The Deist's Reply to the Alleged Supernatural Evidences of Christianity (1836).

 

THE

 

DEIST'S REPLY

 

TO THE

 

ALLEGED SUPERNATURAL EVIDENCES

 

OF

 

CHRISTIANITY.

 

BY LYSANDER SPOONER

 

PRESENTED TO THE CLERGY GENERALLY IN BOSTON.

 

BOSTON:

 

1836


CHAPTER 1.

The Early Spread of Christianity.

There are some believers, who place little confidence in the evidence of the miracles said to have been performed by Jesus, who yet say that the establishment of such a religion as his, by such means as were employed after his death, is of itself a convincing miracle. They say it is incredible that the preachers of a religious system, the most prominent doctrine of which was the Son of God, its founder, was slain, should have met with such success, unless God had miraculously aided them. They, in short, say substantially, that the very idea of the Son of God and the Saviour of the world being put to death ignominiously and like the criminal, is on the face of it so absurd, and so repugant to all men's notions of what is probable, and of what would consist with the proper character for such a being to assume, that unless some supernatural influence had been exerted to aid in gaining for it belief, men never would have believed it.

Now, the absurdity and improbability of this doctrine, in the abstract, being acknowledged let the question be put, whether it be any less absurd or improbable on account of its having been believed ? If not, then here is an alleged miracle to be inquired into, of a different kind from those, on the evidence of which the Bible professes mainly to rest its claims to credit a sort of incidental miracle, in fact, apparently not at all intended to furnish evidence of the truth of the Bible.

It is a little remarkable that any, professing to believe the Bible, should abandon, as insufficient, the evidence which its authors represent to have been expressly designed to convince men of its truth , and should thus seize upon an after an after circumstance of so doubtful a character as this. Yet one, who attempts to meet believers on their own grounds, must of necessity answer many arguments no more rational than this, or suffer them to believe on; for very slight and flimsy evidence is sufficient to satisfy the minds of such as are both determined to believe, and afraid to disbelieve.

But if it shall appear that this system, absurd and improbable as its main doctrine is, might have been propagated without its having been, or being aided by, any miraculous power, then the argument, against the truth of the doctrine, to be drawn from its absurdity and improbability, will be entitled to what would have been its just weight, independent of the system's having been believed at all. The only ground, that believers of the present day could then take, on this point, would be this, viz, that their astonishment, that men should ever have been so credulous as to believe so improbable and absurd a system, is so great, that they themselves will now believe it too.

Let us then inquire into the causes of the success of the Apostles, and see whether they were not natural ones.

One of the most efficient of these causes, was the manner in which they preached. That alone was calculated to make very strong impressions upon the minds of such as were too ignorant or simple, (and such the first converts will hereafter appear generally to have been,) to judge rationally the truth of the statements they heard, and the soundeness of the religious doctrines, that were taught. The manner of all the Apostles must have exhibited a great deal of sincerity and zeal, (for they were undoubtedly honest in their faith,) and nothing makes so favorable an impression upon the minds of men in general, in favor of those, who advocate new doctrines; nothing incline them so much to listen willingly to all they have to say, as an appearance, on their part, of perfect sincerity and simplicity.

Another trait in the manner of some of them, particularly of Paul, who appears to have been by far the most efficient apostle, was boldness. The exhibition of this quality was always powerfully affects the imaginations of the weak and ignorant, of whom the early converts were evidently composed.

The question, is often asked, how is the boldness and zeal of the Apostles to be accounted for, when they knew they had no wordly honors to expect, but, on the contrary, persecution, and the contempt of a large portion of the community, where ever they should go ? To answer this question, it is necessary to refer to what was the condition of these men, (with the exception of Paul) when they first became the disciples of Jesus. They were obscure, illiterate, simple and superstitious men- men of no importance as citizens either in their own eyes or the eyes of others. They had never looked to the wordly honors or promotions; but evidently had expected from their youth up, to pass their days in the obscurests paths and humblest walks of life. The contempt of those above them had no terrors for such men as [*2] these- the had never aspired to be their equal, and they were willing, because, in whatever situation they might be, they had always expected, to be despised, as a matter of course, on account of their degraded conditions of mind and fortune. Still, at the same time, to be at the head of little sects and bands of those, who had once been their equals, and to be looked up by them as guides, was a distinction adapted to excite most powerfully the ambition of these men, however much they be despised by all but their followers. They, by becoming and being acknowleged as, the teachers of others, acquired an importance, of which a few years before they had never dreamed. They owed whatever of wordly consequence they possessed entirely to the fact of their being esteemed leader by their proselytes. Simple, artless, and sincere as these men were, such circumstances were calculated to attach them strongly to the cause in which they were engaged, although they might not be aware of being so influenced.

They also attached the greatest importance to a belief in the doctrines, that they preached. They esteemed themselves the agents of God, commissioned to save mens souls. They looked upon their employment as of the most momentous consequence; and their imaginations, unbalanced by reason and reflection, - were intensely excited by such views of their duty.

But there was another cause, perhaps more powerful than all these together. These simple men had been convinced that Jesus was no less a personage than the Son of God. They had been honored, as they thought, by being made his bosom friends, while he was on the earth, and his immediate and most conspicuous agents. After his death, for accomplishing a design, which to their minds, was the most magnificent that could be conceived. He had, by telling them beforehand of the dangers and difficulty, and obloquy they were to encounter from those whom they had been taught to consider the enemies of God, and by promises that he would always be with them on earth and that he would extravagantly reward them in heaven, if they should persevere and be faithful, brought them up to a pitch of fanaticism calculated to make them look on the opposition of men as unimportant nothings "blessed are ye, said he, when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in Heaven- for so persecuted they the prophets, which were before you." Can any considerations be imagined to render these simple fanatics alike indifferent to everything wordly, whether of hardship or comfort, of prosperity, or adversity, of honor or shame ? Yes. Jesus found pictures, even more inflamatory than these, to operate upon their untutored imaginations. He said to them "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 you may eat and drink at my table, in my kingdom, and sit on thrones, starting the twelve tribes of Israel," (Luke 22-28 to 30). .

It is useless to comment upon the natural effect of such language as this, upon such men as those to whom it was addressed, and who implicitly believed in the reality that was promised to them. Perhaps no other picture can be imagines, that would have so powerfully fired the imagination of these credulous men, as this, offered to them, as it was, by one whom they believed to be the SON of GOD! It all looked probable to them, notwithstanding its extraveggance. They had on earth sat with him at table- why should they not also in Heaven? They knew too that there were twelve tribes of Israel, and their own number was also twelve, apparently selected with reference to the number of tribes to be ruled over. The whole prospect must have been, to them, a gorgeous reality. The effect was such as might have been expected. These men had their minds engrossed by the grandeur of their designs, and the grandeur of their promised reward. They had nothing to attach them to this world, or to make them regard the esteem of men. One great purpose forever stimulated and urged them on, and hurried them from place to place, wherever a convert could be made. It made them fearless of death, fearless of men, fearless, in fact, of all worldly consequences. It gave to them vastly more boldness, seal and perseverance, than could have been easily inspired by other means in men naturally so timid and spiritless.

Perhaps it will be said that the writings of the New Testaments display talents inconsistent with the idea that their authors were intellectually so weak as I have presented them. To this objection I answer, that from the beginning to the end of the New Testament there is displayed little wit or wisdom for the Christians to be proud of. Besides, it should be recollected that these writings were not executed until the authors had generally, for several years, been engaged in the employment of preachers- an employment adapted to cal into exercise, and thus to increase, the little powers they originally possessed. And yet the benefit of this long course of education has only enabled them, with a few exceptions, to furnish narratives and epistles, which, with all the advantage which they may be supposed to have derived from translations of such learned men as would be likely to improve upon the styles and expressions of the original, come very near being the most simple, and the most destitute of thought, of any to be found in the english language.

If men were but to read the New Testament with the same tone and emphasis, with which [*3] they do other books, and were to keep out of mind the idea of its being sacred, they would be disgusted with the credulity, and the want of intellect, reason and judgment, that is apparent in it. The imaginations of believers have dressed up and exaggerated the excellence of the style and matter of the New Testament generally, in the same manner in which they have the moral instructions of Jesus. They have done this in the same manner, in which we may suppose the imaginations of the people of all nations, that have books esteemed sacred, gloss over and exaggerate the excellence of their contents.

The larger portion of the "acts of the apostles" separate from the insipidity of the narrative, contain the most extraordinary exhibition of lack of judgment and intellectual resource, that can easily be found on record.

To support these assertions, let me ask those, who have been accustomed to look at the writings of the New Testament as inspired, to look at them for once as uninspired (which is the only proper way of regarding them until their inspiration be clearly proved;) to reads them with no more reverence than they would read any other book; to read them as being what they really purport to be, viz, nothing but narratives, and letters of exhortation and instruction; let them, in short, for once read the books critically, discarding all idea of their being sacred, and I have little doubt their opinions will the concur with those here expressed.

Paul was in some respects distinguishable from the other apostles. he had some talents, although a muddy intellect, and little judgment. He was violent, precipitate, and unreflecting, he was bigoted, superstitious, and dogmatical in his first faith, and little less so in his last. He was self-confident, boastful and dictatorial to a disgusting degree. His forte was in teaching doctrines, the utility or reason of which, in as much as nobody else has understood, he probably did not understand himself. He was also crafty and deceitful without appearing to reflect upon the character of such conduct; and this fact shows, either that he was not a rigid moralist in principle, or that he had very obtuse moral perceptions. His readiness to practice deception is exhibited in the following instances. He circumcised Timotheus to cheat the Jews, as appears by Acts 16-3. "Him would Paul would have to go forth with him, and took and circumcised him, because of the Jews which were in those quarters, for they knew all that his father was a greek." When imprisoned at Phillipe, he falsified, and said he was a Roman, (Acts 16-37, 38) to alarm and impose upon those who had imprisoned him, supposing him to be, as he really was, a Jew. (Acts 16-20 and 21- Acts 22-3). He repeated the same falsehood afterwards, and declared that he was a Roman "free born," (Acts 22-27, 28). This lie appears to have been told because some expedient of the kind seemed necessary to extricate himself from the trouble he had gotten himself into. . Moreover he was ambitious, and appears to have been disposed in some cases to turn his labor to a better wordly account than the other apostles. . He was also revengeful, as appears by his second epistle to Timothy 4-14. "Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil, the lord reward him according to his works." A wish, in which superstition and a vulgar spirit of revenge are more ludicrously combined, was perhaps never recorded or even expressed.

That his pretence before alluded to, of having been called up into Heaven, was all a fabrication (instead of an account of a dream, which I suppose Christians will think it to have been, is rendered probable by the nature of the story by the fact that he would not relate what he heard there, by his own bad character for veracity, by the necessity he was in of telling a marvelous story of some kind, and the circumstance that he thought it best to preface it (2d. Cor. 11-31) with the declaration that "the God and father of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed forever more, knew that he was not lying."

Let us now look at the character of the people who became converts. In the first place, the people, in general, among whom the apostles preached, are proved to have been a simple, spiritless race of beings, from the facts that they appeared to have had no laws, but to have been governed by the will of a single deputy of the roman power, who ruled over [*4] them merely for the purpose of sponging from them as large a share, as he could, of their property, for the purpose of the grandeur of the Roman nation. It is probable, too that few could read, since but in the most enlightened parts of the world could at that time read. Printing not then known, the books that existed must have been in manuscript, and of course must have been few and but little circulated. The people generally having no concern in the management of the affairs of government, and considering themselves as they really were, the despised subjects or slaves of the Romans, they had no national or individual spirit to keep them from sinking into the most contemptible intellectual degradation. It is probable that few people are now to be found on the earth more destitute of every thing like character, than were the great portion of those, among whom the apostles preached. We see, by the accounts in the Acts of the Apostles, that they were addicted to the most petty and contemptible vices, and the most ludicrous and disgusting superstitions- believing in ghosts, and devils, and visions, and dreams, and evil spirits, and sorceries, in prophetesses ! (Acts 21-9) in the power of speaking with tongues, in miracles, in witchcraft, and apparently in all the other absurdities that superstition ever gave rise to. They were always agog for something new and marvelous in religious matters- indeed they appeared to care for little else. These credulous beings were continually imposed by men, "boasting themselves to be somebody," as for example, one Judas and one Theudas, who got sects after them, (Acts 5-36 and 37). Their readiness to believe in everything, that appeared to them to be miraculous, cannot be more plainly or perhaps more ludicrously shown, than it is in Acts 5-15 and 16 where it appears that they brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds so that " at least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them." It appears also by Acts 9-12, that sick persons were cured, and evil spirits cast out by the efficacy of the handkerchiefs and aprons that had been about the person of Paul! What sort of "evil spirits" were probably cast out by the sight of Paul's handkerchiefs ? Or how bad was the "sickness" that could be cured by those means ? Can anyone doubt, that if the handkerchiefs of another person had been used, and had been called Paul's, so as to deceive the diseased person the same miracles would have been wrought ? Or can a man of common sense want any further proof that this affair of being possessed of devils, of which there are so many stories in the New Testament, and the supposed miraculous cures of diseases, were all shams- the mere work of imaginations of those who were of the number of the veriest simpletons that ever bore the name of men.

There is another account, equally ridiculous, beginning in the 13th verse of Acts 19th, which shews what a stupid, superstitious and senseless race of beings some of those were among which Paul preached. It seems that some vagrant Jews attempted to cast out these evil spirits by uttering, over those that were supposed to be possessed of them, these magical words, "we adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth." It appears that they had adopted this method with one, and that "the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are ye?" and then, instead of coming out of the man, it caused him (as the lookers-on supposed) to fly pell-mell at these impostors, and bruise, and beat, and strip them, and drive them out of the house. Now any Yankee boy, a dozen years old, would see through such an affair at once; and but when this came to be noised abroad, people looked upon it as an awful judgment from God, and upon those who had attempted, for their own benefit, or without proper authority, to use the name of Jesus as a word of magic to exorcise devils. And the writer adds that this affair converted many, that "fear fell on them all," "that the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified," and he closes the account by saying, " so mightily grew the word of God and prevailed!"

It would be using the name of God profanely to introduce it into so contemptible a display of the credulity and superstition of those half-witted creatures, and of the manner in which they were imposed on by their own imaginations, were it not that it is necessary to do so, in order to expose the incredibly ridiculous absurdities, that men of the present day, without reflection, and as a matter of course, take for sacred and important truth.

In this case we have an exhibition of the amount of argument and evidence, that was necessary in the Apostles time to make a convert to Christianity. And unless the Clergy can deny this transaction, I should think it might be well for them to say no more about the difficulties of propagating the Christian religion.

The fact also, that a large portion of the early Christians believed the books now composing the "Apocryphal New Testament," tells a tale that cannot be gainsayed for a moment. It confirms all I have said, and more than I have said, of the simplicity, credulity and superstition of those, who first embraced Christianity. It is no answer to these facts to say that there were some enlightened men in the countries where Christianity first spread. The mass were otherwise. And especially those, who first became converts, were such as I have described. And any man of common mind, who will read the "Apocryphal New Testament," must say that men, who would swallow such stories, could easily be brought to believe any thing whatever, that fanatics or imposters could ever wish to make them believe.

With such people, the more extravagant and marvelous a doctrine or narrative was, the better. In fact it was absolutely necessary that it should be so to a great degree, else they would not have listened to it for a moment. Imagine then such it reckless, headstrong, violent man as Paul, traveling from place to place, sometimes with his head shaved, (Acts 18- [*5] 18;) preaching even in the streets of cities, wherever he could get a crowd of populace around him, telling men that the son of God had been on earth in the form of a man, and had been cruelly slain; but that he had returned to life again; that he himself had been supernaturally converted, and had been appointed to preach for Jesus, to cure the sick ad cast out the devils; telling them also that he was ready to cast out all the devils and heal all the sick they would bring to him; and is it strange or unnatural, anything more than might have been expected, any thing more than a matter of course, that multitudes should have been, some of them enraged, and others astonished, attracted and deluded, by such strange innovation, and such an unaccountable attempt to upturn their accustomed religious observances, by the introduction of such novel and unheard-of notions ? Such was the effect. If any one wish to form an idea of the excitement, that Paul sometimes caused, let him read the 19th chapter of the Acts, and see what a hurly-burly and uproar was occasioned at Ephesus by his having preached there, and got a sect after him.

The novel character of the doctrines taught by the Apostles, and the marvelous nature of their stories about Jesus, constituted the bait, by which the people were caught at every step. And the success of this bait was aided by that credulousness, which brought the imaginations of those who were sick, or who only imagined themselves sick, (for such an abundance of sick people has seldom been heard of in any other case,) and the imagination of those, who supposed themselves- possessed of devils, to assist in working what they called miracles.

When we consider that there twelve of these preachers, all in engaged in preaching the same doctrines in various places, and that these doctrines were different from all others then believed, it is natural, if each preacher made the number of converts, which he would be likely to, that in a few years this sect must have become numerous, and from being widely scattered over the country, must have attracted the notice and curiosity of all.

Such then was the manner in which this sect was planted-other means afterwards contributed to cultivate and rear it. The soil we have seen was adapted to the nature of the plant- it was a rich compost of ignorance, superstition and credulity. During the lives of the twelve, they, by their personal labors, accomplished much, and it appears that they authorized many of the new converts to become their fellow laborers. In process of time the gospels were written , and these writing gave Christians a decided advantage over those whom they were laboring to supplant. They thus became supplied with something, to which they could refer as authority for what they preached. They could the produce written evidence, and such evidence too as would be likely to be satisfactory to a very large number of credulous persons of that day. Since few books were then written at all, and since the greater portion of the people had probably no acquaintance with such as were written, they (if they were like those of the present day who are equally unlearned) would not presume to doubt or scrutinize the truth of any thing, which should appear in the form of a book. Not having any religious books of their own, the fact that the religious doctrines of the Christians, and that the accounts of marvelous circumstances under which those doctrines were communicated, should be written, was doubtless of itself, to them, a very wonderful affair, and was remarkably calculated to impress them with the idea that whatever the Apostles had told them must be true.

Another circumstance, which most powerfully contributed to the spread of Christianity, was that the importance, which the Christians attached to a belief in their faith, was so great as always to keep awake among them a fanatical spirit of proselytism- a circumstance, which before their time had probably never been known to exist, on an extended scale, in favor of any other system.

The natural effect of those various causes would be to build up a great and numerous sect of Christians in a few years. At length they began to be persecuted, and if persecution had the effect then, that it invariably does now, it must have powerfully aided the progress of their cause.

Another circumstances which prevents the spread of Christianity, in the early periods of its existence, from being remarkable, is, that it had nothing like a regular system to contend with, in those places where it spread. The few heathenish notions that men had about "the Gods," and about religion, had no foundation in any written authorities, but only it, the vague and unaccountable traditionary superstitious of the people of those times. The Jews had a written system of theology, and Christianity could make a few converts among the, although it pretends to have been more especially designed for them. In modern times it has made no considerable progress among any people, who have a written system of their own to appeal to- whereas if it had the least particle of miraculous power, it certainly would triumph over all other systems, whether they were written ones or not.

If any further evidence be wanted that the spread of Christianity was not supernatural, look at the spread of Mormonism, and see how, even at this day, and in this country, a miserable vagabond of a "Joe Smith," in a short space of time, can put a large community in an uproar, and raise up a numerous sect of followers, full of faith and fanaticism, eager to believe any thing marvelous in relation to the book of Mormon, and the Mormon prophet, and ready to make any effort and any sacrifice for the propagation of the momentous truths of their revelation. Look also at the success of Edward Irving's attempts to make persons "speak with tongues" &c. in England, and at the spread of St.Simonianism in France. Look even at the camp-meet- [*6] ings and revivals here in New England, and observe to how a great degree the timid and superstitious will surrender their understandings to the guidance of any ranting person, who has imprudence, hypocrisy, and coolness enough to put on a solemn cadaverous face, and talk judiciously about hell, the devil, and other kindred matters. These things illustrate the credulity of mankind in matters of this sort, and the case with which the system might succeed in a superstitious and ignorant age, especially if the propagators had a few marvelous stories to relate and could perform works that could pass for miracles; and after it had succeeded for a time, it would become so incorporated into the institutions and customs of the people that it would thereafterwards be believed as a matter of course, and without inquiry; in the same manner, for example, as Christianity is now by the great mass of those who believe it at all.

The fact that some of the Apostles suffered martyrdom rather than renounce their faith,has been overlooked upon as evidence that they were engaged in the cause of truth. But martyrdom is evidence only of man's honesty- it is no evidence that he is not mistaken. Men have suffered martyrdom for all sorts of opinions in politics and in religion; yet they could not therefore have all been in the right; although they could give no stronger evidence that they believed themselves to be right.

The Apostles undoubtedly supposed they had seen Jesus perform miracles, and that, in circulating their accounts of him they were telling the truth. They undoubtedly believed that they themselves could perform miracles of a certain kind, such as casting out devils and healing the sick; although in reality, as I think has been shewn, the imagination must have, in many instances, and probably in all, created the malady, and as really, in all cases effected the cure, if there were any cure. But the Apostles, being simple men, understood nothing of the power of the imagination; and therefore honestly believed that all that appeared was real. They themselves were as superstitious as those to whom they preached. This fact is as much proved by circumstance as these, viz. Paul had his head shaved because he had a vow, (Acts 18-18). Paul resigned himself for bidden y the Holy Ghost to preach in particular places, (Acts 16-6&7). The apostles commanded converts to abstain from things strangled, as if there were a wickedness in eating such (Acts 15-28&29). When a young man had fallen from a window he was taken up apparently lifeless, ( as persons frequently after a fall); but on the reviving it was esteemed a miracle, as well as by Paul himself, it would seem as by the bystanders (Acts 20-9). Peter imagined himself delivered from prison by an angel, (Acts 12-5 to 11); although the conduct of the supposed was precisely such as we may reasonably suppose would have been that of a man who should have attempted to liberate him. For example, a light shone in the room, (as would have been the case if a man had gone in, for he would have undoubtedly carried a light in with him); the supposed angel touched or struck him on the side, (to wake him up evidently just hea man would have done); "raise him up," and said to him, "arise up quickly, gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals, cast thy garments about these, and follow me," (precisely as man would have directed him). It is evident the guard must have been asleep, whether the being who liberated Peter, were an angel or a man; for Peter was not detected in going in or out, although he would as likely have been, being in the company of an angel, who should walk before, as this one is said to have done, as in the company of a man. Peter supposed that the gate open of its own accord; but he was liable to be mistaken as to this fact, because a man very likely would very likely like to leave it open as he went in; or if he did not leave it open, it readily and without any such effort as a person walking behind him would be likely to observe. After they had thus left the prison, and "had passed on through one street," the supposed angel "departed from him"- probably he took one street, as a man would have done, and Peter too another.

Now although this supposed angel conducted precisely as a man would have done, and although Peter said, at the time, that the whole transaction appeared to him like a dream, yet afterwards he said he knew certainly "that the Lord had sent his ANGEL to deliver him." This fact shews the superstition of the man, and his readiness to attribute, to the supernatural interference of the deity, occurrences that could be accounted for in a natural manner.

A paragraph, beginning in the 23d and ending at the 28th verse of the acts 28th, shews by how simple an affair Paul was led to imagine that the Lord had given up to the destruction of the Jews, whom theretofore Jesus had been supposed to be sent more especially to save; and that it was his (Paul's) duty to abandon them and preach to the Genthes.

If any wish for the further evidence of the weakness and superstition of the Apostles, or their converts, let him read the acts throughout, and if he be an unprejudiced man, he will see evidence enough of these facts at every step.

I must now suppose that the manner in which Christianity was propagated, has been pointed out so as to make it apparent that there was nothing miraculous in it. But if any will still insist that Christianity is a revelation from God, made to man to save their souls, let him, if he can, account for the fact that God did not cause it to be spread over the whole world at once in a year, or a day. It was as important, if this system be true, that it should be spread, as that it should be revealed, and God could have miraculously spread it, as easily as he could have miraculously revealed it. There is no sense in saying that he has committed to men the business of spreading this religion; for it is manifestly absurd to suppose that he


CHAPTER II.

The nature and Character of Jesus.

Before proceeding to the examination of the alleged miracles of Jesus, it is desirable that we form an established opinion in relation to his personal nature and character; for if we suppose him a mere man, we shall be the more ready to suspect that his alleged miracles were not real: on the other hand, if we give him a super-human nature, we shall be more inclined to believe the contrary. What evidence then is there, previous to his beginning to work miracles, that tends to shew that he was possessed of any other than a human nature? [*8]

We are told, in the first place, that he had a miraculous origin; that God (or the Holy Ghost) was his father, (Matt i.20-Luke i. 35), and Luke (i. 35) gives this fact as the reason why he was to be called the Son of God. But let us see whether this fact were so.

It is clear, on the one side, that if he had such an origin, no single human being could have had personal or absolute knowledge of the fact except his mother. Now, if we had the direct declaration of the mother that such was the truth, it would be idiocy to pretend that a fact, admitted to be contrary to the order of nature, and such as the whole world never witnessed before or since, ought to be taken as true, on the bare assertion of a single person, and of a person too, who, on the natural supposition in relation to her case, must have been under one of the strongest of all possible earthly temptations to deceive.

But we have not even her testimony at this point. We have only the simple declarations, made by two men (Mathew and Luke) more than forty years afterwards- men, who could not have personally known the truth of what they stated; who unquestionably never heard a syllable of the matter until thirty or forty years from the time when it was said to have occurred; who give us no account, either of the manner in which, or of the persons from whom, they obtained their information; and who differ widely in their account of the circumstances attending to their transaction- Luke relating many marvelous preliminaries of which Mathew makes no mention, although they are such as he too would likely to have related, if he had ever heard of them. Now he must have heard of them, if he had obtained his information of the principal fact from Mary, who was the only person that could have absolutely known the fact, if it were true.

It is evident, therefore, that each of these men took up some of the unattested stories, floating in that superstitious, credulous, ignorant, an deluded community, forty years after the supposed transaction.

After Jesus had begun to preach, many believed him to be a super-human personage, and it is easy to see that that circumstances alone would give rise, among those simple men, to many conjectures about his origin; and every one of his followers would be desirous to believe that it would be supernatural, and would, for the sake of thus believing, catch at the slightest suggestion, conjecture or circumstance, as sufficient evidence that it was so. Stories, thus originating, would at once circulate and gain currency among such a class of men as his followers were; and the marvelous character of the stories, instead of being an objection to their credibility, would only make them the more credible to the minds of those who were ready and eager to believe anything supernatural, in relation to one, whom they considered the most marvelous personage that had ever appeared anywhere on earth.

But there is no ground for any pretence that he had a miraculous origin, unless he derived it in the particular manner related in the Bible; and n order to believe that he derived it in that manner, it is unnecessary to believe- what? Why, that Deity became physically a parent! (Luke I, 35). The verse is here simply referred to without being quoted; for it is fit only to be recorded with some of the fabulous accounts of the Jupiter of the ancients. .

As to the miraculous occurrences at his birth, such as the appearances of angels in the air, &c. there is no more reason to believe that they actually took place, than there is to believe that those did, which are related to have happened at the birth of Mahonet- nor even so much (if there can be the slightest reason in the world for believing either); for those people among Christianity first spread, were probably even more simple and superstitious than those among whom Mahometanism first spread, and consequently such marvelous accounts, if equally untrue, would be more likely to gain currency among them than the latter.

But if the Bible itself contains more direct proof that the accounts about his origin, and about the supernatural appearances at the time of his birth, are both untrue.

If either of these circumstances had been true, his own parents must have preserved the remembrance of it, and would forever after, have looked on him as an extraordinary being. But the story, which is told of his conduct at Jerusalem when twelve years old, would, if true, entirely prove that, up to that time, they had not so viewed him. This story (Luke ii,48 to50) represents his parents as being "amazed" at seeing him in the temple; and when he asked them, "wist ye not that I must about my father's business?" "they understood not the sayings which he spake to them." Now, if the accounts in relation to his birth were true, thy must have forever after viewed him as Emmanuel, n must, of necessity, have understood what he meant by being about his father's business. So that either Luke's story of his origin and birth, or the one of his conduct at Jerusalem, must necessarily have been false, and if either of them to be false, the Bible is not a revelation from God. There is no room for reasonable doubt, that one story is as false as the other, and that these ignorant and simple biographers, who have related so many things, (of which these are a part,) that they could not have known to be true, even if they were true, picked them up thirty, forty, or fifty years after they relate them to have happened, from among the thousand unfounded ones, that would naturally be in circulation about him. . [*9]

Again. If even the story of his conduct at Jerusalem alone had been true, he must from that time have been viewed with astonishment by his family, an regarded by them, as an uncommon being. If they had been (as they probably were,) as superstitious as the ignorant part of their countrymen generally, this single incident of his conduct at Jerusalem would have made him, in their eyes, an inspired man. Yet there is not, that I am aware of, the slightest evidence that, after this time, until he began to preach, they did so look upon him. On the contrary, there is the most direct proof that his brothers did not- for when he pretended to be able to work miracles, they tainted him with his pretensions, (John 7-3, 4 and 5) by telling him, if he could do such things, to show himself to the world, and also (evidently out of contempt towards him for the course he had taken) that no man, who sought to make himself publicly known, performed his miracles in secret. This disrespect and contempt they never would have exhibited towards him, if they had ever been informed by their parents, (as they undoubtedly would have been, if the circumstances had actually happened, and that too for the very purpose of procuring him respect from them, ) either of his having had a miraculous origin, of any remarkable circumstance attending his birth, or that he had ever exhibited to them any of that precocity, which he is related to have displayed at Jerusalem.

Furthermore, if God were ever to violate the order of nature, he would not be likely to do it unnecessarily- and an occurrence, such as that in which Jesus is said to have ha his origin, must have been useless, on the supposition that men would act rationally in judging of its reality from the testimony of the only one, who could have had absolute knowledge of the fact.

Finally, Jesus was human in all his appearance, form his youth up; he is supposed to have labored like a man; he lived like a man, he looked like a man, ; his own brothers esteemed him as nothing but a man; he was born of a woman; and unless God were his father, he was a man, and nothing but a man.

But Christians say there is still other evidence- separate from the miraculous - which tends to sustain the divinity of Jesus. We are told by them that the moral grandeur and importance of the object, at which he is said to have aimed in his public career, is of this kind. Now, s it is possible that a mistake exists as to the nature of this object, some inquiry in relation to it is proper.

There has always been disagreement between the Jews and Christians, as to the real design of Jesus in attempting to gain followers in the manner he did. The Jews always contended- and they surely had the proper means of knowing- that he was only one of many, who started up nearly at the same time, and claimed to be entitled to reign over the Jewish nation as temporal, or perhaps rather as semi-temporal, semi-spiritual kings- as such kings, in short, as the one, whom the Jews, who depended specially upon the almighty to send them rulers, expected would, about that time, be sent to them.

It had been predicted, by those, whom the Jews considered prophets, that an extraordinary king, to be called the Messiah, would be sent to that nation.

What the particular terms of all the predictions were, need not be here set forth, since it is admitted by Christians that they were such , as the universal opinion, gathered from them by the Jews, to whom they were addressed, was, that this messiah was to be at least a temporal, though perhaps also a religious ruler.

It is admitted by Christian writers that , at and about the time of Jesus, a large number of persons appeared in Judea, who claimed to be the Messiah that had been predicted as about to come, and who went about attempting to gain adherents by pretending to work miracles, &c. .

It is further admitted by all Christians, that the Jewish nation en masse looked upon Jesus as having the same object in view as these other pretended Messiahs; and it also admitted by many Christians, that up to the very time when Jesus was taken and crucified, even his own confidential and immediate adherents, who, if Jesus had been honest towards them, must have known his real purposes, so far looked upon him in the same light as did the Jews, and in the same also as it is supposed to the followers of the other pretended Messiahs looked upon them, as to believe that he was aiming at the acquisition of the temporal government of the Jews. And yet Christian now say that it is reasonable to believe that Jesus, although he claimed to be the Messiah, aimed at an object widely different from what was universally expected of that Messiah, and at an object widely different from what, during the whole of his career, his own adherents supposed him to be pursuing. [*10]

Now it is clear that these admissions of Christians, as to what were, up to the time of his crucifixion, the ostensible designs of Jesus, and their pretensions as to his real designs during the same period, can be reconciled only by supposing, that, for so long a time, at least, he knowingly cheated and deceived the best, truest, and most intimate friends. It is preposterous to say- as Christians are obliged to do, in order to extricate their case from this dilemma- that these disciples were such dunces, (although that they were simple men I agree) that, for a year and a half or more, (the time he is supposed to have been with them), Jesus found it impossible to make them understand the difference between a being, who came to establish an universal religion, and one who came merely to govern, as a King, the little territory of Judea; because men so foolish as that supposition would make them, could ever have been educated so as even to be what some of these disciples afterwards became; and because also men could hardly be so simple as to be unable to distinguish between things so widely different.

It may be true, and probably is, as John says, (18-36,) that, after his followers had deserted him, and he found himself in the power of his enemies , he Pilate told that "his kingdom was not of this world,' but he appears to have been himself brought to that conviction just at that time, and solely by the fact that his former supporters had abandoned his cause, for he immediately add, "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."

But whatever may have been his opinion of himself, or whatever may have been his own ideas of the of the destiny for which he supposed God had designed him, after he was apprehended, the evidence is abundant as to what had previously been his purpose.

One important part of this evidence, that Daniel- the only one, I believe, of the supposed prophets, who mentions a Messiah by that name- had evidently described him (Chap. 9- 25, 26,) as one, who was to be the temporal king of the Jews, and Jesus, imagining himself to be this Messiah, would naturally try to fulfill the prediction by making himself answer the description as well as he could. And we accordingly find that he not only continually represented himself as the Messiah, but that there is also an evident attempt, on the part of his biographers to make it appear that he had fulfilled the predictions, which had been made concerning the Messiah.

Another piece of evidence, to the same point, is found in John, (6-15,) where it is related that the people, who followed him, wished then "to take him by force , and make him king;" a thing, that it would naturally seem, they never would have thought of, had he not intimated to them that he was, at some time, to become their king.

Another fact, which shows that he expected to have become the king of Jews, is, that he once rode from Bethany to Jerusalem in a very in a very triumphal and kingly manner, attended by a great body of men, who were shouting in a manner clearly indicative of their belief that he was a descendant of David, and was about to take possession of the throne which David had occupied. (Mat. 21-1 to 11. Mark 11. Luke 19-28 to 44. John 12-12 to 15.) Now if he did not intend to become their king at this time, as they expected, he was fraudulently sanctioning the mistake, under which he must have known they were acting, and must have knowingly led them on in a delusion. The only supposition therefore, that is consistent with his honesty, is, that he himself expected at this time to be made king.

It appears also (john 12-14, 15) that "it had been written," that a king of Jerusalem should come to that city, "sitting on an ass's colt," and Jesus at this time took pains to have all ass's colt obtained for him to ride on, (Mat. 21-1 to 7.)

John himself acknowledges (12-16,) that even "his disciples understood not these things at the first;" that is to say, at the time when they not only saw, but joined in, all this pageantrv, they did not understand that they were paying homage to one, who was to be a spiritual king; and if they did not so understand, there can be no doubt as to what kind of a person they thought they thought they were honoring. So that Jesus, according to the express acknowledgment of his own advocate, must either have deceived this whole crowd of followers, or he expected at this time to have been made king; because the impression, that he was about to become their king, could not have become so universal, and continued so long, among this crowd, unless he had directly countenanced it. John indeed represents (12-16) that after "Jesus was glorified (or risen, as they supposed, from the dead,) they understood exactly what these which at the time of their occurrence, they did not rightly understand, must have meant. But this was an afterthought , on the part of the disciples, and is therefore good for nothing to the advocate of Christianity, although it enables the unbeliever to see how it was, that the re-appearance of Jesus after his crucifixion, (a thing for which they could not naturally account) turned the heads of his followers, and made them see every event, which had previously taken place, in a very different light from that true and natural one, in which they had viewed it at the time of its occurrence. After he was "glorified," they "glorified" and spiritualized every thing that he had previously said or done, and, by so doing, they gave to this benighted world a Revelation fit for use.

When Jesus, in this triumphal rise, had come near to Jerusalem, (Luke 19-37 to 44) some of the Pharisees told him to "rebuke his disciples" (meaning undoubtedly, by 'his disciples,' the crowd generally who were attending him,) and they would be likely, under such circumstances, to say to him many other things, which his biographers would not choose to tell [*11] to us. But the fact that the Pharisees, who were among the principal men of the Jews, told him to rebuke his followers, shows that they had no idea of receiving him, and he was probably thereby convinced that he could not be made king, for he immediately falls into a lamentation for the fate of the city-not for the souls of the Jews, as he would naturally have done, had he designed to be only a spiritual redeemer- but for the fate of the city itself. He virtually says that if the Jews would have accepted him as their king, their city would have been safe; but now, he safe; but now, he says, that "its enemies shall cast a trench about it, and compass it around, and keep it on every side and lay it even on the ground," &c. Now this is not the language of a purely spiritual teacher; it is precisely such language as we might reasonably expect to hear from a man, who wished to be the ruler of a people, but ho, on being rejected as such, should endeavor to alarm their fears for the fate of their city. Or it is such language as we might reasonably expect to hear from a man so deluded as to imagine that he had been appointed by God to be the deliverer of a city, but, who, on finding that he could not become its deliverer, should suppose, as a matter of course, that it would fall into the hands or its enemies and be destroyed.

The desertion of Jesus, by his followers, furnishes an argument in support or the supposition that he attempted to be king of the Jews, rather than that he was a superior being. There was a time when he had a company, estimated at about five thousand, following him, (John 6-2, 10). Yet they soon began to leave him, (John 6-66, 67) and but a handful finally remained. Now it would be nothing strange that the followers of a man, who was attempting to make himself king of the Jews, should, after a little time, desert his cause; but it would be very strange if a Son of God should either be unable to make proselytes of all who should come to hear him, or should fail to keep them after he had once made them.

When he was finally taken prisoner, the universal charge against him was, that he had claimed to be the "King of the Jews." The people scoffed at, and insulted him, on that very account. They placed a mimic crown on his head, put on him a purple robe, and jeered him with "Hail, King of the Jews." How are these unanimous opinion of him, and sentiment towards him, to be accounted for, otherwise than by supposing him to have attempted to make himself a king? The answer is obvious- they cannot otherwise be accounted for.

Luke says also, (23-1, 2) that men declared before Pilate, that they had ''found that fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Ceasar saying that he himself is Christ, a king." Yes, he even went so far as to forbid any longer his adherents to pay any tribute unto Ceasar, and gave us reason why they should not, that he himself was a king, (their king). But Christians will probably say that these men did not speak the truth. And what reason have we to believe that they did not? Did any one contradict what they stated? No- everybody at the time acquiesced. Still, because they told a natural and probable story about Jesus Christ, instead of a marvelous and improbable one, they are not to be credited; because they made neither a God, nor a Son of God, out of "this fellow," they must be set down as "false witnesses;" because there were several, who said that they heard the same language, they must all have conspired to detroy him by false testimony; because their statements corroborate, and are corroborated by, what had already become notoriously the public belief, they must of course be untrue; because, in short, these men testified against Jesus, instead of testifying for him, they are not to be believed. This is the kind of reasoning to which Christians must resort.

Jesus once told his disciples (Luke 22-28 to 30) in substance that as a reward for their fidelity to him through all the difficulties and opposition he had met with, he should give each of them a kingdom, and that they should "sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." Now if he meant earthly thrones, he of course was himself to be an earthly king, for his language evidently implies that his twelve disciples were to be kings under him. His language is, " I appoint unto you, a kingdom as my father hath appointed unto me; that ye may drink and eat at my table, and sit in thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." Observe, they were to eat and drink at his table at the same time that they were to be kings over the tribes of Israel; of course, if their thrones were on earth, his table must have been set on earth too and he must have been an earthly king. But the Christian will reply that these thrones were to be thrones in heaven. Well, be it so- what then is the inference? Why, that they have kings in heaven.

The evidence already offered ought, as it seems to me, to be decisive; but there is one additional fact, which, if it do not prove that he attempted to make himself king, does, nevertheless, put it beyond a reasonable doubt, that, up to the time when he was seized, he had had no such object in view as Christians pretend. It appears (Luke 22-36, 37, 38.) that in the evening before he was apprehended, and after Judas had left the room under circumstances, which led Jesus to suppose that he was going to prove treacherous, he directed his remaining disciples to provide themselves with swords, evidently in order that they might be prepared for any danger, that might ensue. And when his disciples told him "here are two swords"- (an incident, which shows that after their affairs began to grow desperate, they kept swords by them) he assented to their taking them by answering "it is enough," and it appears afterwards that the swords were accordingly taken. Now I suppose it can hardly be necessary to go into an argument, even with Christians, in order to prove that a real "Prince of peace," a purely religious or moral teacher, or any Divine Being, just as he was about to [*12] offer up his life voluntarily for mankind, who would not be very likely to put swords into the hands of his followers. The single fact, that Jesus should ever authorize his followers to arm themselves with swords, brushes away, at a single sweep, all the subsequent conjectures and assertions of the ignorant, simple and deluded men, who followed him, that he intended only to be a moral or religious teacher. The confidence too, with which, when he was about to be seized, his disciples appealed to him with "Lord, shall we smite with the sword?" and the manner in which Peter rushed on and struck off an ear of one of the party, show that Jesus had given them other lessons than that of turning the other cheek also. Nor is the inference, naturally to be drawn from these facts, to be avoided by saying that Jesus for bid the further use of the swords, after Peter had thus employed his; because it is evident that he encouraged their use until he found the numbers against him too great to be resisted with safety. These circumstances show that his command to his disciples, to desist from further violence, was a matter of policy instead of principle.

There can be no doubt as to the fact, that this party had swords with them at this time, for it does not rest on the testimony of Luke alone. Mathew and John, who were of the twelve, and probably were on the spot at the time, both say that a man's ear was cut off with a sword.

It is clear, therefore, from these facts, that Jesus could not have been such a personage as Christians believe him to have been; and if he was not, it is of no consequence to us what he may have been, although the evidence may leave us in no doubt in relation to it.

Taking it for granted then, that the evidence has settled the question, so far as it was necessary to be settled, in relation to his object in his public career, we come now to another matter, to which Christians refer as evidence of his divinity, viz, the alleged perfection of his personal character. This point will be examined, although somewhat of his personal character has already been developed.

Perhaps the most conspicuous defects in his personal character were, 1st, his readiness to resort to subterfuge, when challenged to work miracles, by those who doubted his miraculous powers, 2d, his propensity to practice concealment; and 3d, his notorious cowardice. A few instances only of conduct, illustrative of each of these characteristics, need be referred to.

As evidence of his readiness to resort to subterfuge, when challenged to work miracles by those who doubted his miraculous power, the following cases are deemed sufficient.

On one occasion (Mark 8-11 to 13) when some of the Pharisees came to question him, and asked them how to show them a sign - apparently that they might judge of the justice of his claims to be the Messiah- he pretended to his disciples that these Pharisees were a very unreasonable set of men to ask such a thing of him, and said he would give them no sign, but left them and departed.

Mark says that their object was to entrap him, or to work some mischief with him- but how did Mark know that they had any other design than their question implies? The biographers of Jesus were very good at conjecturing reasons, finding apologies, and hunting excuses for the dastardly conduct of their master.

At another time, (John 2-13 to 21) when he had been attempting to drive the Jews from the Temple, and they had asked him, as they reasonably might do- what sign he could give them as evidence of his right to do so, the only sign he proposed to show them was this, that if they would destroy their beautiful temple- a thing which he knew of course they would not do- he would rebuild it in three days. It is possible to imagine an evasion more mean or contemptible?

John says that Jesus, in his instance, referred to "the temple of his body." But if he did, he acted the knave outright, because he must have known that he was deceiving those whom he addressed.

Once (Luke 4-16 to 30) in his travels came to "Nazareth, where he had been brought up," and where he was proudly known. He there told the people that he was the one who had been prophesied of, but virtually acknowledged that they had a right to expect that they would work miracles, for he said, "ye will surely say unto me, whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country." But as an excuse for not working any miracles, he made use of this despicable pretence, viz: that "no prophet is accepted in his own country"- innuendo, that it would be of no avail even to work miracles before those who knew him. It appears - putting the natural construction upon the remainder of Luke's story- that the people thereupon thrust him out of the place, dragged him to the brow of the hill, frightened him by pretending to be about to cast him headlong down it, and then let him go. And, in my judgment, he had no reason to complain of treatment he received.

On another occasion John says (6-30) that the people put the question to him directly, "what sign showest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work?" It appears, from the context, that these, men had taken much pains to find him, and had come from a distance to see him; and although their question indicates an intention to be convinced by nothing less than a miracle, they, at the same time, declare their intention to believe in him, the very thing he desired of all men,) if he would but work one plainly. In all this they asked nothing which was not entirely reasonable. They desired only that he should exhibit the credentials, which he professed to carry with him, as evidence or his authority. They, in fact, offered him just such an opportunity as a real miracle-worker would have desired. But Jesus, [*13] instead of working a miracle, chose to talk about something else, about their motives following him, about his being "the bread that came down from heaven," &c., and went on talking about one thing and another, that had nothing to do with the miracle which they had challenged him to work, until (John 6-60, 61, 66, and 67) the company left him in evident disgust.

I suppose Christians would say, as John says that Jesus intimated, (John 6-26) that he had already wrought miracles before them, and since they did not give him credit for them, it was not his business to go on working them. Now this apology is but a poor compliment to the character of his miracles, for it assumes that they did not convince eye-witnesses. But-leaving that consideration- how did Jesus know that these particular men, who had now come so far, apparently for no other reason than to ascertain whether he could work miracles, had ever before seen him work what he called miracles ? Besides, their question implies that they never had seen him work a miracle, and their declaration is, at least, its good, in such a. case, as his. Admitting it therefore to be true-as we must do until the contrary be unequivocally proved- that they never had seen a miracle wrought by him, he was without excuse in retailing them, and his conduct is to be accounted for, only by supposing that he could not work miracles before those who were disposed to insist upon seeing a real miracle, and not to be satisfied with one of the common kind of pretended miracles, such as great numbers of persons, at that time, were in the habit of performing.

Another defect in his character, which was to be mentioned, was his propensity to practice concealment. He again and again, when he had done something, which his biographers have called a miracle, charged those, who were with him, to "let no man know it." In one instance (Mark 1-40 to 44) where he is said to have cured a leper, after he had done it, "he straitly charged him, and said unto him, see thou say nothing to any man."

In a case, (Mark 8-22 to 26) where it is said that he cured a blind man, "he led the blind man out of the town" to do it; and not satisfied with that, he told the man, when the work was done, "neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town."

In the case (Mark 5-37 to 43) where he is said to have restored to life the dead daughter of Jairus, he suffered none but Peter, James, John and the father and mother of the child to go into the room with him, although others desired to go in; and when the scene was over, he even "charged" those, who had been witnesses, "that no man should know of it;" and John in his biography of Jesus, says not a word about it; and we are indebted, for such a story as we have, to those who were not eyewitnesses.

In another instance, (Mark 7-32 to 36) where he is said to have cured (after a great deal of apparently unnecessary ceremony) a man, who "was deaf and had an impediment in his speech," 'he charged" those, who had been present, "that they should tell no man."

In still another case (Mat. 9-27 to 30) where it is related of him that he cured two blind men, after the work was done, "he straitly charged them, saying , See that no man know it."

Is there any excuse for such conduct as this in a real miracle-worker? Was not the taunt of his brothers well applied, when they said to him, (John 7-4) in substance, that no man did his works in secret, when he was seeking to make himself publicly known, and told him, if he could work miracles, to do it before the world ?

His brothers appear to have been men of some understanding- for, although they, like the rest of their countrymen, believed in miracles, yet they saw readily enough that for a pretended miracle-worker, either to avoid the scrutiny of those who doubted his miraculous power, to select the right kind of witnesses of his acts, or to be careful to have no witnesses at all, was "no way to do things."

He appears also to have been very cautious, in the early part of his career, that the public should not know that he claimed to be the Messiah. He once (Mat. 16-13 to 20. Mark 8-27 to 30. Luke 9-18 to 21) asked his disciples, "Who say the people that I am?" And when they had told him that men had different Opinions about him, "he saith unto them, But who say ye that I am?" Peter then expressed his belief that he was "the Christ." Whereupon "he charged his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus, the Christ." .

Cowardice was another defect in his character, and it is made so manifest that it cannot be concealed. He repeatedly betrayed it by fleeing from his enemies, and by so doing, he must have brought himself, and his pretensions into public contempt.

When his disciples came to him, and told him that John the Baptist had been beheaded by order of Herod, (Mat. 14-12, 13) "he departed into a desert place apart;" or, in plain English, he fled.

John says, (10-39, 40) in speaking of another occasion, "Therefore they sought again to take him, but he escaped out of their hands, and went away beyond Jordan, and there he abode;" that is to say, he run away, and stayed away.

On another occasion also John says, (11-53 and 54) "Then from that day forth they took council together for to put him to death. Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews." [*14] Mathew says, (12-14, 15, 16) in still another case, "Then the Pharisees went out, and held council against, him, how they might destroy him. But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence, and charged his followers that they should not make him known:" that is, he took himself off, and told his friends to let nobody know where he had gone.

John says again, (8-59) "Then took they up stones to cast at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple," &c. Yes, it seems that this Son of God, in a case of emergency, could even "Aide" himself.

But the most contemptible instance of the cowardice of Jesus is related by John, (7-1 to 10) who says of him, that "he walked in Galilee, for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him." He then adds, that the feast of the tabernacles was at hand, and that his brothers wished him, if he could work miracles, to go up to the feast and perform them openly. They also taunted him with doing his works in secret. But neither solicitations nor taunts could induce him to go with them. He attempted to excuse himself by saying that the world hated him; and said to them, "Go ye up to this feast, I go not up yet into this feast, for my time is not yet full come." What then did this man do? This bold reformer? This pretended Messiah? This man, who afterwards (Mat. 26-30) said that he could call upon his Father, and he would give him more than twelve legions of angels to protect him? Why, he remained behind until his brothers had gone, "but (to use John's own language) when his brethren had gone up, then went he also to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret."

The man, who can read these accounts of his secresy, his cowardice, and of the miserable subterfuges to which he would resort to prevent an exposure of his incapacity to work miracles before scrutinizing eyes, and not feel "ashamed of Jesus" as a Master, must not only be quite content to have a master, but very indifferent in his choice of one. And be it not forgotten, that those, who, after having had their attention called to this conduct of Jesus, shall continue to advocate Christianity, must practice the effrontery of pretending that this creeping, skulking, hiding, fleeing fellow was acting a part appropriate to a Son of God, and exhibiting a perfect pattern of moral greatness.

Such, be it remembered, is one part of the character given to this man by his best friends. It is no "enemy that has done this." It all comes from men, who evidently did not intend to let out any thing, which would make against their cause, but who happened to be too simple always to know what it would be expedient to keep back. And we can easily judge, from the character given to this man by his friends, what an one would have been given to him by an unbelieving eye-witness, if such an one had cared enough about him to take the trouble of exposing the whole of his conduct.

Christians have the opinion that Jesus, at last, delivered himself up magnanimously and willingly, a martyr for the benefit of mankind. Now this opinion is founded entirely upon the improbable, to the rejection of the probable, part of the contradictory testimony in relation to his conduct on that occasion. The probable part of the testimony (and there is enough of it for any purpose,) goes, directly and manifestly, to show that Jesus skulled and endeavored to escape in this instance, in the same manner he had so often done before.

But before introducing this testimony, let us look at the absurdity of that which Christians adopt. The latter is, that at the supper, on the evening before Jesus was taken, it was understood between him and Judas, that the latter should betray him; that Judas thereupon left the room, obtained a posse of men, went in search of Jesus, and found him, not in the room where be had left him, but concealed in a garden; that he approached him, addressed him as a friend, and kissed him; that Jesus then addressed Judas as a friend, saying to him, "Friend, wherefore are thou come?" (Mat. 26-49, 50) Now is it to be supposed that such a solemn face of affected friendship would have been acted over between two men, if it had been previously understood with certainty, that the one would turn enemy, and deliver the other into the hands of those who put him to death?

It is nevertheless probable that, previously to the supper, Jesus had seen reason to suspect the fidelity of Judas, and that, when he saw him leave the room, he apprehended that an immediate attempt was tempt was to be made, by Judas to have him seized. This supposition accounts for Jesus's leaving the house, after the departure of Judas, and going as he did, into the darkness of the night, into the concealment of a garden. (John 18-1.) It is natural too, that, when approached him in the garden, Jesus, seeing that escape was impossible, should return a friendly reply to the salutation of his suspected enemy, because he might have irritated one whom he feared, if he had showed any suspicion of his malicious design. But it is beyond credibility, if it had previously been explicitly understood between them, that Judas should act the enemy, that Jesus should thus seriously address him as a friend.

This particular story about Jesus's conversation with Judas at supper was probably made up or "glorified," by these apostles, out of something that had passed, as some other conversation appeared to have been, for the purpose of making, it appear that their "Divine Lord and Master" could not have met with any disaster, which he had not forseen, and intended to meet. Jesus's alleged predictions (which none of his disciples appear to have understood at the time they were made) that he should raise again, were probably manufactured, or "glorified" out of something or other, and in the same way, to meet the necessities of the, case, or to make every thing correspond with the ideas, which they had come to entertain of Jesus, at the time they wrote. [*15]


 

CHAPTER III.

The alleged Miracles of Jesus.

Keeping these facts in our minds, let us look at the cure of the palsy, as described by Matthew, (9-2 to 8) Mark (2-1 to 12) and Luke (5-17 to 26)- by Luke the most minutely.

Imagine Jesus surrounded by a multitude, who came to him from every quarter, who believed him to be the Messiah, and to have miraculous power; imagine him to have been going from place to place, preaching as if by the authority of God- the report going before him that he cured all manner of diseases wherever he went; imagine so great a crowd around him that the man sick of palsy could not be carried in at the door of the house and that it was necessary to uncover the roof to let him down there where Jesus was, in his ability to cure him carried on a bed by four, to the place where Jesus was, full of the highest expectations; imagine him waiting and witnessing the crowd around full of the same extravagant expectations with himself, witnessing also the preparations being made to let him down through the roof of the house, to bring him into the presence of the wonderful being who was to restore him at a word-(during such a scene, if he had a spark of nervous vitality in him, it must have been set most powerfully at work;) imagine him at length laid in the presence of this messenger from God, this Messiah, imagine Jesus pardoning his sins with the assumed authority of God; imagine him telling the bystanders, in the hearing of the sick man, that he could cause him to rise up and walk as easily as he could forgive his sin; (certainly, at this time, the man's nervous system must have been wrought to an extraordinary degree of excitement, if he had life in him)- then hear Jesus pronounce, in his oracular and confident manner, "That ye may know that the son of man hath power on earth to forgive his sins, I say unto thee, arise; and take up thy couch, and go thy way into thy house;" and is there anything strange in the fact that he should receive strength, should rise up and walk? or that he should take with him his bed (such a sack of straw as it probably was, judging from the circumstance of its being let down through the roof of the house)? To my mind there is nothing in all this, which cannot be accounted for in the well known principles of physiology, even supposing the restoration to have been a permanent one. Here are the plain and obvious causes, sufficient to produce the effect, without any supernatural evidence whatsoever. .

If these views are correct, here was no miracle at all, even supposing the man to have really had palsy. But suppose (a thing to the mind exceedingly probable) that this man only imagined himself to have palsy- or that he had some slight infirmity, which he, knowing nothing of the disease, as the ignorant and simple people of that age and nation probably did, brought himself to believe to be the palsy;- and what sort of miracle do we have here to prove that Jesus possessed supernatural powers? I say its is probable that the disease was not a real palsy, because ignorant, superstitious, and timid men, such as those that among whom Jesus preached, generally magnify a slight infirmity into a grievous disease, particularly if there is any person going about the country pretending to cure diseases in a wonderful manner. Persons who live within the circuit of such a man's travels, generally have diseases more malignant, and more in a number than the rest of the human family.

Beside, Luke, after relating the fact of Jesus's being where he was, of their being great assemblage, &c., says, that a man was brought, who "was taken with a palsy." This language naturally conveys that a man was taken just at that time, and if so, there are a thousand chances against one that these simple men who would make something marvelous out of every circumstance that could, by the aid of an enormous gullibility, be made so; who probably knew no more of the disease than they knew about astronomy, and who the character of the attack, rather than that it should be the real palsy; because that is an illness, that very rarely occurs. The patient himself too, would be as likely to be mistaken as the bystanders, and if he thought he had the palsy, (and is such a suggestion had been made, he would be very likely to think so,) and that Jesus would take the trouble to display his miraculous power upon him, he would most surely keep up the appearance of a palsied man as well as he could.

Further, if the bare conversation, of those around, about Jesus performing strange cures, should make a simple man imagine he had some disease which needed curing, when he had no real illness or difficulty at all, it would be no very remarkable instance of the power of the imagination.

Reader, decide upon the testimony before you go any father. Is there, or is there not here, unequivocal evidence that a genuine miracle was performed? Decide upon this case again, separately and independently of all others. Each alleged miracle must stand solely upon its own evidence; for even if Jesus performed any real miracles, there is no doubt the country would be full of stories about miracles which were not real, and therefore we are not to believe there was a real miracle in any particular case. I will answer for the reader, that there is not room for even a decent pretence that here was a miracle. [*26]

The second supposed miracle of Jesus, that will be examined, is related by Matthew, (8-14 and 15,) Mark (1-30 and 31,) and Luke (4-39 and 39.) It is the cure of Peter's wife's mother. The stories here leave quite too wide a latitude for doubt as to the reality and severity of the disease; for these simple beings probably did not know a fever from any other trivial complaint. Luke indeed says it was "a great fever.", But Luke was not there, and possibly before the story reached his ears, several years afterwards, the truth might have been a little exaggerated. This too is precisely such language as one would use, who wished to make it appear that a miracle was actually wrought, when the supposed miracle was of a sort, that, unless there were some qualifying word, as "great," in this instance, inserted, those, who should read the account would see at once that there was doubtless no miracle at all.

But, independently of the word "great," Luke's whole account goes to show that this fever was all imaginary and brought on (as diseases sometimes are now) by the vicinity of a physician, who was thought able to cure any thing. He says that Jesus "entered into Simon's house," and immediately he adds, "that Simon's wife's mother was taken with a great fever.'' It would appear from this account that she was taken after Jesus had entered the house. If he were thus suddenly taken and thus suddenly cured, both the sickness and the cure were undoubtedly the work of the imagination.

But supposing the affair not to have been quite so farcical as it probably was, and supposing that when Jesus entered the house, she thought herself somewhat ill, and lay on the bed, and that when he "stood over her and rebuked the fever," pretending to have miraculous power, she, felt able to rise and do what she is said to have done, still here is no evidence fit to be thought of to prove a miracle. From the greatness of the number of sick, whom Jesus is said to have cured, it is evident that the diseases were either trivial or entirely imaginary; and this was undoubtedly a case of the common kind, and one that could have been cured as well by the sight of Paul's handkerchief , or by the shadow of Peter, as those that were thus cured. (Acts 19-12-and 5-15 and 16.)

The third case to be examined is that of the woman, who had an "issue of blood," (menorrhagia undoubtedly) It is related by Matthew (9-20-22,) Mark (5-25 to 34,) and Luke (8-43 to 48.) This case affords all excellent illustration of the manner in which miracles were wrought upon the sick. This woman not only believed that Jesus had miraculous power to cure the sick, but she even believed that a miracle would be wrought upon her simply by her touching his garment without his knowledge, and of course, without his power being exerted. And so the event proved, if Mark and Luke are to be believed. It was the simple touching of his garment, as they say that healed her. Mark says that "straightway" after touching, " she felt in her body that she was made whole of that plague," and also, that after Jesus had made the sagacious discovery that "virtue had gone out of him," and inquired who touched him, the woman "knowing what was" (already) "done in her," came forward and told him the truth. He then told her that her faith had already made her whole.

Luke also says that the issue of blood staunched immediately upon her touching his garment. The he goes on to say that Jesus made the inquiry, who had touched him, and that the woman declared to him before them all, that she had touched him, and how "she was" (had been) "healed immediately." There is no room for quibble upon this language. Either his garments possessed miraculous power, or it was her imagination that healed her, or she was not healed at all- for though an evangelist say it, and though Jesus himself may have said it, (which is not very likely,) no reasonable being can believe that he was filled with a sort of miraculous "virtue," which, when a person touched his garment, passed out of him, as electricity passes out of a cylinder, and that he would feet it leave him, as he is represented to have done, and that too when he did not know beforehand that any person was going to touch his garment.

But-to throw this disgusting nonsense about his "virtue", out of the question-there is a rational and obvious explanation of this matter. It is this. Her faith, in the efficacy of simply touching his garment, was so strong, that when she had touched it, she immediately did imagine, or did "feel in her body," that she was healed, and told the bystanders so. They took her word that it was really so, without ever troubling themselves to ascertain whether she were permanently healed. There were too many of these cures going on before their eyes for them to inquire a second time in relation to one, which they supposed had once had once been well performed. From the moment of the supposed cure, the story would circulate, and these narrators afterwards recorded it as it came to them having probably never heard of the condition of the woman after the time of the transaction; yet not doubting that there were both a permanent cure and a miracle.

The fourth case, which will he examined is that of the man, who was said to have a withered hand. It is related by Matthew (12-10 to 13,) Mark (3-1 to 6,) and Luke (6-6 to 11.) Independent of the improbability that a miracle was ever wrought on earth, there are two palpable ones against the truth of this story. One is, that a withered limb is met with so rarely, that the chances are as all hundred to one, that those ignorant persons would call a limb withered, when it only had some slight affection, rather than that it should be in reality withered. Another improbability of the change, in a man's power to use his hand, being so great as to afford any evidence of miraculous power, arises from the circumstance, that of [*27] the Scribes and Pharisees, who were among the most enlightened part of the community, and of course the least likely to be imposed on in any case of an attempted or pretended miracle, there were some present, and they, when they say the act which others supposed to be a miracle, were enraged at Jesus for what he had done. The narrators of this event attribute their anger to the fact that this act was done on the Sabbath day. But it is most manifestly absurd to suppose that men, such as they undoubtedly were, could look on and see a man's hand, that was actually withered, restored and made whole by a word, and then have the hardihood to attempt violence, or plot mischief against the being who had done it. men are not such monsters. But if the fact was as all the probability of the case goes to show it to have been, viz, that in consequence of some slight infirmity, this simple man imagined his hand to be withered, and had not used it as usual, but, when commanded by Jesus, in whose miraculous power he had confidence, to stretch it forth, he used a little more effort than be was accustomed to, and stetched it out, and then, that many of the more ignorant ones, such as his disciples, should say a miracle had been wrought, it is perfectly natural that the Scribes and Pharisees should be enraged at seeing them thus duped by a fanatic and mere pretender.

Jesus made few or no converts among the enlightened part of the very nation that be pretended to be sent more especially to convert. Instead of working his miracles freely before such that they might be convinced, he, when in another instance, they bad asked him to show them a sign-apparently for the express purpose of enabling them to determine whether he were the Messiah- called them (probably not to their face however) a wicked and adulterous generation for seeking a sign, by which they might ascertain that fact, (Mat. 16-4.) He was also continually formenting the most narrow, liberal and spiteful prejudices against them, in the minds of his ignorant followers. Such conduct, on his part, can be accounted for only by the fact, that when they saw, with their own eyes, those acts, which he called miracles, they, instead of being satisfied that he was the Messiah, were satisfied that he was an impostor.

The Bible represents the Jews as having been a people, upon whom God had bestowed peculiar privileges, with a view of making them the depositories or the true relations and or preparing them for the reception of the Messiah. Now if these representations in the Bible were true, and if Jesus were the Messiah, whom God had been preparing the minds of the Jews to receive it is absolutely absurd to suppose that they would not have been the very first to have been convinced and the fact, that they were not convinced, can be accounted for only by supposing, either that God was defeated and disappointed in his attempts to prepare them to receive the Messiah, or that Jesus was not the Messiah.

But to return. After Jesus had performed his supposed miracle, "he withdrew himself from thence," (evidently through fear of the Jews,) "and charged the people that had followed him, ''that they should not make him known," (Mat. 12-14 to 16.) Very dignified conduct, indeed, for a Son of God, or a Saviour of the world, and one too who could work miracles! But such was his course continually ; and such cowardice reveals the character of the man, and shows us how much credit is due to his pretensions. If be had really been what he claimed to be, or had bad any thing like moral courage, he would have better sustained tile character he had assumed, and would have scorned that practice of skulking, which he so often adopted- another still more contemptible instance of which, related by John (7-1 to 10,) has been before referred to.

The fifth case, that related by John (5-2 to 9) only, of the "impotent man" at the pool of Bethesda, was probably like the last. The man, as simple ones generally, and others sometimes, do, probably magnified his infirmity, in his imagination, to a degree beyond the reality, and when he was commanded to rise and walk, he made more effort, and walked better, than usually, and that was a miracle.

The man evidently had full faith that he should be restored by being put into a pool, as is shown by the fact of his being, at the pool for that purpose; and if he had been put in precisely at the time when the supposed the angel had troubled the waters, be would probably have been restored in the same manner that others were. But if he had been put ill at any other time, he would have received no benefit- and for the very good reason, that he would not have expected to receive any.

The facts that a great "multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt and withered," waited at this pool for the meet to trouble the waters; that every one was cured of whatever disease he had, by being the first then to step in; and that none were cured, except such as stepped in first, prove that both the diseases and the cures were entirely, or in a great degree, imaginary. There was apparently just as much efficacy in the supposed troubling of the pool by an angel, and in the diseased person's being the first to step in after that had been done, as there was in the command of Jesus to rise and walk, and no more. They both directed the imaginations of the superstitious, and that effected till the cures there were in the cases.

Here too we are enabled to see how much of a miracle Jesus performed in restoring the "withered hand," for John says that the "withered" could be restored by stepping into this Pool, after the angel had troubled it, and before any other had been in. If then the withered, could in any case be cured by the power of the imagination, they would as likely be when Jesus pretended to work a miracle upon them, as when they stepped into a pool. [*28]

The circumstance too that there were so many withered people, as it is intimated by John that there were, at this point, shows that that there is no reason in believing that they were actually withered; because that is an affection, that is exceedingly rare. Yet those at the pool, who imagined themselves withered, are as likely to have been really so, as the one whose hand Jesus is said to have restored.

The sixth case, that one of the woman, who had "a spirit of infirmity," being "bound by Satan," as Jesus said (Luke 13-11 to 16); also the seventh case, the cure of one letter, (Mat. 8-2 to 4, Mark 1-40 to 44, Luke 5-12 to 14); also the eighth case, the cure of ten lepers!(Luke 17-12 to 19), (who ever saw ten lepers at a time?) also the ninth case, the cure of the dropsy, (Luke 14-2 to 4), were all undoubtedly cures of the same kind as those that were performed by Valentine Greatrak's glove, or by stepping into the pool of Bethesda first after it was supposed that the waters had been troubled by an angel. It is very probable, that nine out of ten, of these lepers, did not consider themselves restored, for although one returned to thank Jesus for what he had done, the nine did not take that trouble.

We here have the opportunity to see on how slight a pretence these narrators would make up a story of genuine, undoubted miracle. These lepers are represented as standing "afar off," from Jesus, and calling him to be healed. He simply tells them to go to the priest. They go, and nine of them do not return. Yet Luke says the whole were cleansed. Now, if they did not return, how did they know whether they were cleansed or not? why, he inferred they must have been, and related it for a fact that they were, although he knew nothing about it.

There is no reason for supposing that any of these cures were any better ones than those effected at the pool, and it is clear that the cures at the pools were all the work of the imagination, or that the diseases themselves were so, and that there was no efficacy in the waters; because, if there had been any efficacy in the waters, people would have learned that the second one, who should step in after gurgling the water, could be healed as well as the sons, whom Jesus cured, its is reasonable to suppose, had no diseases more real, or more difficult to cure, than the others, and were restored, or apparently restored, solely by being made to imagine themselves miraculously operated upon.

There are four different cases recorded of the cure of the blind persons, viz: one in Matthew (9-27 to 30), where two were cured; one in Mark (8-22 to 26), where one was cured; one in John (9-1 to 7), where one was cured; one in Mathew (20-30 to 34), Mark (10-46 to 52), and Luke (18-35 to 43), where one, according to Mark and Luke, and two, according to Matthew, were cured. The accounts of Matthew, Mark and Luke, in the last case, refer to the same transaction, as appears by the context- for it took one place, as they all say, when Jesus was near Jericho; and the similarity of the language, quoted by all, as having been used by the blind person or persons, confirms the fact. True it is, these cautious and credible historians disagree as to the number cured; but in relating so probably facts as miracles, such a slight discrepancy does not at all impair the credibility of the men as to all important particulars. Such a disagreement is not, in fact, at all material, for blind men in those days, judging from the Bible, were nearly as frequent as those who could see.

These also were probably cured in the same way as were those "blind" persons, who, John says, (5-3 and 4), were cured at the pool of Bethesda- and they were probably just as blind as these, and no more so. How did it happen that these blind persons were so numerous? Was the blindness real, feigned, imaginary, total or partial ? To give a correct answer to this last question, it is only necessary to take into consideration the number of those called blind, and the manner in which those at the pool were cured.

Some of these blind men also seem to have had the power of locomotion rather unusual, to say the least, in really blind persons. On one occasion, (Mat. 9-27, 28), "two blind men followed Jesus, and when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him." On another occasion (John 9-7) he told the blind man to "go, wash in the pool of Siloam," and the blind man "went his way."

In some cases it appears that Jesus cured the blind man on certain conditions. For example, in one case (Mat. 9-28 and 29), he required of the blind men that they should believe, in advance, that he was "able" to restore their sight, and consented to heal them only in proportion to their faith. It requires but half an eye to see that the object of this condition was, to have something to attribute his failure to, in case his "miraculous power" should not "work well." He, in that case, would unquestionably have said " O ye of little faith, why did ye doubt?" and would thus have made those masses believe that the failure was owing to their doubts. In other instances he used more jugglery and ceremony than would seem to be necessary, if he were a real miracle worker. I the case related by John (9-6 and 7), " he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and annointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, and said to him, go, wash in the pool of Siloam." In the case, which is related by Mark only (8-22 to 26), he led the man out of the town to do it; he then spit on his eyes, and put his hands on him, and then asked him if he could see. The man could not then see clearly, although he could see well enough to discover that a man looked like a tree. Jesus then put his hands upon his eye again, and bade him look up! whereupon the man saw distinctly. Jesus them commanded him, "neither to go into the town, nor tell it to any in the [*29] town"- a very singular command to be given by one, who was working real miracles in order to prove to the world at large that he was the Messiah.

We, of course, cannot say absolutely that there could not have been real miracles performed here; but, if there were, any but "blind men" can see that they were not wrought in a workmanlike manner.

The next case, being the fourteenth, that will be examined, is that of the alleged restoration of the daughter or Jairus from the dead, and is related by Matthew (9-18 to 26), Mark (5-22 to 48), and Luke (8-41 to 56). Now, supposing the story true, that the child arose, when Jesus "took her by the hand," that does not prove that a miracle was performed, because we do not know that she was dead. These narrators say only is equivalent to saying that those in the house believed her dead; but it would appear, from Luke's account, that after Jesus had seen the child, he said she was not dead, but that she slept.

The child, say the accounts, was twelve years old. How often is it that-children of that age have fits, which for a sort time, cause them to appear dead, and immediately afterwards, restored to health? How soon, after Jesus went into the room, she arose, we cannot know, because those who give us the story, did not see the transaction - they expressly say that, of his followers, only Peter, James and John were suffered to go with him. Whether Jesus lifted her up, as he did Simon's wifes's mother, we do not know, but there is ground for the strongest presumption that he did, because "he took her by the hand."

The most rational supposition that can be formed from the three indefinite and carelessly told stories, which come from men-who did not see the transaction, is, that the child had a fit, (perhaps only a common fainting fit), and lay apparently dead at the time the father ran for Jesus; and that when he arrived at the house, and therefore he went into the room where the child was, those, that had been in the room, but had then come out, told him that she was dead; but that, by the time he had come to the child, the fit had left her, and she lay asleep; and that then, in the course of the time he remained in the room, (how long that might be is uncertain), he spoke to her, took her by the hand and lifted her up, and that she then had in a considerable degree recovered. If such were the case, the story has come to us in just the shape we would suppose such a story would, coming, as this does, from men, who did not see anything that they relate, but who honestly believed, from what they heard, that a miracle was performed.

But there are two or three circumstances, which render it extremely doubtful whether there was anything in this occurrence, which, to the eyes of the actual witnesses, appeared so marvelous as the case, above supposed, would have been likely to so. One is, that Jesus, when they came to him first, and told him the child was dead, would permit but three of his disciples to go in with him; and after the transaction (whatever it might be) was over, he charged them, and the parents also, to say nothing of it to anyone. Another link in this chain of suspicious circumstance, is, that John, who, as the others say, was an eye-witness, says not a syllable about the matter. Now, since Jesus would permit but three of his disciples to in, and charged all, who were eye-witnesses, to reveal nothing, and as John, in his narrative obeys this injunction, the fair presumption is, that Jesus, when he heard she was dead, doubted his ability to restore her, and did not choose to have too many witnesses to a failure, and that after he had come into the room, the transaction was not of such a kind, that he thought it safe for his reputation as a miracle-worker, that it should be known abroad; but that Matthew, Mark and Luke afterward obtained an inkling of the affair, which in some way leaked out, and which proved sufficient to enable tem to make such a brief account of a supposed miracle as they have done.

Are we to believe a revelation on the testimony of works done in secret, and ordered to be kept secret?

The fifteenth case is related by John (4-46 to 54) of the cure of the son of a noblemen of Capernaum. It appears that Jesus did not see the subject of this miracles He was at home; the father came to Jesus, and was told by him that his son lived; he (the father) then went away alone, and, as John says, met his servants, who told him that his son was better, &c. Now, since John did not go with the father, nor see the son, or know any thing personally about the time of his beginning to amend, all the testimony, that we have here to support the slightest possible pretence of ea miracle, is simple John's virtual declaration that he heard how, or from whom, he heard it, the deponent saith not), that at the same hour when Jesus told the man his son should live, the son began to amend; and that he (John) had no doubt, from these circumstances, that Jesus wrought a miracle upon the sick man. But I suppose the day has gone by when such "circumstantial evidence" as this, is sufficient to prove a miracle.

The sixteenth case, is that related by Matthew (8-6 to 13) and Luke (7-2 to 10), of the Centurion's servant at Capernaum, and is probably the same one as the last; but as the accounts differ a little. I thought proper to consider them as referring, to different transactions. Here two the person sick was at a distance from Jesus; so that even if Jesus were at the time, (which, if true, is not stated), he could not have personally known any thing about the cure, and could only have heard of it, in a particular case, of such circumstances as satisfied his minds that there was one. Besides another part of Matthews [*30] story cannot be true. That man said his servant was "sick of the palsy, grievously tormented." This could not be the case, because palsy, instead of grievously tormenting folks, never occasions pain, but generally deprives them of all sensibility to pain.

But supposing the servant did have sudden painful attack of some sort, which alarmed the Centurion, and then, while the Centurion was gone to Jesus, did actually recover from it, that is no proof of a miracle, because such temporary illnesses are frequent occurrences.

I now come to the examination of those cases, where Jesus is said to have cast out devils. But we will first inquire whether there ever were such a thing, as men's being possessed of devils. There is perhaps not an enlightened Christian in America, who, not withstanding he in may believe that, at the time of Jesus, men were possessed of devils, believes that they ever have been in any other instances, either before or since. And those, who believe that such was the fact then, believe it simply because a particular set of superstitious men, in a superstitious age, believed so, and have related some circumstances about it, which they say happened at that time.

The testimony of the whole Jewish nation, who did not also believe in Jesus, would nothave made them credit it for a moment. If the same thing, had been stated in any other book than the Bible, men now would no more credit it, than they would an assertion that men were inhabited by the spirits of oxen and horses. Yet such is the unparalleled gullibility of some men in relation to every thing related in the Bible, or connected with Christianity.

There are indeed many Christians now, who do not pretend to believe in this matter literally. They will say that they suppose those individuals, out of whom Jesus was said to cast devils, were insane, or had some disorder, which the people of that nation, being ignorant of diseases, attributed to the influence of "evil or unclean spirits;" and that whatever that disorder may have been, Jesus cured it miraculously. But if such men will look at the accounts as they are told to us in the New Testament, taking the collateral circumstances, which are related, as facts, it is absolutely out of the power of the human mind, either by sophistical interpretation of language, or by any possible perversion of intellect, to believe that those persons were insane, or that they had any disorder, unless an imaginary one, other than that of being actually and unequivocally inhabited by such evil spirits, as, if they really existed, might more properly be denominated devils than anything else. The narratives of the doings of Jesus state the precise number of devils, that went out of particular individuals - thus leaving no chance for equivocation, or any apology for the pretence till the persons were insane, in the ordinary acceptation of the word. For example, out of Mary Magdalen there actually went seven devils-seven individual spirits, or this affair being possessed of devils was all a delusion. In other cases, Jesus is said to have cast out one, and, and in one instance a legion. If therefore risen will believe the Bible, they just believe in Devils too.

These accounts say further that these devils would speak. Mark says (5-12), after having spoken of a legion of devils being cast out, that "all the devils besought him, saying, send us into the swine, treat we may enter into them." If we believe the truth of these narratives, there is no escape from believing that there were such living and speaking creatures as devils, who inhibited both men and-swine!

Here the believer, or rather the one who wishes to be a believer (for I do not think it possible for any person of common knowledge and common sense any longer to be actually so) may perhaps, in the height of his embarrassment, put the question, how then are these accounts to be explained, unless we believe that those, who relate them, were knaves and liars? To answer this question is very easy. The people of that nation were superstitious enough to believe in devils, (as people have sometimes believed in witches), and to believe that they entered into men, and then controlled them as they pleased. When such a belief was prevalent, it is to be expected that among, the more ignorant, who composed the great body of the community, there would be multitudes, who would imagine themselves to be possessed of them, just as some person, who have believed in witchcraft, have imagined themselves; bewitched. A person, who should suppose himself under the dominion of devils, would imagine himself actually compelled, by a power which he could not resist, to such unnatural and strange conduct as he believed an evil spirit spirit would instigate men to. And this fact accounts for the conduct of the man, (or men, for here the stories disagree), spoken of by Matthew (8-28 to 34), Mark (5-1 to 17), and Luke (8-27 to 36), who was said to live among the tombs; to be driven by the devil into the wilderness, &c. A man in this condition, could be restored in no other way there by some deception of the imagination. This man was so restored. He believed Jesus to be the son of God, as is proved by the fact that he addressed him as the "Son of the most high God." He believed also that Jesus had power over evil spirits, as is proved by the circumstance that he besought him not to torment him." When therefore this powerful being should command the devils to go out of him, he, of course, would suppose that they had left him, and would then appear the sane. As for the rest of the circumstances related, such as that of the devils talking going into the swine, &c., they are only such embellishments as a story of that kind would naturally gain by a very little circulation in such a community as that-and these historians, who give us the accounts, having, like the rest of their countrymen, perfect faith in the reality of such circumstances, would relate them, as they board them, without in the least doubting their truth. It is evident that they only recorded the flying story of the, from the fact that [*31] they disagree as to the number healed. Matthew says two, Mark and Luke but one. That their different accounts refer to the same transaction, is evident from the similarity or the stories, and the language of each, and also from the circumstance that they are related by each immediately after the story of Jesus's calming the tempest.

Besides the above, there are five different instances of Jesus's casting out devils. One is related by Mark (1-23 to 26), and Luke (4-33 to 35). From both these accounts, it appears that the man, out of whom the devil was supposed to be cast, considered Jesus "the HOLY one of God; and that circumstance is sufficient evidence that the cure, like the disease, was the work of the imagination.

Another case is related by Mark only, (7-25 to 30). All that Mark knew of this case, as appears from his account, was, that he heard, (for he is not supposed to have been with Jesus) that a woman come to Jesus, and told him that her daughter, who was at home, was possessed or a devil; that he told her the devil had gone out; and that when she arrived at home, she found her daughter lying on a bed. To Mark's mind, and perhaps also to the minds of some men in more modern ages of the world, these facts, thus obtained, proved a miracle.

Another case is related by Matthew (17-14 to 21), Mark (9-17 to 29), and Luke (9-38 to 42). According to Mark's account, Jesus "rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit. I charge thee, COME OUT OF HIM, and enter no more into him." (Can anything be imagined more ludicrous or disgusting than such a speech? Verily, "never man spake like this man"). Still, after he had said thus, "the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him, and he was as one dead, insomuch that many said he is dead. But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he-AROSE!" and from the circumstance that he did arise, and probably appear more calm than before, they all inferred That he had been delivered of a real devil.

This wonderful exhibition of miraculous power so astonished Jesus's disciples, that they afterwards asked him why they could not cast him out? (They, it seems, had attempted it, and failed, (Mark 9-18). He answered-doubtless with an air and manner becoming the solemn nature of the case-that "this kind (of devils) can come forth (be brought forth) by nothing, but by prayer and- fasting!

Another case is related by Matthew only (9-32 to 34) of the cure of a dumb man, possessed of a devil. I will here add nothing, but a note of admiration, which appears to be very much needed, to the following brief, but graphic description of this affair by Matthew himself. "And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake, and the multitudes marvelled!"

The last case of this kind of miracle-working, that remains to be mentioned, is that of the cure of the man, who, according to Luke (11-14), was dumb, but, according to Matthew (12-22), was blind and dumb. Both accounts refer to the same transaction, as may be seen by the context following each. The difference in the accounts, of course, proves only the honesty of the writers; it does, by no means, prove their lack of inspiration, their carelessness about particulars, or their readiness to record any idle story, which they might hear, without inquiring cautiously into its truth. Each one supposed that future generations could only wish to know the simple face that a miracle was wrought; and therefore, not imagining that they themselves could ever be suspected of having been mistaken as to the reality of the miracles did not trouble themselves to relate many of those circumstances, that would enable men now to judge whether they actually were or not.

Matthew says that "they brought unto Christ one possessed with a devil, blind and dumb, and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw." Luke says, "and Christ was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake, and the people wondered."

Language could hardly be selected, that should tell a stronger tale of superstition, than is conveyed in these brief lines. Men imagining themselves possessed of a devil! and that the devil prevents them from seeing! and speaking! others standing around to see the Son of God dislodge a devil, as boys stand around to see the tricks of a juggler.

If the Bible has accomplished enough of good to atone for the numerous and mischievous superstitions, which, in various ways, it has entailed upon, and introduced into, men's minds, it has done more good than, I think, is apparent to most impartial observers of the whole of the history of Christendom, as compared with that of other nations of the same degree of intelligence. Even if it has not originated, it has, at least, justified, spread, and probably prolonged a belief ill witchcraft and sorcery-it has introduced superstitions about a Son or God; ABOUT HIS VISITING THE EARTH IN THE DISGUISE OF A MAN! about a holy Ghost, or holy phantom; about a fictitious atonement, and a barbarous and useless sacrifice, which have for acres and centuries engrossed the minds of the few learned men, who otherwise might have been engaged in liberal schemes for improving society. And finally, it has spread wide a belief in angels, and miracles, and evil spirits- in a devil and his ten thousand deputies prowling about the universe.

I must now think that, of the thirty three miracles of Jesus, twenty two have been disposed of in a manner, if not satisfactory to, at least, answerable by, the most resolute believer. Eleven remain to be examined. [*32]

One is that of calming the tempest, recorded by Matthew (8-24 to 27), Mark (4-37 to 41), and Luke (8-23 to 25). Matthew says "the ship was covered with the waves." Mark says "the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full." Luke says "they were filled with water." Now we know that these accounts cannot be true because Jesus would not have remained asleep, had this been the case. These errors are mentioned entirely to show the propensity these men had to exaggeration- a propensity, that, in many other instances, is manifest enough; but which is here so palpable that it cannot be denied.

Matthew says "there arose a great tempest," and Mark says "there arose a great storm of wind." But since these men have already been convicted of exaggeration, we may now judge for ourselves how great a " tempest " would be likely to arise on a little petty lake; (fourteen miles long and five wide;) and, unless we have a very strong desire to believe in miracles, we shall probably come to the conclusion that a slight squall arose, such as generally continues for a few minutes; that, it being in the evening (as Mark says, and as is probable from the circumstance that Jesus was asleep,) these timid and superstitious men thought they should certainly be drowned; that Jesus, being called, commanded the waves of this mighty sea to be quiet; that when this sudden squall had passed, which probably happened very soon, the waves subsided, and they then thought the act of Jesus was a miracle. These narrators, although they generally appear very fond of using the word "immediately," when relating any occurrence, which they themselves could not have seen, but in relation to which that word is necessary in order to make out a good miracle, have, nevertheless, in this case, neglected, for some reason or another, to tell us how soon, after the command was given, quiet was restored- the fair presumption of them that the wind and waves took their own time in this matter, as they always have done in every other of the same kind. .

Another is that of Jesus's walking on the sea, related by Matthew (14-24 to 32,) Mark (6-47 to 51,) and John (6- 15 to 21.) John says that after Jesus had entered the ship, "immediately it was at land whether they went"- of course, it must have been bear the shore when Jesus came to it. Furthermore, they all agree that it was in the might; John says that it was dark. Now, inasmuch as Jesus never shewed any inclination to trust himself on the water in the day-time, without anything to bear him up, is it not probable that at this time a plank, a slightly built raft, a small boat, or something else to stand on, which those in the ship or large, which those in the ship or large boat did not see, or that he walked in the water instead of on it, rather than he attempted to perform a miracle of that sort, and at that time, when none but his disciples, and probably not even these, would observe it? If he really could walk on the water, why did he not, at least once in his life, do it in any day-time, and in the presence of a concourse of people? He surely had opportunities enough.

But perhaps it will be asked, how did Jesus get to that side of the lake, unless he walked across the water? and a person, who should simply read the accounts of this affair, without looking at the map, would probably be misled into the supposition that the boat had crossed the lake, to the other side from where the disciples had left Jesus, and therefore that he could not have come to them unless he had crossed the lake also. But according to John (6-23,) it was at or near Tibernas, that the disciples left Jesus, and they landed (Mat. 14-34) in "the land of Gennessaret;" and it so happened that Tibernas and Genessaret are on the same side of the lake, (see Ingraham's map of Palenstine) adjoining each other. Jesus, therefore, undoubtedly walked from one place to the other, (perhaps a mile or two) on the land, while the disciples went in the boat.

The third one of the eleven is that of the fig-tree, related by Matthew (21-17 to 22,) and Mark (11-12 to 23.) Matthew says the fig-tree withered away "presently." Mark says that as they passed the next morning they discovered That it was withered away. But they agree as nearly as we can reasonably two such persons would, who should relate miracles upon hearsay. Since the story has nothing probably about it, and since the accounts disagree, it is probable that they both differ a little from the truth, and that the fig-tree was withered away when they first came to it. This supposition is rendered more probable by the fact that Luke, who speaks of Jesus being at Bethany (19-29 to 40.) and of some other circumstances mentioned by Matthew, says nothing about the fig-tree. It is also rendered probable by the fact that there were no figs on the tree. Mark pretends to account for there being no figs on it, by saying that the time of figs had not yet come- but this is clearly a falsehood, for if such were the truth, why dud Jesus go to the tree at all? Or why did he manifest so much disappointment at not finding figs, as to "curse" even a tree?" . [*33]

The fourth, related by Mark only (7-32 to 36,) is that of the cure of a man "who was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech." Jesus, in order doubtlessly to have a fair opportunity to perform this miracle, and to do it in a manner to furnish evidence to the world of his miraculous power, "took the man aside from the multitude." When he had done this, he "put his fingers into his ears;" "then spit, and touched his tongue;" then "looked up to heaven, and sighed," and uttered the word Epliphatha, and thus, as Mark heard the story, opened the man's ears, and loosed the string of his tongue so that he spake plain, and then "charged them that they should tell no man" of the occurrence.

The fifth, related by John (2-1 to 10,) is that of turning the water into wine. John says that this was the first miracle that Jesus ever performed; but does not say that he saw it done; and if it were his first attempted miracle, it is entirely improbable that John was present. Besides, towards the close of the preceding chapter, John speaks particularly of Andrew, Peter, Philip and Nathaneal, as having become disciples of Jesus; but mentions none others as such, previous to this wedding. We just therefore suppose that John here only tells us a hearsay story. Now it would be nothing strange if Jesus were to go to a wedding- nor would it be anything strange if they were to have wine there- nor would it be strange if Jesus should there make some pretensions to miracle-working- nor would it be strange, if, out of these circumstances, after he had obtained a little notoriety in his way, a story should be got up and circulated similar to that told by John; but it would be very strange of a man should work a miracle; and it would also be very strange that neither Matthew, Mark, nor Luke should ever have heard of this miracle, if there really were on wrought, (if they had heard of it, some of them would undoubtedly have recorded it, since they have taken the pains to record so many things of no consequence at all); and it would also be very strange of the saviour of a world should perform either his first or last miracle of this kind. We should as naturally expect a Son of God would exhibit his powers by making brooms dance cotillions, as by such miracles as this. Still- as was before remarked- such a man as I have supposed Jesus to have been, would, when first beginning hesitatingly to think about working miracles, be very likely to have made an attempt or pretension of this kind- and if he but made such an attempt or pretension, that circumstance alone would afford sufficient materials for a future story.

The sixth, related by Luke (7-11 to 16), is that of raising from the dead the son of the widow of Nain. This story is told by none but Luke. He, as I have said before, was a citizen of Antioch, and was converted to Christianity by Paul- of course he never knew anything of personally of Jesus or his miracles; he must therefore have depended entirely upon the stories of others for his information. Of whom he obtained it in this instance we know not. He wrote his narrative some thirty or forty years after the death of Jesus. So that all the evidence we have here to prove an occurrence so wonderful as that of a man's being restored to life after he had once died, is a simple declaration, made many years afterward, by a man living remote from the place and who could not have personally known anything about what he was writing, but who has been shown heretofore to b credulous enough to believe miracles in the testimony of others.

Furthermore, neither of the narrators, although two of them were of twelve, give us any account of such an occurrence, although, if it really happened, they would most surely have heard of it, and if they had heard of it, they would as surely have related it; for, in order to make their stories as marvelous as possible, they have already gone so far as to relate for undoubted miracles many things, which they could not have known to be true, even if they were true.

The seventh case, that of raising Lazarus from the dead, is related by John only, (11 Chapter)- John does not say that he saw the fact. If then we believe that, in this case, a man really died, and was then restored to life again, we must believe a fact, such as we could not now be made to believe if ten thousand of the most respectable men of any nation on earth should solemnly testify that they saw it. We must believe too on the testimony of a single individual- one who gives the account forty years after the transaction is alleged to have been performed; who does not even say that he saw it; who is not supported by a single one of the many alleged eyewitnesses, nor by the testimony of any other person.

If the ten thousand should testify as I have supposed, we should then say, either that the man had not been actually dead, or that some deception or another had been practised upon the witnesses- and we should say so with perfect confidence too, because we should know, as absolutely as it is possible for us to know any thing, that such an occurrence could not have happened. Yet we are called upon to believe it in this case, upon such testimony as I have mentioned. Is it possible that the attempt can be made at this day, to impose upon men's understandings by such stuff as this?

But there is evidence tending to discredit this story or John.

One part of this evidence is, that neither Matthew, Mark nor Luke speak of the affair. Yet Luke heard of, and even related (10-38 to 42), so small and unimportant a circumstance as that of Jesus's once being in Bethany, at the house of Martha, the sister of Lazarus, and yet he never heard (as we may safely infer from the fact that he never related it) of this miracle [*34] wrought upon Lazarus- a miracle too, that is so much more wonderful than Jesus was generally supposed to perform.


 

CHAPTER IV.

The Prophecies.

Of those predictions in the Old Testament, which are sometimes regarded as prophecies, only one, beside such as are said to relate to Jesus, will be particularly noticed; and that, not because it has any reasonable claims to be considered a prophecy, but because it is frequently mentioned as such.

It is said to refer to the present state of the Jews. It is contained, I believe, principally, in the 28th chapter of Deuteronomy, and the 26th of Leviticus- and was uttered by Moses- how many centuries before the time of Jesus, I leave to others to calculate. I have referred to these chapters, and if the reader attaches a feathers weight to the predictions interspersed through them, I ask him, before going father, to turn to the chapters, and read the whole of them. I hardly believe there is, in the country, a man of common sense and common intelligence, who will read them, and will then look an unbeliever in the face, and say he believes that Moses had any, the most distant, reference to the state of the Jews at the time, or that he intended the most remote intimation that any of those punishments, which he threatened, would be visited upon the Jews on account of their rejection of any Messiah or any thing like a Messiah.

Moses was in the habit of pretending to have personal communications from, Deity in private, and to receive (Mahonet-like) from him those instructions, which, as pretended agent of God, he imparted to the ignorant, superstitious, simple and credulous Israelites. . In this way he imposed upon, and preserved his influence over them. He was in the habit also of promising to them every variety of worldly prosperity, if they would obey the commands, which he, as if in the name of God, enjoined upon them, and of threatening them apparently with all the wordly evils that he could conceive of, in case of their disobedience.

In the context immediately preceding these chapters, he gives the Israelites various commands as usual, and then follows them with such promises and threatenings as would naturally appear to him necessary to insure obedience. Among a variety of other threatened calamities, he enumerates dispersion by their enemies, and, on the other hand, among the promises, he enumerates, in palpable, and almost literal, contrast to the threat, success in putting their enemies to flight; but in all this he says no more about a Messiah than he does about Vulcan or Neptune. And those predictions, which some would fain have understood as intended to refer to the present condition of the Jews, are such as would not now be thought of by Christianity, in order to support the truth of the Bible, been driven to the necessity of grasping at shadows instead of realities.

But there is one way, in which every man can settle all questions in relation to these predictions, viz: by answering to himself the questions, whether, if the Jews had never been dispersed, he would consider these predictions intended as prophecies, and as having so failed, as that their failure would be substantial evidence against the truth of the Bible, such a fulfillment, as is set up for them, cannot be evidence in support of it.

The idea that God dispersed the whole nation of Jews, and that he continues them in that dispersed state, simply because they were and are not convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, or because a few of their nation, many centuries ago, put him to death, is consistent with the Old Testament doctrine that God punishes the children for their iniquities of the parents, and also with the New Testament doctrine that God will punish men for not believing what appears to them improbable- but it is not consistent with the views that unbiassed minds have of the nature of justice.

Many people think the present temporal condition of the Jews is evidence that God is punishing them for their obstinacy in not believing in Jesus. Now the condition of many millions of Africans is far worse than that of the Jews; but can any one of those, who know so much about God's designs in bringing calamities upon particular nations, tell us what he is punishing the Africans for?

Do the ancient and modern conditions of the Jews furnish any more evidence that they were once God's favorite nation, (as the Bible pretends), or that they are now the objects of his dislike [*41] like, than do the ancient and modern conditions or the Africans, of their and of their now standing, in the same relations to God?

Suppose the inhabitants or some petty province in India should pretend that their ancestors had once been the favorites of Deity, could they not, by referring to their history, and to Shaster, which they suppose God has given them, and support their pretensions to that distinction just as strongly as the Bible does those of the Jews? And could not we, in their present condition, find as much proof that Deity had become offended with them?

Let us now look at those Predictions, that are said to foretell a Messiah, and to have been fulfilled by Jesus. I know of three only that are worthy of notice.

The first commences at the thirteenth verse of the fifty-second chapter of Isaiah, and extends throughout the subsequent chapter.

It is a sufficient answer, for the present, to this description of the "servant of the Lord," as he is called, to say, that it is so indefinite, that it would apply to many others as well as to Jesus-and even if it delineated the character end history of Jesus a little more nearly than those of any other person, still it is entirely too indefinite to furnish anything like reasonable grounds for believing that Isaiah foresaw either a Messiah, his character or history. Almost any paragraph that applies with any justness to Jesus, would also apply equally well to a great number of those men that pretended to be his prophets, and who were killed by the Jews.

In the twenty third Chapter of Matthew (30th, 31st, and 34th verses). Jesus accuses the Jewish nation of having "persecuted, scourged, killed and crucified the prophets, the wise men and scribes, which had been sent unto them." In the thirty seventh verse he says, "0 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, though shall killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee," &c. It appears from these declarations, that Isaiah intended by his description of a "servant of the Lord," only a general description of the characters and fates of those, who, in different ages of the Jewish nation, professed to speak to the Jews, in the name of the Lord, his narrative would apply to them, with the same propriety that it would to Jesus; and it is far more probable that he should have had those men in his mind attend than a Messiah, because he had personal opportunity of observe their characters and fates. They were men, to whom the Jews not only refused to listen, but whom also (as appears by the language of Jesus before quoted) they treated with the greatest indignity, insult and cruelty. They, far more than Jesus, might be said to be "men of sorrows and unacquainted with grief," for they could have but few friends or followers. They " had no form, or comeliness, or beauty, that caused them to be desired"- they were "brought as lambs to the slaughter"- they must have been, by those who believed in them, " esteemed, stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted"- they were "cut off out of the land of the living"- they had "done no violence, nor was any deceit found in their mouths." They were probably inoffensive, deluded men, whose imaginations were filled with extravagant notions about God's intercourse with men, and his method of governing them; and, owing to this cause they were continually dreaming that God came to themselves, and commanded them to declare to the Jews that this evil, and that evil, would come upon them, and that this and the great and important religious event was about to happen. But the Jews, having no confidence in them, persecuted and destroyed them.

Isaiah speaks of the soul of the almighty making the soul of his "servant an offering for sin"- and this language perhaps may at first view appear to have more relation to Jesus than it could have to a prophet. But, if- as well men of common sense, who disregard authority, believe- sacrifices are of no avail, and the doctrine that God requires them imputes to him, not only absurdity, but injustice also, and unnecessary and barbarous cruelty, then this intimation, that the soul of the "servant of the Lord" was to be made an offering for sin, is one, which Isaiah could not have been dictated by God to have uttered, and it could with truth apply neither to Jesus, nor any one else.

But it should yet be contended that Jesus was made an offering for sin, (a supposition which certainly cannot be proved), it might then be replied hat there can be little doubt that Isaiah, who, of course believed in the utility of sacrifices, believed that every one of those, who were slain for preaching (as he suppose) in the name the Lord, were made offerings for sin. It was perfectly natural that he would believe so. How otherwise would a man, with his views about God, about the moral condition of the Jews, about the necessity of sacrifices, and about religious character of those who were slain, account for the fact that God permitted them to be slain, than by supposing that they were made offerings for sin?

If he considered them offerings for sin, it was then perfectly natural for him to believe that these sacrifices would redeem many, and that individuals, supposed to be offered sacrifices, would, "see their seed," (for those redeemed by them could be called his seed)- that they "should see the travails of their soul and be satisfied," &c. So that considering this description of supposed prophets with nearly, if not entirely, the same force that it would be to Jesus, even if he were that Christians suppose him to have been.

There are strong reasons for believing that Isaiah referred to such, generally, as he esteemed the Servants and prophets of the Lord, but who were despised and persecuted by the Jews. [*42] If he meant a Messiah, and if he himself were actually a prophet, why did he not (as well as Daniel) use the word Messiah, instead of one so indefinite and so general in it's application as servant? If he meant a Messiah, why did he not tell us more about him- when he would appear, &c.? Above all, why did he not describe him so that, when he should appear, he might be identified by the Jews, and distinguished from all others?

But suppose he did actually mean a Messiah- what then? The fact that Isaiah expected a Messiah, or that he dreamed or imagined the Lord told him a Messiah was to come, does not prove at all that there ever was a to be a Messiah. The fact, that the whole Jewish nation expected a Messiah, is no evidence that a Messiah was actually to come. The combined facts, that a Messiah was predicted, that a Messiah was generally expected near a particular time, and that, about that time, one or seventy appeared, each pretending to be the Messiah, do not prove, or have any sort of tendency to prove, that there ever was, or ever was to be, any such Messiah. Judging naturally on all these facts, they are only evidence that some superstitious man, whose head was full of marvelous thoughts about hat God would do for those whom the individual supposed would be his favorite nation, who were always ready to expect some extraordinary interposition in their behalf, were favorably struck with the idea of a Messiah; that the belief, that one would come, became prevalent; and that, in consequence of that general belief, a great many, were so infatuate as to imagine, or so dishonest as to pretend, (knowing the contrary), that they themselves were the individuals appointed by God to be the Messiah, and did actually claim to be such: Their is nothing mysterious, or supernatural or improbable, in such a combination of facts. They all, in a community so superstitious as that of Judea, would naturally follow the simplest one, that some priest, or someone whom the people regarded as a prophet, imagined that God would send a Messiah, or dreamed that God told him he would send one.

The idea of a Messiah is one that would be very likely to never occur in the mind of a priest, or one who should believe himself a prophet, among people like the Jews, who believed in sacrifices, believed themselves the special favorites of God, and believed also that God frequently interposed miraculously for their welfare. The priest, from the nature of his office and employment, would naturally have his mind occupied with thoughts about God's interventions respecting his favorite people, and his designs in relation to their religious welfare. It would be nothing remarkable if such an individual, who should imagine that there was a necessity for some new interposition of God in favor of his people, and should believe that God sent his messengers to them, should hit upon the idea that God, in order to meet his new and uncommon necessity, would send an extraordinary messenger to them, and, (since this priest believed in the necessity of sacrifices), that he should also believe that this messenger would be made a sacrifice for the sins of the nation. Now would it be remarkable, is such an idea, expressed by a priest, for whom the people had some veneration, or by supposed prophets, should strike the minds of so superstitious people as the Jews so favorably, and as being probable, that the belief should become prevalent, that God had supernaturally conveyed this idea to the mind of the priest, or supposed prophet, and, of course, that it would be realized. If such were the fact, it would then be very natural that, among a people were many so infatuated as to imagine themselves prophets, there should be many, who should imagine themselves, or claim to be, Messiahs- an if a supposed prophet had predicted the time of the coming of the Messiah, that would be the time when these deluded or dishonest Messiahs would appear, and proclaim their characters, and set up their claims.

Supposing such to have been the cause of the appearance of all the pretended Messiahs that appeared about the time of Jesus, and supposing him to have been one of these deluded or dishonest men, the mystery of the fulfillment (such as it was) of the prediction is then all explained in a natural and probable manner, with the exception of Jesus's being put to death,- a fact, which cannot be explained by the existence of any general belief that the Messiah was to be cut off- since Jesus was not crucified on account of any intention, on the part of those who crucified him, to make good the prediction. Still, if it be said that his being slain is a proof of the prophesy, and of his being the Messiah, then, the answer is that others of these pretended Messiah's were also slain- so that by this means also it is impossible to identify the real Messiah.

One of the pretended Messiah's was killed in the order of Festus; another was burnt alive by Vespasian. One Theudas got a sect after him (probably under the pretence of being the Messiah), and was then slain: also one Judas, (Acts 5-36 and 37). How many others were slain I know not. Its is probable however that a considerable number of them were. (See Josephus, Book 2d-chap.13).

The prediction then, that the Messiah should be offered as a sacrifice for sin, (if in reality there were any such prediction), would doubtless apply to some, and perhaps to many, others, as well as to Jesus. So that here too there is a complete failure of identity.

But I apprehend that Christians, who may read this book, will, before they have gone [*43] fact of his death be left, by the evidence, in the least uncertainly, the prediction, as applicable to him must be considered to have failed; because prophecy, no more than any other supernatural event can be reasonably proved by doubtful evidence. Both the prediction and the fulfillment must be incontestibly established, or no prophecy is shown.

Another prediction, that was to be noticed, is in Daniel 9th,-25 and 26. It is here stated that the Messiah shall appear in sixty nine weeks. "from going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem," which appears, from the context, to have been about the time of the prediction. Commentators have said that a week here means seven year. Whether they have sufficient authority for saying so, I neither know nor care. Still, if by calling it seven years, instead of seven days, the prediction can be made to look any more nearly like a prophesy, why, then call it seven years. The time for appearing of the Messiah would then be fixed at a period of four hundred and eighty three years from the time of the prediction. Did Jesus appear precisely at that time? The little search I have made does not allow me to settle that question, or to say certainly whether any one else ever did. I can only say that I have never known it to be hinted at that he did. He undoubtedly appeared about that time, as did a great number of others; and the reason why all appeared near that time, undoubtedly was, that that was the time when the Messiah was expected.

In the twenty sixth verse it is said that "after three score and two weeks, Messiah shall be cut off." Calling the week seven years, in this case as in the other, the true Messiah ought to have lived four hundred and thirty four years; (he was to have been a marvelous personage in point of age as well as in other respects)- but Jesus lives only to be about thirty two or thirty three years old- leaving the slight deficiency of four hundred years.

There is no way, that I have discovered, by which the believer can get rid of the dilema. If the week mean but seven days. Jesus did not, in the first place, appear at the proper time for the true Messiah, and he also lived too long; but if we call the week seven years, the he did not live long enough.

But this prediction fails in another particular. Daniel calls "the Messiah, the Prince." He then says, after having previously spoken of "the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem," that 'the street shall be built again, and the wall even in trouble times." It is evident from this language and context, that Messiah was to be a temporal prince, and it is probable that he was to restore and build Jerusalem.

Daniel says also, that "after three score and two, Messiah shall be cut off, and the people of the prince that shall come, shall destroy the city and the sanctuary," &c. It is evident from this language also, that Messiah was understood to be a temporal prince, and that he was to be succeeded by a foreign prince and an enemy.

Passages also in the New Testament, applied to Jesus by his biographers, show that a temporal prince had been expected. Matthew (2-6) represents of the old supposed prophets as saying that "out of Bethlehem should come a GOVERNOR, that should rule God's people Israel." Luke also (1-69, 71) puts into the mouth of Zecharias a prediction, that the nation was to be saved by the Messiah "from the enemies , and from the hand of all them that hated them." Such things could be spoken only of a temporal ruler or deliverer.

There can be no doubt, indeed all Christians admit, that the Jews expected a temporal prince had been expected a temporal prince, (although perhaps one, who was also to be made a spiritual sacrifice, after having liberated the nation from all its temporal dangers and calamities), and the language of Daniel, above quoted, most clearly authorized that expectation. To say that it did not, is to say no less than that since that time words have changed their meaning. If then such were the true meaning of the prediction, Jesus certainly fulfilled it not in the least tittle, and of course was not the Messiah. But if such were not the meaning, the least that can be said of the prediction, is, that it was made in such deceitful language as to cheat the Jews, and prevent their identifying the true Messiah, whenever he might appear.

Unless the prediction described the Messiah so accurately that he could be unequivocally identified, certainly it was no prophesy. Such was the case here. The very people, to whom it was predicted that he should be sent, and whom he was to redeem and reign over, did not identify him in the person of Jesus. he did not in any important particular, or at least in any greater degree than many others, answer the description; and therefore, even if he were the true Messiah, the Jews did rightly in rejecting him, because it was their duty to be governed by the description.

Furthermore, it is evident from various circumstances, that Jesus himself originally understood the prediction as did the Jews, and that he did, at one time, expect to have become a temporal prince. [*44]

The particulars of his journey from the mount of Olives to Jerusalem, recorded by Matthew (21-1 to 11), Mark (11), Luke (19-28 to 44) and John (12-12 to 15), show that he at that time expected to have been received, as King of the Jews. Matthew says "a very great multitude" attended him; that they spread even their garments in the way; that they cut down branches of trees and strewed them in the way, and that they cried, "Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." Mark says they cried "Blessed be the KINGDOM of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord." Luke says they cried "Blessed be the KING that cometh in the name of the Lord." John says that much people, that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm-trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried "Hosanna blessed is the KING OF ISRAEL, that cometh in the name of the Lord." Is there here room for the slightest reasonable doubt that this multitude believed him to be a temporal prince, specially sent by God to rule over the Jewish notion? There certainly can be none, justified and authorized as such a belief was, in relation to the Messiah, lay the predictions of those whom the Jews supposed to be prophets. The question then arises, why came this multitude, at this time, to believe him to be their temporal king? Why, in this way only, viz: he himself must have directly or indirectly given to their minds the impression that he was to be, or it could not have become so general among them- and if he did either create or sanction that impression, he must himself have expected to be it temporal prince, or- he intentionally deceived this multitude. By barely consenting to be attended by this great body of men, by these shouts, and these hosannas, and by approaching Jerusalem in this triumphal and kingly manner, he proves that he either expected to have been made a king, or that he practised a deception on the people-for, be it remembered he could not have been ignorant that these demonstrations of loyalty were offered to him, by his attendants, solely because they thought he was about to become their king. John has removed all doubt that they were so offered. He says (12-16) that even "Jesus's disciples understood not these things at the first," that is, at the time, find on the spot, they did not understand that he was to be a spiritual king and if they did not, there is but one answer to the question, what did they understand him to be? But John adds, in substance, that "when Jesus was glorified" they then saw what their conduct had meant, and how they had in reality been paying their homage to a spiritual ruler under the mistaken apprehension that he was to he an earthly one. The amount of this ridiculous equivocation is, that Jesus took to himself, at tests the Hosannas which he must have known were intended for another, and trusted to the future, when he should be "glorified," to set the matter right- or, in other words, that, for the time being, he practised a little pious deception, for the Glory of God, and the good of that spiritual kingdom, which he was laboring to establish.

If Christians would save the character of Jesus for honesty and plain dealing, they must disclaim for him the miserable trick that John attributes to him, and must acknowledge that he intended to have become a king. All the accounts of this transaction go to show that such was the fact, that he expected to have been received as King at that time; that he rode that ass's colt solely because he knew that "it had been written, Behold thy KING cometh, sitting on an ass's colt," and that he supposed the Jews would therefore consider his being mounted on an ass good evidence of his right to be their king.

It is manifest also that he was disappointed in the reception he met with as he approached Jerusalem. Luke says (19-39) the Pharisees told him to rebuke his followers. This incident shows that the Pharisees would not acknowledge him as king. From this occurrence, and from what follows, it seems hardly possible to doubt, that Jesus saw that he could not be king. He then, as he naturally would if such were the case, (I here, on account of its Importance, repeat substantially what was said in the former chapter), falls into lamentation for the fate of the city-not for the souls of the Jews, as he would have been likely to do, if he had intended to be only a spiritual redeemer, but for the fate of the city itself. He virtually says (Luke 19-42 to 44) that if the Jews had but received him as king, their city would have been preserved; but since they had rejected him, the city would be destroyed. He says that, "enemies shall encompass it around, shall cast a trench about it, and keep it on every side, and say it even with the ground," &c. This is not the language of a purely spiritual deliverer- its is precisely such language as we might reasonably expect to hear from a man, who wished to make himself the ruler of a people, but who, on being rejected as such, should endeavour to alarm their fears for the safety of their city. Or it is such language as we might reasonably expect to hear from a man so deluded as to imagine that God had specially appointed him to be a deliverer of the people, and the preserver of a city. Such an one, on finding that he would not be accepted as king, would naturally infer, that inasmuch as the deliverer, whom God had appointed to save the city, had been rejected, the city would of course be destroyed."

In these facts too is to be found the secret of the prediction, that he made soon after, (Mat. 23-37 to 39), and c.24-Mark 13-Luke 21), respecting the destruction of Jerusalem, and which has been regarded as wonderful evidence of his power of prophecy. How wonderful the evidence is, here clearly appears. The fact, that Jerusalem was afterwards destroyed, has nothing to do with the prediction; because we can see the grounds, and probably the only grounds, on which he formed his opinion that it would be destroyed- grounds sufficient to lead [*45] such a man as I have supposed him to be, to believe that it would be destroyed, or to predict that it would, whether he thought so or not- and we are not to suppose him possessed of the power of prophecy, when his language can be accounted for without such a supposition.

Another important item of testimony to prove this fact, is, that it was very soon after this triumphal ride front the Mount of Olives, to Jerusalem, that he was apprehended and crucified, and the universal charge against him then was, that he had set himself up to be King of the Jews.

As the remaining evidence of his design to make himself king of the Jews has probably been sufficiently set forth in the former chapter on the nature and character of Jesus, it need not here be repeated.

Perhaps some persons may think it rather extraordinary that a man like Jesus should have concerned such a design as that of making himself a king. But if such persons look at Josephus (Book 2d- Chap. 13, &c. &c.) and at Newton on the Prophecies, Chap. 19,-they will find that, about the time of Jesus, characters very much like him, were no great novelties among the Jews. If these views are correct, Jesus did not, although he labored to do so, answer the predictions concerning a Messiah, viz: that he was to be a temporal king- but was simply a deluded or dishonest man, like many others, who set up similar pretensions, and all his talk about being "sent of God," &c., was but the insane gibberish of a deluded fanatic, or the knavish pretences of an impostor.

But supposing the predicted Messiah to have been intended only as a spiritual prince-even then Jesus does not answer the description. This Messiah was to be "the glory of God's people Israel." He was "to save God's people from their sins." By "God's people", as then understood by the authors of the Bible, were meant the Jews. Jesus also himself virtually predicts that he should redeem the Jews, for he appointed his disciples in number corresponding with the number of the original tribes of Jews, and he also promised to these twelve disciples that they should sit (Christians must say, in heaven, although he at the time probably meant on earth) on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. He by these acts, and by his whole conduct, showed that he expected to have redeemed the Jews. But none of these predictions or expectations have been fulfilled. Some Christians believe but the Jews will sometimes be converted to Christianity but where is the foundation for such a belief? Jesus can never answer the description given of the Messiah any better than he did while on earth, and therefore there is no reason why the Jews should ever believe him to have been the Messiah. Even if we suppose that the Jews, at the time when Jesus was alive, were mistaken as to his character, still, if eighteen centuries do not afford a sufficient time for them to discover their mistake, how long a time will probably be necessary?

But, further, if a Messiah were necessary to redeem the Jews, was it not just as important to redeem those Jews who have died during the last eighteen centuries, as to redeem any that may live hereafter?

Since the time of Jesus about sixty generations of Jews have died, without it being redeemed, as believers must say; and yet these same believers virtually say, that if the Jews hereafter be converted to Christianity, Jesus will fairly answer the description of that Messiah who was to be the Saviour of the Jewish nation. Every generation is a nation of itself, and if Messiah was not to able to save either of the first sixty nations of Jesus that should succeed him, the prophet ought to have been more explicit in designating what nations of Jews he would save.

To say that Jesus would have saved the Jews, if they would have but received him, is no answer to the objection. If a man predict that a certain event will come to pass, he virtually predicts that every necessary intermediate event will also happen. And if a supposed prophet predicted that a Messiah should redeem the Jews, such a prediction was equivalent to one that they would believe on him- and if they did not believe on him-no matter for what reason the prediction then failed as essentially as if no pretended Messiah had ever offered to save them.

Jesus, then, did not come in the same character, (of a temporal prince) that it was predicted Messiah would come in;-nor has he been received by that nation, who, it was predicted, would receive the Messiah. We therefore have no authority, on the ground of prophecy, for believing that he was the expected Messiah; on the contrary, we have much express authority for believing that he was no Messiah at all.

The remaining prediction relating to a Messiah, which was to be noticed, is, that he was to be of the family of Jesse, and a Son of David. Matthew (1) and Luke (3) have attempted to show that Jesus was a descendant of David-and how have they attempted to show it? Why, solely by pretending to trace the genealogy of Joseph, who, as they both agree, was not his father, but simply became the husband of his mother a short time before the birth of Jesus. They might therefore with the same propriety have traced their own genealogies, in order to prove that Jesus was a descendant of David, its that of Joseph.

This blunder, it would seem, besides proving that there is not the slightest ground for the pretence that Jesus was a descendant of David, must also be considered as having a slight tendency to show how much those two stupid blockheads knew.[*46]

These chroniclers, who, with all good fidelity, did so much for posterity, have also shown, in attempting to trace the genealogy of Joseph, an accuracy, a faithfulness, and a knowledge of the importance of being exact in all matters of revelation, corresponding to the character of their intellects. Luke makes there to have been forty generations between Joseph and David, while Matthew connects the two by a chain of less than thirty, and running through an almost totally different list of names. Even if Joseph had been the acknowledged father- of Jesus, a disagreement of this kind would prove that there was no more reason for pretending that Jesus was a descendant of David, than for pretending that be was a descendant of another Jew, who might be noticed at random from another, those who lived in the times of David.

The necessary falsehood of one or the other, and the probable falsehood of both, of these pretended genealogies, would tend to discredit any but an inspired book.

Let us now examine Jesus's own predictions, and see how he sustained the character or a prophet.

His only important predictions, that I have discovered, are included in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, and in the last three verses of the preceding chapter Mark also in his thirteenth, and Luke in his twenty first chapter, have recorded a part of tile same predictions, although not so fully as Matthew.

The only one of his predictions, which has been fulfilled, and which is definite and important enough to have any claims to be noticed, is that which foretels the destruction of the temple.

It is evident from the whole of Matthew's record of the prediction, (beginning, at the 37th verse of the 23d chapter), that Jesus did not intend to convey the idea that the temple was devoted to any particular destruction of the temple, because they happened to be standing by it, and speaking of it- but he only conveys the idea that it would be involved in the general ruin.

I attempted, on a former page, to account for this prediction, in this way, viz : Jesus had read in the Old Testament, that Messiah was to be a temporal prince, who was to be raised up especially by God for the purpose of saving the Jewish nation, perhaps from their sins, but especially from their enemies, and he inferred, as he reasonably might from these promises, that some great temporal threatened the nation, and that an extraordinary deliverer was necessary to save them from danger. He believed himself to be, or dishonestly wished to make others believe him to be, this Messiah, this appointed deliverer and King. When then he found himself rejected by this nation, whom he supposed, or dishonestly pretended, that he was able to have saved, he inferred as a matter of course, or threatened as a matter of policy, that the calamity would come upon them. He would also, in such a case, naturally infer, if honest, or threaten, if dishonest, that this calamity should come soon, and therefore he ventured to predict that it would come in the course of one generation.

The last three verses or the twenty third chapter of Matthew tend strongly to confirm this view. The language of Jesus, as there recorded, evidently means this. "O! Jerusalem, I would have protected thy children as a hen protects her chickens under her wings, but they would not suffer them to do it- now therefore their house (homes, or possibly temple) shall become desolate, for I say unto you thy shall not see their deliverer, until they will receive the one that was sent to them by the Lord (to wit: myself").

If such be a correct view of his thoughts, and a fear interpretation of his language, the question is at an end, for here we see sufficient causes to induce a man like him to make such a prediction- and we are not to suppose him a prophet, if we can account for his language in any other way, because it is unphilosophical to attribute, to supernatural causes, things that might have been naturally produced.

But beside the reasonableness, and the manifest probability of the above supposition, there are one or two other circumstances, that corroborate its truth. One is, that but a short time before this prediction was made, (as appears by the order in which the two events are recorded both by Matthew, Mark and Luke), and immediately after his triumphal ride from the mount of Olives to Jerusalem, and his (unquestionable) rejection as king by the Pharisees and principal men of the Jews, he, apparently in the midst of the disappointment or chagrin occasioned by that rejection, uttered a prediction or threat almost precisely similar to the one we have now been considering. (Luke 19-39 to 44).

Another circumstance tending most satisfactorily to confirm the above view of this matter, is that he could not fix the time when the temple should be destroyed. he only ventured to say that it would be in the course of that generation, but expressly told his disciples (Mark 13-32) that he did not know either the day or the hour when the event would happen.

If he had the power of foreseeing future events, why could he not have known the time of the occurrence, as well as the occurrence itself?

Let us now look at some of his predictions, that were not fulfilled.

He predicted (Mat. 24-3, &c.) that "the end of the world" should com in the course of that generation. But we are here met by the reply, that he did not mean that the end of the world itself would come, or, in other words, that he said what he did not mean, (a practice, to which, according to modern Christians, he was very much addicted). But if he did not mean what he said, what did he mean? "I don't know," says the Christian, "but I think he must [*47] have meant this, or if he did not, perhaps he meant that- but I am sure he could not have meant the end of the world, because if he had, the end of the world would have surely come." This logic is so satisfactory, that I might perhaps despair of convincing a believer on this point, were there no external evidence tending to prove that Jesus, in this particular case, meant as he said. It therefore very fortunately happens that such evidence is to be found. For example,- he had told his disciples the same thing before. In Matthew 16-28, he holds to them this solemn and unequivocal language, "verily, I say unto you, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death till they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.

We have also further evidence that the twelve understood him to mean the end of the world, and what they understood him to mean, Christians cannot deny to be his true meaning. Peter declares (Acts 2-16 and 17) on the day of Pentecost, that the conduct, which the apostles had there exhibited, was that, which it had been predicted by Joel, should happen "in the last days." Peter also, in his first epistle 4-7, says, "the end of all things is at hand." Paul also (1 Thess. 4-15 to 17) speaks of Christ's coming as an event, that was to take place during, the lifetime of some of those whom he was addressing. John also (Rev. I ), speaks of it as an event near at hand.

Jesus also said that the time or the destruction of the temple should be at the time of his coming, (Mat. 24-3, &c). It is manifest from this circumstance too that he supposed the end of the world, and the destruction of the temple would happen one and the same time, for he would not, of course, have fixed the time of his coming before the end of the world.

It was natural also that he should suppose the end of the world and the destruction of the temple and city of Jerusalem would happen at the same time, because both the temple and the city were esteemed sacred, and as under the special protection of God, and it was therefore natural for those, who believed thus, to suppose that God would not permit them to be destroyed before the rest of this world.

And here too we find another false prediction, viz: in relation to the time of his coming. He has here left no doubt of his meaning, for he particularly described the manner of his coming- and this manner is just as we might reasonably suppose a deluded man would picture in his imagination, or an imposter conjure up to impose upon the miserable dupes who were his followers. He said (Mat. 24-30 and 31) that "all the tribes of the earth should see him, coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory." And, said he, "he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumphet, and they shall gather together and elect from four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."

That his disciples understood this prediction as one that was to be fulfilled literally, is sufficiently proved by Paul's declaration before referred to, (1 Thess. 4-15 to 17), where he says explicitly that "the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the triumph 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."

His predicting also that he should "rather his elect" at the time of the destruction of the temple, shows that he intended to say that the end of the world would then come. But he has never thus come to gather his elect, and this is the third false prediction.

There is still a fourth. He said (Mat. 24-14) that before these occurrences should happen, "this gospel of the kingdom should be preached in all nations, and to this declaration, as well as to the others, he adds this sweeping clause, that this generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled." None pretend that in the course of that Generation his gospel was preached in all nations. The most that is pretended, is, that some one or other of big apostles preached in all the principal nations with which they were acquainted. But the prediction was that it should be preached in all nations, and if it were not so preached, the prediction failed, let the cause of the system's not being preached, be what it may. Jesus himself was probably as ignorant of what nations there were in the world as his apostles, for he gave them no directions unless this general one, to preach every wher.

But not only the letter of this prediction failed, but the spirit of it also failed even in relation to those countries that were known and visited by the apostles. The great mass of men in those countries, during that generation, had no proper opportunity to bear the doctrines of the apostles, to learn the character of their system, and to judge of its truth. A great portion probably, so general was the ignorance that prevailed, did not, for the first forty years after the death of Jesus, know anything of consequence respecting him. The apostles just set foot, as it were, in various countries, but the mere setting foot in a country did not spread a general and full knowledge of Christianity throughout that country-yet it ought so to have done in order to fulfill the- spirit of this prediction. Jesus undoubtedly meant, that within the period mentioned, his religion should be made so universally known, that all, who would, might have an opportunity to embrace it, find be saved.

Here then are four several predictions, viz: that the end of the world would come-that he himself would come visibly in the clouds of heaven-that his angels should gather his elect from the four winds,-and, that his gospel should be preached in all the nations of the earth, in the course of the then present generation-all of which predictions proved false nearly eighteen centuries ago. [*48]

There is no room for any quibble on his language, or for pretending that these predictions were carelessly, or thoughtlessly made. After having described the events in plain and unambiguous terms, he adds (Mat. 24-34) "verily, I say unto you, this generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled." He goes still farther, and follows even this declaration with one of the most solemn asseverations that man could utter. Says he (Mat. 21-35) "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away."

This dishonest and infatuated man was predicting events of the occurrence of which he knew nothing, for time has proved that those various predictions, and that solemn asseveration were falsehoods.

These predictions of Jesus, in relation to his gospel's being preached throughout the world, his coming, his gathering, his elect, &c., have thus far been considered as having reference to events of a religious character, and as such have been shown to be false. But there is another and more probable interpretation to be given to them, and that is, that they refer to a second attempt, which he then had in contemplation, to make himself king of the Jews. There are many circumstances tending strongly to confirm this view. One is, that this prediction, that he should come again, was made very soon after he had once attempted to get himself accepted as king of the Jews, and had failed. It is natural that he should have it in his mind to make another effort, if he saw any possibility of his doing it with better prospects of success. And as he was looking forward to a time when the nation would be in danger from their enemies, it is natural that he should suppose that such a season of peril and calamity would be a favorable one for the triumph of his scheme.

A great part of his account (Mat. 24) of the scenes that were to preceed his coming, indicate that he expected only a temporary calamity to the Jewish nation, and that the declaration ascribed to him, that the "end of the world" was then to come, must be a misrepresentation.

His prediction that he should come "in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory," (if indeed he made such an one- which Deist's are not at all bound to believe), is not inconsistent with the supposition that he intended to come as a temporal deliver; for such a pretension was hardly more extravagant than ought to have been expected from such a man; nor was it too extravagant to gain credit among his disciples; and it was indispensably necessary that he should hold out a very extravagant expectation of some sort in order to keep up the delusion and faith of his ignorant followers until his arrival. Besides, he said that his competitors (whom he called "false Christs") "should show great signs and wonders," and it was necessary that he should represent that the pageantry of his coming would still be more marvelous than that of theirs, otherwise he could not have sustained his own reputation, in the eyes of his disciples, for being the true Messiah. he must also promise something corresponding with the dignity of a Messiah, else his disciples would not have cared to wait for him, when they should be in the way of having so many opportunities and inducements, as he expected they would have, within the ranks of other pretended Messiahs. Finally, a man, who, like Jesus, could have the good to assert, without ever putting any thing of that kind to the test of experiment, than rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem in three days, (john 2-19), or that if he were but his father, the almighty, he should immediately receive from him more than twenty angels to protect his person, (Mat. 26-53), or that his followers, had moved mountains, and cast them into the sea, (Mark 11-23), would not be when, as in this case, his circumstances required a large story of some frightening the foolish dupes, that followed him, and were ready to swallow anything from him, that he should sometimes make a second appearance among them, and should then come in the clouds of heaven, &c.-especially if he could tell them, as he did in this instance, that it might be many years before the thing would happen.

Another circumstance worthy of special notice, is, that (Mat. 23-37 to 39) a short time before his prediction in relation to a second coming, after having declared how willingly he would have protected the people of Jerusalem, and how they would not permit him to do it, he proceeded to say that calamity should come upon them, and that "they should not see him thenceforth, until they should say blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." What is the meaning of such language as this, unless it be that he had resolved to absent himself, until the nation should find itself so involved in danger that they would receive him gladly as their deliverer? Here then is an express intimation that he expected, at a future time, to come and be received as the temporal deliverer of the nation. Now when was this second coming as a temporal deliverer to be, unless it were at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, as spoken of in the very next chapter, when he should come with power and great glory?

He tells his disciples also (Mat. 24-14) that before the time of the next coming, "this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations." It was expected by the Jews that under the reign of their Messiah, their nation would acquire great temporal splendor, and great importance and high rank among the nations of the earth, and that people from all nations would flock together at Jerusalem. What then did Jesus mean, when people said that "this gospel of the kingdom of the people should be preached in all the world for a witness into all nations," before the time of his coming? Did he not mean that his project of an earthly kingdom, or the good news of the earthly kingdom, which he designed to establish should be so proclaimed abroad, that all, who should desire it, might, at the time of his coming to take [*49] the throne, assemble and become subjects of his government? The terms used to indicate most strikingly that such was his meaning. He does not say merely his gospel, nor does he say his spiritual gospel, nor his system of religion, nor the gospel of a future world; but he says "this gospel of the kingdom." Besides, we ought to suppose that when he spoke of the kingdom, he alluded to some particular kingdom, with the idea of which his disciples were familiar- and yet, with the idea of what kingdom were they then familiar, except the kingdom of their expected Messiah, which, as they all understood, was to be an earthly one? They had, at that time, as Christians themselves admit, never dreamed of his kingdom being an heavenly one.

He said also (Mat. 24-31) that his angels "should gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." Now who were these "elect," that were to be "gathered together," from the four winds? Why, is it clear that they were living men, and that they were to be gathered together at some place on the earth; for after describig the tribulation that should come upon Jerusalem as being so great, that unless the duration of it should be shortened, no "flesh should be saved," he adds (22d verse) that "for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened"- that is, this time of calamity shall be shortened that the elect may not die in consequence of it. If therefore the "elect" were to be exposed to the distress attending the destruction of Jerusalem, and at the time of the distress was to be shortened that they might be saved from death, and if they were to be thus saved, they of course were living men. It is perfectly absurd to speak of any others, than men living on the earth, being saved from death, and if they were to be thus saved, they of course were living men. It is perfectly absurd to speak of any others, than men living on earth, being saved from death at the sacking of the city. Now, these "elect," who were to be saved at the destruction of Jerusalem, were undoubtedly a part of those "elect," who were to be "gathered together" immediately afterwards, at the time of his coming; and those, that were to be gathered from other nations, or "from the four winds," were doubtless of the same kind of "elect," that is, living men.

Considering it settled, therefore, that these elect were living men, and that they were to be gathered, together on earth, what would be the object of Jesus in thus gathering them together, unless it were to compose his kingdom? He, of course, would not wish to carry these living men's bodies to heaven, and if he wished to carry their souls their, it probably would not be absolutely necessary to "gather them together" for that purpose- much less to gather their living men's bodies to heaven, and if he wished to carry their souls there, it probably would not be absolutely necessary to "gather them together" for that purpose- much less to gather their living bodies together, as it appears that he intended to do.

That the Jews expected that, under the reign of their Messiah, people would be gathered from all nations to compose his kingdom, the following passages, selected from the many of similar import in the Old Testament, are abundant evidence.

Isaiah 27-13. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come, which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcast in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jeruasalem.

Genesis 49-10. The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh (messiah) come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.

Isaiah 2-2. And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.

Isaiah 11-10. And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people, to it shall the Gentiles seek.

Isaiah 11-12. And He (the Lord) shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

Isaiah 55-4 and 5. Behold I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people. Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee.

Is. 60-10, 11 and 12. And the sons of strangers shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee.

Therefore thy gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day or night; that men may bring unto thee forces of the gentiles, and that their kings maybe brought. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted.

If these passages were designed as predictions that Jerusalem was to be built up, as a temporal kingdom, under the reign of the Messiah, by accessions from foreign nations, we have here additional evidence that Jesus, when he predicted that his angels should gather his elect from the four winds, had in his mind the building up of a temporal kingdom; because he evidently had always intended to be guided by, and had always pretended to be destined to fulfill, the predictions which have been made concerning a Messiah.

Another most important fact, and one which appears to me decisive evidence that Jesus, at his second coming, designed but to renew his attempts to make himself king of the Jews, is, that he expected to have competitors, (Mat. 24-23 to 28). It is admitted and asserted by Christians, and proved by history, that these pretended Messiahs, whom Jesus called "false Christ's," were men who attempted to obtain the temporal government of the Jews. Yet [*50] these are the men, against whose pretensions Jesus found it necessary, in the strongest manner, to warn his disciples, lest they, mistaking one of these for himself, or for the true Messiah, should espouse the cause of a wrong one. The question here arises, whether a man, who is undisguisedly engaged in endeavouring to acquire temporal power, so nearly resembles a genuine Son of God and spiritual Saviour, that men, who should once have been intimately acquainted with the latter, would not afterwards be able, without difficulty, to distinguish between him and the former? A further question also arises, viz: whether men must not have the same object in pursuit, in order to be such rivals to each other.

Look now, but for a moment, at the monstrous absurdity involved in the interpretation, that must be to this affair by Christians. They must admit that Jesus, at the when he made these prediction in relation to his second coming, must have foreseen his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension; and that he must also have known that these events would open to the understandings of his disciples(what until then they are said never to have understood) the spiritual nature of his kingdom. he must have known that as soon as these events should have happened, all their former misapprehensions as to the nature of his reign would immediately vanish; that all, that they had before misunderstood, would them become to their minds perfectly clear, and certain; that they would then know, with the most absolute knowledge, tat he never had designed to be, and never would be, and earthly deliverer or king; that Messiah was never to have been an earthly monarch; but that he was the genuine Messiah, and hat his kingdom was solely spiritual, and he a purely moral deliverer, redeemer or Saviour. Christians must say also that at this time (that is, at the time of making these predictions), Jesus also knew that in a few years these very disciples would have, in a measure, established a religion, bearing his name. And yet these same Christians must say further, that although he foresaw all these things, he was yet troubled with fears lest these disciples, after they should have come to all this light, after they should be possessed of all this certain knowledge to his character and the nature of his kingdom, and even after they should have witnessed his resurrection from the dead, and his ascension into heaven, and should have labored for the establishment of his religion, might yet forget all these things, and be deceived by some one of those vagabond leaders (for such, or little better than such, these false Christs were), of insurgent band of Jews, into the belief that such a leader, and not Jesus, was the Christ; that they might be so hoaxed as to espouse the case of some one who should be attempting to become temporal king; might be cleared into the delusion that such an one was the real Messiah instead of himself; and might be duped into the conviction that some one, who should be notoriously aiming at an earthly throne, was the "Son of God," who was destined to fulfill all that was expected to be done by their spiritual Saviour, Messiah, Redeemer, &c., in relation to the spiritual redemption of the human race.

When before was such a bundle of absurdities ever offered to the credulity of men?

But if we suppose that Jesus designed only absent himself for a while, (as he intimated that he intended to do, when he said (Mat. 28- 37 to 39) that the people of Jerusalem should not see him again until they would be glad to receive him), and then to come again and renew his attempt to make himself king of the Jews, his conduct in warning his disciples against being enticed, in the mean time, into the train of other pretended kings, is all perfectly explained; because it is perfectly natural that, under such circumstances, he should have fears that before his return, his followers might suspect, either that he would not return at all, or that he was not the genuine Messiah, and might therefore abandon their hopes of him, and be persuaded to attach themselves to some of his rivals.


CHAPTER V.

The Resurrection.

[*53] Away the stone from the door, and sat upon it, and that "for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became dead men."

Few probably will believe that an angel was there, simply because a simple, superstitious and timid woman imagined she saw one- at such a time and place too, where a woman, who believed in angels, would be more likely to see one than at any other. But there is no certainty, I think I may say probability, that she even imagined that she saw one sitting on the stone, for Mark says nothing about her seeing an angel without her sepulcre, but says (16-5) that the woman saw a young man clothed in a long white garment within the; and Luke only says (24-3 & 4) that after they had entered into the sepulcre; "two men stood by them in shining garments," &c. John says nothing about Mary's seeing an angel at all the first time she went to the sepulcre.

But perhaps the Christians will ask, if there were no angel there, why did these keepers appear "like dead men?" Why, for the very good reason that they lay out on the ground asleep, as I have supposed them to have done; and this undoubtedly is as far as they did resemble dead men. But Matthew says these "keepers did shake," and it may be argued that this could not be if they lay on the ground. To this it may be replied, that neither could they "become like dead men," and yet continued standing. The unbeliever has a right to take his choice of these contradictory statements- I therefore take the last, that they "became like dead men," and then account for it by saying that they were asleep. The time when Mary saw these men in this situation was just at dawn of day, Matthew says; (John says (20-1) that the time of Mary's being there was just" when it was yet dark"), and that is the time when they would naturally be asleep.

Matthew acknowledges that the watch told the governor that they had been asleep.; but he says that this story was a falsehood, and that soldiers were bribed by the Chief Priests to tell it. But it is pretty certain that Matthew manufactured this story, so far as it relates to the falsehood and bribery, or that he adopted it without knowing anything of its truth- for how could he know that they had not slept? Or how could this outcast fisherman, or any of his feather, know anything about the Chief Priests making a bargain with these soldiers? Was he, or such fellows as he, let into their counsels?

The simple declaration of these soldiers is sufficient evidence that they were asleep,- for it is not in human nature that men, in their situation, knowing that Jesus had pretended to be the Messiah, Son of God, &c., should see an angel come and roll away the stone from the door of the sepulcre where he was buried, that they should feel such fear, on account of seeing this angel, as to "shake and become like dead men," and then that they should all go away and deny all this, and say that they had been asleep.

Still less, if possible, is it in human nature, that the Chief Priests, who knew what Jesus had claimed to be, when they learned that he had risen from the dead, and knew also, as they then of necessity must, that he was a being not to be controlled or baffled in his designs by them, should think of giving "large money" to these soldiers to hire them to say that the body had been stolen. Men never would have dared do such a thing. But supposing them to have dared to do it, what could they expect to gain by such a fraud? Or how long could they expect to conceal it? If they knew that Jesus was alive, they could not but have been assured that the fact would be immediately known; and they must also have been aware that as soon as the fact should have become public, the falsehood of the soldiers would be exposed and their own knavery in the greatest danger of detection. The absurdity of pretending that men would act thus, under such circumstance, is so gross as to be perfectly disgusting.

I here take for granted that it has been established, by evidence, which Christians must abide by, that, if there were a watch at this tomb, they were asleep. There is still another subject of inquiry, viz. whether there were any watch at all there? The evidence is very strong in tending to shew that there was none.

In the first place, nobody but Matthew says anything about there being any, and his reputation for truth is decidedly too bad to have anything improbable, which, if true, would make for his cause, believed on the strength of his assertion. He has told too many stories about soldiers being bribed to tell falsehoods, about Chief Priests bribing the, about the earth quaking, rocks rending, graves opening, dead rising, about sermons on the mount, &c. &c. to be entitled to any ,mercy when his statements are to be examined, or any credit when those statements are improbable.

Matthew had a strong inducement to make up a story of this kind, if it were false. It appears (28-13 &15) that, at the time he wrote, it was the current opinion among Jews that the body was stolen from the tomb in the night. And he knew that this would be the natural inference of people in general, unless something were told by the friends of Jesus to prove that such could not have been the case. He therefore says that there was a guard there. But even when he has said this, he seems to be aware that he has not relieved his case from all embarrassment, and that it was necessary for him to account, in some way, for the fact, that the circumstance of a guard's being there did not satisfy the Jews, as well as himself, that the body was not stolen. He could account for this I no way but by charging the soldiers with having told a falsehood, by which the Jews were deceived. He therefore declares that they did tell a falsehood, and in making this declaration, he shews that he himself was a man too dishonest to be trusted, because he certainly could not have known that they [*54] did not sleep. On his own showing, therefore, he, without any certain knowledge of the facts in the case, contradicts those who did know them perfectly, and asks us to believe, merely because be says so, that those others were all liars; although he acknowledges that the Jewish nation believed, and continued to believe, that they told the truth. A very modest man truly!

But even when he has accused the soldiers or lying, he has not done all that was necessary to be done. He must, in order to make this story against them believed, show that they had some motive for lying. He therefore makes another charge, which he could not have known to be true, even if it were true, the Chief Priests, and says that they bribed the soldiers to do it. But even when he has done this, he has not cleared his case of all the difficulty in which it is involved. It is necessary that he should also account for the fact that the soldiers were not punished for sleeping, when they had been set as a guard. One falsehood more, if it be but believed, will now make out this case- he therefore represents that the Chief Priests, those wicked Chief Priests, who were full of all manner of iniquity- interfered for these soldiers, according to agreement, and made such representations in their favor (false ones, of course, unless he means to charge the governor also with corruption) as saved them.

Such is Matthews story, a story that might have been valuable to Christianity, were it not that, like many other stories of the same author, it failed to "keep probability in view."

The circumstances that neither Mark, Luke, nor John make any mention of the guard, is very strong evidence that there was none; because they must almost necessarily have known that the way, in which the Jews accounted for, the absence of the body from the tomb, was, by supposing it to have been stolen; and if, they had common sense, they must have known that this supposition was a reasonable one, and that therefore, if there were any facts tending to contradict it, it was immensely important to their cause to state them. Yet they have said not one syllable on the subject. Besides, if there had been a guard there, that of itself was an incident so prominent, one would think, that these men would have been likely to have mentioned it, even if they had not seen its particular importance.

Another ground for believing that there was no watch there, is, that there seems to have been no good reason why there should have been one. The man was dead, as they all supposed, and the body had been taken down and given to its friends, and what more was necessary? But Matthew says (27-63 &c.) that the reason assigned by the Chief Priests and Pharisees, who wished to have a guard set, was, that "the remembered that Jesus had said that in three days he should rise again." Now this story is perfectly ridiculous, because it is evident that even the disciples, not only had never heard him say plainly that in three days he should rise again, but that they had not even heard him say any thing, which they considered equivalent to such a declaration- how supremely absurd then is it to pretend that others had heard such a statement from him. If then the Chief Priests had ever heard any thing about his rising again, the motive, which Matthew says induced them to get a watch set, did not exist; and if that part of the story, that relates to the motive be false, the whole is probably false.

There is still another circumstance, which, in my mind, stamps this story of the watch as fabrication- and that is, that all the preparations for having the watch set, &c., are said to have been made on the Sabbath day, (Mat. 27-62 &c.). There seems to have been an attempt to conceal the fact of his being done on that day, by calling it, instead of the Sabbath, "the next day that followed the day of preparation." If the story, instead of running as it does, had run thus, "now on the Sabbath day the Chief Priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate" &c. the improbability would have been so glaring as to be dangerous; a man would notice it at first glance; but "now, the next day that followed the day of preparation, the Chief Priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate" &c. does not suggest the improbability so readily, and was therefore the better form of expression, in this particular instance, notwithstanding it is awkward and unnatural.

For my part I believe the whole of this story to have been the work of a knave, and probably of a more modern knave than Matthew. Some pious priests (before priests had become as honest as they are now) probably saw what was wanting, and attempted to supply it.

One consideration is here worthy of notice, viz. that if there were no watch it is not improbable that Jesus went, or was carried, from the tomb even sooner than the second night. It is indeed probable that when Joseph and Nicodemus (who appear to have been more intelligent men than the friends of Jesus generally) had him taken down from the cross, and asked of Pilate the privilege of taking the body into their care, they believed that he could be restored; that their object in seeking to get the body was to restore it; and that, on the very first night, as soon as the women and the other friends of Jesus, whom it would not do to trust with a secret, had gone, and it had become dark, they took measures to recover him. It is evident that the disciples did not go to the tomb on the day of the Sabbath day- so that if the body had been absent on that day, they would not have known it. All they knew about the time of the exit of Jesus from the tomb, was, that very early on the second morning he was gone- but of the length of time he had been gone they knew nothing.

If it be true that the individuals seen by the disciples, was really Jesus, his whole course, after his reappearance, tends to confirm all I have supposed in relation to his natural restoration. Had he actually risen from the dead, he would undoubtedly have shown himself in [*55] the most open manner, so as to have made the fact of his resurrection notorious. But he kept himself timidly concealed from the public eye. He skulked about like a fugitive, who had luckily escaped the clutches of the executioner. He saw none but his friends. Peter says (Acts 10-41) he did not shew himself "to all people," but (only) to his disciples. His first interview even with then was had in the evening and behind closed doors, (John 20-19). Eight days afterwards he met them again, and within closed doors, (John 20-26). Perhaps he saw them a few times more, but he carefully avoided being seen openly. He lurked about among his former adherents for forty days, and at the end of that time he was among the missing.

It is now incumbent upon those, who maintain that he was supernaturally restored to life, to show, by reasonable evidence, what became of him at the end of these forty days. Thos who believe only that animation was naturally restored in him, can easily satisfy themselves as to his fate, by supposing that he was detected and privately slain; that he sought a residence where he might be safe from a second crucifixion; or that he went off with the intention of living concealed for a while, and then returning at a more favorable time to renew his attempt to make himself a king of the Jews, and that he died before such an opportunity presented itself. But neither of these suppositions will answer the purpose of those, who maintain that he was supernaturally revived. They must dispose of him in a more dignified manner. Now, on what evidence can they do it? Matthew and John give no intimation that they ever knew what became of him. Nor do any of the eleven ever speak of having witnessed this miraculous "ascent." Yet Mark and Luke, who are our only authority for believing that he ascended at all, both say (mark 16-19. Luke 24-50 to 51. Acts 1 that he did it in presence of his disciples. Now is it to be believed for a moment, that if he had thus ascended into heaven in the presence of his disciples, no one of them would ever have given us testimony of the fact? Or that Matthew and John, who were of the twelve, when they undertook to write biographies of him, would have omitted all allusion to such an event as this, if it had ever happened? The thing is incredible. It would have been better for their case to have omitted the whole of their other accounts of the supposed miracles and wonderful works of Jesus, than to have omitted this single one, for without this, the rest under the circumstances are utterly incredible, and good for nothing. There is no excuse for attempting to support a story of this kind on the mere heresay declarations of Mark and Luke, who could have known nothing about the fact, when the alleged eye-witnesses are silent. The imposition is too gross to deserve the toleration of society for a moment. And that class of men, who dare get their living from palming off this abominable deception upon the understandings of simple and confiding, have little more excuse for their conduct that other class of swindlers and cheats, against whom we have laws to protect the community. . The disciples perhaps (as some of their observations indicate) supposed that Jesus had gone to Heaven, and well might suppose so, and for these reasons, viz. that they thought that the proper place for him, and perhaps they remembered that he had once before told them that he wasgoing to the father, and they knew not now where else he could have gone to. (They did not dream that he could run away.) But they never speak of having seen him ascend. Certainly the bare conjectures of these eleven are not to be taken as evidence of his ascension. The believer is then left with a risen Messiah on his hands, whom he cannot dispose of, by any reasonable evidence, that can be found in the Bible. But supposing any one should still say that he will nevertheless continue to belive that Jesus went to Heaven, let me ask him whether he supposes that the body of Jesus went there? That human body, which is supposed to have been prepared solely for him to live in while on the earth? Surely he will not pretend that this flesh and blood, this lump of matter, this corporal system went to the land of souls. What then did become of it, unless it walked slily off one day out of the reach of danger ?

Besides, what become of the dress he had on? Did he wear that into the world of spirits? But this is not all. There is, in this story, still another absurdity, gross as any preceding one. The testimony of the witness is, that he ascended "up" into heaven. Now, which way from this earth is up ? [*56]


 

Footnotes For The Deist's Reply by: Lysander Spooner

Chapter 1

[*2] The promise was probably understood at the time it was made, as referring to temporal thrones; but after the departure of Jesus, was applied to the Apostles by heavenly ones.

[*3] See his ridiculous boast (2 Cor. 12-1 to 5) that he was the man who had been caught up into the third heaven, (query- how many heavens are there in all?) and had there heard certain sounds, which he deemed repeating, on the pretence that it would be unlawful for him to do so. This journey to paradise, therefore, was labor lost, unless the story of it, united with his declarations (2 Cor. 11-5-2 Cor.12-11) that "he was not a whit behind the very chiefest of the Apostles," and his other boastful pretences, of which the last named chapters are full, served some purpose in gaining him credit among those, whose backwardness to regard him, he virtually says, (2 Cor. 12-11) " compelled him" to brag a little; although, modest man ! He would not for the world be thought "to glory of himself, but in his infirmities." (2 Cor. 12-5).

[*3] Perhaps some explanation may be given to this declaration of Paul, I here state only what appears on the face of the matter.

[*3] 2d. Cor. 11-8. "I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service." It may well be doubted, one would think, whether the last clause of this verse gives his real reason for an act, which he seems to admit, in the first clause, to be unjust.

[*7] I trust the time is not too far distant, when the moral courage of the more intelligent and independent portion of the community will be sufficiently aroused to expose, without reserve, the dishonest and cowardly practices of these men; when their attempts to dissuade weak and timid minds from the examination of evidence; to keep the reasons and arguments of their opponents out of sight; and to so fill the minds of their dopes with vulgar and superstitious fears and prejudices as to deprive them of all mental liberty on this subject, will receive their merited condemnation; and when the efforts, which instead of meeting the arguments of men, they are now zealously making, by sabbath-schools and otherwise, to forestal the judgments and permanently rivet the faith of the young, by impressing and deluding their imaginations, before they are capable of reasoning, will be regarded as a nefarious artifice for perpetuating their own influence by depriving the human mind of its rights, and truth and reason of their power.

Chapter 2

[*8] Some may perhaps believe that this verse was not intended to convey such a meaning as I have attributed to it- but can such persons tell us what other definite idea can be gathered from it?

[*8-9] We have evidence that there actually were in circulation after his death, and in credit among his followers, a great variety of stories about miraculous occurrence of the most ludicrous character imaginable, though hardly more ludicrous than some related in the four gospels. That evidence is furthered by those books, (now published under the title of the "Aprocryphal New Testament") which were discarded as not being canonical, or at least as doubtful, by the council of Nice, about three centuries after Christ. As they are now admitted by Christians to be false, on that admission they prove all I wish to prove by them, viz. that after the death of Jesus, there were many stories in circulation respecting him, which rested on no authority but the tongue of rumor, and we are to judge whether these narratives which are now esteemed by Christians, canonical- considering how many years after the death of Jesus they were written- are not as likely to have been gathered in part from the simple rumor, as those others.

[*9] For a more full account of these Messiahs, see Rev. Thomas Newton's Dissertations on the prophecies, Ch.19, also Josephus, Book 2d. chap. 13. Several of them were finally put to death. Some of them succeeded in gaining a much larger number of followers than Jesus, in his lifetime, ever had.

[*13] Some of the expressions, employed by the writers in relating this affair, appear to have been so unreasonably "glorified," that in order to put together a story which should appear natural and unrestrained throughout, I have selected the most natural expressions from each of the accounts, instead of quoting the whole of any single one.

[*17] Both Mathew and John are supposed to have written their narratives more than thirty years after the crucifixion. See Rees' Cyclopedia.

Chapter 3

[*18] I might here safely leave the question of Jesus's miracles, without any further argument, were I so disposed; because no thinking man would for a moment believe them to have been real ones, unless he could see, or should fancy he could see, that it was important that they should be wrought for the purpose of proving a Revelation-yet, as has been shown, the purpose, for which they are said to have been wrought, cannot logically be taken at all into the account, when judging of their reality.

[*19] Such facts as above would furnish a complete answer to all the arguments- founded on the importance of the alleged purpose of establishing in men's minds a belief in a revelation- (supposing such arguments to be admissible), that Christians have ever urged in favor of the probability and propriety of miracles; because the very testimony (the Bible), relied on to prove that miracles were employed for that purpose, declares also, explicitly and unequivocally , that, at the same time, and among the same people, other miracles, equally real, and equally wonderful as far as men's senses could discover, were performed, which are nor pretended to have any connexion with a revelation, or any other important design. In order, therefore, to support the Bible history of these events, there is just as strong a necessity for arguing in support of the probability and propriety of God's giving miraculous power to some individuals for no discoverable purpose at all, as in favor of his giving it to others to enable them to convince men of the truth of a revelation, because, according to the Bible, he gave it in the former case as certainly as in the latter. If the Bible be true, it is as certain, also that God gave miraculous power to a pool of water, as it is that he gave it to Jesus, or any of his disciples, (John 5-4.)

[*20] See Lempriere's Biographical Dictionary

[*20] See Newton on the Prophecies Chap. 18

[*20] See Lempriere's Biographical Dictionary, also in Newton on Prophecies, Chap. 18.

[*21] The pretended discoverer of animal magnetism.

[*25] In further support for the reasonableness of this explanation, I quote the authority of Dr. Combs, who says, in his work on physiology, that "so powerful, indeed, is the nervous stimulus, that examples have occurred of strong mental emotions having instantaneously given life and vigor to paralytic limbs." This extract my be founded on No.71, Harpors Family Library, page 112.

[*32] In confirmation of the truth of this explanation, I quote from Carne, a recent Christian traveler in Palestine, who says, in describing this lake, that "the boats used on it are, in some seasons of the year, much exposed from the sudden squalls of wind, which issue from between the mountains."

I have taken some pains to procure "Carne Travels in the East," (or letters from the East,) so as to be able to refer the reader to the page where this fact is stated; but a book is a rare one, and I have not found it. I can therefore only refer to an extract published in the American Traveler (Boston) Oct. 29, 1833, Article, Lake Tiberias.

[*32] Mark 11-21. Master behold the fig-tree, which thou cursedst, is withered away.

[*36] What evidence is there of the deliberate villainy of Mahonet, Matthias, or Joe Smith, that can compare with this evidence of similar conduct on the part of Jesus?

Or what stronger evidence if his knavery can be wanted than his pretence of calming the tempest ?

[*37] Luke says (2-52) that as Jesus grew up to manhood, he "increased his favor with God and man." Now this affair too place in "Nazareth, where he had been brought up," (Luke 4-16). He seems therefore never to have gotten into very high "favor" with the people of his own village; for had he done so, they would not have been likely, on this occasion, to have treated him quite so shabbily.

[*38] A rite grosser, even more than drinking from the skull bone of Odin, and more appropriate to be observed by cannibals than civilized men.

[*39] If the reader wish any further confirmation that this view of the miracles of Jesus is correct, let him read the "Apocryphal New Testament," from which he will at least learn what kind of miracles it was common for the early Christian to believe in, and will thus be enable to judge whether such works, as I have supposed the pretended miracles of Jesus to have been, would not have been likely, at that time, and among so superstitious a people, to have passed for true miracles.

Chapter 4

[*40] He pretended to them that the almighty wrote ten commandments "with his own finger," on the two tables of stone, and gave them to him- although he acknowledges that he was absent in the mountain forty days- a time sufficient for him to have written them himself, and a little longer than would have been necessary for the almighty. (Deut. 9-9 to 11).

He also, when there was thunder and lightning and a cloud (and nothing more, as anybody may satisfy himself by reading the verses hereafter referred to ) on Mount Horeb, told the Israelites that the Lord was speaking to them, out of the fire. He also stood between them and the mountain, and pretended to interpret the thunder, and to give to them meaning of the Lord in their own language, (Deut. 4-11 and 12- also 5-4, 5, 22 to 28).

[*42] See Newton on Prophecies, Chap. 19.

[*42] Same

[*43] Connected with this prediction about a Messiah is one circumstance, hat shows that Daniel knew nothing of what he was talking about; and that is, that when predicting that Jerusalem should sometimes be destroyed, he says "the end thereof shall be with a flood "- whereas (unluckily for inspiration) such happened not to be the fact.

[*49] Such angels probably as he referred to when he said he could call upon his father, and he would give him more than twelve legions of angels to protect him, (Mat. 26-53).

[*55] Luke is said by Christians to have written the Acts.

[*55] Yet, is not that they thus get men's money, that I would oppose the clergy; although that would be sufficient reason for opposing them; if there were no other reason stronger. The waste of money, immense as though it be, I consider to be as among the slightest of evils attending the existence and support of Christianity. It seems that because the clergy, by means of infamous doctrine, appal, delude and enslave the imagination of the young; deprive men of their mental liberty, of their judgments, reason and candor; fill their minds with prejudice, and their imaginations with vulgar disgusting superstitions; rob truth and reason of their power, and resist totis viribus their progress wherever they conflict with the vile delusion and imposture which it is in their interest to advocate; and because they thus make men dupes, fools, slave, cowards bigots, and fanactics, that I would oppose and expose them and their system. Its is, in short, because Christianity is nothing more than a miserable and disgusting superstition; because its pretended evidence are false, many of them grossly and glaringly false; because the clergy seem to understand all this, an yet have the audacity to impose upon men by pretending the contrary, and to degrade and govern them by thus imposing upon them, that I would awaken the opposition to the clergy and Christianity.

[*57] I here admit, for the sake of argument, that Jesus did predict that he would rise again, and that this fact was known abroad, as Matthew (27-63) represents it to have been.

[*58] In the Acts (1st c.) (if he were the author of the Acts as he is generally supposed to have been) he represents that Jesus was seen many times- but he was not one of the twelve, and what he heard is good for nothing as testimony.

[*59] John 20-23. "Whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them, and whosoever sins ye retain they are retained.

[*60] See Lemprieres Biog. Dict.

[*61] See Chapter 1st, on the spread of Christianity.