Immagini della pagina

the New Testament would not have had common sense, if they had inserted manifest contradictions in their narratives: and forgery could have no occasion for them, as it would have been very easy for one of them to copy from the others. Indeed lists of names are strange things to forge! Though I firmly believe that the evangelists wrote by the superintending inspiration of the Holy Spirit; I suppose they copied such matters from the publick registers: and as none of the ancient enemies of christianity attempted to disprove these genealogies, while the original registers existed; it will be wonderful, if proof should now be given that they were falsified.

The genealogy of Matthew, from David to Christ, contains no more than twenty- seven generations, and Mr. P. asserts on this account that' it is not so much 'as a reasonable he:' for he computes that, upon an average, every one in this succession lived to the age of forty, before his eldest son was born. He should have said, his eldest surviving son, yet that would have been but little to the purpose. For Solomon w£s not David's eldest son; Abijah wasnotRehoboam's:* and after the captivity, the line might be continued in the younger male branches. We know also from the history, that the three immediate successors of Jehoram, son of Jehosaphat, are omitted in the genealogy, it is uncertain on what account; as is likewise Jehoiakim the father of Jeconiah. There were therefore nineteen generations from David to the captivity: and similar omissions might occur in the subsequent part of the genealogy.

* 2 Chron. xi. 18—2).

Mr. P. to strengthen this argument asserts, that 'Solomon had his house full of wives and mistresses * at the age of one and twenty.' But where did he learn this? Solomon had one wife when his father died, and soon after he married Pharaoh's daughter. He might have many other wives and concubines at the same time for any thing we know; but the Scripture no where mentions them.

Mr. P.'s language concerning the miraculous conception of Christ, is such a mixture of misrepresentation, absurdity, indecency, and blasphemous impiety, as perhaps never was equalled! It deserves and requires no answer: and it is too vile even to bear beingfurther exposed to just contempt and abhorrence!

The Holy Ghost has hitherto been supposed to be, either a divine person, according to the doctrine of the Trinity; or a created spirit of' supra-angclick dignity; or a peculiar mode of divine operation: but who ever thought of understanding that expression to mean a ghost', or departed spirit, according to the vulgar acceptation of the word?—The language of Scripture teaches us nothing more, than that the divine power of the Holy Spirit miraculously produced the human nature of Christ in the womb of the virgin; and that he was thus truly man, though conceived and born without the defilement, which is communicated to ail the natural descendants of fallen Adam.

Had Mary's testimony to the appearance of the angel, and the miracle of her pregnancy, been single and unsupported, it would not have been entitled to credit:

but connected with the preceding prophecies, the testimony of Zacharias and Elizabeth, and the well-known circumstances attending the birth of John Baptist, and confirmed by all the subsequent events, it becomes credible in the highest degree: for every proof of Christianity authenticates it.

Mr. P. touches but slightly on the disagreement of the evangelists, in their histories of the events that occurred from the birth to the death of Christ: but it is an old objection which must not pass unnoticed. Had the four evangelists recorded precisely the same miracles, discourses, and events, with the same circumstances; the charge of forgery would have been more plausible. If four authors should give us as many histories of certain interesting transactions in China or Japan, not writing by concert, each would record such facts as had more immediately fallen under his observation, with such circumstances as most engaged his attention; and each would follow his own peculiar plan. When these histories were published, events would be found recorded in one, which were not mentioned in the other, with apparent incongruities which a little attention might reconcile; and the order of the narrative would not be exactly the same in them all. And on this ground a man might stand forth, and affirm that they were impostures and contradictory legends.—Now suppose four other men to give each an account of some transactions in a remote part of the world; and no difference at all to be found in their books, but that of style and manner; and another person bhould on this ground exclaim, 'These men have combined to deceive us: * had not his been the case, there must have been some 'variations in their narrative:' we might leave it to any man of candour to determine which of these objections would be most reasonable.

Industry, ingenuity, and malice have, for ages, been employed, in endeavouring to prove the evangelists inconsistent with each other: but not a single contradiction has hitherto been proved upon them. Their circumstantial variations, in relating the same event, only evince that they did not copy from one another. They recorded those facts, which most impressed their own minds as important: they wrote in succession, and did not think the preceding historians needed any vouchers: and it suited their design, to omit many things for the sake of brevity, and that they might relate others of equal moment.—But one thing is fact. These four men, of whom such contemptuous things are spoken, have done, without appearing to have intended it, what was never performed by any authors before or since. They have drawn a perfect human character, without a single flaw! They have given the history of one, whose spirit, words, and actions, were in every particular exactly what they ought to have been! who always did the very thing which was proper, and in the best manner imaginable! who never once deviated from the most consummate wisdom, purity, benevolence, compassion, meekness, humility, fortitude, patience, piety, zeal, and every other excellency! and who in no instance let one virtue or holy disposition entrench on another; but exercised them all in entire harmony and exact proportion! The more the histories of the evangelists are examined, the clearer will this appear: and the more evidently will it be perceived, that they all coincide in the view which they give of their Lord's character. This subject challenges investigation, and sets infidelity at defiance! Either these four men exceeded in genius and capacity all the writers that ever lived; or they wrote under the special guidance of divine inspiration: for without labour or affectation they have effected, what hath baffled all others, who have set themselves purposely to accomplish it.

Indeed that man seems to have a peculiarly vitiated taste in composition, who docs not admire the simplicity connected with sublimity, with which the evangelists record the miracles of Christ. I should think that even infidels of genius must be struck with the manner, in which such astonishing events are related.

The story of Herod's slaying the children rests on Matthew's testimony, and on the proofs of his divine inspiration: it accords perfectly to the character of that bloody tyrant! and it was not necessary that the succeeding evangelists should repeat it. John Baptist was born at Hebron, at. a considerable distance from the coasts of Bethlehem; so that Mr. P.'s attempt to prove, from his preservation, that the story belies itself, is ridiculous in the extreme. \

Had the evangelists expressly undertaken to give an exact copy of the inscription over the cross of Christ; nothing could have been more easy: but they perfectly agree as to the import of it, which is quite sufficient.

Mr. P. asserts, that ' Peter was the only one of the 4 men called apostles, who appears to have been near

« IndietroContinua »