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consider the nature, the occasion, and the end of our Saviour's miracles, and were awakened by many surprising events to allow them any consideration at all.
V. We are indeed told by St. Matthew, that the fame of our Saviour, during his life, went throughout all Syria, and that there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, Judea, Decapolis, Idumæa, from beyond Jordan, and from Tyre and Sidon. Now had there been any historians of those times and places, we might have expected to have seen in them some account of those wonderful transactions in Judea ; but there is not any single author extant, in any kind, of that age, in
of those countries.
VI. How many books have perished, in which possibly there might have been mention of our Saviour ? Look among the Romans, how few of their writings are come down to our times? In the space of two hundred
years from our Saviour's birth, when there was such a multitude of writers in all kinds, how small is the number of authors that have made their way to the present age ?
VII. One authentic record, and that the most authentic Heathen record, we are pretty sure is lost. I mean the account sent by the Governor of Judea, under whom our Saviour was judged, condemned, and crucified. It was the custom in the Roman empire, as it is to this day in all the governments of the world, for the præfects and viceroys of distant provinces to transmit to their sovereign a summary relation of every thing remarkable in their administration. That Pontius Pilate, in his account, would have touched on so extraordinary an event in Judea, is not to be doubted; and that he actually did, we learn from Justin Martyr, who lived about a hundred years after our Saviour's death, resided, made converts, and suffered martyrdom at Rome, where he was engaged with philosophers, and in a particular manner with Crescens the cynic, who could easily have detected, and would not fail to have exposed him, had he quoted a record not in being, or made any false citation out of it. Would the great apologist have challenged Crescens to dispute the cause of Christianity with him before the Roman senate, had he forged such an evidence ? or would Crescens have refused the challenge, could he have triumphed over him in the detection of such a forgery? To which we must add, that the apology, which appeals to this record, was presented to a learned emperor, and to the whole body of the Roman senate. This father in his apology, speaking of the death and suffering of our Saviour, refers the emperor for the truth of what he says to the acts of Pontius Pilate, which I have here mentioned. Tertullian, who wrote his apology about fifty years after Justin, doubtless referred to the same record, when he tells the governor of Rome, that the Emperor Tiberius, having received an account out of Palestine in Syria of the Divine Person who had appeared in that country, paid him a particular regard, and threatened to punish any who should accuse the Christians; nay, that the emperor would have adopted him among
the deities whom they worshipped, had not the senate refused to come into his proposal. Tertullian, who gives us this history, was not only one of the most learned men of his age, but, what adds a greater weight to his authority in this case, was eminently skilful and well read in the laws of the Roman empire. Nor can it be said, that Tertullian grounded his quotation upon the authority of Justin Martyr, because we find he mixes it with matters of fact which are not related by that author. Eusebius mentions the same ancient record, but, as it was not extant in his time, I shall not insist upon his authority in this point. If it be objected that this particular is not mentioned in any Roman historian, I shall use the same argument in a parallel case, and see whether it will carry any force with it. Uipian, the great Roman lawyer, gathered together all the imperial edicts that had been made against the Christians. But did any one ever say that there had been no such edicts, because they were not mentioned in the histories of those emperors ? Besides, who knows but this circumstance of Tiberius was mentioned in other historians that have been lost, though not to be found in any still extant ? Has not Suetonius many particulars of this emperor omitted by Tacitus, and Herodian many that are not so much as hinted at by either? As for the spurious acts of Pilate, now extant, we know the occasion and time of their writing; and had there not been a true and authentic record of this nature, they would never have been forged.
VIII. The story of Agbarus, king of Edessa, relating to the letter which he sent to our Saviour, and to that which he received from him, is a record of great authority; and though I will not insist upon it, may venture to say, that had we such an evidence for any fact in Pagan history, an author would be thought very unreasonable who should reject it. I believe you will be of my opinion, if you will peruse, with other authors who have appeared in vindication of these letters as genuine, the additional arguments which have been made use of by the late famous and learned Dr. Grabe, in the second volume of his Spicilegium.
1. What facts in the history of our Saviour might be taken notice of by
Pagan authors. II. What particular facts are taken notice of, and by what Pagan
authors. III. How Celsus represented our Saviour's miracles. IV. The same representations made of them by other unbelievers, and
proved unreasonable. V. What facts in our Saviour's history not to be expected from Pagan
1. WE now come to consider what undoubted authorities are extant among Pagan writers; and here we must premise, that some parts of our Saviour's history may be reasonably expected from Pagans. I mean such parts as might be known to those who lived at a distance from Judea, as well as to those who were the followers and eye-witnesses of Christ.
II. Such particulars are mo : of these which fol. low, and which are all attested by some one or other of those heathen authors, who lived in or near the age of our Saviour and his disciples. “ That Augustus Cæsar had ordered the whole empire to be censed, or taxed,” which brought our Saviour's reputed parents to Bethlehem : this is mentioned by several Roman historians, as Tacitus, Suetonius, and Dion. “That a great light, or a new star, appeared in the east, which directed the wise men to our Saviour:" this is recorded by Chalcidius. “ That Herod, the king of Palestine, so often mentioned in the Roman history, made a great slaughter of innocent children,” being so jealous of his successor, that he put to death his own sons on that account: this character of him is given by several historians, and this cruel fact mentioned by Macrobius, a Heathen author, who tells it
as a known thing, without any mark or doubt upon it. " That our Saviour had been in Egypt;" this Celsus, though he raises a monstrous story upon it, is so far from denying, that he tells us our Saviour learned the arts of magic in that country.
" That Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea ; that our Saviour was brought in judgment before him, and by him condemned and crucified :" this is recorded by Tacitus. “ That many miraculous cures and works, out of the ordinary course of nature were wrought by him :" this is confessed by Julian the apostate, Porphyry, and Hierocles, all of them not only Pagans, but professed enemies and persecutors of Christianity. “ That our Saviour foretold several things, which came to pass according to his predictions :" this was attested by Phlegon in his Annals, as we are assured by the learned Origen against Celsus. " That at the time when our Saviour died, there was a miraculous dark. ness, and a great earthquake :" this is recorded by the same Phlegon the Trallian, who was likewise a Pagan, and freeman to Adrian the Emperor. We may here observe, that a native of Trallium, which was not situate at so great a distance from Palestine, might very probably be informed of such remarkable events as had passed among the Jews in the age immediately preceding his own times, since several of his countrymen with whom he had conversed, might have received a confused report of our Saviour before his crucifixion, and probably lived within the shake of the earthquake, and the shadow of the eclipse, which are recorded by this author.
« That Christ was worshipped as a God among the Christians; that they would rather suffer death than blaspheme him ; that they received a sacrament, and by it entered into a vow of abstaining from sin and wick