect, that the train itself was set in motion by a 
circumstance which effectually deprives the pretended vatici- 
nation even of the' very semblance of a prophecy. 

There is reason to believe, that the existence of America 
was not altogether unknown to the ancients ; though, from 
the rude and imperfect state of navigation, it had not been 
visited since the downfal of the Phenician power. That the 
enterprising mariners of the Punic states were acquainted with 
it, and that their acquaintance was so intimate as to lead even 

* Nunc jam cessit pontus, et omnes 
Patitur leges. Non, Paladia 
Compacta manu, regum referens 
Inclyta remos, quseritur Argo : 
Quaelibet altum cymba pererrat. 
Terminus omnis motus ; et urbes 
Muros terra, posuere novos. 
Nil, qua fuerat sede, reliquit 
Pervius orbis. Indus gelidum 
Potat Araxem r Albim, PersaB, 
Rhenumque,bibunt. Venient annis 
Secula seris, quibus Oceanus 
Vincula rerum laxet, et ingens 
Pateat tellus, Tiphysque novos 
Detegat orbes, nee sit tcrris 
Ultima Thule. 

Senec, Med. ver. 365-380. 


to colonization, we have testimony as direct and explicit as can 
well be desired. 

" Having treated of the islands on this side the pillars of 
Hercules," says Diodorus Siculus, " we will proceed to those 
which are in the ocean. Opposite then to Africa, lies an 
island in the main sea, vast in extent, and lying westward at 
the distance of many days navigation. Its soil is fruitful, 
partly mountainous, and partly champagne. Navigable rivers 
intersect and water it. Forests abound in it, planted with vari- 
ous sorts of trees : and its towns contain many sumptuous edi- 
fices. Its climate is singularly mild, so that trees bear fruit 
during the greater part of the year. On the whole, it is so 
happy a region, that it may well be deemed the habitation ra- 
ther of gods than of men. This island was long unknown, on 
account of its great distance from the rest of the world : but, 
ultimately, the following causes led to this discovery. The 
Phenicians, from the most remote time, were wont to under- 
take distant voyages for the sake of traffic. Hence they planted 
many colonies in Africa, and not a few in western Europe. 
Their affairs prospering, and their riches increasing, they were 
at length tempted to push beyond the columns of Hercules 
into the main ocean. In such expeditions, they first built 
Gades, and explored the coast of Africa. Afterwards, being 
caught by a tempest, they were hurried away, after a voyage 
of many days, to the large island which has been described. 
From them, the knowledge of its extraordinary value and fer- 
tility was communicated to others ; insomuch that the Tuscans, 
when they gained the empire of the sea, purposed to have 
colonized it: but they were prevented by the jealousy of the 
Carthagenians. For that people wished to reserve it as a 
refuge for themselves, in case their republic should ever be 
brought into danger : for they trusted, that they might migrate 
thither with all their families, as a region unknown to their 
conquerors, having prepared it in better times for their recep- 

* Diod. Btbl. lib. iv. p. 299, 300. edit. Rhodoman. 


From the Phenician discoverers, the knowledge of the exist- 
ence of a western continent seems to have been spread very 

Thus, according to Elian, Silenus told Midas, that Europe, 
Asia, and Africa, were islands surrounded by the ocean; and 
that beyond them there was a continent of infinite magnitude, 
which nourished large animals and men twice as tall and as 
long-lived as ourselves : that, in the same country, there were 
large states, varying from our own in their institutes and laws: 
and that that land contained such an immense quantity of gold 
and silver, that among the natives it was of less value than 
iron is with us.* Thus Apuleius, after describing the old con- 
tinent as being in truth an island surrounded on all sides by 
the Atlantic ocean, adds, that the same ocean also washes 
other islands not less than this, which may well be deemed in 
a manner unknown, when we are not perfectly acquainted even 
with that which we ourselves inhabit.! Thus Ammianus Mar- 
cellinus asserts, that in the Atlantic ocean there is an island 
larger than all Europe. ± xind thus Avitus, in a work of Sene- 
ca himself, declares, that fertile lands lie in the ocean, and 
that beyond it there are other shores and another world. § 

Under these circumstances, is it credible, or rather (when 
the testimony of Avitus is considered) is it possible that Se- 
neca could have been ignorant of the prevalent opinion rela- 
tive to an immense island or continent, which was situated far 
westward of Africa, and which had been discovered and colo- 
nized by the Phenicians ? What then becomes of the pretend- 
ed prophecy, which Mr Collins has brought forward with so 
much parade and confidence by way of stultifying the real 
prophecies of Holy Scriptures ? Save as a poetical ornament, 
it neither claims nor possesses any one character of an oracle. 

* JSlian Hist, lib iii. apud Horn, de origin. Americ lib, i. c. 10. p. 

t Apul. de mund. Oper. vol. ii. p 12*2. 

t Ammian. Marc. Apud Horn, ut supra. 

6 Avit. in Senec. Suasor. Ibid. 


Seneca was aware of the common belief, that a western con- 
tinent had been discovered. He knew, likewise, that in the 
then imperfect state of navigation, all intercourse with it had 
ceased. But, deeming it highly probable that at some future 
period the science would be greatly improved, he announced, 
in the poetical form of a prophecy, that a complete and fami- 
liar discovery of this mysterious half-known region would be 
made after the lapse of many ages. In this obvious sense the 
passage is understood by the learned and ingenious Horn. 
He cites it, not, like Mr Collins, as a prophecy ; but as one 
out of many evidences, that the existence of America was not 
unknown to the ancients.* 

IV. The sum then of the whole matter may be briefly stated 
as follows : 

We have now extant a prophecy, indisputably penned many 
ages before the Christian era : and we have likewise before 
our very eyes a most full and perfect accomplishment of this 

Neither of these two points can be controverted by the in- 
tidel. Hence he is reduced to the necessity, either of admit- 
ting the divine inspiration of the prophecy ; an admission which 
immediately and necessarily draws after it the additional ad- 
mission that the Law of Moses was a revelation from Heaven : 
or of denying the divine inspiration of the prophecy ; either on 
the utterly untenable ground that it was merely the result of 
sagacious political anticipation, or on the equally untenable 
ground that a prediction comprehending no less than seventeen 
distinct particulars was minutely fulfilled in every particular 
simply and solely by a lucky accident. 

Such being the plain state of the case, the naked question 
to be considered and answered is this: whether, under the" 
circumstances which have been set forth, the man who admits, 
or the man who denies, the divine inspiration of the prophecy 
of Moses, evinces the more blind and determined credulity. 

'* Horn, de origin. Americ. lib i. c. 10. p. 57. 



Hitherto I have considered the difficulties attendant upon 
deistical Infidelity, chiefly in regard to the abstract question of 
revelation in general, but partly also (through the medium of 
an eminent accomplished prophecy) in regard to the Levitical 
Dispensation in p articular : I shall now proceed, the way having 
been thus cleared, to note the difficulties, which equally wait 
upon it in regard to the facts and circumstances and character 
of the Christian Dispensation. 

I. The fact of the bare existence of Christianity in the world 
at this present moment is obviously certain and indisputable : 
the sole question, therefore, between the believer and the un- 
believer is, how it started into existence, and what are its pre- 
tensions to be received as a divine revelation. 

1. Now the account of its origin and early progress is con- 
tained in four parallel histories and in a subsequent narrative 
attached to them, all which documents are still extant. 

These are found to correspond with the testimonies of the 
pagan writers Tacitus and Suetonius : and they are so repeat- 
edly cited and referred to by an immense body of ecclesiastical 
writers, that we cannot reasonably doubt either their high an- 
tiquity or their general historical veracity in the relation of 
facts and circumstances. I say general: because, for the 

92 the difficulties [Sect. V, 

present I am willing to throw out of the discussion all those 
claims to the performance of miracles, which they so repeat- 
edly put forth. Hence, when I assert that we cannot reasonably 
doubt their general historical veracity in the relation of facts 
and circumstances, I mean only to assert, that they give an ac- 
curate account of the proceedings and conduct and character 
and principles and sayings of the founder of Christianity and 
his immediate followers, just as we never think of doubting the 
general accuracy of the writings of Plato and Xenophon in 
regard to their master Socrates, or (if we descend to more 
modern times), the writings of Boswell in regard to Johnson. 

2. To dispute this reasonable assertion is, in fact, to unhinge 
all historical evidence : for, as to the actual existence of such 
a person as Christ during the reigns of the Roman emperors 
Augustus and Tiberius, it is fully demonstrated by the positive 
testimony of Suetonius, Tacitus, Julian, Porphyry, Celsus, and 
various other writers inimical to Christianity : and, as to the 
actions and conduct of himself and his followers, it has never 
been denied, either by the Jews, or by the ancient pagan phi- 
losophers, who had the best opportunity of detecting imposition, 
that a true account has been given of them by those authors 
whom Christians deem sacred and inspired. 

In truth, the whole narrative approves itself to be authentic 
by its exact falling in with general history. Christianity now 
exists : it must therefore have had a commencement. But we 
are quite sure, from the numerous writings of that period which 
have come down to us, that, although Christ himself was born 
in the Augustan age, his religion was not then in existence : 
hence it must have been brought into existence subsequent to 
the Augustan age. Now Tacitus expressly bears witness, both 
that it sprang up in the reign of Tiberius ; that its author was 
crucified by the procurator Pontius Pilate ; that, proceeding 
from Judea, it had spread, even before his days, as far as Rome ; 
and that its proselytes were subjected to a bloody persecution 
during the reign of Nero.* Accordingly, from Tacitus down- 
Ergo abolendo rumori Nero subdidit reos, et qusesitissimis poenis 
adfecit, quos per flagitia invisos valgus Christianos appellabat. Auctor 

Sect. V.j OF INFIDELITY. 93 

ward 9 Christ and Christianity and Christians are perpetually 
mentioned by writers both pagan and ecclesiastical. Hence- 
forth, the history of the Church becomes a portion of the his- 
tory of Rome : nor can the one proceed a step without the 

" It has been observed with truth as well as propriety (says a 
writer, who will not be suspected of much affection for Christian- 
ity,, though his acquaintance with the laws of evidence forbade 
his contradicting the general veracity of the evangelical narra- 
tive), that the conquests of Rome prepared and facilitated those 
of Christianity. The authentic histories of the actions of 
Christ were composed in the Greek language, after the Gen- 
tile converts were grown extremely numerous. As soon as 
those histories were translated into the Latin tongue, they were 
perfectly intelligible to all the subjects of Rome, excepting 
only to the peasants of Syria and Egypt, for whose benefit par- 
ticular versions were afterwards made. The public high-ways, 
which had been constructed for the use of the legions, opened 
an easy passage for the Christian missionaries from Damascus 
to Corinth, and from Italy to the extremity of Spain or Britain. 
There is the strongest reason to believe, that, before the reigns 
of Diocletian and Constantine, the faith of Christ had been 
preached in every province and in all the great cities of the 
empire. The rich provinces, that extend from the Euphrates 
to the Ionian sea, were the principal theatre, on which the 
apostle of the Gentiles displayed his zeal and piety. The seeds 
of the Gospel, which he had scattered in a fertile soil, were dili- 
gently cultivated by his disciples : and it should seem, that, 

nominis ejus Christus, Tiberio imperitante, per procuratorem Pontium 
Pilatum supplicio affeetus erat. Repressaque in praesens exitiabilis 
superstitio rursus erumpebat, non modo per Judaeam originem hujus 
mali, sed per urbem etiara, quo cuncta undique atrocia aut pudenda 
confluunt celebranturque. Igitur primo correpti qui fatebantur, deinde 
indicio eorum multitudo ingens, haud perinde in crimina incendii, quam 
odio generis humani, convicti sunt. Et pereuntibus addita ludibria, ut 
ferarum tergis conteeti, laniatu canum interirent, aut crucibus affixi,aut 
flamat, atque ubi defecisset dies in usual noeturni luminis urerentur. 
Annal. lib. xv. § 44. 


94 the difficulties [Sect. V. 

during the two first centuries, the most considerable body of 
Christians was contained within those limits. Among the so- 
cieties which were instituted in Syria, none were more ancient 
or more illustrious than those of Damascus, of Berea or Alep- 
po, and of Antioch. The prophetic introduction of the Apoc- 
alypse has described and immortalized the seven churches of 
Asia; Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamus, Thyatira, Sardes, Laodi- 
cea, and Philadelphia : and their colonies were soon diffused 
over that populous country. In a very eaily period, the islands 
of Cyprus and Crete, the provinces of Thrace and Macedonia, 
gave a favourable reception to the new religion : and Christian 
republics were soon founded in the cities of Corinth, of Sparta, 
and of Athens. To these domestic testimonies we may add 
the confession, the complaints, and the apprehensions, of the 
Gentiles themselves. From the writings of Lucian, a philo- 
sopher who had studied mankind and who describes their man* 
ners in the most lively colours, we may learn, that under the 
reign of Commodus, his native country of Pontus was filled 
with Epicureans and Christians. Within fourscore years after 
the death of Christ, the humane Pliny laments the magnitude 
of the evil which he vainly attempted to eradicate. In his very 
curious epistle to the Emperor Trajan, he affirms, that the 
temples were almost deserted, that the sacred victims scarcely 
found any purchasers, and that the superstition had not only 
infected the cities, but had even spread itself into the villages 
and the open country of Pontus and Bithynia."* 

From such innumerable testimonies, it might have been 
thought that the proper existence of Christ upon earth would 
at least have been universally allowed. But, while Mr Gib- 
bon, judging by the common and well-known laws of moral 
evidence, entertains no doubt of the fact ; Mr Volney chooses 
rather to follow the extraordinary speculations of Mr Bu- 
rignL This person he whimsically styles a sagacious writer : 
doubtless because his rare sagacity has been shown by what 

* Gibbon's Hist, of the Decline and Fall, chap xv. vol. ii. p. 357- 


his admirer calls an absolute demonstration, that even the per- 
sonal existence of Christ in this our nether world, rests not 
upon a more solid basis than that of Hercules, or Osoris, or 
Buddha. By any sober judge of historical evidence, the tes- 
timony of such a writer as Tacitus to the fact of Christ's 
existence upon earth, and his crucifixion by the Roman gov- 
ernor Pontius Pilate, even if we omit the cloud of other 
concurring parallel testimonies, would not be placed upon a 
light footing : but Mr Volney, quite satisfied with the demon- 
stration of Burigni, lays it down as a clear case, that no such 
person as our Lord ever flourished in this world ; and, on that 
position, frames a theory, which, on pain of being ridiculed 
as a generation of credulous dupes, we are forthwith required 
to adopt. 

What then is the theory in question? Truly, if it can be 
set forth without a smile, it is no other than the following : 

Mr Volney gravely assures us, on the word of a philoso- 
pher, emancipated from all vulgar prejudices in favour of his- 
torical testimony, that the divine personage, whom Christians, 
during the space of well nigh eighteen centuries, have igno- 
rantly revered as their crucified Redeemer, is neither more 
nor less than the sun in the firmament ; that the virgin Mary 
is one of the zodiacal signs, the constellation Virgo to wit : 
and that Christ's crucifixion by Pontius Pilate, and his resur- 
rection from the dead on the third day, are nothing more than 
the sun's declension to the winter solstice, and his subsequent 
return to the summer solstice through the vivifying season of 

* The theory of Mr Volney is discussed at large in Faber's Origin 
of Pagan Idol, book vi. chap. 6. § iii. 1. vol. iii. p. 648—654. Mr 
Volney, to rid himself of the troublesome evidence of Tacitus, who 
flourished only about seventy years after the time when Pontius Pilate 
was the Roman procurator of Judea, is willing to imagine, that he 
wrote from the false depositions of the Christian prisoners; who, 
though they knew all the while that Christ was the sun, declared that 
he was a Jew who had been crucified by Pilate. This falsehood, it 
seems, was never detected ; until Mr Volney, at the end of some eigh- 
teen centuries, luckily took it in hand. For the Roman magistrates. 



4. I have thought it right to. notice this hypothesis ; though 
I am far from wishing uncandidly to intimate, that it is the 
standard doctrine of Infidelity. The ludicrous credulity of Mr 
Volney is, I believe, the sole property of himself and of those 
few select friends who have been initiated into his greater Mys- 

We may venture then to assume, that the evangelical nar- 
ratives set forth a substantially true account of the proceed- 
ings, and conduct, and character, and principles, and sayings 
of the founder of Christianity and his immediate followers, 
just as the writings of Xenophon and Plato similarly exhibit 
the various lineaments of their master Socrates : for to deny a 
position, supported upon such strong and incontrovertible tes- 
timony, as the main body of infidels are perfectly aware, evin- 
ces a much greater degree of credulity, than to admit it. On 
these grounds, discarding, without further ceremony, the hy- 
pothesis of Mr Volney, I shall reason from the general circum- 
stances detailed in the New Testament, just as I would reason 
from the general circumstances detailed in the Memorabilia of 

II. The founder of the Christian religion expressly claimed 
to be a messenger sent from God. " Ye both know me," said 
he to the Jews, " and ye know whence I am : I am not come 
of myself; but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not. 
But I know him : for I am from him, and he hath sent me.* 
The word which ye hear, is not mine, but the Father's which 

before whom the depositions were taken, did not happen to think of 
making the very natural inquiry, whether, seventy years before, such 
a man as Christ had or had not been crucified by Pilate : nor did a 
single Jewish or provincial witness come forward to declare that the 
whole story was a gross fabrication. Hence according to Mr Volney, 
it very easily happened, that the unlucky historian was shamefully be- 
fooled by a set of gross liars, who themselves chose to be worried by 
dogs, and to be crucified, and to be burned alive, in support of what 
they all the while knew to be an absurd falsehood. Nothing, surely, 
save the credulity of a professed unbeliever, could digest so portentous 
a discovery, as this of our French philosopher. 
* John vii. 28, 29. 

Sect. V.] OF INFIDELITY. 97 

sent me."* Now the infidel denies, that Christ was sent from 
God ; and pronounces that the Gospel is not a revelation from 
heaven. Hence, on his own principles, he is bound to main- 
tain, either that Christ was a daring impostor, or that lie was 
a brain-sick enthusiast : for, if the divine authority of his mis- 
sion be denied, he must inevitably be pronounced either the 
one or the other of these two characters. 

Such being the case, the point to be considered is, whether, 
from the historical documents which have come down to us, 
we have any sufficient evidence to esteem Christ either an im- 
postor or an enthusiast. 

1. Perhaps there never was a period, which offered more 
tempting invitations to the projects of a designing impostor, 
than that, during which the prophet of Nazareth exhibited him- 
self as a teacher sent from God. 

The Jews, highly elated by their religious privileges, and 
exulting in the character of being the peculiar people of Je- 
hovah, bore with extreme impatience and dissatisfaction the 
Roman yoke which had been imposed upon them. Their 
eagerness to throw off this yoke was increased by a very 
remarkable, but perfectly well-attested circumstance. From 
calculating the numbers specified in one of their ancient pro- 
phecies, they had, for some years before the birth of Christ, 
been in full expectation of a mysterious personage ; who had 
been repeatedly announced by the seers of their nation, as a 
mighty deliverer and a powerful sovereign ;t and this expec- 
tation continued in full force, until the sacking of Jerusalem 
by Titus; which occurred about thirty- seven years after the 
death of Christ. That such an expectation was generally pre- 
valent shortly before the birth of Christ, is evident from the 
language used by the evangelist Luke respecting Anna the pro- 
phetess : having herself beheld the infant Jesus, and having 
acknowledged him as the promised deliverer, she spake of him, 
we are told, to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusa- 
lem^ And, that the knowledge of this expectation was both 

* John xiv. 24. \ Dan. ix 24—27. \ Luke ii. 38. 


diffused to a very wide extent, and that the expectation itself 
continued to operate until the destruction of Jerusalem by 
Titus, we are positively assured, both by the Jewish historian 
Josephus, and by the two Roman historians Tacitus and Sueto- 
nius : in truth, the belief in question was one main cause of 
the obstinacy with which the Jews held out against the armies 
of Titus ; for, as we learn from Josephus, many impostors 
confidently taught the people that they might expect assist- 
ance from heaven, and one of them even at the very last de- 
clared that God himself had commanded them to ascend to the 
temple where they should assuredly receive a miraculous token 
of their safety.* 

Such being the state of the public mind, it is clear that there 
never could be a season more favourable to the projects of a 
politico- theological impostor. The ground was, as it were, 
ready prepared for him. Nothing was necessary, save, with 
a reasonable degree of worldly prudence and address, to avail 
himself of already existing circumstances. 

(1.) How, then, if we may judge from the ordinary springs 
of human conduct, would a sagacious impostor have acted, 
during the period which has been described ? 

An impostor, as an impostor, must doubtless have purposed 
his own honour, and advantage, and aggrandizement : for ne- 
ver either did, or (in the very nature of things) could, an im- 
postor act on other principles, or from other motives. The 
Jews, from a literal and gross interpretation of their ancient 
prophecies respecting the Messiah, fully believed, that he 
would be a mighty and warlike temporal prince, who would 
liberate them from the Roman, yoke, confer upon them an ex- 
traordinary abundance of prosperity, and exalt them to be the 
head of the nations : they believed, in short, that he would be 
a character not very dissimilar to that, which, some six centu- 
ries afterwards, the Arabian impostor Mohammed exhibited 
with so much success to a proud, and sensual, and ambitious 

* Joseph, de bell. Jud. lib. vi. c. 5. § 4. p. 1283. § 2. p. 1281, edit. 
Hudson. Tacit. Hist. lib. v. § 13. Sueton. in vit. Vespasian. 

Sect. V.] OF INFIDELITY. 99 

world. An artful miscreant, therefore, who wished for his 
own ends to personate the expected Messiah, would doubtless 
have availed himself of the popular notions respecting that 
exalted personage. This he would obviously do for two seve- 
ral reasons : he could not rationally hope for success, if he 
appeared in a character wholly different from that which had 
been anticipated; and he could promise to himself no advan- 
tage, if he declined to avail himself of those preconceptions 
which had such an evident, and natural, and necessary ten- 
dency to promote the aggrandizement of an interested adven- 
turer. Hence an impostor, unless he were destitute of every 
grain of common sense, could not but have acted in the fol- 
lowing manner. Giving himself out to be the promised, and 
then eagerly expected Messiah, and having prepared the way 
by a judicious arrangement with some few trusty, and able, 
and determined followers, he would invite the whole nation to 
rise as one man, and to court assured victory under the ban- 
ners of a heaven-commissioned leader. The Pharisees he 
would flatter by a decorous approbation of their specious piety: 
the Sadducees he would entice by the hopes of those tempo- 
ral blessings, which alone they affected : and the whole nation 
he would dexterously draw after him, by striking in with all 
their prejudices, and by confirming all their expectations. As 
the predicted Messiah was destined to be a prince, he would 
claim to be received as the temporal king of Israel ; and, when 
he had attained that elevation, he would seek to establish him- 
self in it, partly by inducing the chief men of the country to 
accept offices under him, and partly by a wise and diligent 
preparation to meet the formidable armies of Rome whenever 
they should be brought to act against him. 

These, with others of a kindred description, would clearly 
be the measures taken by an impostor, who, in the reign of 
Tiberius, wished, for the sake of his own aggrandizement, to 
play the part of the expected Messiah. 

In reality, we can form no idea of an impostor, under such 
circumstances, acting differently : and absolute matter of fact 
has shown the estimate to be just. Broken as the Jews had 


been by the power of Titus, their rebellious spirit was still 
unsubdued, and their hope of a temporal deliverer was still 
unrepressed. In the reign of Adrian, the smothered flame burst 
forth. Coziba, the chief of a band of robbers, was the leader 
of the insurgents. To facilitate his project, he assumed the 
name of Bar-Cochab, or the son of the star, in allusion to the 
prophecy of Balaam respecting the Messiah : and in that cha- 
racter, according to their perverted conceptions of the pro- 
mised Saviour, he was readily acknowledged by his infatuated 
countrymen. Having thus procured the recognition of his 
claim, he engaged to deliver his nation from the Roman yoke, 
and to restore its ancient liberty and glory. The famous Rabbi 
Akibha, being chosen by him for his precursor, espoused his 
cause, afforded him the sanction of his name, publicly anointed 
him as the Messiah, placed a diadem on his head as king of 
the Jews, caused money to be coined in his name, followed 
him to the field at the head of twenty thousand of his disci- 
ples, and acted in the capacity of master of his horse. By 
calling on all the descendants of Abraham to assist the hope 
of Israel, an army of two hundred thousand men was soon 
raised, who repaired to Bither, a city near Jerusalem, chosen 
by the impostor for the capital of his new kingdom.* 

To pursue the narrative any further is superfluous : we have 
here a practical exemplification of the measures which had 
been previously laid down from the mere abstract necessity of 
the case, and the general nature of things. An impostor, dur- 
ing the period of which I am treating, could not, upon any con- 
ceivable principle of action, have conducted himself differently 
from Coziba. 

(2.) If then Christ were an impostor, he could not but have 
acted as Coziba did : and, doubtless, when we consider the 
condition of the Jews during the reign of Tiberius in contrast 
with their condition during the reign of Adrian, he would, 
humanly speaking, have had a much more flattering prospect 
of success. But how, in effect, did Christ act ? We find him 

* Busnage's Hist, of the Jews p. 515. 

Sect. V.] OF INFIDELITY. 101 

adopting a line of conduct, which was the very opposite to 
that of Coziba, and of every other impostor similarly circum- 
stanced ; a line of conduct, which had a necessary tendency 
to baffle every hope entertained by an ambitious adventurer ; 
aline of conduct too, which common sense itself might fore- 
see could not but prove fatal to all such hopes. 

The Messiah was announced by the prophets as a king : 
Jesus, therefore, claiming to be the Messiah, of necessity 
claimed also the regal character. But in what manner did he 
claim it ? In a sense favourable to ambition ; the very sense 
in which it was understood by the Jews ? Or in a sense per- 
fectly hostile to ambition ; a sense, which the worldly-minded 
Jews never once dreamed of? " My kingdom," said he, " is 
not of this world : if my kingdom were of this world, then 
would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the 
Jews : but now is my kingdom not from hence."* Nor can 
it be said, that this account of the nature of Christ's kingdom 
was merely the evasive subterfuge of disappointed ambition, 


m* given indeed before Pilate, when every hope of an earthly mon- ^^ 
J arehy had vanished, but unheard of so long as there was any 


chance of success : on the contrary, it exactly tallied both with 
the previous declarations and previous actions of this extraor- 
dinary claimant, of the Jewish Messiaship. To the very last, 
his disciples seem to have been infected with the general notion 
of their countrymen, that the kingdom of the great deliverer was 
to be of a temporal nature. Hence it was, with their high 
indignation, that the mother of Zebedee's children petitioned, 
on behalf of her two sons, for the two chief places in that king- 
dom : and hence it was, even on the eve of the crucifixion, 
that there was a strife among them which should be accounted 
the greatest.! But what was the language of Jesus himself 
in both these cases ? On the first occasion, he said : " Ye 
know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over 
them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. 
But it shall not be so among you : but, whosoever will be great 

* John xviii. 36. f Matt. xx. 20-24. Luke xxii, 24. 



among you, let him be your minister ; and whosoever will be 
chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son 
of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and 
to give his life a ransom for many."* On the second occa- 
sion he similarly said : " The kings of the Gentiles exercise 
lordship over them ; and they that exercise authority upon 
them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so : but he 
that is greatest among yon, let him be as the younger ; and 
he that is chief, as he that doth serve. Ye are they which have 
continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto 
you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me ; that 
ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on 
thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel."! Do we ask 
the nature of this promised kingdom ? Christ assures his dis- 
ciples, that it w r as to be expected only in a future and a better 
world. *' As the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so 
shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall 
send forth his angels : and they shall gather out of his king- 
dom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and 
shall cast them into a furnace of fire : there shall be wailing 
and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth 
as the sun, in the kingdom of their Father."^ In exact ac- 
cordance with this statement, while he promises to his faithful 
followers an abundance of honour and glory hereafter; he at 
once nips in the bud all their earthly ambition, by declaring, 
to the evidently grievous disappointment of Peter, to whom 
lie had immediately before given the keys of the kingdom of 
heaven, that instead of becoming a temporal prince, he would 
shortly be put to death by his enemies. " From that time 
forth," says the evangelical historian Matthew, " began Jesus 
to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusa- 
lem, and suffer many things of the elders, and chief priests 
and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. 
Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him^ saying : Be 
it far from thee, Lord : this shall not be unto thee. But he 

* Matt. xx. 25—28. t Luke xxii. 25—30. t Matt. xiii. 40—43. 

Sect. V.] OF INFIDELITY. 103 

turned, and said unto Peter : Get thee behind me, Satan ; 
thou art an offence unto me, for thou savourest not the things 
that be of God, but those that be of men. Then said Jesus 
unto his disciples : If any man will come after me, let him 
deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For who- 
soever will save his life, shall lose it : and whosoever will lose 
his life for my sake, shall find it. For what is a man profited, 
if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ? Or 
what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son 
of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels : 
and then he shall reward every man according to his works."* 
The actions of Christ perfectly tallied with his declarations. 
Not the least step did he take to promote any scheme of tem- 
poral aggrandizement. Instead of exhorting his countrymen 
to rise and throw off the Roman domination, when the captious 
political question was put to him, Is it lawful to give tribute unto 
Caesar or not : he rather taught them the two-fold duty of dis- 
charging their several obligations to God and their sovereign.! 
Instead of inculcating those fiery and vehement passions, 
which might best subserve the purposes of an impostor aim- 
ing at an earthly kingdom : he rather enforced dispositions, 
which of all others would be the most prejudicial to such a 
scheme ; meekness, humility, forgiveness, patience, submission, 
and non-resistance to injuries. J Instead of eagerly availing 
himself of the golden opportunity, which once occurred, of 
acquiring the sovereignty of Israel : he, unaccountably, on the 
supposition of his being an impostor, threw it away in mere 
wantonness ; and thus lost it forever. Then those men, when 
they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said : This is of a 
truth that prophet, that should come into the ivorld. When 
Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by 
force to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain 
himself alone.§ Now, for the present, whether the alleged 
fact of the miracle be admitted or rejected, the conduct of 

* Matt. xvi. 21—27. t Matt. xxii. 17—21. 

t Matt v. 3-12, 38—44. § John vi. 14, 15. 


Christ, on the theory of his being an impostor, will be equally 
inexplicable. The train of thought, in consequence of which 
the people violently attempted to make him a king, is perfectly 
clear. They were led, for some reason or another, to believe 
him the Messiah. But the Messiah, according to their notions 
of him, was to be a mighty temporal prince. Hence they 
sought, forthwith, to invest him with the regal character. Had 
he been an impostor who sought an earthly kingdom, now was 
the favourable moment. He refused to be made a king, and 
withdrew himself to the solitude of an unfrequented mountain. 
It is utterly preposterous to believe, that such would, or could 
have been the conduct of an impostor. See how Coziba acted 
under parallel circumstances : contrast him royally crowned 
by Akibha, and advancing against the Romans at the head of 
two hundred thousand men, with Christ refusing the diadem 
and retiring into solitude ; and then say, which is the impostor, 
and which is the prophet sent from God. 

Equally unaccountable are other parts also of Christ's con- 
duct, on the supposition of his being an impostor. 

No adventurer could reasonably have hoped for success, 
except by adopting a system of dexterous conciliation towards 
all the higher classes among the Jews. Hence he would have 
studiously flattered their prejudices : and, by an adroit com- 
mendation both of their doctrine and their practice, would have 
endeavoured to win them over to the furtherance of his pro- 
jects. Christ, however, instead of acting upon these obvious 
principles, took such an extraordinary course, that in a very 
short time he effectually alienated all the ruling powers and 
made them his bitterest enemies. Their favourite opinions he 
directly controverted : their hypocricy he unceremoniously 
exposed ; their corrupt practices he exhibited to the people in 
all their undisguised deformity : and themselves he stigmatized 
with a severity at once austere and contemptuous. Why do. 
you transgress the commandment of God by your tradition ? 
was the cutting question which he put to the Scribes and Phar- 
isees of Jerusalem. For God commanded, saying : Honour 
thy father and mother ; and. He that curseth father or mother. 

Sect. V.] OF INFIDELITY. 105 

let him die the death. But ye say : Whosoever shall say to 
his father or his mother, It is a gift by whatsoever thou might est 
be profited by me, and honour not his father or his mother ; 
he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God 
ofnon e effect by your tradition . Ye hypocrites , well did Esaias 
prophesy of you, saying : This people draweth nigh unto me 
with their mouth, and honour eth me with their lips ; but their 
heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me, teach- 
ing for doctrines the commandments of men.* Nor were re- 
proofs of this description addressed to their subjects in private 
only : the multitude, who had been wont to admire pharisaic 
piety as something pre-eminently strict and severe, were openly 
and unreservedly cautioned against their long venerated teachers ; 
an affront of all others the most difficult to be digested or for- 
given. " The Scribes and the Pharisees," said Jesus to the 
crowds that surrounded him, " sit in Moses's seat : all therefore 
whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do. But 
do not ye after their works : for they say and do not. For they 
bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on 
men's shoulders : but they themselves will not move them with 
one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen 
of men. They make broad their phylacteries : and enlarge the 
borders of their garments : and love the uppermost rooms at 
feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in 
the markets, and to be called of men Rabbi, Rabbi. But woe 
unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ! for ye shut up the 
kingdom of heaven against men : for ye neither go in yourselves, 
nor suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, 
Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ! for ye devour widows * 
houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: therefore ye 
shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, Scribes 
and Pharisees, hypocrites ! for ye compass sea and land to 
make one proselyte ; and, when he is made, ye make him two- 
fold more the child of hell than yourselves. Woe unto you, ye 
blind guides, which say : Whosoever shall swear by the temple, 

* Matt. xv. 4—9. 


it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the 
temple, he is a debtor! Ye fools, and blind: for whether is 
greater the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold ? And, 
whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing: but whosoever 
sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty ! Ye fools and 
blind : for whether is greater ; the gift, or the altar that sancti- 
fieth the gift ? Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, 
sweareth by it and by all things thereon. And, whoso shall 
swear by the temple, sweareth by it and by him that dwelleth 
therein. And he, that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the 
throne of God and by him that sitteth thereon. Woe unto you, 
Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ! for ye pay tithe of mint and 
anise and cummin; and have omitted the weightier matters of 
the law, judgment, mercy, and faith : these ought ye to have 
done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, 
which strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. W^oe unto you, 
Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ! for ye make clean the out- 
side of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of 
extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that 
which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them 
may be clean also. Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, 
hypocrites ! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which in- 
deed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead 
men's bones and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also out- 
wardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of 
hypocrisy and iniquity. Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, 
hypocrites ! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and 
garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say : If we had 
been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been par- 
takers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye 
be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them 
which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of 
your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can 
ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send 
unto you prophets and wise men and scribes : and some of 
them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye 
scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to 

Sect. V.] OF INFIDELITY. 107 

city : that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon 
the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of 
Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the tem- 
ple and the altar. Verily I say unto you : All these things 
shall come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, 
thou that killest the prophets and stonest them that are sent 
unto thee, how often would I have gathered together thy chil- 
dren, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings ; 
and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you deso- 
late."* That the corrupt rulers of Israel should be vehemently 
enraged at the bold reformer, who could publicly utter such 
unwelcome truths ; and that instead of furthering any projects 
which " as an impostor" he might be supposed to have con- 
ceived, they should at length compass his death : will excite 
little wonder in him, who has at all studied the workings of the 
human heart. But, that an impostor, who in his character of 
an impostor must specially have had his own interest and ag- 
grandizement in view, could deliberately act a part, which had 
an obvious and necessary tendency to irritate and provoke all 
the leading men of the nation selected as the object of his self- 
ish plans ; that an impostor, himself absolutely foreseeing and 
declaring that his conduct would lead both to his suffering many 
things, and to his being rejected of the people whom he sought 
to delude, should nevertheless, in plain opposition to the dictates 
of common sense, persist in such conduct :t — that an impostor, 
as an impostor, should, with his eyes wide open to the conse- 
quences, act thus strangely, thus incongruously, thus unac- 
countably, is a circumstance, which does indeed beggar the 
utmost profuseness of credulity. 

Nor w r as the conduct of Christ, in regard to his disciples, 
less extraordinary, than his conduct in regard to the Scribes 
and Pharisees. An impostor, if placed in a similar situation, 
would have allured his followers by bountiful promises of 
worldly prosperity : the long-expected kingdom of the Mes- 
siah was about to be erected ; the Roman yoke was on the 

* Matt, xxiii. t Luke xvii. 25. 


point of being broken : Judah was on the eve of liberty and 
triumph ; every faithful adherent would be munificently re- 
warded by honours, and dignities, and emoluments in the 
mighty empire of a prince, who was alike able and willing to 
repay the services of his friends and companions. This would 
have been the language of an impostor: this, in fact, was the 
language of Coziba. But was it the language of Christ ? Let 
us hear his own words, addressed unreservedly to his follow- 
ers : " Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves : 
be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But 
beware of men : for they will deliver you up to the councils, 
and they will scourge you in their synagogues. And ye shall 
be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a tes- 
timony against them and the Gentiles. But, when they deli- 
ver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak : for 
it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. 
For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which 
speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother 
to death ; and the father, the child ; and the children shall rise 
up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. 
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake : but he 
that endureth to the end shall be saved. But, when they per- 
secute you in this city, flee ye into another. The disciple is 
not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is 
enough for the disciple, that he be as his master, and the ser- 
vant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house 
Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his house- 
hold ? Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to 
kill the soul : but rather fear him, which is able to destroy 
both soul and body in hell.* If any man will come after me, 
let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 
For, whosoever will save his life, shall lose it ; and whosever 
will lose his life for my sake, shall find it.t The Son of man 
shall be betrayed into the hands of men ; and they shall kill 
him, and the third day he shall be raised again 4 And ye shall 

* Matt. x. 16—28. i Matt, xvh 24, 25. f Matt. xvii. 22, 23. 

Sect. V.] OF INFIDELITY. 109 

hear of wars and rumours of wars : for nation shall rise against 
nation, and kingdom against kingdom. All these are the be- 
ginning of sorrow. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflict- 
ed, and shall kill you : and ye shall be hated of all nations for my 
name's sake.* If the world hate you, ye know that it hated 
me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world 
would love his own : but because ye are not of the world, but 
I have chosen you out of the world ; therefore the world hateth 
you. Remember the word that I said unto you : the servant is 
not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they 
will also persecute you ; if they have kept my saying, they 
will keep yours also. But all these things will they do 
unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that 
sent me.t These things have I spoken unto you, that ye 
should not be offended. They shall put you out of the syna- 
gogues : yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will 
think that he doeth God service. And these things will they 
do unto you, because they have not known the Father nor 
me."± Such was the constant tenor of Christ's language to 
his disciples : such was the mode in which he sought to allure 
followers, and to gain proselytes. That its total want of 
earthly encouragement; was abundantly felt, is clear, not only 
from the reason of the thing, but from the express testimony of 
the narrative itself. On one occasion of receiving these melan- 
choly and discouraging communications, it is said, that the 
disciples were exceedingly sorry :§ on another, that Peter began 
to rebuke him.\\ But not in the slightest degree would Christ 
either change, or even soften his language. He still perse- 
vered in his own most extraordinary mode of gaining follow- 
ers. He still allured his countrymen to enlist under his ban- 
ners, by promising them every sort of persecution, universal 
hatred, flight, banishment, excommunication, contempt, afflic- 
tion, death. This was the method in which he invariably 

* Matt. xxiv. 6—9. t John xv. 18—21. 

t John xvi. 1—3. § Matt. xvii. £3. 

I! Matt. xvi. 22. 


thought fit to advance his project, whatever might be its pre- 
cise nature. Now can any person seriously believe, that an 
artful and selfish impostor would adopt such a plan of aggran- 
dizement, as Christ, if we suppose him to be an impostor, 
must be viewed as having actually adopted ? The thing is in- 
credible : and he, who, with these testimonies before his eyes, 
and with even a moderate knowledge of human nature in his 
head, can yet persuade himself against all moral evidence, that 
the man who could systematically act as Christ acted, was ne- 
vertheless an impostor who sought his own aggrandizement 
and advancement ; such a person, instead of charging a believer 
in revelation with an easy faith, may himself be well deemed 
a very portent of credulity. 

On the whole, if Chiist were indeed an impostor it will 
baffle the greatest ingenuity to determine what could have been 
his object. Wealth, and power, and reputation, those darling 
idols of the proud and the ambitious, he utterly slighted him- 
self: and all his precepts have a direct tendency to discourage 
the love of them in others, and thus plainly to make his fol- 
lowers the most useless tools for an artful adventurer that can 
well be imagined. What then was his object, if he were an 
impostor ? In the case of other notorious and allowed impos- 
tors, Coziba, for instance, and Mohammed, nothing is more 
easy than to detect and define the ultimate object of their va- 
ried machinations ; yet it will not be the least difficulty, with 
which Infidelity is hampered, to specify, clearly and distinctly, 
and on solid grounds, moral and historical, the precise object 
which Jesus of Nazareth had in view, when he gave himself 
out to be the expected Messiah, and when he thus attempted 
to delude his Hebrew countrymen. 

2. But, if Christ were not an artful impostor, it may be 
contended that he was a brain-sick enthusiast : a solution 
which will equally destroy the belief that he was a prophet 
really sent from God. 

Let us see, then, whether this hypothesis bids more fair for 
stability than the last. 

In prosecuting such an inquiry, we are obviously led to study 
the character of Christ, as it stands developed in the histories 


of him, which have come down to us : for, whether he be, or 
be not an enthusiast, we can only form a judgment from his 
words and from his actions. 

(1.) Now, with regard to his words, even Infidelity itself 
allows, that so pure, and so perfect, and so rational a code of 
morals was never before promulgated. It is easy to distin- 
guish between the wild ravings of enthusiasm, and the words 
of soberness and truth. Let any person carefully read the 
Sermon on the mount, together with the various other recorded 
discourses of Christ; and then honestly say, to which class 
these documents ought to be referred. 

" Blessed are the poor in spirit ; for theirs is the kingdom 
of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn ; for they shall be 
comforted. Blessed are the meek ; for they shall inherit the 
earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after 
righteousness ; for they shall be filled. Blessed are the mer- 
ciful ; for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in 
heart ; for they shall see God. Blessed are the peace-makers ; 
for they shall be called the children of God. Let your light 
so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and 
glorify your Father which is in heaven. Whosoever shall 
break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men 
so ; he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven : 
but, whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be 
called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, 
that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness 
of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the 
kingdom of heaven. ' Ye have heard that it was said by them 
of old time : Thou shalt not commit adultery : but 1 say unto 
you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath 
committed adultery with her already in his heart. Ye have 
heard that it hath been said ; Thou shalt love thy neighbour, 
and hate thine enemy : but I say unto you, love your enemies, 
bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and 
pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you ; 
that ye may be the children of your Father which is in hea- 
ven : for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, 


and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. Take heed 
that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them ; 
otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in hea- 
ven. Therefore, when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a 
trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do, in the synagogues 
and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily 
I say unto you, they have their reward. But when thou doest 
alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth : 
that thine alms may be in secret ; and thy Father, which seeth 
thee in secret, himself shall reward thee openly. And, when 
thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are : for they 
love to pray, standing in the synagogues and in the corners of 
the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto 
you, they have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, 
enter into thy closet ; and, when thou hast shut thy door, pray 
to thy Father which is in secret ; and thy Father, which seeth 
in secret, shall reward thee openly. Lay not up for yourselves 
treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and 
where thieves break through and steal : but lay up for your- 
selves treasures in heaven, w T here neither moth nor rust doth 
corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. 
Judge not, that ye be not judged : for with what judgment ye 
judge, ye shall be judged ; and with what measure ye mete, it 
shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the 
mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam 
that is in thine own eye ? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, 
Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye ; and, behold, a 
beam is in thine own eye ? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the 
beam out of thine own eye ; and then shalt thou see clearly 
to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. Give not that 
which is holy unto the dogs ; neither cast ye your pearls be- 
fore sw r ine : lest they trample them under their feet, and turn 
again and rend you. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs 
of thistles ? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit ; 
but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. Wherefore by 
their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saithunto 
me^ Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven ; but 

Sect. V.] OF INFIDELITY. 113 

he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.* Thou 
shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy 
soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great com- 
mandment. And the second is like unto it : Thou shalt love 
thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang 
all the law and the prophets. t Ye call me Master and Lord : 
and ye say well ; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Mas- 
ter, have washed your feet ; ye also ought to wash one an- 
other's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should 
do as I have done unto you.J A new commandment I give 
unto you, that ye love one another ; as I have loved you, that 
ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye 
are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."§ 

Such were the precepts of him who claimed to be the ex- 
pected Messiah and the Saviour of mankind. Their unexam- 
pled purity will be controverted by none : and their intrinsic 
excellence approves itself to every heart and head. Never 
man spake like this man, was the honest confession of the offi- 
cers who had been sent to apprehend him :|] Truly this was 
the Son of God, was the acknowledgment of the centurion and 
his companions, even while he was hanging upon the cross. ^f 
In the sayings of our Lord, we behold a calm, and dignified, 
and heavenly strain of morality : but we vainly seek for the 
least tincture of insane fanaticism. All is composed and se- 
rene, equal and consistent. There are no jarring incongrui- 
ties, no clashing contradictions, no undue elevation of one 
moral virtue, no unreasonable depression of another. Every 
thing appears in its right place : the whole is perfect harmony : 
from a perusal of the system we rise satisfied and convinced. 
Throughout these admirable discourses, instead of that superi- 
ority to ordinances which some enthusiasts have claimed for 
themselves and their followers, we find the dutiful necessity 
of obedience to the moral law strenuously inculcated upon every 

Matt. v. vi. vii. t Matt. xxii. 37—40. 

John xiii. 13—15. § John xiii. 34, 35. 

John vii. 46. IT Matt, xxvii. 54. 


114 THE DIFFICULTIES [Sect. ^ ' 

disciple : instead of a violent and exclusive enunciation of some 
one favourite dogma or line of conduct, we find our whole 
duty both to God and man clearly explained, and impartially 
enforced: instead of those useless austerities and appalling 
self-macerations which in all ages and countries Fanaticism 
has proposed as the surest mode of propitiating the Deity, we 
find universal love, and meekness, and sincerity, and mercy 
and purity, both of heart and life, set forth as the only certain 
evidence of our being the children of a heavenly Father. In 
no part of Christ's recorded language can we discover the 
.slightest vestige of a wild enthusiasm. 

(2.) As little can we perceive it in any of those actions, 
which are recorded as having been performed by him. 

When a captious question was proposed as to the legality of 
the Jews paying tribute to Caesar, w T e cannot doubt what the 
answer of an enthusiast would have been. Inflated with high 
notions of his own divine commission, and viewing with indigna- 
tion the subject state of the people whom he believed himself 
appointed to deliver, he would forthwith have boldly declared 
the deed unlawful, and would have enjoined either a sullen 
refusal or a bold resistance by force of arms.— But Christ, with 
singular adroitness, neither exposed himself to the anger of the 
Jews by controverting one of their favourite maxims, nor com- 
promised himself with the Roman government by declaring 
that tribute ought not to be paid. " Render unto Caesar," said 
he upon an inspection of the imperial effigies which marked 
the tax-money : " Render unto Caesar the things that are Cae- 
sar's, and unto God the things that are God's."* 

So likewise when another question was proposed by the 
Sadducees, which, as they imagined, reduced the doctrine of 
a future state to an absurdity, he hesitated not a moment to 
give an answer so calm and so rational, that nothing can pos- 
sibly be more unlike the frantic ebullitions of enthusiasm. " Ye 
do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God. 
For in the resurrection, they neither marry, nor are given m 

* Matt, xxii. 15—22. 

Sect. Y.] OF INFIDELITY. 115 

marriage ; but are as the angels of God in heaven. But, as 
touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that 
which was spoken unto you by God, saying ; I am the God of 
Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob ? God 
is not the God of the dead, but of the living."* 

An enthusiast, when attacked by the arm of force, is gene- 
rally prone to repel violence with violence : and, believing 
himself to be the immediate favourite of heaven, he not un- 
frequently, even if his followers be ever so few, will confidently 
promise to them a certain victory. But, when in defence of 
his Lord, a zealous disciple wounded one of the servants of 
the high-priest, Jesus ordered him to forbear ; at once declar- 
ing the fate of those who should draw the sword in resistance 
to authority, and intimating the utter needlessness of such a 
step were he himself inclined to crush his enemies. " Put up 
again thy sword into its place : for all they that take the sword, 
shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou, that I cannot now 
pray to my Father ; and he shall presently give me more than 
twelve legions of angels ? But how then shall the Scriptures 
be fulfilled, that thus it must be?"t 

An enthusiast, moreover, is very apt to inculcate his doc- 
trines by fire and sword ; as thinking that those deserve no 
mercy, who can impiously reject what to him appears the unde- 
niable mind of heaven. But the mode of propagating Chris- 
tianity prescribed by its founder, is the very reverse of such 
sanguinary proceedings. " As ye go," said he to his disciples, 
when he sent them forth, "preach, saying, The kingdom of 
heaven is at hand. Freely ye have received, freely give. 
Behold, I send you forth as sheep, in the midst of wolves. "J 
Hence, when two of his disciples would fain have called down 
fire from heaven upon a Samaritan village which had refused 
him admission, he gravely rebuked them for their violence ; 
intimating, at the same time, that they little knew what spirit 
they were of: " for the Son of man," said he, " is not come to 
destroy men's lives, but to save them."§ 

* Matt. xxii. 23—32. t Matt. xxvi. 51—54. 

i Matt. x. 7, 8. 16= § Luke ix. 51—56. 


Various other instances of Christ's perfect freedom from 
enthusiasm might easily be produced : but these may be deemed 
sufficient. It may safely, in short, be asserted, that not a 
single mark of fanaticism can be exhibited against him, unless 
it be the naked circumstance of his claiming to be a prophet 
sent from God. This, however, according to any just princi- 
ples of reasoning, cannot be legitimately brought forward as 
evidence; because, in truth, it is a complete begging of the 
question. If, indeed, Christ were not sent from God ; then 
doubtless his claim of a divine commission, made under a full 
impression of its propriety, would be a most ample proof of 
enthusiasm : but, on the other hand, if he were truly sent from 
God ; then such a claim would be no proof whatsoever. Hence 
it is obvious, that the claim in question cannot be legitimately 
adduced as a proof of enthusiasm, until it be first shown, that 
Christ was not sent from God : for it is either a strong proof, 
or no proof at all, exactly according to the character which he 
really sustained. 

3. But so singularly was the appearance of Christ mingled 
with other circumstances, that, in order fully to prosecute the 
inquiry, whether he was either an impostor or an enthusiast, 
we stand compelled to do much more than merely study his 
recorded character, whether exemplified in words, or displayed 
in actions. 

Various matters, very difficult to be accounted for by an in- 
fidel, stand immediately connected with the appearance of 
Christ; matters, wholly independent upon him, on the suppo- 
sition of his being either an impostor or an enthusiast ; mat- 
ters, over which he could not possibly have had the slightest 
degree of control. 

In the sacred. writings of the Jews ; writings, which on the 
fullest evidence we maintain to have been in existence long an- 
terior to the birth of Christ : we have numerous documents, 
which claim to be divinely inspired prophecies. Now these 
predictions announce and minutely describe a remarkable cha- 
racter, whom the Jews have ever been accustomed to denomi- 
nate the Messiah, and whom, from a numerical prophecy of 

Sect. V.] OF INFIDELITY. 117 

Daniel, they were actually expecting immediately before, and 
about the very time when Christ made his appearance. The 
prophecies in question teach, among numerous other particu- 
lars, that he should be born in Bethlehem ; that he should be a 
descendant of the tribe of Judah, and the house of David ; that 
he should appear during the continuance of the second temple ; 
that the times of his manifestation might be known by com- 
puting seventy prophetic weeks, or 490 calendar years from an 
edict of one of the Persian kings to restore and build Jerusa- 
lem at the close of the Babylonian captivity ; that, shortly after 
the end of those 490 years, the city and the sanctuary of the 
Jews should be destroyed ; that one of his familiar friends 
should betray him ; that he should be sold for thirty pieces of 
silver ; that his hands and his feet should be pierced ; that his 
garments should be divided among his oppressors, and that 
they should cast lots on his vesture ; that he should be taken 
off by an unjust judgment ; that his grave should be appointed 
with the wicked, but that nevertheless his tomb should be 
with the rich man;* that he should be despised and rejected of 
men, but yet that his portion should be the many, and that the 
mighty people he should share for his spoil ;t that he should 
be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence to both the houses 
of Israel, but that in him all the nations of the earth should be 

Such are some of the many predictions, which the Jews in 
all ages have believed to relate to their expected Messiah : and 
I have specially selected these rather than others, which might 
have been adduced, because their peculiar nature is such that 
their accomplishment or non-accomplishment is wholly out of 
the control of any person, whether an impostor or an enthu- 

^ See Bp. Lowth on Isaiah liii. 9. 

t See Bp, Lowth on Isaiah liii. 12. 

$ Micah v. 2. Gen. xlix. 10. Isaiah xi. 1,2. Jerem. xxiii. 5, 6. 
xxxiii. 15. Haggai ii. 6—9. Malach. iii. 1. Dan. ix. 24—27. Psalm 
xli. 9. Zechar. xi. 12. Psalm xxii. 16—18. Isaiah liii. 3—12. Isaiah 
viii. 13, 14, compared with Rom. ix. 33. 1 Pet. ii. 8 : whence it appears, 
that Christ is the person spoken of by Isaiah. Gen. xxii. 18. xxvi. 4. 


siast, who might think fit to apply them to himself. Thus 
(that the drift and force of the present argument may be under- 
stood) it is readily allowed, that either an impostor or an en- 
thusiast might have affected to accomplish a prophecy of Ze- 
chariah, by riding into Jerusalem on an ass ; because an action 
of this sort would plainly be altogether in his own power: 
whence no such action, standing in an insulated form, or joined 
with other actions of a similar description, would be any valid 
proof that the rider was the promised Messiah. But then it is 
contended, that neither an impostor nor an enthusiast could 
have had any control over the accomplishment of a prediction, 
which set forth the various circumstances (for instance) of the 
death of the Messiah ; because no person can certainly deter- 
mine the several contingencies of his own dissolution : whence 
it follows, that the exact accomplishment of a prophecy of this 
nature, in the case of one who, during his life-time, had claimed 
to be the promised Messiah, has a strong tendency to establish 
the validity of his claim ; and it is obvious, ^that the greater 
number there is of such independent coincidences, the stronger 
is the presumption in favour of the claimant. 

On this very intelligible principle, then, let us consider the 
case of Jesus Christ and the Jewish Messiaship. 

In his person, it cannot be denied or dissembled (for, in 
truth, it is a mere question of matter of fact), that an amazing 
number of descriptions, purporting to be prophecies, have 
been exactly verified ; nor can it be denied or dissembled, that 
a large proportion of these descriptions, whether they should 
or should not be verified, are, from the very necessity of their 
nature, placed wholly out of the control of any interested ad- 
venturer who might choose to assume the character of the pre- 
dicted Saviour. 

"What then are we to think of the case before us ? It is quite 
clear, that neither an enthusiast nor an impostor could so con- 
trol independent events, that he should be born in Bethlehem, 
rather than in any other place ; that one of his intimate friends 
should betray him ; that he should be sold for the precise sum 
of thirty pieces of silver ; that his death should be attended by 

Sect. V.] OF INFIDELITY. 119 

the piercing of his hands and his feet ; that his garments 
should be divided, but that his vesture should be assigned by 
lot ; that he should be destined to be buried with malefactors, 
but yet that his tomb should be with a rich man ; that he 
should be despised and rejected by the Jews, but that he should 
receive as his spiritual spoil the mighty nations of the pagan 
world; that not only should his appearance coincide with a 
remarkable numerical prophecy, but that shortly after his 
death the metropolis and temple of his native country should 
be utterly destroyed by the Romans. Yet did every one of 
these independent particulars, over which Christ, on the sup- 
position of his being either an impostor or an enthusiast, could 
plainly have had no sort of control, meet with fatal exactness 
in his single person. Of his riding into Jerusalem on an ass, 
I make small account, as an argument: for nothing is more 
probable, than that this is the precise action which an enthusi- 
ast would have selected for his performance. But, of the 
various circumstances attendant upon his death, I make great 
account, as an argument ; because I cannot comprehend how 
either an impostor or an enthusiast, placed in the peculiar cir- 
cumstances of Christ, could have so ordered matters wholly 
out of his control, that they should exactly correspond with 
certain descriptive prophecies composed many ages even before 
his own birth. 

But this chain of events is not the only one which hampers 
and perplexes the supposition that Christ was either an enthu- 
siast or an impostor : there is yet another, for which the infi- 
del, on his principles, stands bound to account. 

If Christ were either an impostor or an enthusiastic pre- 
tender to the Messiaship, though he might apply various pre- 
dictions to himself, and though possibly he might induce others 
to adopt a similar application ; yet his enthusiasm or his scheme 
of imposture, must have had a commencement at some one 
definite point of his life ; and, even had he been so inclined, 
he could not have commanded the application of prophecies to 
himself by others during his own infancy. Yet did this very 
occurrence actually take place. An infidel may assert, that 


Christ, either as an impostor or as an enthusiast, availed 
himself of certain old predictions highly venerated among 
the Jews, and gave himself out to be the person whom they 
foretold. Now, to say nothing of the insuperable difficul- 
ties with which (as we have already seen) this crude notion is 
clogged, the prophecies were first applied to Christ by others, 
while he himself was yet an infant. Wise men came out of 
the east to inquire after him, as soon as he was born : Herod 
and all Jerusalem were troubled about so strange an event : 
old Simeon in the temple took the child in his arms, and 
declared that he was the promised Deliverer : and Anna spoke 
of him, though still an infant, to all them that looked for 
redemption in Jerusalem.* Circumstances of this description, 
being wholly independent of Christ himself, are plainly incom- 
patible with the theory of his being either an impostor or an 
enthusiast. He did not merely give himself out to be the pre- 
dicted Messiah : he was declared to be such by others, and 
those neither of his own family nor at all connected with him, 
while he as yet was a child in arms. 

We have now patiently gone through the evidence respect- 
ing the claims of Christ to the Messiaship of the Hebrews ; 
and the difficulties that attend upon the only two suppositions 
by which those claims might be invalidated are so great, that 
it may well be made a question, whether to believe him an 
impostor or an enthusiast, does not show an incomparably 
higher degree of credulity than to believe him a prophet really 
sent from God. 

III. The character of the founder of Christianity having 
been thus fully vindicated, it might seem almost superfluous to 
discuss the character of his apostles and immediate followers : 
for, if Christ himself cannot be pronounced either an impostor 
or an enthusiast, except in despite of all evidence, both moral 
and historical, it must clearly follow, that neither can any such 
imputation be reasonably cast upon those who acted in obedi- 
ence to his commands, and who propagated the identical 

* Matt. ii. 1—6. Luke ii. 25—32, 36—38. 

Sect. V.] OF INFIDELITY. 121 

system which he himself originally promulgated. Yet, since 
the speculations of Infidelity respecting these earliest preachers 
of the Gospel, are attended with numerous difficulties, it may 
not be altogether useless to consider their character also. 

1. The notion, I presume, which infidel writers, in con- 
sistence with their own principles, must entertain of the primi- 
tive missionaries of Christianity is this : that they were a 
combination of artful impostors, tinged in a measure with Jewish 
obstinacy and enthusiasm (for the union of fraud and fanati- 
cism is neither rare nor impossible) ; who, availing themselves 
of the peculiar circumstances of the times, contrived to erect, 
upon the infatuated credulity of mankind, an ecclesiastical fab- 
ric, which, through the labours of their industrious successors, 
has since attained its present gigantic magnitude. These 
men, says Mr Volney, were robbers and hypocrites : preaching 
simplicity, to inveigle confidence ; humility, the more easily 
to enslave; poverty, in order to appropriate all riches to 
themselves ; another world, the better to invade this. He 
speaks indeed, when he employs such language, of the whole 
collective body of the Christian clergy : but then he must be 
understood, to include the apostles and the first preachers of the 
Gospel within that body ; because, otherwise, his argument is 
palpably inconclusive. Let us grant to the utmost extent of 
his wishes, that the priesthood of the middle ages fully an- 
swered to his description ; and let us further concede for the 
sake of argument, that the priesthood of the present day are 
not a whit better than their predecessors : what then ? Unless 
Mr Volney can prove that the apostles also were men of a 
like spirit, he will but little, at least with sober-minded and 
rational inquirers, have advanced his project of overturning 
Christianity. Because certain unprincipled persons may have 
availed themselves of the general reception of the Gospel, and 
the general veneration entertained for its divine founder, and 
may thence have contrived to erect upon these foundations a 
rich, and powerful, and thriving spiritual empire : are we 
therefore logically bonnd to conclude, that the apostles were 
robbers and hypocrites ? The existence of artful and wicked 


men within the pale of the Christian Church, cannot, by any 
legitimate process of reasoning with which I am acquainted, 
demonstrate the falsehood of Christianity itself. For this pur- 
pose, had Mr Volney been a really honest and conscientious 
investigator, he would not have dealt in a vague indiscriminate 
abuse of the Christian clergy in general : but would have en- 
deavoured to show, if such a matter could be shown, that his 
vituperation was correctly applicable to the apostles in particu- 
lar. Could he have demonstrated, on any secure grounds, 
that the apostles and the earliest preachers of the Gospel were 
robbers and hypocrites, preaching simplicity to inveigle confi- 
dence ; humility, the more easily to enslave ; poverty, in order 
to appropriate all riches to themselves ; another world, the bet- 
ter to invade this : could he, I say, have satisfactorily demon- 
strated any such position ; he would also have demonstrated, 
that the apostles and first teachers, under their peculiar cir- 
cumstances of being the original promulgators of a religious 
system, were certainly a band of interested impostors. But, 
unless this can be done, in effect nothing is done. The mis- 
conduct of their successors cannot prove the apostles to be 
impostors : and, unless the apostles can be proved to be im- 
postors, Christianity cannot be proved to be a fable. If there- 
fore Mr Volney wishes to include in his description the whole 
body of the Christian priesthood, from the apostles down to 
the present time ; a matter clearly necessary to the conclu- 
siveness of his argument : he must give us something more 
than his own bare assertion, that he has accurately depicted 
the character of the apostles. And, on the other hand, if he 
does not wish to include the apostles in his description of the 
Christian priesthood : then it is hard to comprehend how he 
has proved the apostles to be impostors, and thence conse- 
quentially the Gospel to be a cheat. But Mr Volney is not 
very remarkable for close reasoning : his zeal in the cause of 
irreligion is apt to outrun his judgment. 

2. Let us however examine the notion, professedly enter- 
tained by infidels, that the primitive missionaries of Christianity 
were a knot of impostors, whose object w r as to delude mankind 

Sect. V.] OF INFIDELITY. 123 

into the belief that they were a company of divinely commis- 
sioned teachers. 

(1.) Now we readily grant, that, during the life-time of their 
master, the apostles entertained the ambitious hope, common 
to them with the rest of their countrymen, that he was about to 
establish a temporal sovereignty in which his tried adherents 
might expect the highest places of dignity and emolument. — 
Christ indeed repeatedly told them, what they might expect in 
his service ; contempt, hatred, bonds, imprisonment, spoliation, 
persecution, death : but we all know the mode, in which a san- 
guine temper is wont to operate. It is not impossible, that, 
from an unwillingness to be disturbed in the midst of a golden 
dream, they might turn a deaf ear to all such declarations. — 
Probably they might view them, as somewhat exaggerated : 
probably they might deem them mere trials of their steadfast- 
ness and fidelity, propounded in words, but never meant to be 
carried into effect : probably they might esteem them, as simply 
setting forth those preliminary hardships and labours, which 
they who gird themselves up to a mighty enterprise must con- 
tentedly endure in the road to victory. Human nature is ever 
ingenious, in excogitating agreeable solutions of what in the 
letter it dislikes to hear. Hence it is not at all impossible, that 
some such explanations might be sought after, as would leave 
the disciples of Christ in possession of a blissful dream of 
worldly aggrandizement. On this principle it was, perhaps, 
that, even so late as immediately before the last journey to 
Jerusalem, Peter, in the name of his fellows, undertook, as it 
were, to make terms with his master. Behold, said that apos- 
tle, magnifying his deserts and apparently expecting an ample 
temporal reward : Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed 
thee: what shall we have therefore? To this question the 
answer of Jesus was, that they should indeed be promoted to 
the highest dignities in his kingdom, that they should be abun- 
dantly remunerated for every sacrifice ; but that they must look 
for these rewards only in a future and eternal world. Verily 
I say unto you, that ye, which have followed me, in the regen- 
eration, when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, 


ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes 
of Israel. And every one, that hath forsaken houses or breth- 
ren or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands 
for my name's sake, shall receive an hundred fold, and shall 
inherit everlasting life.* 

But, whatever expectations of this sort were formed during 
the life-time of Christ, they must have been speedily dissipated 
by his unwelcome death. And so, in fact, they were. After 
the trifling resistance which one of his followers made upon his 
apprehension in the garden, all the disciples, we are told, for- 
sook him andfledA With his crucifixion every hope vanished. 
We are talking, said one of them, full of sad musings and dis- 
mal apprehensions: we are talking concerning Jesus of Naza- 
reth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God 
and all the people: and how the chief priest and our rulers de- 
livered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him* — 
But we trusted, that it had been he which should have redeemed 
Israel.% The turn of the expression implies, that expectation 
was at an end, and that the bitterness of disappointment had 
succeeded. Christ's disciples had once indeed believed, that 
he was the promised Messiah : but the circumstance of his 
death had led them to suspect, that they had been grievously 
mistaken in their opinion. 

Thus terminated the first stage of that, which, in the judg- 
ment of Infidelity, is an imposition upon the credulity of man- 

(2.) Here, we might suppose, that the matter would have 
ended : for, when an unsuccessful impostor is cut ofT in the 
midst of his project, we constantly find, that the project itself 
becomes abortive, that his followers are dispersed, and that 
nothing more is heard or thought of the affair. Such was the 
case with the several deceptions attempted by Theudas and 
Judas of Galilee and Coziba :§ and such we might reasonably 
anticipate from analogy, would have been the case with 
Christianity, had its author been a mere ambitious adventurer. 

* Matt. xix. 27—29. t Matt. xxvi. 56. 

X Luke xxiv. 19—21. § Acts. v. 36—37. 

Sect. V.] OF INFIDELITY. 125 

But, in truth, the direct opposite to this anticipation took 
place. Very shortly after the death of Christ, his disciples, 
lately so dispirited, most unaccountably, on the principles of 
an infidel, resumed their courage : and, what is not a little par- 
adoxical and extraordinary, they displayed their recovered 
courage on grounds altogether different from those on which 
they had heretofore exhibited so much confidence. During 
the life-time of their master they thought of nothing but a tem- 
poral kingdom ; and overlooked his sufficiently explicit decla- 
rations, that in his service they must expect hatred and con- 
tempt and persecution : but, after his death, we find their tone 
suddenly changed ; for now the prominent object of their am- 
bition was an eternal kingdom in a future world, and they even 
welcomed all those severe trials which had been announced as 
their earthly portion. Henceforth, we hear nothing more of 
any worldly and interested and selfish projects. They seem 
wholly absorbed in the plan of announcing, every where and to 
every body, their crucified preceptor; as one whose office it 
was to save his people from their sins, to break the tyrannous 
yoke of evil passions, and to conduct his faithful disciples to 
heaven by the road of much affliction upon earth. In the pro- 
secution of such a plan, which, overlooking this present and 
visible world, solely respects a world future and invisible ; they 
are content to endure sufferings, from which human nature 
revolts. With them, the approbation or disapprobation of man 
is of little account : they seek only the praise of God, fully 
satisfied with this, though deprived of every thing else. In 
poverty, distress, obloquy, and martyrdom, they profess to 
exult: for the hatred and opposition of their countrymen they 
stand prepared ; since, how could they expect favour and coun- 
tenance at the hands of those, who had already crucified their 
venerated master ? They are willing to lose all and to resign 
all, character, wealth, comfort, life, in the discharge of what 
they believe to be a bounden duty : and, as for recompence, the 
only remuneration, which they seek or desire, is the beatific 
vision of their murdered and disgraced Lord in the future world 
of spirits. What they profess themselves, they teach to others. 


126 the difficulties [Sect. V. 

They freely invite all mankind to the participation of a life of 
misery and trouble and persecution : they affect not to conceal, 
that their master was ignominiously executed as a malefactor : 
they dissemble not the contempt and hatred and ruin of all 
worldly projects, which those who follow them, must prepare 
to encounter: but then, as an allurement to those whom they 
address, they promise them abundance of comfort and happi- 
ness hereafter, when death shall have removed them from their 
present sphere of existence. 

" The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob," their 
language was, " the God of our fathers, hath glorified his son 
Jesus ; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence 
of Pilate, when he w r as determined to let him go. But ye de- 
nied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be 
granted unto you, and killed the Prince of life. And now, 
brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also 
your rulers. But those things, which God before had showed 
by the mouth of all his prophets that Christ should suffer, he 
hath so fulfilled. Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that 
your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall 
come from the presence of the Lord ; and he shall send Jesus 
Christ, which before was preached unto you : whom the hea- 
ven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, 
which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets 
since the world began. Ye are the children of the prophets 
and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying 
unto Abraham ; And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the 
earth be blessed. Unto you first, God having raised up his 
son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away everyone of 
you from his iniquities.* We ought to obey God, rather than 
men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew 
and hanged on a tree. Him hath. God exalted with his right 
hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to 
Israel and forgiveness of sins.t And he commanded us to 
preach unto the people, and to testify, that it is he which was 

* Actsiii. 13-2C. t Acts v. 29— 31, 

Sect. V.] OF INFIDELITY. 127 

ordained of God to be the judge of quick and dead. To him 
give all the prophets witness, that through his name, whosoever 
believeth in him, shall receive remission of sins.* It was ne- 
cessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to 
you : but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves un- 
worthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so 
hath the Lord commanded us, saying : I have set thee to be a 
light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldst be for salvation unto 
the ends of the earth.t The times of this ignorance God 
winked at ; but now commandeth all men every where to re- 
pent ; because he hath appointed a day in the which he will 
judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath 
ordained ; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in 
that he hath raised him from the dead.i Ye know, from the 
first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been 
with you at all seasons ; serving the Lord with all humility of 
mind, and with many tears, and with temptations which befel 
me by the lying in wait of the Jews : and how I kept back 
nothing that was profitable unto you ; but have showed you, 
and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testi- 
fying both to the Jews, and also to the Gentiles, repentance 
toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, 
behold, I go bound in the Spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing 
the things that shall befal me there ; save that the Holy Ghost 
witnesseth in every city, saying, that bonds and afflictions 
abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count 
I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course 
with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord 
Jesus to testify the Gospel of the grace of God. And now, 
brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, 
which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance 
among all them which are sanctified. I have coveted no man's 
silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that 
these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them 

* Acts x. 42, 43. f Acts xiii. 46, 47. t Acts xvii. 30, 31. 


that were with me.* I reckon that the sufferings of this pre- 
sent time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which 
shall be revealed in us.t What then shall we say to these 
things ? If God be for us, who can be against us ? He that 
spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how 
shall he not with him also freely give us all things ? Who 
shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, 
or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, 
or the sword ? As it is written : For thy sake we are killed 
all the day long ; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through 
him that loved us.J If in this life only we have hope in Christ, 
we are of all men most miserable. § We are troubled on every 
side, yet not depressed ; we are perplexed, but not in despair ; 
persecuted, but not forsaken ; cast down, but not destroyed ; 
always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, 
that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal 
flesh. We believe, and therefore speak ; knowing that he 
which raised up the lord Jesus, shall raise up us also by Jesus, 
and shall present us with you. For which cause we faint not : 
but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is re- 
newed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for 
a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal 
weight of glory ; while we look not at the things which are 
seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things 
which are seen are temporal ; but the things which are not seen 
are eternal. For we must all appear before the judgment-seat 
of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his 
body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or 
bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord we persuade 
men. || The preaching of the cross is to them that perish, 
foolishness ; but unto us which are saved, it is the power of 
God. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after 

Acts xx. 18—34. t Rom. viii. 18. 

Rom. viii. 31—37. § 1 Corinth, xv. 19. 

2 Corinth, iv. 8—18. v. 10, II. 

Sect. V.] OF INFIDELITY. 129 

wisdom : but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a 
stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness ; but unto 
them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power 
of God and the wisdom of God. For I determined not to know 
any thing among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified.* 
God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord 
Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I 
uto the world.t I would not have you to be ignorant, breth- 
ren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not 
even as others which have no hope. For, if we believe that 
Jesus died and rose again ; even so them also which sleep in 
Jesus, will God bring with him. For this we say unto you 
by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain 
unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them which are 
asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with 
a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of 
God : and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we, which 
are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them 
in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air : and so shall we ever 
be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these 
words.J For we know, that if our earthly house of this taber- 
nacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not 
made with hands, eternal in the heavens s § For here we have 
no continuing city, but we seek one to come.|| Blessed is the 
man that endureth temptation ; for, when he is tried, he shall 
receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them 
that love him. "If 

These were the avowed principles of the first teachers of 
Christianity; principles, adopted and faithfully acted upon by 
all their proselytes. The result was such as might naturally 
be anticipated in the existing state of society ; and as, in fact, 
was anticipated by the zealous missionaries themselves. From 
the concurring testimony of Christian documents and pagan 

1 Corinth, i. 18, 22—24. ii. 2. 


Galat. vi. 14. 

1 Thes. iv. 13—18. 


2 Corinth, v. 1 

Heb. xiii. 14. 


James i. 12. 



declarations, we gather, that in every quarter of the world 
they were hated, reviled, despised, traduced, persecuted, plun- 
dered, and murdered with every refinement of the most in- 
genious cruelty. Instead of gaining any worldly advantages 
to themselves ; they sacrificed all their hopes and all their 
comforts on this side of the grave to the furtherance of a pro- 
ject, which, in the eyes of an infidel., was a mere gross imposi- 
tion upon human credulity. They were tortured, not accepting 
deliverance : they had trials of cruel mockings andscourgings, 
of bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned ; they were 
sawn asunder ; they were tempted ; they were slain with the 
sword ; they were committed to the flames ; they were cruci- 
fied ; they were exposed to the fury of wild beasts, for the 
amusement of a brutal populace ; they were destitute, afflicted, 
tormented ; they wandered in deserts and in mountains, in 
dens and caves of the earth. In labours they were abundant, 
in stripes above measure, in prisons frequent, in deaths oft, in 
perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by the Jews, 
in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the 
wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren ; 
in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in journey- 
ings often, in fastings often, in hunger and thirst, in cold and 
nakedness. Of all the apostles, one only died a natural death ; 
the rest were slaughtered under various circumstances of cruelty, 
and in various regions of the earth, to which their zeal had 
transported them. 

Now the whole of this was done and suffered, if we may 
safely receive the conclusions of Infidelity, for the purpose of 
deluding mankind into the belief of a fiction. The actors and 
the sufferers in this strange eventful history, were manifest 
impostors : and as such, they of necessity knew that they were 
palming an imposition upon the world. Yet, though they 
knew the whole to be a mere cheat, so delighted were they 
with the idle figment, that they cheerfully submitted to misery 
and contempt, to torture and death, in order that they might 
persuade others to receive for truth what they themselves all 
the while knew to be a gross fabrication. Nor was this ex- 

Sect. V.] OF INFIDELITY. 131 

traordinary affection for pain, and ignominy, and discomfort, 
and labour, and slaughter, confined to some one single person : 
no less than twelve principal leaders, besides a numerous host 
of inferior agents, were characterized by the same unnatural 
appetite for death and wretchedness. All these, or at any 
rate all the twelve, knew full well, that there was not a word 
of truth in the pretended revelation which they took so much 
pains to promulgate ; they knew, likewise, that instead of gain- 
ing any worldly advantages by their labour, they were abso- 
lutely bringing themselves to certain ruin : yet, with rare 
unanimity did they persist in their career ; not the slightest 
confession would any one of them make ; not the least hesita- 
tion was evinced, when the alternative of death or recantation 
was set before them. 

All this must be maintained by Infidelity, if it be asserted 
that the primitive teachers of Christianity were impostors. 
Every part of the conduct of the apostles, every page of their 
writings, shows most indisputably, that they themselves sin- 
cerely believed the truth of what they taught : yet, in defiance 
of the strongest possible moral evidence, in defiance of the 
first principles of our sensitive nature, such is the credulity of 
the infidel, that he finds it more easy to deem them impostors, 
than to acknowledge them as the inspired messengers of 

3. It will be asked, what, at this second stage of the pro- 
pagation of the Gospel, could have specially induced the apos- 
tles and their companions to act the part which they did act. 
On the death of their master, they were scattered : and their 
whole conduct and language at that time showed, that they had 
given up in despair the project of procuring his acknowledg- 
ment in the character of the promised Messiah. Yet, sud- 
denly, their despair was changed into confidence : and, not- 
withstanding he had been violently removed from them, they 
still persisted in maintaining that he was the great prophet 
whom their countrymen were then universally expecting. What 
could produce this extraordinary revival of a project, when all 
hope seemed to have been previously extinguished ? 


Christ himself, we are told, had ventured to predict, during 
his life-time, that although the chief priests and the scribes 
would deliver him to the Gentiles, for the purpose of effecting 
his crucifixion, he would nevertheless rise again the third day.* 
This prophecy was no secret, nor was the knowledge of it by 
any means confined to his own disciples : on the contrary, it 
was speedily divulged ; and soon came to the ears of his 
determined enemies, the chief priests and Pharisees. Thus 
fortunately placed upon their guard, they now had it in their 
power to bring his pretensions to an easy issue. Accordingly, 
the day after his burial, they came together to Pilate, in order 
that the necessary precautions might be taken against any 
fraudulent attempt to bring about an apparent accomplishment 
of the prophecy. Sir, said they, we remember that that 
deceiver said, while he was yet alive, after three days I will 
rise again. Command, therefore, that the sepulthre be made 
sure until the third day ; lest his disciples come by night, and 
steal him away, and say unto the people ; He is risen from the 
dead. So the last error shall be worse than the firsts No 
arrangement could have been better conceived. Christ had 
publicly declared that he would rise again on the third day. 
Nothing more, therefore, was necessary to confute his preten- 
sions, even on his own principles, than to convince the whole 
nation that he did not then rise again : and, to secure this con- 
futation, the only thing requisite was to set a guard, who should 
effectually prevent any trick on the part of the disciples, and 
who should thus enable the Jewish high-priests to exhibit the 
dead body after the specified time had fully elapsed. — The 
declaration of Christ was public : and the precautions taken 
were equally public. Hence the matter was brought to a regu- 
lar issue ; and the entire question, whether he was or was 
not the Messiah, hung suspended on the naked fact, whether 
he did or did not rise again on the third day. 

What then happened, when the fated third day arrived? It 
is natural to expect, if the Gospel were an imposture, that 

* Matt. xx. 18, 19. t Matt, xxvii. 63, 64. 

Sect. V.] OF INFIDELITY. 133 

the dead body of Christ would have been produced and tri- 
umphantly exhibited, to the entire conviction of every rational 
inquirer, and to the utter confusion of his now confessedly 
deluded followers. This was the obvious course for the high- 
priests and the Pharisees to take : and indeed all the precau- 
tions, to which they had previously resorted, plainly enough 
showed that they meant to take this course. Did they then take 
it ? Nothing of the sort. Notwithstanding the guard of 
Roman soldiers which had been set to watch the sepulchre and 
to prevent the possibility of any fraud on the part of the dis- 
ciples, the body was missing and could not be produced. 
Such was the fact : and the problem was, how this fact was 
to be satisfactorily accounted for. 

The story told by the Jewish rulers was, that the disciples 
of Christ came by night and stole away the body while the 
soldiers slept : and their statement was corroborated by the 
declaration of the soldiers themselves. 

This mode of accounting for the disappearance of the dead 
body seems, at first not a little plausible : but, if examined 
somewhat more closely, it is by no means unattended with 
serious difficulties. The soldiers well knew for what purpose 
they had been stationed ; for no less extraordinary a purpose 
than to see whether a dead man would be restored to life, and 
would come forth from the sepulchre in which he had been 
laid. Hence, when we consider the ordinary workings of 
superstition in regard to a reappearance of the dead, and when 
we duly weigh the thrilling curiosity which the duty imposed 
upon the soldiers could not but excite, we must of necessity 
think it rather incredible, that not merely a single individual of 
the guard, careless and incurious, should have dropped asleep, 
but that the whole company, with one accord, should have 
been seized with this unaccountable and most inopportune 
somnolency. Nor is this the only difficulty. The sepulchre 
was not a mere grave dug in soft and yielding mould, which 
might easily be opened without any unusual noise ; but it was 
hewn out in a rock, and was secured by a great stone with 
which its mouth was carefully closed. Such being the case, it 


is clear, that the disciples could not steal the body without 
rolling away the stone ; and it is equally clear, that they could 
not roll away the stone without producing a very considerable 
noise. Yet so sound and deep was the sleep of the Roman 
soldiers, one and all, if we may credit the Jewish account of 
the matter, that not a single person awoke, though the rum- 
bling of a huge stone violently put in motion was sounding full 
in their ears, and though the trampling bustle of removing a 
dead body was going on in their very presence. The story 
now begins to look somewhat suspicious and incredible: for 
the reception of it involves facts which are enough to stagger 
even the most determined belief. But another unaccountable 
circumstance yet remains behind. The severity of Roman 
discipline is well known : death was the punishment of the 
centinel who slept upon guard : yet not one of these most cul- 
pably negligent soldiers was animadverted upon. That Pilate 
and the Jewish rulers would be alike provoked at the disap- 
pointment which they had experienced through the careless 
drowsiness of the watch, cannot for a moment be doubted : 
whence it can be as little doubted, that they would be eager 
and prompt to wreak their vengeance upon the culprits. Not 
one of them, however, received the least punishment : instead 
of their lives being forfeited, they were seen at large just as if 
they had committed no military offence whatsoever. And now 
let any person, accustomed to weigh legal evidence, put these 
several circumstances together ; and then say whether the 
Jewish story does not wear fraud and suspicion upon its very 
face. So ill does it hang together, that it would not, I am 
persuaded, for a single moment be admitted in any court of 
law, as affording sufficient ground to build a decision upon. 

Such was the Jewish mode of accounting for a fact, in the 
truth of which all parties were agreed ; the fact of the disap- 
pearance of the dead body : let us next attend to the Christian 

Jesus, as it was universally known, had foretold that he 
would rise again on the third day : on this third day his dead 
body was not to be found ; and his lately terrified and scattered 

Sect. V.] OF INFIDELITY. 135 

disciples now came boldly forward, and declared that he had 
actually risen from the dead, and had thus accomplished his 
own prophecy. Their declaration rested upon the alleged 
circumstance, that they themselves had repeatedly seen him 
and conversed with him, and even eaten with him, and han- 
dled him : and so fully did they seem impressed with the truth 
of their testimony, that from this time all their courage return- 
ed, and they boldly preached him as the promised Messiah, on 
the express ground of his resurrection. Nor was the asser- 
tion made scantily and hesitatingly. On all occasions, and 
without the least reserve, was the alleged fact brought forward, 
from the very first, with the utmost degree of prominence, and 
as the very corner stone of their whole system.* 

Here, therefore, we must make our choice between the two 
accounts of the matter, respectively given by the Jewish 
rulers and the disciples of Christ. If we prefer that which is 
given by the Jewish rulers, we must be content to take it with 
all its accompanying difficulties ; if we adopt that which is 
given by the disciples of Christ, we must acknowledge that 
Christ himself rose from the dead, and by consequence that 
the Gospel is a revelation from heaven. 

Now, even as the argument is here stated, I am inclined to 
think, on the ordinary principles of legal evidence, that an 
adoption of the account given by the Jewish rulers would 
evince a higher degree of credulity than an adoption of the 
account given by the disciples of Christ : but, in truth, the 
argument has not hitherto been stated in its full force. As 
yet, I have merely given the testimony of the disciples, in 
opposition to the badly cohering testimony of the Jewish rulers : 
I have said nothing as to the grounds and reasons, on which 
the testimony of the disciples is rendered credible and worthy 
of our acceptation. On this point I will readily allow, that 
the testimony of interested witnesses is to be received with 
caution: and the disciples may doubtless, in some sort, be 

* See Acts ii. 22—38. iii. 12—18. iv. 5—12 v. 27—32. x. 36-43. xiii. 
23—41. xvii. 31. xxvi. 6—8. 1 Corinth, xv. 3—20. 


called interested witnesses ; because the whole success of the 
project, in which they had embarked, depended upon the 
alleged fact of the resurrection of their Master. Why then are 
we to believe the disciples on their own naked testimony, when 
their success so plainly depended on the reception of that tes- 

The foundation of our rational belief I take to be this. 
Christ either rose from the dead, or he did not rise from the 
dead : and, analogously, the disciples themselves either knew 
that they spoke the truth, or were conscious that they advanced 
a positive falsehood. If we admit them to have spoken the 
truth, there is an end of the argument at once : if we suppose 
them to have advanced a positive falsehood, we must at the 
same time take up and defend the following positions also. 
By the hypothesis, the disciples advanced a positive falsehood. 
But if they advanced a positive falsehood, they must have 
advanced it, knowing all the while that they were advancing an 
absolute untruth. Now, on the strength of this known and 
absolute untruth, those who were recently terrified, one into a 
denial of his master, and the rest into a cowardly abandon- 
ment of him, suddenly come forward, in the very face of the 
people and their rulers, firm and undaunted, and mutually con- 
sistent. With astonishing steadiness and resolution, they 
declare the known falsehood on all occasions. Not one of them 
wavers or prevaricates in his story ; though more than five 
hundred persons are concerned in the fraud, all asserting that 
with their own eyes they have seen Christ after his pretended 
resurrection :* not a single witness out of so many ever comes 
forward to confess the shameful imposture ; though males and 
females, apostles and disciples, are alike concerned in it. The 
object of their singular pertinacity, in thus promulging and 
maintaining a known falsehood, is the establishment of a sys- 
tem, which, as they are fully aware, exposes them to hatred, 
contempt, destitution, discomfort, persecution, tortures, and 
death : and so strangely are they enamoured of what they 

* 1 Corinth, xv. 3—7. 

Sect. V.] OF INFIDELITY. 137 

themselves all the while know to be a gross fabrication of their 
own, quite destitute even of a shadow of truth ; that, for the 
pleasure of making the world at large believe a conscious false- 
hood, they are ready to sacrifice every thing, and to lay down 
even their lives under the most aggravated circumstances of 
insult and cruelty. 

These are the articles of belief concomitant upon the hypo- 
thesis that Christ never in truth rose from the dead, that the 
apostles were impostors, and that the whole account of the 
resurrection was a tale known to be a falsehood by the very 
promulgers themselves. If a man can admit such articles ; and 
every infidel, on his own principles, stands pledged to admit 
them : he is certainly prepared, by a portentous credulity, to 
swallow, with the greediness of a depraved appetite, each 
absurdity which may be offered to him. 

It is on this foundation that we rationally admit the evidence 
of the apostles, in regard to the fact of the resurrection ; 
while we reject, as palpably inconsistent and suspicious, the 
evidence of the Jewish rulers. But, if the fact of the resur- 
rection be once admitted, every thing else follows as a matter 
of course : Christ was indeed a prophet sent from God ; the 
apostles were true men, not impostors ; the Gospel is no fraud 
upon the credulity of mankind, but a genuine revelation from 

4. Such are the arguments furnished by an attentive exami- 
nation of the conduct pursued by the apostolic college at large : 
others are additionally furnished by the conduct of two apos- 
tles in particular, which strike me as being so cogent that they 
ought not to be omitted in a discussion of the present nature. 
The individuals to whom I allude, are Judas the traitor and 
Paul the persecutor. 

(1.) With respect to Judas, he is mentioned at an early 
period of the history, as being one of those twelve select disci- 
ples, to whom Christ added as associates seventy other per- 
sons of an inferior rank and authority, and whom he sent out 
for the purpose of announcing to the house of Israel the near 
approach of his kingdom. These, having travelled from city 


to city, and having met with great success in the discharge of 
their commission, returned to him, we are told, with joy, on 
account of the prosperous issue of their undertaking.* Among 
them, of course, was Judas : and the whole of his conduct 
seems to have given general satisfaction ; for we find him 
afterwards acting the part of treasurer to the infant community ; 
a circumstance which implies that he was reckoned a man 
worthy of entire confidence.! Such being the case, we can- 
not reasonably doubt, that whatever might be the true nature 
and object of the scheme contrived and carrying on by Christ 
and his twelve principal followers, Judas must have been tho- 
roughly acquainted with it : that is to say, if the whole party 
were on good grounds fully persuaded that Christ was indeed 
a prophet sent from God, Judas must have known the universal 
belief and opinion ; and, on the other hand, if they were con- 
scious joint accomplices in the propagation of what was hoped 
might prove a lucrative imposture, Judas could not but have 
been in the secret. 

This man, instigated partly by the love of money, partly by 
disappointed ambition, and partly (it should seem) by anger, 
on account of his having been openly denounced as a traitor 
in the presence of his fellows, agreed with the chief priests, 
for the sum of thirty pieces of silver, to betray his master into 
their hands. The money was paid : and Judas duly executed 
his detestable purpose. Christ was apprehended : and, after 
having been subjected to the forms of a mock trial, was igno- 
miniously put to death. 

Under such circumstances, if Christianity had been an im- 
posture, what would have been the obvious and natural pro- 
cedure of Judas ? As one of the accomplices, he must have 
known that it was an imposture. Hence, as a deserter from 
the scheme, at the same time that he betrayed its author, or at 
all events after the death of its author, he would have unfolded 
the entire project to his employers. His evidence would have 
been of the very last importance : for how could an imposture 

* Matt. x. 1-7. Luke x. 1—20. t John xii. 6. xiii. 29. 

Sect. V.] OF INFIDELITY. 139 

be more completely detected and exposed, than by the volun- 
tary confession of an accomplice? To the high priests, there- 
fore, such an instrument would plainly have been of incalcu- 
lable value : for his evidence would at once have laid open all 
the hidden wheels of a hated fraud, and would have fully jus- 
tified the proceedings of the Jewish rulers both to the people 
at large, and to their own consciences in particular. Nor would 
his confession have been more desirable to the priests, than 
beneficial to himself. The character of an informer and a 
betrayer is always odious. Yet, if Judas had appeared as the 
repentant and conscientious revealer of a nefarious fraud, 
through which an impostor was to be impiously palmed upon 
the nation as their promised Messiah ; his honest treachery 
might not only have been pardoned, but would even have 
assumed the venerable aspect of zealous sanctity. On every 
account, in short, we may be morally sure, that if any impos- 
ture had been carrying on, Judas must have known it, and 
would have openly revealed it. 

His evidence, however, was at no time brought forward by 
the Jewish rulers. He appeared not on the trial of Christ, 
when his confession would have been so naturally and fitly 
produced in full court. He is mentioned not subsequent to 
the trial, as having left such a confession on record. False 
witnesses were anxiously sought after, in order that there might 
be some decent plea for the condemnation of the alleged im- 
postor ; and two at length were found, who testified to his hav- 
ing said, / am able to destroy the temple of God and to build 
it in three days z* but respecting the all-important and deci- 
sive evidence of the penitent accomplice Judas, we hear not a 
syllable. For some reason or another, the man who most 
especially could have thrown a full and distinct light upon the 
dark fraud in which he himself had been actively engaged, is 
never once produced. In all their anxiety to find proper wit- 
nesses, the high priests, it appears, most unaccountably never 
once thought of summoning their useful instrument Judas. 

* Matt, xxvl 59—61. 


This wretched tool, stung by remorse, afterwards hanged him- 
self: but the suicide had not been committed, when Christ 
was brought before the council ; he did the deed only when 
he saw that his master was condemned.* Hence his inoppor- 
tune death cannot be alleged as the reason of his non-appear- 
ance upon the trial. Why then was he not brought forward 
as an evidence that Ghrirt was an impostor, and that his new 
religion was a cheat ? Clearly because he had no such testi- 
mony to give ; which yet he must have had, if the Gospel had 
been a well known fraud. Instead of adventuring any im- 
peachment of his master's character, when he restored to his 
employers the wages of iniquity ; he openly confessed his own 
guilt, and his Lord's integrity : / have sinned, in that I have 
betrayed the innocent blood.i Here we have the solution of 
the otherwise inexplicable circumstance, that the evidence of 
Judas, as to Christ being an impostor, aud Christianity a 
cheat, has at no time been produced: neither on the trial, 
which would doubtless have been the most appropriate season ; 
nor after the trial, which might haply have supplied the defect 
occasioned by an unfortunate inadvertence on the part of the 

(2.) The argument, afforded by the conduct of the apostle 
Paul, is equally strong with that afforded by the conduct of 
the miserable Judas, though happily of a more pleasing de- 
scription. In the case of Judas, we have the testimony of a 
friend converted into an enemy : in the case of Paul, we have 
the testimony of an enemy converted into a friend. 

Among the bigoted opponents of infant Christianity, none 
w x as more conspicuous than this very remarkable character. 
As he states respecting himself, he lived a Pharisee after the 
straightest sect of the Jewish religion^ brought up at the feet 
of his learned master Gamaliel, taught according to the perfect 
manner of the law of the fathers, and zealous above measure 
toward the God of his ancestors^ It was this identical zeal 

* Matt, xxvii. 3—5. . t Matt, xxvii. 3, 4. 

X Acts xxvi. 5. § Acts xxii. 3. 

Sect. V.] OF INFIDELITY. 141 

which led him to persecute the adherents of the nascent sect. 
He viewed them as impious apostates from the true faith : he 
dreaded the diffusion of their pernicious heresy : and he be- 
lieved himself, most honestly and uprightly, to be strictly in his 
line of duty toward the God of his fathers, while labouring to 
exterminate the novel doctrines and upstart followers of a cru- 
cified impostor. Under such an impression, we find him per- 
forming the devout act of guarding the clothes of the witnesses, 
when they threw them aside, that so they might the more con- 
veniently stone the blasphemer Stephen ;* and, under the same 
impression, we hear of his making havoc of the Church, en- 
tering into every house, and haling men and women to prison.^ 
Thus qualified by a blind and vehement zeal for the work of 
persecution, and breathing out threatenings and slaughter 
against the disciples of Christ, he readily procured from the 
high-priest letters of commendation to the synagogues at Da- 
mascus ; that, if he should find any of the hated sect, whether 
men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.^ 
On this expedition, accordingly, he set forth : but, instead of 
executing his purpose, we find him suddenly become himself 
a convert to Christianity, and preaching with strenuous fer- 
vour the very system of religion which he so lately sought to 
exterminate. Nor, though sudden, was the change transitory ; 
as might have been readily expected, from an ardent, though 
fickle character. He persevered in the same course to the end 
of his days : he traversed the Roman empire in all directions, 
for the purpose of making converts, and founding churches 
among the Gentiles ; he laboured more abundantly than all the 
original apostles ; he braved the hatred and contempt of the 
powerful party which he had forsaken ; he encountered pov- 
erty, hardships, persecutions, difficulties, wherever he went ; 
he was satisfied to be deemed the offscouring of all things ; 
he, a man of talent and education, shrank not from the reproach 
of folly and madness ; he was content to sacrifice all his rea- 
sonable prospects of advancement in this life ; and at length he 

* Acts vii. 53 ? 59. viii. 1. t Acts viii. 3. t Acts ix. 1. 2. 



testified his sincerity, by freely suffering death in the cause of 
the religion which at first he had so hastily, and (to all appear- 
ance) so inconsiderately embraced. Many of his letters are 
extant, addressed to various churches, which he had himself 
founded ; and in these we may read his views and principles 
very plainly and unequivocally set forth. From them we col- 
lect, that he was animated with the warmest love to Christ ; 
whom yet he had never seen during his abode upon earth, and 
whom at one time he hated and persecuted with the most in- 
tense antipathy : that the great object of his life was to induce 
all mankind to acknowledge, as a divine teacher and Saviour, 
the identical person whom he himself had denounced as a blas- 
phemer and an impostor ; that the disciples of Christ he loved 
as his brethren, though he had lately hated them as his worst 
enemies ; that he confidently built all his own hopes of happi- 
ness in a better world on the alleged meritoriousness of one, 
whom, at a former period, he had deemed a sacrilegious inno- 
vator upon the heaven-delivered law of his ancestors ; that he 
spoke in terms of the strongest abhorrence respecting his own 
previous conduct, when he was persecuting the followers of 
Christ, representing himself as a blasphemer and injurious, and 
less than the very least of the apostles ; though, at one time, 
he believed such conduct to be the most effectual mode of serv- 
ing and pleasing God ; that he considered his own countrymen 
as in a state of blindness, merely because they entertained the 
self-same opinions respecting the novel system of religion 
which he had himself once entertained ; and that he was quite 
confident as to the fact of Christ's resurrection ; though his 
whole previous conduct shows incontrovertibly his prior belief, 
that no such resurrection had really taken place, but that the 
body had disappeared through some undoubted, though inex- 
plicable contrivance of the disciples. His whole character, in 
short, we may read, delineated to the life by his own hand : 
and, as to his actions, the greater part of the historical narra- 
tive, which appears as a supplement to the four parallel gospels, 
is occupied in the detail of them. 

Sect. V.] OF INFIDELITY. 143 

Such was Paul, once a persecutor, afterwards the zealous 
preacher of the faith which he had sought to destroy. 

Now, it is obvious, that in the case of any person, much 
more in the case of a learned and well educated man, so extra- 
ordinary a change of principle and practice could not have 
occurred, except from some adequate cause. The change too 
is the more remarkable, from its suddenness. One moment, 
he is journeying on the work of extermination ; another mo- 
ment, he sees things under a totally different aspect ; and be- 
comes just as eager to build up, as he was before eager to pull 
down. What then was the cause of this sudden, yet perma- 
nent change ? for when we see an extraordinary effect, we are 
irresistibly led to seek an adequate cause. 

Paul himself always and invariably persisted in one story. 
" I verily thought with myself," said he, when speaking before 
Festus and Agrippa, ■" that I ought to do many things contrary 
to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in 
Jerusalem : and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, 
having received authority from the chief priests : and, when 
they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And 
I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them 
to blaspheme ; and, being exceedingly mad against them, I 
persecuted them even unto strange cities. Whereupon, as I 
went to Damascus, with authority and commission from the 
chief priest, at mid-day, I saw in the way a light from heaven, 
above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me, and 
them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen 
to the earth, 1 heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in 
the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me ? It 
is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And I said, Who 
art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus, whom thou perse- 
cutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet ; for I have appeared 
unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a wit- 
ness, both of these things which thou hast seen, and of things 
in the which I will appear unto thee ; delivering thee from the 
people and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to 
open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and 

144 the difficulties [Sect. V. 

from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive 
forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are 
sanctified by faith that is in me. Whereupon, I was not dis- 
obedient unto the heavenly vision : but showed, first unto them 
of Damascus and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts 
of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and 
turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. Having, 
therefore, obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, wit- 
nessing both to small and great, saying none other things than 
those which the prophets and Moses did say should come ; that 
Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should 
rise from the dead, and should show light unto the people, and 
unto the Gentiles."* 

This narrative, if we suppose it to be accurate, will indeed 
account most fully for the wonderful and permanent change 
which took place in the principles and conduct of Paul : but 
in itself it is so extraordinary, that, upon the first perusal of 
it, we are scarcely surprised at the exclamation of Festus : 
"Paul, thou art beside thyself, much learning doth make thee 
mad."t Yet, if we attentively consider the whole case, we 
shall perhaps find the rejection of it encumbered with greater 
difficulties than the admission of it ; whence we may possibly 
find, that it is an easier matter to believe than to disbelieve the 

The reasons for admitting the truth of his narrative, extra- 
ordinary as it may be, are these : 

It precisely and completely accounts for the otherwise inex- 
plicable fact of his sudden transmutation from an unbeliever 
and a persecutor, to a believer and an apostle. 

It is corroborated by the previous character of Paul : for, 
whether we view him as a scholar or bigot, we are utterly at 
a loss to comprehend what his motives could be for fabricating 
a tale which ran directly counter both to all his original pre- 

* Acts xxvi. 9— 23. Compare Acts xxii. 3--21. Gal. i. 11— 24. 
t Acts xxvi. 24. 

Sect. V.] OF INFIDELITY. 145 

judices, and to the object on which he was specially engaged 
at the time when he professed to have seen the vision. 

It is corroborated by the subsequent conduct of Paul : for, 
if it were a mere fabrication, he would not have shaped his 
whole life in conformity to what he himself knew to be a lie, 
nor would he finally have suffered martyrdom for a conscious 

It is confirmed by persons who witnessed the alleged vision 
as well as Paul himself: for he was not alone, when he pro- 
fessed to have seen it ; his attendants beheld the light, and 
indistinctly heard the voice which he heard distinctly, and were 
speechless, and were afraid, and were all, as well as the apos- 
tle, struck down to the ground ; they perceived likewise its 
effects exemplified in the person of Paul, for he became blind, 
and they themselves were compelled to lead him by the hand 
to Damascus. Hence, had his narrative been false, they both 
could and would have contradicted it. 

On the other hand, they who deny the truth of the narrative, 
stand pledged, by the very act of their denial, to maintain the 
following paradoxical articles of belief: 

They must believe, that a bigoted and inveterate enemy of 
Christianity, at the very time when he was breathing out threat- 
enings and slaughter against its professors, chose to fabricate 
a gross falsehood, in order that he might use it as a plea for 
embracing the very religion which he heartily despised, and 
which he furiously hated. 

They must believe, that for the purpose of accomplishing 
this project, he sacrificed every hope of promotion among the 
ruling men of his country, and embraced a life of mingled 
obloquy and labour. 

They must believe, that although he hated Christianity in 
his heart, and deemed it a mere imposture, yet he falsely pre- 
tended to have had a vision of its crucified author ; and, in 
support of this known falsehood, and in furtherance of this 
hated religion, which all the while he viewed as an imposture, 
he was finally well satisfied to lay down his life. 

They must believe, that a sudden change of a most extra- 


ordinary nature took place both in his principles and in his 
practice, not in consequence of any rational examination of 
the claims of Christianity to be admitted as a revelation from 
heaven, but without the least assignable reason of any descrip- 
tion whatever ; for, if the preternatural vision be denied which 
he himself constantly adduced as the reason of his conversion, 
no other reason can be discovered : that is to say, they must 
believe in the existence of an effect without a cause. 

They must believe, that in his new principles and practice, 
he persevered with the utmost constancy for a long term of 
years, despised, and persecuted, and reviled, and harassed ; 
though he himself knew them to be founded solely on a false- 
hood of his own fabrication, and though they were in the 
highest degree adverse to his temporal interest and comfort. 

They must believe, that although he invariably stated the 
occurrence of the vision to have taken place in broad day- 
light, in the public high-way between Jerusalem and Damas- 
cus, and in the presence of several other persons who were 
travelling with him on the same errand of persecution; yet 
not one of these persons, all of whom were enemies of Chris- 
tianity, and therefore well inclined to detect every attempt at 
imposture, ever came forward to confront him, by declaring 
that the whole story was an impudent fabrication. 

They must believe, in short, that a man both of eminent 
learning and of strong prejudices against Christianity, to the 
amazement of the whole world, suddenly and unaccountably 
commenced a career altogether opposite to his former princi- 
ples ; that, in this career without any assignable cause, he per- 
severed through his whole life ; and that at length he submitted 
to be put to death, rather than he would give up a set of opin- 
ions, which contradicted all the sentiments imbibed during 
his education, and which he had adopted wholly without 

* For a full discussion of this important subject, see Lord Lyttle- 
ton's Observations on the conversion and apostleship of St Paul. I have 
selected and illustrated what seems to me the main strength of the argu- 

Sect. V.] OF INFIDELITY. 147 

Now the persons, who can bring themselves to believe such 
a monstrous tissue of absurdities rather than admit the reality 
of an occurrence vouched for by a man at the expense both of 
his comfort and of his life, may, I think, be justly charged 

ment : but the subsidiaries, so well urged by his lordship, ought not to 
be passed over without due attention by any really candid and serious 

Should it be said by an infidel, that the alleged vision, which effected 
the conversion of St Paul, was merely a luminous meteor attended with 
a loud explosion; a solution of the difficulty, which, I believe, has 
sometimes been resorted to : it will be found, that such a mode of ac- 
counting for the matter is hampered with scarcely fewer impediments, 
than an absolute denial of any extraordinary appearance whatever. 

1. For, in the first place, if this solution be adopted, the whole charge 
of imposture, in the case of St Paul, is at once virtually relinquished ; 
and he must henceforth be set down as a truly honest man, who, having 
unluckily mistaken a natural for a supernatural phenomenon, was in 
consequence led to embrace and propagate the Christian system. — Let 
such a theory then be adopted ; and let us allow, for the sake of argu- 
ment, that the apostle was innocently deceived ; still every other proof, 
that the Gospel was a divine revelation, remains in full force ; nor will 
the harmless mistake of St Paul, which happened to be the moving cause 
of his conversion, invalidate a single argument which has been inde- 
pendently adduced. 

2. But, in the second place, the solution is inadequate to account for 
the result. Paul verily believed, that, in the persecution of the Chris- 
tians, he was doing God laudable service. Hence, had he mistaken a 
natural for a supernatural phenomenon, and had he viewed what he 
beheld as an omen or token from heaven ; he would, in his frame of 
mind and with his strong convictions that he was doing his duty, have 
deemed it a manifest sign, not of the divine disapprobation, but of the 
divine approbation. The sight itself he would have turned his own way , 
and would have interpreted it in accordance with his own prepossessions. 
It would have confirmed him in his purpose, not have diverted him from 
it. Or, if the circumstance of his being struck with blindness should be 
alleged as a matter likely to give his thoughts a different turn : in that 
case, be it observed, his blindness cannot be admitted without a concomi- 
tant admission of his miraculous and sudden restoration from blindness 
at the prayer of the Christian Ananias;* an event, which no persuasion 
of the truth of the Gospel on the part of Paul could in itself have been 
sufficient to bring about. 


with being under the influence of a blind credulity : and, as the 
rejection or admission of the Gospel is suspended upon the 
alternative, it may be safely asserted, as it has already been 
more than once asserted, that there is greater credulity in the 
disbelief of Christianity than in the belief of it. 



That Christianity is now received, as an undoubted revela- 
tion from heaven, by the greater part of the civilized world ; 
and that it spread, in a wonderfully short space of time from the 
death of its original founder, not only over the Roman empire, 
but likewise through nations without the verge of that mighty 
sovereignty: are facts, which, as they cannot be dissembled, 
are not attempted to be denied by the infidel. 

If then Christianity were an imposture, we are naturally led 
to ask, how it happened to have such extraordinary and per- 
manent success, and how it could command a vitality so unlike 
the brief duration of most other impostures. 

I. An inquiry of this nature could not easily be omitted by 
a historian, who himself had unhappily imbibed the principles 
of Infidelity. The fact of the rapid spread of Christianity was 
not to be dissembled : consistency therefore required, that by 
such a writer it should be accounted for, independently of every 
idea of the divine support and concurrence. 

In pursuance of this project, Mr Gibbon undertakes to 
assign five reasons, why the Christian religion might easily 
diffuse itself far and wide, even if we suppose it to have been 
nothing more than a specious imposture, 

150 the difficulties [Sect. VI. 

The reasons alleged by him as sufficient to account for such 
a circumstance, are the following: 1. the inflexible and in- 
tolerable zeal of the Christians, derived, it is true, from the 
Jewish religion, but purified from the narrow and unsocial spirit, 
which, instead of inviting, had deterred the Gentiles from em- 
bracing the law of Moses ; 2. the doctrine of a future life, 
improved by every additional circumstance which could give 
weight and efficacy to that important truth ; 3. the miraculous 
powers ascribed to the primitive Church ; 4. the pure and aus- 
tere morals of the Christians ; and 5. the union and discipline 
of the Christian republic, which gradually formed an independ- 
ent and increasing state in the heart of the Roman empire. 

Such are the reasons assigned by Mr Gibbon for the suc- 
cess of Christianity: the question therefore is, whether we have 
sufficient gromids for believing them to be adequate ; since it 
is evident, that to deem them adequate without sufficient grounds 
is a mark, not of wisdom, but of credulity. 

1 . The first reason is the inflexible and intolerable zeal of the 
early Christians, derived from the Jewish religion, but purified 
from its narrow and unsocial spirit. 

On this point, Mr Gibbon writes with his usual eloquence 
and elegance ; but after attempting to the utmost of my power, 
to catch and understand the force of his argument, I cannot 
find that it condenses itself into any other form than the fol- 

They, who possess an inflexible and intolerant zeal, must, 
in the necessary way of cause and effect, sooner or later bring 
all mankind over to their opinions. But the primitive Chris- 
tians possessed this inflexible and intolerant zeal. Therefore 
their religion was soon propagated to a very wide extent. 

Of such reasoning I must confess myself unable to discover 
the conclusiveness. There is no necessary or even natural 
connexion, so far as I can see, between the zealous obstinacy 
of one man in maintaining a set of opinions, and the conviction 
of all other men that those opinions are true. I should think 
that the very reverse was much more likely to be the case. 
Dogmatical obstinacy, quite unsupported by evidence, not un- 


frequently, in the first instance, gives us a considerable degree 
of perhaps mischievous amusement : if teasing, and importu- 
nate, and pertinacious, it will generally, in the second instance, 
produce a strong feeling of weariness, and impatience, and 
annoyance. But I much doubt, w r hether a man was ever in- 
duced seriously to exchange one set of opinions for another, 
bv a tiresome and never-ceasing persecutor of this description ; 
I much doubt, for instance, whether any conceivable zeal, and 
obstinacy, and importunity, to the perpetual operation of which 
Mr Gibbon might haply have been subjected by a determined 
adherent of the pseudo-prophet Brothers, would have wrought 
any change in the sentiments of that admirable historian. 
Yet does he endeavour to persuade himself and his readers, 
that the inflexible and intolerant zeal of the early Christians 
is quite reason enough for their wonderful success in making 

I have considered the point merely as Mr Gibbon himself 
has chosen to state it : but, in truth, his statement is most 
essentially defective. He simply considers pertinacious obsti- 
nacy in one man, as an infallible mean of inducing another 
man to change his opinion : whereas, he ought to have consi- 
dered pertinacious obstinacy in one man as an infallible mean 
of inducing another man to change his opinion, notwithstand- 
ing this change of sentiment will expose the convert to torture 
and death. The genuine statement, therefore, of the matter, 
is as follows : In the judgment of Mr Gibbon, provided only 
a man be endowed with a sufficient stock of zeal and obsti- 
nacy, he will certainly make numerous proselytes to his opin- 
ions, though his proselytes may be morally sure that they will 
be tortured and murdered for yielding to the wearisome impor- 
tunity of this obstinate zealot. 

This, then, is the first reason assigned by our great historian 
for the rapid propagation of primitive Christianity. 

2. The second is the doctrine of a future life, improved by 
every additional circumstance which could give weight and 
efficacy to that important truth. 

Here again Mr Gibbon eloquently discusses the uncertainty 


respecting a future state, which prevailed among the philoso- 
phers of Greece and Rome ; the defects inherent in the popular 
religions ; the prevailing helief of the immortality of the soul 
among the Jews ; the opinion entertained by many among the 
Christians, that the end of the world was near at hand ; the 
doctrine of the millenium ; the conflagration of Rome and the 
universe ; and the stern declaration of Tertullian, that the un- 
converted pagans must expect no mercy hereafter. Of these 
materials his argument is composed ; if such materials can be 
said to constitute an argument: and his conclusion, for so 1 
presume it is meant to be, is summed up in the following 
terms : When the promise of eternal happiness was proposed 
to mankind, on condition of adopting the faith and observing 
the precepts of the Gospel, it is no wonder that so advantageous 
an offer should have been accepted by great numbers of every 
religion, of every rank, and of every province in the Roman 

I wish not to be captious ; but of this conclusion I can no 
more see the validity, than I could discern the cogency of his 
first reason. That men should readily embrace an advantage- 
ous offer, when satisfied that the propounders of it could make 
it good, I can easily conceive and understand : but, why great 
numbers of every religion, of every rank, and of every pro- 
vince in the Roman empire, should be eager to embrace such 
an offer, unless they had some reasonable grounds for believing 
the certainty of its completion, I must own myself quite un- 
able to compiehend. Now, on Mr Gibbon's principles, what 
were these grounds of assured belief? By dint of sheer obsti- 
nacy and intolerant zeal, it seems the primitive Christians 
teased the reluctant Pagans into a full admission of their reli- 
gious opinions ; and, when once this matter was effected (which 
the historian thinks so easy, that he fearlessly lays it down as 
his first reason of the success of Christianity), the world was 
prepared, without any further evidence, to believe every sylla- 
ble which their pertinacious instructors might please to teach 
them, respecting a future state. 

Under circumstances so replete with conviction, it is no 

Sect. VI.] OF INFIDELITY. 153 

wonder, thinks Mr Gibbon, that thousands upon thousands of 
every rank, age, temper, religion, and province, should become 
eager and satisfied proselytes ; it is no wonder, that, after hav- 
ing first undergone the process of being harassed by importu- 
nity into a complete acquiescence in the opinions of their new 
teachers, they should next be fully prepared to believe every 
thing respecting the invisible world which their obstinate pre- 
ceptors might choose to tell them. 

In truth, it is no wonder, that those who could be induced, 
through the operation of mere importunity, to embrace a reli- 
gion which forthwith exposed them to obloquy and persecu- 
tion, should, without any further hesitation, though without a 
shadow of evidence, assent to the naked dogmata of their mas- 
ters in regard to a future state. The first step in the journey 
is every thing. Let that only be taken, and the remainder of 
their mental progress is perfectly easy. 

3. The third reason assigned by Mr Gibbon, for the rapid 
propagation of Christianity, is the miraculous powers ascribed 
to the primitive Church. 

Had the historian assigned, as a reason, the miraculous 
powers possessed by the primitive Church ; we should readily 
have perceived the cogency of it : but he speaks only of the 
miraculous powers ascribed to the primitive Church ; and, in 
the course of his discussion, he endeavours to establish the 
more than probability, that such powers were never really pos- 
sessed and exercised. We have therefore to consider, how 
far miraculous powers, ascribed indeed to the Church, but 
never possessed by it, can be deemed a satisfactory reason for 
the rapid increase of the votaries of Christianity. 

The argument, I apprehend, may be thrown, for the joint 
sake of brevity and precision, into the following syllogism : 

Men are easily and naturally persuaded by the real working 
of miracles. The power of working miracles was ascribed to 
the primitive Church, but no miracles were ever performed. 
Therefore men were easily and naturally persuaded by the 
non-performance of miracles. 

This syllogism, I confess, is a very bad one : but I am una- 


ble to frame a better out of the materials with which Mr Gib- 
bon has furnished me. The miraculous powers ascribed to 
the primitive Church, says he, constitute a satisfactory reason 
for the rapid diffusion of Christianity ; though, all the while, 
no miraculous powers were ever either possessed or exercised 
by it. How can this be ? we naturally ask. If miraculous 
powers were ascribed to the Church, without being really pos- 
sessed ; would not such a circumstance produce a directly op- 
posite effect to that propounded by Mr Gibbon ? A claim of 
working miracles is made by the primitive Church, as a likely 
mode of gaining proselytes. In effect, however, no miracles 
are wrought. What follows from this shameful failure of estab- 
lishing such a claim ? Will it gain proselytes, or excite 
ridicule ? Will it enlarge the boundaries of Christianity, or 
utterly destroy Christianity itself ? 

It is a whimsical circumstance, that Mr Gibbon's zeal to 
throw discredit upon the primitive miracles, produces the ne- 
cessary and inevitable effect of completely stultifying his third 

4. The fourth reason is, the pure and austere morals of the 
primitive Christians. 

That the holy lives of the early believers had a natural ten- 
dency to recommend their doctrines, we may safely and readily 
allow : at least we may allow it with certain limitations ; for 
strictness, and severity, and purity, though they may sometimes 
gain veneration when they are fortunate enough to escape ridi- 
cule and contempt, are far from being always popular virtues. 
We allow, then, to a certain extent, that the pure and austere 
morals of the primitive Christians had a natural tendency to 
recommend their doctrines : but, in this case, according to Mr 
Gibbon's own statement, the wonder is, how such exact holi- 
ness should happen to be the leading characteristic of a set of 
shameless impostors. A bad tree does not commonly produce 
good fruit. What the tree of Paganism bore, is indignantly 
set forth by a Christian apostle :* and, though our learned his- 

* Rom. i. 18-32 

Sect. VI.] OF INFIDELITY. 155 

torian celebrates the elegant mythology of the Greeks ; those 
who are acquainted with the classical works of the ancients, 
well know, that St Paul's account is perfectly accurate.* How 
then are we to solve the problem of the eminent piety and 
strict morality of this knot of impostors ; who, cheats and liars 
as they were, shone nevertheless as lights in the midst of a 
crooked and perverse generation? Mr Gibbon himself pre- 
tends not to charge them with hypocrisy: their virtues he 
allows to be real ; their desire of moral perfection to be sincere. 
A certain degree of ridicule he strives indeed to throw upon 
them ; but still their sincerity is not controverted by him.t 
Could the tree be bad which produced such fruits ? Truly, 
Christianity, if an imposture, must at least have been a most 
beneficial imposture ; since purity, and holiness, and meek- 
ness, and temperance, and justice, and patience, were, by the 
acknowledgment even of an enemy, its invariable conse- 

5. The fifth reason assigned by Mr Gibbon, is the union 

* It were easy to verify the apostle's statement by express references 
to the classical writers : but I designedly withhold them. 

t " When the Christians of Bithynia," says Mr Gibbon, " were 
brought before the tribunal of the younger Pliny, they assured the pro- 
consul, that far from being engaged in any unlawful conspiracy, they 
were bound, by a solemn obligation, to abstain from the commission of 
those crimes which disturb the private or public peace of society, from 
theft, robbery, adultery, perjury, and fraud. Near a century afterwards, 
Tertullian, with an honest pride, could boast, that very few Christians 
had suffered by the hand of the executioner, except on account of their 
religion. Their serious and sequestered life, averse to the gay luxury 
of the age, inured them to chastity, temperance, economy, and all the 
sober and domestic virtues. As the greater number were of some trade 
or profession, it was incumbent on them, by the strictest integrity and 
the fairest dealing, to remove the 'suspicions which the profane are too 
apt to conceive against the appearances of sanctity. The contempt of 
the world exercised them in the habits of humility, meekness, and pa- 
tience. The more they were persecuted, the more closely they adhered 
to each other. Their mutual charity and unsuspecting confidence has 
been remarked by infidels, and was too often abused by perfidious friends. 
Hist, of the Decline, chap. xv. vol. ii p. 318, 319. 

156 the difficulties [Sect. VI. 

and discipline of the Christian republic, which gradually formed 
an independent and increasing state in the heart of the Ro- 
man empire. 

With respect to this reason, we may freely allow to it, as 
we have already allowed to the fourth, its full weight and 
influence. Order, and union, and discipline, are capable, no 
doubt, of producing very considerable effects : and, in truth, 
without them, no great or permanent results can be expected. 
Let Mr Gibbon's fifth reason, therefore, avail, as far as it can 
avail. The primitive Christians, it seems, were prudent and 
intelligent men. Though they confidently expected the bless- 
ing of heaven upon their labours ; yet they knew that God 
usually works through the intervention of second causes : nor 
did they blindly dream of success, without rationally employ- 
ing such means as lay within their power. Hence they formed 
themselves into a regularly organized and well disciplined 
body; and doubtless, by so judicious an arrangement, their 
efforts would be facilitated and their object would be promoted. 
In the way of natural cause and effect, the union of the Chris- 
tian republic would have a tendency to further its prosperity. 

II. We have now gone through the five reasons, assigned by 
Mr Gibbon, for the success which attended the early propa- 
gation of the Gospel : to judge correctly of their sufficiency, 
we must consider the aspect under which Christianity would 
first present itself to the heathen world. 

By the Pagans, the Jews were alike hated and despised. 
" Their vile institutes," says Tacitus, " became prevalent only 
through an excess of depravity. Every worthless character, 
despising the religion of his forefathers, contributed his share 
to the common stock. Hence the Jewish republic gradually 
increased : and their obstinate fidelity to each other, united 
with domestic good offices to themselves, and hostile hatred 
toward all the rest of mankind, had a similar tendency to 
advance their prosperity. Separated in their banquets, severed 
in their beds, this race, though most detestably prone to lust, 
carefully abstain from all commerce with foreign women. 
Among themselves, however, no abomination is counted mv 

Sect. VI.] OF INFIDELITY. 157 

lawful. The first lessons which they learn, are, to contemn 
the gods, to renounce their native country, to hold equally 
cheap both parents, and children, and brothers. Yet they 
anxiously study the increase of their numbers ; and, on that 
account, deem it impious to put any one of their offspring to 
death. In short, their lawgiver Moses, that he might the more 
effectually bind the nation to himself, gave them rites wholly 
new, and altogether contrary to the rest of mankind. So that 
what we deem sacred, they reckon profane ; and again, what 
we count abominable, are freely allowed among them."* 

In the same disgraceful light that the Jews were contem- 
plated abroad, the punishment of crucifixion was viewed by 
the Romans at home. Horrible as it was, it was no less dis- 
graceful than horrible. None, save the vilest slaves and male- 
factors, were subjected to it : the penalty never attached to a 
free Roman citizen, whatever might have been his crimes : it 
was reserved solely for those who were esteemed the basest of 
mankind. Our own law has established a difference between 
the block and the gallows : death by the one is a punishment 
without ignominy ; death by the other is a punishment which 
brings disgrace both upon the culprit and upon his family. But, 
though this difference is felt and understood among ourselves, 
it presents only a very faint idea of the extremity of shame, 
w r hich attended an execution by the cross. To us, associated 
as it is with the mysteries of our religion, industriously borne 
as an ensign by the noble and the brave, and never mentioned 
but with a certain holy feeling of sacred awe : to us, with all 
our earliest notions thrown into a totally different train from 
those of the ancient Romans, the mention of the cross con- 
veys no vivid sense of ignominy : rather indeed it exhibits to 
the imagination every thing great, and sublime, and compas- 
sionate, and benignant, and venerable. To form a just idea 
of it, we must carefully divest ourselves of modern impres- 
sions, and take our station in the times of antiquity; Thither 
transported, we must familiarize ourselves with the thought, that 

* Tacit. Hist. lib. v. § 5, 4. 


one who has expiated his crimes against society by suspension 
from the gibbet, might be deemed a highly respectable charac- 
ter, when contrasted with the vile, and base, and abandoned 
wretch who had disgracefully suffered the ignominy of cruci- 

Now the founder of the Christian religion, united in his own 
single person the two characteristics, which, among the an- 
cients, were deemed specially shameful. He was at once a 
Jew, and a condemned person who had undergone the penalty 
of the crucifixion. His Jewish origin alone were sufficient 
disgrace in the eyes of the Greeks and Romans : but, as if this 
were not base enough, he was further presented to them under 
the aspect of a crucified malefactor. 

Of the same degraded race with their servilely-punished 
master, was the whole college of the apostles, and the greater 
part of the earliest missionaries of the Gospel. "With the ex- 
ception of Paul, who to his Hebrew character accidentally 
superadded that of a municipal Roman citizen, all the apos- 
tles, and with them most of the primitive teachers, were 
equally subject to the punishment of crucifixion : and, in the 
issue, many of them were actually thus put to death.t 

Nor was even this the whole depth of abjectness in which 
Christ and his followers were placed by the circumstances of 
their birth. They were not only of the despised stock of 
Israel, but they were likewise among the lowest of that de- 
spised stock. Instead of occupying a comparatively honourable 
station in the higher ranks of the Jewish republic, Christ himself 
bore the character of being the son of a labouring carpenter 
in a country-town, and his apostles were either fishermen, or 
publicans, or mechanics. 

Such were the instruments by whom Christianity was first 

* See on this subject Bp. Pearson oh the Creed. Art. iv. note n. vol. 
ii. p. 260, 261. Edit. Oxon. 1797. From the circumstance of crucifixion 
being peculiarly the punishment of slaves, it was familiarly termed by 
the Romans servile supplicium. 

t Thus Tacitus speaks of them, in the time of Nero, as being crucibus 
ajjizi. Annal. lib. xv. § 44. 

Sect. VI.] OF INFIDELITY. 159 

excogitated, and through whom it was afterwards successfully 
offered to the Pagans. 

Under what aspect, then, must the Gospel have appeared, 
when it was originally presented to the Gentile world ? A 
number of obscure low-born men, sprung from the despised 
nation of the Jews, suddenly issue forth from what Tacitus 
deemed the sink of every thing disgraceful, and address the 
lofty Romans and the lettered Greeks. They call upon them 
to renounce the deities, under whom Greece had flourished 
and Rome had attained the sovereignty of the universe : dei- 
ties, whose venerable worship had prevailed from the remotest 
antiquity ; deities, whose solemn rites were incorporated with 
the very essence of the ancient politics ; deities, whom philo- 
sophers thought it wise, and just, and decorous to honour ; 
deities, whom statesmen and priests were alike interested to 
uphold. They charge them to reject, as impious and abomi- 
nable, a religion which combined itself with all their early 
habits and associations ; a religion, which freely permitted the 
indulgence of all their sensual inclinations ; a religion, which 
had been professed by heroes and philosophers, by kings and 
by statesmen ; a religion, which formed the basis of the 
noblest strains of poetry ; a religion (when its darker shades 
were happily concealed) of joy and pleasure, of festivity, and 
elegance, and cheerfulness. These deities and this religion 
they peremptorily command them to forsake ; and, in the place 
of them, they sternly enjoin the acceptance of an upstart theo- 
logical system which had been first struck out by a crucified 
Jew ; which was now preached by a combination of Jews of 
the very lowest rank ; which had not received the sanction of 
the ruling powers, even among the Jews themselves ; which 
contradicted all the previous notions entertained by the Gen- 
tiles ; which called them to a life of holiness, and abstinence, 
and mortification, and self-denial ; which thwarted their incli- 
nations, and crossed their purposes, and injured their interests, 
and disturbed their comforts ; which set their philosophy at 
nought, and derided the most venerable of their institutions ; 
which appeared to be little short of treason to the state ; and 


which speedily brought on the contempt, and hatred, and per- 
secution, and torture, and death of those, who, in an evil hour 
to themselves, had been led to embrace it. As an inducement 
to adopt the new system, they assure their Gentile hearers, that 
if they become converts to it, they must look for nothing but 
trouble in this present world : yet they venture to declare, 
that, provided only they will renounce in its favour the ancient 
religion of their forefathers, they may certainly promise them- 
selves eternal happiness after death in a world to come. "With 
respect to the crucified Jew, whom they acknowledge as their 
master, and whom they mention as the original author of their 
scheme, they assert, that in some incomprehensible manner, 
salvation hereafter must be expected only through his merito- 
rious death upon the cross ; and that the circumstances of his 
ignominious execution is not so much a matter of shame and 
disgrace, as a matter of exultation and triumph. They con- 
fessed, that Christ crucified was to the unconverted Jews a 
stumbling-block, and might well appear to the inquisitive 
Greeks no better than so much rank foolishness : yet they declare 
that he is the power of God and the wisdom of God. They 
maintain, that although he died upon the cross, he rose bodily 
from the grave on the third day, and afterwards ascended tri- 
umphant to heaven. They acknowledge him to have been a 
man, despised and rejected of men, apparent in the form of a 
servant, poor, and humble^ and mocked, and slighted, and tram- 
pled upon ; but, at the same time, they assert, that he was 
born from a virgin without the co-operation of a mortal father ; 
that he was the Word of God, with God in the beginning, and 
himself God ; that by him (to wit, by this crucified Jew) all 
things were made, and without him w r as not any thing made 
that was made ; that he was the brightness of God's glory and 
the express image of his person ; that by him God made the 
worlds, and appointed him heir of all things ; that, when he 
had himself purged our sins, he sat down on the right hand of 
the majesty on high; that for the suffering of death, he was 
crowned with glory and honour ; that in him we have redemp- 
tion through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins; that he 


(namely, the crucified Jew) is the image of the invisible God, 
the first-born of every creature ; that by him were all things 
created, that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and 
invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principali- 
ties, or powers ; that all things were created by him and for 
him ; that he is before all things, and by him all things consist; 
that he (still the crucified Jew) hath made us kings and priests 
unto God and his Father ; and that he (the Jew who suffered 
death upon the cross) is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and 
the ending, that liveth and was dead, the first and the last, 
which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. 
This is the aspect under which the Gospel must have ap- 
peared, when it was first preached to the Gentiles, to the lordly 
Romans, and to the Philosophic Greeks. What then must 
they have thought of it : and where was the human probability 
that they would embrace it ? Can we much wonder, that when 
such an apparently strange medley was presented to them, 
and by such hands too as those of the apostles, they should 
turn from it and them with ineffable contempt ? Can we won- 
der, that by the Greeks the whole scheme should be viewed as 
rank foolishness ? Can we wonder that the Athenians should 
mock, or that a sober Roman governor should deem an apos- 
tle stark mad ? Can we wonder that a grave historian should 
describe the system, as a destructive superstition ; which, 
springing up in the despised land of Judea, spread at length to 
Rome, whither all atrocious and shameful things, sooner or 
later, from every quarter of the globe, flow together and are 
celebrated ?* Truly we can wonder at none of these things : 
the real wonder is, how the contemned Gospel (though Mr 
Gibbon has contrived to persuade himself that it is no wonder 
at all) should have been accepted by great numbers of every 
religion, of every rank, and of every province in the Roman 
empire. The fact itself is indisputable : the difficulty is, on 
any ordinary principles, to account for it. 

Have we then sufficient grounds for believing, that Mr Gib- 

* Tacit. Annal. lib. xv. § 44. 


bon's five reasons are adequate to solve the problem of the 
astonishingly rapid propagation of Christianity ? 

Of these reasons, we have seen, that the two first, namely, 
the inflexible pertinacity of the early Christians, and the cir- 
cumstance of their teaching the doctrine of a future retrihutory 
state, do not in the slightest degree account for their remark- 
able success ; and that the third, namely, the ascription of mi- 
raculous powers to the Church, would inevitably, unless those 
powers were really possessed, be rather an impediment, than 
a furtherance to the project of converting mankind to the Gos- 
pel. The whole stress, therefore, lies upon the two remain- 
ing reasons, namely, the holy lives of the primitive Christians, 
and the excellent discipline of the Christian Church. Hence 
we have only to inquire, whether these two reasons are suffi- 
cient to account for the extraordinary phenomenon before us. 

Mr Gibbon thinks it no wonder, that, in an incredibly short 
space of time, Christianity, introduced and recommended, and 
circumstanced in the mode which I have recently set forth, 
should have been cordially received as a divine revelation from 
one end of the world to the other ; merely because the primi- 
tive Christians were men of pure and austere morals, and be- 
cause the primitive Church was in an excellent state of disci- 
pline and union. 

Others may not unreasonably doubt, whether such a cause 
be alone adequate to produce such an effect ; whether morality 
and discipline be sufficient to have brought about the general 
reception of Christianity, circumstanced as Christianity was 
at its first promulgation. They may suspect, that something 
more was necessary : they may hesitate, before they admit Mi- 
Gibbon's solution of the difficulty. 

Each party, the admirers and the opponents of Mr Gibbon, 
will be apt to charge one another with credulity : the former, 
because it is believed that something more cogent than the five, 
or rather than the two reasons, is apparently requisite ; the 
latter, because it is believed that the whole matter is satisfacto- 
rily accounted for by the morality of the early Christians and 
the good discipline of their Church. 

Sect. VI.] OF INFIDELITY. 163 

Which party be the most credulous in its estimate of cause 
and effect, must be left to the decision of the sober, and can- 
did, and unbiassed inquirer. 

III. Those persons who deem Mr Gibbon's five reasons 
insufficient, are wont, for the true solution of the difficulty, to 
resort to the scriptural history itself. There they find it con- 
stantly asserted, that the success of the early preachers of the 
Gospel was owing to two causes : the powerful operation of 
God's spirit upon the hearts of those who were addressed ; 
and the evidence afforded to their understandings, by the fre- 
quent performance of miracles. 

1. The first of these two causes was necessary, on account 
of the natural reluctance of man to embrace a life of danger 
and self-denial in the place of a life of safety and indulgence. 
Though the intellect may be convinced, the cordial assent of the 
will and the affections does by no means follow as a necessary 
consequence. We all know that the head and the heart may 
often be completely at variance. To overcome, therefore, the 
unwillingness of some, the timidity of others, and the lingering 
hesitation of all, it was needful that the mighty power of God 
should accompany the words of the apostles. Without this, 
few or none would have joined them, when they found what 
a sacrifice was required at their hands. Inveterate prejudices 
were to be overcome ; long-formed evil habits were to be sub- 
dued ; fears were to be conquered ; courage was to be instilled; 
an ardent love to an unseen Redeemer was to be implanted ; 
devotion to a cause, universally derided and persecuted, was 
to be produced ; the whole temper, and spirit, and disposition, 
in short, of the proselyte were to be thoroughly changed, in 
order to his becoming a Christian. This, we are assured in 
Scripture, could not be effected, save by the special operation 
of God's Holy Spirit attending upon the early preachers of the 

To such an assurance, when we consider the immense diffi- 
culties with which the first introduction of Christianity was 
surrounded, our unbiassed reason voluntarily assents. With 
aid thus potent, it is easy to conceive how the new religion 

164 the difficulties [Sect. VI. 

triumphed over every impediment : without it, we are puzzled 
and perplexed to assign any satisfactory cause why thousands 
and myriads of the Gentiles should eagerly flock to the despised 
and dangerous standard of the cross. 

On this point, the language both of the narrative and of the 
missionaries themselves is perfectly clear and decisive. 

" The Lord," we are told, "added to the Church daily such 
as should be saved.* With great power," it is said, "gave the 
apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus : and 
great grace w r as upon them.t The hand of the Lord," we 
read, " was with the scattered missionaries : and a great num- 
ber believed, and turned unto the Lord. J As many," it is said, 
" as were disposed to eternal life believed. § A certain woman, 
named Lydia," remarks the author of the narrative, " which 
worshipped God, heard us : whose heart the Lord opened, that 
she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.fl My 
speech and my preaching," says the great apostle of the Gen- 
tiles to his Corinthian converts, "was not with enticing words 
of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of 
power : that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, 
but in the power of God.^f For, after that, in the wisdom of 
God, the world by wisdom knew not God ; it pleased God, by 
the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe.** Who 
then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye 
believed, even as the Lord gave to every man ? I have planted, 
Apollos watered ; but God gave the increase. So that neither 
is he that planteth, any thing; neither he that watereth ; but 
God that giveth the Of his own will," says James 
respecting God, "begat he us with a word of truth, that we 
should be a kind of first-fruit of his creatures. JJ Blessed," says 
Peter, "be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; 
which according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again 
unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the 

Acts ii. 47. t Acts iv. 33 f Acts xi. 21. 

Acts xiii. 48. Gr. || Acts. xvi. 14. IT 1 Corin. ii 4, 5. 

1 Corin. i. 21. ft 1 Corin, iii. 5—7. U James i. 18. 


dead.* Ye have an unction from the Holy One," says John, 
11 and ye know all things. "t 

Such is the constant avowal of men, who sealed their faith 
Vith their blood. "We doubtless have only their own assertion ; 
and our opinion must rest upon the credits which we give to it ; 
but, as the fact alleged fully accounts for their success, as they 
cheerfully laid down their lives in proof of their veracity, and 
as it is no easy matter to solve the problem of the rapid spread 
of Christianity, if all divine agency be excluded ; we may per- 
haps find it more difficult, on the whole, to disbelieve them, 
than to believe them. 

2. The second cause, alleged in the scriptural history, for 
the unexampled success of the early preachers of the Gospel, 
is the power which they possessed of working miracles. 

" By the hands of the apostles," we read, " were many signs 
and wonders wrought among the people. And believers were 
the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and wo- 
men ; insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, 
and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the 
shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. "J 

As the spirit of God was necessary to change the heart and 
to influence the will, in order that Christianity might be re- 
ceived even in the face of every discouragement: so was the 
power of working miracles necessary to convince the under- 
standing, that a religion thus characterized could not but be 
from heaven. The apostles claimed to be ambassadors. But 
an ambassador cannot be received without producing his cre- 
dentials : his mere word and asseveration are insufficient. — 
The credentials therefore of the apostles, credentials, to which 
on all occasions they fearlessly appealed, were miracles. " I 
will not dare," says Paul, " to speak of any of those things 
which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles 
obedient, by word and deed, through mighty signs and wonders, 
by the power of the Spirit of God ; so that, from Jerusalem 

* 1 Peter i. 3. t 1 John ii. 20. 

$ Acts v. 12, 14, 15. 


166 the difficulties [Sect. VI. 

and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the Gos- 
pel of Christ.* Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought 
among you in all patience, in signs and wonders, and mighty 
deeds.t These signs, declares Christ himself to his disciples, 
shall follow them that believe : In my name shall they cast out 
devils ; they shall speak with new tongues ; they shall take up 
serpents ; and, if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt 
them ; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.t 
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come 
upon ) r ou : and ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusa- 
lem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost 
parts of the earth. § 

Such is the claim made by the apostles to the power of 
working miracles : and a similar claim had already been made 
by Christ, previous to his crucifixion. Now, that the perform- 
ance of miracles affords an ample proof of a divine commis- 
sion, few will be disposed to deny ; and that when conjoined 
with the special influence of God's Spirit upon the human 
heart, it is an abundantly sufficient cause of the rapid accept- 
ance of the Gospel, most will be inclined to allow. But here 
a question arises, whether the claim was real, or only simu- 
lated : whether, in the language of Mr Gibbon, miraculous 
powers were only ascribed to the primitive Church, or whether 
they were really possessed by it. 

The reasoning of Mr Hume, in regard to miracles, brings 
out as a result, that no human evidence can in any case render 
them credible. For a miracle is a violation of the laws of 
nature : and a firm and unalterable experience has established 
those laws. Therefore it will always be more probable, that 
the testimony in favour of a miracle should be false, than that 
unalterable experience should be violated. Hence he lays it 
down as a plain consequence, that no testimony is sufficient to 
establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind* that 

Rom. xv. 38, 19. t 2 Corin. xii. 12. 

Mark xvi. 17, 18, § Acts i. 8. 


its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it 
endeavours to establish. 

To an unsophisticated intellect, this reasoning will, I think, 
appear not a little paradoxical : and to an intellect accustomed 
to discussion, it will seem not a little fallacious. 

It is hard to conceive "why competent evidence should not 
be sufficient to establish any fact, which does not involve a 
contradiction in terms. No doubt, the more extraordinary the 
fact, the stronger is the evidence which we require : but to 
assert in the abstract that no testimony can establish a miracle, 
more nearly resembles a paradox thrown out for the purpose 
of exciting astonishment, than a sober and cautious position 
laid down from a real love of truth. At least, so I should 
think that to a plain honest man it would be very apt to appear. 

The assertion, however, is not only paradoxical ; it is also 
conveyed through the medium of a train of reasoning which 
itself is palpably fallacious. Mr Hume lays it down as in- 
controvertible, that a firm and unalterable experience has estab- 
lished those laws of nature, which it is the very essence of a 
miracle to violate. Now what is this but begging the very 
point in litigation ? That the firm and unalterable experience 
of Mr Hume himself and of those various persons with whom 
he may have conversed, is in favour of the inviolability of the 
laws of nature, I can readily allow : but how does this prove 
the same position in regard to the experience of all ages ? 
Mr Hume can only testify as to the experience of himself and 
his friends. What the experience of other persons may have 
been, he can only learn from credible testimony. It may have 
agreed with his own experience, or it may have contradicted 
it. But, of whatever description it may be, Mr Hume can 
plainly know nothing about the matter, save from historical 
evidence. To call therefore his own experience a firm and 
unalterable experience, meaning by the expression the firm and 
unalterable experience of all ages, is most undoubtedly to beg 
the very point in debate : for, while Mr Hume asserts, that 
the absolute uniformity of the laws of nature is the firm and 
unalterable experience of all ages ; this absolute uniformity of 


the laws of nature is the precise matter, which they who believe 
in the occurrence of miracles, deny. Here then we have 
assertion marshaled against assertion ; and which of the two 
is to be received as valid, can only, so far as I perceive, be 
determined by adequate testimony. Under such circumstances, 
how do the contending parties proceed ? Those who believe in 
the occasional violation of the laws of nature by the instru- 
mentality of miracles, produce in vindication of their belief, 
what they deem sufficient historical evidence : but Mr Hume 
begs the question, by denying that any testimony can be suffi- 
cient to establish the fact of a miracle, simply and merely 
because a miracle contradicts, ■ not universal experience (for 
this is the litigated point), but the experience of himself, and the 
several persons with whom he has conversed. His reasoning 
being thus fallacious, his conclusion must of necessity, be the 
same ; even if we omit the evident absurdity of the terms in 
which it is couched. No testimony is sufficient to establish a 
miracle, unless the testimony he of such a kind, that its false- 
hood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endea- 
vours to establish. Such is Mr Hume's conclusion from his 
previous reasoning, the terms of which I have ventured to 
stigmatize with evident absurdity. For what possible idea can 
any man frame to himself of the miraculousness of a false- 
hood, in any legitimate sense of the word miraculous? A 
miraculous feeding of the hungry, or a miraculous healing of 
disorders, or a miraculous resuscitation of the dead, we can 
conceive and understand : but a miraculous falsehood, in the 
same sense of the word miraculous (which the homogeneity of 
the argument plainly requires), is a perfect incomprehensi- 
bility ; we can absolutely form no notion whatever of such 
a thing. Had Mr Hume said, that no testimony is sufficient to 
establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of so strong a de- 
scription, that the occurrence of the miracle is a more probable 
event than the falsehood of the witnesses ; he would have spo- 
ken at once intelligibly and rationally : but, in that case, he 
would have virtually allowed, that a miracle might be estab- 
lished by adequate testimony. This concession, however* did 

Sect. VI.] OF INFIDELITY. 169 

not suit his purpose: and therefore after first begging the ques- 
tion, he next surprises us in his conclusion with the extraordi- 
nary phenomenon of a miraculous falsehood. 

From what has been said, the result is simply as follows : 
Christianity claims the sanction of miraculous powers. Its 
claim must be examined like any other historical fact. If the 
evidence in favour of the claim preponderate, it must be ad- 
mitted : if the evidence be clearly insufficient, it must be 

Now, the evidence requisite to satisfy a rational inquirer, is 
of a two-fold description : it must be shown, that certain ac- 
tions purporting to be miracles, were certainly performed ; 
and it must be shown, that those actions we#e real, not simu- 
lated miracles. 

(1.) With respect to the performance of various actions, 
purporting to be miracles, and believed to be such, both at 
and after the time of their performance, the following is the 
testimony which may be offered : 

The belief of some supernatural interposition is^in the ab- 
stract, necessary to account for the fact of the wonderfully 
rapid propagation of Christianity. We have seen how ineffec- 
tually Mr Gibbon labours to solve the difficulty by natural 
causes : and, if such a man failed in the attempt, it is not very 
probable that inferior talents will be more successful. An 
incontrovertible fact presents itself to us. The fact cannot 
be accounted for on natural principles. Therefore the neces- 
sity of the case requires, that supernatural principles of some 
sort or other should be called in. History cannot proceed 
without them, we have a knot which no one but a Deity can 

Accordingly, both the Founder of Christianity, and the first 
preachers of it to the world at large, claim the power of work- 
ing miracles ; as being that special supernatural interposition, 
which was to accredit them to mankind in the character of 
messengers indeed sent from God. That the claim was made, 
is indisputable : and I contend, that in the very nature of 
things, either the claim would not have been made, if the power 


had not been possessed; or, if it had been made unsuccessfully, 
the whole scheme of thus recommending the Gospel must have 
proved abortive. For would any man of common sense risk 
the failure of his entire plan, by claiming a power, which all 
the while he knew that he did not possess : or, if he were in- 
duced to act a part of such consummate folly, would not his 
want of success in performing a miracle, involve of necessity 
the ruin of his project ? Supernatural powers are voluntarily 
made the test of a divine commission. On trial, no such powers 
are found to be possessed. What is the inevitable result? 
The pretenders are laughed off the stage, as impudent mounte- 
banks : and their scheme, agreeably to the test proposed by 
themselves, is universally rejected. Of this necessary conse- 
quence of an unaccomplished claim of miraculous powers, the 
impostor Mohammed was so well aware, that he wisely refrained 
from advancing it. Miracles were indeeed required of him, 
under the natural impression that they would be the creden- 
tials of every promulger of a new revelation : but the demand 
was always evaded, and the power disclaimed.* Had Christ 
and his disciples then been impostors, it is reasonable to con- 

* They say : We will by no means believe on thee, until thou cause 
a spring of water to gush forth for us out of the earth ; or thou have a 
garden of palm-trees and vines, and thou cause rivers to spring forth from 
the midst thereof in abundance ; or thou cause the heavens to fall down 
upon us, as thou hast given out, in pieces ; or thou bring down God and 
the angels to vouch for thee ; or thou have a house of gold ; or thou as- 
cend by a ladder to heaven : neither will we believe thy ascending thi- 
ther alone, until thou cause a book to descend unto us, bearing witness 
of thee, which we may read. Answer : My Lord be praised ! Am I 
other than a man, sent as an apostle ? And nothing hindereth men from 
believing, when a direction is come unto them, except that they say : 
Hath God sent a man for his apostle ? Say : God is a sufficient witness 
between me and you ; for he knoweth and regardeth his servants. Ko- 
ran, chap. xvii. They have sworn by God, by the most solemn oath, 
that if a sign come unto them, they would certainly believe therein. 
Say : Verily signs are in the power of God alone ; and he permitteth you 
not to understand, that, when they come, they will not believe. Koran, 
chap, vh 

Sect. VI.] OF INFIDELITY. 171 

elude, that they would never have claimed a power which they 
knew themselves not to possess. 

The persons before whom their alleged miracles were 
wrought, afford another argument for the real performance of 
something which at least appeared to be out of the common 
course of nature. Pretended miracles may, ^vithout much 
difficulty, be palmed upon mankind for real miracles, when 
they, in whose presence they are wrought, favour the actors, 
and are predisposed to believe the genuineness of the portents. 
Thus neither the Pagans nor the Papists have wanted devout 
believers in their spurious wonders : but as the wonders them- 
selves will not stand the test of a severe examination, so the 
believers in them have always previously symbolized with the 
performers of them.* The very reverse of this was the case 

* Respecting the pretended miracles wrought at the tomb of the 
Abbe Paris, see Bp. Douglas's Criterion. His lordship has the following 
just observations on the point before us : M The religion, in confirmation 
of which the miracles of Jesus were appealed to, was subversive of that 
believed by those to whom they were proposed. That pretensions to 
miracles, whose end was to confirm opinions and doctrines already estab- 
lished, should be admitted without due examination by the favourers of 
such opinions, is not at all to be wondered at : and this greatly invalidates 
the most boasted wonders of Popery. But the miracles of Jesus, whose 
end was not to countenance, but to overturn the established doctrines, 
could not possibly meet with an easy reception : assent to them would 
be difficult to be obtained ; and never could be obtained without serious 
examination, and the strongest conviction. Other pretensions to mira- 
cles did not gain credit, but after the establishment of those opinions 
which they were thought to confirm, and among persons previously bi- 
assed in favour of those opinions. But every thing is the reverse with 
regard to the miracles of Jesus ; for they were previous to the belief of 
Christianity, and gave cause to the belief of it: every witness of them 
was a convert, and every believer had been an enemy." Criter. p. 292, 
293. These remarks may equally apply to the pretended miracles, which 
have been recently set up by modern Papists ; particularly that in Ire- 
land, where a young woman is said to have been instantaneously cured 
of dumbness. Her tongue had been examined by medical practitioners, 
and there was found to be no defect whatsoever ; a tolerably strong 
proof, that her previous silence was voluntary : for she had not been 
dumb from her infanc}\ 


with Christ and his apostles. Whatever deeds they performed, 
they performed them before enemies, not before friends ; before 
persons prejudiced against them, not before persons prepos- 
sessed in their favour. "Would any reasonable being make 
such an attempt, when, if an impostor, he could scarcely escape 
detection ? Would any reasonable being appeal to those who 
had been his enemies for the truth of the miracles wrought by 
him, if no miracles whatsoever had been performed, or at least 
if nothing had been performed which was believed to be mira- 
culous ? Yet did Christ fearlessly appeal to the Jews them- 
selves, as to the reality of his preternatural works : and Paul, 
in writing to the Gentile churches of Rome, and Corinth, and 
Galatia, reminds them, in letters still extant, of the miracles 
which had effected the conversion of many of their members, 
though once bigoted and prejudiced heathens.* That such 
appeals should be confidently made on the one hand, and freely 
admitted on the other, when all the while both parties knew 
full well that no miracles had ever been wrought : a circum- 
stance like this, beggars the utmost profuseness of credibility. 
As these appeals were fearlessly made, so not a single in- 
stance can be produced, either of the denial or the detection 
of any one of the miracles recorded in the New Testament 
Some of the persons that wrote the histories, had conversed 
with Christ ; and others of them were the immediate disciples 
of the apostles. Hence the histories were composed and pub- 
lished so short a time after the alleged occurrences, that nume- 
rous individuals must have been alive, who could easily have 
contradicted them if they were mere fabrications : and, when 
we consider the bitter hostility of the Jews, we cannot doubt 
that their interested diligence would readily have adduced wit- 
nesses to silence, and put to merited shame such scandalous 
attempts to impose upon the world. Thus Matthew records, 
that at two several times, near the sea of Tiberias, Christ mi- 

* John x. 24, 25, 37, 38. Rom. xv. 18, 19. 2 Corinth, xii. 12. GaL 
iii. 5. 

Sect. VI.] OF INFIDELITY. 173 

raculously fed five thousand men and four thousand men, be- 
side women and children, with only a few loaves and five 
small fishes :* and thus John gives a very circumstantial account 
of the resuscitation of Lazarus, after he had been dead and 
buried four days ; stating that it took place at Bethany, which 
was only two miles from Jerusalem, and that many of the 
Jews were eye-witnesses of the fact.t Now, if these matters 
had never occurred, what could have been more easy than their 
confutation? Numerous witnesses might have been brought 
from the neighbourhood of the lake of Tiberias, who would 
readily have declared, that the alleged facts of twice miracu- 
lously feeding large multitudes, were wholly unknown to them : 
and the whole town of Bethany would have attested that the 
marvellous tale of the resurrection of Lazarus was, from be- 
ginning to end, a barefaced fabrication. Yet we hear not that 
these facts were ever controverted, though the Jewish rulers 
were from the very first decidedly hostile to the cause of 
Christianity, and though the falsification of the miracles would 
above all other things have promoted their object. Hence the 
obvious presumption is, that such facts were too notorious to 
be safely contradicted. 

Now were Christ and his apostles the only persons who 
confidently appealed to the evidence of miracles, in the very 
face of their enemies ; thus daring them, as it were, to a de- 
tection of imposture, if any imposture had existed. There 
was a class of writers in the primitive Church, who composed 
what were styled Apologies. These were addressed to the 
Pagans : and it was their avowed design to defend Christianity, 
and to vindicate the reception of it. The oldest writer of this 
description, with whose works we are at all acquainted, is 
Quadratus. He lived about seventy years after the death of 
Christ, and presented his Apology to the Emperor Adrian. 
A passage of it has been preserved by Eusebius ; from which it 
appears that he formally and confidently appealed to the mira- 

* Matt. xiv. 13—22. xv. 29—39. f John xi. 



cles of Christ, as a matter which admitted not of the least doubt 
or controversy. " The works of our Saviour," says he, " were 
always conspicuous, for they were real. Both they that were 
healed, and they that were raised from the dead, were seen, 
not only when they were healed or raised, but for a long time 
afterwards ; not only whilst he dwelt on this earth, but also 
after his departure, and for a good while subsequent to it: inso- 
much that some of them have reached to our times."* To 
the same purpose speaks Justin Martyr, who followed Quad- 
ratus at the distance of about thirty years. " Christ healed 
those who from their birth were blind, and deaf, and lame ; 
causing, by his word, one to leap, another to hear, and a third 
to see : and, having raised the dead, and caused them to live, 
he, by his works, excited attention, and induced the men of 
that age to know him. Who, however, seeing these things 
done, said that it was a magical appearance ; and dared to 
call him a magician and a deceiver of the people."! Next in 
chronological order, follows Tertullian, who flourished during 
the same century with Justin Martyr. " That person whom 
the Jews had vainly imagined, from the meanness of his ap- 
pearance, to be a mere man, they afterwards, in consequence 
of the power which he exerted, considered as a magician: 
when he, with one word, ejected devils out of the bodies of 
men, gave sight to the blind, cleansed the leprous, strengthened 
the nerves of those that had the palsy, and lastly, with one 
command, raised the dead ; when he, I say, made the very 
elements obey him, assuaged the storms, and walked upon the 
seas, demonstrating himself to be the Word of God. "J We 
may finally notice Origen, who lived in the third century, and 
who published a regular defence of Christianity against the 
philosopher Celsus. " Undoubtedly we do think him to be 
the Christ and the Son of God, because he healed the lame 

* Quadrat. Apol. apud Euseb. Eccles. Hist. lib. iv. c. 3, cited by 

t Just. Mart. Dial. p. 258. edit. Thirlby, cited by Paley. 
t Tertull. Apol. p. 20. ed. Prior. Par. 1675, cited by Paley. 

Sect. VI.] OF INFIDELITY. 175 

and the blind : and we are the more confirmed in this persua- 
sion by what is written in the prophecies : Then shall the eyes 
of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall hear, 
and the larne man shall leap as an hart. But that he also 
raised the dead, and that it is not a fiction of those who wrote 
the Gospels, is evident from hence : that, if it had been a fic- 
tion, there would have been many recorded to be raised up, 
and such as had been a long time in their graves. But, it not 
being a fiction, few have been recorded.* That the defenders 
of Christianity should thus needlessly commit themselves to the 
hostile Pagans, if no miracles had been performed, and when a 
regular confutation of their pretences was perfectly easy, it is 
alike difficult to account for and hard to believe. 

In truth, however, neither the Jews nor the Pagans ever 
thought of denying the fact, inimical as they were to Christi- 
anity, and desirous as they ever showed themselves of stopping 
its progress. The fact they fully admitted ; though, had it 
been a falsehood, they might easily have demonstrated that it 
was such : the fact they admitted ; but they endeavoured to 
account for it in a manner which might not compel them to 
acknowledge the justice of the conclusion drawn from it by 
the Christians. In the days of our Lord, the favourite solu- 
tion of the Jews was diabolical agency :f in the days of Jus- 
tin Martyr and Tertullian, they were inclined to call in magic 
to help them out of the difficulty :± and, at a later period, they 
devised the notable tale, as if dissatisfied with their former ex- 
planations, that Jesus stole out of the temple the ineffable name 
of Jehovah, and by its instrumentality performed all his vari- 
ous wonders. § Among the Pagans, magic was resorted to as 
the best mode of explaining the miracles of Christ : and to this 
hypothesis they seem to have very steadily adhered. Thus 

* Orig. cont. Cels. lib. ii. § 48, cited by Paley. 
t Matt. xii. 22—24. 

X See the above citations from those fathers. 

§ See their Talmudical book, called Avoda Zara, published by Edzard 
at Hamburgh in 4to. 1705, cited by Bp. Douglas. 


Hierocles,* Celsus,t Julian, J Porphery, and Eunomius, adopting 
the established theory of the day,§ acknowledge, that miracles 
were really performed by our Lord ; but, with an affectation of 
undervaluing them, resolve all such phenomena into sorcery. 
It was this circumstance which led many of the fathers, in 
their vindications of Christianity (as they themselves tell us), 
to prefer the argument from prophecy, to the argument from 
even acknowleged miracles. " I adopt such a mode of reason- 

* 'H/jLiis /uzv rov ToicLvrct t?^o/«koto (meaning Apollonius of Tyana) 
ov Qiov, olxxo. Bsots K^apicrf^vcv oLvf^ct nyou/uzBct. Hieroc. apud Euseb. 
In this quotation, Hierocles compares the miracles of Apollonius with 
those of Jesus, the truth of which he evidently admits ; and only blames 
the Christians for worshiping Jesus as a God. Bp. Douglas. 

t Aui7rx&<rz St <rt srsgov (ruyKctrcLriQe/uivor /usv, 7ra><? Tra^aSc^otg 
Swa/Aio-tv oct Ihctovt £7roi}}crev, ev oiir <txt 7toxXovt iTrurzv aaoXovBttv ctwra 

COT Xg/^TfiT StOL^dLXXitV cf' OLVTUQ fioVXO/LUYOT, «? O.7T0 /UCtyUctC JLdLl OV Bitot. 

fuvttftet yzyiWH/u.tva; 9 qwo-t, yag % a.vrov (rxoriov Tp^ivra. /uio-Qa^vHTeiVTct 
as Aiyvwvov , SvvcLfAtw ?tva>v 7rztp*.Bzvra,,iitziBzv i7ra,vixBziv,®iov.£t' tKsiva.T 
ra,<r (Povcl/uut I&vtqv avoLyopwovreL. Orig. cont. Cels. lib. i. p. 30. edit. 
Speds. The meaning of this quotation is, that Celsus, though he owned 
that Jesus performed miracles, ascribed them to magic ; affirming, that 
Jesus having been educated in Egypt, had there learned their art of 
doing wonders. Bp. Douglas. 

t e O cTs l*irxc oxtyoug 7r%og <tqit Tgiaaoo-totg ivtavrotg ovo/ua,£i<ra.i, 
tgya.ra.lA.iVos tto,^ ov e£» %qovqv epyov ovStv anoys a.%tov 9 it pn rtg otira,t 
rove KVXXoug Ka.t rvtpxoug tao-cto-Bat nctt Sat/uovcvvrag i<pQ£Kt£itv, tv 
B«05-at7cTa x,a,i iV fivBavta <T*ig xa/utatg, rav /utyto-roov igym itvat. Julian, 
apud Cyril, lib. vi. Though Julian here affects to depreciate and under- 
value the miracles of Jesus, yet he admits their truth. Bp. Douglas. 

§ Unless, says Jerome, speaking to Vigilantius respecting the mira- 
cles of Christ, you pretend, according to the manner of the Gentiles and 
the profane, of Porphyry and Eunomius, that these are the tricks of de- 
mons. Hieron. cont. Vigil, cited by Paley. From this passage it is clear, 
that the Pagans never once thought of denying the reality of the mira- 
cles of our Lord : they lived too near the time of their performance, and 
found the evidence too strong, ever to think (like modern Infidels) of 
denying their reality. That the miracles were truly performed, it was 
acknowledged : that they were wrought by the finger of God, was denied. 
To us of the present day, who are somewhat incredulous on the score of 
magic, the universal acknowledgment of the fact is quite sufficient. 

Sect. VI.] OF INFIDELITY. 177 

ing," says Justin, " les£ any of our opponents should say: 
What hinders, but that he, whom we call Christ, being a man 
sprung from men, performed by magical art the miracles which 
we attributed to him ?"* Ireneus, who flourished about forty 
years after Justin, notices the same evasion in the adversaries 
of Christianity, and replies to it by the same argument. " But, 
if they shall say that the Lord performed these things by an 
illusory appearance, leading these objectors to the prophecies, 
we will show from them, that all things were thus predicted 
concerning him, and that they strictly came to pass."t The 
same sentiment, upon the same occasion, is delivered by Lac- 
tantius, who lived about a century later. " He performed 
miracles. We might have supposed him to have been a magi- 
cian, as ye say, and as the Jews then supposed, if all the pro- 
phets had not with one spirit foretold that Christ should perform 
these very things. "J 

Such is the evidence in favour of miracles : and we may 
observe respecting it, that step by step it increases in strength, 
until finally the bitterest enemies of Christianity, the uncon- 
verted Jews and Pagans, and that too in regular succession 
from the very earliest times, openly and unreservedly acknow- 
ledge, that these wonders were really performed. They at 
once indeed show their hatred, and excuse their resistance to 
the Gospel, by ascribing the performance of the miracles either 
to magic, or to diabolical agency, or to an unhallowed use of 
the sacred name Jehovah : but the fact itself they universally 
allow ; and this is amply sufficient for our present argument. 
Jesus and his apostles claimed to work miracles, specially as 
a test of their divine commission. The Jews and the Pagans 
alike confess that miracles were wrought. Is it credible that 
they would have done this, unless compelled by the force of 
irresistible testimony ; when an exposure of the fraud, if any 

* Justin. Apol. i. p. 48, cited by Paley. 

f Iren. lib. ii. c. 57, cited by Paley. 

X Lactant. Instit. lib. v. c. 3, cited by Paley. 


fraud existed, would instantaneously have annihilated every 
pretence to a divine commission ? The falsehood of these 
various concurring witnesses, both friends and enemies, Jews 
and Gentiles, I would not, in the phraseology of Mr Hume, 
assert to be a greater miracle than the attested miracles them- 
selves ; because I can form no distinct idea of a miraculous 
falsehood : but this I will venture to say, that the testimony in 
favour of Christian miracles is so strong and so varied, that it 
is a less exertion of faith to admit the occurrence of the 
miracles than to maintain the falsehood of the witnesses. 

(2.) Deeming the evidence before us quite sufficient, to 
prove that certain extraordinary actions, purporting to be mira- 
cles, were wrought by Christ and his apostles, I have now 
only to show that these actions were real, and not simulated 

An infidel, compelled by the force of testimony, like the 
Jews and Pagans of old, might be disposed to concede, that 
some remarkable deeds were performed by the author and the 
early preachers of Christianity : but, at the same time, as it 
may be doubted whether he would resort to magic for a solu- 
tion, he might deny that these remarkable deeds were effected 
by any interposition of heaven. The whole matter he might 
be inclined to resolve into a mere trick or juggle ; often, as in 
the case of pretended exorcisms of demons and cures of sick 
persons, adroitly and successfully accomplished through the 
intervention and by the aid of confederates. One man, who 
is in the secret, pretends to be possessed by a devil ; another 
man, who is also in the secret, affects to labour under some 
dreadful disorder. "When the mechanism of the cheat has 
been thus duly got up, the word of healing is spoken, and the 
patient (marvellous to relate) is suddenly restored to perfect 

Such is the objection which is now to be considered : and 
I will begin with fairly confessing, that had no miracles been 
wrought save of the above description, it would at least have 
been very plausible. Certain difficulties, indeed, would still 

Sect. VI.] OF INFIDELITY. 179 

have occurred : for it might well seem strange, that with all 
their enmity and all their opportunities, the Jews and the Pa- 
gans should never once have detected the fraud ; that not a 
single confederate, either through fickleness, or disgust, or 
penitence, or the fear of death, should have made a confession ; 
and, most especially (an argument which I have already insisted 
upon), that Judas, when he sold and betrayed his Lord, should 
not have fully exposed to the irritated Jewish rulers, the whole 
of this nefarious imposture. Yet, notwithstanding such diffi- 
culties, the objection would have been plausible, and might 
even upon a well-disposed mind, have left a very unpleasant 
impression.* But the fact is, that miracles were wrought, 

* This objection is well answered by Bp. Douglas, even on its broad- 
est basis : I, on the contrary, show, that certain miracles were wrought, 
in which the mechanism of confederacy was physically impossible ; and 
from their performance I would argue, that the other recorded miracles 
were real miracles also : for it is absurd to imagine, that he who could 
work real miracles, would sometimes resort to collusion for the purpose 
of producing false miracles. " Miracles, the offspring of imposture, can 
never have any chance to gain credit, or to pass undetected, in the time 
or at the place where they are pretended to be wrought, unless there is 
a strong confederacy on foot, privy to the imposture, and engaged to carry 
it on : and this has been generally the case of the most noted pretensions 
of Popery. But we have the fullest assurance that can possibly be had, 
that there was not any such confederacy on foot to propagate the miracles 
of Jesus. Had Christianity indeed been a religion already established 
in the world, when these miracles were pretended to; and had it been 
previously believed by those who believed the miracles : a combination 
to deceive the public might have been possible ; and the very possibility 
of such a combination would justly have excited suspicions of its being 
real. But, when we reflect from what beginnings Christianity arose, 
and in what manner it made its entrance into the world ; that Jesus, the 
great Founder of it, had not one follower when he set up his claim, and 
that it was his miracles which gave birth to his sect, and not the sect 
already established that appealed to his miracles : from these circum- 
stances we may conclude unexceptionably, that there could not possibly 
be a confederacy strong enough to obstruct an examination of the facts, 
and to obtrude a history of lies upon the public. But why need I insist 
upon this, when I can urge further, that even though there had been a 
confederacy among the witnesses of the Gospel miracles, this could not 


which, from their special nature, exclude all possibility either 
of deception or collusion: and the argument from them is 
plainly this. If certain miracles were performed, which cannot 
be accounted for save by the direct intervention of heaven, he, 
who performed them, must have been a true prophet : but, if 
he were a true prophet, then all his other miracles, which we 
might haply have accounted for on the score of collusion, must 
have been genuine miracles ; for it is at once absurd and super- 
fluous to imagine, that he, who in some cases was empowered 
to work real miracles, should in other cases descend to a base, 
and in fact an unnecessary collusion. 

The miracles, which I shall select to exemplify this position, 
are, the feeding of multitudes with food wholly inadequate to 
their numbers, and the sudden acquisition of various languages 
by men who were previously altogether illiterate. 

On two several occasions, each time in the neighbourhood 
of the lake of Tiberias, did Christ perform the first of these 
miracles. First, he fed five thousand men, besides women 
and children, with five loaves and two fishes : and, when the 
whole multitude had eaten to satiety, there remained of the 

have screened them from detection ; as the persons who had all the means 
of inquiry in their hands, were engaged in interest to exert themselves 
on the occasion, nay, actually did put their power in execution against 
the reporters of these miracles ? Forged miracles may pass current, 
where power and authority screen them from the too nice inquiry of 
examiners. But, whenever it shall happen that those who are vested 
with the supreme power are bent upon opposing and detecting them ; 
the progress which they make can be but small, before the imposture is 
discovered, and sinks into obscurity and contempt. If this observation 
be well founded, as I am confident it is ; that lying wonders should pass 
undetected among the Papists, will not be thought strange : for such 
stories among them have generally been countenanced, if not invented 
by those with whom alone the power of detecting the imposture and of 
punishing the impostors was lodged. Now the miracles of Jesus, it is 
notorious, were not thus sheltered— That there was no imposture de- 
tected, therefore, could not be owing to want of proper examination." 
Criterion, p 302—305. 


fragments twelve baskets full.* Next, he fed four thousand 
men, besides women and children, with seven loaves and a few 
little fishes : and on this occasion, seven baskets full were left 
of the broken meat, when all had eaten and had been satisfied.! 

Here, I maintain, there was no room either for collusion or 
deception. Two vast multitudes of both sexes and all ages, 
accidentally collected together, could not all have been con- 
federates : and, as for any collusion on the part of the disciples 
alone, the thing was palpably impossible. Food, naturally 
sufficient for five thousand men only, women and children being 
excluded, at the rate of a pound weight to each man, would 
considerably exceed two tons. To convey this food to the 
place, where the multitude was assembled, would at the least 
require two stout carts. But these carts could not be brought 
unseen to the place of meeting : and, if the people had merely 
seen the disciples serving them with food from the carts (which 
they clearly must have done, had such an action ever really 
taken place) ; nothing could have persuaded them, that a mira- 
cle had been wrought, and that they had all been fed from 
only five loaves and two fishes which some one happened to 
have brought with him in a wallet. Collusion, therefore, in 
the present instance, is manifestly impossible. Equally im- 
possible also is deception. No sleight of hand, no dexterity 
of juggling, could convince a fasting multitude, that they had 
all eaten and were satisfied. Hunger would be too potent for 
imposture. Not a single man, woman, or child, would be per- 
suaded that they had eaten a hearty meal, if, all the while, they 
had received no sustenance. 

The same remark applies to the sudden acquisition of lan- 
guages by the apostles, on the day of Pentecost. They had 
assembled together, it seems, with one accord, in one place : 
when there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty rush- 
ing wind ; and cloven tongues, like as of fire, sat upon each 
of them. The consequence was, that they were instantane- 

* Matt. xiv. 13—2*2. t Matt. xv. 32—39. 


ously endowed with the power of speaking languages which 
were previously unknown to them.* 

This was the miracle : and here again, as in the former 
case, there was no room either for collusion or deception. No 
juggling confederacy could enable men to speak suddenly a 
great variety of languages, with which they had previously 
been unacquainted : nor could any deception be practised 
upon those who heard them speak. Jews and proselytes, from 
many different parts of the world, were then assembled at 
Jerusalem ; to each of whom was obviously familiar the lan- 
guage of the country, where he ordinarily resided. When a 
man addressed them, they would severally know whether he 
spoke in their native tongue or not. A Roman Jew or pro- 
selyte could not be ignorant, whether what he heard was 
Latin : nor could any argument convince a Cretan Jew or 
proselyte, that an apostle, though speaking his native Syriac, 
was yet all the while uttering Greek. Deception was plainly 
quite out of the question. A Phrygian Jew might rashly 
fancy, that the men were full of new wine, and were mere 
unintelligible babblers, so long as he heard any of them address- 
ing the Roman strangers in Latin ; and the same opinion might 
be hastily taken up by a Cretan Jew, if listening to an apostle 
as he spoke to a Mede or an Elamite in their respective tongues. 
But, when each heard himself addressed in his own lan- 
guage by this apostle, or by that apostle ; he could have no 
doubt as to the lauguage which was employed. He must know 
whether he heard his own tongue, or whether he did not hear 
it. However the faculty might have been attained, he could 
not but see that it was actually possessed. The fact, presented 
to the general attention of all Jerusalem, was this. Twelve 
illiterate Jews, most of them Galilean fishermen, unacquainted 
with any language but their own, are suddenly enabled to 
address the various strangers then assembled at the feast of 
Pentecost, each in his own national dialect. That any trick 

* Acts ii. 1—4. 

Sect. VI.] OF INFIDELITY. 183 

should have been practised is impossible ; that any groundless 
pretence should have been made, is equally impossible. The 
strangers understand them : and declare, that they severally 
hear themselves addressed in their own languages : yet it is 
notorious, that these Galileans but yesterday knew no tongue, 
save the Hebrew-Syriac. How is the fact to be accounted 
for ? Magic, we know, was the ordinary solution of such diffi- 
culties on the part of the Jews and the Pagans : for, as to 
miraculous facts, they denied not their occurrence. But it 
will be doubted in the present day, whether magic could ena- 
ble an ignorant Galilean suddenly to speak Greek and Latin. 
Admit only the reality of the occurrence, and its proper 
miraculousness follows as a thing of course. The matter 
plainly cannot be accounted for without a miracle. Now, for 
the reality of the occurrence, both the Jews and the Pagans are 
our vouchers : nor is this all ; in truth the history cannot pro- 
ceed without it. We find these ignorant Galileans travelling 
to various parts of the world, both within and without the Ro- 
man empire. Wherever they go, without the least difficulty 
or hesitation, they address the natives in their own languages. 
The natives understand them : and, through their preaching, 
Christianity spreads in every direction with astonishing rapid- 
ity.* How could this be, if the men knew no tongue save the 
Syriac ? Or, if they knew various other tongues, how did 
they acquire their knowledge ? How came John, and James, 
and Peter, and Jude to write in Greek, when we are quite 
sure that originally they could have been acquainted only with 

* According to the fathers and early ecclesiastical historians, Andrew- 
preached the Gospel in Scythia, Greece, and Epirus ; Bartholomew in 
India, Arabia Felix, and Persia; Lebbeus, or Jude, in Lybia and Edes 
sa ) and Thomas, in India and Asiatic Ethiopia. Euseb. Eccles. Hist 
lib. iii. c. 1. Theodoret. in Psalm cxvi. Nazian. Orat. 25 Hieron 
Epist. 148. Euseb. Eccles. Hist. lib. v. c. 10, 11. Hieron de viris illust 
c. 36. Paulin. carm. 26. Hieron. in Matt. x. 4. Nazian. Orat. 25 
Hieron. Epist. 148. Ambros. in Psalm, xlv. Chrysost. vol. vi. Ap 
pend. Homil. 31. For these references lam indebted to Calmet. John 
presided as a metropolitan in the lesser Asia : and Peter, after governing 
the church of Antioch, is said to have been the first bishop of Rome. 


a dialect of Hebrew ? To deny the miracle involves greater 
difficulties than to admit it : to believe, that ignorant Galilean 
fishermen could preach successfully to foreigners, evinces more 
credulity than to believe, that they were miraculously enabled 
to do what we positively know they must have done. 



Difficulties, however, attend upon deistical Infidelity, not 
only in regard to the external evidence of Christianity, but 
also in regard to its internal evidence. This part of the sub- 
ject is not a little interesting : because it distinctly shows, that 
truth is even constitutionally and essentially inherent in the 
Gospel ; being interwoven into its very texture, and forming 
in the very nature of things an inseparably component part 
of it. 

Into a topic, thus copious, it is not my intention fully to 
enter : I rather purpose, agreeably to the plan which has been 
generally adopted throughout this discussion, to select and en- 
large upon some of the principal and most striking particulars. 
As a specimen of such a mode of reasoning, I shall content 
myself with noticing two of these particulars : the character 
of Christ, and the spirit of his religion. 

I. The pride and the ambition, inherent in man, lead him 
always to admire and affect the grand, the magnificent, the 
brilliant, the powerful, the daring, the energetic, the success- 
ful. He loves that which strikes forcibly upon the senses and 
the imagination : he delights in that which vehemently arrests 
his attention, which produces a strong theatrical effect, which 
wears the semblance of something splendid and heroic. The 
milder virtues he is apt to slight and pass over with a certain 



sensation of contempt : his favourite characters are the war- 
rior, the legislator, the statesman. To these he looks up with 
complacent veneration : their actions are his most agreeable 
themes : and they themselves are his models of the sublime, 
the noble, the excellent, the illustrious. In paying homage to 
persons of such a description, he feels a sort of self-elevation : 
because his admiration of them is in effect an admiration of 
our common nature, as exhibited under what he deems its 
most perfect and most commanding aspect. 

1. This humour we invariably find developed in works of 
imagination, whether they be poems, or dramas, or romances.* 
The hero both of the author and of the reader is marked 
by courage, by activity, by address, by eloquence, by splendid 
talents, by an easy generosity, by a lofty magnanimity. Diffi- 
culties he may encounter; but these he bravely surmounts : 
hardships he may endure ; but these he gaily faces. Graceful 
and spirited, he conciliates love, and ensures admiration. 

Such brilliant dreams are too fascinating to be lightly re- 
linquished. From the transactions of common or fictitious 
life, they are readily transferred to religion : and demi-gods 
and prophets are invested with the attributes which have pre- 
viously most gratified the imagination. Hence originated the 
characters of the Grecian Hercules, and Perseus, and Bac- 
chus, and Jason. Hence the Egyptian Osiris was a successful 
warrior and a beneficent legislator. Hence the Indian Parasu- 
Rama descended from heaven, to vanquish and extirpate, in 
twenty pitched battles, the impious children of the Sun ; to 
consecrate a due proportion of their wealth to the Deity ; to 
distribute the remainder, with open hand, among the poor ; 
to establish a new dynasty of just and beneficent sovereigns ; 
and then, content with his successful labours, to withdraw into 
dignified retirement amidst the deep recesses of the Gaut 

Honoratum si forte reponis Achillen ; 

Impiger, iracundus, inexorabilis, acer, 
Jura neget sibi rtata, nihil non arroget armis. 

Horat. de art. poet. ver. 120— -122. 


mountains.* Hence the Persian Rustam, mounted on his 
charger Rakesh, dared the shortest and most dangerous road 
to the haunted passes of Mazenderaun ; surmounted all the 
multiplied perils of the seven stages ; fought and slew the 
Deeve Sefeed ; and restored the enthralled Cai-Caus to light 
and liberty.! 

The predominance of these notions produced the effect, 
which might naturally be anticipated. He, who wished to be 
received as a messenger from heaven, assumed the character 
which he previously knew could not fail of gaining extensive 
popularity and unbounded veneration. Thus the warlike son 
of Fridulph, the leader of the Scandinavian Ascae into Europe 
from the wilds of Asiatic Scythia, with ready and successful 
policy adopted the name and character of the war-god Odin ; 
became at once the prophet, and sovereign, and lawgiver, and 
deity of his people ; subdued every nation which he encoun- 
tered in his progress ; established his sons as princes and 
demi-gods ; and finally, preferring the death of a warrior to a 
lingering disease, inflicted upon himself voluntary wounds, and 
announced, when expiring, that he was returning into Scythia 
to take his seat among the other gods at an eternal banquet, 
where he would honourably receive all who should intrepidly 
expose themselves in battle, and die bravely with their swords 
in their hands.f Thus the prophet of Arabia appeared as a 

* Maurice's Anc. Hist, of Hind. vol. ii. p. 91—103. Similar remarks 
may be applied also to the character of Ram- Chandra. Ibid. p. 231 — 253. 

t Orient. Collect, vol. i. p. 359—368. vol. ii. p. 45—55. The narra- 
tive characteristically ends as follows : " Then Rustam, the dispenser of 
kingdoms, the hero of the world, having received from Caus a splendid 
dress and other magnificent presents, returned to Zablestan." 

t Mallet's Northern Antiquit. vol. i. chap. 4. The sentiment which 
I am attempting to illustrate, is strongly exemplified in the conduct of 
one of the subjugated monarchs. " Odin," says Mr Mallet, " afterwards 
passed into Sweden, where at that time reigned a prince named Gylfe : 
who, persuaded that the author of a new worship consecrated by con- 
quests so brilliant, could not be of the ordinary race of mortals, paid him 
great honours, and even worshiped him as a divinity. By favour of 
this opinion, which the ignorance of that age led men easily to embrace. 


warrior, and a lawgiver, and a statesman, whose courage might 
ensure success and admiration, and whose success might be 
urged as a certain proof of his divine commission. Thus, too, 
as I have already had occasion to notice, the impostor Coziba, 
when under the title of Bar-Cochab, he claimed to be the pro- 
mised Messiah, sought to recommend himself to his country- 
men, by his courage and enterprizing spirit, by the assumption 
of the regal diadem, and by a promise of victory and libera- 
tion from the Roman sovereignty. Do we ask, why he selected 
for his model the character of a temporal prince and an in- 
trepid warrior : the answer is obvious. The Jews, under the 
influence of a sentiment common to every age and to every 
nation, had framed to themselves an imaginary Messiah, with 
attributes nearly similar to those of Hercules, and Rama, and 
Odin, and Rustam. Under his banner, they were to go forth 
to victory : he was to be a mighty prince, an irresistible con- 
queror : every enemy was to fall before his feet : the whole 
world was to be modeled anew by him : and, in the political 
and moral arrangement which was to characterize the reign 
of this universal monarch, the favoured Jews, the chosen peo- 
ple of Jehovah, were to become both temporally and spiritu- 
ally the undisputed head of the nations. 

2. In each respect the very opposite to the fancied Messiah 
of the house of Judah, in all characteristic points the precise 
reverse of Odin, and Mohammed,, and Rama, and Hercules, 
was the meek and lowly prophet of Nazareth. Victory indeed 
he promised to his disciples ; but it was a victory over them- 
selves, over their unruly lusts and passions, over their pride, 
and avarice, and selfishness, and ambition. Conquest he pro 
mised to his followers ; but it was a conquest of the mind, not 
of the body ; a conquest, by which all nations should be spi- 
ritually subjugated in the day of his power. Arms, potent and 
well-tempered, he placed in the hands of his soldiers: but the 
weapons of their warfare (as the apostle speaks) were not car- 

Odin quickly acquired in Sweden the same authority which he had ob- 
tained in Denmark." 

Sect. Vll.] OF INFIDELITY. 189 

nal, though mighty through God to the pulling down of strong 
holds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that 
exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into 
captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.* With re- 
spect to principles, instead of a haughty, daring, active, enter- 
prizing spirit ; he recommended meekness, humility, mercy, 
peacefulness : instead of a temper, quick to resent insults and 
prone to avenge injuries ; he inculcated a mild tolerance of 
indignities, insomuch that (proverbially speaking), whosoever 
should smite one of his followers on the right cheek, he should 
turn to him the left also: and, instead of that license which 
a warrior freely concedes to a warrior ; he urged the need of 
the most accurate purity, not only in action, but even in 
thought. Despised himself and rejected of men, on account 
of his inculcation of a philosophy so abhorrent from all their 
cherished partialities and prejudices, he taught his disciples, 
that, preaching his doctrines, they must expect the same re- 
ception from the world. Temporal things, such as dignity, 
riches, luxury, and honours, he utterly undervalued : eternal 
things, such as the love of God, happiness in a future world, 
and ultimate perfect holiness, he exclusively proposed to his 
followers. He promised them heaven, not, like Odin and 
Mohammed, as a reward for fighting bravely in his cause, and 
for gloriously dying upon the blood-stained battle-field ; but 
as the prize which would be awarded only to purity and hu- 
mility, to holiness and self-denial. To obtain the palm, a 
mere outward demonstration of fiery zeal in his service was 
not sufficient. " Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, 
Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven : but he that 
doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. "t What that 
will is, he explicitly set forth in terms which could not be mis- 
apprehended, though they would tend little to secure general 
popularity. " Whosoever shall break one of these least com- 
mandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least 
in the kingdom of heaven : but whosoever shall do and teach 

* 2 Cor. x. 4, 5. t Matt. vii. 2L 



them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 
For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed 
the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no 
case enter into the kingdom of heaven."* 

3. Such was the character assumed by Christ, when he 
claimed to be the Messiah of the Jews. Its worldly impolicy 
I have already considered :t with that I am not at present con- 
cerned. I am now viewing it abstractedly and internally : I 
am placing it on the grounds of its own distinctness and pecu- 
liarity, in contrast with the characters of acknowledged impos- 

The brilliant success of Odin, or of Mohammed, may for- 
cibly strike upon the imagination : but the very means which 
they took to promote their respective objects, tend immediately, 
in an age of cautious investigation, to induce more than a susr 
picion, that they were bold and interested adventurers. In- 
ternal evidence makes against their pretensions : abstractedly, 
we see much to dazzle, and attract, and chime in with the 
passions of mankind ; but we see nothing which might 
rationally lead us to believe that they were prophets sent from 

Now, just as strongly as internal evidence tells against their 
pretensions; so, by the rule of opposites, must it tell with 
equal strength in favour of the pretensions of Christ. For, 
as their character forms the very basis of the internal evidence 
against them; so a character, diametrically the reverse, must 
needs form the basis of the internal evidence in favour of the 
person who sustains that character. Whence it clearly fol- 
lows, that the stronger the internal evidence is against the 
former; just in the same proportion must it be stronger in 
favour of the latter. In truth, it is impossible to study the 
character of Christ on the one hand, and of Odin, or Moham- 
med, or Coziba on the other hand, without feeling the weight 
and value of this particular sort of evidence. A religion which 
falls in with all the evil passions of mankind, which coincides 

* Matt. v. 19, 20. t See above Sect. v. § II. 1. 


with their worldly and ambitious speculations, and which ex- 
hibits its author as aiming at power and self-aggrandizement 
through the medium of warlike courage and activity, may 
dazzle the eyes of the ambitious, or the thoughtless : but a 
religion, which directly opposes the corrupt appetites of our 
species, which strikes at the root of pride, and selfishness, and 
greediness, which has a direct tendency to meliorate our hearts 
and dispositions, which inculcates all the milder and more 
useful virtues, which enjoins kindness, and benevolence, and 
purity, and harmony, which calls us away from the fleeting 
things of time, to God and holiness, as the only real chief 
good, and which exhibits its author as despising worldly riches 
and grandeur, and as intent only upon the moral improvement 
of the human race, in order to their qualification for happi- 
ness in a future state of existence ; a religion thus character- 
ized (and such is the religion of Christ), instinctively approves 
itself to every well regulated mind, as evinced by internal evi- 
dence to be indeed a religion worthy of, and proceeding from 
the pure and beneficent Creator of the universe. To believe 
at once with the infidel, though from directly conflicting evi- 
dence, that Odin, and Coziba, and Mohammed, and Christ 
are alike impostors, argues as much want of clear reasoning, 
as it does abundance of blind credulity. 

II. I have been led, in some measure, to anticipate the 
second particular which I purposed to notice ; the spirit and 
genius of the Christian religion : it is needless for me to re- 
mark further on its purity and its benignity, its heavenly-mind- 
edness and its divine charity : the character of its author could 
not be adequately discussed, if these topics were omitted. 
Avoiding, therefore, needless repetition, I shall consider Chris- 
tianity in contrast with allowed impostures, only so far as 
regards its honesty and its disinterestedness. 

1. It is, I believe, the invariable characteristic of false reli- 
gions, that, on the one hand, they seek to gain votaries by 
dishonest indulgence, or by unhallowed promises ; while on 
the other hand, they too plainly show their interested origin by 

192 the difficulties [Sect. VII. 

conferring special privileges or advantages upon their founders, 
or sacerdotal upholders. 

(1.) In their love of war, and rapine, and conquest, the 
northern impostor Odin freely indulged his military followers : 
and thus at once gratified their favourite passion of enterprize, 
^md employed it as the successful medium of his own aggran- 
dizement. Courage and fortitude were sanctified, and there- 
fore heightened by religion. The god, whose name he assum- 
ed, and of whom (according to the prevalent superstition of 
his native Asia) he apparently claimed to be an avatar, or de- 
scent, or incarnation : this god is the severe and terrible god ; 
the father of slaughter ; the god that carrieth desolation and 
fire ; the active and roaring deity ; he who giveth victory, and 
reviveth courage in the conflict ; he who nameth those that are 
to be slain.* From the character of the people was drawn 
the character of the god ; and the impostor, who assumed his 
name, faithfully copied his attributes. The warriors, who 
went to battle, made a vow to send him a certain number of 
souls, which they consecrated to him. These souls were Odin's 
right : and he received them into his celestial palace of Val- 
halla, where he rewarded all such as died fighting sword in 
hand. There it was, that he distributed to them honour and 
felicity : there it was, that he received them to his own table, 
and welcomed them to an eternal banquet. Oft, in the heat 
of battle, did he descend, to intermix himself in the conflict, 
to inflame the fury of the combatants, to strike those who were 
destined to perish, and to carry the souls of the brave to his 
heavenly abode. t 

(2.) If, in the Scandinavian Paradise, the warriors of the 
north eternally combated, and feasted, and drank mead out of 
the skulls of their enemies £f to those who should similarly die 
fighting in the cause of Mohammed and Islamism, were pro- 
mised delights more accordant with the dispositions of persons 
born in the sultry clime of Arabia. 

* Mallet's North. Ant. vol. i. p. 86, 87. 

I Ibid. vol. i. p. 87. I Ibid. p. 120. 


" For him, who dreadeth the tribunal of his Lord, are pre- 
pared two gardens, planted with shady trees. In each of them 
shall be two fountains flowing : in each of them shall there be 
of every fruit two kinds. They shall repose on couches, the 
linings whereof shall be of thick silk, interwoven with gold : 
and the fruit of the two gardens shall be near at hand, to ga- 
ther. Therein shall receive them beauteous damsels, refrain- 
ing their eyes from beholding any besides their spouses, having 
complexions like rubies and pearls. And, beside these, there 
shall be two other gardens of a dark green ; in each of them 
shall be two fountains pouring forth plenty of water : in each 
of them shall be fruits, and palm-trees, and pomegranates. 
Therein shall be agreeable and beauteous damsels, having fine 
black eyes, and kept in pavilions from public view. Therein 
shall they delight themselves, lying on green cushions and 
beautiful carpets."* 

Such, while luxuriating in Paradise, are the privileges of 
the true believers : and analagous to them are those, which, in 
the present world, the prophet grants to his followers, and 
yet more liberally to himself. In addition to the concubines 
of his Harem, each Mussulman is allowed to espouse four legi- 
timate wives ; but to Mohammed a greater license is freely 
permitted by the voice ^f inspiration. 

" O prophet, we have allowed thee thy wives unto whom 
thou hast given their dower ; and also the slaves which thy 
right hand possesseth, of the booty which God hath granted 
thee ; and the daughters of thy uncle, and the daughters of thy 
aunts both on thy father's side, and on thy mother's side, who 
have fled with thee from Mecca ; and any other believing wo- 
man, if she gave herself unto the prophet, in case the prophet 
desireth to take her to wife. This is a peculiar privilege 
granted unto thee, above the rest of the true believers. We 
know what we have ordained them, concerning their wives 
and the slaves whom their right hands possess ; lest it should 

* Koran, chap, 55* 


be deemed a crime in thee to make use of the privilege granted 
thee ; for God is gracious and merciful."* 

While Mohammed thus bountifully made provision for the 
grosser appetites of himself and his followers ; he endeavoured 
to secure the firm establishment of his religion, by enjoining 
the adoption of military violence, and by exciting among his 
proselytes a spirit of fierce and relentless fanaticism. 

" Go forth to battle, both light and heavy ; and employ your 
substance and your persons for the advancement of God's reli- 
gion. O prophet, wage war against the unbelievers and the 
hypocrites, and be severe unto them ; for their dwelling shall 
be hell; an unhappy journey shall it be thither. O true believ- 
ers, wage war against such of the infidels as are near you ; and 
let them find severity in you : and know that God is with those 
who fear him.t The sword is the key of heaven and of hell. 
A drop of blood shed in the cause of God, a night spent in 
arms, is of more avail than two months of fasting or prayer. 
Whosoever falls in battle, his sins are forgiven : at the day of 
judgment, his wounds shall be resplendent as vermilion and 
odoriferous as musk : and the loss of his limbs shall be supplied 
by the wings of angels and cherubim. "J 

(3.) The same evident traces of human contrivance and self- 
interested management, may be observed in the imposture of 
Alexander of Pontus, who nourished in the days of Lucian, 
and whose machinations have been fully developed by that 

* Koran, chap. 33. In tins same chapter, Mohammed has somewhat 
ludicrously contrived to give his disciples a hint to avoid obtrusiveness, 
yet without violating the rules of Arabic good breeding. " O true be- 
lievers, enter not the houses of the prophet unless it be permitted you 
to eat meat with him, without waiting his convenient time : but when 
ye are invited, then enter. And when ye shall have eaten, disperse 
yourselves ; and stay not to enter into familiar discourse ; for this incom- 
modeth the prophet. He is ashamed to bid you depart." 

t Koran, chap. 9. 

t Koran, as abstracted by Gibbon. Hist, of the Decline, chap. 1. 
vol. i&. p. 297, 


In the religion already established throughout Pontus, he 
made no alteration : his own system he only engrafted upon 
it. That he might the better ensure success, he laboured to 
engage in his cause the whole heathen priesthood, not only in 
Pontus, but in all other regions : and, in pursuance of this 
project, when devotees came to consult him, he often sent them 
to other pagan oracles, which at that time bore the highest 
reputation. Of every sect of philosophers he spoke with much 
respect, the Epicureans alone excepted; who, as he well knew, 
would from their principles deride and oppose his fraud. To 
conquer their resistance, as well as that of the Christians, he 
called in the aid of force and persecution ; stirring up the peo- 
ple against them, and answering arguments with stones. That 
his own advantage might not be overlooked or forgotten, he 
delivered the following oracle in the name of his god. / com- 
mand you to grace with gifts my prophet and minister : for, 
though I regard not riches myself I have the highest regard 
for my prophet* The immense gains which he thus made, he 
shared with his associates and instruments, whom he employed 
in carrying on and supporting his imposture. When any per- 
sons, whom he dared not attack by open force, declared them- 
selves to be his enemies, he strove to gain them by blandish- 
ments : and as soon as he got them into his power, he secretly 
destroyed them. Others he kept in a state of awe and depen- 
dence, by retaining in his own hands the written questions 
which they had proposed to his god respecting public affairs : 
and, as these persons were generally men of the greatest rank 
and power, their subserviency to him, thus basely acquired, 
proved of no little utility in the furtherance of his project. 
Lastly, in the event of a discovery, he secured to himself a 
retreat, by persuading, on the strength of an oracle, the Roman 
general Rutilianus to marry his daughter, whom he pretended 
to have been born to him from the moon. This alliance, ac- 
cordingly, saved him from punishment : for the Roman gover- 
nor of Bithynia and Pontus excused himself on that account 


from doing justice upon him, when Lucian and several other 
persons offered their services as his accusers.* 

(4.) Examples of a similar description might easily be pro- 
duced to a considerable extent : but I shall content myself with 
noticing only a single very remarkable instance, in addition to 
those which have already been brought forward. 

If we peruse the Institutes of Menu, and the Puranas of 
the Brahmenical priesthood, we shall distinctly perceive, that 
that extraordinary fabric, the old theology of Hindostan, 
which still subsists even in the present day, bears on the very 
face of it the evident marks of deliberate politico-sacerdotal 
imposture. The whole community, as was the case likewise 
in Egypt, and Britain, and many other ancient nations, is di- 
vided into castes or classes ; of which the priesthood occupies 
the first rank, and the military nobility the second. These 
two powerful and co-operating classes keep in their own hands 
the whole authority of the state : and, while the multitude are 
condemned to a hopeless degradation, from which no talents, 
and no virtues, and no exertions can elevate them, the superi- 
ority of the Brahmens and the Cshatryas, is jealously and most 
disproporlionably guarded by the awful sanctions of religion. 

" A twice-born man, who barely assaults a Brahmen with 
intention to hurt him, shall be whirled about for a century in 
hell. He, who through ignorance of the law, sheds blood 
from the body of a Brahmen, shall feel excessive pain in his 
future life : as many particles of dust as the blood shall roll 
up from the ground, for so many years shall the shedder of 
that blood be mangled by other animals in his next birth. t 
Never shall a king slay a Brahmen, though convicted of all 
possible crimes. No greater crime is known on earth than 
slaying a Brahmen : the king therefore must not even form in 
his mind an idea of killing a priest.J A Brahmen, whether 
learned or ignorant, is a powerful divinity. § From his high 

Lucian. Pseudomant. Varior. p. 762 — 782, cited by Lord Lyttieton. 
t Institutes of Menu. ch. iv. § 165—168. 
t Ibid. ch. viii. § 330, 381. § Ibid. ch. ix. § 317. 


birth alone, a Brahmen is an object of veneration even to dei- 
ties.* For killing intentionally a virtuous man of the military 
class, the penance must be a fourth part of that ordained for 
killing a priest ; for killing a Vaisya, only an eighth ; for kill- 
ing a Sudra, who had been constant in discharging his duties, 
a sixteenth part.t For striking a Brahmen even with a blade 
of grass, or tying him by the neck with a cloth, or overpower- 
ing him in argument, and adding contemptuous words, the 
offender must soothe him by falling prostrate.! The corpo- 
real frame of a king is composed of particles from the eight 
guardian deities of the world : he, consequently, surpasses all 
mortals in glory. Like the sun, he burns eyes and hearts ; nor 
can any human creature on earth even gaze 1 on him. A king, 
even though a child, must not be treated lightly from an idea 
that he is a mere mortal : no, he is a powerful divinity, who 
appears in a human shape. § Brahmens are declared to be the 
basis, and Cshatryas the summit, of the legal system. || The 
military class cannot prosper without the sacerdotal, nor can 
the sacerdotal be raised without the military : both classes, by 
cordial union, are exalted in this world and in the next.^f 

2. It is easy to read the characteristics of these various mo- 
difications of imposture : they constitute the safe internal evi- 
dence, by which a system of interested deception may be 
traced, and detected, and known. No such characteristics, 
however, mark the Christian religion as developed and set forth 
in the written word of the New Covenant. Honesty and dis- 
interestedness shine conspicuously throughout the entire code. 
We can discover no base pandering to the evil lusts and pas- 
sions of our degenerate species ; no artful contrivance, by which 
religion maybe turned into gain, by which a false prophet may 
acquire sovereignty and dominion, by which a venal priesthood 
may heap up to itself riches, and honours, and privileges. 
Lust and murder, persecution and rapine, are not allowed, and 

Institutes of Menu. ch. xi. § 85. 

Ibid. ch. xi. § 127. 

t Ibid. ch. xi. § 206. 

Ibid. ch. v. § 96, ch. vii. § 4—7. 

|| Ibid. ch. xi. § 84. 

Ibid. ch. ix. § 322. 



justified, and sanctified under the name of religion. No com- 
promise is made with unholiness : no bartering is visible be- 
tween profligacy and ritual observances. The rule is absolute, 
unbending, universal. 

" Walk in the Spirit; and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the 
flesh. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are 
these : adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idol- 
atry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, 
seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, reveliings, 
and such like ; of the which I tell you before, as I have also 
told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not 
inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is 
love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 
meekness, temperance : against such there is no law. And 
they that are Christ's, have crucified the flesh with the affec- 
tions and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in 
the Spirit.* Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear chil- 
dren: and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath 
given himself for us, an offering and sacrifice to God, for a 
sweet-smelling savour. But fornication, and all uncleanness, 
or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as be- 
cometh saints ; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jest- 
ing, which are not convenient, but rather giving of thanks. 
For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, 
nor covetous man who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in 
the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you 
with vain words : for, because of these things, cometh the 
wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye 
therefore partakers with them. And have no fellowship with the 
unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it 
is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of 
them in secret."! 

Such is the Christian rule of action : and in strict accordance 
with it is the disinterestedness of the Gospel. 

Let the canonical books of the New Dispensation be exam- 

* Galat. v. 16, 19-25. f Ephes. v. 1-12. 


ined with the most scrupulous accuracy ; and nothing can be 
detected which may excite the most distant suspicion that either 
Christ or his apostles sought their own temporal advantage or 
aggrandizement. If, at a subsequent period, evil men, their 
successors, have dishonestly taught, that to give largely to the 
Church is the most certain mode of expiating sins, and of ac- 
quiring favour with God; if a towering edifice of gainful super- 
stition and worldly domination, has been erected upon the 
personal declaration to Peter, that he should be the rock upon 
which Christ would build his Church, whether composed of 
Jews or of Gentiles (a declaration accomplished in the remark- 
able circumstance, that by this honoured apostle the first-fruits 
of each denomination were introduced into the communion of 
the faith) :* if such deeds have at any time disgraced the fol- 
lowers of the lowly Jesus, they cannot impeach the unsullied 
integrity of his religion itself. Paul foretold, that, after his 
departure, grievous wolves should enter in among his spiritual 
children, not sparing the flock :t and it were a strange mode 
of reasoning to argue backward, to the worldly and self-aggran- 
dizing character of Christianity, from the predicted and 
strongly reprobated secularity of a future generation. Would 
we judge of the spirit of the Gospel, we must turn to the writ- 
ten word. Christianity must be allowed to speak for herself, 
not in the actions of a degenerate priesthood, but from her own 
authenticated documents. The Gospel must be studied in the 

3. What then is the result of the preceding comparison, 
which has been instituted, between Christianity, on the one 
hand, and certain acknowleged impostures on the other hand ? 
The result is this. 

If the characteristics of those impostures form the internal 
evidence that they are indeed nothing better than base and in- 
terested fabrications ; then the characteristics of Christianity, 
being of a directly opposite description, must needs form a 

* Matt. xvi. 18, 19. Acts ii. 14—41. Acts x. See Bp. Horsley's 
Sermon on Matt. xvi. 18, 19, in Sermons, vol. i. p. 305. 

t Acts xx. 29. 


strong internal evidence, that it is in truth a religion sent down 
from God : and, by parity of reasoning, the more forcibly one 
set of characteristics evince imposture ; the more forcibly also 
must the other set of characteristics evince genuineness. For 
direct opposites cannot bring out the same conclusion. Whence, 
if the characteristics of Paganism and Mohammedism bring 
out the conclusion of fraud, the opposite characteristics of 
Christianity cannot but bring out the opposite conclusion of 
truth. The infidel, however, has persuaded himself, that 
direct opposites may bring out the same conclusion ; for he 
deems Paganism, Mohammedism, and Christianity, to be alike 
impostures. Can he be acquitted of illogical reasoning and 
blind credulity ? 



Before the present discussion is finally closed, it may be 
useful briefly to recapitulate the several difficulties with which 
deistical infidelity has been found to be encumbered. 

I. The difficulties in question are as follows : 

1. The grounds and reasons of Infidelity, when fairly exa- 
mined in six several points, involve such an extraordinary mass 
of contradictions, that in truth it is more easy to admit than 
to deny the existence of a divine revelation. For a revelation 
from heaven, is neither, in the nature of things, abstractedly 
impossible ; nor is it so improbable an occurrence as to beg- 
gar all credibility ; nor are the evidences for such a revelation 
so weak and unsatisfactory, that they are insufficient to com- 
mand our reasonable assent ; nor are the objections and diffi- 
culties such, that they cannot be removed ; nor is there any 
solid foundation for the crude fancy, that, because some theo- 
logical systems are acknowledged impostures, therefore every 
theological system is a mere human fabrication ; nor yet is our 
unassisted reason so potent, as to exclude the very necessity 
of a divine revelation. On none of these points are the argu- 
ments of Infidelity conclusive and satisfactory : on the contrary, 
they are vague, illogical, and insufficient.* 

2. Infidelity, when not degraded into absolute brutish athe- 

* See above, Sect. i. 


ism, specially claims to itself the appellation of Deism. Yet 
without the aid of revelation, we cannot cleaily demonstrate, 
or certainly know, even so much as that there is no more than 
one God: and if, for the sake of argument, the unity of the 
Godhead be conceded to the infidel, he will still be unable 
positively to develope and firmly to establish the moral attri- 
butes of the Deity. But, to suppose that an infinitely wise 
Being (for the wisdom and power of God may be proved by 
unassisted reason, though his moral attributes cannot be simi- 
larly demonstrated) would create a race of intelligent agents, 
and then turn them loose into the wide world without giving 
them the slightest hint as to his will or their duties, is a notion 
so flatly contradictory to every idea which we can form of the 
Supreme Eeason, that it may justly be said to beggar all credi- 

3. Insurmountable difficulties, moreover, repeatedly attend 
upon Infidelity in regard to historical matters of fact. An im- 
portant specimen of this mode of reasoning is afforded by the 
fact of the universal deluge. This fact, of necessity, involves 
such consequences, that the infidel must either in the face of 
all testimony deny the fact itself, or he must admit that a divine 
revelation has actually taken place. t 

4 e Nor do less difficulties attend upon Infidelity in regard 
to accomplished prophecy. As a specimen of the argument 
from prophecy, the present state of the Jews may be aptly 
selected. The high antiquity of the prediction respecting them, 
delivered by Moses, cannot be controverted : and its exact 
accomplishment in the condition of the house of Judah, is a 
naked matter of fact, which can neither be denied nor evaded. 
Now the denial that a prophecy, thus minutely fulfilled and 
still fulfilling, must have proceeded from the inspiration of God, 
involves a gross absurdity: and the acknowledgment, that 
such a prophecy did indeed proceed from the inspiration of 

See above, Sect ii. f See above. Sect. iii. 


God, inevitably draws after it the additional acknowledgment 
that the Law of Moses was a divine revelation.* 

5. Difficulties increase upon Infidelity, as the facts, and cir- 
cumstances, and character of the Christian Dispensation are 
considered. These are such and so strongly marked, that to 
deem Christ and his early disciples enthusiasts or impostors, 
requires a more vehement effort of belief than to deem them 
the inspired messengers of heaven. t 

6. Similar difficulties occur, on the infidel hypothesis, in 
regard to the rapid propagation of Christianity, and the evi- 
dence by which the performance of miracles is supported. 
The deist, after every effort has been made, unphilosophically 
contends for the existence of effects without any adequate 
cause : and is content simply and gratuitously to deny alleged 
facts, which rest on the unbroken testimony, not merely of 
friends, but also of acute and inveterate enemies. ± 

7. Lastly, the infidel is still impeded by the most perplexing 
difficulties, if from the external he directs his attention to the 
internal evidence of Christianity. In the case of all acknow- 
ledged impostures, their leading characteristics constitute that 
very internal evidence, by which they are the most strongly 
and indubitably evinced to be impostures. But the leading 
characteristics of Christianity, in respect both of its author 
and of itself, are the precise opposites of the leading charac- 
teristics of all false religions. Therefore, by the rule of con- 
traries, if the leading characteristics of false religions demon- 
strate their falsehood ; the leading characteristics of Christi- 
anity must demonstrate its truth, Unless this be admitted, we 
maintain in effect, that directly opposite premises may bring 
out precisely the same conclusions. To such a position the 
theory of the infidel will be found inevitably to conduct him. 
Let him disguise his reasoning as he may, it truly and ulti- 
mately amounts to this : that two men and two religious sys- 
tems, though respectively marked by characteristics in all points 

* See above, Sect. iv. t See above, Sect. v. 

t See above, Sect. vi. 


diametrically opposite to each other, are yet to be viewed as 
mutually possessing precisely the same character.* 

II. These are some of the numerous difficulties, which en- 
cumber the theory of the infidel ; difficulties, from which he 
can never extricate himself, because they are essentially inhe- 
rent in the hypothesis which he has most unhappily and most 
illogically been induced to adopt. They have now been stated 
and discussed at considerable length, and (it is hoped) also with 
fairness and impartiality. On a careful review of the whole 
argument, the cautious reader must judge for himself, whether, 
after all the captions objections which have at various times 
been started by infidel writers, the disbelief of Christianity 
does not involve a higher degree of credulity than the belief of 
it ; whether, in point of rationality, it be not more difficult to 
pronounce it an imposture, than to admit it as a revelation from 

* See above, Sect. vii. 


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