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with them, will excite little surprise, when we know the conditions which he proposed to the vanquished.
Death or converfion was the only choice offered to idolaters. ** Strike off their heads ; strike off all the ends of their fingers :ë kill the idolaters, wheresoever
ye shall find them.” To the Jews and Christians was left a fomewhat milder alternative, of subjection and tribute, if they perfifted in their own religion, or of an equal participation in the rights and liberty, the honours and privileges, of the faithful, if they embraced the religion of their conquerors. “Ye Christian dogs, you know your option ; the Koran, the tribute, or the sword.” The corrupt state of Christianity in the seventh century, and the contentions of its sects, unhappily so fell in with men's care for their safety, or their fortunes, as to induce many to forsake its profession. Add to all which, that Mahomet's victories not only operated by the natural effect of conquest, but that they were constantly represented, both to his friends and enemies, as divine declarations in his favour. Success was evidence. Prosperity carried with it not only influence but proof. “ Ye have already,” says he, after the battle of Bedr, “had a miracle shown you, in two armies which attacked each other ; one army fought for God's true religion, but the other
Again, “ Ye flew not those who were slain at Bedr, but God sew them. If ye desire a decision of the matter between us, now hath a decision come unto you.'
Many more passages might be collected out of the Koran to the same effect. But they are unnecessary. The success of Mahometanism during this, and indeed every' future period of its history, bears so little resemblance to the early propagation of Christianity, that no inference whatever can justly be drawn from it to the prejudice of the Christian argument. For what are we comparing? A Galilean peasant, accompanied by a few fishermen, with a conqueror at the head of his army.
We compare Jesus, without force, without power, without fupport, with out one external circumstance of attraction or influence, prevailing against the prejudices, the learning, the hierarchy of his country, against the ancient religious opinions, the pompous religious rites, the philofophy, the wisdom, the authority of the Roman empire, in the most polished and enlightened period of its existence, with Mahomet making his way amongst Arabs; collect
blb. c. ix. p. 149. a Sale's Koran, c. viii. p. 140. 6 Gibb. ib. p. 337. d Sale's Kor. c. iii. p. 36.
+ Ch. viii. p. 1411
ing followers in the midst of conquests and triumphs, in the darkest
ages and countries of the world, and when success in arms not only operated by that coinmand of men's wills and persons which attends prosperous undertakings, but was confidered as a fure testimony of divine approbation. That multitudes, persuaded by this argument, should join the train of a victorious chief; that still greater multitudes should, without any argument bow down before irresistible power, is a conduct in which we cannot see much to surprise us : in which we can see nothing that resembles the caufes, by which the establishment of Chrifa tianity was effected.
The success therefore of Mahometanism stands not in the way of this important conclufion, that the propagation of Christianity, in the manner and under the circumminces in which it was propagated, is an unique in the history of the species. A Jewish peasant overthrew the religion of the world.
I have, nevertheless, placed the prevalency of the religion amongst the auxiliary arguments of its truth ; because, whether it had prevailed or not, or whether its prevalency can or cannot be accounted for, the direct arguinent remains ftill. It is still true, that a great number of men upon the spot, personally connected with the history and with the author of the religion, were induced by what they heard and saw and knew, not only to change their former opinions, but to give up their time, and facrifice their eafe to traverse seas and kingdoms, without reft, and without weariness, to commit themselves to extreme dangers, to undertake incessant toils, to undergo grievous sufferings, and all this, folely in consequence, and in support of their belief of fals, which, if true, establish the truth of the religion, which, if false, they must have known to be fq..
PART THE THIRD.
A BRIEF CONSIDERATION OF SOME POPULAR OBJECTIONS
The Discrepancies between the several Gospels. I KNOW not a more rash or more unphilosophical conduct of the understanding than to reject the substance of a story by reafon of some diversity in the circumstances with which it is related. The usual character of human testimony is substantial truth under circumstantial variety. This is what the daily experience of courts of justice teaches. When accounts of a transaction come from the mouths of different witnesses, it is seldom that it is not possible to pick out apparent or real inconsistencies between them. These inconlistencies are studiously displayed by an adverse pleader, but oftentimes with little impreffon upon the minds of the judges. On the contrary, a close and minute agreement induces the fufpicion of confederacy and fraud When written histories touch upon the same scenes of action, the comparison almost always affords ground for a like reflection. Numerous, and sometimes important, variations present themselves ;, not seldom also, absolute and final contradictions ; yet neither one. nor the other are deemed sufficient to shake the credibility of the main fact. The embassy.of the Jews to deprecate the execution of Claudian's order to place his statue in their temple, Philo places in harvest, Josephus in feed-time ; both contemporary writers. No reader is led by this inconsistency to doubt,, whether such an embassy was sent, or whether such an order was given. Our own history supplies examples of the same kind. In the account of the Marquis of Argyle's death in the reiga of Charles the Second, we have a very remarkable contradiction. Lord Clarendon relates that he was condemned to be hanged, which was perforined the same day : on the contrary, Burnet, Woodrow, Heath, Echard, agree that he was beheaded ; and that he was condemned upon the Saturday, and executed upon the Monday,a Was any reader of English hiflory ever
a Sưe Biog. Britaja.
sceptic enough, to raise from hence a question, whether the Marquis of Argyle was executed or not? Yet this ought to be left in uncertainty, according to the principles upon which the Christian history has sometimes been attacked. Dr. Middleton contended, that the different hours of the day assigned to the crucifixion of Christ by John and by the other evangelists, did not admit of the reconcilement which learned men had propofed ; and then concludes the discussion with this hard remark: “ We must be forced, with several of the critics, to leave the difficulty just as we found it, chargeable with all the consequences of manifest inconsistency." But what are these confequences? by no means the discrediting of the history as to the principal fact, by a repugnacy (even supposing that repugnancy not to be resolvable into different modes of computation) in the time of the day, in which it is said to have taken place. A
great deal of the discrepancy observable in the gospels, arises from omission ; from a fact or a passage of Christ's life : being noticed by one writer, which is unnoticed by another. Now omission is at all times a very uncertain ground of objection. We perceive it, not only in the comparison of different writers, but even in the same writer, when compared with himself. There are a great many particulars, and some of them of importance, mentioned by Josephus in his Antiquities, which, as we should have supposed, ought to have been put down by him in their place in his Jewish wars. Suetonius, Tacitus, Dio Caffius, have, all three, written of the reign of Tiberius. Each has mentioned many things omitted by the rest, yet no. objection is from thence taken to the respective credit of their histories. We have in our own times, if there were not something indecorous in the comparison, the life of an eminent person, written by three of his friends, in which there is very great variety in the incidents selected by them, fome apparent, and perhaps some real contradictions ; yer without any impeachment of the substantial truth of their accounts, of the authenticity of the books, the competent information or general fidelity of the writers.
But these discrepancies will be still more numerous, when men do not write histories, but memoirs ; which is perhaps the true
a Middleton's Reflections answered by Benson, Hilt. Chrif. vol. IIT: P. 50. b Lard. part. I, vol. II. p.755, et seq.
c ib. p. 743,
nanie, and proper description of our gospels : that is, when they do not undertake, or ever meant to deliver, in order of time, a regular and complete account of all the things of importance, which the person, who is the subject of their history, did or faid ; but only, out of many similar ones, to give such passages, or such actions and discourses, as offered themselves more immediately to their attention, came in the way of their inquiries, occurred to their recollection, or were suggested by their particular design at the time of writing.
This particular design may appear sometimes, but not always, nor often.
Thus I think that the particular design, which St. Matthew had in view whilst he was writing the hiltory of the resurrection, was to attest the faithful performance of Christ's promise to his disciples to go before them into Galilee ; because he alone, except Mark, who seems to have taken it from him, has recorded this promise, and he alone has confined his narrative to that single appearance to the disciples which fulfilled it. It was the preconcerted, the great and most public manifestation of our Lord's person. It was the thing which dwelt upon St. Matthew's mind, and he adapted his narrative to it. But, that there is nothing in St. Matthew's language, which negatives other appearances, or which imports that this his appearance to his disciples in Galilee, in pursuance of his promise, was his first or only appearance, is made pretty evident by St. Mark's gospel, which used the same terms concerning the appearance in Galilee as St. Matthew uses, yet itself records two other appearances prior to this : “ Go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee, then shall fee him as he faid unto you.” (xvi. 7.) We might be apt to infer from these words, that this was the first time they were to see him : at least, we might infer it, with as much re. son as we draw the inference from the same words in Matthew : yet the hifto. rian himself did not perceive that he was leading his readers to any such conclufion, for, in the twelfth and two following verses of this chapter, he informs us of two appearances, which, by comparing the order of events, are shown to have been prior to the appearance in Galilee. “He appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked and went into the country; and they went and told it unto the residue. neither believed they them : afterwards he appeared unto the eleven, as they sat at meat, and upbridded thein with their unbelief, because they believed not them that had seen him after he was risen,"