« AnteriorContinuar »
tivity, 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 Jehoshaphat, 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.
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 being further exposed to just contempt and abhorrence — Impure indeed must • that man's imagination be, who can discover any obscenity in the angel's declaration to Mary, • “ The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the ' power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” '1
However men have differed in respect to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost has hitherto been supposed to be, either a divine person, according to the Trinitarian doctrine; or a created spirit of supra-angelic 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, on this occa
sion, 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 all the natural descendents 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. makes the most he can of the old objection against the evangelists, taken from the disagreement of their different narratives with each other: but he has failed of substantiating any material charge against them. Had the four evangelists recorded precisely the same miracles, discourses, and events, with the very same circumstances, the charge of forgery would have been more plausible; it might have been said, « These men have combined to deceive us : had
not this been the case, there would have been some variations in the narrative.' Four historians of England or France, of China or Japan, if they did not write in concert, even when recording real facts would certainly state them with some difference of circumstance: many things in one history would be recorded which were not mentioned in the other; and he who wrote last,
supposing he had seen and approved what his predecessors had written, would from his own information add such things as they had omitted : and, if he did not contradict the preceding histories, he would so far be considered as admitting the truth of them. This seems precisely the case of the four evangelists; and the silence of John, who wrote last, effectually confirms his judgment concerning the truth of the events which they recorded, and which he omitted.Industry, ingenuity, and malice, nay learning itself, have for ages been employed to prove the evangelists inconsistent with each other : but not a single instance in which they contradict each other has yet been discovered; while the circumstantial variations only prove that their narratives were original, not copied.
One thing however is fact, that these four writers, who are now spoken of so contemptuously, and with such gross scurrility, have, apparently without intending it, done what none else ever could do, by all their efforts. 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 all things what they ought to have been ; who always did that which was most proper, and in the best manner imaginable ;
who never once deviated from the most perfect wisdom, purity, benevolence, meekness, humility, piety, zeal, patience, and fortitude ; who in no instance let one virtue or holy disposition trench upon another; but exercised 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 has baffled all others who have set themselves purposly to accomplish it.
Indeed that man seems to have a peculiarly vitiated taste in composition, who does 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 perfectly accords with the character of that bloody tyrant, given us by Josephus ; and it was not necessary that the succeeding evangelists should repeat it. John the 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 men called apostles, who appears to have been near the spot at the crucifixion.' Yet John tells us that he witnessed the whole scene, and received the orders of his dying Lord concerning his mother. Thomas also speaks as one who saw his Lord pierced with the nails and the spear.2 We may infer from these circumstances,'trivial as they
are,' that our author knows very little about the subject on which he writes; and numerous other instances might be adduced, if it were worth while. --Probably most, or all, of the apostles were present, though perhaps at a greater distance.
Peter denied his Lord with cursing and swearing ; that is he disclaimed all acquaintance with him : but he did not deny him to be the Messiah, the Son of the living God. How great soever his crime was, his ingenuous confession of it, and his subsequent labours and sufferings in the cause of Christ, sufficiently entitle him to credit in his testimony both to the crucifixion and resurrection : but his testimony is a small part of the evidence on which our faith is surely founded.
Different methods have been taken to reconcile “ the sixth hour,” mentioned by John, with the accounts of the time of our Lord's crucifixion as stated by the other evangelists : but, if it be allowed to be a trivial error in some transcriber, which might easily take place in a numeral letter, what doubt can that excite in a serious mind as to the authenticity of a narrative, attested in all its leading parts by four distinct historians? Impostors would have avoided such observable inaccuracies.3
John xix. 25-27; 35–37.
John xx. 25.
s P. ii. p. 71.