Page images
PDF
EPUB

to the emperor Tiberius of the Saviour's life, miracles, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. These papers were called Acta Pilati, the acts of Pilate. Justin (who was a boy when St. John died) grew up in the Greek and heathen philosophy, was converted to Christianity about the 44th year of his age, and wrote to Rome asking from Antoninus imperial favour and lenity for the Chris. tians. Having written to the emperor and his senate, of the life and death of our Lord, of the dead that were raised, of the diseases that were healed, &c. &c., he adds, " and that these things were done by him, you may know from the Acts made in the time of Pontius Pilate.Tertullian wrote to the emperor, and refers to the Acts of Pilate. The early Christians, in their disputes with the Gentiles, referred to the Acts of Pilate as authority which no one disputed. These writers, or these disciples, were almost uniformly either Jews or pagans before their conversion, and once hated the name of Christ.

Reader, go and ask the objectors of whom we have been writing, questions such as these : “Was the account of the acts of Pilate mentioned in the letters of Justin (Martyr) less clear and credible, because he renounced his former faith and embraced Christianity? Would Justin or Tertullian, or any other, writing to the em. peror and senate, asking for their lives and the lives of brethren, and for kindness, favour, and toleration to all the Church, refer them to papers which they did not possess, or to senatorial documents that did not exist?” You will find that they do not know who Justin, Tertullian, Irenæus, Clement, and Eusebius were; where, or when they lived; whether any of their writings are, or are not extant, or what they wrote about.

[blocks in formation]

Suppose there burns a light of uncommon splendour, not far from a man who hates its radiance? Suppose it is his duty to gaze upon its glory, but he refuses ; this aversion may discover itself in a variety of attitudes, all tending to the one result. In the first place, he will not approach. Then, suppose an angel should descend, take him by the arm, and with the mastery of superior strength, lead him near; will the object be accomplish. ed? No-one of his expedients is taken from him, but he can employ another. He turns away his head. He is next compelled to face the light, but he holds his hand before his face;this forcibly is withdrawn, and he then shuts his

eyes.

Just so it has been with fallen man, in different ages, regarding the truth.

6 If I had been near to Sinai,” said a young man, in the days of Moses and of Joshua ; if I had stood at the foot of that thunder-rocked mountain, and heard the voice of God speaking to that nation, I never should have doubted the power of Jehovah; if I had marched through the bosom of that retiring sea, and had been fed with manna, year after year, I never should have questioned the Deity of my leader for a single moment."

Neither did the Israelites ; this was not the form of their unbelief. Amidst all their rebellions they never questioned the strength of Jehovah, or the facts recorded during their journey, a single hour. Their disrelish for the truth showed itself in the following way:

“ May not different Deities have the empire of the earth divided between them? We know that our God is pow. erful ; but our neighbours say, that their God is also powerful. May it not be well to seek the favour of both ? Might it not be wise to propitiate the favour of all ? Their worship is easily rendered ; it is very agreeable, and allows of the dance and songs and joyous festivity ?" The unbelief of this age was the infidelity of idolatry. It is true that the Lord sent them teacher after teacher ; he chastised them, and warned them; he continued his marvels, multiplying their opportunities, adding to their prophets and instructors, until idolatry became as im. practicable in that nation, as it would be now in the streets of Philadelphia.

If some great man was to set up a gold or silver im. age in the street of one of our large cities, what is the reason he could not get the multitude to kneel before it ? Is it because of any love they have for the Bible, or any reverence for the name of Christ, or the precepts of his will ? No! There are thousands there, as wicked, as sensual, and as filthy, almost, as the imagination can paint. There is no danger that the wicked of our land will fall into this kind of idolatry. They cannot. That road has been blocked up. Books, education, truth, science, and heavenly light have been brought too near. So it was when the Redeemer stood in the streets of Jerusalem. There was no fear that men would erect wood and stone and kneel before it, as their fathers did. God had removed such hiding places. Will they then receive the truth? Shall we now see them listen and obey ? No! They then say " he casteth out devils, through Beelzebub, prince of devils." This was the form of in. fidelity then assumed. The heathen caught the same

excuse and used it. They all quieted their fears in this way. The writers of the Talmuds knew well enough the events of their day. They were sufficiently acquainted with what the Saviour did and suffered. How is it, then, that they did not become his disciples? How could they avoid submitting to the truth? They say he had learned the correct pronunciation of the ineffable name of God. They say he stole this out of the temple. Again they say, he was in Egypt, where he learned the magic art, and practised it with greater success than any one ever did before him. (See Horne's Introduction, vol. 1.) They agree that he was the son of Mary, the daughter of Eli,—was crucified on the even. ing of the passover, that the witnesses who swore against him were suborned, &c. &c. &c.

“ Celsus, one of the bitterest antagonists of Christi. anity, who wrote in the latter part of the second cen. tury, speaks of the founder of the christian religion as having lived but a very few years before his time, and mentions the principal facts of the gospel history, rel. ative to Jesus Christ,--declaring that he had copied the account from the writings of the evangelists. He quotes these books, as we have already remarked, and makes extracts from them as being composed by the disciples and companions of Jesus, and under the names which they now bear. He takes notice particularly of his incarnation ; his being born of a virgin ; his being worshipped by the magi; his flight into Egypt, and the slaughter of the infants. He speaks of Christ's baptism by John, of the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, and of the voice from heaven declaring him to be the Son of God; of his being accounted a prophet by his disciples ; of his foretelling who should betray him,

as well as the circumstances of his death and resurrec. tion. He allows that Christ was considered a divine person by his disciples, who worshipped him, and no. tices all the circumstances attending the crucifixion of Christ, and his appearing to his disciples afterwards. He frequently alludes to the Holy Spirit, mentions God under the title of the Most High, and speaks collectively of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He acknowledges the miracles wrought by Jesus Christ, by which he en. gaged great multitudes to adhere to him as the Messiah. That these miracles were really performed he never disputes, or denies, but ascribes them to the magic art, which, he says, Christ learned in Egypt." (Horne's Intro. vol. 1.)

Reader, the Jewish and the Pagan writers, who knew what was done by Christ and his apostles for the space of forty years, were not under the necessity of becoming Christians. Men do not thus love the truth. The Jews and heathens who lived afterwards, with those who were raised from the dead, and with the children of those who were raised from the dead, declared, that although these things were done, they would not believe. Rather than submit to the truth they would attribute all to the agency of evil spirits.

We know where our parents and our grand parents lived. We know many things about them which we never saw. Thousands who heard their parents and their grand parents speak of those who had been restored to sight, or of the chil. dren of those who were thus restored, of their intimacy with them, &c. had as clear a knowledge of these facts, as we have that our fathers landed on the rock at Ply. mouth, or were victorious at Bunker Hill; yet they would not obey the gospel. The magic art was their

« PreviousContinue »