A Series of Ten Lectures
The Testimony of the Apostles
THE apostles were, of necessity, the most authentic witnesses as to what Jesus was, said, and did. An express and formal analysis of their testimony would have been given in the foregoing Lectures, had not the author delivered and published a Lecture on this subject in the third course of Boston Lectures on Christianity and Scepticism. Leave has been obtained to reprint that Lecture in the present volume, as an essential part of the argument from testimony. It is reprinted without omission or alteration for, though a small portion of it is parallel in thought, and one or two sentences nearly identical in language, with portions of the preceding volume, these passages could not have been omitted or changed without mutilating the argument of which they form a part.
THE TESTIMONY OF THE APOSTLES.
RENAN'S Life of Jesus, which before the Franco Prussian war had reached in the original its thirteenth edition, besides not a few in its English dress, is now the gospel of the doubting and unbelieving on both sides of the Atlantic, and will remain so till some one bolder or more subtle than he shall displace him, as he displaced Strauss. His book is a charming one in its delineations of everybody and everything but Christ. In his chapter on the original disciples, he gives a very vivid sketch of their respective individualities; and both in his " Life of Jesus " and in his work on the Apostles, he acknowledges the authenticity of the accounts we have of them, the miraculous narratives alone excepted. There is in the Introduction to his " Life of Jesus," one very extraordinary testimony to the truth of the evangelic history, which I cannot forbear quoting.
" I have traversed in every direction the district where the scenes of the Gospel are laid. I have visited Jerusalem, Hebron, and Samaria. Almost m site named in the story of Jesus has escaped me. All this narrative, which at a distance seems to float in the clouds of an unreal world, thus assumed a body, a substantial existence, which astonished me.
The striking coincidence of texts and places, the wonderful harmony of the ideal of the Gospels with the country which served as its frame, was for me a revelation. I had before my eyes a fifth Gospel, and thenceforth through the stories of Matthew and Mark, instead of an abstract being who one might say had never existed, I saw in life and movement a human form that challenged admiration."
In fine, Renan treats the entire New-Testament history as an unquestionable record of actual historical personages and events, except where the supernatural element crops out in the narrative; thus far, at least, showing himself both a clear-sighted and an honest critic. In point of fact, the historical books of the New Testament have at once so many external proofs and internal tokens of their authenticity, as to leave no question concerning the substantial truth of their narrative of ordinary events, however we may dispose of the abnormal incidents they record.
Resting, then, on the admitted authenticity of this narrative, I propose to draw from the apostles who bear in it so prominent a part such testimony as they offer in behalf of their Lord and Master.
In the first place, there is not the slightest doubt that of eleven of these apostles, most or all incurred hardships, losses, perils, persecutions, and sufferings of the severest character, in attestation of their belief in the Divine mission and authority of Jesus; that several of them, as itinerant preachers, devoted themselves for the residue of their lives to the promulgation of this belief, their zeal carrying them into distant lands, and enabling them to overcome natural, social, and national barriers, insurmountable except to the most ardent and self-forgetting enthusiasm; and that several of them, in the same cause, encountered and bravely endured beheading, crucifixion, and other agonizing and ignominious forms of death. These things attest, at least, the sincerity and the intensity of their belief. Sacrifice and martyrdom always prove as much as this. But they do not prove the truth of a belief, - if they did, there would be no end to the shams, contradictions, and absurdities, which, as sealed by the blood of their believers, we should be compelled to recognize as true.
There is, however, this peculiarity which distinguishes the apostles from all other martyrs, even from other early Christian martyrs. The declarations which they maintained at the peril and cost of their lives were not dogmatic articles of faith, but statements of alleged facts, of which they professed to have been eye and ear witnesses. Foremost among these facts was the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. That they believed themselves witnesses of the reality of his death and of his reappearance among the living, there cannot be the slightest doubt. This Renan admits. He maintains that Jesus really died; that the apostles caught eagerly at the first rumor of his resurrection, which grew from the stealing of his body (it is hard to say by whom, but more probably by Joseph of Arimathea than by any one else), and from Mary Magdalene's mistaking the gardener for him in the dim dawn and through the mist of her tears; that they so firmly believed this story as to imagine that they saw him repeatedly, by day as well as by night, at Jerusalem and in Galilee, the whole eleven of them at a time; and that this hallucination lasted many days, and, on one occasion, extended to the more than five hundred brethren mentioned by St. Paul. He says emphatically that had the apostles possessed less than the strongest assurance of their Master's resurrection, they could not by any possibility have been the earnest propagandists and heroic sufferers that they undoubtedly were. We thank him for this admission; and indeed no champion of the Christian faith can ask for a firmer basis for his superstructure of argument and evidence than the concessions made all along by this pre-eminently fair and frank, yet for all this only the more captivating and dangerous, Corypheus of the anti-Christian host.
But the undoubting belief of professed eye and ear witnesses is not in itself sufficient to inspire confidence in their story. If these men were fools or fanatics, their testimony, though blood-sealed, is of no value. The question for us then is, whether they were persons of sufficiently acute perceptions, clear mind, and sound judgment, to be relied on.
To answer this question, let us look first at their writings. Five of them, Matthew, John, James, Peter, and Jude, are among the reputed authors of the New Testament. As to these writers, we have as good reason for believing in the genuineness of Matthew's and John's Gospels, of John's First Epistle, and of Peter's First Epistle, as we have for believing in the genuineness of Virgil's Georgies, or of Cicero de Officiis. We find them, from the earliest mention made of them; named and quoted as written by their now reputed authors, without any record or intimation of a doubt or question as to their authorship.
I am aware, indeed, that rationalistic criticism does not admit that the Gospels came into being as other books do. The development theory is applied to them, as to the whole realm of living nature. Their genesis is like Topsy's, in Mrs. Stowe's tale, - "1 'spect I grow'd, don't think nobody never made me." But Renan admits that memoranda of our Saviour's discourses written out by Matthew were the nucleus of the Gospel which bears his name. He thinks, too, that the narrative portions of John's Gospel, which he regards ,as singularly truthlike and accurate, were derived from that apostle, and that the whole book was written by his immediate disciples.
Here let me offer some considerations with special reference to the authorship of the fourth Gospel. As I have said, the testimony of antiquity that it was written by John is unanimous and full. As to his having written the Apocalypse, that testimony is less clear and conclusive. Yet the critics of the Tubingen school maintain that this last book was undoubtedly written by the Apostle John. But it is very certain that the same man wrote the Gospel of John (so-called), the first Epistle bearing his name, and the Apocalypse; for there are several very striking characteristic conceptions and figures, which are both peculiar and common to these three writings, or to the Gospel and the Apocalypse. For instance, the term Logos (the Word) is applied to Jesus in all three of them, and nowhere else; and again, Jesus is introduced in the Gospel under the figure of a lamb; the same figure reappears in the Apocalypse, in almost every vision of the glorified Redeemer, and he is called by this name nowhere else. These are but two instances, to which several others might be added, of peculiarities common to the Gospel and the Apocalypse, and rendering it very certain that, if the Tubingen critics do not err in ascribing the latter to John, he must have written the former.
Yet another consideration strikes me very forcibly in favor of the authorship of the fourth Gospel by John. True or false, this is the most remarkable book ever written, and has had more power over the human mind and heart than any other, both in determining belief, and in awakening tender, profound, and fervent devotion. The sublimest narrative ever written is that of the raising of Lazarus. The words put into the mouth of Jesus in that scene, " I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and whosoever liveth, and believeth in me, shall never die," are the grandest utterance ever heard on earth, and must and will be rehearsed in hope and triumph, by the grave-side, till the last of the dying shall have put on immortality. The recorded communings and intercessions of the night of the betrayal surpass in every element of pathos all human literature beside and there are at this and at every moment, all the world over, thousands upon thousands of the weary arid grief-stricken, who, oft as they read these blessed words, feel pillowed on the bosom of Infinite Love.
Now, there are but two hypotheses possible. One is, that we have the faithful narrative of what was said and done by the Truth and Life incarnate, transmitted to us by the hand of one who saw and heard what he wrote. If this be so, while it makes no manner of difference which of the apostles wrote the book, no one would venture to doubt its having been written by John. The other supposition is, that the author of this Gospel, by his own genius, without a copy, shaped and filled out in those transcendently glorious and beautiful proportions and tints the figure of Jesus Christ, and from his own fertile brain, spun those discourses into whose depth none can enter without seeming to listen to the very voice of God. If this be true, then the author of that book deserves the place in human gratitude, reverence, nay, adoration, which the Christian Church has assigned to Jesus. He towers up above all other writers, all other men of his age; nay, more, as the greatest mind, the greatest soul of his race. The book is, indeed, superhuman, if he whom it portrays was not so. How then could the name of such a writer have been lost, and his fame transferred to another? It was a name too great to perish, a fame too exalted not to have its enduring record. We are then compelled to accept as our only alternative, our first supposition, -- the belief resting on unbroken tradition from the earliest times, that this book, great and glorious as it is, was written by an illiterate Galilean fisherman, and that it owes its superiority to all other books, not to any surpassing ability of the author, but to the Divine life in human form, as to which he only related what had been uttered in his presence, or done under his personal knowledge.
As for the Epistle bearing the name of James, we have evidence that it was generally received as genuine, and was from a very early period read in the churches. As of the two apostles bearing that name, the brother of John died early, this letter must be ascribed to James, the son of Alphæus. We have about the same kind and nearly the same degree of evidence, for the genuineness of the epistle called that of Jude, or Judas, - evidence which would be deemed amply sufficient for any book outside of the sacred canon. The epistles of James and Jude have also characteristics of style and sentiment which ally them to the undoubtedly genuine epistles of John and Peter, and show that they belong to the earliest time and the apostolic school, and not to the next succeeding Christian age, whose few extant writings are of quite a different type.
We have then, undoubtedly, in our hands the writings of some of those men, who, at the risk of every thing earthly, professed to have been eye-witnesses of what Jesus said and did. How do they write? Like intelligent, sober, credible men? Or do they in their writings show themselves so stupid and foolish, or so wild and fanatical, that they could easily have been the dupes of pretension or imposture? This question would seem to be answered by the regard which has been paid to their writings in every subsequent age by the foremost men in point of intelligence, good sense, and culture. These writers have generally been supposed, in Christendom, to have been specially enlightened and inspired by God. Whether this be so or not, it is aside from our present purpose to inquire; but the fact that such an opinion concerning them has been held by a large proportion of the first minds of our race is a sufficient proof that their writings are at least free from the tokens of weakness, folly, or infatuation.
This view of their character is certainly confirmed on examination. The books present all the marks of truth, when tried by the usual tests. The Gospels of Matthew and John contain a great many names, dates, local and historical references it was a period of very frequent change in the political relations of Palestine, - a period as to which later writers would inevitably have committed gross anachronisms; yet we find in these books only the closest accordance, in geography, chronology, and history, with all the authorities of the time, especially with the minute and circumstantial history of Josephus. Then, too, we have between the Epistles and the Gospels, just the kind of coincidences which we should expect to trace in genuine works. Thus we find in the Epistles not any formal statement of facts, or set rehearsal of the words of Jesus; but we detect in them unmistakable tokens of firm belief in the contents of the Gospels, and what is more, of precisely the condition of mind and character which these contents were adapted to produce. The coincidences between the Epistles and the Gospels are closely analogous to those which we should expect to find between the domestic or friendly letters of statesmen or generals concerned in either war of our independence and authentic histories of the same war.
Then, again, there are no books in the world that show greater serenity and clearness of mind than these manifest. Their style is simple, artless, free from exaggeration, hyperbole, apostrophe, declamation, ambitious rhetoric, outbursts of impetuous feeling. Matthew and John, in describing the marvellous life and works of Jesus Christ, write as quietly and dispassionately as if they were narrating ordinary events. They show no fear that they shall not be believed. They use no forms of strong asseveration. In fine, they write as if they had become so accustomed to experiences on a higher plane than that of common humanity, as to be unconscious of their position, - just as natives of Switzerland might talk and write calmly and unexcitedly about glaciers, and avalanches, and scenes of which the mere thought thrills us with profound emotion.
The Epistle of James is a very remarkable composition. Had it come down to us, with such slight verbal changes as might have been necessary, as a treatise of Plutarch, or Epictetus, or Marcus Antoninus, it would now be regarded as the finest ethical monument of antiquity, and would hold an unrivalled place as a school and college classic. For common sense, shrewd observation of men and things, deep insight, and practical wisdom of the highest order, it may resign all vantage-ground on the score of any sacred associations, and still retain its prestige unimpaired; while it is no less remarkable for the sharp edge and keen point and brilliant sheen of many of its single maxims and apophthegms.
I have said enough about these writings for my present argument, - enough to show you that at least those of the apostles whom we know as authors were not feeble, silly, credulous" men, who could have been easily deceived by an impostor, or drawn by a self-deluded pretender into the vortex of his fanaticism; but that they were clear-headed, sober-minded, intelligent, and in every way competent witnesses of the events which some of them record as from their own personal knowledge, and the others recognize as undoubted facts.
Let us now take note of the professions of the apostles, so far as they are specified in the New Testament. Six of them, perhaps more, were fishermen on the little lake of Galilee, - not sailors in any large sense of the word (for they were probably never out of sight of land, or in their boats for more than a day at a time), so that there was nothing in their simple, prosaic life to nurture the imaginative element, or to cherish credulity and superstition, but much that was adapted to educate their perceptive faculties, their powers of observation, and their plain, practical common sense. Hardy, straightforward, honest men, jostled and jostling on the rough paths of daily life, the weaker sinews of character broken down, the hardier developed by incessant toil, they would have been firm adherents to one who could give them unmistakable credentials of his claims, but not such persons as could be enlisted in the cause of a fanatic, or become the easy dupes of a plausible deceiver. We have in the first chapter of John's Gospel, in a series of conversations whose life-likeness Renan (in an Appendix to his last edition) adduces as a token of their authenticity, a very vivid picture of what these men were before they became the disciples of Jesus; and the picture is that of self-respecting, intelligent, thoughtful men, - such men as the Hebrew theology and the institutions of Moses were adapted to produce among the laboring classes, but such as were developed under no other type of ancient civilization, nor have yet been formed, except in comparatively small numbers, under the half-Pagan auspices of what I fear we miscall Christian civilization.
Of these fishermen, one indeed, Peter, appears to have been ardent and impulsive in his nature. But it is equally manifest that he was testy, petulant, captious, easily offended, and ready sometimes even to find fault with his Master. Such a man as he would have been disgusted with sham and pretension. Had there been aught in the works, words, or daily life of Jesus that was not genuine, honest, pure, noble, he was the very man to take umbrage at it, and to transmute his allegiance into implacable enmity. But his attachment flickers only for a few moments under the natural reaction from a foolhardy courage; a single look from his Master drowns his denial in a passion of tears; and thenceforward none is more prompt and earnest than he to bear testimony, at whatever cost and risk, to the power and love of God as incarnate in Jesus Christ.
Another of the twelve, Matthew, was a tax-gatherer in the service of the Roman government, probably a collector of the imposts on the brisk though petty inland traffic on the Lake of Galilee, - gathering tribute from a people that scorned to pay it, and sought every possible subterfuge to evade it. His office could have been borne only by one who was all eye and ear. He was a detective by the necessity of his profession,-the last man to be duped either by fanaticism or by imposture. He, too, had more to lose than the fishermen. The hands of all the fiscal agents of Rome, great and small, had viscous palms; and we have intimation of his substantial worldly estate in his making a great feast for the Saviour, - an occasion important enough for the Pharisees to know who the guests were, and to carp at them as below the standard of Jewish gentility and purism. His testimony, then, has a peculiar value, both on the ground of his profession, and on account of the heavy sacrifice which his discipleship made inevitably necessary. As for his Gospel, its entire character accords closely with what we know of him. There is something journal-like in its narrative portions, as if it were written by a man of business. It contains more about the Saviour's sayings and doings at Capernaum - Matthew's post of duty - than either of the other Gospels. Moreover, when he speaks of his own house, he calls it the house, as a man generally does when he has a place of business separate from his home. The uniform tradition of the early Church represents his sacrifice for the cause of Christ as lifelong, his service as a missionary of the cross having been first, for fifteen years, in Judaea, and afterward in remote regions of the East, and perhaps of the South; for there is some reason to believe that his Christian enterprise carried him as far as Ethiopia.
Another of the sacred college was Simon, the Canaanite, as he is called by Matthew and Mark, Zelotes (or the Zealot), as Luke styles him,- the former being the Syro-Chaldaic, the latter the Greek designation of a sect of Jewish fanatics, who pushed their loyalty to the Mosaic ritual and economy to absolute frenzy, regarded the Roman power with the intensest hatred, deemed murder and even stealthy assassination justifiable in defence of the national integrity and faith, and were the foremost agents in producing the condition of things which led to the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the Hebrew people, - enormities opposed to the ordinary and else invariable Roman policy, but forced upon Titus by the unparalleled obstinacy of these very ultraists of whom we so strangely find one among the followers of Jesus Christ. The Zealots were literal interpreters of the prophecies that seemed to promise extended temporal dominion to the Messiah, and were in constant expectation of his advent. We know nothing very definite about this man's subsequent life; but the tradition is, that he was an indefatigable propagandist of the new faith, and that he finally suffered death on the cross.
That a man of this sort should have been among the apostles indicates, as it seems to me, the reality of the coincidence, claimed by the Evangelists, be-tween the Messiah of the prophets and Jesus of Nazareth. This man was one of those who were all the time watching the Eastern sky for the dawn of the Messianic day, and that a day, as they imagined, of vengeance and of victory. There was not a prophetic sign with which he was not familiar; but only a convergence of these signs, too patent and too full to admit of doubt, could have made a Zealot acknowledge a Messiah in every feature so utterly unlike the mailed and harnessed chieftain of his day-dreams.
This is a point which seems to me deserving of more than a passing notice. The evangelists relate numerous circumstances of birthplace, birth, parentage, condition, and experience, in which prophecy concerning the Messiah was said to be fulfilled in Jesus. Rationalistic critics represent these coincidences as in part factitious, and in part fictitious. They allege that Jesus did some things, in order to simulate the Messiah of the prophets; and that, as to the greater number of those particulars in which he could have had no agency, as about his birth in Bethlehem and his descent from David, the evangelists coined facts in accordance with predictions. It might seem sufficient to say that, as the coiners of these coincidences risked their lives by coining them, they must, before undertaking thus to deceive the world, have accomplished the more difficult task of deceiving themselves. But here we have a specially strong case. A man pledged at once to the most literal interpretation of prophecy and to a line of conduct utterly opposed to the spirit and character of Jesus is so impressed with the Messianic tokens that meet in Jesus, as to throw aside his old sectarian convictions, to renounce his former self, to become a new man, and to adhere in life and death to a Teacher and Leader with whom at the outset he could have had nothing in common except reverence for the Word of God in the Hebrew Scriptures.
We come next to the case of Thomas. He was evidently sceptical by nature, - I would even say, by the grace and gift of God, who evidently made use of this trait in his mental character for the strengthening of his own faith, and of that of multitudes who should come after him. The other ten have seen the risen Lord, and have no doubt of his identity. He very naturally thinks it more probable that they have been deceived by some family likeness or casual resemblance in another person than that the Crucified is really alive. He demands to examine the wound-marks, to trace the prints of the nails, the incision made by the spear. He was in the right. His was an honest and reasonable doubt, and we are thankful for it. His name should never be spoken with less than the highest honor, and had he been the type of a larger proportion of those ministers of religion who have been successors of the apostles, there would be much less of infidelity than there now is. Credulity generates unbelief; and infidelity has no weapons of its own forging that have half the efficacy of those which it picks up among the crazy outworks, built by a faith both blind and timid, around the impregnable citadel of everlasting truth.
There are two kinds of scepticism, - that of the heart and that of the intellect. The former is adapted to make unbelievers; the latter, to make Christians. The former will not look at the hands and the side, because it is determined not to be moved morally and spiritually as they would move the honest soul; the latter insists on seeing the wound-marks, because it wants to know the precise truth, and therefore avails itself of whatever evidence God has given. The scepticism of the heart hates the light, and will not come to the light, lest its deeds be reproved. The scepticism of the mind is that which cannot believe without sufficient evidence. ' It proves all things, and holds fast that which will stand the test. It examines both sides of a question, and adheres to that which imposes the least strain on its belief. Such a mind needs only to have the evidences of Christianity fairly presented, to yield to it entire and cordial faith. Many of the firmest believers, many of the ablest defenders of the truth as it is in Jesus, belong to this class of minds. In this sense, Lardner, Paley, and Butler, whose contributions to the Christian evidences are invaluable, arid will be so for generations to come, were pre-eminently sceptics. They would not believe, without examining the hands and the side, trying all the witnesses, testing the objections against Christianity with the opposing arguments, weighing coolly and impartially the evidence, real or pretended, on either side; and the result was a faith in Christ, which sight could hardly have rendered clearer or stronger.
God has made many such minds, and they are among the noblest and best of his creation. I have known, you probably have, some extreme specimens of this kind among the most loyal and exemplary Christians. Take a case like this, - I paint from life, an individual as the type of a class. He whom I describe wants for every item of his belief a solid basis of fact, and a superstructure of unanswerable reasoning built upon it; and he will let his faith reach no higher than he can lay this superstructure, as it were, stone upon stone in insoluble cement. He has no relish (and I think him wrong there) for those speculations about spiritual and heavenly things, in which, from a mere hint of holy writ, fancy takes her flight in those higher regions of thought, which, I believe, God has purposely left undescribed, that we may have our free range in them. In the house built on Christ as the foundation, he prefers to live in the lower story, where he can test the strength of the floor and the walls. But so firmly has he by of Jesus, but were for many months his constant companions, on the road, in the house, on the lake. They knew his whole manner of life, - his modes of intercourse with all sorts and conditions of men, - the degree to which he embodied his precepts of piety, purity, justice, forbearance, and kindness in his daily walk and conversation. They staked their lives on a body of statements, prominent among which was the alleged fact of his faultless and absolutely godlike sanctity and excellence. They must have known whether this was true or not; and that they suffered and died to attest it, proves that they knew it to be true.
I have spoken of eleven only. There remains Judas, by far the most important of all, for whom the Church has been slow to own her debt of everlasting gratitude to the God who makes the wrath and guilt of man to praise him. Judas had the same opportunities with the other eleven for knowing every thing about his Master that could be known. He was employed in a confidential relation, as custodian of the scanty funds of the apostolic family. He was probably from the first a selfish, greedy, deceitful man; our Saviour early and repeatedly intimates his recognition of these traits; and he probably chose him on account of them, that, if malice itself could find aught against him, it might have free scope and full swing.
Judas entered into negotiations with the chief priests and their associates for the ruin of his Master, and, mercenary as he was, he would certainly have effected that ruin in the way most profitable to himself. Now it was only as a last resort that the leading Jews wanted to get possession of the body of Jesus. They felt by no means certain that they could persuade Pilate to kill him, and they dared not kill him themselves. They would have immeasurably preferred to destroy his influence, to detect some imposture in his alleged miracles, or to find some weak point in his character, some damning incident in his life. They were so doubtful how they could dispose of their prisoner, that they offered a very low price for him. But they had large means at their command, and would have given a much greater reward for a surer service. Could Judas have gone to those men with evidence of jugglery, pretence, or exaggeration in the wonderful works reported to have been wrought by Jesus, or could he have proved a single deed or utterance that would impair the reputation of perfect sanctity which Jesus held among a large portion of the people; in fine, could he have borne the slightest testimony against his Master's character, he might as easily as not have made his thirty pieces of silver three thousand, - he might have named his own price, and if there had not been money enough in hand, they would have taken up contributions in all the synagogues to pay it. But there was absolutely nothing secret which could injure Jesus and his cause by being made known. There was nothing for this bad man to betray except the place in the environs of the crowded city where Jesus was going careful examination convinced himself of the Saviour's redeeming mission, sacrificial death, miracles, resurrection and ascension, that he speaks of them as he would of sunrise, or the phases of the moon, or any of the well-known phenomena of the outward world, as matters long since placed by him beyond question. He conforms his life to these great spiritual facts, as he does to the laws of nature. And when he comes to die, he passes away, not with any glow of ecstasy, but with the quiet confidence of one who knows just where he is going, and has just as firm a belief in the many mansions in the Father's house as in the several apartments in his own house. This is the style of faith that grows from the honest scepticism which insists on always having sufficient reasons for its belief. It often has less unction than might seem edifying; but if you want valiant soldiers of the cross for times when unbelief is rampant, boastful, and aggressive, these are the men to bear the shock of arms, and come off more than conquerors.
We care not, then, how many there are of the same order of mind with Thomas. The condition of the Christian evidences is specially adapted to their natures. The infidel has much harder things to believe than the Christian, severer difficulties to encounter, contradictions, inconsistencies and absurdities which only a credulous mind could entertain, - from which a natively sceptical intellect is inevitably drawn into the Christian faith. For, if Christianity be not true, we have to believe in numerous well-known effects without any adequate cause; in extensive conditions of mind and of conviction for which there was no basis whatever; in the growing up of confessedly the most perfect system of morality the world has ever seen, in the brain of an illiterate Galilean peasant, in a degenerate nation and a corrupt age, and not only so, but in the brain of one who was either weak enough to imagine, or wicked enough to feign, himself possessed of supernatural powers; in the simultaneous illusion of the senses of multitudes and bodies of men for many successive days, when it was the interest and the wish of those very men to find that false which they were constrained to recognize as true; in the imposition of pretended or imagined miracles upon a hostile people, so successfully that they were compelled to admit their actual occurrence, and (as we have abundant Jewish evidence) imputed them to the aid of Beelzebub, the imagined prince of demons; and in many other things equally incredible and opposed to all recognized laws of belief. The fact is, that not a few of the most noted infidels of modern times have been equally noted for their credulity; and that at the present moment the superstitions hardly less gross than fetichism, which are connected with pseudo-spiritualism, are most rife in the very quarters where the miracles and the resurrection of Jesus are thrown aside as unworthy of credence.
One word more about the eleven, before I pass to the twelfth. These eleven, it must be remembered, were not only witnesses of leading events in the life to pass the night, - it being necessary to arrest him by night on account of the large number of friendly Galileans who would have resisted any attempt to apprehend him by daylight. For this mean and paltry service he had a commensurately pitiful compensation.
But even he repents of what he has done. The power and beauty of that
blessed spirit, the majesty, meekness, and love of that holy countenance
come over him, but too late to recall his deed. He seeks, as so many do
in all times, in our time, to escape the contamination of ill-gotten gain
by casting it into the temple treasury; and finding no relief, in an agony
of remorse and despair he goes and hangs himself, bearing as unequivocal
and precious testimony to the truth and purity of his Master in that horrible
suicide, as the other apostles bore in their cheerful sufferings and martyrdom
for the love of their ascended Lord.
Judas has been strangely overlooked by the Church; no day is assigned to him in the calendar; no account is taken of his services; - yet we could have better spared a better man. We thank God for the life-record of those of the sacred college who followed closest in the footsteps of their Lord; yet while we have the Master, we might not have missed even James, or Peter, or Nathaniel. But we do need Judas, to learn what aspect the Saviour manifested to a subtle, captious, and treacherous witness, and thus to have the testimony of the vilest avarice, meanness, and malice, alongside with that of God and the holy angels, to the truth of his claims, the guilelessness of his spirit, the purity of his life.
I have thus presented the evidences of our Saviour's Divine mission
and character afforded us by those of whom the Evangelist writes, " He
ordained twelve, that they should be with him." In transmitting to us their
testimony, he has ordained us also, that we should be with him. This is
the place to which Jesus calls us and heaven invites us. Be it our place;
and may it be our blessedness so to confess him in our earthly lives and
before men, that we may be owned of him in heaven, before the angels of