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What shall we call the Seventh Century?  I say the demands of general history direct us to call it the ARCH OF MOHAMMED.  No one doubts that Mohammed was a really existing human person, a native of Arabia; that, although born of a lofty race, he became poor, and drove the camels of a rich widow to the fairs of Syria, where he heard and witnessed the quarrels of Jews, Christians, and Pagans; and that this set him upon the project of devising a religion which should end all their quarrels in unity of worship.  No one doubts those well-known incidents of the history of Mohammed; that he began, after his marriage with the rich widow, and emancipation from poverty, to retire to a cave, and profess to have visions of the Angel Gabriel, and to receive revelations which he embodied in writing, as parts of the future Koran.  That his first attempts at assuming the character of Prophet were unsuccessful; and that he fled to another part of the country, and instead of trying to bring over the Jews addressed himself to the Pagan Arabs, by whom his cause was taken up with enthusiasm—are also historical events respecting which there is no doubt.

    I need not dwell more at length on the history of Mohammed.  I remember to have been asked more than once by doubters, 'Whether it be not as difficult to account for the spread and existence of Mohammedanism as it is to account for the spread and existence of Christianity?'  I very readily answer, "No."  Because, while the religion of Christ is a religion of meekness and love and self-denial, the religion of Mahommed is most powerfully adapted to captivate the two great passions of the human mind: the love of conquest, and the love of sensual enjoyment.

    At one period in history it looked as if Mohammedan conquest would be universal, but the Almighty Hand stayed it, and now Mohammedanism is a declining religion, and a declining power in the world.  But what said Mahommed of Christianity?  Did he say it was only the old fable of the sun in a new form?  Nay; he proclaimed that God had sent three great prophets into the world before himself: Moses, Elijah, and Jesus, the son of Mary; that Jesus proclaimed "the Comforter" should come; and that he, Mohammed, was the Comforter.  It is not likely that there is a single Mohammedan in the world who doubts that Jesus lived on earth, and wrought miracles.

    We must not forget the existence of the sect called Paulicians, in this century.  Although charged with the old Oriental errors included in Manichœism, it is clear they were Pauline Christians—Christians who defended the purity of their views by appealing to the writings of St. Paul.  They were sufferers by persecution to such a degree that they began to quit Armenia, and to take refuge in Europe.  They were the predecessors of the Bulgarians, Waldenses, Albigenses, Paterines, Hussites, and Lollards.  Gibbon clearly shows the "line of descent"—so to call it—of pure and persecuted Christianity; and he was charged with mistake until Guizot went over all his authorities, and confirmed Gibbon's valuable statement.

    Following my own bent for connecting our chief inquiry as much as possible with our dear old England, I would have preferred to call this seventh century the ARCH OF VENERABLE BEDE.  If you, young men, were to make some actual search for antiquarian proofs of the existence of the Christian religion, you could scarcely fail to do what I have done—visit Jarrow, on the banks of the Tyne.  There are the crumbling remains of the monastery in which Bede studied.  In a room of the adjoining church they show you Bede's chair, or what remains of it.  There is no reason to doubt that the chair was used by Bede, nor the tradition that he died a few moments after quitting it, having pronounced the last words of his translation of St. John's Gospel, and then having fallen on his knees and breathed out his soul in prayer!

    If, afterward, you were to visit the ancient castle of Durham, you might see, what I have seen twice, a more remarkable curiosity than the chair of Bede.  What is it? say you.  A large coffin, hewed out of the bole of an oak, and standing on four oak wheels.  That was the coffin of St. Cuthbert at one time, and also of Bede his teacher; for they dug up the body of Bede at Jarrow, and placed it beside the body of St. Cuthbert; and their custom was, in those "dark ages," as they are justly called, to wheel that coffin about in the petty battles of the Heptarchy, with the belief that the sanctity of the persons to whom the bodies had belonged would bring them victory!  "Dark ages!"  Was the darkness really greater than in our age?  Men thank God for victory now, and do not pretend to win it by any sanctity whatever, either of their own or other people's.

    Again, I say, if you, young Englishmen, were disposed to make actual search for antiquarian proofs of the existence of Christianity in your own land, you might visit Whitby, on the east coast of Yorkshire, and see the grand ruins of the abbey on that lofty rock, near the German Ocean, and call to mind that they stand near the spot where the first religious house in those parts was built by the Lady Hilda, the Saxon princess, whose name is so familiar for her piety, prayer, and almsgiving, to even the poorest along the neighbouring shores of Durham and Yorkshire, to this day.

    Lastly, if you were to travel north; as if you meant to reach Scotland, keeping still by the German Ocean, long before you come to Berwick-on-Tweed you would see in the sea a considerable islet, "The Holy Isle," and Lindisfarne it is also called.  On that isle you would see the ruins of the monastery in which Cuthbert studied.

    Now, what I want to impress on your minds is not the notion that there is any sanctity or spiritual value in the objects you would see.  I am not a teacher of Popery, you know.  But what I want to impress upon your minds is this thoughtful conclusion: a man looking upon that chair of Venerable Bede might as well deny that he sees a chair at all; a man looking upon that grotesque coffin of Cuthbert, on its wheels, might as well deny that there are either coffin or wheels before his eyes; a man gazing upon those striking ruins on the rock of Whitby might as well deny that there are any Abbey ruins there at all; and a man looking on the "Holy Isle" off the coast of Northumberland might as well deny that he sees it, or that it exists—as for a man to deny that Bede and Cuthbert and Hilda existed, and that they believed in Jesus Christ's existence and miracles, and death and resurrection, and taught that these were facts, in the seventh century, on English soil.

    The lives of Bede and Cuthbert and Hilda are a part of the history and existence of the soil.  One might as well doubt that the soil itself existed as that the actors existed whose existence is so indubitably attested.  The body of Cuthbert, in its leaden coffin, was dug up and reinterred but a few years ago; the mind of Bede exists, in the Church History and other works of his that remain; and the spirit of Hilda exists in the remembrance of her goodness.

    Where, again, I ask, did the Christian religion come from?  How came Bede and Cuthbert and Hilda, and thousands besides in our own land, and how came millions in other lands, to be believing, in the seventh century, that Jesus of Nazareth lived on this earth, chose his twelve apostles, taught His great doctrines, performed His miracles, was crucified, and rose again from the dead?  Are none of these facts?  Are they no more than so many items in the new fable fashioned upon the old fable of the sun?  Let us once more pursue our forward, or rather backward, march, and see if we find the Christian religion in existence upon that Arch of our Bridge of History which stands before the ARCH OF MOHAMMED, or, as we would prefer to term it, the ARCH OF VENERABLE BEDE.


What shall we call the Sixth Century?  We will call it the ARCH OF AUGUSTINE and the Christianisation of England; for we will not be drawn into the current of general history this time, but pursue our inquiry as closely as possible with historic materials on English land.  I need utter but few words to remind you how the first Pope Gregory—for there have been many of them—before he was Pope, saw the beautiful children of the Angles offered for slaves in the market at Rome, and thought they should be called Angels; and how he strove to get to England himself as a Christian missionary, but was peremptorily recalled by the Pope of that time; and how the good man (for the first Pope Gregory was a good man, a good Christian man, who disclaimed universal lordship over the Church, and never dreamt of being "infallible")—how the good man, when he became Pope, sent out Augustine, with twenty monks and twenty priests, as missionaries to the Anglo-Saxons; how Augustine and his companions landed on Thanet, and sent their message to Ethelbert, the King of Kent; and how Ethelbert agreed to listen to the preaching of Augustine.

    Fancy the picture, as Venerable Bede presents it in his history: The King, sitting under an oak, on a plain, surrounded with his chiefs, and the procession approaching!  First, one bearing aloft a silver cross, then another with a picture of the Crucifixion on wood; then Augustine, at the head of his monks, taller by the shoulders than any of the rest of his company; and then the monks and priests chaunting.  Augustine preaches, another interprets, while the King listens.  He calls it "All very good" at the end, but intimates that he cannot change his religion all at once.  He did change his religion, however; but I much doubt whether the preaching of Augustine caused the change.  I rather think it was the sweeter preaching he had at home from the lips of Bertha, his young queen.  She was the daughter of Charibert, the King, or Duke, of Paris—for there was no kingdom of France then, such as we understand by the name now—and she was a Christian.

    More missionaries were sent over by the good Gregory—I would rather that he was called Gregory the Good than "Gregory the Great," the name he wears in history; and the men of Kent were immersed in baptism, like their King; and the Christian missionaries, in the lapse of years, visited all Angle-land, and our forefathers were baptized in the streams, or at the font, and gradually adopted the profession of Christianity.  And our Anglo-Saxon ancestors ceased to worship the sun on Sunday, and the moon on Monday, and Tuisco On Tuesday, and Woden on Wednesday, and Thor—with the mighty hammer, the god of thunder—on Thursday, and Freya, the wife of Woden, on Friday, and Seater on Saturday; and began to worship Christ.

    We preserve the old idols' names in our days of the week.  How incongruous it is, when we think upon it!  And yet people jeer the good Quakers when they say First Day, Second Day, and so on, instead.  The Quaker custom is more rational than ours, nevertheless, if we really be Christians.  Perhaps we could not change the names if we were to try; it is so very difficult to change either old customs or old names.  There is one thing we can do, however, whenever we use the old idols' names to distinguish the days of the week.  We can let it serve to remind us of the rock from whence we were hewn, and the pit from whence we were digged.  We can let it serve to remind us that our old forefathers were rude heathens; but God sent them the good news of Christ, and gave them grace to receive the good news, and has preserved His holy religion among us to the present day.

    But, again I ask, where did Christianity come from?  How came Gregory the Good to be caring about heathen peoples getting a knowledge of it, and to be zealously sending out missionaries to spread it, in the sixth century?  The mind of Gregory remains in such of his writings as we have, and we cannot doubt that he believed in the veritable existence of Jesus, and in the Gospel history.  How came Gregory and Augustine, and millions of people, to be believing, in the sixth century, that Jesus of Nazareth really lived on earth, taught His doctrine of love and forgiveness of injuries, and purity and self-denial, performed His miracles, was crucified, and rose again from the dead?  Were none of these facts?  Is what we call the History of our Saviour Jesus Christ only a refashioning of the old fable about the sun?  Let us again step on, in our journey over this Bridge of History, and see if we find a belief in Christianity held by the people who dwell on the arch preceding the Arch of Augustine and the Christianisation of England.


What shall we call the Fifth Century?  As I called the tenth century the Arch of Darkness, I would call the Fifth Century the ARCH OF EARTHQUAKE; for, of all the centuries that have elapsed since the Christian Era commenced, it was the most signal for invasion, revolution, tribulation, and change.  Alaric the Goth scowls upon us at the beginning of the century, but, at the end of its first decade, has his strange burial in the bed of a river, so that where he lies is not known to this day.  Then the more dreadful Attila the Hun glares upon us, and he fights the great battle of Chalons-sur-Marne—the very Chalons on whose vast camp the retreat of the French army was announced just before that contemptible snuff-out of Napoleon the Little at Sedan!  To Attila unnumbered hosts of Goths and Visigoths and Franks and Saxons and Burgundians were opposed at Chalons, in the year 451, and they beat him.  But he rushed down upon Italy and spoiled its fair cities.  Next he meant to sack Rome, had not the aged bishop, St. Leo, persuaded him to accept large treasure and depart; but, soon after, the "Eternal City," as we call it, was given up to fourteen days' ruinous plunder by Genseric and his Vandals.

    The Western Empire is, at length, broken up, in 476; and the formation of what we call Modern Europe begins.  Spain becomes a kingdom under the Visigoths; part of France owns Clovis for king; Odoacer and Theodoric are kings of Italy; our Saxon Heptarchy is founded; and the Normans enter France.

    Christianity itself, in this century, seems as much subject to revolution as the political world.  Arianism is at war with orthodoxy, and often, for a time, tramples it down.  Persecution and mutual persecution were rife; the rival sects revelled in slaughter, as they happened to be uppermost.  The war of words was as prevalent as bodily combat; for it was the age of Augustine and Pelagius, and of Jerome and Cyril and Chrysostom.  Still it is evident, from even the stormy literature of the time, that "pure and undefiled" Christianity was not extinct.

    Where did Christianity come from? we ask again.  How came Augustine and Pelagius to be debating about the doctrines Christ taught if he never taught any?  How came Jerome and Cyril to be contending for what they believed to be the truths that Christ taught if Christ never lived?  Were the eloquent sermons of John, the "golden-mouthed," or Chrysostom, founded on texts which Christ never spoke?  How came millions of men, amidst all the contention and violence and sweeping change of that fifth century to be holding fast to these facts: that Jesus of Nazareth had lived on this earth, chosen his apostles, and preached his doctrines and performed his miracles, and been crucified, and had risen again from the dead?  How came all this strong belief into men's minds in that fifth century?  Was it all misplaced?  Did Jesus never live, preach, die, and live again on this earth?  Is what we call the Gospel History all founded on an old fable about the sun?  Let us again proceed on our march over this Bridge of History.  Shall we find Christianity in existence on the arch before that which we have just called the Arch of Earthquake?


What shall we call the Fourth Century?  We can only call it by one name, unfortunately—the ARCH OF CONSTANTINE THE GREAT.  A man might as well doubt the existence of Constantinople as doubt the facts of the history of Constantine.  Yonder is the city still bearing his name: the city into which he admitted temple or church for no worship but Christian worship.  A man might as well doubt the existence of the arch of Constantine at Rome as doubt that the Emperor lived and reigned, in whose honour it was erected and whose name it bears.  A man might as well doubt the existence of the coins of Constantine as to doubt the facts of his history.

    Young men who hear me, if you know of any one who has a good collection of coins, ask for the coins of Constantine, and mark them well.  There are thousands of his bronze coins in existence; but it will be better to see the gold and silver coins, which are not so numerous.  You will find that the earlier coins of Constantine have the pagan marks upon them, like the coins of the Cæsars; but, when you come to the later coins of Constantine, there is the Christian cross—there is the labarum, or standard, which was borne by Constantine's armies, with the cross and also the monogram of the word "Christ" upon it.

    "I suppose this Constantine, the first Roman emperor who openly patronized Christianity, was a good man," says some one of my audience.

    I fear I must tell you, very plainly, you are under a mistake, my friend.  I must tell you that, although Constantine was a clever man, a skilful general, and a sagacious statesman, he was a bad man—for he murdered his wife, his eldest son, and his nephew; and it seems that he would unhesitatingly have taken the heart's blood of man or woman that dared to oppose his will.

    "Then, how came this bad man to patronize Christianity?" you ask.  The answer is, for political purposes—"reasons of state," as we say.

    "But, could the number of professing Christians be so great at that time as to form a body of sufficient importance to attract the notice of Constantine, and lead him to suppose he could strengthen himself by patronizing them?" it may next be asked.

    Let us enquire of history.  We will not take the enumeration from church historians.  Their account might be questioned, or be suspected of exaggeration.  We will take the account from the enemy's side, rather.  Let us take it from the sceptical Gibbon, from his splendid "Decline and Fall."  He was an acute and tasteful scholar, and a master of statistical investigation; and he assures us that at the time when Constantine first extended his "protecting" and patronizing hand towards Christianity—that is to say, in the year 313—the population of the entire Roman empire was 120 millions, and that the Christian population was about a twentieth part of the whole; that is to say, there were six millions of professing Christians in the world in the year 313.

    "And how came Constantine to think of patronizing these six millions of people?" it will be asked.  Let us look at his circumstances, and we shall soon be able to read his motives.

    Constantine became emperor at York, the Roman capital of England, on the death of his father Constantius Chlorus, who was one of four ruling emperors.  For Diocletian had invented a new form of government: a government by four emperors, who should divide the empire among them, but act unitedly.  To Constantius Chlorus, Britain and Gaul were assigned, as the fourth part of the empire, to be ruled by him.  At his death the Roman soldiers hailed his son Constantine as his successor.  But Constantine knew that none of the other emperors liked him.  Yet he was determined to hold imperial power.  So he set out from Britain, taking with him as many soldiers as could be spared from the country, and marched through Gaul also, soon learning that he would have to fight for it as he approached Italy.

    He won a victory over the Emperor Maxentius; and some of the Christian historians would have us believe he adopted Christianity because he saw the sign of the cross in the air, and considered it the symbol and promise of victory.  But the true reasons why he began to patronize Christianity were more worldly.  He needed military strength.  The forces he had were not sufficient to cope with the larger armies of the other emperors.  Now, he reflected on the conduct of the few Christian soldiers which were in his army.  They were sober, honest, brave, intrepid; and he wished he could have more such moral material to work up into soldiers.  Then, again, he learned, all the way he came through Gaul, that, in spite of the cruellest persecution, the Christians were increasing.  He discerned that the support of such people politically, and the union of their sons with his army, were very desirable things to bring about.

    The decree at Milan, in the year 313, proclaiming full toleration for Christians, was his statesmanlike manoeuvre, and it succeeded.  He persuaded Licinius, one of the emperors, who had married his daughter, to join him in this decree—though Licinius was not in earnest in his support of it.  Diocletian retired from actual sovereignty, and Constantine was soon at war with the remaining emperor, Maximian.  The suicide of Maximian left Constantine and Licinius masters of the empire.  But a deadly war soon arose between them; Licinius was killed; and Constantine became sole sovereign of the Roman empire, and master of the destinies of 120 millions of people.

    He now more openly and avowedly supported Christianity; but although he held the imperial power twenty-four years after he issued that first decree of toleration, he was not a baptized Christian till a few days before his death.  Yet, as he was believed to be on the Christian side, even when he seemed to waver—and that was often—thousands who cared nothing about religion in their hearts, affected to espouse it, because it was the strongest side, so that there soon grew to be more millions of professors—I did not say possessors—of Christ's religion.  Constantine's wily patronage of the Christian teachers also did much to strengthen his power, while it tended to ruin the Christian church spiritually.  And the more decided he became in uniting the religion with the state, the more he injured it.

    It was, indeed, an evil day for Christianity when the crafty Constantine took it under his protection.  Would that it had ever remained under the protection of God alone, whatever its professors might have suffered!  Christ said to the Roman governor, when crucifixion was so near, "My kingdom is not of this world."  O that his professed followers had always kept the solemn saying in mind!  The Church and the State are unnatural companions.  Tie Religion to the State chariot, and it becomes defiled by being dragged through the mire of expediency: make Religion co-rider with the State, in the chariot, and she loses the spirit of the Cross, amidst the smiles of adulation and the corruptions of human power and grandeur.  The change in the outward fortunes of Christianity, under Constantine and his successors, seemed to render the solemn declaration of Christ a mockery.  Under successive emperors it grew grand, and when they encouraged the swelling pomp it grew grander still.  At length, under the Popes, as we have seen in our journey over this Bridge of History, it became at once gorgeous and cruelly intolerant and murderous.

    We are living at a time when nearly every circle of society in England is intent on the great question of the Union of Church and State.  I must declare myself a separatist.  It is not that I see nothing to love and nothing to admire in what we call our Established Church of England.  I know and love some of her pious ministers; I honour her noble army of martyrs; I look with wonder and reverence at her grand library of authors; I love many of her printed prayers; and I trust, when I die, her sublime burial-service will be read at my humble funeral; but I neither admire the wisdom nor honesty of her ritualistic sons; nor do I admire the swelling style and titles of her chief officers, nor their political employment.  I never think of the speeches and votes of the bishops in the House of Lords, but I call to mind the saying of an old Lincolnshire farmer, Philip Skipworth, one of the most Radical tenants of the first Earl of Yarborough.  "Woe worth you, lord bishops!" he used to exclaim; "I wish they would come out of the House of Lords, and be oftener in the Lord's House!"

    And as for the styles and titles of the "spiritual peers," as they are called, where is the Scripture warrant for it all?  That Popes, all along, have had the impudence to wear the highest style and title on their coins of the pagan priests of old Rome and call themselves Pontifex Mazimus, one does not wonder; but where is the New Testament warrant for describing an English Protestant Bishop as "The Right Reverend Father in God, Samuel, by Divine permission, Lord Bishop of Winchester," etc., etc.?  Pray, in what chapter or verse of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, do you read of "The Right Reverend Father in God, Peter the Fisherman, by Divine permission, Lord Bishop of Rome, Primate of all Italy," etc.?  In what chapter and verse of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, do you read of "The Most Reverend Father in God, Paul the Tentmaker, by Divine permission, Lord Archbishop of Tarsus, Primate and Metropolitan of all Judea," etc., etc.?  In what chapter or verse of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, do you read of "The Very Reverend Father in God, Matthew the Publican, Dean of Jerusalem, Canon of Jericho, and Rector of Cesarea Philippi"?

    My friends, in this our journey so far we have never found real Christianity robed in worldly grandeur; but we have often found it lowly and persecuted and suffering, and thus resembling its Divine Founder.

    But let us keep our chief enquiry in mind.  In the year 313, when Constantine began to patronise Christianity, is was not then three hundred years old, according to the Christian belief—which was, that its Founder did not leave the earth till the year 33.  Now the time of Constantine was a time of considerable civilization; and it could not be much more difficult for the Romans to ascertain the truth of what was stated to have occurred in Palestine in the year 33, that is to say, but two hundred and eighty years before, than it would be for us to ascertain what occurred in France or Spain two hundred and eighty years ago: that is to say, in the reign of our Elizabeth, when the intercourse of Englishmen with those countries was so great.  We have no difficulty in grappling the perfect reality of that period of history; and why should it have been less possible for Romans to realize the verity of the Gospel History but two hundred and eighty years after the crucifixion?

    But we are bound to repeat our question, Where did Christianity come from?  How came six millions of people to be professing it in the year 313?  How came those books of Christian authors—Lactantius, and Eusebius, and Athanasius, and Basil, and Gregory Nazianzen, and Ambrose—that have come down to us, to be written in the fourth century?  How often we might have asked a similar question respecting scores of writers, while standing on the preceding arches of our Bridge, if the time would have permitted us!  But were Eusebius, and Lactantius, and Ambrose, and the rest, dreamers?  Did Jesus of Nazareth never really live on this earth—never teach his doctrines—never perform his miracles—never die by crucifixion—never rise from the dead?  Was the mind of the subtle Constantine under complete delusion when he presided over three hundred Christian bishops at the Council of Nice, in 325, and when he was baptized as a Christian in 337?  Is the religion we call Christianity simply a readaptation to human credulity of the old fable of the sun?  Let us again pursue our journey over the Bridge of History, and see if we discover the existence of Christ's religion on the arch before the Arch of Constantine.


What shall we call the Third Century?  We must call it the ARCH OF PERSECUTION.  Before Diocletian gave up power, and retired to cultivate cabbages at Salona, he exercised his mind in the more pernicious task of ordering a search to be made for all Christian books, that they might be publicly burnt.  If the books were given up by professing Christians—for none else had them—at the imperial demand, the persons who gave them up were put out of its pale by the Christian Church of that time.

    I want you to let that fact sink into your minds, and I want you to keep it there, for we shall have to remember it when we come to the keener points of our enquiry.  To be more willing to part with life itself than with the Gospels or Epistles was held to be the mark of an earnest Christian in those days.  The books were found, in numerous instances, by the emperor's searchers; and those who withheld them were punished.

    Diocletian did greater evil still.  He commanded Christian places of worship to be closed or torn down; and then the professors of the forbidden religion had to worship in caves and desolate places, or by the sea-side, and often in darkness.  And then their enemies invented the malicious report that they met together for vicious purposes.  Just like the devil, you know! when he thrusts a good man into a dark, dirty corner, he cries out, "That fellow has gone there for concealment in his vicious indulgence!"  But the busy instrument of Satan, Diocletian, went further: he proceeded to take human life.  Eusebius collects the accounts of contemporary writers, and presents us with their catalogues of the martyrdoms in Egypt, in Palestine, in Syria, and Arabia, but more especially in the great cities of Alexandria, and Antioch, and Nicomedia, and Cæarea.  Some of those accounts are very affecting; and often the Christian martyrs met death with a heroism that appalled their persecutors.  Maximian and Galerius, whom Diocletian associated with himself in the government, were as cruel as their patron.

    Before Diocletian and his associates in imperial rule we have Aurelian, Valerian, Gallus, Decius, Maximin, and Severus, who were all persecutors of Christianity.  They did not persecute at all times, nor in every place; but after a little lull of the tempest it would break forth again, and not only aged men, but feeble women, were swept away in its fury.  Indeed, the relation of the persecution undergone by the Christian Church in the third century is often too painful to read.  Tender women, in some instances, were tortured several days, and put to death by slow degrees, for the purpose of wringing from them a denial of Christ; some, in their human weakness, were affrighted by the threats of punishment and those cruel sights which they witnessed, and shrunk from martyrdom, by apostasy; but hundreds triumphed and exulted in death, and to the last attested their faith in Christ.

    I ask once more, Where did Christianity come from? Was there nothing in it worth suffering for? Did Jesus of Nazareth never exist? Was he not alive, teaching in Jerusalem, in Galilee, in Samaria, and performing his miracles, but 220 years before many of these martyrs suffered? Was he never crucified at Jerusalem? Did he never rise from the dead? Were all these martyrs suffering for their belief in a new fable about the sun; and because the believers in the old fable hated them for refashioning the fable? Let us again journey along our Bridge of History, and see if we find at last the solution to our oft-repeated question.


We have now but two centuries remaining: the second and the first.  What shall we call these remaining arches of our Bridge of History?  I propose that we call the Second Century the ARCH OF THE FATHERS, and the First Century the ARCH OF THE APOSTLES.

    I propose now that we take our steps more slowly, and very circumspectly.  If we miss the object of our search through haste, our journey will have been spent in vain, and our time thrown away.  "The Arch of the Fathers—pray, who really were the Fathers of the Church, as they are called?" some of you will ask.  The reply is that they were the believing writers on the facts of the Christian history, and the teachers of its doctrines, from the time of the last of the Apostles to about the seventh century.  Some called Theophylact, who lived in the tenth century, the last of the apostles; but after the time of the first Pope Gregory,—Gregory the Good, as I have called him—you may consider the catalogue closed.  And of these, the Fathers who lived and wrote in the second and third centuries are the most important to our enquiry.

    You will see how important the memory of the Fathers is to us when I rehearse to you the substance of a note on one of the pages of a biography that you young Christian men should read—the Lives of the Haldanes.  The brothers Haldane were wealthy Scottish gentlemen, at the beginning of the present century, who became evangelically pious, and performed great and good service in the Christian world.  The note I refer to in that book relates how Dr. Buchanan was dining with a literary party at the house of the father of Sir Ralph Abercrombie, the general who died in Egypt, when a gentleman in the company put this question to them: "If every copy of the New Testament had been destroyed at the end of the Third Century,"—for it was then, you will remember, when Diocletian was engaged in his nefarious attempt to extinguish the book—"whether it could have been recovered again from the extracts made from it in the works of the Fathers of the Second and Third Centuries?"  The question startled the company; but none could answer it.  Two months afterwards, Dr. Buchanan says he called an Sir David Dalrymple, or " Lord Hales," as he was called, the Scotch judge; and he pointed to a table covered with books and papers, and said, "Look at these!  You remember the strange question about the Fathers and the New Testament which was put by one of the company at Mr. Abercrombie's, two months ago?"  Dr. Buchanan said he remembered it well.  "That question roused my curiosity," said Sir David Dalrymple, "and as I knew I possessed all the extant Fathers of the second and third centuries, I commenced the search, and, up to this present time, I have found the entire New Testament, all but eleven verses!"

    Now, do you see the immense importance to us, in our enquiry, of a fact like that: that in the extant writings of the Fathers of the Second and Third Centuries the entire New Testament, except eleven verses, can be found in the form of quotations?  Remember that we have lost many of the works of the Fathers of those centuries, and think the more of this important fact.  What does it lead us to conclude?  That the Christians of those centuries valued the New Testament very highly.  Our Chillingworth says "the Bible is the religion of Protestants;" but the New Testament was the religion of the early Christian Church.  They must have fed upon it as their daily and hourly spiritual food; they must have quoted it in their prayers and conversations, as well as in their letters, and sermons, and homilies, and commentaries; it must have been very precious to them.  Three of the most eminent of the Fathers were living within the last quarter of the second century—which will take us back to the year 175—a year that I want specially to fix in your memories.  The Fathers I mean are Tertullian, Irenœus, and Clement of Alexandria.

    Tertullian ascribes the Four Gospels to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  In his extant works he makes 2,500 references to the New Testament.  700 of these are references to the Gospels, and 200 of these again are to John's Gospel.  He quotes from every chapter of Matthew, Luke, and John.  Irenœus also attributes the Four Gospels to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  In his extant works he makes 1,200 references to the New Testament.  400 of these are references to the Gospels, and 80 of these again are to John's Gospel.

    Clement of Alexandria also calls the Four Gospels by the names of Matthew, Luke, Mark, and John—for that is the order in which he places the Evangelists.  He makes 320 references to the New Testament in his extant works, which are few compared with those of Tertullian.

    I said, just now, that I wished to impress the memory of the year 175 on your minds, and I want now to begin to show you the reason of it.  Hitherto we have been keeping in view but one of the theories devised by sceptical writers to account for the existence of the Christian religion, while denying its truth; the " Sun Theory": that theory of Sir William Drummond, and Godfrey Higgins, and Dupuis, and Volney, which was popularised in London over forty years ago by the "Reverend" Robert Taylor, or, as Henry Hunt styled him, "the Devil's Chaplain."  Let us now look at the more modern theory, which has destroyed the popularity of the Sun Theory with many of the sceptics of our own time: the "Mythical Theory" of Strauss and Renan; for although there is a great difference in the spirit and manner of the German and French theorists, I think we may well consider them together.


    In the year 1834 a book was published at Berlin, by Dr. David Friedrich Strauss, a young professor of the University of Tubingen, and, of course, a professor of the Lutheran faith.  His book is usually known by a part of its German title: "Leben Jesu," or Life of Jesus; but its complete title, "Das Leben Jesu bearbeitet," means,—"The Life of Jesus critically worked at:" an odd title to give to a book.  Only a very few years ago, you know, the other "Life of Jesus"—the "Vie de Jesu" of M. Renan, Professor of Oriental History in the great French Academy—was issued.  The theories of these writers—but chiefly, the "Leben Jesu" of Strauss—may be truthfully said to have fascinated thousands of minds, and to have led away troops of young earnest students and thinkers on the continent, while they have also been detrimental to the faith of many in our own country.

    And what is maintained by the teachers of this "Mythical Theory"?  Do they say that no such person as Jesus of Nazareth ever existed?  Oh no!  They could not commit themselves to such rashness; for they are scholars in a high sense of the word.  Renan is understood to he a profound Oriental scholar; and the classical attainments of Strauss are understood to be as great as his power of analysis.  I need scarcely say that men of such intellectual calibre and acquirements know that they have no right to take up any ancient volume which professes to be history, and cross out any personal name in it that does not suit them, affirming that no such person ever existed.  They know they might just as well and wisely affirm that Julius Cæsar never existed, or that Alexander the Great never existed, as that there never was such a human person as Jesus of Nazareth in the world.

    No: they agree that such a person existed, at the time when, and in the country where, He is related, in the Gospels, to have existed.  They agree that He was born of poor parents; but that He had naturally a large mind and a richly philanthropic heart: that He had a highly religious mind, and had a strong belief in the ancient prophecy that the Messiah—the Great Deliverer—should come and regenerate the world and deliver it from error and evil: that He yearned over the sufferings of the poor, Himself; and believed that His "Heavenly Father" would deliver the world from the wrong He saw in it and deplored.  And they agree that He doated on this conception, and earnestly went forth proclaiming "The Kingdom of Heaven—the Kingdom of God is at hand!" and that, at length, He doated on this conception so deeply, and longed so fervently for its realization, that He came to believe Himself to be this Messiah!

    It was, simply, an instance of that common procedure of the human mind wherein "the wish is father to the thought"—wherein we burn with desire to see a fact accomplished, until we persuade ourselves it is accomplished in ourselves!  Jesus, it is affirmed, did not arrive at this belief respecting Himself all at once; but by degrees.  During the course of His ministry, when He began to be regarded as a prophet, and, therefore, as possessed of miraculous powers, persons afflicted with various diseases were brought to Him that He might exercise His curative skill upon them.  Strauss and Renan alike deny that any miracles were ever performed by Christ.  There are no miracles—there can be no miracles, they affirm.  It is "unscientific" to believe in miracles.  God governs by fixed laws.  That is to say, He has fixed Himself: He can or will neither suspend nor transcend His own laws.  He is like a great mechanist who has formed the universe as a splendid machine, and has wound it up, and left it to go by itself.  He cannot or will not interfere with it!  The "Laws of Nature" are fixed laws.

    Perhaps some seeming cures were performed by Jesus of Nazareth, thinks Strauss; some seeming cures of comparatively slight disorders.  The effect, perhaps, of what we now call mesmerism, or animal magnetism.  In some instances, perhaps, these seeming cures were simply the effect of nervous sympathy on the part of the patient with this Jesus, who was so loudly reported to be a great healer of disease, by a touch, or by a word, or a look.  The persons so considered to be cured passed into obscurity, and nothing more was known of them.  But as mankind are naturally disposed to make a thing that is a little marvellous still more marvellous by talking about it,—like the story of the Three Black Crows,—so these seeming cures were magnified into real miracles.

    Eventually this remarkable person was put to death.  Well, reasons Strauss, there is nothing wonderful about that.  Socrates was put to death.  The truly great and good have been put to death in all ages.  There is no wonder that when a man rises up to beard wickedness in high places he loses his life.  If Jesus of Nazareth would persevere in reprehending the hypocritical and powerful Pharisees in the way that He did, there can be no wonder that they never rested till they had His heart's blood.

    And what about Christ's resurrection from the dead?  Oh, that is utterly incredible, according to Strauss and Renan.  Christ never rose from the dead, any more than we shall rise from the dead.  The fable of the resurrection arose from the simple credulity of a few weak women and ignorant men who were fondly attached to this Jesus of Nazareth.  They loved their master, for He had shown them great love and tenderness.  They longed to see Him again; and, perhaps, in some moments of self-exultant thought He had uttered those words attributed to Him, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it again!"—speaking of His own body; and so they were encouraged to expect His resurrection.  First, one enthusiastic woman imagined she had seen Him again alive, and heard Him speak.  Her story wrought on the imagination of others, till they, as fully as herself, believed they had also seen Him.  And thus the women from Galilee and the disciples persuaded one another till they grew into a fervid band of Resurrection-Preachers, and persuaded thousands to believe in the Resurrection as firmly as themselves.  Nay, they continued to believe and continued to preach, until many of them laid down their lives in attestation of their belief in what they affirmed—that they had seen their Master after He rose again from the dead.

    "And is this," say you, "really the wonderful Mythical Theory of Strauss?"  It is, indeed; as wild as it seems for a man of such famed logical power to have invented it.  Summed up, it means this: that the reason why upwards of 300 millions of human beings are now numbered among the professors of Christianity, the reason why the highest and wisest nations of the earth now profess this religion, and why millions upon millions have professed it in past centuries, is solely because a weak fanatical woman first imagined she saw Jesus in the garden where his sepulchre was, and that He spoke to her, yet she never saw Him, and he never spoke to her at all; and because the other women, her companions, set on by her example, also took to imagining that they met Christ, and He spoke to them, yet they never met Him; and He never spoke to them at all; and because ten men, in a room with the doors shut, all took to dreaming at the same time, with their eyes wide open, that the same Jesus whom they knew, and who had been crucified and buried, stood alive before them, and spake, and showed them the wounds in his hands and side; and because, a week after, eleven men took to dreaming in a similar way, and so on.  A wild way of forming a theory, my friends, when you remember what the Apostles suffered for their belief in Christ, and preaching of Christ as the risen Saviour!  Yet that is the meaning of the famed "Mythical Theory" of Strauss.

    The "Mythical Theory," it may be observed, receives a few additions.  When the "Messianic conception," as Strauss calls it (and it is a favourite phrase of his), had fully taken possession of Christ's disciples and their converts, they went on to imagine and set down to his account many and marvellous deeds he had never dreamt of performing.  They reasoned, for instance, since he was really the Messiah, that he must have fulfilled his types.  Well, Moses and Elijah were types of Christ, and they were related to have each fasted forty days and forty nights.  So they set it down that Christ did the like, not from the spirit of falsehood, but from devout faith in the true Messiahship of Jesus.  He must have fulfilled his types!  Thus the catalogue of miracles grew, until it swelled to the size it now wears in our Gospels!

    I want you now, if you please, to note well and fasten in your minds one remarkable fact as connected with the date A.D. 175, which I have already mentioned.  It is this: that Strauss himself grants what every real scholar in the world grants, whether sceptical or Christian,—what Lord Bolingbroke, among our old English freethinkers, grants,—as you may see in his "Letters on the Study of History,"—that the Four Gospels of Matthew; Mark, Luke, and John, so called, were in the possession of the Christian Church at least as early as that year.  That they were at that time in the Greek tongue, but that they contained the same accounts of miracles, parables, journeys, and other transactions and circumstances of the life of Jesus, as our Gospels contain at this day; and that they were held by the Christian Church of that time to be the authentic, the genuine, the veritable memoirs of their Master.

    But, argues Strauss, no one knows who wrote these Gospels; nobody knows where they were written, or when they were written!  Perhaps some of the disciples of this Jesus of Nazareth wrote some short accounts of him; but they never could have written books of the length and having the contents of our Gospels, for they never saw the miracles there related, since those miracles never were performed.  They very likely wrote short accounts of a very simple character, and others added more marvellous stories to these simple accounts; and so the books grew larger by repeated additions, till the books became of the bulk and nature that we see they have now.  And, insists Strauss, between the date A.D. 33, when this Jesus died, and A.D. 175, being 142 years, there is ample time for the formation of these marvellous books, by successive accretions of the more marvellous; there is ample time for the growth and expansion of the mythical element.

    And you may see its growth, palpably, for yourself, asserts Strauss, if you will only slightly exert your critical faculty; it is so very evident in the so called Four Gospels.  For instance, Jesus is affirmed generally in the Gospels to have raised the dead.  But in the two earlier Gospels this is a very unimportant sort of act; he enters a room where a maiden lies who had only just died, or was supposed to be dead, takes her by the hand, and recalls her to life, or seems to do so.  When you get to the later-written Gospel called by the name of "Luke;" Christ again is related to have raised the dead; but this time it is a story of increased marvellousness: the widow's son of Nain had been dead some time, for he was being borne on a bier to the place of burial, and Christ recalls him to life.  But how the mythical element has grown when you come to the Gospel said to have been written and published by John at the close of the first Christian century!  Jesus now raises to life Lazarus, a man who had not only been dead some time, but who had been four days in the tomb, and whose body, according to his own sister's account, must have been in a state of putrefaction!  You may thus trace out and detect for yourself the mythical, the legendary, the fabulous character of a great part of the Four Gospels, declares Strauss; and clearly satisfy yourself that they are unworthy of being received as a body of historical truth or fact.

    These are strong blows to strike at a weak Christian; strong blows to strike at the faith of a good but not very intelligent or well-informed man.  Such a man is likely to regard a man of logic and learning with a degree of awe.  And if the man of logic and learning tells him that he is cleaving for salvation to what is told him in a book that is unworthy of his belief—for nobody knows who wrote the Four Gospels, nobody knows where they were written, or when they were written—the blows are very likely to be too strong for him.  These blows have knocked many a man down, to my certain knowledge: many a man who has never got up again.

    But now let us take courage, my friends, and dare the weight of these blows.  Let us examine for ourselves what the strong assertions of Strauss are worth.

    "Nobody knows who wrote the Gospels."  What is the exact meaning of Strauss?  He cannot mean that they are anonymous books—books written without any authors' names being attached to them, because he and the world know that they are called the "Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John."  Then what does he mean?  Is it that, although the books are called by these names, we have no reason to think that they are the right names?  Why?  Who produces evidence that they are the wrong names?  No one.  Then why should we deem them the wrong names?  How do we judge, and how do we believe, respecting the authorship of other ancient books: books written as early, and even earlier than the Four Gospels?  What is the foundation for what we regard to be our true knowledge of the authorship of other ancient books? how do we know that Cæsar wrote the "Commentaries on the Gallic War"?  How do we know that Virgil wrote the "Eneid"?  I purposely select two of the best known, the most universally known, of ancient books.  How do we know that Cæsar and Virgil are the true names of the authors of these books?  How do we know?  Because these are the names the books have borne ever since they were heard of.  They have never been called by any other names.  No sane person ever arose in the ancient time and said, "Cæsar was not the name of the person who wrote the 'Commentaries on the Gallic War'; the author's true name was so-and-so," any more than any sane man is to be found now who says that.  No sane person ever arose in the ancient time and said, "Virgil is not the name of the poet who composed the 'Eneid'; the author's true name was so-and-so," any more than any sane man is to be found now who says that.  Scholars would regard a man as of unsound mind who asserted his belief that we did not know the true names of these, or of the other Latin classics generally.

    Then why am I not to regard the names as equally certain when I turn to the Four Gospels?  Just as I believe I am certain and sure when I say that Cæsar and Virgil wrote the "Commentaries" and the "Eneid," why am I not to feel equally certain and sure when I say that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John wrote the Gospels that bear their names?  These are the authors' names that the Gospels have borne ever since they were heard of.  They have never borne any other names.  No person ever arose in the ancient time and said, "Matthew, surnamed Levi, was not the name of the man who wrote that Gospel: the man's real name was so-and-so," any more than a sceptic dares to arise now-a-days, and say, "Matthew write that book you call a 'Gospel'! no such thing: the name of the man who really did write that book was so-and-so."  No person ever arose in the ancient time and said, "John, whose surname was Mark, was not the name of the man who wrote that book you call a 'Gospel': the man's real name was so-and-so," any more than a sceptic dares to arise now-a-days, and say, "Mark write that book you call a 'Gospel'! no such thing: the real name of the writer of that book was so-and-so."

    Now, why am I not to regard myself as certain and sure in the one case as in the other?  I will suppose that I have an intelligent and candid sceptic present, and I will put the case to him.  What do you think, I say to him, of the interrogatory parallel, or duplicate question, I put before you?  What do you think of its fairness?  Why am I not bound to believe as firmly in the one case as in the other?

    "Fairness," he will reply, "fairness?  No sensible or candid man can doubt the fairness of the parallel, or duplicate question, you present to me.  No doubt it is as fair on one side as on the other.  I cannot deny its fairness.  But then you know well enough that I do not believe in miracles, and so I do not believe the Four Gospels to be real history.  Nay, furthermore, I am free to tell you that I do not believe your parallel, as you call it, to be worth anything either on the one side or on the other.  I tell you boldly that I do not think I am bound to believe, absolutely, that Cæsar wrote the 'Commentaries,' and Virgil wrote the 'Eneid,' if that be all the evidence you can give.  I may not think it worth the trouble to deny either; but I certainly do not think I am bound to believe absolutely, if that be all the evidence you can give.  You say these are the names by which these books have always been called ever since they were heard of, and they have never been called by any other names.  Well, that is only very loose and lean evidence, in my judgment.  Names may be given to things without fact, and with only fancy to guide the givers.

    "Now if you could give me circumstantial evidence of the authorship of these books, I should be bound to receive it.  Circumstantial evidence carries with it full conviction to the minds of a jury, when there is an utter absence of all positive and direct evidence.  A man is on his trial for the crime of murder.  There is not a single witness who can swear, 'I saw him murder the man.'  There is not one who can swear to witnessing the direct and actual commission of the murder, or the striking of the blow that caused it.  But the accused was known to have a deep quarrel with the murdered man; was seen near to the scene of the murder close upon the time when it must have been committed; and the witnesses who saw him noted his disordered look and manner, and soiled and torn dress.  An instrument was found lying by the murdered man; with that instrument the murder had evidently been committed: that instrument was stamped with the initials of the accused; and there are witnesses who swear they had often seen, it in his hands.  Furthermore, the clayey soil where the murdered man was found bore marks of a struggle, and a frequent footmark was noticed in the clay.  The shoe of the accused fitted it exactly.

    "This is what is termed 'circumstantial evidence,' and the jury say 'guilty,' when it has all been clearly laid before them; and they say it without hesitation.  Now, can you give me circumstantial evidence—clear and substantial evidence of that nature?" demands the doubter.  "You say Cæsar wrote the 'Commentaries on the Gallic War.'  Now give me the circumstantial evidence.

    "When did he begin to write them?  You cannot tell me the exact year of his age, or the year of Rome.  Could you answer the question in a looser and more general way?  Did he begin to write the Commentaries before he crossed the Rubicon? or was it soon after?  How old was he, and where was he living, when he finished the 2nd book, 'De Bello Gallico'? and how long afterwards did he finish the 5th book?

    "You believe that Virgil wrote the 'Eneid.'  Tell me where he began to write it.  Was it at Mantua, his birthplace?  Was it at Rome?  Was it at Verona? or can you name some other city in Italy, and assure me that there Virgil began to write the 'Eneid'?  How old was he, and where, exactly, was he living when he finished the second book, the sixth, the tenth?"

    The reply is that none of these questions can be answered.  Antiquity has not left us the means of answering them.  Nor can such questions be answered with exactness respecting any book of antiquity that I am aware of.  But if any one asks me for circumstantial evidence respecting the authorship of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, I tell him that it can be given with a length and breadth and strength that cannot be given for any other, even of the most highly-valued and most celebrated works of antiquity.  I now entreat your close and wakeful attention to the circumstantial evidence for the authorship of the Four Gospels, while I endeavour to rehearse it in your hearing, as briefly and clearly as I can.  I entreat you to give a11 your power of attention to the enquiry.  It is a most vital one, for time and eternity, to you and me.

    What is it, I ask again, that Strauss affirms?  "Nobody knows who wrote the Four Gospels nobody knows where they were written, or when they were written." I say, again, that when Strauss affirms that nobody knows who wrote the Gospels, he cannot mean that they are anonymous books—books without authors' names; he knows that they are called the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Then what does he mean? I ask again. Does he mean that, supposing they really are the right names, yet the names are worthless, to us, for nobody knows who these people were—they are mere men in the moon, there is no historical identity about them, there is nothing on record to connect them with the history they narrate, if it be a history? But if this be really what Strauss means, the simple reply is—it is not true.


Nobody knows who Matthew was! no historical identity about him! nothing on record to connect Matthew with the history that he narrates!  Let us see.  He is called 'Matthew the publican.'  The τελωαι publicans, or under-tax-gatherers, were chiefly Jews, and their countrymen did not like them to fill the office; it was held to be derogatory to the character of one of the chosen people of Jehovah to collect a tribute to be paid to their pagan conquerors; and they were called "publicans and sinners."  The office and duty of the publican were, to be present at his place of business at such hours of the day as were deemed proper, to receive the taxes—customs, or excise, as we should say—on taxable articles.  He had, of course, to keep a full and correct account; he had to write down the name of the person who paid the tax, the name of the residence of that person, the date of the payment, the sum that was paid, the name of the taxed article, and its weight or measure.  And he had to present the full and correct account, and to hand over the payment, either to some superior officer of the Roman government, or to some person of rank who "farmed" the tax, as we say, either under the emperor or the Roman senate.

    Now, a person who had these business qualities was a very likely person to write such a book as the Gospel called by his name.  The Gospels are not, any of them, the composition of a Macaulay, or a Froude, or a Gibbon, a Hume, or a Robertson.  They are not books of splendid rhetoric, of showy ornament, or studied periods.  They are very plainly written books; and Matthew was a very likely person, we repeat, to write such a book as the Gospel which is called by his name.  Likely! why, he is called to be a disciple; he is appointed one of the twelve apostles, and he makes a feast at his own house for Christ and his disciples, when he is appointed to be an apostle.  Then, henceforth, he is with the Master.  He sees the miracles which he describes in his Gospel.  He hears the parables and that sermon on the mount which he reports for us, He can tell us, as an eye and ear witness, of the wondrous compassion of the Son of man for the wretched and the suffering, and of his healing power.  He can relate to us, from personal experience, with what love and kindness Jesus conducted himself towards his disciples.  He can assure us, from personal observation, of his gentleness to the poor and lowly, and his unflinching reprobation of the pride and hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees.  He can assure us how they persecuted him to death, and how one of his own chosen disciples betrayed him.  He can describe the crucifixion and burial of Christ; and can present us with such facts as came to his knowledge and eye-sight respecting the resurrection of his Lord and Master.

    Not know who Matthew was!  No historical identity about him!  Nothing to connect him with the history he narrates!  Why he is just the historian we want; he is the very eye and ear witness we need.  We do not want a mere literary man, lodging in a two-pair back somewhere in Jerusalem, and who steps out languidly now and then to gaze on the young "Prophet of Nazareth," through his eye-glass, amidst the crowds that shout "Hosanna to the Son of David!" in the narrow streets of the sacred city.  We want our information—if we are to depend on it—from an earnest man who has companied with the Saviour, and felt the divine electricity of union with him in heart and soul; the thrill of wonder and awe at his miracles; the glow of love at his pity and goodness and gentleness.  Matthew is the very man we want.  Don't tell us that we know not who he was.

    "But stop!" cries the objector; "remember, that supposing you have really established the historical identity of Matthew, shown who he was, and his personal connection with the history that he writes—'history,' as you call it; remember that you cannot meet the two other challenges of Strauss, as to where they were written, and when they were written.  How will you, or can you, meet these challenges with regard to Matthew?  He does not inform you, in any part of his Gospel, where he wrote it, or when he wrote it."  Perfectly undeniable.  But such is the case with thousands of books.  It is but rarely that the author himself, in his own book—except it be simply a biography of himself—tells us where he wrote the book, and when he wrote it; and it would have been an unusual and strange act if Matthew had done this in his Gospel history.  It is not in Matthew's history of Jesus that we should look for such statements, any more than we should look into Hume's History of England, or Rapin's, or Henry's, or Macaulay's, or Froude's, for an account of the exact dates when they commenced the writing, and when they finished it, and the name of the place where they wrote.

    But now I again solemnly challenge your thought and attention.  Can any one of you suppose that that earnest Christian Church which put persons out of its pale when they gave up these Gospels to be burnt, at the demand of a persecuting emperor—that the members of the early Christian Church who quoted the New Testament in their conversation, their prayers, their letters, their sermons, their treatises, and lived upon what they believed to be the truths of the book—that the Christian Church, whose writers quoted these books so often that we can collect the whole New Testament, save eleven verses, from those works of theirs that remain and were written in the second and third centuries, kept no record where these their beloved books were written, nor when. they were written?  The supposition would be absurd.

    We can seldom have contemporary evidence of the authorship of a book when we go back to times long before our own.  But when we have evidence close upon the time of the existence of an author, and this is fortified by evidence that thickens immediately after, we never think of doubting.  In matters of this sort this is evidence of the highest kind.  Now this is the kind of evidence we have for the authorship of Matthew's Gospel.  The Fathers who knew the Apostles or their companions, declare that Matthew wrote this Gospel, wrote it at Jerusalem for the Christian Church there, a large but poor church, and therefore wrote it in their native dialect; and wrote it before the destruction of Jerusalem.  Papias, the disciple of John and companion of Polycarp; Irenœus, the disciple of Polycarp; Origen, the disciple of Irenœus; and, after Origen, Eusebius, Jerome, Cyril, Chrysostom, Augustine, and others combine to give us this evidence.

    That Matthew's Gospel was written at Jerusalem and for the Christian Jews may be considered certain, because he so often refers to Jewish customs, but never explains them; and so often quotes the Jewish Scriptures, seeming to keep the instruction of the Jews before his mind as his guiding thought.  That Matthew's Gospel was written before the destruction of Jerusalem is evident, because he perpetually writes as if everything remained at Jerusalem as it was in Christ's lifetime.  And Matthew, in our 24th chapter, seems no more to have understood that his Divine Master was prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem than did the rest of the apostles but he must have understood it had he recorded the prophecy after the destruction of Jerusalem, as clearly as we understand it now.

    Matthew's professional employment, as being that of one who "handled the pen of the ready writer," would cause him to be looked to the earliest for such a task as a Memoir of his Lord; and 'Memoirs' would seem to have been the early title of our Gospels, for Justin Martyr speaks of them frequently as 'Memoirs,' and only two or three times calls them Gospels.  They seem to have soon lost the first title, for no one repeats it after Justin Martyr.

    In concluding my observations on the First Evangelist, I think I shall be borne out in my affirmation by those who hear me, when I say there is no truth in the assertion of Strauss that no one knows who wrote the First Gospel, no one knows who Matthew was, nobody knows when it was written, or where it was written.

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