Billeder på siden

that some parts of our Saviour's history may be reasonably expected from pagans; I mean such parts as might be known to those who lived at a distance from Judæa, as well as to those who were the followers and eye-witnesses of Christ. Such particulars are most of these which follow, and which are all attested by some one or other of those heathen authors who lived in, or near, the age of our Saviour, and his disciples. That Augustus Cæsar had ordered the whole empire to be censed, or taxed, which brought our Saviour's reputed parents to Bethlehem; this is mentioned by several Roman historians, as Tacitus, Suetonius, and Dion. That a great light, or new star, appeared in the east, which directed the wise men to our Saviour; this is recorded by Chalcidius. That Herod, king of Palestine, so often mentioned in the Roman history, made a great slaughter of innocent children, being so jealous of his successor, that he put to death his own sons on that account; this character is given of him by several historians, and this cruel fact is mentioned by Macrobius, a heathen author, who tells it as a known thing, without any mark or doubt upon it. That our Saviour had been in Egypt: this Celsus, though he raises a monstrous story upon it, is so far from denying, that he tells us our Saviour learned the art of magic in that country. That Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, that our Saviour was brought in judgment before him, and by him condemned and crucified; this is related by Tacitus. That many miraculous cures, and works out of the ordinary course of nature were wrought by

him; this is confessed by Julian the Apostate, Porphyry, and Hierocles, all of them, not only pagans, but professed enemies and persecutors of Christianity. That our Saviour foretold many things, that came to pass according to his predictions; this was attested by Phlegon, in his Annals, as we are assured by the learned Origen against Celsus. That at the time when our Saviour died there was a miraculous darkness, and a great earthquake; this is recorded by the same Phlegon, the Trallian, who was likewise a Pagan, and freeman to Adrian, the emperor. We may here observe, that a native of Trallium, which was not situate at so great a distance from Palestine, might very probably be informed of such remarkable events as had passed among the Jews in the age immediately preceding his own times, since several of his countrymen, with whom he had conversed, might have received a confused report of our Saviour before his crucifixion, and probably lived within the shake of the earthquake, and the shadow of the eclipse, which are recorded by this author."

Secondly, that in addition to the powerful evidence of fulfilled prophecies, the Mosaic dispensation derives a very strong collateral attestation in support of its truth, both from the Zendavesta of Zoroastres, and the Alcoran of Mahomet. "The first part of the former book contains the Liturgy used by the Persians, and which is still used among them in all their oratories and fire-temples even to this very day. The rest treats of all other parts of their religion. And according as their actions do agree or disagree with this book, do they

reckon them to be good or evil. Thence, in their language, they call a righteous action Zendaver, that is, what the book Zend allows; and an evil action Nazendaver, that is, what the book Zend disallows. This book Zoroastres pretended to have received from heaven, as Mahomet (perhaps following his example) pretended of his Alcoran. It is still preserved among them in the old Persic language and character; and in every oratory and fire-temple, even to this very day, there is a copy of it kept in the same manner as there is with us of the Bible in every parish-church, out of which, on certain stated times, the priests read a portion of it to the people. Dr. Hyde, formerly professor of the Hebrew and Arabic tongues at Oxford, being well skilled in the old Persic, as well as the modern, offered to have published the whole of it with a Latin translation, could he have been supported in the expenses of the edition; but, for the want of this help and encouragement, the design died with him, to the great damage of the learned world. For a book of that antiquity, no doubt, would be of great use could it be made public among us, and would unfold and give us light into many things of the times wherein it was written, which we are now ignorant of. And in this book are found many things most confirmatory of the truth of the Old Testament, being evidently extracted from it; concurring also to prove what has always be enbelieved, namely, that Zoroastres was, in his origin, a Jew, having been thoroughly versed in the Jewish religion, and in the sacred writings of the Old Testament then extant. And it is ge

nerally said of him, that he had been a servant to one of the prophets of Israel, and that it was by this means that he came to be so well skilled in the Holy Scriptures, and in all other Jewish knowledge; for in the Zendavesta he inserts a great part of the Psalms of David: he makes Adam and Eve to have been the first parents of mankind, and gives, in a manner, the same history of the creation and the deluge that Moses doth."* And from this source he also, without doubt, derived his knowledge respecting the existence of an evil agent; or, as formerly observed, as he terms it, an evil angel.+ For that this most important communication had been imparted to man at a period nearly coëval with his creation, the history of Moses distinctly ascertains; as Adam's experimental acquaintance with a malign interference on our globe, and the assurance given to Eve that her seed should vanquish the author of it, should bruize the serpent's head, would most probably lead to the full elucidation of this very interesting particular. "And in this book he also speaks of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and Solomon, in the same manner as the Scriptures do; and, out of a particular veneration for Abraham, he called his book the Book of Abraham, and his religion the religion of Abraham. For he pretended that the reformation which he introduced, was no more than to bring back the religion of the Persians to that original purity in which Abraham practised it, by purifying it of all those defects,

* Prideaux.

This information fulfils the promise in note, P. 16.

abuses, and innovations which the corruption of other times had introduced. And to all this Mahomet also (no doubt from this example) afterwards pretended for his religion; for the name of Abraham hath, for a great many ages past, been had in great veneration all over the East, and among all sects; so that every one of them thought it would give reputation to them could they entitle themselves to him. For not only the Jews, the Magians, and the Mahometans, but the Sabians, and also the Indians, (if the Brahama of the latter be Abraham, as is with good reason supposed,) all challenge him to themselves as the great patriarch and founder of their several sects; every one of them pretending that their religion is the same which Abraham professed, and by his reformation established among them. And to restore this reformation was all that Zoroastres, Mahomet, and the author of the Sabian sect, whoever he was, pretended to. This veneration for Abraham, in those parts, proceeded from the great fame of his piety, which was, it is supposed, there spread among them by the Israelites in their dispersion all over the East; first, in the Assyrian, and after in the Babylonish captivity: and this fame being once fixed, made all parties fond of having him thought their own, and therefore all laid claim to him. And in this book, Zoroastres commands also the same observances about beasts, clean and unclean, as Moses doth; gives the same law of paying tythes to the sacerdotal order; enjoins the same care of avoiding all external, as well as all internal pollutions; the same way of cleansing

« ForrigeFortsæt »