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been actuated by some such principle as this : they would rather suffer death than relinquish the religion of their ancestors; that religion in which they had been educated; that religion according to the rites of which their fathers had been interred, whom they hoped, perhaps, to rejoin in happier regions.
But if such be the force of our attachment to the first lessons of childhood and youth, if such be the influence of ancient usages and hereditary superstitions over the human mind, by what unprecedented motive must the Apostles of our Saviour have been actuated, who, in violation of a principle so cogent, chose to encounter worldly shame and death, rather than not desert the religion of their ancestors, rather than not endeavour to plant one more pure and holy in its stead!
The general character of those religions, also, for their adherence to which men have been found to offer themselves unresisting victims, is, that they are the growth of ages, and that their origin is buried in the obscurity, real or pretended, of high antiquity; whereas the records of our faith, minute and various, commence with its birth, or first promulgation; and the present diffusion and establishment of Christianity is not more an object of knowledge and certainty, than are all the circumstances relating to its commencement.
There is another religion certainly which, even at this time, occupies a fair portion of the globe, and is professed by nations that had at one period attained to a considerable degree of cultivation and science. The origin and early propagation of this religion are also matters of history. But what a contrast does it present to Christianity! That religion never had its peaceful, unresisting martyrs. Its first apostles were sanguinary soldiers, destroying their enemies in battle, or circumventing them in treaties, and extending their faith in the ordinary way in which worldly empires are extended and consolidated; and appealing subsequently to the success of their arms as a proof of the favour of heaven. The Ottoman empire grew like that of Rome, by the sword. But if the truth of a doctrine depended on the temporal triumphs of its professors, where are the arguments to be found now by which the verity of the Vahometan faith may be established? The evidence, however, of the truth of a new religion is of a different kind, and is to be found chiefly in the circumstances connected with its rise and promulgation. To these we revert. The first martyrs to the Christian faith were not the martyrs to opinions only, but to facts. It cannot be denied that their zeal might be warmed, or their courage sustained, by the knowledge of the purity of those doctrines which they were bound to inculcate, of their tendency to the perfection of human nature, and to the consummation of human happiness; but the testimony of the promulgators was to that which their eyes had seen, their ears heard, and their hands felt. “ That “ which was from the beginning, which we
have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our
hands have handled of the word of life;... “ that which we have seen and heard declare “ we unto you';" are the strong expressions of St. John.
a 1 St. John i. 1-3.
They had listened to the discourses of their Divine Master, singly and together; they had seen him expire on the cross, in conformity to his previous assurance ; singly and together they had seen, and touched, and conversed with him after his resurrection. There can be no deception where every natural sense, and that not in one man only, but in many, habitually practised, presents the same objects"; and it was in attestation of the truth of these facts, pregnant, no doubt, with important consequences, that the disciples voluntarily offered themselves
b It is by the perception of the natural senses that we know that body or matter exists, says Lucretius, following his great master Epicurus; and if we cannot trust the natural senses with which mankind is endowed, there is an end of all reasoning before it begins :
Corpus enim per se communis dedicat esse
Quo referemus enim ? Quid nobis certius ipsis
* Lucretius, Lib. i. 423. ed.
+ Id. ib. 700.
to death. No other religion has martyrs of this kind. No other religion has martyrs to the testimony of their own senses. Reason differs in different human beings : but the senses are the same, where age or accident has not impaired their proper organs ;
and a religion which was meant for all rests upon evidence which all can understand and appreciate. Those facts then, the knowledge of which, derived from the senses, had irresistibly drawn the plain good men by whom our Saviour was personally surrounded, his first disciples, from the religion of their fathers to a more perfect form, were by them presented to others, and their testimony was believed.
St. Luke, the writer of the Gospel which stands as the third in our New Testament, was a convert of this class. His name is not mentioned amongst the twelve Apostles: neither does our Saviour appear during his natural life to have been known to him sonally. Those who believe in the divine inspiration of Scripture will not see that there is any thing in these circumstances calculated to detract from the credit due to