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Jesus Christ is merely imaginary, God, has permitted imaginary facts to assume all the evidence of real facts. God, therefore, betrays men into error. But we have mathematical cvilience, that it is iinpossible for God to betray men into error. It is clear, therefore, as I think, that morul evidence, when carried to a certain degree, ought to be ranked in the same class with mathematical evidence. The truth of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, therefore, will not produce the lively impressions which we have mentioned, so long as men abuse, which is the case with certain philosophers, the distinction between moral evidence and mathematical evidence.
2. The proofs of the exaltation of Jesus Christ produce not impressions so lively as they ought, because the mind is under the influence of a prejudice, unworthy of a real philosopher, namely, that moral evidence changes its nature, according to the nature of the things to which it is applied. What is demonstration of a fact, which is in the sphere of vatural things, seems to cease to be such, respecting facts of a supernatural kind. A certain species of proof will be sufficient to demonstrate that Cæsar existed: and that same species of proof shall be deemed insufficient to ascertain that Moses existed. What a strange disposition of mind ! The truth of a fact, which does not in itself imply a contradiction, depends not on the nature of that fact, but on the proofs by which it is supported.
I am ready to admit, that stronger proof will be expected, in order to produce belief of extraordinary events, than is necessary to establish the truth of what happens every day. To produce belief, for instance, that a great scholar is humble, calls for stronger proof than that he is vain : to produce belief, that a friend is as faithful in adversity as he was in prosperity, than that he is less so. But what is evidence with respect to ordinary facts, is likewise so with respect to such as are extraordinary. What is evidence with respect to natural things, is likewise so with respect to such as are supernatural. Nothing inore unreasonable can be conceived than the disposition expressed by the apostle Thomas. All the members of the apostolic college, unanimously assure him that Jesus Christ is risen froin the deal. They adduce this proof of it, that they have beheld him with their own eyes. No, says he, except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his sid', I will not believe, John xx. 25. Wherefore does that which would have been evidence to himn on anther occasion, cease to be so on this? It is because the matter in question is something supernatural. But the question is not, whether the resurrection of Jesus Christ be within the sphere of natural things, but whether it is founded on proofs sufficient to constitute satisfying evidence.
3. The proofs of the exaltation of the Lord Jesus, produce not impressions sufficiently lively, because the necessary discrimination has not been enployed in the selection of those proofs, on which some have pretended to establish it. This remark has a reference to certain of the learned, who imagined that they were rendering essential service to the church, when they inultiplied proofs, with an indiscreet zeal, and produced every thing which they deemned favorable to the Christian religion. Fraud, fair-dealing, all, all appeared equal in their eyes, provided it could contribute to this end. Wretched method! Why was it not con, fined to the propagators of falsehood; and why has it been so frequently adopted by the partizans of truth! I pretend not to determine whether there be much solidity in the idea of some who have alleged, that the reason why Jesus Christ so strictly probibited the demons to publish that he was the Messiah, was an apprehension that a testimony borne to his mission by lying spirits, might render the truth of it suspected. But I am well assured, that if any thing could have excited a suspicion in my mind unfavorable to the exaltation of the Son of God, it would have been that medley of proofs, solid and without foundation, which we find in the writings of certain ancient doctors of the church on this subject. No one will ever attain to a complete conviction of the exaltation of Jesus Christ, so long as he neglects to discriminate the proofs on which the truch of it rests. The discovery of the slightest falsehood in those which we had believed to be true, will go far toward invalidating the proof of those which we had good reason to believe founded in truth.
4. The proofs of the exaltation of Jesus Christ, produce not impressions sufficiently lively, because we are too deeply affected by our inability to resolve certain questions, which the enemies of religion are accustomed to put, on some circumstances relative to that event. The evangelists have recorded all those which are necessary to convince us of the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Their silence respecting circumstances of another kind, and our inability to satisfy the demands of those who insist upon them, present nothing to excite suspicion against the fidelity of their narration. They do not tell us, for example, what Jesus Christ did immediately after his resurrection, and before his appearing to the devout women, and to the apostles. They do not tell us what he did during the forty days which he passed upon the earth before his ascension. They do not tell us to whom those dead persons appeared, who came into the holy city to att-st bis resurrection, nor what became of them after their apparition. The Holy Spirit, perhaps, was not pleased to reveal such things to those inspired men. Perhaps they did not think proper to declare them, though they might have had perfect information on the subject. But is there any thing in this to invalidate the proofs on which the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is founded? Is there any one ancient history, I say any one without exception, that goes mto a certain detail of circumstances? Are we acquainted with all the circunstances of the life of Alexander, or of Darius? Does our ignorance respecting such and such particulars, suggest a doubt whether those persons ever existed? Do we know all the circumstances attending the battle of Gannæ, and that of Pharsalia. Does our ignorance of these, suggest a doubt whether such battles were actually fought? Is it fair to prescribe, to the sacred authors, rules wh.ch we readily dispense with in the case of profane authors ?
5. The proofs of the exaltation of Jesus Christ, produce not impressions sufficiently lively, because we suffer ourselves to be intimidated inore than we ought, by the comparison instituted between them and certain popular rumors, which have no better support than the caprice of the persons who propagate them. Unbelievers tell us that the multitude is credulous, that it is ever dispos d to be practised upon by imposture, from the idea of the marvellous. They accumulate all those noted instances of credulity which ancient and modern history abandantly supply; for it costs very little trouble, indeed, to make the collection ample. They avail themselves of those instances to invalidate the argument which we adduce from the unanimity of that testimony which evinces the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But let them shew us, among what they call popular rumors, let them shew us, among these, any thing of the same kind with those which we have produced ; and then we shall feel ourselves called upon to defend, in another way, the doctrine in question. But under the pretext that mankind is credulous, obstinately to resist the force of proofs which have been admitted by judges the most rigid and acute, is wil. fully to shut the eyes against the truth.
6. Finally, the proofs of the truth of the exaltation of our blessed Lord and Saviour, produce not impressions sufficiently lively, because they are not sufficiently known. The preceding particulars chiefly relate to the learned, and the philosophic part of mankind, of whom the number, undoubtedly, is on comparison very inconsiderable. This relates to the multitude, of which the far greater part of our audiences is composed. I am well aware that those proofs have been carried farther in the present age, than ever had been done, perhaps, since the days of the apostles. I have, oftener than once, adored the conduct of divine Providence, in that the objections of unbelievers, of which it may likewise be affirmed, that they have been carried farther in the present age, than they have been since the times of the earliest antagonists of the Christian religion. I have oftener than once, I say, adored the conduct of divine Providence, in that those objections have furnished occasion to scrutinize the proofs of the facts, on which the truth of Christianity rests.
In proportion as events are more remote, the more difficult it becomes to ascertain them. If