תמונות בעמוד
[ocr errors]

The following, I think, are passages, which were very un. likely to have presented themselves to the mind of a forger or a fabulist.

Mat. xxi. 21. “ Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you,


ye have faith and doubt not, ye shall not only do this, which is done unto the fig-tree, but also, if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea, it shall be done; all things whatsoever ye

shall ask in prayer, believing, it shall be done."å

It appears to me very improbable, that these words should have been put into Christ's mouth, if he had not actually spoken them. The term “ faith," as here used, is perhaps rightly interpreted of confidence in that internal notice, by which the apostles were admonished of their power to perform any particular miracle. And this exposition renders the sense of the text more easy. But the words, undoubtedly, in their obvious construction, carry with them a difficulty, which no writer would have brought upon himself officiously. Luke ix. 59.

“ And he said unto another, follow me; but he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, let the dead bury their dead, but go thou and preach the kingdom of God." This answer, though very expressive of the transcendent importance of religious concerns, was apparently harsh and repulsive ; and such as would not have been made for Christ, if he had not really used it. At least, some other instance would have been chosen.

The following passage, I, for the same reason, think impossi. ble to have been the production of artifice, or of a cold forgery :

“ But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother, without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment ; and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council ; but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell-fire (Gehennæ).” Mat. v. 22. It is emphatic, cogent, and well calculated for the purpose of impression, but inconsistent with the supposition of art or wariness on the part of the relator.

The short reply of our Lord to Mary Magdalen after his resurrection, (John xx. 16, 17.) “ Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended unto my Father," in my opinion, must have been founded in a reference or allusion to some prior conversation, for the want of knowing which, his meaning is hidden from us. This very obfcurity, however, is a proof of genuineness. No one would have forged such an answer.

a Sec also xvii. 20.

Luke xvij, 6.

bo See allo Mat, viii. 21.

John vi. The whole of the conversation, recorded in this chapter, is, in the highest degree, unlikely to be fabricated, especially the part of our Saviour's reply between the fiftieth and the fifty-eighth verse. I need only put down the first fentence : “I am the living bread which came down from heaven, if any man eat of this bread he shall live forever ; and the bread that I will give him my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” Without calling in question the expositions that have been given of this passage, we may be permitted to say, that it labours under an obscurity, in which it is impossible to believe that any one, who made speeches for the persons of his narrative, would have voluntarily involved them. That this discourse was obscure even at the time, is confessed by the writer who has preserved it, when he tells us at the conclusion, that inany

of our Lord's disciples, when they had heard this, said, “ This is a hard saying, who can hear it ?"

Christ's taking of a young child, and placing it in the midst of his contentious disciples, (Mat. xviii. 2.) though as decisive a proof as any could be of the benignity of his temper, and very exprellive of the character of the religion which he wished to inculcate, was not by any means an obvious thought. Nor am I acquainted with any thing in any ancient writing which resembles it.

The account of the institution of the Eucharist bears strong internal marks of genuineness. If it had been feigned, it would have been more full. It would have come nearer to the actual mode of celebrating the rite, as that mode obtained very early in Christian churches ; and it would have been more formal than it is. In the forged piece called the apoftolic conftitutions, the apostles are made to enjoin many parts of the ritual, which was in use in the second and third centuries, with as much par. ticularity as a modern rubric could have done. Whereas, in the history of the Lord's supper, as we read it in St. Matthew's gospel, there is not so much as the command to repeat it. This, surely, looks like undesignedness. I think also that the difficulty, arising from the conciseness of Christ's exprellion, “ This is my body,' would have been avoided in a made-up story. I allow that the explication of these words, given by Protestants, is fatisfactory; but it is deduced from a diligent

[ocr errors]

comparifon of the words in question with forms of expression used in scripture, and especially by Christ, upon other occasions. No writer would, arbitrarily and unnecessarily, have thus cast in his reader's way a difficulty, which, to say the least, it requir. ed research and erudition to clear ap.

Now it ought to be observed, that the argument which is built upon these examples, extends both to the authenticity of the books, and to the truth of the narrative ; for it is improbable, that the forger of a history, in the name of another should insert such passages into it ; and it is improbable also, that the persons whose names the books bear, Mould fabricate such pas. sages ; or even allow them a place in their work, if they had not believed them to express the truth.

The following observation, therefore, of Dr. Lardner, the most candid of all advocates, and the most cautious of all inquirers, seems to be well founded :-" Christians are induced to believe the writers of the gospel, by observing the evidences of piety and probity that appear in their writings, in which there is no deceit or artifice, or cunning, or design.” remarks," as Dr. Beattie hath properly said, “ are thrown in to anticipate objections ; nothing of that caution, which never fails to distinguish the testimony of those, who are conscious of irnposture ; du endeavour to reconcile the reader's mind to what may be extraordinary in the narrative.”

I beg leave to cite also another author, a who has well expressed the reflection, which the examples now brought forward were intended to suggest. “ It doth not appear that ever it came into th

mind of these writers, to consider how this or the other action would appear to mankind, or what objections might be raised upon them. But, without at all attending to this, they lay the facts before you, at no pains to think whether they would appear credible or not. If the reader will not believe their testimony, there is no help for it; they tell the truth, and attend to nothing else. Surely this looks like fin. cerity, and that they published nothing to the world but what they believed themselves."

As no improper supplement to this chapter, I crave a place for observing the extreme naturalness of some of the things related in the New Testament.

a Duchal, p. 97, 98.

Mark ix. 23, 24. Jesus said unto him, “ If thou canst be. lieve, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief.” The Itruggle in the father's heart, between folicitude for the preservation of his child, and a kind of involuntary distrust of Christ's power to heal him, is here expressed with an air of reality, which could hardly be counterfeited.

Again, (Mat. xxi. 9.) the eagerness of the people to introduce Christ into Jerusalem, and their demand, a short time afterwards, of his crucifixion, when he did not turn out what. they expected him to be, fo far from affording matter of objection, represents popular favour, in exact agreement with nature and with experience, as the flux and reflux of a wave.

The rulers and pharisees rejecting Christ, whilst many of the common people received him, was the effect which, in the then state of Jewish prejudices, I should have expected. And the reason with which they who rejected Christ's mission kept thenselves in countenance, and with which also they answered the arguments of those who favoured it, is precisely the reason which such men usually give :-" Have any of the scribes or pharifees believed on him ?" John vii. 8.

In our Lord's conversation at the well, (John iy. 29.) Chriit had surprised the Samaritan woman, with an allusion to a single particular in her domestic situation, " Thou haft had fire bar bands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband." The womanı, soon after this, ran back to the city, and called out to her neighbours, “Come, see a man which told me all things that ever I did.” This exaggeration appears to me very natural ; especially in the hurried state of spirits into which the woman may be supposed to have been thrown.

The lawyer's subtlety in running a distinction upon the word neighbour, in the precept “ Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," was no less natural than our Saviour's answer was decisive and satisfactory. (Luke x. 29.) The lawyer of the NewTestament, it must be observed, was a Jewish divine.

The behaviour of Gallio, Acts xviii. 12--17, and of Feftus, xxv. 18, 19, have been observed upon already.

The consistency of St. Paul's character throughout the whole. of his history; the warmth and activity of his zial, first against, and then for Christianity, carries with it very much of the appearance of truth.

There are also some proprieties, as they may be called, obferve : able in the gospels ; that is, circumftances separately suiting with the situation, character, and intention of their respective authors.

St. Matthew, who was an inhabitant of Galilee, and did not join Christ's society until some time after Christ had come into Galilee to preach, has given us very little of his hiftory prior to that period. St. John, who had been converted before, and who wrote to supply omissions in the other gospels, relates fome remarkable particulars, which had taken place before Chrift left Judea to go into Galilee. a

St. Matthew (xv. 1.) has recorded the cavil of the pharisees against the disciples of Jesus for eating with unclean hands." St. Mark has also (vii. 1.) recorded the same transaction, (taken probably from St. Matthew) but with this addition, " for the pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands often, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders : and when they come from the market, except they wash they eat not ; and many other things there be which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups and pots, brazen vessels, and of tables.” Now St. Matthew was not only a Jew himself, but it is evident, from the whole structure of his gospel, especially from his numerous references to the Old Teltament, that he wrote for Jewish readers. The above explanation therefore in him would have been unnatural, as not being wanted by the readers whom he addressed. But in Mark, who, whatever use he might make of Matthew's gospel, intended his own narrative for the general circulation, and who himself travelled to distant countries in the service of the religion, it was properly added.


Identity of Christ's Charader.

I the comparison of the three first gospels with that of St. John. It is known to every reader of fcripture, that the passages of Christ's history preserved by St. John, are, except his paffion and resurrection, for the most part different from those which

a Hartley's Obs. vol. II. p. 103.

« הקודםהמשך »