LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Conversations on Religion, with Lord Byron

First Conversation
Kennedy on Scripture
Second Conversation
Third Conversation
Fourth Conversation
Fifth Conversation
Memoir of Byron
Byron’s Character
‣ Notes
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[From Dr. K.’s Notes, referred to in p. 65.]

In reply to his lordship’s objection, I stated, if there were any women who loved their Saviour in the manner he had asserted, it was clear that they had no knowledge of religion; that those ladies who were pious, never forgot that their Saviour is divine, and I was afraid their love was too weak rather than too fervent. The ladies, I added, were, fortunately for themselves, more disposed to attend to religion from education, habit, and character. They had more time for meditation than men; they were not exposed, as men of the world are, to the contagion of bad example; nor has it become fashionable, nor is it received as a proof of a liberal and enlightened mind, and of a great and towering genius (as it is amongst the men), that the women should profess a disbelief in Christianity. Among the ladies there are instances of genuine piety combined with the finest understanding; I was ready
to confess, however, that many ladies, from various causes and circumstances, carefully preserved the forms of religion, while they were destitute of its spirit, and that in such a case fear might be the actuating motive. One of the gentlemen, more witty than wise, reported that I had agreed with
Lord Byron that all ladies were religious from fear; when Lord B. heard of it, he expressed his displeasure, and highly censured the gentleman for misrepresenting the opinion of others on so important a subject.

[From Dr. K’s Notes.—p. 71.]

At this meeting I wished to suit the taste of my hearers, by reading all the passages in the profane writers who lived immediately after the promulgation of Christianity which bore on the subject. I read the celebrated paragraphs from Tacitus, and also that part of his history where he gives an account of Judea and its inhabitants, preparatory to his account of the siege; an account, however, which is lost. I read also the letter of Pliny, with Trajan’s answer; the allusion of Juvenal and Persius to the Jews; the objections of Porphyry and Celsus, and of Julian the Apostate, and the passage of Josephus on the Talmud. I referred to the testimony of Pilate, as quoted by Eusebius and Tertullian, Suetonius and Lucian. With all this they were very much pleased and
delighted, and most, if not all of them, were so totally ignorant of Christianity, that they were very much surprised to find that it had been mentioned, or even alluded to by what are termed the elegant and classical writers of Greece and Rome. This day’s meeting passed off very well; some of them confessed that they had gained much new and interesting information.

In reading these extracts I did not fail to make the comments that must occur to every honest mind, freed from the trammels of prejudice.

[On Miracles, page 89.]

As Dr. K. did not complete his design, I have omitted several unconnected or unfinished paragraphs: the following is of too much importance, however, to be laid aside.

Since Hume published his celebrated Essay on Miracles, it has been the fashion with all real, or would-be Deists, to assert that miracles are incapable of being proved by human testimony, and the sentiment was repeatedly expressed by Lord Byron. If there be any one who really believes that Hume has proved this impossibility, after having read his work, I have no hesitation in saying, that he is both very ignorant, and very weak in his judgment. The Essay is a complete piece of sophistry; his premises imply his conclusion, and these
premises are partly true, and partly false; nor does that which is true set forth the whole truth. According to his plan of putting down only such propositions, and such facts as answer the end he has in view, and introducing such facts and false reasonings as he can easily refute, it would be easy to prove anything. But although we see his ingenuity in endeavouring to slide in his conclusions, under the veil of confuting what every man of sense readily allows to be false, we make a stand, and deny that his propositions are true, because there may have been much incredulity and false testimony in favour of pretended miracles. We might just as well argue, that there is no such thing as truth, because there has been much testimony in favour of falsehood and error. Besides, it deserves to be mentioned, to the everlasting stigma of that man, that when
Dr. Campbell sent him a refutation of his Essay, in manuscript, desiring him to point out any objections, he returned it, nor did he ever deign to notice it after it was published. He was either ashamed to acknowledge his error, or unable to make good his position; for it is impossible to believe he would have hesitated to attempt the latter, if it was a thing either easy or possible.

All the miracles in Scripture are capable of being proved by testimony, for they are all of a nature perfectly susceptible of it. The manner in which a miracle is performed, or the discovery of the agent by which it is effected, may not be susceptible of proof; but if the effects of that miracle remain, and if the effects are be-
yond the ordinary course of nature, there can be no doubt but that the testimony of competent witnesses is as susceptible of proving it, as of proving any other fact; because the effects of a miracle become a fact discernible by our senses and faculties. Thus, for example, if in the course of the night, when all the people of London were asleep, St Paul’s Church were to be removed from its present situation, and placed in Hyde Park, while every other surrounding object was left as before, however much astonishment this might create, yet there would be a million of witnesses who could not but assert, that formerly St. Paul’s Church stood at the top of Ludgate Hill, whereas it is now in Hyde Park. Their sight would convince them that the church now stands in Hyde Park—their memory, that it was yesterday in the churchyard at Ludgate. This testimony, therefore, as to the fact, would be precisely the same as if the whole city of London were to testify that
George III. was buried at Windsor, or any other public and notorious fact; because they are alike capable of being ascertained by an appeal to the senses of all. The difference is not in the fact, nor in the cause, but in its frequency. Not in the fact, because both are demonstrable by the same mode of evidence; nor in the cause, for the Creator causes men to die; and can perform things much more wonderful than that of removing St. Paul’s to Hyde Park.

The essential difference between a common fact, and one which we call a miracle, is, that the one is usual, the
other unusual; the means by which the one is effected, are generally known; in the other, they are either not at all, or only partially known; whilst the same power is exerted in both. It is, therefore, the very height of obstinacy, to deny a fact because it is rare, if supported by credible and unsuspicious testimony. If such facts as we call miraculous were stated to be performed by the power of man, we might reasonably doubt them: but if they are referred to God as the agent, we cannot reject them, although we do not know the means by which he has brought them to pass. If we do doubt them, we can advance no other reason, than that they are so rare, that they cannot be believed; and because they are rare, the witnesses, however honest and sincere, and competent to ascertain the reality of the fact, must have deceived themselves, and cannot be credited. The power of God to effect miracles cannot be doubted; nor is it any argument against the suspension or violation of that order of nature which depends on himself, and is called a miracle, that it has been done seldom. If a thing has been done seldom, is it therefore impossible? Is the presumption arising from things usual that no unusual thing will happen, a proof clear, certain, and positive, that such unusual things will not happen? and is this presumption to be made a ground for our rejecting the positive evidence of thousands, who have given every evidence of their sincerity, that such unusual things did happen, and that they were witnesses of them? I know not to what principle such a disbelief can be attributed, but to the
obstinacy of the will; for certainly it wants a reason. The Apostles saw our Saviour after he had been crucified and laid in the grave, and evinced their belief in this truth in every situation and circumstance, to the last moment of their lives: the unbeliever has no direct contrary testimony to oppose to this, and he rejects positive testimony, solely because he never saw such a similar event, and such events are not recorded in other histories. The whole is reduced to this: he does not believe the testimony of others, precisely because he did not see the fact; and he can assign no other cause of suspicion against the witnesses, but that the event was unusual—impossible, he dare not call it.

Miracles, therefore, can be performed by the Creator through the instrumentality of such agents as he thinks proper to select; and the fact of their having been performed can be proved by the honest and uncorrupted testimony of men. Nor will this power, nor the fact, be denied by any sober man; though thousands should still disbelieve,—not because they know them not to have been performed, but because such events did not fall under their personal knowledge. I admit that caution is necessary in receiving evidence for anything that is unusual, but the mind must be wilfully hardened to all truth and knowledge, that will refuse to admit testimony to a fact,—to which he is naturally cautious and reluctant to assent,—merely on the ground of its being proper to be cautious and reluctant. Miracles are not the only evidence for the truth of the Scriptures, though they con-
stitute a chief and important point; and when we know from other sources, and by other evidence, the unerring certainty of the testimony of those that relate them, the sober-minded man gives his assent without qualification or reserve; and indeed, it would be absurd and irrational to do otherwise, since, from other evidence he has the conviction, that those who related these miracles cannot lie, as they are recorded by the Holy Spirit, (against whose testimony there ought to be no appeal,) and testified by thousands and thousands, both of those who believed, and those who did not believe in the agent, and in the object of such miracles.

The Jews and Christians are an example of different people, of different faiths, believing in the miracles of the Old Testament. No similar example can be adduced respecting any miracle that is doubtful or pretended; and this alone affords at least a presumption, that there is such evidence in the nature of the miracles themselves,—the testimony that attests them, (or arising from other causes,) as tends to produce similar conviction in the minds of people who differ in almost every thing else. This fact also shews, that a belief in the existence of miracles is not inconsistent with the human mind, founding this belief on testimony. Were the same testimony and evidence, occurring in every age, and gathering strength as time rolls on, brought forward in support of any other doctrine, except for that of the Christian religion,—of doctrines, in fact, which require only th« assent of the understanding to the evidence, and not a
change of life and conduct, I am persuaded that the miracles in the Scriptures would have been received without objection or scruple, universally. Let the Deist, therefore, commune with his own conscience; let him dispassionately inquire into the cause of his rejection of the evidence in support of the Christian miracles: does it arise from the clearness of his reason, that detects and rejects falsehood,—or is it indeed produced by his enmity and repugnance to the doctrines and precepts which the Scriptures command him to receive?

[Referred to in page 101.]

Not only was the name of Cyrus plainly expressed in this prediction, but it describes the most minute circumstances of an event that did not transpire for more than two centuries after its delivery, and long before any of the events out of which it arose existed. It contained a direct intimation that he would not be a believer in the God of Israel,—all this was fulfilled in every point. One hundred and twenty years elapsed ere the temple and city of Jerusalem were destroyed; during that time the prediction was preserved by the very people, whose humiliation it implied, and who, persisting as they did, to the last, in the disbelief of every intimation of their captivity, would gladly have suppressed all that
related to it, if possible. In part of the predition, Cyrus is surnamed ‘the Shepherd of God,’ and this name is applied to him in the writings of
Xenophon. And to complete the evidence in proof of the precision that attended the fulfilment of this prediction, we are informed* by the same historian, that pagan sacrifices to the heathen deities were offered by his request in his presence at the time of his death. He thus invokes them: “O paternal Jove, Sun, and all ye gods, receive these as completions of many and noble actions and tokens of thanks; because in sacrifices, in heavenly signs, in auguries, and in predicting voices, you have shewn me things which it was fit, and which it was not fit, for me to do.” Thus we are reminded that, while it is said, “I have surnamed thee,” it is added, “though thou hast not known me.”

[Referred to in page 103.]

The kingdom of Egypt ceased with the destruction of the Ptolemies. It had lasted 294 years from the death of Alexander the Great. Cambyses invaded the country, conquered and subdued it 526 years B. C., thirty-three years after the vision of Daniel. The empire recovered from this shock, and again flourished as a kingdom,—but since its subjugation by the Roman arms, it has been base among the nations.

* Cyropædia, lib. viii. cap. 45.

[Referred to in page 109.]

Daniel ix. 25. This commandment is the beginning of the 70 weeks, or 490 years. It does not refer to the proclamation of Cyrus in the first year of his reign, which was confined to the rebuilding of the Temple, and did not extend to the city of Jerusalem; nor is it the decree of Darius Hystaspes, which also only regards the Temple and is merely a confirmation of the decree of Cyrus, Ezra vi. For the same reasons, it cannot be the decree in the 7th year of the reign of Artaxerxes, which only confirmed what his predecessors had granted, but it must be dated from the 20th of Artaxerxes Longimanus. Bishop Chandler observes, “That either of the two latter are sufficient to shew the completion of the prophecy in Christ. The commencement of the weeks (as he remarks) must be either from the 7th of Artaxerxes, which falls on the 457th year before A. D., or from the 20th of Artaxerxes, (add to 457 years before Christ, 26 years after Christ, which is the number that 483—or 69 weeks—exceed 457 years,) and you are brought to the beginning of John the Baptist’s preaching of the advent of the Messiah: add seven years, or one week, to the former, and you come to the 33rd year of A. D., which was the year of Jesus Christ’s death; or else compute 490 years, the whole seventy weeks, from the 7th of Artaxerxes by subtracting 457 years (the space of time between that year and the beginning of A. D.) from 490, and there remains 33, the year of our Lord’s death. Let the 20th
of Artaxerxes be the date of the 70 weeks, which is the 445th year before A. D., and reckon 69 weeks of Chaldean years, 70 Chaldean years being equal to 69 Julian; and so 478 Julian years making 483 Chaldean,—and they end in the 33rd year after Christ, or the passover following.—
Answer to the Grounds and Reasons, &c., p. 139.

It will not perhaps be esteemed tedious, if, in illustration of this point, I refer to Dr. Gill, whose learning and industry were equal. “The Syriac version, though not a literal one, gives the true sense of the passage, rendering it, ‘Unto the coming of the King Messiah,’ unto which there were to be 7 and 62 weeks, or 69 weeks, which make 483 years; and these being understood of eastern years, used by the Egyptians, Chaldeans, and Persians, consisting of 360 days, reckoning 30 days to a month, and 12 months to a year, there were just 483 of these from the 20th year of Artaxerxes, to the 33d year of the vulgar era of Christ, and the 19th of Tiberius Cæsar, in which he suffered.”—From Dr. Gill, in loc.

[Referred to in page 129.]

Dr. Kennedy had gone extensively through the external evidences, which contain much interesting information, but which might, nevertheless, be esteemed prolix by the general reader, especially with such books of reference
as “
Haldane’s Evidences,” “Horne’s Introduction,” and Erskine’s excellent work. As Dr. Kennedy lived not to touch on the internal evidence—on which he placed the greatest weight—the Editor has considered that it would not be unjust to Dr. K. to omit his reasonings on the first part, with the reservation only of the following abstract:—

“If the Jewish books had merely contained an account that, two thousand years ago, their founder, Abraham, was a shepherd;—that his descendants increased, and by their bravery liberated themselves from the Egyptian bondage;—that, after leaving Egypt, they wandered in quest of new settlements—and, allured by the fertility of Canaan, conquered, by their own valour, the inhabitants; extirpating some, expelling others, and reducing the remainder to subjection;—that, tired of elective governments, they founded a monarchy;—that the nation became divided into two portions;—that the one was carried away captive by the Assyrians; and after some time, the other was taken by the Babylonians;—that the king of Babylon had, from humanity, or some other motive, reinstated them;—and that, after various vicissitudes, they became tributary to the Romans:—if their cosmogony had been as absurd as that of other nations,—had their books been filled with accounts of gods and goddesses,—had their worship been directed to stones and statues,—their writings would have been received with interest, and the notice they incidentally give of the Egyptians, the Edomites, Amalakites, and others little known, would
have been read with pleasure, and little doubt would have been entertained of the accuracy of their historians, to whom the same degree of credit would have been attached, as to the most accredited of Greece and Rome. It would not have been deemed an objection, that other nations had not related the Jewish history, since they had not preserved their own.

“Let any one consider what authority he has for believing the text of Cicero, of Aristotle, of Plato, or of any other ancient writer, and let him ask what security he has that their writings have not been altered; and let him trace by what channels they have been transmitted; how preserved, and how many there were in every age, who neither could, nor did take, any interest in them, or use any exertions to preserve the text uncorrupted. When he has collected all the information he can gain on these subjects, and after he has meditated on all the chances and probabilities of the corruption or preservation of the text,—let him compare it with the evidence that awaits his investigation, and let him acknowledge there is no such to be found in favour of any other book whatever. Be they a revelation from God, or a forgery, the evidence of the accurate transmission of these writings from the period of the Babylonish captivity,—from the time of the translation of the Septuagint; and, with respect to the books of the New Testament, from the moment they were written, is of such a nature, that human prudence, had it devised, or human power, had it exerted itself, could not have produced such a variety of
channels, direct or indirect; nor could it have excited such multitudes in every age, whether favourable or hostile to them, to obtain the end proposed. No such evidence ever can be produced in favour of any other book; nor is it possible that, were we to ask for a series of clear, direct, and unbroken evidence, we could hope to find it; but, to satisfy the most scrupulous mind, the series of proofs in favour of the Scriptures is unbroken, and this series commences at a very early period, before any one was interested to deny, or doubt, the genuineness of the Jewish records: two other series, also, commenced in the Samaritan and Septuagint translations: and, in the time of the preaching of the Apostles,—when opposition would be made, the new series, unbroken in tenor, was opened up, and transmitted to every nation, through every age; and the great depositaries of the whole, were the Jews—who reject Christianity: the Christians—who embrace their own and the Jewish records: and the Heathen—who reject both. These contending parties preserved that which was confided to them; and the writings of each, whether as quoting from the original books to express their belief, or to confute them by reasonings, were so many additional sources of preservation and correction,—that, had the original books perished, they might have been recomposed from the writings of believers, and of unbelievers.

“Notwithstanding, however, the mass of evidence derived directly and indirectly from the belief and disbelief
of thousands in every age, modern unbelievers are not satisfied. They pretend to an astonishment, that a greater number of unbelieving authors did not refer to the Christian religion in the first period of Christianity. This astonishment, however, if real, is without foundation; for most of the heathen authors of Greece and Rome have noticed it—ex. gr.
Tacitus, Pliny, Martial, Persius, and Juvenal certainly considered it as the greatest wonder that ever occurred.

“We find that Tacitus, Pliny, Celsus, Porphyry, and Galen—as far as they treat of the subject—confirm the facts related, and only reject the doctrines inferred. I would—were no Christian testimony in existence—believe them. For, if they were false, why not disprove them? And if they were false, why does Tacitus, Suetonius, and others, say that Christ was put to death?—admitting one of the principal facts, while they leave the inquirer to infer that the others are true also, since they are neither denied nor disproved.

“Let not modern unbelievers, therefore, mourn over the silence of their early predecessors, nor let them argue against the Christian religion because all the writers of antiquity have not noticed its commencement. Had they all written, could they have done more than Tacitus, Celsus, and Julian? Why did not these disprove the facts related, and trample the new religion to the ground? Why permit an error to be introduced, since it was so easy to prevent it? Could they not then detect falsehood as easily as at this time? Could they not examine
witnesses, and weigh evidences? Why did such inertness and incapacity seize the whole world at this period? An indolence which has never since been manifested! As philosophers and men of letters, it was their duty to detect and expose error of every kind, especially errors that were calculated to overturn the common belief of all. Did their silence and neglect evince their inability? or did they, with a prophetic spirit, leave the task to such geniuses as were afterwards to arise—the
Voltaires, Gibbons, Paines, and Humes of a later day?”

[Referred to in page 229.]

The paper here mentioned, as well as the remarks on the Pentateuch, are still in the possession of Mr. H., who has hitherto declined to comply with the request of the Editor. In arguing on the same question, Dean Sherlock observes,—

“There is no proportion, indeed, between time and eternity; and it is, therefore, difficult to conceive that every momentary sin should, in its own nature, deserve eternal punishment. But there is no difficulty to conceive, that an immortal sinner may, by some short and momentary sins, sink himself into an irrecoverable state of misery, and that he must be miserable as long as he continues to be. . . . We do not here consider the proportion between the sin and the punishment,—be-
tween a short and transient act, and eternal punishment,—for it is not the sin, but the sinner, that is punished for his sin. . . . Therefore, an immortal sinner, who can never die, and will never cease to be wicked, must always be miserable. . . . The justice of God is only concerned to punish sinners. That their punishments are eternal, is a necessary consequence of their immortality.”