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the people into the desert, by promising them that under his conduct they should be safe from every kind of evil. The president Festus sent troops against them, which defeated and dispersed them. Book xx. c. 7.
Jesus was the founder of a party much more considerable, and which occasioned much greater noise, than all those whom this author has mentioned. These impostors, these ringleaders, these men who had collected mobs, had no followers beyond the precincts of Judea ; their partizans and adherents were soon dispersed, and at the time when this history was written, nothing but the bare remembrance of them remained. It was far different with the sect, the assemblies, and community which Jesus had formed ; it not only subsisted in the time of the historian, but was extended through every province of the empire, and flourished in the very capital. The sovereigns of the world exerted all their authority to suppress it. This party or sect, then, deserved, far more than all the others together, to have been noticed by Josephus in his history.
Josephus could not be ignorant of Jesus, nor the sect which had been founded by him : how then, consistently with the laws of history, and the method which he had prescribed to himself, of recording every thing he knew, could he preserve an entire silence on this head ? Let us try to solve this ænigma.
Either this historian believed, that all which the disciples of Jesus had said of their Master was false, or else was true. If false, he could not have remained silent ; every thing would have stimulated him to speak out on the occasion ; the interest of virtue ; zeal for his own religion, the foundations of which the christians had sapped by their impostures; the love of his own nation, whom the disciples of Jesus accused and upbraided with having, from a malignant and cruel jealousy, put to death the Messiah, the Son of God. By exposing the impostures of the apostles, Josephus must have overwhelmed with confusion the enemies of his own people ; have ingratiated himself most effectually with his nation ; conciliated the favour of those emperors who persecuted the growing cause of christianity ; attracted the applauses of all who looked with horror on this new superstition ; and undeceived the christians themselves, whom the first disciples of Jesus had so miserably misled. Can any person for a moment believe, that a man able to expose so gross an imposture, and who had so many powerful inducements to do it, should, in spite of every incitement, persevere in the most obstinate silence ; especially when so natural an occasion solicited him to speak ? If false miracles were propagated for the purpose of seducing the people of our days, with what zeal, with what ardour would our writers march forth to detect the imposture, and prevent the seduction ! Should we not regard their silence, on such an occasion, as a criminal prevarication ? It appears then indisputable, that if Josephus had believed the relations of the apostles, concerning their Master, to have been false, he would have taken care to de-' clare his conviction : but, if he did not believe them to have been false, he must have known them to be true; and, for fear of displeasing his nation, the Romans and their emperors, held his peace. In this case, his silence is of more importance than his testimony, and equally serves to authenticate the truth of those facts upon which christianity is founded."
THE FACTS OCCASIONALLY MENTIONED IN THE NEW
LIVED NEAR THEIR TIME
Whatever argument is insisted on in behalf of christianity, whether the purity of its doctrine, the fulfilment of ancient prophecies, the predictions and miracles of our Saviour and his apostles, or the peculiar circumstances of its propagation : it is necessary, that we be apprized of the truth of the things related in the New Testament.
The evidence of the truth of any history is either internal or external. The internal evidence depends on the probability of the things related, the consistence of the several parts, and the plainness and simplicity of the narration. The external evidence consists of the concurrence of other ancient writers of good credit, who lived at, or near the time, in which any things are said to have happened; and who bear testimony to the books themselves, and their authors, or the facts contained in them.
Every serious and attentive reader is able, in a great measure, to judge of the internal marks of the credibility of the history contained in the New Testament: though he may be very much assisted by the observations of others, who are more curious, or more judicious than himself. And for this purpose many excellent writings have been published with very great advantage in our own, and other modern languages.
The external evidence of the truth of any ancient history, and particularly of the gospel-history, lies not so much within the reach of the generality of mankind. And though in some modern defences of the christian religion, there have been appeals and references made to other ancient authors; yet those appeals have not been so distinct, full, and express, as might have been wished. The writer has supposed his readers learned; and, not producing at length the testimonies he appeals to, the faith of the unlearned, as to this part of the evidence for christianity, is still resolved very much into the credit and authority of the apologist.
The peculiar design of this work is to enable persons of ordinary capacities, who, for want of a learned education, or of sufficient leisure, are deprived of the advantage of