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che circumstance that it is not mentioned by the Roman historiaps. Now, Ist. I observe, that the word earth is a mistranslation--that land is the proper translation of the original word-namely, the land of Judea. The word is so translated in Matt. chap. xxvi. ver. 45. 2d. the darkness does not seem to have been very inteuse. Jesus notwithstanding the dark., ness, could from the cross discern his mother and the apostle John. It might have been only a sort of mist 6. 3d. You could not expect auy Roman bistorian to mention it, unless you could shew that he would have thought it worth while to mention it, or that it would have come in his way to mention it, or that his prejudices against Christianity would have allowed hiin to mention it.
I now return to your last epistle. You begin.it with the subject of Christ's ascension to heaven. You say tbat Matthew never alludes to such an event. But there might be other causes for the omission than a doubt of the fact. The fact he could not doubt, if he believed in the resurrection of Jesus; for where could he suppose Jesus to be, if not in heaven.
You also say, that Joho never says any thing of the event in question. But Jobu records discourses of our Lord, that allude to his removal from the world; which he would not have done, if he had not believed it. See John, chap. xiji. ver. 3, chap. xiv. ver. 1, 2, 3. In chap. xx. ver. 17, we are informed, that Jesus said to Mary after his resurrection, “ Touch me not for I am not yet ascended to my father, but go to my brethren and say to them, I ascend unto my father and your father, and to my God and your God.” Johu chap. vii. ver. 39, may also be considered an allusion to the event. You say, that Mark and Luke are the only writers who pretend to give an account of the event. Does not Paul refer to it? See Ephesians chap. iv. ver. 10, chap. i. ver. 20. Does not Peter refer to it? See Acts chap. iii. ver. 21, chap. ii. ver. 33, chap. v. ver. 31. Does not Stephen acknowledge the ascension of Jesus? See Acts chap. vii. ver. 567:
You say, that Mark represents the event as having taken place at Jerusalem; and that Luke again represents it as having taken place at Bethany. Wbere does Mark say that Jesus ascended at Jerusalem. I, in vain, look for the passage. Besides, where did you learn that Bethany was many miles distant from Jerusalem. You say nothing to prove that Bethany was not “nigh unto Jerusalem about fifteen furlongs off. 6 It must have been a Scotch mist!
R.C. ? Yes, but the Doctor spoke of the Gospel Writers, and not of the Christian world generally.
But you think, that it devolves upon me to explain in “ what manner Jesus lost the gravity of his body, so as to escape from the earth.” Indeed! as well might one who bad never before beard of the ascension of that large massy body that goes under the name of a balloon, tell the narrator of such an occurrence, that it devolved on him to show how such a large body, with a map besides attached to it, could lose its gravity. Such a demand might be as gravely made as yours. I hope you will keep your gravity, Doctor, when I talk about the balloon, and that you will remember that there is no argument in a laugh. Whatever you may think of the analogy, I think you can hardly deny that the Great Power that upholds universal nature was abundantly competent to bear Jesus from the earth 8.
From the subject of the ascension of Jesus, you proceed to that of his resurrection. You first object, that no one is said to have seen Jesus in the act of rising from the tomb. What of that? (though at the same time I must say, that the guards must have seen him.) But what though no one saw the act of resurrection, it was surely quite sufficient for all the purposes of proof, with respect to his resurrection, that he was seen by a suficient number of competent and bonest witnesses for a sufficient length of time after he had risen from the dead. It is not to the purpose at all, to ask whether they saw him rise from the dead—the question is, whether they saw him after he had risen from the dead.
You next seek to invalidate the truth of their testimony with respect to the resurrection of the dead, by referring to the declaration of Jesus, that he was to be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Now is it not more likely, that this was a peculiarity of language intelligible enough to the people to whom it was addressed, than that it was an inconsistency. For, if it be an inconsistency, bow could it escape the wary eye of an impostor. Would it not have been so glaring a one, that an impostor, anxious as he would be to avoid inconsistencies, would, in a moment, detect and reject; and, if, therefore, we found it in his writings, would not the very circumstance of its occurrence in his writings be a presumptive evidence that it was no inconsistency.
Secondly, that the expression we are considering was a peculiarity intelligible to the Jews, is farther evident from the occurrence of the same expression in Esther chap. iv. ver. 16, where Esther declares, that she will fast with her people three days, night and day, yet we find her, chap. v.
8 Well then, we must infer, that the skin of Jesus was so distended with gas as to ascend as a matter of necessity! But, Priest, where is heaven, where did he stop when he began to ascend?
ver. 1—4, on the third day at a banquet with the King. That expression so common in Scotland “ this day eight days” is quite unintelligible to an Englishman accustomed to the expression “ this day se'enight.” If he do allow it any meaning at all, he considers that it denotes a day more than a week; though we use the expression to denote only a week.
But, thirdly, though you did prove the expression, we have been considering, to be an inconsistency, still I would say, that you did nothing to affect the grand question, were Jesus and his Apostles honest in their testimony, and were the doctrines wbich they taught a revelation from heaven? If you proved the expression an inconsistency, you would no doubt prove that an evangelist, or a transcriber .of the evangelist, made a slight mistake relative to a matter of no importance-a small mistake with respect to an expression used by Jesus--but you would not, I repeat it, at all affect the grand question.
You next notice what you consider another inconsistency; namely, the assertion of one evangelist, that the women came to the sepulchre at the rising of the sun, and the assertion of another, that Mary came to the sepulchre when it was yet dark. Now the former is speaking of the time when the women 'arrived at the sepulchre—the latter speaks of the time when Mary left her house and went away to the sepulchre; it was then dark, but when she had arrived at the sepulchre the sun was rising. John says, “ The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early when it was yet dark.” He says,
“ cometh,” he does not say, that she had come; when she had come the sun was rising, but when she was coming it was yet dark. Ah Doctor, if you think to overthrow Christianity by pibbling at sucb things as this, you are sadly mistaken.
I have thus gone over all your objections. You cannot say that I have omitted one single objection. I have defended every point you have attacked; and while I have done
SO, I bave also shewn you, that even though much that I have defended were indefensible, still Christianity would shew itself that religion, against which, founded as it is on a rock, the gates of hell cannot prevail. I submit my observations to your candour, trusting that you will read them with candour and with a sincere and earnest love of truth, and not of victory.
DOCTOR TO THE PRIEST.
March 10, 1824. WERE the correspondence that has now passed between us submitted to the judgment of a few unprejudiced minds, I have little doubt, notwithstanding your confidence, but their decision would be, that, upon racional grounds, christianity cannot be maintained. I have told you repeatedly, tbat, without coming to the principles of nature, our discussions would be endless, and you have all along studiously avoided this particular scene of action. When
talk of events happening contrary to the general laws of the universe, and say that there is nothing impossible with God, you are driven to the dernier resort, that all thenlogians have recourse to when surrounded with perplexities. Converse with a Hivdoo, a Turk, or a Christian, they have, upon this question, all the same answer. When I condescended to enter upon the disputed points in the history of christianity, I did it merely with the view to shew you that though averse to enter such a bewildered and boundless tract of jarring opinion, I was still willing to continue the correspondence while I thought I could unveil to you the inconsistencies that exist in the detail of the christian religion itself. Your answers will plainly prove to what extent this has been dove; and, though I am not in a manner bound to reply to you, after your thus avoiding the ouly plan by which any rational explanation can take place, I will, bowever, as your epistle is very luminous and abouuds with a great deal of determined confidence, give you in reply a few observations.
Notwithstanding all that has been said, you are yet inclined to believe in the marvellous and cling strenuously to the absurdity of the sun standing still. I must, indeed, say that be who contends for the belief of this miracle, is truly ignorant of the “mighty mechanism of nature.” The sun being the centre of the system, shews, at once, the foolishness of the assertion; even granting your way of it, if any phenomena had taken place similar to what you suppose, it must have been the earth that ceased in its diurnal motion, an event which would have produced a derangement in our globe, that would have overwhelmed the waters upon the land, and convulsed in ruin every city and habitable spnt in the world. You certainly bare strange ideas of the supreme being when yon justify the horrid barbarities of the Israelites, a people that were considered by all the enlightened nations around them, a savage race, and who had no more right to invade the land of Canaan than the Spaniards had to overrun the beautiful provinces of Mexico and Peru. It was under the mask of religion that Pizarro committed
his bloody massacres, so was it under the same influence that Moses carried his murderous intentions against the ill-fated Canaanites.
If you choose to assent that it pleased the Deity to make these jewish barbarians the executioners of his vengeance against the neighbouring nations, it appears very strange that that deity would have made his son descend from such a set of miscreants, who, by your own account, must be considered in po other light than common hangmen.
Your contrast of Jesus with the ballon, really is too much. If you would study science more and superstition less, you would save yourself from appearing ridiculous. The principles of patural philosopby would have led you to treat the subject very differently. I know of no power in nature that could make Jesus ascend beyond the boundaries of a certain distance. But pray, where is that heaven which you so confidently talk of? For my part, I cannot conceive in what region it exists; it is assuredly not in the moon, and, if we place it in the highest fixed star, Jesus must, indeed, have a very long and fatiguing journey to undergo. Astronomy teaches us that a cannon ball, flying at the rate of 1000 miles an hour, would not reach the star Sirius in 7000 years; he is, therefore, not half way on his journey. Moreover, what a pretty figure a man would make, setting out upon his travels with his body covered with wounds, the situation in which our aeronaut must have been previous to bis flight; and to wbich he particularly alludes when be tells his friend Thomas to thrust his hand in to his side to convince him that be alone was the crucified Jesus.
The story about the rams' horns really excited my risible faculties, but the trumpets are still more laughable. What a fine idea it would be to suppose that a modern general would advance before the walls of such a town as Badajos, and make the garrison srurender by demolishing the batteries with the procession of a few priests, marching thrice round them, and sounding rams' horns or trumpets.
You speak about wrong translation, you admit then, that it is wrong. This is sufficient to invalidate the whole story, for it shows that it is liable to error and can never be divine, coming through the hands of iguorant or perhaps interested translators. About the conception which receives the name of immaculate, it requires only common sense to see its absurdity. I will appeal to any one, if, throughout the whole of my observations, any warinth exists, which can come under the temperament which you call enthusiastic; but, I confess, when I see such a subject gravely mentioned, I can scarcely forbear deploring that state of mind which listens to such contemptible foolery.