By Amos Binney and Daniel Steele
C. THE CHRISTIAN EVIDENCES CLASSIFIED.
These are usually considered of two classes: external or historical, and internal.
To these some have added a third class, called experimental, and a fourth, the collateral.
Christianity was introduced among men under very remarkable circumstances. Miracles were performed, and future events foretold, in attestation of its Divine origin. These constitute the historical evidence. (24. What constitutes the historical evidence?)
When we examine the book itself, its truths, its doctrines, its spirit, we find it exactly such, in its nature and tendency, as we should expect a message from Jehovah to us would be. This is called the internal evidence.
And when we look at the effects which the Bible produces in the hearts and characters of believers, we find it answers the purposes for which it was sent. This is the experimental evidence.
The wonderful spread of Christianity, by so feeble an agency as a few unlearned men, destitute of power and wealth, conquering the hostility of both Jews and Pagans, together with the high civilization and power of Christian nations, and the admissions of skeptics, constitutes the collateral evidence.
The first three kinds of evidence are entirely distinct in their nature, and may be illustrated as follows: You have a substance which you suppose is phosphorus, because, in the first place, a boy, in whom you place confidence, brought it for you from the chemist's, who said it was phosphorus. This is the historical evidence.
In the second place you examine, and it looks like phosphorus; its color, consistence, and form, all agree. This is the internal evidence. (25. Internal? Experimental? Are the three kinds distinct in their nature? What illustration is given? Give the historical evidence of the article. Internal.)
In the third place you try. It burns with a most bright and vivid flame, etc. This is the experimental evidence.
If it should be found to be a preventive of the cholera, yellow fever, plague , and small-pox, and the nations which use it should be nearly or entirely freed from these pestilences, so that its use is rapidly tending to universality against the opposition of all the established medical schools, this would be a branch of the collateral evidence.
The last two are the best of the four. No matter what grounds of doubt and hesitation there may be in regard to the first and second kinds of evidence if the article prove its properties on trial, and is, by virtue of its acknowledged excellence, benefitting mankind and becoming universal.
If any one should say to you, "I suspect your messenger's honesty: he may have brought something else;" or, "this does not look exactly like phosphorus; it is too dark, or too hard;" your reply would be: "Sir, there can be no doubt; see how it burns " " See also its medicinal effects." (25 Experimental. Which is the best? How many kinds are there of external evidence?)
1. EXTERNAL OR HISTORICAL EVIDENCE.
a. MIRACLES. A miracle is an event varying from the established course of nature, wrought by the interposition of God himself, in attestation of some Divine truth, or of the authority of some Divine messenger or teacher. It is generally accompanied with a previous notice that it is performed according to the purpose and power of God.
He who has power to establish the laws of nature, can, by the same power, suspend them at pleasure. Common events are called natural. Uncommon events are called miracles.
It appears reasonable that a revelation from Deity should be supported by miracles. They are his seal by which he proves his communications Divine. I Kings 17:21-24; John 9:29-33; 10:37, 38.
The miracles recorded in the Bible are MATTERS OF FACT, capable of being proved by proper evidence, as any other historical facts are.
1. "These things were NOT DONE IN A CORNER," but PUBLICLY, sometimes before thousands of witnesses. Instance the plagues of Egypt and the destruction of Pharaoh's host, in the Old Testament; (Exod. 7:19; 10:20; 12:29,30; 14:27, 28;) the conversion of water into wine, (John 2:1-11,) and the feeding of more than five thousand, in the New Testament. Matt. 14:17-21. (26. What is a miracle? Why should a Divine revelation be supported by miracles? Can the miracles of the Bible be supported? Were they public or private?)
2. They were NEVER DISPUTED by those among whom they were performed, who were surely the best judges: not so stupid as not to know when the dumb spake, the blind saw, and the dead were raised. They were even ADMITTED by those who rejected the revelation which they authenticated. John 9:24; 11: 47; 12:9-11; Matt. 12:24.
3. Their NUMBER was very great. The Gospel history is full of them. Forty of Christ's miracles are narrated at large; and St. John informs us that he performed a great many of which there is no record. John 21:25.
4. Their VARIETY is great. They were performed in behalf of the blind, deaf, dumb, maimed, sick, insane, dead, and through a series of years, so that they might be examined and re-examined, as many of them actually were. Luke 8:2; Matt. 4:23, 24; John 12:1-2, 9-11. (27. What intances are given? Were they not disputed at the time? Were those beheld them proper judges? What is said of the number? Variety?)
5. They were performed by persons known to be poor, unlearned, of low condition, and destitute of great friends and powerful patrons Acts 3:6-7; 4:13-16.
6. They were declared beforehand, wrought, and appealed to; and that in the presence of the great and noble of a learned age, who, consequently, were not easily deluded.
As, therefore, miracles, being very extraordinary events, require more than ordinary proof, so those of the Bible have this very strong and extra evidence.
b. MIRACLES IN THE OLD TESTAMENT.
The principal miracles recorded in the Old Testament are fifty-four in number, embracing a vast variety in the display of omnipotent power. They were not wrought on trivial occasions, like the prodigies of Greek and Roman mythology, but on occasions worthy of Divine interposition. They are absolutely necessary to account for the existence of the Jewish nation, so intimately are they interwoven with their origin and history. (28. Of those by whom they were performed? Were they declared beforehand? Why do miracles require extraordinary proof? Have they this proof? How do they differ from the prodigies of mythology? How related to Jewish history?)
c. MIRACLES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT.
The principal miracles recorded in the New Testament are fifty-one, besides many not specified but spoken of in the mass. Though wrought to certify a revelation, nearly all of them are works of mercy and kindness to suffering humanity.
They are so interwoven with the Gospel narrative that they cannot be separated from it and leave any remainder of Christian truth. It is plain that we have an historic and supernatural Savior, or none at all.
The miracles of the Bible, in the aggregate, sustain the test of Leslie in his "Short and Easy Method with the Deists." His celebrated four rules for determining the truth of matters of fact in general are: " 1. That the fact be such as that men's outward senses-their eyes and ears-may be judges of it. 2. That it be done publicly in the face of the world. 3. That not only public monuments be kept up in memory of it, but some outward action be performed. 4. That such monuments and such actions and observances be instituted, and do commence from the time that the matter of fact was done." Judaism with its ritual, and Christianity and its sacraments, are such facts and monuments and observances. (29. How many miracles in the New Testament? What of their connection with the Gospel history? What of Leslie's four rules? Do the miracles of the Bible accord with them?)
d. RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST.
The most remarkable of all miracles is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It, therefore, is entitled to a distinct examination.
The following facts in the case are acknowledged by friends and foes: 1. Jesus Christ frequently predicted the circumstances of his death. John 2:19-21; Matt. 20:18, 19. He actually died. Mark 15:37, 44, 45; John 20:33. 3. Was buried. John 29:41, 42. 4. Was missing from the tomb, after it had been guarded to keep the disciples honest, and sealed to keep the guard honest. Matt. 28:6-13; 27:62-66.
Now there are but three conceivable ways by which the body could be removed from the sepulcher. By his ENEMIES, by his FRIENDS, or by HIMSELF, as he had predicted. Matt. 27:63. (30. What is said of Judaism and Christianity? What is the most remarkable of all miracles? What facts are acknowledged by friends and foes? In how many ways could the body be removed?)
If by his ENEMIES, their motive must have been to produce the body, and thereby confront the apostles, and convince them of fraud in their Master. But the body was not produced by them.
If by his FRIENDS, we cannot tell for what purpose. The dead body could not prove to them or others that he was risen; but, on the contrary, be a standing and visible proof against them.
It is true, his enemies reported that his friend had "stole him away." Matt. 28:11-15. But when their report is examined it will appear false.
1. So manifestly improbable is the report, that Matthew, though he faithfully records the whole, does not offer a syllable to refute it.
2. The disciples were few in number, and destitute of natural courage.
They were generally dismayed and terrified at the fate of their Master. (31. If by his enemies, what could be their motive? Was this effected? If by his friends, what absurdity. What did his enemies report? Where is this recorded? Will it bear examination? Does Matthew refute it? Why? Do the number and fortitude of the disciples favor the report? How did the fate of their Master affect them?)
Hence, when he was apprehended, they all forsook him and fled. Peter followed him afar off, and when accused of being a disciple, denied it three times with vehemence and oaths. Matt 26:56-58, 69-74. Not one attended him in the judgment hall. And when he was crucified, the only persons that ventured to stand near his cross were his mother, with two or three other women, and John. John 19:25-26. It is not, therefore, probable that they would be found at such a work, especially at such a season; for,
3. It was the occasion of the great festival-the Passover-when Jerusalem was full of people. It is also said to have been a time of the full moon.
4. It is not probable that a guard of sixty men would fall asleep at once, especially as they were in the open air.
5. If they were all asleep, they could not depose to any thing that passed meantime, except that the tomb was vacated in some unknown manner. Sleeping witnesses! They could not know that it was stolen; or, if it was, by whom.
6. It was certain death to Roman soldiers to be found sleeping upon guard. Hence, if they had been asleep, they would not have voluntarily confessed it. If their report had been believed, the rulers would have punished them. This they never did. Matt. 28:12-15. (
32. Does the consideration of the season render the report favorable? What was the season? Would all the guard be likely to sleep at once? Is it proper to admit sleeping witnesses? What law would serve to keep them awake?)
7. If the soldiers had believed their own story, they ever after would have reproached the disciples with it. This they were never known to do.
If, therefore, the body could be removed in no other way, it must have been BY HIS OWN POWER, as he had previously foretold. John 10:7, 18.
The more DIRECT evidence of this great miracle is contained in the following particulars:
(a). There were twelve distinct appearances of Christ after his burial-five on the first day, and five more before the ascension, and once to Saul at his conversion, and once to John on Patmos. I Cor. 15:5-9; Acts 9:5; Rev. 1:9-18. These were at different hours of the day, at different places, and, on one occasion, to above five hundred persons.
(b). He did not appear to them silently, but talked and ate with them, showed his hands and feet, made them handle him, etc.; held several long conversations with them, and at last ascended up to heaven in their sight. Luke 24:13-51; John 20:19-29; 21:4-23; Acts 1:3-11. (33. Does it appear that the rulers themselves believed this report? That the soldiers believed it? What then is the only alternative? Is there any evidence of this great miracle that is more direct? Related the first particular. Second.)
(c). The witnesses, being a class of unlearned and despised men, were unequal to the task of imposition.
(d). They were by no means credulous, but slow to believe in the resurrection of their Master. "Some doubted," that we might never doubt. Matt. 28:17; John 20:25-29.
(e). There is a most remarkable change in the disposition and conduct of the disciples; from being the most timid of men, they suddenly became courageous and undaunted.
They boldly preach that very Jesus whom, but a short time before, they had deserted in the greatest distress, and that, too, in the synagogues of Jerusalem, where he was crucified only a few days before. Mark 16:20; Acts 2:14; 9:20, etc.
And, although his crucifixion was fresh before their eyes, and they had reason to expect a similar fate, they still avow his resurrection. Acts 2:22-36. (34. Third particular. Fourth. Fifth. How do you prove this change in the disciples?)
(f). The LORD'S SUPPER was instituted as a perpetual memorial of his death, and the festival of the LORD'S DAY to commemorate his resurrection. Matt. 24:26, etc.; I Cor. 9:23-26. These memorials were instituted at the very time when the circumstances to which they relate took place, and have been observed in the Christian world ever since, fulfilling Leslie's four requirements respecting miracles.
The resurrection of our Lord is thus established, and is proof sufficient of his Divine mission. Rom. 1:4.
The Savior often appealed to his resurrection as the grand proof of his being sent from heaven, and his disciples constantly referred to it as the foundation of their faith. Mark 8:31; John 2:19-21; Acts. 17:31; I Cor. 15:20; I Pet. 1:3.
Finally, this great event contains in itself the evidence both of miracle and prophecy. The prophecies herein completed are recorded in Psalm xvi, 10; John ii, 19, 22; Acts ii, 25-36. (35. What of the Lord's Supper and Lord's day? At what time were these instituted? Have they never been abandoned? Did the Savior ever appeal to his resurrection? Why? What account did his disciples make of it? What does this great event contain in itself? What prophecies are herein completed?)
e. HISTORICAL EVIDENCE, CONTINUED.
PROPHECY is a miracle of knowledge, a declaration of something future, beyond the power of human sagacity to calculate. The prophecies of the Bible form a regular system, and may be classified as follows, namely, Prophecies relating to the JEWISH NATION.
(a). Concerning the posterity of Abraham. Prophecy: Gen. 12:1-3; 13:16; 15:5; 17:2,4-6;22:17-18; 28:14; 32:12.
Fulfillment, as respects the Jews alone: Exod. 1:7-12; Num. 23:10; Deut. 1:10-11 Heb. 11:12.
In less than five hundred years after the first of these predictions the number of the Israelites alone amounted to eight hundred thousand men, besides women and children. II Sam. 24:9.
(b). Concerning Ishmael. Compare Gen. 16:1-12. From him descended the various tribes of Arabs, whose numbers and manner of living have ever since been a verification of the texts. (36. What is the second kind of external evidence? What is prophecy? How may the prophecies be classified? Repeat some concerning the posterity of Abraham. Their fulfillment. Concerning Ishmael.)
(c). Concerning the Jews. Deut. 28. Fulfillment, in three particulars:(1.) Their subjection, by Shishak, king of Egypt; Shalmanezer, king of Assyria; Nebuchadnezzar, and several others. (2.) Their famines six hundred years after Moses, among the Israelites. Again, nine hundred years after, among the Jews. And finally, fifteen hundred years after. (3.) Their reduction, witnessed by all nations where they have been dispersed. Yet they continued a separate people, and have become "a by-word among all nations," "To jew signifies 'to cheat or defraud.' "-N. Webster.
A king of England asked his chaplain, "What is the most convincing proof of the truth of the Bible?" "The Jews, your Majesty," who, without a country for eighteen hundred years, have fulfilled the prophecies by retaining their distinct nationality, resisting all tendencies to assimilation and absorption.
PROPHECIES relating to OTHER NATIONS. Tyre, Ezek. 26; Egypt, Isa. 19; Jer. 43; 49; Ezek. 29; 30. Ethiopia, Isa. 18:1-6; 20:3-5; Ezek. 30:4. Nineveh, Nahum 1;2;3. Babylon, Isaiah 13; Jer. 50; 51. The four great empires of antiquity, the Babylonian, Persian, Grecian, and Roman. (37. The Jews. How is this prophecy fufilled? How does their existence prove the truth of the Bible? Repeat the prophecy concerning Tyre. Egypt. Ethiopia. Nineveh.)
PROPHECIES: Dan. 2:39-40; 7; 8. All history shows their literal fulfillment.
PROPHECIES relating to the MESSIAH and THAT HE SHOULD COME. (1.) Prophecy: Gen. 3:15; Deut. 18:15, 18; Isa. 9:6; Ps 1:7; Haggai 2:7. Fulfillment. Luke 2:11; John 1:14; Gal. 4:4; I John 3:8. THE TIME WHEN HE SHOULD COME. (2.) Prophecy: Gen. 49:10; Haggai 2:6-9; Dan. 9:23-25; Mal. 3:1. Fulfillment: Compare Matt. 22:20-21; Luke 2:1-5; John 19:10-15. For the expectation of the Jews, see Matt. 2:46; Luke 2:25, 38. FROM WHOM HE WAS TO DESCEND. (3.) Prophecy: Gen. 3:15; 12:3; 18:18; 49:10; Isa. 7:14; 9:6, 7; 11:1; Jer. 23:5-6. Fulfillment: Matt. 1:1, 23; Luke 1:32-33; John 7:42; Gal. 4:4; Acts 3:25-26; 13:32-33; Rom. 15: 8-12. (38. Babylon. The four great empires. What shows their literal fulfillment? What prophecy relates to the coming of the Messiah? Fulfillment. The time of his coming? Fulfillment? From whom he was to descend? Fulfillment?) TO BE BORN OF A VIRGIN. (4.) Prophecy: Isa. 7:14; Jer 31:22. Fulfillment: Matt. 1:22-25; Luke 1:26-35. THE PLACE OF HIS BIRTH. (5.) Prophecy: Micah 5:2. Fulfillment: Luke 2:4-7; Matt. 2:4-8, etc. CONCERNING HIS FORERUNNER. (6.) Prophecy: Mal. 3:1; 4:5; Isa. 40:3. Fulfillment: Matt. 3:1-3; Luke 1:13-17. WAS TO PREACH FIRST IN GALILEE. (7.) Prophecy: Isa. 9:1-2. Fulfillment: Matt. 4:12-17. WAS TO PERFORM MIRACLES. (8.) Prophecy: Isa. 35:5-6. Fulfillment: Matt. 9:5. HIS KINGLY ENTRY INTO JERUSALEM. (9.) Prophecy: Zech. 9:9. Fulfillment: Matt. 21:5-11.
CIRCUMSTANCES OF SUFFERING AND DEATH. (aa.) Prophecy: Isa. 53:3; Psa. 41:9; 55:12-14; Zech. 11:12-13. Fulfillment: Luke8:53; 16:14; Matt. 26:14-15; 27:3. (39. Of whom to be born? Fulfillment? Place of his birth? Fulfillment? His forerunner? Fulfilment? Place of his first preaching? Fulfillment? His miracles? Fulfillment? His entry into Jerusalem? Fulfillment? Circumstances of his suffering and death? Repeat the six classes in order?) (bb.) Prophecy: Isa. 1:6; 53:5-8. Fulfillment: Matt. 27:30; Luke 23:34; John 19:1-2; I Pet. 2:23-24. (cc.) Prophecy: Ps. 22:7-8. Fulfillment: Matt. 27:39, etc.; Luke 23:35, etc. (dd.) Prophecy: Ps. 69:21; 22:18. Fulfillment: Matt. 27:34; Mark 15:36; John 29:23-39. (ee.) Prophecy: Ps. 34:20; Zech. 12:10. Fulfillment: John 19:32, 36. (ff.) Prophecy: Isa. 53:9. Fulfillment: Matt. 27:57, 60.
RESURRECTION AND ASCENSION. Prophecy: Ps. 16:9-10. By Christ himself. Mark 8:31; 10:34; Luke 9:22; John 2:19, 21; 10:17. Fulfillment: Matt. 28:5-6; Acts 1:3; 2:25-36; 13:34-37; Luke 24:5-7, 51; Acts 1:9-11; I Tim. 3:16. JESUS WAS TO SEND THE HOLY SPIRIT. Prophecy: Joel 2:28. By himself. John 7:38-39; 14:16; 15:26; 16:7,13. Fulfillment: Acts 2:1-4, 33; 4:31; 10:44, etc.
SALVATION ONLY THROUGH CHRIST. Prophecy: Zech. 13:1; Mal. 4:2; Isa. 53:11; 59:20; Ps. 118:22. Fulfillment: Matt. 1:21 Luke 1:76-78; 2:27-32; 24:47; Acts 4:10-12; x10:43; 13:38; I Tim. 2:4-6; 4:10. (40. Fulfillment. Resurrection and ascension. Fulfillment. The sending of the Holy Spirit. Fulfillment.)
IMPORTANCE OF FAITH IN HIM. Prophecy: Deut. 13:18-19. Fulfillment: Matt. 17:5; Acts 3:22-23; John 3:18, 36; II Thess. 1:7-8.
PROPHECIES by CHRIST AND HIS APOSTLES. 1. Christ foretells the circumstances of his own death. Matt. 16:21; 26:23, 31. 2. Resurrection: Matt. 16:21; 26:32. 3. Descent of the Holy Spirit: Luke 24:49; John 14:16-17, 26; 16:7, 13. Fulfillment: Acts 2:1-4; 10:44. 4. Destruction of Jerusalem, with all its preceding signs and concomitant circumstances: Matt. 24:1-26; Mark 13:1-23; Luke 21:5-24.
The very generation that heard the predictions lived to be the miserable witnesses of their accomplishment.
The wonderful preservation of the Scriptures is further external evidence of their heavenly origin. (41. His salvation. Fulfillment. Importance of faith in him. Fulfillment. Repeat Christ's prophecies concerning his own death. Resurrection. Descent of the Holy Spirit. Fulfillment. Destruction of Jerusalem. Fulfillment.)
The Jews, from the beginning, have preserved the Old Testament with sacred diligence.
The entire tribe of Levi was charged with the custody of the book of the Law. Deut. 31:25,26.
Besides the copies in use in the synagogues, extra copies were carefully kept in the archives of the temple, to which no person was admitted. II Kings 22:8; Acts 15:21.
The manuscripts were transcribed with great caution and exactness. The alteration of a letter would condemn the copy to the flames. The Jews recorded the number of words and letters in each manuscript, and marked the middle letter as a safeguard against corruption.
The whole of the Old Testament was translated from its Hebrew and Chaldee into Greek, at Alexandria, nearly three hundred years before the Christian era. This translation is called the Septuagint, and is still extant. (42. What is a third kind of external evidence? What have the Jews done to preserve the old Testament? What is said of extra copies? The manuscripts? When and where was the Old Testament first translated into Greek? What is this translation called? What has become of this?)
The Samaritan Pentateuch, still extant, is also very ancient, and agrees essentially with that of the Jews.
When we consider the enmity between the Jews and Samaritans, this agreement of their copies is a strong confirmation of their genuineness. The autograph MSS. of the Hebrew Scriptures are all lost. The oldest extant belong to the eighth and ninth centuries. Yet there are circumstances attending their preservation and transmission, which prove their genuineness with nearly as much certainty as if the first copies were still in existence; such as, (1) The agreement of widely-scattered copies; (2) Of early versions; (3) Of quotations by early writers. The invention of printing is a great safeguard of the text: (I) By greatly multiplying copies; (2) By the difficulty in altering print with a pen. (43. What is said of the Samaritan Pentateuch? Do the Samaritan and Jewish copies agree? What does this prove? What is said of the autograph MSS? What of the oldest MSS?)
The oldest MSS. of the New Testament, and of the Septuagint or Greek versions of the Old, are nearly fifteen hundred years old. Of these, the Alexandrian is now in the British Museum, the Vatican is in the Vatican library at Rome, and the Sinaitic, discovered at Mount Sinai, (1859,) is in St. Petersburgh. Eminent scholars have spent their lives in the critical examination of these and hundreds of later MSS., and have found many minute variations, but a substantial agreement. No doctrine of the Church is in the least shaken by all the various readings. For instance, the important Epistle to the Romans, containing four hundred and thirty three verses, has but four various readings worthy of note, as follows: Chapter 7:6, "that being dead" read, "we being dead to that;" the difference in the Greek is between o and e. In chapter 11:6, the latter half of the verse is omitted. In chapter 12:11," time" should be read for "Lord "-the mistake of one letter. In chapter 16:5, "Asia" should be read for Achaia."
When, therefore, we read of one hundred and twenty thousand various readings noted by Dr. Kennicott in the New Testament, we are to understand that they are of no significance, so far as the meaning is concerned, and we are to remember that in the writings of Terence (six pieces only) there are three thousand variations, though they have been copied many times less frequently. (44. Do They substantially agree? What does Bengel say?) Says Bengel to his scholar, "Eat the Scripture bread in simplicity, just as you have it, and do not be disturbed if here and there you find a grain of sand which the millstone may have suffered to pass. If the Holy Scriptures, which have been so often copied, were absolutely without variations, this would be so great a miracle that faith in them would be no longer faith. I am astonished, on the contrary, that from all these transcriptions there has not resulted a greater number of various readings."
If the Jews had tampered with their Scriptures, they would have erased the record of their own crimes, idolatries, and rebellions against Jehovah.
There is scarcely a passage of the New Testament which is not quoted by the fathers, and by other writers of the first three centuries. The primitive Christians were divided into different sects. These would, of course, prevent one another from making any alteration in the text.
Observe the wakeful jealousy between the Jews and Samaritans; between the Essenes, Sadducees, and Pharisees, and different Christian sects in all ages. (45. What is said of the fathers, etc? Of the primitive Christians? How did the existence of different sects tend to preserve the original text?)
It would not be possible for a Calvinist, or a Baptist, or a Methodist, or a Unitarian, to alter the Bible in the least to suit his sect, without being detected and exposed.
Copies of the New Testament were early distributed in various parts of the world. Many of these manuscripts are still extant, and essentially agree with each other.
During the first and second centuries, as was predicted, false Christs, false gospels, and false epistles, every-where abounded. Mark 13:22; Luke 1:1; Gal. 1:69; II Thess. 2:2-12; I John 2:18. These were all of short existence.
The integrity of the Holy Scriptures is substantiated by evidence tenfold more various, copious, and conclusive than that which can be adduced in support of any other ancient book, even the most highly prized Greek and Latin classics. If; therefore, the facts relating to the origin, nature, and progress of Christianity are not established, nothing in human history can be believed. (46. Is it so at the present day? What of the different copies of the New Testament that were early distributed? What predications were to take place during the second and third centuries? Of what duration were they? What is said of the integrity of the Scriptures?)
While millions of learned volumes, which promised immortality to their authors, have sunk into oblivion, the Bible has survived even against opposition such as no other book ever knew.
The loftiest pretensions of learning, science, and philosophy; the most malignant arts of wit, satire, and scurrility, have been employed against the Bible in vain.
Thousands of times it has been condemned, banished, burned. Still it survives, and will survive the dissolution of worlds. I Pet. 1:24, 25.
2. INTERNAL EVIDENCE.
This kind of evidence is found in the con tents of the Bible itself. Such evidence should be examined with great caution; for, if the book is really from God, it should be received whatever it may be found to contain.
A. Consider the harmony of its several parts. The Bible is more properly a library than a book. It consists of several distinct books bound up together. (47. What contrast between the Bible and all other learned volumes? What has been employed against the Bible? What further ill treatment of it? What success has this opposition had? In what does the internal evidence of the Bible consist? How should we examine such evidence of the Bible consist? How should we examine such evidence? What is the first evidence of this kind?)
It was written by at least forty different men, of a great variety of talents, genius, and learning, in various parts of the earth, without concert, and in different periods of time, occupying a space between the extremes of fifteen hundred years. And yet an entire harmony of sentiment pervades the whole. How unlike all other writings in this respect!
B. The simplicity of its whole design. It has one simple and single object from the beginning to the end-a history of the redemption of our race by Jesus Christ. This golden thread binds up all the books into unity.
This uniform object is the more remarkable when we consider the great number of writers, and the distance between the periods in which they wrote.
In one of the very first chapters of the Bible the coming of the Savior is foretold. And from that time sacred history marks out and follows the line of succession which conducts to Christ. Gen. 3:15; Luke 24:27, 44. (48. What is said of the different writers, etc., of the Bible? Is this, their agreement, any thing peculiar? What is the second kind of evidence? What is this uniform design? What renders this remarkable? What is said of the Savior's coming? What of other nations while the Israelites were in Egypt?)
At the time the Israelites were in Egypt many other nations existed, at least in embryo, whose history is far more important, in every respect but one, than is the history of the Jews.
There were the Egyptians, the Assyrians, and the Persians. The sacred history neglects them all, and confines its whole attention to a body of Egyptian slaves; and why? Because among these slaves there is the ancestor of the coming Messiah.
The numerous sacrifices among the Jews were all instituted, and uniformly observed, with the same simple design-to familiarize the minds of men to the idea of something more than penitence to atone for sin. They all point to Christ, the Lamb of God. John 1:29.
The nation from which the promised Savior is to come is followed in its various difficulties and adventures, until it becomes finally established in the country where the Messiah is to appear, and then it is left.
There could be no stronger proof that the Bible has the history of Christ for its one great object. (49. What nations were there? Does sacred history make any distinction? Why? What future remarkable? What design is found in the Jewish sacrifices? To whom do they point? What of the nation from whom the Messiah was to come? What does all this prove?)
C. The Bible is in harmony with the light of nature. This is a fundamental point, and should be well observed.
It is unanswerably proved by Bishop Butler in his Analogy, that all the objections against Christianity may be just as strongly urged against the constitution and course of nature, which all, except the Atheists, admit proceeds from God.
The Bible is not the only source of religious knowledge. Nature and Providence have a voice on this subject. Ps. 19; Rom. 1:20.
The light of nature, however, when compared with that of revelation, is like the light of the moon or a star, when compared with that of the sun.
The Bible never eclipses interior lights, except by its superior luster. Instead of closing our eyes to the manifestations of God, as given us in nature, it makes us see them more clearly. Ps. 19:1-8. (50. What is the third kind of evidence? What is said of Butler's Analogy? What other source is there of there of religious knowledge? What Scripture proves this? How may the different lights be compared? Does the Bible oppose or aid the light of nature?)
Nature suggests that the Author of our being is most benevolent in his character. The Bible corresponds-"God is love." I John 4:8, 16.
All nature represents him as most decided and efficient in his government; frowning upon sin with an awful severity of judgment. The Bible corresponds-"God is a consuming fire," is as a consuming fire to the wicked. Heb. 12:29; 10:27; II Thes. 2:8. Compare Dent. 4:24; 9:3.
"The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice." "The Lord reigneth, let the people tremble." Ps. 97:1; 99:1.
Thus the Bible reveals the same principles of moral government that are revealed by nature, only in a stronger light.
And, in addition, it discloses other truths, still more valuable to us. It teaches us that God is 1ove, that man is immortal, that sin is an infinite evil which can be forgiven only through faith in Jesus Christ. (51. In what instance do nature and the Bible correspond? Another? What texts of Scripture illustrate these tow doctrines? How does the Bible differ from nature as to the principles of moral government? Does the Bible disclose any important truths that nature does not?)
3. EXPERIMENTAL EVIDENCE.
This kind of evidence is the most convincing of all. It is found in its moral power over the human heart. The Bible is known by its fruits.
To illustrate: Suppose a dreadful plague should break out in the city of New York, and spread throughout the United States, carrying consternation and death into thousands of families.
After raging for several months, intelligence is brought from China of a certain plant that has there been found, and proved to be a remedy for this disease.
Our government concludes to send a ship for a supply of the article, and our citizens everywhere are waiting with anxiety the ship's return; at length she arrives, and the article is in full circulation.
Now, the question is, What will interest our people most? Will it be an examination of the evidence there may be that the ship has actually been to China, or that her lading consists of the identical article for which she was sent? Will they not be more anxious to know whether this medicine will cure? (52. What is the third class of evidence? In what does it consist? Of what importance is it? What illustration is given?)
Suppose an individual interested in the continuance of the disease should pronounce it all an imposition. "Stop," he might say, "how do you know that this is a real remedy? That ship never came from China. The officers and crew have united in a deception. Examine her papers, and you will find it a delusion."
Now, would the mass be influenced by such objections? No. Their reply would be, "We leave all this with the custom-house officers. At present we have no time to inquire into these matters. This medicine has cured thousands. It is now curing thousands more. Nay, we were sick, and it has cured us. Our neighbors and friends are dying, and there is nothing else to try."
Thus, we rely upon the evidence we have. It is direct. It is sufficient. We have reason to believe the medicine will cure. This would be the substance of their reply, and they who would be saved from sin should do the same.
Wherever we open the sacred volume we find some direction, which, if properly observed, would make us good citizens, good neighbors, good friends, and good men. (53. In examining this subject how should we proceed, if we should be saved? What useful directions does the Bible contain?)
Wherever it has been received and obeyed, the most beneficial effects have followed.
Every nation, of every age through which it has descended to us, has been blessed by it.
The brightest spots upon the globe, in every view, intellectual, social, civil, moral, and religious, have ever been those where the Bible has been most honored and obeyed.
Wherever Christian missionaries have gone, the most barbarous nations have become civilized and saved.
The ancient inhabitants of Germany, Hungary, Denmark, Sweden, Britain, and Ireland, as also those of North and South America, the East and West Indies, Greenland, South and West Africa, etc., are all illustrious monuments of the blessed effects of the Bible.
Another effect which the Scriptures produce wherever they are duly respected, is resignation and peace in view of death. This is an honest hour.
While the most noted unbelievers often renounce their systems of infidelity, and thereby show their insincerity, the Christian believer is more than ever attached to the book that reveals to him eternal life. (54. Has this been realized where the Bible has been received? What is said of every nation, etc.? Which are the brightest spots on the globe? Of what benefit have Christian missionaries been? What monuments exist of the good effects of the Bible? What effect does it produce in view of death? What contrast between the believer and unbeliever?)
Another manifestation of the good effects of the Bible is the treatment it receives from immoral men.
Where do we hear the Bible contemned, and its authority spurned? It is among the ignorant and vicious.
Where does it receive unmeasured insult and scorn, but in gambling houses, tippling houses, and other vile places? Who are they that sneer about the indelicacies of the Bible, but those whose imagination and heart are found disposed to such things?
As, therefore, all unbelief has a moral cause in the depraved heart rather than intellectual cause in not satisfying the human reason, it is wiser to apply the pungent truths of Christianity to the hearts of unbelievers than to dispute about its evidences. Ps. 14:1; John 9:27. (56. What other proof of the good effects of the Bible? Where do we hear the Bible contemned? Where does it receive insult, etc.? Who sneer about its indelicacies? Should we be inclined to dispute with unbelievers? Why? In examining the evidences of Christianity, what question should be asked?)
In examining the subject of its evidences ourselves, we should, first of all, ask the question, "Am I willing to become all that Christianity requires, provided it can be proved to be from heaven?" Whoever can answer this question in the affirmative will find every obstruction to the fullest faith removed.
Our confidence in the truths of revealed religion is almost exactly proportioned to the fidelity with which we do our duty. John 7:17.
If we lay aside our duties, darkness and doubt will be our experience. Return to duty, and light for the intellect and peace for the heart will come back together.
Finally, there is not in all the world a par tide of evidence against the claim of the Scriptures to Divine inspiration.
What none but had men wish exploded must."
4. COLLATERAL EVIDENCES.
a. The influence of the Bible in the formation of the noblest characters in the world's annals. Examples: "I have read the Bible morning, noon, and night, and have ever since been the happier and better man for such reading." -EDMUND BURKE. (56. What would be the result? Should we consent? To what is our confidence in the Bible proportioned? What is the result of neglecting duty? Of returning to it? Is there any evidence against the scriptural claim to Divine inspiration? What says the poet? What influence has the Bible in forming noble characters?)
"The Bible is the best book in the world. It contains more of my little philosophy than all the libraries I have seen." -JOHN ADAMS, the second President of the United States, to THOMAS JEFFERSON, the third President.
"There is no book like the Bible for excellent learning, wisdom, and use." -Sir MATTHEW HALE, Chief-Justice of England.
"Read the Bible, read the Bible " -The dying words of WILLIAM WILBERFORCE.
"The Bible is equally adapted to the wants and infirmities of every human being. No other book ever addressed itself so authoritatively and so pathetically to the judgment and moral sense of mankind." -Chancellor JAMES KENT.
"A stream where alike the elephant may swim and the lamb may wade."-GREGORY the Great.
"I gratefully receive and rejoice in the light of revelation, which has set me at rest in many things, the manner whereof of my poor reason can by no means make out to me." - JOHN LOCKE, the Philosopher. (57. What examples?)
"The Bible is indeed among books, what the diamond is among stones-the preciousest, and the sparklingest; the most apt to scatter light, and yet the solidest and the most proper to make impressions." -ROBERT BOYLE, the Christian Philosopher.
"The most learned, acute, and diligent student cannot, in the longest life, obtain an entire knowledge of this one volume. The more deeply he works this mine, the richer and more abundant he finds the ore. There is but one book - the Bible." - Sir WALTER SCOTT.
"I have regularly and attentively read the Holy Scriptures, and am of the opinion that this volume, independently of its Divine origin, contains more true sublimity, more exquisite beauty, more pure morality, more important history, and finer strains both of poetry and eloquence, than could be collected from all other books." -Sir WILLIAM JONES, the great Oriental scholar.
"The most wonderful volume in existence is, beyond doubt, the Bible." -Professor O. M. MITCHELL, LL.D., the Astronomer and patriotic General.
"Tell the prince that this (a costly copy of the Bible) is the secret of England's greatness. "-QUEEN VICTORIA'S message to an African prince who sent an embassy to learn the secret of Britain's power.
b. The homage of eminent persons to the Bible: "It is the Bible, the Bible itself, which combats and triumphs most efficaciously in the war between incredulity and belief." -Monsieur F. P. G. GUIZOT, the Statesman and Historian.
"I call that, apart from all theories about it, one of the grandest things ever written with pen. A noble book! All men's book! T HOMAS CARLYLE on the Book of Job.
"Above all, the pure and benign light of REVELATION has had a meliorating influence on mankind, and increased the blessings of society." -GEORGE WASHINGTON.
"I do not believe human society, including not merely a few persons in any state, but whole masses of men, ever has attained, or ever can attain, a high state of intelligence, virtue, security, liberty, or happiness without the Holy Scriptures." -WILLIAM H. SEWARD.
"I have read it through many times. I now make a practice of going through it once a year. It is a book of all others for lawyers as well as divines. I pity the man who cannot find in it a rich supply of thought and rules of Conduct." -DANIEL WEBSTER. (58. What instances of the homage of eminent men?)
"I find more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history whatever. " -Sir ISAAC NEWTON, the Philosopher and Astronomer.
"I know the Bible is inspired, because it finds me at greater depths of my being than any other book." -S. T. COLERIDGE.
"Thy creatures have been my books, but thy Scriptures much more." -LORD BACON.
"Christ proved that he was the Son of the Eternal by his disregard of time. All his doctrines signify only, and the same thing, eternity." -NAPOLEON BONAPARTE.
c. The admissions of skeptics respecting the Bible:- "I confess to you that the majesty of the Scriptures strikes me with admiration, as the purity of the Gospel hath its influence on my heart." -JEAN JACQUES ROUSSEAU.
"I have always said, and always will say, that the studious perusal of the sacred volume will make better citizens, better fathers, and better husbands." -THOMAS JEFFERSON.
"I defy you all, as many as are here, to prepare a tale so simple and so touching as the tale of the passion and death of Jesus Christ, whose influence will be the same after so many centuries." - DENIS DIDEROT, the French Atheist. (59. Admissions of skeptics?)
"View it in what light we may, the Bible is a very surpassing phenomenon. Men rest on this their dearest hopes. It tells them of God and of his blessed Son, of earthly duties and heavenly rest." -THEODORE PARKER, the Pantheist.
d. The remarkable spread of Christianity against the opposition of all the world by so weak an agency as a few unlearned disciples, without the prestige of rank, the influence of wealth, or the aid of the civil power.
e. The present fundamental relation of Christianity to the world's arts, sciences, liberties, laws, and progress, especially the fact that the most Christian nations are the most advanced in intelligence and power, demonstrates that the system is adapted to secure man's highest happiness in this world. (60. What of the spread of Christianity? What relation to human progress?)