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dinary methods for conducting such a plan; and adding a new circumstance by citing the these unparalleled congruities, these unex- testimony of the Baptist to the Lamb of ampled coincidences, form altogether a spe- God, that taketh away the sin of the world ;! cies of evidence, of which there is no other in short, had there been in the several reinstance in the history of all the other books lations not mere consistency, but positive in the world.
identity, then, not only the fidelity of the All these variously gifted writers here epu- writers would have been questionable, and merated, concur in this grand peculiarity, concert and design justly have been suspect, that all have the same end in view, all are ed, but we should in effect bave had only pointing to the same object, all, without any the testimony of obe Gospel instead of projected collusion, are advancing the same four. scheme; each briogs in his several contin But to pass to other evidences of truth. gent, without any apparent consideration The manner in which these writers speak of how it may unite with the portions brought themselves, is at once a proof of their humili, by other contributors, without any spirit of ty and of their veracity. The conversion of accommodation, without any visible ioten- Saint Matthew is slightly related by himself tion to make out a case, without indeed any and in the most modest terms. He simply actual resemblance, more than that every says, speaking in the third person ; Jesus separate portion being derived from the same saw a man named Mattbew, and saith unto spring, each must be governed by one com- him, Follow me : and he arose and followed mon principle, and that principle being him: and as Jesus sat at meat in the house, Truth itself, must naturally and consentane. many publicans and sinners came and sat ously produce assimilation, conformity, down with him.'* Not a word is said of a agreement. What can we conclude from all sacrifice so honourable to biinself, and so 1bis, but what is indeed the inevitable con- generously recorded by Saint Luke in those clusion,-a conclusion which forces itself on words, he left all, and followed him ; not a the inind, and compels the submission of the word of the situation he renounced at the understanding ; that all this, under differen- first call of the Master, and which appears ces of administration, is the work of one and to have been lucrative from the great feast the same great, Omniscient, and Eternal he made for him in his own house, and the Spirit.
great company of publicans and others who '11, however, from the general uniformity sat down with him.'+ Saint Luke relates of plan visible, throughout the whole Sacred only his hospitality ; Saint Matthew, as if to Canon, results one of the most cogent and abase bimself the more, describes only the complete arguments for its Divine original, sinners which made up his society previous others will also arise from its mode of execu- to his conversion. tion, its peculiar diversities, and some other These sober recorders of events the most circumstances attending it, not so easily astonishing, are never carried away, by the brought under one single point of view. circumstances they relate, into any pomp of Does it not look as if Almighty Wisdom re- diction, into any use of superlatives. There fused to divide the glory of his revelation is not, perhaps, in the whole Gospel a single with man, when, passing by the shining interjection, nor an exclamation, pot any arlights of the pagan world, He chose, in the tifice to call the reader's attention to the promulgation of the Gospel, to make use of marvels of which the relaters were the witmen of ordinary endowments, men possessing nesses. Absorbed in their holy task, no althe usual defects and prejudices of persons sen idea presents itself to their mind : the so educated and so circumstanced ? Not only object before them fills it. They never dithe other immediate followers, but even the gress, are never called away by the solicitabiographers of Christ, were persons of no tions of vanity, or the suggestions of ouriosdistinguished abilities. Integrity was almost ity. No image starts up to divert their altheir sole, as it were the most requisite qual- tention. There is indeed, in the Gospels, ification. On this point it is not too much much imagery, much allusion, much allegoto maintain, that the writings of each of 1y, but they proceed from their Lord, and these men are not only so consistent with are recorded as his. The writers nerer 6]l each other, but also with themselves, as to up the intervals between events. They offer, individually, as well as aggregately, a leave circumstances to make their own idproof of their own veracity, as well as of the pression, instead of helping out the reader trutb itself.
by any reflections of their own. They alHad they, however, all recorded uniform- ways feel the holy ground on which they ly the same more inconsiderable particu- stand. They preserve the gravity of history Jars ; had there not been that natural diver- and the severity of truth, without enlarging sity, that incidental variation, observable in the outline or swelling the expressiop. all other historians ;-had not one preserved The Evangelists all agree in this most unepassages which the others overlooked, some quivocal character of veracity, that of crimrecording more of the actions of Jesus, oth- inating themselves. They record their own ers treasuring up more of his discourses; errors and offences with the same simplicity some particularizing the circumstances of his with which they relate the miracles and sufbirth; others only referring to it as a fact terings of their Lord. Indeed their dulness, not requiring fresh authentication ; another mistakes and failings are so: intimately again plainly adverting to it by the WORD that was made flesh, and dwelt among as ;' * Matther, ch.
St. Lake, ch. 5.
blended with bis history, by their continual capes' them. Hejs transfigured ;--no expresdemands upon his patience and forbearance, sion of astonishment. He is agonized ;-—the as to make no inconsiderable or unimpor- narrative does not rise in emphasis. lle is tant part of it.
betrayed ;- no execration to the betrayer. This fidelity is equally amiable both in the He is condemned ;--no animadversions ou composition, and in the preservation of the the iniquitous judge ; while their own denial Old Testament, a book which every where and desertion are faithfully recorded. He testifies against those whose history it con- expires ;-no remark on the tremendous catains, and not seldom against the relators tastrophe, no display of their own sorrow. themselves. The author of the Pentateuch Facts alone supply the void ; and what facts ? proclaims, in the most pointed terms, the in- The earth quakes, the sun is eclipsed, the gratitude of the chosen people towards God. graves give up their dead. In such a histoHe prophesies that they will go on filling up ry, it is very true, fidelity was praise, fact the measure of their offences, calls heaven was glory. And yet, if, on the one hand, and earth to witness against them that he has there were no need of the rhetorician's art delivered his own soul, declares that as they lo embellish the tale, what mere rhetoricians have worshipped gods which were no gods, could have abstained from using it? God will punish them by calling a people Thus, it seems obvious, that unlettered who were no people. Yet this book, so dis- men were appointed to this great work, in graceful to their national character, this re- order that the success of the Gospel might gister of their own offences, they would rath- not be suspected of owing any thing to naer die than lose. This,' says the admirable tural ability, or to splendid attainment. This Pascal, is an instance of integrity which arrangement, while it proves the astonishing has no example in the world, no root in na progress of Christianity to bave been caused tare.' In the Pentateuch and the Gospel, by its own energy, serves to remove every therefore, these parallel, these unequalled in- just suspicion of the contrivance of fraud, stances of sincerity, are incontrovertible the collusions of interest, or the artifices of proofs of the truth of both.
invention. It is obvious that the impression which was Had the first apostles been men of genius, to be made should owe nothing to the skill, they might have injured the purity of the but every thing to the veracity of the writers. Gospel by bringing their ingenuity into it. They never tried to improve upon the doc- Had they been men of learning, they might trines or the requirements of their Master, have imported from the schools of Greece hy mixing their own wisdom with them. and Rome, each from his own sect, some of Though their views were not clear, their its peculiar infusions, and thus bave vitiated obedience was implicit. It was not, howev- the simplicity of the Gospel. Had they been er, a mere mechanical obedience, but an un- critics and philosophers, there might have disputing submission to the Divine teaching been endless debates which part of Chris. Even at the glorious scene of the Trans- tianity was the power of God, and which figuration, their amazement did not get the the result of man's wisdom. Thus, though better of their fidelity. There was no vain corruptions soon crept into the church, yet impatience to disclose the wonders which had no impurities could reach the Gospel itself. passed, and of which they had been allowed Some of its teachers became heretical, but the honour of being witnesses. Thongh the pure word remained unadulterated. they inserted it afterwards in their narra- However, the philosophizing or the Judaizing tions, they, as they were commanded, kept teachers might subsequently infuse their own it close, and told no man in those days what errors into their own preaching, the Gospel they had seen.
preserved its own integrity. They might The simplicity of the narrative is never mislead their followers, but they could not violated; there is even no panegyric on the deteriorate the New Testament: august person they commemorate, not a sin It required different gifts to promulgate gle epithet of commendation. When they and to maintain Christianity. The Evanmention an extraordinary effect of bis divine gelists did not so much attempt to argue the eloquence, it is history, not eulogy, that truth of the Redeemer's doctrines, as pracspeaks. They say nothing of their own ad-tically to prove that they were of Divine miration; it is the people who were aston- origin. If called on for a defence, they ished at the gracious words wbich proceeded worked a miracle. If they could not proout of his mouth. Again, it was the mul- duce a cogent argument, they could produce titudes marvelled, saying, it was never so a paralytic walking: If they could not open seen in Israel.' Again, it was the officers, the eyes of the prejudiced, they could open pot the writer, who said, “never man spake the eyes of the blind. Such attestation was like this man.'
to the eye-witnesses, argument the most unIn recording the most stupendous events, answerable. The most illiterate persons we are never called to an exhibition of their could judge of this species of evidence so Owo pity, or their own admiration. In rela- peculiar to Christianity. He could know ting the most soul-moving circumstance, whether he saw a sick man restored to life there is no attempt to be pathetic, ao aim to by a word, or a lame man take up his bed and work up the feelings of the reader, no appeal walk, or one who had been dead four days, to his sympathy, no studied finish, no elabo- instantly obey the call - Lazarus, come rate excitement. Jesus wept ;-no com- forth!'' About a sentiment there might be ment. He is hungry ;-no compassion es- a diversity of suffrages ; about an action
which all saw, all could entertain but ones him for the legislator of a people so differ. opinion. The caviller might have refuted a ently circumstanced, it pleased the same syllogism, and a fallacy might have imposed Infinite Wisdom to convey to Paul, through on the multitude, but no sophistry could the mouth of a Jewish teacher, the know. counteract occular demonstration.
ledge he was to employ for the Gentiles, and But as God does nothing in vain, so he to adapt his varied acquirements to the vari. never employs irrelevant instruments or su- ous ranks, characters, prejudices, and local perfluous means. He therefore did not see circumstances of those before whom he was fit to be at the expense of a perpetual mira to advocate the noblest cause ever assigaed cle to maintain and carry on that church to man. which he had thought proper to establish by Of all these providential advantages he miraculous powers. When, therefore, the availed himself with a wisdom, aptness, and Gospel was immutably fixed on its own eter- appropriateness, without a parallel ;-a wisnal basis, and its truth unimpeachably settled dom derived from that Divine Spirit which by the authentic testimony of so many eye- guided all his thoughts, words, and actions : witnesses to the lise, death, and resurrection and with a teachableness which demonstraof Jesus ; a writer was brought forward, ted that he was never disobedient to the heav. contemporary, but not connected, with enly vision. them. Not only was he not confederate Indeed it seemed necessary, in order to with the first institutors of Christianity; but demonstrate that the principles of Christianso implacably hostile was he to them, that ity are not nnattainable, nor its precepts im. he had assisted at the death of the first practicable, that the New Testament should, martyr.
in some part, present to us a full exemplifiAs the attestation of one notorious enemy cation of its doctrines and of its spirit; that in favour of a cause, is considered equivalent they should, to produce their practical effect, to that of many friends ; thus did this dis be embodied in a form purely buman, for tinguished adversary seem to be raised up to the character of the founder of its religion confirm and ratify all the truths he had so is deified humanity. Did the Scriptures furiously opposed; to become the most able present no such exhibition, infidelity might advocate of the cause he had reprobated, have availed itself of the omission, for the the most powerful champion of the Saviour purpose of asserting that Christianity was he had vilified. He was raised up to unfold only a bright chimera, a beautiful fiction of more at large those doctrines which could the imagination ; and Plato's fair idea might not be so explicitly developed in the histori- have been brought into competition with the cal portions, while an immediate revelation doctrines of the Gospel. But in Saint Paul from heaven supplied to him the actual op- is exhibited a portrait which not only illusportunities and advantages which the Evan- trates its Divine truth, but establishes its gelists had enjoyed. Nothing short of such moral efficacy; a portrait entirely free from à Divine communication could have placed any distortion in the drawing, from any exSaint Paul on a level with the other apos- travagance in the colouring. tles ; had he been taught of man, he must It is the representation of a man strughave been inferior to those who were taught gling with the sins and infirmities natural to of Jesus.
man ; yet habitually triumphing over them For Saint Paul had not the honour to be by that Divine grace which had first rescued the personal disciple of his Lord. His con- him from prejudice, bigotry, and unbelief. version and preaching were subsequent to It represents bim resisting, not only such the illumination of the Gospel ; an intima- temptations as are common to men, but surtion possibly, that though revelation and hu- mounting trials to which no other man was man learning should not be considered as ever called ; furnishing in his whole pracsharing between them the work of spiritual tice not only an instructor, but a model; instruction, yet that human learning might showing every where in his writings, that hence forward become a valuable adjunct, the same offers, the same supports, the same and a most suitable, though subordinate ac victories, are tendered to every suffering cessory in maintaining the cause of that child of mortality,—that the waters of eterDivine truth which it had no hand in estab- nal life are not restricted to prophets and lishing
apostles, but are offered freely to every one The ministry of Paul was not to be cir- that thirsteth--offered without money and cumscribed, as that of his immediate precur- without price. sors had been, by the narrow limits of the Jewish church. As he was designated to be the Apostle of the Gentiles, as he was to bear
CHAP. III. his testimony before rulers and scholars; as he was to carry his mission into the presence on the epistolary writers of the Nero Testaof kings, and not to be ashamed, -it pleas
ment, particularly St. Paul. ed Infinite Wisdom, which always fits the instrument to the work, and the talent to the Can the reader of taste and feeling, who exigence, to accommodate most exactly the has followed the much enduring hero of the endowments of Paul to the demands that Odyssey with growing delight and increasing would be made upon them ; and as Divine sympathy, though in a work of fiction, Providence caused Moses to acquire in through all his wanderings, peruse with infeEgypt the learning which was to preparel rior interest the genuine voyages of the
Apostle of the Gentiles over nearly the same been made by such writers, to amuse coriseas? The fabulous adventurer, once land- osity with a sequel of the history of the pered, and safe on the shores of bis own Ithaca, sons named in the New Testament! How the reader's mind is satisfied, for the object of might they have misled us by unprofitable his anxiety is at rest. But not so ends the details of the Virgin Mary, or of Joseph of tale of the Christian hero. Whoever closed Arimathea ! Saint Luke's narrative of the diversified What legends might have been invented, eveats of Saint Paul's travels ; whoever ac. what idolatry even might have been incorpocompanied bim with the interest his history rated with the true worship of God; what demands, from the commencement of his false history appended to the authentic retrials at Damascus to bis last deliverance cord! Not only is the Divine Wisdom manfrom shipwreck, and left him preaching in ifest in carrying on through the Epistles a his own hired house at Rome, without feeling confirmation of the Spirit and power of as if he bad abruptly lost sight of some one Christianity, but the same design is no less very dear to him, without sorrowing that apparent in closing the book with the Apocthey should see his face no more, without in- alypse, --a writing which contains the testidulging a wish that the intercourse could mony of the last surviving disciple of Jesus have been carried on to the end, though that in extreme old age, to which he seems to end were martyrdom.
have been providentially preserved for the Such readers, and perhaps only such, will very purpose of protecting the Gospel from rejoice to renew their acquaintance with this innovations which were beginning to corrupt very chiefest of the apostles ; not indeed in it the communication of subsequent facts, but The narratives of the Evangelists would of important principles ; not in the records indeed have remained perfect in themselves, of the biographer, but in the doctrines of the even without the Epistles ; but never could saint. In fact, to the history of Paul in the its truths have been so clearly understood, Sacred Oracles succeed his Epistles. And or its doctrines so fully developed, as they these Epistles, as if through design, open now are. Our Saviour himself intimated, with that to the beloved of God called to be that there would be a more full and com: saints' in that very city, the mention of his plete knowledge of his doctrines, after be residence in which concludes the preceding had ceased to deliver them, than there was at narrative.
the time. How indeed could the doctrine of Had the Sacred Canon closed with the the atonement, and of pardon through his evangelical narrations, bad it not been deter- blood, have been so explicitly set forth dumined in the counsels of Divine Wisdom, ring his life, as they afterwards were in the that a subsequent portion of inspired Scrip- Epistles, especially in those of Saint Paul ? tore in another form, should have been added Saint Luke, at the opening of the Acts of to the historical portions, that the Epistles the Apostles, referring the friend to whom he should have conveyed to us the results of the inscribes it, to his former Treatise of all mission and the death of Christ, how im- that Jesus began to do, and to teach, till be mense would have been the disadvantage, was taken up, after that he had through the and how irreparable the loss : May we pre- Holy Ghost given commandment to the sume to add, how much less perfect would Apostles,' seems plainly to indicate that the have been our view of the scheme of Chris doing and the teuching were to be carried on sianity, had the New Testament been cur- by them. All their doubts were at length tailed of this important portion of religious removed. They had now a plenary convicand practical instruction.
tion of the divinity of Christ's person, and of We should indeed have felt the same ador- the dignity of his mission. 'They had now ing gratitude for the benefits of the Redeem- witnessed bis glorious resurrection and aser, but we should have been in comparative cension, and the coming of the Holy Ghost. igaorance of the events consequent upon his They had attained the fullest assurance of resurrection. We should have been totally the truths they were to proclaim, and had at a loss to know how and by whom the first had time to acquire the completest certainty Christian churches were founded; how they of their moral efficacy on the heart and life. were conducted, and what was their pro It was therefore ordained by that Wisdom gress. We should have bad but a slender which cannot err, that the Apostles, under notion of the manner in which Christianity the influence of the Holy Spirit, should work was planted, and bow wonderfully it flourish- up all the documents of the anterior Scrip. ed in the heathen soil Above all, we should tures into a more systematic form ;--that bave been deprived of that divine instruc- they should more fully unfold their doctrines, tion, equally the dictate of the Holy Spirit, extract the essence of their separate maxwith which the Epistles abound ; or, which ims, collect the scattered rays of spiritual would have been worse than ignorance, un light into a focus ; and blend the whole into inspired men, fanatics, or impostors, wonld one complete body. have attached to the Gospel their glosses, The Epistles, therefore, are an estimable conceits, errors, and misinterpretations. appendix to the Evangelists. The memoir, We should have been turned over for in which contains the actions of the Apostles, formation to some of those spurious gospels. the work of an Evangelist also, stands beand more than doubtful epistles, of which tween these two portions of the New Testamention is made in the early part of eccle ment. Thus, no chasm is left, and the imsiastical history. What attempts might have portant events which this connecting link sup
plies--particularly the descent of the Holy surely be to form the general judgment, from Spirit, the emblematic vision of Saint Peter, the whole tenor and collective spirit of their and the conversion and apostleship of Saint writings. Paul,-naturally prepare the mind for that But it has been argued with still greater full and complete commentary on the bistor. boldness, that Saint Paul was not a disciple. ical books, which the Epistles, more espe--Granted. But his miraculous conversion cially those of Saint Paul, present to us. entitled him to the confidence, wbich some
St. Paul was favoured with a particular men more willingly place in those who were. revelation, a personal disclosure to him of This event is substantially recorded by Saint the truths with which the other disciples Luke: and as if he foresaw the distrust were previously acquainted. This special which might hereafter arise, be has added to distinction placed Paul on a level with his bis first relation, in the 9th chapter of the precursors. Though, in point of fact, he Acts, two several reports of the same circunadded nothing to the Gospel revelation, and stance made by Saint Paul bimself, first to in point of doctrine he only gave a larger the Jews, and afterwards to Festus and exposition of truths previously communica- Agrippa. As Luke has recorded this as. ted, of duties already enjoined, yet here was tonishing fact three several times, we are not the warrant of his teaching, the broad seal of left to depend for its truth entirely on Saint his apostleship. And unless we fall into the Paul's own frequent allusions to it. gross error of insisting that the Epistles in Much suspicion of this great Apostle is general would not equally be given by in- avowedly grounded on the remark of Saint spiration with other parts of the New Testa- Peter, who, in adverting to his beloved ment, I see not how any can withhold, from brother Paul,' observes, that 'in bis Episthe Epistles of St. Paul in particular, that tles are some things hard to be understood, reverence which they profess to entertain for which they who are unstable and unlearned, the entire letter of revelation.
wrest to their own destruction' Here the It is a hardship to which all writers on sub- critic would desire to stop, or rather to gar. jects exclusively religious are liable, that if, ble the sentence which adds, as they do also while they are warmly pressing some great the other Scriptures ;' thus casting the ac. and important point, they omit, at the same cusation, not upon Saint Paul or the other time, to urge some other point of great mo- Scriptures,' but upon the misinterpreters of ment also, which they equally believe, but both. But Saint Peter farther includes in which they cannot in that connexion intro- the same passage, that . Paul accounts the duce without breaking in on their immediate long-suffering of God to be salvation, acrortrain of argument, thev are accused of re- ding to the wisdom given him.' It is appajecting what they are obliged to overlook, rent, therefore, that though there may be though in its proper place they have repeat more difficulty, there is not more danger in edly insisted upon that very truth; nay, Saint Paul's Epistles, than in the rest of the though the whole tendency of their writings Sacred Volume Let us also observe wliat shows their equal faith in the doctrine they is the character of these subverters of truth, are said to have neglected. To this disin---the unstable' in principle and 'unlearned genuous treatment, amongst other more seri- in doctrine. If, then, you feel yourself in ous attacks upon his character, no author danger of being misled, in which of these has been more obnoxious than the Apostle classes will you desire to enrol your game? Paul. It has been often intimated, that in But it is worthy of observation, that, in this dwelling on the efficacy of the death of supposed censure of Saint Peter, we have in Christ, he has not urged with sufficient fre- reality a most valuable testimony, not only quency and energy the importance of Chris- to the excellence, but also to the inspiration tian practice. He seems himself to have of Saint Paul's writings; for he not oply foreseen the probability of this reproach, and ascribes their composition to the wisdom has accordingly provided against the conse- given unto him, but puts them on a par with quence that would be drawn from his posi- the other Scriptures,-a double corroborations, if taken separately. It would be an tion of their Divine character. endless task to cite the passages in which he This passage of St. Peter, then, is so far is continually defending his doctrine against from impugning the character of Paul to these anticipated misrepresentations. Among Divine Inspiration, that we have here the other modes of refutation, he sometimes fact itself established upon the authority of a states these false charges in the way of inter- favourite disciple and companion of Jesus. rogatories :. .Do we make void the law To invalidate such a testimony would be no through faith ?' And not contunted with the less than to shake the pillars of revelation. solemn negative, God forbid !” he adds a Besides, as an eminent divine has observed positive affirmative to the contrary; · Yea" if Saint Paul had been only a good man we establish the law.? In a similar manner writing under that general assistance of the he is beforehand with bis censors in denying Spirit common to good men, it would be as the expected charge.—Shall we continue cribing far too much to his compositions to in sin that grace may abound ?' and he ob- suppose that the misunderstanding them tests the same Almighty pame to his oppo could effect the destruclion of the reader." site practice. Readers, of different views, Saint Peter says only, that some things! are without ceasing, on the watch to take are difficult; but are there pot difficulties in advantage of all the epistolary writers in every part of Divine revelation, in all the this respect, while the fair method would operations of God, in all the dispensations of