Freethought Archives > Jeremy Bentham > Not Paul, But Jesus

CHAPTER XII.

More Falsehoods.—Resurrection Witnesses multiplied.—World's End predicted.—To save credit, Antichrist invented.


SECTION 1.

RESURRECTION-WITNESSES MULTIPLIED.

After what has been seen of the seven days' course of perjury, proofs of simple falsehood will be apt to appear superfluous. To make certainty more sure, two preeminent ones shall, however, be brought to view. They may have their use, were it only as examples of the palpableness, of those falsehoods, which, for so many hundreds of years, and through so many generations of commentators, are, under favourable circumstances, capable of remaining undetected. The extravagance of the addition, made by the audacious stranger, to the number of the Resurrection-witnesses, as given by themselves:—the predicted end of the world in the prophet's own lifetime,—and the creation of Antichrist for the purpose of putting off that catastrophe,—may even be not altogether unamusing, by the picture they will give, of that mixture of rashness and craftiness, which constitutes not the least remarkable, of the ingredients in the composition of this extraordinary character. Moreover, Antichrist being in the number of the bug-bears, by the images of which many an enfeebled mind[Pg 334] has not yet ceased to be tormented;—putting an extinguisher upon this hobgoblin may have the serious good effect, of calming a mass of disquietude, which how completely soever groundless, is not the less afflicting, to the minds into which it has found entrance.

First, as to the resurrection-witnesses. In relation to a fact of such cardinal importance, the accounts which have reached us from the four biographers of Jesus are not, it must be confessed, altogether so clear as could have been wished. But, on so ample a subject, howsoever tempting the occasion, anything that could here be offered, with any promise of usefulness, would occupy far too much space, and be by much too wide a digression from the design of the present work.[63]

Sufficient to the present purpose will be the observation, that nothing can be more palpably or irreconcileably inconsistent with every one of them, than the[Pg 335] amply and round number, thus added by the effrontery of this uninformed stranger, to the most ample that can be deduced from any of the accounts, thus stated as given by the only description of persons, whose situation would give to their testimony the character of the best evidence.

Behold now the account of the number and of the persons in Paul's own words. It is in the fifteenth chapter of the first of his two letters to his Corinthians. "Moreover, brethren," ver. 1, "I declare unto you the Gospel, the good news, which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand.—— By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you unless ye have believed in vain.——For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures:—— And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures:—— And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:—— After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.—— After that he was seen of James, then of all the Apostles.—— And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.——For I am the least of the Apostles, which am not meet to be called as Apostle, because I persecuted the church of God."[64]

As to the five hundred brethren at once, with the additions in petto, the more closely the Gospel accounts[Pg 336] are looked into, the more entire will be a Man's conviction of the extravagance of this account. In addition to the eleven Apostles that remained after the death of the traitor Judas, it may be matter of question, whether so much as a single individual can be found, who, in any one of the Gospels, is stated as having, after the death of Jesus, received from the testimony of sense, the demonstration of his presence. Of the percipient witnesses in question, not to waste space and time in needless discussions, taking a round number, and including both sexes taken together, no number approaching to twenty can be made out from any one of the four Gospel accounts, nor from all of them taken together. To what end then substitute, to less than twenty, more than five hundred? To what, but to supply by falsehood the deficiency left by truth. The thing to be done was the coming up to the expectations, whatever they might be, of his Corinthians. Number twenty,—said he to himself,—may perhaps fall short: well then, strike out the twenty, and set down five hundred. Thus did the self-constituted Apostle take a leaf out of the book of the unjust steward. Luke 16:1-20.

Now then as to mutually contradictory numbers—that given by the four Evangelists, and that given by this one stranger,—to which shall we give credence? As to the Evangelists,—whether, in the situation in which they were, and writing for the purposes for which they wrote,—these most intimate of the associates of the departed Jesus, and percipient witnesses of the several facts in question,—all of them spoken of in the same narration, all of them so fully apprised of the whole real number—could have been disposed, any one of them, to get down a number short of the truth,—may be left to anyone to imagine.

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But, according to Paul's calculation, the truth would not come up to his purpose:—to his particular purpose: a number, such as could not fail of doing so, was therefore to be substituted.

Five hundred was as easily written as twenty. Had Jerusalem, or any place in its neighbourhood, been the place, to which this letter of his was to be addressed, some caution might have been necessary. But Corinth—a place so remote from the scene of action—being the abode of the disciples, to whom this letter of his was addressed,—and the letters themselves, not destined to be seen by any other than devoted eyes,—Invention found herself at ease.

Meantime, while Jesus was thus magnified, Paul was not to be forgotten. Insufficient still would be the cloud of witnesses, unless himself were added to it. "Last of all," says he, 1 Cor. 15:8, "he," Jesus, "was seen of me also." Seen by him Paul? at what place? at what time? At the time of his conversion, when hearing a voice and seeing light, but nothing else? But the whole constellation of his visions will here be crowding to the reader's view, and any more particular reference to them would be useless: suffice it to observe, that on no other occasion, either does Paul himself, or his historiographer for him, take upon himself to say, that he had ever seen Jesus any otherwise than in a vision, whatsoever may have been meant by this so convenient term. On no occasion is it so much as pretended, either by him or for him, that in the flesh Jesus was ever seen by him. By no fingers of his murder-abetting hand, had ever been so much as pretended to have been probed, the wounds of Jesus. Yet, what are the terms employed, by him, in speaking of the sight, he pretended to have had of Jesus? exactly the same, as those employed by him, when speaking of the evidence, vouchsafed to the Apostles.

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SECTION 2.

FALSE PROPHECY,—THAT THE WORLD WOULD END IN THE LIFETIME OF PERSONS THEN LIVING.

The unsatiableness of Paul's ambition meets the eye at every page: the fertility of his invention is no less conspicuous. So long as, between this and the other world, the grave stood interposed,—the strongest impression capable of being made by pictures of futurity, even when drawn by so bold a hand, was not yet sufficient for stocking it with the power it grasped at. This barrier, at whatever hazard, he accordingly determined to remove. The future world being thus brought at both ends into immediate contact with the present,—the obedient, for whom the joys of heaven were provided, would behold the troubles of the middle passage saved to them, while the disobedient would see the jaws of hell opened for their reception, without any such halting-place, as might otherwise seem to be offered by the grave. In particular, by a nearer as well as smoother road than that rugged one, he would make his way to heaven: nor would they, whose obedience gave them a just claim to so high a favour, be left behind.

His Thessalonians were the disciples, chosen by him for the trial of this experiment. Addressed to them we have two of his Epistles. In these curious and instructive documents, the general purport—not only of what had been said to the persons in question on a former occasion, but likewise of the observation of which on their part it had been productive,—is rendered sufficiently manifest, by what we shall[Pg 339] find him saying in the first of them. "Good," said they, "as to some of us, whoever they may be: but, how is it to be with the rest? in particular, with those who have actually died already: not to speak of those others who will have been dying off in the meantime: for you do not go so far as to promise, that we shall, all of us, be so sure of escaping death as you yourself are." "Make yourselves easy," we shall find him saying to them: "sooner or later, take my word for it, we shall, all of us, mount up together in a body: those who are dead, those who are to die, and those who are not to die—all of us at once, and by the same conveyance: up, in the air, and through the clouds, we shall go. The Lord will come down and meet us, and show us the way:—music, vocal and instrumental, will come with him, and a rare noise altogether there will be! Those who died first will have risen first; what little differences there may be are not worth thinking about. Comfort yourselves," concludes he, "with these words." Assuredly not easily could more comfortable ones have been found:—always supposing them followed by belief, as it appears they were. But it is time we should see more particularly what they were.

1 Thess. 4:10 to 18.—"And indeed ye do it," viz. love one another, ver. 9, "toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more;—And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you;—That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.—But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.—For if we believe that Jesus died and rose[Pg 340] again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.—For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.—For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.—Then we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.—Wherefore comfort one another with these words." Hereupon, without any intervening matter, follows that of the next chapter. The division into chapters,—though, for the purpose of reference, not merely a useful, but an altogether necessary one,—is universally acknowledged to have been a comparatively modern one.

1 Thess. 5:1-11. "But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.—For yourselves know perfectly, that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.—For when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.—But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.—Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.—Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.—For they that sleep, sleep in the night; and they that be drunken, are drunken in the night.—But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.—For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.—Who[Pg 341] died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.—Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do."

An ingenious game was the one thus played by Paul, if ever there was one. Of this prophecy,[65] what when once mentioned, is plainly enough visible, is—this is of the number of those predictions, by which profit is put in for, and no loss risked: for such is the shape given to it. So long as the predictor lived, it would remain good and undisfulfilled: at the end of a certain time—namely, at the end of the life of the longest liver of the aggregate number of individuals in existence at that time,—the disfulfillment would indeed take place. But if, by that time, the predictor had made his exit,—as, in this case, being already of a certain age, it is tolerably certain he would,—the reproach of false prophecy would not have reached him: and, even, supposing it to have reached him, as it would do if he survived the last of them, still the speculation would not be a very bad one. His prophecy, his purposes would have been fulfilled.

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Not altogether without claim to observation, is the manner, in which, by the adroitness of the soothsayer, the anxiety of questioners is evaded. That he himself does not know, nor ever expects to know,—that is what his prudence forbids his telling them. "The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night:" this is what, in answer to former importunities, he had at that time told them. "For you yourselves," says he, "know this perfectly;" that is, in so far as they could know from his telling: this being, in this instance, the only source,—of that delusion, to which he gave the name of knowledge. This he had told them then: and more, he takes care not to tell them now. "Of the times and seasons, brethren," says he, "ye have no need that I write unto you." Meantime, their hopes and fears, and therewith their dependence upon his good pleasure, are kept still alive: in the first place, the hope—that, knowing already more than he as yet desires to disclose, he may by ulterior obsequiousness be prevailed upon to disclose it: in the next place, the hope—that, though not as yet possessed of the information, he may at some future period be able to obtain it, and in that case give them the benefit of it.

To a speculation of this sort,—in how particular a degree favourable the mode of communication by letter was, is sufficiently visible. Writing, was an operation not quite so prompt, in those days as in these. Between Thessalonica and Athens,—from whence, as they tell us, these Epistles were written,—there was not, it may be affirmed without much danger of error, any established letter-post: and, even if there was,—to this or that question, which a man sees in a letter, he makes or does not make answer, as he finds convenient. Not exactly so, when the questioner is at his elbow.

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SECTION 3.

DISORDER AND MISCHIEF PRODUCED BY THIS PREDICTION.

We have seen the prophecy: let us now see the effects of it. They were such as might have been expected. They were such as had been expected: expected, as may have been observed, at a very early period. But there was rather more in them than had been expected.

Of the confusion, which, by an expectation of this sort, in a state of society, so much inferior, in the scale of moral conduct, to any, of which in this our age and country we have experience, was capable of being produced,—it can scarcely, at this time of day, be in any man's power, to frame to himself anything approaching to an adequate conception. So far as regards peaceable idleness, of the general nature of it, some faint conception may under modern manners be formed, from the accounts of the effects produced by a similar prediction, delivered first in France, then in England, about the time of Queen Anne:—so far as regards a mixture of idleness and positive mischief in a time of terror, under ancient manners,—from the accounts, given by Thucydides, of the effects produced at Athens, by the near approach of death, on the occasion of the plague;—and, from that given by Josephus, of the effects produced by the like cause, on the occasion of the siege, which, under his eye, terminated in the final destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.

According to each man's cast of mind, and the colour of the expectations that had been imbibed by[Pg 344] it,—terror and self-mortification, or confidence and mischievous self-indulgence, would be the natural result: terror and self-mortification, if apprehensions grounded on the retrospect of past misconduct predominated—mischievous indulgence, if, by the alleged or supposed all-sufficiency of faith,—of faith, of which the preacher was the object—the importance of morality had, even in the imagination of the disciple, been thrown into the back-ground: confabulation without end, in the case of terror; cessation from work, in both cases.

Had he been somewhat less positive on the head of time,—the purposes of those announcements of his might have been completely, and without any deduction, fulfilled. The terror he infused could not be unfavourable to those purposes, so long as it made no deduction, from the value of the produce of their industry! It was his interest, that they should "walk honestly," lest they should be punished for walking otherwise:—punished, capitally or not capitally—and, in either case, bring his teaching into disgrace. It was his interest, that they should work, in such sort, as to earn each of them the expense of his maintenance; lest, by abstaining from work, they should, any one of them, impose a burthen upon the charity of the others, or be seen to walk dishonestly, to the prejudice of the common cause, as above. It was his interest, that they should, each of them, gain as much as could be gained without reproach or danger; because, the greater the surplus produced by each disciple, the greater the tribute, that could be paid to the spiritual master, under whose command they had put themselves. Thus far his interest and theirs were in agreement. But, it was his interest, that, while working to these ends, their minds, at the expense of whatever torment to themselves, should be kept in a[Pg 345] state of constant ferment, between the passions of hope and fear; because, the stronger the influence of the two allied passions in their breasts, the more abundant would be the contributions, of which, to the extent of each man's ability, they might reasonably be expected to be productive. Here it was, that his interest acted in a direction opposite to theirs: and it was by too ardent a pursuit of this his separate interest, that so much injury, as we shall see, was done to all those other interests.

Of the disease which we shall see described, the description, such as it is, is presented, by the matter furnished by the practitioner himself, by whose prescription the disease was produced. This matter we must be content to take, in that state of disorder, which constitutes one of the most striking features of the issue of his brain. In speaking of the symptoms,—addressed as his discourse is to nobody but the patients themselves by whom these symptoms had been experienced,—only in the way of allusion, and thence in very general terms, could they naturally have been, as they will actually be seen to be, presented to view. As to details,—from them to him, not from him to them, was, it will readily be acknowledged, the only natural course.

In the same Epistle,—namely in the second, which is the last, but, in a passage which does not come till after the announcement, which, as will be seen under the next head, was to operate as a remedy,—stands the principal part of the matter from whence we have been enabled to collect the nature of the disease. The chapter is the third and concluding one:—the words that add nothing to the information, are here and there omitted.

1. "Finally, brethren, pray for us ...—that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked[Pg 346] men; for all men have not faith.—And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you.—And the Lord direct your hearts ... into the patient waiting for Christ.—Now we command you, brethren ... that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.—For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you:—Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought: but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you.—Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an example unto you to follow us.—for even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.—For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.—Now them that are such, we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.—But ye brethren, be not weary in well-doing.—And if any man obey not our word by this Epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed."

By anything we have as yet seen, the symptoms of the disease, it may be thought, are not painted in any very strong colours. But, of the virulence of it there is no want of evidence. It may be seen, in the drastic nature of the remedy:—a remedy, for the invention of which, we shall, in the next section, see the ingenuity of the practitioner put to so extraordinary a stretch.

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SECTION 4.

PAUL'S REMEDY FOR THE DISORDER, AND SALVO FOR HIMSELF.—ANTICHRIST MUST FIRST COME.

We have seen the disorder: we had before that seen the causes of it. We now come to the remedy—the remedy provided by the practitioner for a disease of his own creating. Of the shape given to this remedy, the ingenuity will be seen to be truly worthy of the author of the disease. It consists in the announcement made, of an intermediate state of things, of the commencement of which, any more than of the termination, nothing is said: except that it was to take place, antecedently to that originally announced state of things, by the expectation of which the disorder had been produced. Of the time of its commencement, no: except as above, on that point no information is given. But of its duration, though no determinate information, yet such a description is given, as suffices for giving his disciples to understand, that in the nature of things, it could not be a short one: and that thus, before the principal state of things took place, there would be a proportionate quantity of time for preparation. Satisfied of this, they would see the necessity of conforming themselves to those reiterated "commands," with which his prediction had from the first been accomplished; and to which he had so erroneously trusted, when he regarded them as composing a sufficient antidote to the poison he had infused. That the warning thus provided for them would be a very short one, he left them, it will be seen, no great reason to apprehend. A sort of[Pg 348] spiritual monster,—a sort of an ape of Satan, a rival to the Almighty,—and that by no means a contemptible one—was to enter upon the stage.

What with force and what with fraud, such would be his power,—that the fate of the Almighty would have appeared too precarious, had not the spirits of his partisans been kept up, by the assurance, that when all was over, the Almighty would remain master of the field.

The time, originally fixed, by him for the aerial voyage, was too near. By the hourly expectation of it, had been produced all those disastrous effects which had ensued. After what had been said, an adjournment presented the only possible remedy. But this adjournment, after what had been said, by what imaginable means could it be produced? One only means was left by the nature of the case.

2 Thess. 2:1-12. "Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,—That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us,[66] as that the day of Christ is at hand.—Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come, except[67] there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;—Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God[68]—Remember ye not, that when I[Pg 349] was yet with you, I told you these things[69]—And now ye know what withholdeth, that he might be revealed in his time.—For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.—And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.[70]—Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan,[71] with all power and signs and lying wonders[72]—And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.—And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:[73]—That they all might be damned, who believed not the truth,[74] but had pleasure in unrighteousness."

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To this rival of his God—God and rival—both of them of his own creation, the creator has not, we see, given any name. By this omission, he has, perhaps, as perhaps he thought to do, rendered the bugbear but the more terrible. The deficiency, such as it is, the Church of England translators of the English official translation of the Bible, have filled up: they have taken it in hand—this bantling of Paul's—and christened it Antichrist. "He," Paul, "showeth," say they, "a discovery of Antichrist, before the day of the Lord come." Such is the discovery, communicated in the heading, prefixed to the second chapter of the second of the two Epistles: and, of the readers of this so abundantly and gratuitously distributed Bible, how few are there, by whom any such distinction as that between the headings and the text is borne in mind! The right reverend divines in question,—were they the first authors of this discovery, or was it ready-made to their hands?—made by that church, from the errors of which their own has been so felicitously purified? To this question, let those look out for, and find, the answer,—in whose eyes the profit is worth the trouble.

Not a few are the divines, who have discovered Antichrist sitting in St. Peter's chair, with a triple crown on his head. In the chair of Luther, or in that of Calvin, would the triple monarch be disposed to discover the hobgoblin, if he thought it worth while to look for him. Has he ever, or has he not, made this discovery already?

"Oh, but," says somebody, "we does not here mean we only who are alive at this present writing; it means, we Christians of all ages:—any number of ages after this, as well as this, included. In the designation thus given, neither the individuals he was addressing, nor he himself, were necessarily[Pg 351] comprehended." This accordingly, if anything, must be said, or the title of the self-constituted Apostle, to the appellation of false prophet, must be admitted. Oh, yes! this may be said, and must be said: but what will it avail him? In no such comprehensive sense did he use it; for, in that sense, it would not have answered his purposes: not even his spiritual and declared purposes, much less his temporal, selfish, and concealed purposes. Why was it that these disciples of his, as well as he, were to be so incessantly upon the watch! I Thess. 5:6, 7, 8. Why, but because "you yourselves," says he, ver. 2, "know perfectly, that the day of the Lord cometh like a thief in the night." Who, on that occasion, could be meant by we, but himself and them? In no such comprehensive sense was it understood by them: if it had been, no such consequences as we have seen following, could have followed. After the experience he and they had had, of the mischief produced by the narrow sense put upon the all-important pronoun, would he have continued thus to use it in that same narrow sense, if it had not been his wish that in that same sense it should continue to be understood? Would he have been at all this pains in creating the spiritual monster, for the declared purpose of putting off their expectation of the great day, if, but for this put-off, it would not have come on?[75] In what part of all his preachings can any distinct ground be seen for any such supposition, as that any portion of the field of time, beyond that by which his own life was bounded, was ever present to his view? In the field of place, yes: in that field his views were of no small amplitude: for in that field it was by his ambition that they were marked out: but in the field of time, no symptoms of any the smallest degree of enlargement will anywhere be found. But, on this occasion, suppose other ages, and those others to any extent, included in his views: from their including such future ages, would it follow that they had no application to the age then present?—But, supposing them understood to apply to that age, thereupon in comes the mischief in full force.

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Any man that has been reading these Epistles,—let him suppose, in his own breast, any the most anxious desire to raise an expectation, such as that in question: and then let him ask himself, whether it be in the power of that desire to suggest language, that would afford any considerably better promise of giving effect to it.

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Of the nature of the disorder, as well as of the cause of it,—the persons, to whom the world is indebted for the preservation of these remains of the self-constituted Apostle,—have given us, as above, some conception. Of the effect of the remedy, it would have been amusing to be informed: unfortunately, this portion of his history is not comprised in the labours of his historiographer.[76]


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FOOTNOTES:

[63] The account given by Luke of the resurrection and ascension of Jesus is contained in the last chapter, chap. 24:53. According to this account, by no men was Jesus seen in the interval between those two events, besides the eleven Apostles and a few others, all together not more than enough, to sit down together at meat, in one of the houses of a village. Luke 25:9, 28, 29, 30. Number of the occasions on which Jesus was seen by the Apostles, two: the company the same without addition, and both occasions having place within twenty-four hours. Between these two occasions it is that Paul sticks in the one of his own invention, in which Jesus was seen by above five hundred brethren at once.

Point-blank on this head is the contradiction given to this story of Paul's, by his own attendant and historiographer: namely, in the account put into the mouth of Peter, speaking to Centurion Cornelius, Acts 10:39 to 42. Expressly is it there said, ver. 40, "Him" (Jesus) "God raised up the third day, and showed him openly;—Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead." When in the year 62, or some posterior year, the author of the Acts was writing his history, nothing, it will be inferred, did he know of the contradictory account given by his hero, in writing in a letter written in the year 57.

[64] Follows a sample of Paul's logic wrapped up as usual in a cloud of tautologies and paralogisms, the substance of which amounts to this:—Jesus resurrects; therefore all men will do the same. Admitting the legitimacy of this induction, what will be the thing proved? That every man, a few days after his death, will come to life again, and eat, drink, and walk in company with his friends.

[65] By the word prophecy the idea meant to be conveyed in Jewish language seems to be very generally misconceived. It is regarded as exactly synonymous to prediction. Nothing can be more erroneous. In New Testament language in particular, it is no less applicable to past events than to future. Witness, "Prophecy who is it that smote thee." Luke 17:64. In the Greek, the word is occasion, it meant evidently neither more nor less than speak out. Hence it came to signify speaking in public: hence again, speaking as a statesman: hence again, writing as a statesman, as well as speaking. Not that a statesman could ever or can ever be a statesman, and in the above sense, a prophet, without being a predictor likewise: as often as any proposed measure is on the carpet, such he must be, or what he says must be nothing to the purpose. Merely by uttering a prediction concerning future events, Paul would not have included, in his prophecy, any such pretension, as that of a supernatural communication received from the Almighty: but, the one here in question was one which, supposing it true, could not have come from any other source.

[66] Here we have a sort of retractation. This shows how he was frightened.

[67] Here he gives the intermediate warning; thence the respite.

[68] Here we see the rival of Paul's god: and we see how dangerous an one.

[69] Like enough; but in the same unintelligible style, in which he tells all men all things.

[70] All's well that ends well: the friends of the Almighty may now dismiss their fears.

[71] Here we see the rival of the Almighty sunk into the ape of Satan. What if he and Satan had made an alliance? Happily they could not agree, or time was wanting for settling the conditions.

[72] All power, with lying to boot. But for the above-mentioned assurance, who would not have trembled for Paul's God?

[73] This was fighting the ape of Satan with his own weapons. But—this God of Paul's creation—in what, except an ultimate superiority of power, is he distinguishable from Satan and his ape? Those, who have been so quicksighted of late in the discovery of blasphemy, and so bent on punishing it,—have they ever found so clear a case as this which is before us? Would not they have begun at the more proper end, had they begun with the editors of these Epistles?

[74] For this damnation,—on the present as on so many other occasions, those who are so eager to believe, that all who differ from them on a question of evidence, will be consigned to everlasting torments, are indebted to the right reverend translators: the original says condemned. This may be understood to mean—damned in the ordinary sense of the word damned, or whatever less unpleasant result may be more agreeable.

[75] Of this child of the self-appointed Apostle's brain, it seems not altogether improbable, that, in case of need, some further use was in contemplation to be made: with the skin of this bugbear, might, upon occasion, be invested, any person, to whom, either in the character of a declared adversary, or in that of a rival, it might happen, to have become in a certain degree troublesome: a declared adversary,—that is, either a Gentile or an unbelieving Jew: a rival,—that is, one who, believing in the religion of Jesus, adhered to that edition of it, which had the Apostles of Jesus for its publishers, or followed any other edition which was not his: one of those, for example, upon whom we have seen him making such bitter war in his Epistle to his Galatians. Of the two, the believing rival would of course be much more troublesome, than the non-believing adversary, from whom, if let alone, he would not experience an annoyance. Of this rival class were they whose "unrighteousness," 2 Thess. 2:10, had recourse to "deceivableness:" for as to non-believers, no need could they have of deceivableness; to foil him, they had but to turn aside from him, and stand as they were. Those men, whose unrighteousness had recourse to deceivableness, who could they be, but the men of the same description in this respect as those, whom in chapter third of his Epistle to his Galatians, he complains of as having "bewitched" them; and that in such sort, as to have made him so far lose his temper as to call them "foolish:" and that they were rivals, is a matter altogether out of doubt. In a word, rivals were the only troublesome sort of men, who, at the writing of this Epistle, could, with the nameless monster since named Antichrist, be yet to come.

[76] As for that "helmet of faith," which, in the passage first quoted, he has been seen commanding his disciples to put on—of that faith, which is the everlasting object of his so indefatigably repeated "command," and which is always faith in Paul,—for of Jesus scarcely is so much as a word, except the name, to be found in any of his Epistles,—as to this helmet, it is the sort of cap, which a man learned how to put on, when he had made himself perfect, in what may be called the self-deceptive exercise, or in a word the exercise of faith. It is composed of two very simple operations: at the word of command, the recruit turns its face to the arguments on one side; at the word of command, it turns its back to those on the other side. The test of perfection is—its being able to hold in its embrace, for any length of time, both parts together of a self-contradictory proposition; such as, that three man's-persons,—to use the German word, or if any other sorts of persons there are three others,—are but one. When the helmet sits close enough on his head to enable him to do this, there is no fear of its falling off. Holding fast to improbabilities, how absurd and extravagant soever, is thenceforward but child's play to him:—for example, belief in the future existence of Paul's Antichrist: including, the coming on of those scenes, in which that raw-head and bloody bones is to be the principal performer.

To this, as to anything else, the mind of man is capable of being brought, by assurances of infinite enjoyment, in case of his having made himself perfect in this exercise, or of infinite torment in case of his neglecting it: of course, still more effectually, by both assurances put together; and, considering the facility of both operations, easier terms could not very easily be imagined. A capital convenience is—that, for producing faith in this way, not a particle of anything in the shape of evidence is necessary: the place of evidence is supplied by assurance:—by the intensity, real or apparent, of the persuasion, to which expression has been given, by what the preacher has said or done. The more intense the apparent assurance on the one part, the greater the apparent safety, obtained by yielding to it, on the other: and thus it is, that no absurdity can be so flagrant, that the side on which it is found may not be embraced, under the notion of its being the safe side. When Paul, with his accustomed vehemence, was preaching the world's end, so many of his Thessalonians as believed in it, believed, that believing in it was being on the safe side. On the part of the preacher, the more vehement and impudent the assurance, the greater on the part of the disciple, the apparent danger on the disbelieving, the apparent safety on the believing side.

By this means are produced the signs and wonders we read of in the Epistles of our modern missionaries; for, how conclusive soever the evidence may be, which the assertions they employ might call in for their support,—conclusive to every reasonable mind by which it was received,—assuredly it is not by the evidence, but by the unsupported assertion, that, on the occasion of those exploits of theirs,—whatever credence has place, is produced.


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