« PreviousContinue »
Mr. Cogan's Summary of the Evidences of Christianity. Sir,
is extant. This presumption is corroIN the year 1796, I printed a small borated by the consideration, that, as Christianity. It was thought of favour- history, it was the credit that was ably at the time by persons of whose actually given to the facts in question judgment I had a good opinion. I which caused the gradually-increasing have since been asked, whether it diffusion and establishment of Chriswould not be desirable that I should tianity. reprint it. To this I should for several Dr. Priestley, in his Letters to a reasons object. The substance of it, Philosophical Unbeliever, (a work truly however, will be found in the following inestimable,) has the following paraobservations, which, if they appear to graph : " With respect to hypotheses, you to be useful, you will not, per- to explain appearances of any kind, haps, think out of place in your Repo- the philosophical Christian considers sitory.
himself as bound to admit that which The Christian religion has existed (according to the received rules of for about 1800 years, and previous to philosophizing or reasoning) is the this period it did not exist." It derives most probable; so that the question its origin from a person called Jesus between him and other philosophers Christ, who lived in Judea, and was is, whether his hypothesis or theirs crucified by Pontius Pilate, the Roman will best explain the known facts, such governor.
A short time after the as are the present belief of Judaism death of its founder, it was preached and Christianity, and also the belief of in the Roman empire by a few of his them in the earliest ages to which they followers, and gained increasing credit can be traced.” With deference to and establishment, till at length it at- an authority which I so highly respect, tained a decided pre-eminence above I should rather say, that until the New the Pagan religion and worship which Testament history has been shewn to had prevailed there for many ages, and be unworthy of credit, every hypowhich it finally overthrew. This con- thesis to explain the origin and proversion of the Pagans to Christianity gress of Christianity is unnecessary, must be considered as one of the most and consequently undeserving of attensignal revolutions which ever took tion. place upon earth, and is an event of Let it then be considered by what which every philosophical mind must wish to know the real and proper causes. The only history which ap- thing
of the early history of Christianity,
Let us suppose that we knew nopears to account for this singular phe- but merely understood that it commenced nomenon is that of the New Testa
at the time at which its origin is dated, ment; and this history consists of a that it gradually subverted the idolatry clear and distinct narrative of facts, of the Heathen world, and that wherever which, if admitted, will readily explain it came it carried with it a pure system this extraordinary revolution. Hence of morality, and inspired a confident assuarises a claim which this history lays rance of a life to come. Let the Christo our attention, and likewise a strong tian Scriptures be put into our hands presumption in its favour ; as it must with proper evidence of their authenticity. be allowed to stand in a very different Should we not think that we had found predicament from a narrative of facts the true cause of an extraordinary phe
nomenon ? Or should we think that the which will account for no existing volume ought to be rejected because it phenomenon, and of which no monu- professed to give the narrative of a divine nent, except the historical testimony, interposition ?
methods, and by what alone, the credit alleged, that the facts recorded in the of this history can be subverted. First, history under consideration are in by proving the testimony in favour of themselves so incredible, as to be inadthe facts to be defective and equivocal. missible upon testimony which in itself Secondly, by shewing the facts them- considered appears to be clear and selves to be incredible. Thirdly, by unequivocal. It will be urged, that demonstrating, that, if the facts had miracles are in their nature so very taken place, different consequences extraordinary, as to carry in themselves must have followed. Fourthly, by a refutation of any evidence by which proving that the existence and progress they may appear to be attended. In of Christianity are to be attributed to reply to this objection, it is to be recauses altogether independent of the marked, that a revelation is in itself a truth of the facts recorded in the his- deviation from the order of nature, or, tory under consideration.
in other words, a miracle, and that it In order to prove the testimony to must be confirmed by other miracles be false or deficient, it must be shewn in order to establish its truth. The that there is not the same reason to question, then, respecting the credibility believe the genuineness of the books of the facts recorded in the gospelof the New Testament as of other history, resolves itself into the previous books of equal antiquity, or that the question, Is it credible that God should facts which are recorded in them are communicate his will to mankind in of such a nature as to exclude certainty an extraordinary and supernatural of information, or that the historians manner? Now, let it be considered hal no proper opportunity of ascer on what grounds (I mean on the printaining their reality, or that, from cer- ciples of Theism) it is possible to affirm tain rules of decision admitted in other the incredibility of such an interposicases, there is reason to conclude that tion; and these must be the three that the veracity of these historians may follow: that such an interposition is justly be called in question. But if it contrary to experience ; to the Divine appear that the gospel-history will perfections as discoverable by the light abide the test of this inquiry, it inust of nature; or, to the conduct of the be concluded that no objection can be Divine government which acts not by urged against the testimony, in itself special interposition, but by general considered. And let it be remarked, laws. To say that a divine revelation that this testimony, which is now sup- is contrary to experience, unless geposed to have borne a fair and strict neral experience be intended, is eviexamination, is strongly corroborated dently to beg the question, and to by the original presumption in favour maintain that it contradicts the attriof the facts which has already been butes of the Deity, is to affirm much stated. And that there should be this more than it would be possible to prove. concurrence of presumption and testi- And though God has appointed general mony in favour of a mere imposture, laws for the government of his creamust be considered as very extraordi- tures, it by no means admits of demonnary and improbable. Thus allowing, stration that he will never interfere in what has never been disproved, that an extraordinary manner to effect the testimony, in itself considered, is purposes which could not be so well not objectionable, the general evidence accomplished by the operation of gein favour of Christianity may be stated neral appointments. Thus, instead of as follows : The New-Testament his- its being affirmed that miracles, or a tory possesses all the requisite marks divine revelation, are incredible, it of credibility. It contains the narra- ought rather to be said, that, judging tive of facts, the belief of which pre- from general experience and what we vailed and extended itself in defiance know of the Divine conduct, they are of prejudice and opposition, and finally attended with that kind of improbaproduced the most signal and im- bility which it requires clear and uneportant cousequences ; consequences quivocal testimony to counterbalance. which are experienced at the present To pronounce them incredible is simhour.
ply to affirm, what can never be proved, But in opposition to this historical that the Author of nature had from and presumptive evidence, it may be the first determined never to effect a
deviation from the general course of of morality to which no objection can nature. With respect, then, to the be made. And it may safely be oba improbability of miracles, it may be served, that these extraordinary facts observed, that it is an improbability of are best accounted for by admitting which we are incompetent judges, and the miracles of the Old and New Teswhich may, therefore, be surmounted tament, and that they are striking conby a certain force of testimony. And firmations of their truth. But before we find, in fact, that the highest de- I quit the subject of miracles, I ouşht gree of supposed improbability, arising to notice the objection of Mr. Hume, merely from a want of experience, is that no testimony can justify the belief perpetually overcome by such evidence of a miracle, since the falsehood of as is supposed to possess the proper human testimony can never be more recommendations to enforce belief. miraculous than the truth of the fact And it is further to be observed, that which it professes to establish. But an improbability arising from the want the fallacy of this objection will be of analogy, may be more or less cre- apparent if we consider that the falsedible according to the magnitude of hood of testimony in certain circumthe phenomena which are to be ex stances would be impossible, without plained by the admission of it. A a violation of the order of nature. miracle which, if believed, accounts for But such a violation of this order, a no existing phenomenon, and a mira- violation which could be referred to no cle, or set of miracles, which will ex- cause, and could answer no beneficial plain a great and important effect for end, would be far more inexplicable, which a sufficient cause is wanting, and therefore far more incredible than must be allowed to be very differently a set of miracles which are expressly circumstanced in point of credibility; attributed to God as their author, and and it might be added, that a less de- from which a great and important gree of positive testimony will suffice effect has followed. to confirm the latter than what would
E. COGAN. be necessary to establish the former.
[To be concluded in the next Number.] Let me now ask, whether what appears to be an authentic record of miracles
Leres, may not be admitted as containing the
December 5, 1820. a
biography of the great, the explanation ? As a further presump- received by every class of readers with tion in favour of miracles, it may be lively interest and avidity; and, if the observed, that there are only two re
value of any additional testimony to Jigions existing upon earth which pro- the worth of departed excellence may fess to be established on miracles that be estimated by the veneration which were public and notorious ; namely, that excellence has justly excited, the the Jewish and the Christian; and there following private one in favour of the appertain to both these religions cir- piety and resignation of the great and cumstances which are best explained good Dr. Franklin will, I presume, be upon the supposition that they are
not unacceptable to the perusers of really divine. The Jews, it is acknow.
valuable Miscellany: ledged, were inferior to other nations
J. JOHNSTON. in every species of polite literature and in general science. And yet, though
“ To Mr. Viny, Blackfriars' Road, surrounded by idolaters, they main
“ Philadelphia, May 5, 1790. tained, as a community, the Unity of
“ MY DEAR SIR, God, and entertained more exalted Though I am almost exhausted with views of the Divine perfections than writing letters, I will not let this opporeven the wisest philosophers of the tunity pass without one for my friends at
Blackfriars. most polished nations. The Christian
" As bad news flies swift, if it is religion is confessedly the most pure important, I suppose my letter will not and philosophical that ever appeared be the first information you will have of upon earth; containing principles most Dr. Franklin's death. Yes, we have lost highly beneficial to the general interests that valued, that venerable, kind friend, of mankind, and presenting a standard whose knowledge enlightened our minds,
and whose philanthropy warmed our tainly what the apostle meant by charity, hearts. But we have the consolation to never faileth' think, that if a life well spent in acts “ I never shall forget one day that I of universal benevolence to mankind, a passed with our friend last summer. I grateful acknowledgment of Divine fa- found him in bed in great agony, but vour, a patient submission under severe when that agony abated a little, I asked chastisement, and an humble trust in if I should read to him; he said, Yes ; Almighty mercy, can insure the happiness and the first book I met with was Johnof a future state, our present loss is his son's Lives of the Poets. I read the life gain. I was the faithful wituess of the of Watts, who was a favourite author closing scene, which he sustained with with Dr. F.; and, instead of lulling him that calm fortitude which characterized to sleep, it roused him to a display of him through life. No repining, no peevish the powers of his memory and his reason : expression ever escaped him, during a he repeated several of Watts's Lyric confinement of two years, in which, I Poems, and descanted upon their sublibelieve, if every moment of ease could be mity in a strain worthy of them and of added together, the sum would not their pious author. It is natural for us amount to two whole months. When to wish that an attention to some cerethe pain was not too violent to be amused, monies had accompanied that religion of he employed himself with his books, his the heart which I'am convinced Dr. F. pen, or in conversation with his friend; always possessed; but let us who feel and upon every occasion displayed the the benefit of them continue to practise clearness of his intellects and the cheer- them, without thinking lightly of that fulness of his temper. Even when the piety which could support
pain without intervals from pain were so short that a murmur, and meet death without terhis words were frequently interrupted, I ror. have known him hold a discourse in a “ I will not apologize for filling my sublime strain of piety. I say this to paper with this subject, I could not find you because I know it will give you plea one more interesting. The public transsure ; for what but piety, which includes actions of his life, and the honours paid charity, can we carry into a future state to his memory, you will hear by other of happiness ? Whether there be tongues, means. they shall fail, whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away;' but love to God and to his creatures, which is cer
“ MARY HEWSON."
“ Old Things" in Spain. THINGS go on most calamitously in Spain, Mr. Editor! My heart mitted by those “radical rascals”—those “sour, unsparing jacobins,” the Spanish Cortes. What “ beautiful specimens” of the fervent piety of their ancestors scattered to the wind! What bellas reliquias! What exquisite fragments of devotion! I have been gathering a few together out of the wreck. For Christian charity's sake help me to preserve them. Some of the episcopal gems, especially, are of the purest water---rather rubies than diamonds truly, But perfect in their way. However, I shall not waste my treasures on you till I ascertain that you duly appreciate them. Ad rem.
QU. REV. Scraps of a Pastoral Letter published in 1816, entitled, Remedio fumigatorio, igneo, fulmi A fumigating remedy, an igneous, denante estrémo (estrémo de ordenada tonating extreme (the extreme of wellcaridad) que el Obispo de Santander ordered charity) which the Bishop of movido por reales ordenes copiadas en Santander, in consequence of the royal el escrito procuraba á los que pueden orders herein referred to, directs to all hallarse en su obispado, (en confianza de the inhabitants of his diocese, (confiding la electrica Cristiana fraternidad difundida in the electrical Christian fraternity por todos los otros obispados del reino,) spread over all the other bishoprics of á los que hay en España enfermos, pestis the kingdom,) to those in Spain who may feros, moribundos, victimas de la inferual be diseased, infected with the plague, filósofía, voltcri-napoleovina.
moribund, victims of the infernal, volterinapoleonic philosophy.
Does not that make a pretty introitus, Mr. Editor? Now for a specimen of the gentle spirit with which our Christian overseer addresses the wandering sheep of his flock :
Hasta quando negros mas que oscuros, Ye who are rather black than obscure, Catilinas Españoles, hasta quando viles, ye Spanish Catalines,-ye vile, ye infainfames, soeces, escarabajos del infierno, mous, ye dirty ones, ye beetles of hell, ye diablos mas que endiablados, concives devils rather than devilized, engendered
nuestros hasta quando in our native soil-how long, how long abusareis de nuestro sufrimento? will ye abuse our forbearance ?
This is a “forbearance" truly edifying, Mr. Editor. Rogamos á los señores maestros de And we require all schoolmasters of primeras y segundas letras ó á los de the first and second classes, and those leer, escribir y latinidad, asimismo á los who teach reading, writing and Latin, padres de familia si la tienen menuda and all fathers of young families, whether niños y niñas que quando no lean de boys or girls, that if they do not read to verbo ad verbum ó del principio al fin their scholars and to their household this esta nuestra pastoral ante sus discipulos our pastoral epistle de verbo ad verbum, y familiares, por lo menos los instruyan or from the beginning to the end, that sucintamente en su sustantia y les ex at least they instruct them succinctly in horten á que andando por los caminos its contents and substance; and exhort aunque sean despoblados y estando en them, that when they walk out, even in sus trabajos entonen como Dios les diere unpeopled roads, and while engaged in á entender siquiera los remates de las their daily labours, that they accustom clausulas maldicientes que aqui irán escri- themselves to utter what God shall give tas y sino estas no sé si coplas ó prosas, them to understand of the following damporque serian lo que salga y son estas natory verses, at all events the concluding
clauses- hardly know whether to call them couplets or prose; but they are
three, as here written-p. 47 : 14. A todo aquel que persiga
This shall be each creature's meed
Who attacks our holy creed,
Be he curs'd and curs'd again,
Curs'd with sorrow, curs'd with pain,
Till converted let God's curse
Still pursue him, worse and worse,
24. Los que muerto ó tal quieran
A nuestro rey buen Señor,
Those who ever dare to pray
Purging flames their breasts to fill,
Curses, curses, curses still. Amen.
3". Y si alguno cacarea
Conviene ser nuestra España
And should any dare maintain
This is enough for once, according to the advice of the Castellian proverb : Os dexaré con iniel en los labios.