« ÎnapoiContinuați »
rational men. To gratify the vanity and depraved ambition of a few, we cannot venture to insult the understandings nor offend the good taste of the majority of society. But when objections are temperately and decently urged against the doctrines or evidences of the Gospel, we shall ever be proud, willing, and ready to give them a sober and dispassionate reply. It is not to be expected, indeed, that, at this time of day, either much that is novel or very interestiog to the majority of our readers can be urged in answer to these infidel attacks; and we shall require their patience and forbearance in our answers to many stale and often refuted cavils. But something is always due to the common opinions of mankind; and as there are many who think that objections are upanswerable when they are not repeatedly answered, we shall now and then beg leave to point ont the ignorance and insufficiency of our present race of Deistical writers.
It is for this purpose that we have fixed our eyes on the present Pamphlet. Not that there is any thing new or striking in its contents, but that it is somewhat more decent and less disgusting than the generality of such compositions. As a literary performance, it is indeed beneath contempt; without order and arrangement, without any originality of thought or expressions; still it has that decent debility which may give it some claim to be noticed by us; and accordingly we shall now proceed to advert to its contents.
It is divided into three parts; in the first of which the author quibbles at the celebrated “Trial" of Bp. Sherlock on the Resurrection. In the second, he attacks the authenticity of the Gospels; whilst in the third, he attempts to demolish the Epistles of St. Paul, or rather to represent him as the founder of our present system of religious belief. These attempts are made in the most crude and unscholarlike manner: not an author's name is mentioned, but it is mangled and misspelt. We have Climens, and Michaelės, and Shirlock, and Lock, and Dittymus (Didymus), and Wilsius (Witsius), and Athenasius, 'and Bethynia, and Edenburgh, and Colonel Gardner, and Moshiem. Now if cobblers and taylors will leave their own callings to instruct their fellow citizens in the evidences of religion, we humbly presume to recommend that they should at least make themselves acquainted with the orthography of those whose names and writings they affect to quote.
However, let us go to the argument. The author is dissatisfied, it seems, with the evidence for the Resurrection, because there were no eye-witnesses, as he says, of this fact; and he then asks whether such defect of ocular testimony would not have been fatal to the “ trial,” had it taken place in an open court of justice. Now this, we beg to say, is a very pitiful objection ; for he must have known that what is called “ The Trial of the Witnesses,” is a merely fictitiotis method adopted by Bp. Sherlock, which serves indeed to shew the great force of the evidence, so far as it could be adduced in that form, but which necessarily excludes a great part, nay the greatest part of the evidence belonging to this fact as a matter of historical record.
To explain our meaning, we would beg the author or any of his friends to subject any part of ancient bistory to the forms of a trial in one of our courts, and then to see whether he could produce any thing approaching to Bp. Sherlock's Trial of the Witnesses. Still, as a fiction, it has its disadvantages; because it attempts to limit the proof of an ancient historical fact, to what would now be considered as strictly legal evidence.
Suppose, we were to grant, there were no eye-witnesses of the fact, or rather act, of the Resurrection, how could this in any degree affect the credibility of the thing itself? If Jesus was publicly crucified, if he was taken down from the cross, and deposited in a tomb amidst crowds of his enemies; if he afterwards shewed himself alive during forty days; if he was seen by more than 500 individuals at one time, and if an appeal was made, when the greater part of these individuals were still living; if the disciples were so fully persuaded of this truth, that though they had before been timid and cowardly, they afterwards became bold and confident; we ask any candid man to say, of what consequence is it whether there were eye-witnesses or not to the act and manner of the Resurrection?
However, it appears there were eye-witnesses, viz. the guards, “who went and told all that had happened to the high priest.” Not that we dwell on this particular as of any importance; for we grant that, by their falsity, they rendered themselves unworthy of being esteemed credible witnesses. We are content, therefore, to rest this part of the Resurrection on the undeniable facts, that our Saviour was publicly put to death, and that he was afterwards seen alive during forty days, not only by the Apostles, but by a large body of independent witnesses.
Perhaps our readers will scarcely imagine how this author frames his own hypothesis, but it shall be recorded for the benefit of future ages. He very naturally then supposes that our Saviour was taken down from the cross before he
Uu VOL. XX, DEC, 1823,
was quite dead ; that the Scribes and Pharisees, good easy souls! were altogether incurious as to this point ; that the Roman soldier took care not to pierce him in a mortal part; and that then Joseph of Arimathea laid him in the sepulchre, and during the first night removed him into his house, and soon restored him to perfect health. That any man should be found at this time of day to frame and publish such an hypothesis, is very strange indeed, and must considerably damp the hopes of those who build their theories on the perfectibility of the human mind.
However, let all this folly be supposed evidence. Here is Jesus taken out of the tomb? What then? Should the disciples believe in bim? Could the success of Christianity be accounted for on such an hypothesis? But we cannot afford room
for such arrant nonsense, and we must therefore harry on to Part the Second, On the Origin of the Gospels.
Our readers will be surprised to find that Doctor Paley, as he is here called, is styled a rbetorician! We had always thought that Lardver had been good at a full length, and Paley at a miniature ; but we believe this is the first time that either of them were thought rhetoricians!
It is a pity, however, that this author has not studied the rhetoric, or, as we should say, the logic of Paley; for what are we to think of his honesty and integrity, when he represents Paley as saying, that we shall look in vain for any extracts from the Gospels amongst the writings of the earliest fathers ? Now, whoever will tnrn to Paley's Evidences, vol. i. chap. 9. sect. 1. will find that he quotes citations from Matthew out of Barnabas, and Clement, and Hermes; and that he expressly obviates all objections to their not mentioning the name of the Evangelist! “This method of adopting words of Scripture, without reference or acknowledgment, was a method in general use amongst the most ancient Christian writers. P. 179.
In pity to the patience of our readers, we must pass over the succeeding remarks on the silence of Josephus and Philo with regard to the early Christians, together with the observations on Tacitus and Seneca, &c. There is nothing new or striking in the remaining portions of this Second Part; for all, that he says amounts to this, which every one knew before, that the first Christians were generally held in such extreme contempt by their Pagan neighbours, as to be very little noticed by them. What an age of discovery is this!
The third and last part of this Pamphlet is occupied with an attempt to prove that St. Paul is the real author of Christianity; and to prepossess the readers in favour of this hypothesis, a most turgid and bombastic account is given of his eloquence and acquirements. He is the greatest of all orators, and the deepest of all reasoners, &c. Thus it is that infidelity is for ever shifting its attacks. We have at this moment before us a large book, entitled, “Not Paul, but Jesus ;" which proceeds is quite a contrary manner, representing the Gospels as every thing, and the Epistles as nothing. Utrun horum.
However, to keep to this author. “ It is to St. Paul alone,” says he," that we are indebted for our knowledge of Christ as a mediator, the doctrine of the atonement, and the calling of the Gentiles.”—P. 76. Admirable theologian! What say you to texts like this? “No 'man cometh to the Father but by me."-Is not this the doctriae of a mediator? We thought that Nathaniel had said: “ Bebold the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world;" and we had foolishly connected these words with the doctrine of the atonement. As to the rejection of the Jews, it was pretty plainly intimated when our Saviour told his disciples that he would be rejected by that generation, &c. &c.
After such specimens of his theology, we deem it quite unnecessary to follow him in his subsequent reflections on the same subject. We dare any man to shew• that there is a single doctrine of Christianity depending on the exclusive authority of St. Paul; and we have some reason to believe that a doctrinal harmony of the New Testament will soon appear that shall fully establish this point. In the mean time, we think that it would become tinkers and taylors to speak with some degree of modesty on subjects which do not belong to their callings and professions, and that even the cause of Deism could not suffer, if they left such enquiries to the more educated part of mankind.
We have now given our readers a specimen of that kind of infidel writing, which has made so much noise amongst us. We can assure them that this is one of the most decent pamphlets which has lately appeared on that side of the question ; and yet we fear that amongst a certain class of coffee-house loungers and discontented politicians, these compositions are often spoken of as wondrous performances.
To these men we would address the following questions : Do you think that the lowest orders of society have been suddenly inspired to see through the errors of such men as Locke and Newton? Before you allow ignorance to instruct you, you should at least ascertain that its claims are supernatural; for we must still live in the age of miracles, if such mortals as Hone and Carlile-not to mention Tom Paine or Palmer-are to take place and precedence of all that is great and illustrious in the literature of our country.
U 1 2
Art. X. Memoirs of General Count Rapp, First Aide
de-Camp to Napoleon. Written by Himself, and pub
lished by his Family. 8vo. 431 pp. 125. Colburn. 1823. We have purposely abstained from noticing the histories of Buonaparte with which our prolific press has recently supplied us. Several of them look too like periodical publica. tions to be fair subjects of criticism ; others are running out into that immeasurable length which bids defiance to readers and reviewers; and we dislike the manoeuvres by which certain gentlefolks are endeavouring to keep the ex-emperor continually before the public eye, amusing us with his repartees, astonishing us with his paradoxes, and blinding us as far as possible to his real character, his actual achievements, and his just deserts. The Wardens, OʻMearas, and Las Cases, have gratified the wonder-loving appetite of Englishmen; amused us for the passing hour, as we are amused by the Hertfordshire horrors, or the Penitentiary fever; and told us just nothing at all about General Buonaparte. When this literary inundation has passed by, the Livraisons come to a lasting end; and all that is to be told, communicated fairly to the world, we shall venture to say something upon a subject which may chance by that time to be new. For the present, we content ourselves with a brief notice of Count Rapp, who has the merit of not writing under the dictation of Napoleon, and who lets us into several secrets which the great man was unable to comprehend.
Memoirs, even in their British garb, are essentially French. The display, the pretension, the inconsistency, the good humour, and the self-conceit are as prominent and entertaining as the ill-concealed idiom of Gaul; and the mix tone of admiration and censure in which the General: speaks of his master, gives an air of good faith to his relation. He is anxious to say all the good he can of Buonaparte, yet much that is blameable peeps out from time to time. A formal defence of his master's courage seems to us, an unnecessary chapter. Nobody can doubt that he was brave, or believe that he was cbivalrous. A formal defence of bis humanity is attempted, but not very successfully maintained. Instances of good nature, liberality, and moderation are produced, but not in such numbers as to shew the real character. They have the appearance of exceptions to the general rule; bright spots selected with skill from a vast and gloomy space. The opposite qualities are undesignedly manifested. We were particularly struck with the treatment of Blucher. His crime was a stouter and more able re.