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$ 21. The Negative proof. The whole force of the negative proof has been wholly denied ; let us therefore examine with what justice it is so. The negative proof rests on the principle, that if an important fact is passed over in silence by the whole body of contemporaneous authors, in circumstances in which they could and must mention it, the same cannot be admitted to have actually occurred. If besides now, positive proof is added to this, then the negative is thereby raised up fully into evidence. We will illustrate the subject by an example.
For many centuries it has been taken as a fact and especially has been maintained by Rome, that the apostle James, the brother of John, preached the gospel in Spain, and that his corpse lies buried at Compostela. For centuries Europe made pilgrimages there, thousands of miracles are pretended to have taken place at this grave of St. James, and there was a time when to doubt about this grave and the miracles, would have been punished by the holy inquisition as a heresy, a crime worthy of death. And yet St. James never was in Spain. For this James, the brother of John, was already put to death in A. D. 45 by Herod (Acts 12: 1, 2), and until then he, like the other apostles, had not left Jerusalem.
So too in reference to Peter at Rome. His abode in Rome is not mentioned either in the Acts or in the apostolical Epistles; though in case Peter really was at Rome, there. was not only naturally reason for such a mention in the circumstances, but it was absolutely necessary. We will illustrate this further: Whatever design we may ascribe to the Acts of the Apostles by Luke, the presence of Peter at Rome, in case it really took place, in case the highest rule of the
1 The original Toletan Breviary celebrates this event in a hymn:
Magni deinde filii tonitrui,
Et laeva frater positus, Hispaniam.
church of Rome was actually borne by Peter,-Luke could not and ought not to leave him unmentioned ; and indeed for this reason, because it was a fact of immeasurable importance, more important than all else made known of Pe. ter; more important than his travels to Samaria and Antioch, or than his visitation of the churches in Palestine. For by the journey to Rome, in case it occurred, the constitution of the church was definitively settled for all time. The mention of it was the more necessary, it forced itself upon him so much the more, as, at the time when Luke wrote (namely, not before A. D. 64), Peter must already have been bishop of Rome for twenty-two years..
And how often had Luke a perfectly natural occasion to mention Peter's journey to Rome and his being bishop there! First, Acts viii., where he relates the meeting of the apostle with Simon Magus at Samaria, whom he must afterwards have fought, vanquished, and annihilated at Rome. Then chap. xii., where Peter, escaping from Herod, left Jerusalem. Luke had before mentioned the journeys to Samaria, Joppa, Cæsarea, why should he not there have remarked
—as Baronius, Natalis, etc., assert — that Peter took a journey to Rome? Or had not Luke known anything where Peter betook himself ? Or did he who wrote twenty years af. ter this event, fear that Peter's residence would be discovered? Then chap. xv., where Luke describes the council at Jerusalem: there he mentions how Paul, Barnabas, and others came from Antioch ; how suitable it would have been to notice here, in a few words, that Peter also had just now come from Rome, the capital of the world, in time to preside over the council. As Luke had so minutely described so many journeys of Philip, Peter, Paul, Barnabas, Mark, etc., would he have left out exactly the most important journey of all? Finally, chap. xxviii., where Paul with Luke and Aristarchus reached Rome. There he immediately makes the Jews to come to Paul, and he preaches to them; of Peter, not a word. How natural, how fitting it would have been here to mention Peter: how they found him at the head of the church at Rome ; how they were lovingly received by him,
and united themselves with him to preach the word of the Lord.
And now for Paul! The occasions when he could and must have mentioned Peter's presence in Rome, his overseership of the church, were numberless, were so natural, so crowded upon him, if Peter was in fact at Rome, acted as bishop of the church there, and was clothed with the office of a vicegerent of Christ on earth, that this total silence of Paul, this complete ignoring of Peter and his disciples, his episcopal office, his preaching the gospel, as we have proved it from the authorities, necessarily leads to the conclusion, that Paul either was full of envy and jealousy toward Peter, or that an irreconcilable obstinate quarrel existed between the two and their disciples.
We see how weighty, how crushing, this negative argument is, from the silence of the Holy Scriptures. Baronius, Natalis, and others have felt it, and on this account sought to weaken the force of this argument. Natalis says : “ The negative proofs from Luke's silence have hardly any weight;/ for otherwise the important mysteries of our faith would totter. For Matthew has nothing about the circumcision; Mark mentions nothing of the presentation in the temple; Luke, nothing of the new star which led the Magi to Bethlehem.” (Natalis, Tom. III., Dissert. xiii., p. 174, col. 2.) That is all true; but the circumcision, which is not to be found in Matthew, is in Luke; he relates also the presentation in the temple, which is wanting in Mark; and Matthew gives an account of the star of the Magi, of which the rest are silent. Thus we find it abundantly. Many facts of the life of Jesus, which one Evangelist has not, the other narrates. But an important fact of Jesus' life which no one of them has, will never elsewhere find credit; and many writings of the earliest.times, pretended to be made by the apostles, have been rejected as apocryphal merely on this account, because they contain matters and things which stand either in direct contradiction to the acknowledged genuine
The prudent man omits all reference to Paul's silence, which is yet more eloquent.
Evangelists and holy writings, or are not mentioned in them. If the appearance of the star, the history of the presentation in the temple, etc., had been related by none of the Evangelists, and by none of the apostles, they must also have been rejected, at least not made matters of necessary belief.
No testimony of the fathers, made a hundred and more years afterwards, can impart credibility. As now Peter's abode in Rome, and his bishopric there, are passed over in silence in all the Holy Scriptures, though there was the most urgent necessity to mention them, the negative proof taken from this silence, is of unusual, irrefragable force, and stands like any positive one.
The opposers too kick as much as they possibly can, now, against the consequence drawn from that silence ; but it is only when this consequence is adduced against them; while, where it affords them an advantage, they welcome any negative proof. Let us look at some examples.
The Acta Marcelli accuse a certain pope of open idolatry. 66 That is a scandalous falsehood and calumny of this most venerable pope,” cries out Baronius,' for if the accusation had been true, the Donatists, and Augustines also, would not have been silent respecting it; as it would have shown in the capital of the world, before the emperor, so that what happened in the city, would have been known through the whole earth.”
Irenæus writes, that the church at Rome was built up proportionately by Peter and Paul. That Leo Allatius will not admit, because thus Peter's authority suffers, and he boldly uses the negative argument against Irenæus. “ In this matter to sustain themselves merely on the assertions of the fathers, when other proof fails, is wasting time and labor ; for although the fathers maintain it, it is not so." ?
We see from these few examples, to which hundreds might be added, how different the views of these men are in reference to the force of negative proof.
| Ad. a. 302, n. 98, 99. 2 Leo Allat. de perpetuo consensu, L. I. c. V. p. 15.
THE SCRIPTURAL DOCTRINE OF A FUTURE STATE.
BY PROF. E. P. BARROWS, ANDOVER.
We cannot but attach a high significance to the fact that of all the writers who have denied the doctrine of eternal punishment, in the proper sense of the words, not one, so far as our knowledge extends, has begun with the direct scriptural argument. Not one appears to have been led by the simple declarations of the Bible concerning the future state of the wicked to the conclusion either that they will all be finally made blessed, or that they will all be annihilated. So far as our observation goes, they have always begun with the proposition, that the received doctrine of the eternal punishment of the wicked cannot be consistent with God's goodness, and therefore cannot be true; and, after laboring at great length to fortify this position, they have then come to the work of bringing the declarations of Scripture into harmony with it. A striking illustration of this method of procedure we have in a volume now before us, entitled: The Doctrine of a Future Life, in which the author labors to establish the position that the everlasting punishment of the wicked will consist in their annihilation after the final judgment. The body of the work consists of 468 pages. Of these only 67 are devoted to the “ scriptural argument,” and of these sixtyseven pages, the last eleven are occupied with the consideration of the “indirect scriptural argument,” drawn from the supposed opinions of the Jews on the subject of the future state in our Lord's day. In the 169 pages that precede this scriptural argument, the author labors to show that, upon none of the philosophical grounds upon which the doctrine of eternal punishment has been maintained, can it possibly
1 Debt and Grace, as related to the Doctrine of a Future Life. By C, F. Hudson. Boston: Published by John P. Jewett and Company. Cleveland, Ohio: H. P. B. Jewett. 1857. pp. viii and 472. 12mo.