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one would think this imposture of your fabulist, it seems,
worthy of notice, till it bad began to spread widely."
The time you fix for its rise is 100, A. D. Strange to say, then, it began to spread widely very soon. For in the year 106, Pliny thought it not only worthy of his notice, but worthy of the attention of the Emperor Trajan also“. And for some time, to say the least, before 106, others had thought it worthy their notice, for from this same Pliny we learn there had been trials and punishments of these “ illiterate” and insignificant men, before he came into his province. And no later than 138* was it when your learned ally Celsus thought it worthy his notice. Lynx-eyed as he was, however, he could not pierce the mist of eight and thirty years, and discover your imaginary fabulist. No; he could not discover him, though he may reasonably be said to have been fifteen or twenty years in preparing and arranging the materials for his elaborate work against Christianity. But eighteen hundred years are nothing to you. Your keen glance penetrates the very depths of antiquity. You defy the limits of time and space and transfer yourself as by magic to the very spot where your heroes are found, and from Dorchester Gaol to Palestine, from the nineteenth century to the first, extend your arm to shake the hand of your friends the Grecian fabulists.
But what makes this Celsus appear stillmore ridiculous, is, that the little he did see he saw awry. For though he might have met your friend, the fabulist,' every day in the forum, might have learned from him the mighty secret by which he contrived to infatuate thousands, he is actually so silly as to resort to Palestine; to Jerusalem; to Mount Calvary, to the Cross, to discover the originator of the religion he purposed to oppose. This bears hard, very hard upon your conjecture. Celsus, the learned, the avowed opponent of your illustrious fabulist, though, all but, if not quite, contemporary with the aforenamed personage, never, search as he might, never could gain a glimpse of him, or hear even the echo of his name. It is a pity you had not endowed your
hero with the attribute of invisibility. This accession to your conjecture might have aided you through your present straits. Be it then known to you, Sir, that the poles of our earth are not more opposed to each other than you and your associate, Celsus. For if all the books of the New Testament had perished, Celsus would supply us, in his work against Christianity," with ample means to. repair our loss; so clear and explicit are his references to those books, and so numerous his quotations from them. So much for your insinuations, that Christianity arose in tranquillity, creeped forth into day, imposture as it was, without opposition, * Mosheim's Church History, vol. i. + Lardner, vol. iv.
118. 10 Yes, but he found it only precisely where I say
R. C. We have no preservation of Celsus' book, but the portion contained in the extracts made by Origen, which we may be assured were the weakest parts.
and was only thought worthy of notice a long period after its birth, when“ refutation” became 6 a matter of social or even national consequence.” But Celsus and Porphyry, and others, we are informed by you, effectually refuted the nonsense of the. Christians. 12 If " effectually,” of course their arguments are of service to your cause. Will you undertake to maintain them? Will you
rest the defence of unbelief upon them? Let us try the force of these effectual refutations. If you refuse this practical proof of their cogency, your readers will conclude with me that These said effectual arguments are little worth.
But did ever these opponents of Christianity call in question the existence of Christ-at a time when exposure of his fabulous origin must have been easy?. And if among their effectual arguments this be not found, how comes it that you, at this distance of time, can hope to succeed where they saw failure was certain ? But how could you prevail upon yourself to say that it was the ignorant numbers of the Christians that triumphed over their arguments? You ought to have known that the Church could already boast of great names--Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Ireneus, Minutius, Felix, Origen, &c. &c.*
You continue “ we have no account of Christianity within the period that Jerusalem existed as a city with its temple.” Here again, you are in an error. An abundance of Christian testimony negatives your assertion that “we have no account,” &c. But, we have more, Josephus, it may be granted, though it is by no means certain, does not mention Jesus Christ. Yet he mentions John the Baptist. Now the relation which this person bore to Jesus, and in his public capacity proves his real existence. For supposing that a contemporary historian had mentioned Cæsar, and not Pompey, and you knew from other credible authors (and that such exist in regard to Christianity cannot be disproved) the connection that subsisted between Pompey and Cæsar, you would assuredly consider the mention of the name of Cæsar as a proof that Pompey existed. It might appear strange to you that Pompey should not be named; but you would remember that this might be accounted for in yarious ways; for instance, because the historian could say no ill of Ponipey, and was indisposed to say any good of him. Such it is presumable was the case with Josephus. He had his prejudices as a Jew; as a courtier : and that same prejudice which blinded his eyes to the evidence in fa* Mosheim's Church Ilistory.
† Lardner, vol. iii. p. 534. 12 The books of Porphyry are also lost, and I infer the power of their argument from their destruction.*
R. C. Ste a decree by Constantine in No. 18, Vol. 11, of “ The Republican."
13 If Justin Martyr avd Ireneus are great names, what can we find to call little? Even Tertullian deserves not to be considered an authority, who could talk of believing an impossibility, and of adhering to a system because it was ridiculous.
vour of Christianity, would harden his heart against narrating its claims. But even granting that this is a difficulty, we can find one that troubles you to set against it. You are obliged to acknowledge that the clear and distirct testimony of Tacitus is a difficulty. Let our readers determine which is the greater, the silence of an historian for which I have to account, or the positive affirmation of another historian, who presses so hard against your conjecture. This affirmation fixes the origin of Christianity “ within the period that Jerusalem existed as a city with its temple.” They (the Christians) says Tacitus, “ had their denomination from Christus, who in the reign of Tiberius, was put to death as a criminal by the procurator Pontius Pilate.' Now the silence of one historian can never negative the positive testimony of another. It may be a fuult to conceal a fact, but it is a crime to narrate a falsehood. The first may be committed by an historian in other respects excellent; the latter can never be perpetrated by any one who has the least claim to historic credibility. The first may occur through inadvertency; the latter implies wilful turpitude. No adequate judge will, I am sure, charge Tacitus with the baseness that is implied in the supposition of his having sanctioned an untruth. His character remains free from aspersion. Not so that of Josephus. There was in him a laxity of moral principle, which would easily lead him to omit any unpopular or obnoxious truth. Josephus,” says the learned and impartial Dr. Lardner,“ knew how to be silent when he thought fit, and has omitted some things very true and certain, and well known in the world.”—“And why,” continues he, “ should we be much concerned about the defects in the writer's regard for Jesus Christ and his followers, who, out of complaisance, or from self-interested views; or from a mistaken judgment, so deviated from the truth as to ascribe the fulfilment of the Jewish ancient prophecies concerning the Messiah to Vespasian, an idolatrous prince.”+ In a word, Josephus was a courtier, and he would do what has ever been the characteristic of that class of men, pander to the prejudices and passions of the great, even though at the expence of truth. But Josephus has unadvisedly borne a strong testimony to the truth of Christianity. His history of Judea-of its inhabitants ---of their circumstances just before the fall of Jerusalem--of their government under their own princes, and the Roman rulers, strikingly accords with the Evangelical narrative, and confirms the veracity and ability of its writers.is There is, too, so wonderful an argument between the predictions of our Saviour, and their fulfilment as recorded by Josephus in his Jewish War, that, coming from an enemy of Christianity,
See the testimony of Tacitus.
+ Vol. iii. page 546, quarto edition. 14 Not if those writers wrote after the first century.
would, one might imagine, constrain the belief of all to whom the evidence was proposed. *
If, in answer to the testimony of Tacitus, you say, that he wrote of an affair of which he could have no accurate knowledge, you impeach the character of an historian before held most honourable: you bring a charge which cannot be substantiated. If he did not know that of which he wrote, he was bound to be silent. If he only knew in part, he should have spoker'in part. If his knowledge was inaccurate his pen should have been inactive. If he did not know, know on adequate evidence the truth of the matter, he ought to have appeared not to know it. This was clearly his duty. Consider his character, and then say was he a man to disregard his duty. There was no passion, or prejudice, or interest, to predispose him to narrate either a falsehood, or an inaccurate statement. Nay, his predisposition must have been against the Christians,* for he was not of them, But he merged every minor consideration in the claims of truth : he did not allow the meanness of the origin, nor the paucity of the followers of this new sect to prevent his enquiries respecting them. For he has spoken when even silence might have been accounted for, if not excused; he has spoken in the most positive and distinct terms. He has spoken, and he spoke because he knew.
Indeed, to say that he could not have accurate knowledge of an affair that occurred in his infancy is to destroy the whole of history. For surely if he could not ascertain correctly that which happened some fifty years previous to the time of his writing, he and all other historians must have been utterly ignorant of all
that transpired in ages that were past. Yet am I to believe that there is nothing worthy of credit in Robertson; in Hume; in Gibbon? Or to put the matter home to you, is your history of masonry a fable?" You would not think me very courteous to say so, yet I should be justified by your manner of argumentation,
But, again: you make the time of the Christians beginning to increase in Rome, and that of Tacitus' writing the celebrated passage in his annals, to be nearly synchronous. Then, for the first time, consequently, could Tacitus have heard of the name of Christians. But how was it that a few illiterate men in so vast a city as Rome attracted the notice of our great historian ? Or, if to get rid of this difficulty, you contradict yourself, I suppose that the Christians then and there were numerous, how came Tacitus to be guilty of so great an anachronism as to speak of their existence and sufferings some fifty or sixty years before they really existed? It will not assist you to say that he adopted their own account of themselves. For was Tacitus likely to give implicit faith to the gratuitous assertions of persons whom from his narrative he evidently despised ? And does a sect, fanatics though they
* Lardner, vol. i. chap. 3. † See h s testimony.
'may be, speak of its founder as “a malefactor," and their doctrines as
a pernicious superstition,” the terms on which Tacitus characterizes Christ and his religion.
But you say, “ Tacitus could not have accurate knowledge of this affair, because public records were then very rare. Ву “then,” you mean, I suppose (for your meaning is not clear), at the time in which Tacitus wrote. But what need had he of records in a matter that had so recently taken place as the destruction of Rome by Nero? Do I require records to induce me to believe the French Revolution, or the conquests of the First Consul, or the existence of Thomas Paine, or the increase of deism, or the persecution of Carlile, the great cause of it? 15 Matters that are so recent; that are in every one's mouth, even in that of the humblest individual ? Still stronger is the argument when I ask could persons of rank; of extensive knowledge; interested in all that occurs; could an historian, bound by duty, whom detraction has never aspersed; could these require records to delincate to them the features of the age in which they lived ? Still further, the persecution of these persons, whoever they were, was a matter of great notoriety. What are the facts ? Nero laboured under the infamy of having caused the city to be set on fire. To liberate himself from the charge, he accuses the Christians, and most bitterly persecutes them. He transfers, then, the charge from himself to others. These people, of course, would become objects of public attention. The eyes of the whole of Rome, would be directed towards them. Curiosity would make enquiry and enquiry might easily procure information. Now I ask are we to believe that even the name of these persons would not be known; their real and characteristic designation? Is it likely that they thus branded ; thus held up before the public view; thus persecuted, should be confounded with any other class of persons ? Still less, if possible, is it likely that an historian should attribute to these persons thus circumstanced, a designation which never had existence, according to your theory, till the very moment of his writing, till some fifty years after the crime was perpetrated with which they stood charged. The correct designation of such persons, accused of so capital a crime, must have been known. Their designation being known when punished, would be preserved in the memory of every Roman; nay, of Tacitus himself. Shall we ever forget the name of Guy Fawkes ? Shall we ever confound him; will ages yet unborn confound him with William Pitt? The designation would not only be preserved in the memory of every Roman, but also in the public records: which brings me again to the disproof of what you assert, that “ public records were then very rare.”
Supposing, then, that there is no cogency in the above remarks, 15 Yes, most certainly; for without records you would know nothing of it