« AnteriorContinuar »
self we know, that he never saw his master but in a vision*, and considering the testimonies on which the resurrection of Jesus is founded, perhaps we may say as much of the other apostles and disciples. They were Jews, enthusiasts, and prophets; and consequently subject to dreaming even while awake. The incredu
* St. Paul himself informs us that he was ravished
to the third heaven. But why was he transported thither, and what did he learn by his journeys?— Things unspeakable, which no man could comprehend. What advantage are mankind to derive from all this? In the Acts of the Apostles, we find that this same Paul was guilty of a falsehood in saying before the High Priest, that he was persecuted because he cus a Pharisee, and on account of the resurrection. Here, in fact, are two untruths. First, Paul was not a Pha. risee at the time, but a most zealous apostle of the Christian religion, and consequently a Christian. Secondly, the accu. sations brought against him did not refer to his opinion on the resurrection. If we know that the apostles sometimes wandered from the truth, how shall we believe them on other occasions? We indeed find this great apostle continually changing his counsels and conduct. At Jerusalem he strenuously opposed Peter because he favoured Judaism, while he himself shortly after complied with Jewish rites ; and boasted that he always accommodated himself to the circumstances of the times, and became all things to all men, By this he set an example to the Jesuits in India, who were reproached with having united the worship of the Pagans to that of Christ. We do not know that the protestant Christians of the present day, who are employed as missionaries in Hindostan, are as accommodating as their brethren the Jesuits; but this we know by no less an authority than official documents recently laid on the table of the House of Commons, that we Christians make a traffic of the Pagan religion in India, by actually compelling the natives to pay a tax for admission to their own temples to worship the Idol Juggernaut!
lous consider this to be the most favourable opinion they can form of witnesses who attest the resurrection of the Saviour, on which however the Christian religion is solely established.
It appears indeed most certain, from the nature of the testimonies we have examined, that Providence has in a singular manner neglected to give to an event so memorable and of such great importance, the au. thenticity it seemed to require. Laying aside faith, which never experiences any difficulty about proofs, no man can believe facts, even the most natural, from vouchers so faulty, proofs so weak, relations so contradictory, and testimonies so suspicious as those which the evangelists furnish us on the most incredible and marvellous occurrence that was ever related. Independent of the visible interest these historians bad in establishing the belief of the resurrection of their master, and which ought to put us on our guard against them, they seem to have written merely to contradict one another, and reciprocally weaken their testimonies. To adopt relations, in which we have only a tissue of inconclusiveness, contradictions, improbable facts, and absurdities, calculated to destroy all confidence in history, requires indeed grace from above. Yet Christians do not for a moment doubt the resurrection; and their belief in this respect is founded on a rock, that is, according to infidels, on prejudices they have never examined, and to which, from early infancy, their spiritual guides have prudently attached the greatest importance. They teach them to immolate on the altar of faith, reason, judgment, and good sense; - After this sacrifice, it is no longer difficult to make them acknowledge, without enquiry, the most palpable absurdities for truths, on which it is not permitted even to be sceptical.
It is in vain, that people of sense demonstrate the falsity of these pretended truths ; it is in vain, that an intelligent critic stands up against interested testimonies, visibly suggested by enthusiasm and imposture ; it is in vain, that humanity exclaims against wars, massacres, and horrors without number, which absurd disputes on absurd dogmas have occasioned. They silence people by saying, that " it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nought the understanding of the prudent.-Where is the wise ? Where are the scribes ? (the doctors of the law). Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world by causing the foolishness of the gospel to be preached*?" It is by such declamations against reason and wisdom, that fanatics and impostors have succeeded in banishing good sense from the earth, and fashioning slaves who make a merit of subjecting reason to faith, of extinguishing a sacred torch which would conduct them with certainty, on purpose to lead them astray in the darkness these inte. rested guides know how to infuse into minds. To de. grade reason is an outrage against God its author ; and it is an outrage against man who is thereby reduced to the condition of brutes.
The dogma of the resurrection of Jesus is only attested by men whose subsistence depended on that absurd romance; and as roguery continually belies itself, these lying witnesses could not agree among themselves in their evidence. They tell us, that Jesus had
* 1 Cor. i. 9, &c.
publicly predicted his own resurrection. He ought therefore to have risen again publicly; he ought to have shewn himself, not in secret to his disciples, but openly to priests, Pharisees, doctors, and men of understanding, especially after having intimated, that it was the only sign which would be given them. Was it not acknowledging the falsehood of his mission, to refuse the sign by which he had solemnly promised to prove the truth of that mission? Was it reasonable to require the Jews to believe, on the word of his disciples, a fact which he could have convinced them with their own eyes? How is it possible for rational persons of the present age to believe, after the lapse of eighteen hundred years, on the discordant testimonies of four interested evangelists, fanatics, or fabulists, a fact which they could not make be believed in their own time, except by a small number of imbecile people, incapable of reasoning, fond of the marvellous, and of too limited understandings to escape the snares laid for their simplicity*. A Roman governor, a tetrarch, a Jewish high priest, converted by the apparition of Christ, would have made a greater impression on a man of sense than a hundred secret apparitions to his chosen disciples. The conversion of the Sanhedrim at Jerusalem to the faith, would have been of greater weight than all the obscure rabble which the apostles prevailed on to believe their improbable marvels, and persuaded that they had seen Christ alive after his death.
* So stupid indeed were the Jewish people, that Apollonius said of them, “ The Jews were the most trifling of all the barbarians, and that they were the only people who had never found out any thing useful for life.” Josephus against Apion, lib. 2.
If the apparitions of Jesus to his apostles were not obviously fables invented by roguery, or adopted through enthusiam and ignorance, the motive of these clandestine visits cannot be divined. Become incapable of suffering, re-established in his divine omnis potence, was he still afraid of the Jews ? Could he dread being put to death a second time? By shewing himself, had he not better reason to flatter himself with converting them, than he derived from all his sermons and miracles ?
But it is said, that the Jews by their opposition de. served to be rejected ; that the views of Providence were changed ; and that God no longer wished his chosen people should be converted. These answers are so many insults to the Divinity. How is it possible for men to withstand God? Is it not to deny the Divine Omnipotence to pretend that man can oppose its will ? Man, it is asserted, is free; but must not a God who knew every thing, have foreseen that the Jews would abuse their liberty by resisting his will ? In that case why send them his Son? Why make him suffer to no purpose an infamous and cruel death? Why not send him at once to creatures disposed to hear him, and render him their homage? To pretend that the views of Providence were changed, is it not to attack the divine immutability ? unless indeed it be said, that the Deity had from all eternity resolved on this change - which, however, will not shelter that immutability
Thus in whatever point of view we contemplate the matter, it will remain a decided fact, that the resurrection of Christ, far from being founded on solid proofs, unexceptionable testimony, and respectable authority,