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is by no means equal; because it will neceffarily happen, that he will have a better opportunity of procuring authentic information concerning some of them than others. For this reason, the history of the infancy and childhood of Christ cannot be said to be as unexceptionable as the history of his most important miracles; and unless these leading facts be disproved, the religion of Jesus Christ ítands unthaken.
As I think this consideration of some consequence to the evidence of christianity, I shall exemplify any meaning, by referring my reader to the history of the wife men; who are said to have come froin the East, in order to pay their respects to the nervborn Jesus, directed by a miraculous light, in the form of a star, and also to the history of the death and 'resurrection of Christ. Both these histories are related by the fame Evangelist, Matthew; but the evidence of their truth is certainly very different, though both of them may be strictly true. The former of them is related by Matthew only, who does not say that he could atteft it
from his own knowledge, or so much as intinate that he was an eye-witness to any part of the transaction; so that it is probable, that he had it from the report of others, and of how many others, perhaps in succession, we cannot tell.
On the other hand, the history of the death and resurrection of Christ is related by three other Evangelists, as well as by Matthew himself; and from the circumstances of the facts, it appears that they must have been known to all the disciples of Christ, and to almost the whole body of the Jewish nation; and, moreover, a great number of incontestable miracles were wrought by all the apoities, and other primitive Christians, expressly in conirmation of the power and authority which was conferred upon Christ, and evidenced his resurrection. When, therefore, the evidence for the history of the wise mon is so very small in comparison of the evidence for the history of the death and resurrection of Christ, the foriner may be given up (though it is by no means neces
fary to do it) without in the least invalidating the evidence of the other.
When this manifest difference in point of evidence, with respect to facts related by the fame Evangelists, shall be sufficiently attended to, our faith in the great and leading facts in the history of Christ, from whence we are led to believe him to be a teacher sent from God, and to expect his coming to judge the world, and to give to every man according to his works, will stand much firmer, and will not be liable · to be shaken by the exceptions which un
believers are apt to make-to some inconfiderable circumstances in the history of the Old or New Testament, the credibility of which is, in reality, of no moment whatever to the proper evidence of the Jewish and christian revelations,
Christian divines having maintained the absolute inspiration of every word of the canonical books of scripture, has been attended with very bad consequences, by laying the system of revelation open to so many
insignificant, insignificant, but plausible objections; and this kind of inspiration is as needless, as it is impoflible to be maintained. Besides, the inspiration of the original writers would have answered no end, unless every tranfcriber, and every translator of the books of scripture had been inspired also; because a failure of inspiration in either of these cases, would still have been a source of error and mistake. Small errors, and mistakes of various kinds, are unavoidable in all writings; but fince they are of no material confequence, there was no reason for guarding against them, even in the first instance.
Let us, therefore, read the canonical books of scripture without expecting to find them perfectly unexceptionable in all the minutiæ of things. Let us consider them as the productions of honest and faithful men, well informed concerning all the great things of which they write, but not equally informed with respect to every punctilio they mention. Let us consider the great truths which they deliver, as from God, to be divine, and worthy of our highest regard; but when
they argue and reason, either from facts, or revealed doctrines, advancing opinions which are plainly their own, and for which they do not pretend to have the authority of revelation, let us consider them as the reasonings and opinions of men in their situation, and with their means of information, which were in general very ample and sufficient, but still left them fallible, and treat them accordingly. St. Paul says expressly, that some of the things which he advanced were not from the Lord, but from himself only; and in other cases the nature of the things will help us to distinguish between them.
Many of the objections which have been made to revelation, have arisen from their ignorance of the manners and customs of the Jews, and other Asiatic nations; and others from an ignorance of the climate and geography of the country; but as the antient manners and customs of the East have continued, with little or no change, to the prefent times, the travels which have of late been made into Judea, and the neighbouring countries, have been the means of bringing
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