Imágenes de páginas

That “ A Religion attested by Miracles, is from God;" and that “ The Christian Religion is so attested."

Of these two premises, it should be remarked, the Minor seems to have been admitted, while the Major was denied, by the unbelievers of old: whereas at present the case is reversed.*

Paley's argument therefore goes to establish the Minor premiss, about which alone, in these days, there is likely to be any question.

He states with this view, two propositions: viz.

Prop. I.—“That there is satisfactory evidence, that many, professing to be original witnesses of the Christian miracles, passed their lives in labours, dangers, and sufferings, voluntarily undergone in attestation of the accounts which they delivered, and solely in consequence of their belief of those accounts; and that they also submitted, from the same motives, to new rules of conduct.”

Prop. II. — “ That there is not satisfactory evidence, that persons pretending to be original witnesses of any other similar miracles, have acted in the same manner, in attestation of the accounts which they delivered, and solely in consequence of their belief of the truth of those accounts."

Of these two propositions the latter, it will easily be perceived, is the Major premiss, stated as the converse by

[ocr errors]

* It is clear from the fragments remaining of the ancient arguments against Christianity, and the allusions to them in Christian writers, and also from the Jewish accounts of the life of Jesus which are still extant, that the original opponents of Christianity admitted that miracles were wrought, but denied that they proved the divine origin of the religion, and attributed them to Magic. This concession, in persons living so much nearer to the times assigned to the miracles, should be noticed as an important evidence; for, credulous as men were in those days respecting magic, they would hardly have resorted to this explanation, unless some, at least plausible, evidence for the miracles had been adduced. And they could not but be sensible that to prove (had that been possible) the pretended miracles to be impostures, would have been the most decisive course ; since that would at once have disproved the religion.

Negation (Book II. Chap. ii. $ 4) of a universal affirmative; the former proposition is the Minor.

As a Syllogism in Barbara therefore, the whole will stand thus :

“ All miracles attested by such and such evidence, are worthy of credit:" (by conversion, “none which are not worthy of credit are so attested.")

“ The Christian miracles are attested by such and such evidence:" Therefore "they are worthy of credit."

The Minor premiss is first proved by being taken as several distinct ones, each of which is separately established.-See Book II. Chap. iv. § 1.

I. It is proved that the first propagators of Christianity

suffered; by showing 1st. A priori, from the nature of the case, that they were

likely to suffer : [because they were preachers of a religion unexpected and unwelcome: 1. to the Jews;

and 2. to Gentiles.] 2d. From profane testimony. 3d. From the testimony of Christian writings. [And

here comes in the proof of one of the premises of this last argument; viz. the proof of the credibility,

as to this point at least, of the Christian Writings.] These arguments are cumulative ; i. e, each separately goes to establish the probability of the one common conclusion, that “the first propagators of Christianity suffered.

By similar arguments it is shown that their sufferings were such as they voluntarily exposed themselves to.


II. It is proved that “ What they suffered for was

miraculous story;" by 1st. The nature of the case; They could have had nothing

but miracles on which to rest the claims of the new religion.

2d. By allusions to miracles, particularly to the Resur

rection, both in Christian and in Profane Writers, as

the evidence on which the religion rested. The same course of argument goes to show that the miracles in attestation of which they suffered were such as they professed to have witnessed.

These arguments again are cumulative. III. It is proved that “ The miracles thus attested are what

we call the Christian miracles;" in other words, that the story was, in the main, that which we have now in the Christian Scriptures; by $ 1st. The nature of the case ; viz. that it is improbable

the original story should have completely died away,

and a substantially new one have occupied its place; $ 2d. by The incidental allusions of ancient writers, both

Christian and profane, to accounts agreeing with those

of our Scriptures, as the ones then received; § 3d. by The credibility of our Historical Scriptures: This

is established by several distinct arguments, each separately tending to show that these books were, from the earliest ages of Christianity, well known and carefully

preserved among Christians : viz. § i. They were quoted by ancient Christian writers,

ii. with peculiar respect. $ iii. Collected into a distinct volume, and s iv. distinguished by appropriate names and titles of

respect. sv. Publicly read and expounded, and $ vi. had commentaries, fc. written on them: Svii. Were received by Christians of different sects;

&c. &c.* * For some important remarks respecting the different ways in which this part of the argument is presented to different persons, See “ Hinds on Inspiration,” p. 30–46.

The latter part of the first main proposition, branches off into two; viz. 1st, that the early Christians submitted to new rules of conduct ; 2d, that they did so, in consequence of their belief in miracles wrought before them.

Each of these is established in various parts of the above course of argument, and by similar premises ; viz. the nature of the

case, -the accounts of heathen writers, -and the testimony of the Christian Scriptures, fc.

The Major premiss, that “ Miracles thus attested are worthy of credit,”* which must be combined with the former, in order to establish the conclusion, that “the Christian miracles are worthy of credit," is next to be established.

Previously to his entering on the second main proposition, (which I have stated to be the Converse by negation of this Major premiss) he draws his conclusion (Ch. X. Part I.) from the Minor premiss, in combination with the Major, resting that Major on § 1st. The à priori improbability that a false story should

have been thus attested: viz. “ If it be so, the religion must be true. These men could not be deceivers. By only not bearing testimony, they might have avoided all these sufferings, and have lived quietly. Would men in such circumstances pretend to have seen what they never saw ; assert facts which they had no knowledge of; go about lying, to teach virtue ; and, though not only convinced of Christ's being an impostor, but having seen the success of his imposture in his crucifixion, yet persist in carrying it on; and so persist, as to bring upon themselves, for nothing, and with a full knowledge of the consequence, enmity and hatred, danger and death ?”

* This is the ultimate conclusion deduced from the premiss, that “it is attested by real Miracles;” which, in the present day, comes to the same thing: since those for whom he is writing are ready at once to admit the truth of the religion, if convinced of the reality of the miracles.


$ 2d. That no false story of Miracles is likely to be so

attested, is again proved, from the premiss that
false story of miracles ever has been so attested ;” and
this premiss again is proved in the form of a propo-
sition which includes it; viz. that “No other miraculous

story whatever is so attested.” $ This assertion again, bifurcates; viz. it is proved

respecting the several stories that are likely to be, or that have been adduced, as parallel to the Christian,

that either 1 ç. They are not so attested; or 2 g. They are not properly miraculous ; i. e. that admit

ting the veracity of the narrator, it does not follow that any miracle took place; as in cases that may be explained by false perceptions, -accidents, &c.

In this way the learner may proceed to analyze the rest of the work, and to fill up the details of those parts of the argument which I have but slightly touched upon.*

* When the Student considers that this is only one out of many branches of evidence, all tending to the same point, and yet that there have been intelligent men who have held out against them all, he may be apt to suspect either that there must be some flaw in these arguments which he is unable to detect, or else, that there must be much stronger arguments on the other side than he has ever met with.

To enter into a discussion of the various causes leading to infidelity would be unsuitable to this occasion; but I will notice one, as being more especially connected with the subject of this work, and as being very generally overlooked. In no other instance perhaps,(says Dr. Hawkins, in his valuable Essay on Tradition)“ besides that of Religion, do men commit the very illogical mistake, of first canvassing all the objections against any particular system whose pretensions to truth they would examine, before they consider the direct arguments in its favour.” (p. 82.) But why, it may be asked, do they make such a mistake in this case? An answer, which I think would apply to a large proportion of such persons, is this: Because a man having been brought up in a Christian country, has lived perhaps among such as have been accustomed from their infancy to take for granted the truth of their religion, and even to

« AnteriorContinuar »