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The medal which we appealed to as ascertaining the accuracy of the title given by St. Luke to Philippi, is a confirmation, not only of the authenticity of the book in which it is found, but of the credibility of the fact itself.
I give another specimen. The town-clerk of Ephesus, (states our sacred author, Acts xix.) in order to quell a tumult, thus addressed the Ephesians: What man is there that knowcth not how that the city of the Ephesians is a WORSHIPPER of the great goddess Diana? The original word is NEOKOPON, an appellation taken by cities which were dedicated to the service of some god or goddess. Now there is a medal still extant, on which the front of the temple of Diana is exhibited. In the centre is an image of the goddess; and around the side and bottom is an inscription, in which the Ephesians are called by this very term NE
KOPOI. Besides the testimony furnished by this medal, there is now extant at Ephesus an ancient Greek inscription, which not only confirms the general history related in Acts xix. but even approaches to several sentiments and phrases which occur in that chapter. These coincidences are so striking and conclusive, that they are sufficient of themselves to establish the credibility of the work in which they are found."
11 T. H. Horne, i. 242.
It is in this way that many circumstances of our gospel narratives have been explained, many difficulties removed, titles of governors vindicated, names of places illustrated, the whole series of the facts of Christianity established beyond all reasonable doubt,
What accessible sources, then, have not confirmed, and do not confirm, the credibility of the gospel history? Where can we look for testimonies of ancient events, which are not included in those we have cited ? What history is true, if ours be false? Can any thing human be more certain, than the fidelity of the New Testament? Can the exuberance of the divine goodness itself be asked to provide further arguments for those who can harden their hearts against the force of these?
But I shall be reminded that an appeal was made to a third class of proofs of the credit due to the evangelical records.
III. THE CHARACTER AND CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE SACRED WRITERS THEMSELVES,
For we judge in all other cases of the weight of testimony, by considering the character and circumstances of those who depose it. We examine the testimony itself; we enquire whether the natural and unerring signs of veracity are apparent in it; whether there is that ho
nesty and consistency in the different parts of the account which are the sure marks of truth;' we examine the character and circumstances of those who give the testimony, whether they were in a situation to know the real truth, whether their moral and religious conduct give a pledge of sincerity, whether their temporal interests, previous prejudices and habits, and subsequent conduct throw any light upon their governing motive.
If there are more witnesses than one, we enquire into their number, the agreement or otherwise of their accounts, their conduct toward each other and before the face of the world. .'.
Upon principles like these human life is governed. We act continually in the most important concerns, and in every department of human knowledge, upon testimony. The word of one man whom we know to be of unimpeachable sincerity, determines us a thousand times a-day: But if two persons of undeniable veracity, who have no apparent motive to deceive us, and who are evidently seeking our welfare, bear witness to a specific fact occurring under their own knowledge, we consider it' amost reasonable ground of confidence. Testimony may indeed deceive, that is, some testimony under some circumstances may de
ceive-but the infinitely larger portion of all testimony is true; and it is upon the footing of that immense majority of true cases, that the few-the comparative few-false ones obtain credit. Indeed, the solemn declaration of two or more individuals of character as to facts of which they are competent judges, persevered in under every suffering, sustained by unvaried consistency, and accompanied by a pure, beneficent, and holy life, never yet deceived—no case was ever produced in which such testimony was untrue.
Let us apply these remarks to the sacred writers. We have appealed to the authenticity of their books and to all other accessible sources of information. These prove the credibility of the principal facts of their writings Let us appeal now to themselves, in order to see whether we may repose that implicit confidence in them, as to be able to rely also upon the whole of their statements in every particular; in other words, whether the external testimony already adduced is supported by the number, character, circumstances, and manner of writing and acting of the witnesses themselves.
1. We have here twelve separate witnesses of the specific facts of the gospel history—to
three more (St. Mark, St. Luke, and St.
niy be added. Of these fifteen wit
nesses, eight composed different writings in twenty-seven several works, published within a few years of the events which they record; and works read and examined by their contemporaries, both friends and foes, in every part of the known world. Such is the number of the witnesses to every one of the facts, all agreeing in their testimony to them, and especially to the fact of the resurrection of their Lord.
2. These persons had a full knowledge of the things they attested. They were eye-witnesses, or the companions of those who were. Of the four evangelists, one wrote his account within six or eight years of the crucifixion ; (A.D. 38 or 40;) a second, following his steps, but publishing his history at a distance and under the ege of St. Peter," came at an interval of twenty or thirty years. (About A. D. 61.) The evangelist from whom my text is taken, appeared soon after (A. D. 63) to set in order the things then most surely believed—to gather them from those who had been eye-witnesses from the beginning; and having a perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to afford a certainty to Christians of the things in which they had been instructed. After an interval again
u So Papias, Clemens Alexandrinus, Caius, Eusebius, &c. testify.