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The relative duties of husbands and wives, of parents and children, of masters and servants, of Christian teachers and their flocks, of governors
and their subjects, are set forth by the same writer*, not indeed with the copiousness, the detail, or the distinctness, of a moralist, who should, in these days, sit down to write chapters upon the subject, but with the leading rules and principles in each ; and, above all, with truth, and with authority..
Lastly, the whole volume of the New Testament is replete with piety; with, what were almost unknown to Heathen moralists, devotional virtues, the most profound veneration of the Deity, an habitual sense of his bounty and protection, a firm confidence in the final result of his councils and dispensations, a disposition to resort, upon all occasions, to his mercy, for the supply of human wants, for assistance in danger, for relief from pain, for the pardon of sin.
* Eph. v. 33. vi. 1. 5. 2 Cor. vi. 6, 7. Rom. xii.
The candour of the writers of the New Tes
I MAKE this candour to consist, in their putting down many passages, and noticing many circumstances, which no writer whatever was likely to have forged; and which no writer would have chosen to appear in his book, who had been careful to present
in the most unexceptionable form, or who had thought himself at liberty to carve and mould the particulars of that story, according to his choice, or according to his judgement of the effect.
A strong and well-known example of the fairness of the evangelists, offers itself in their account of Christ's resurrection, namely, in their unanimously stating, that, after he was risen, he appeared to his disciples
alone. I do not mean that they have used the exclusive word alone; but that all the instances which they have recorded of his appearance, are instances of
appearance to his disciples ; that their reasonings upon it, and allusions to it, are confined to this
supposition; and that, by one of them, Peter
“ Him God raised up the third day, and showed him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead *.” The most common understanding must have perceived, that the history of the resurrection would have come with more advantage, if they had related that Jesus appeared, after he was risen, to his foes as well as his friends, to the scribes and Pharisees, the Jewish council, and the Roman governor: or even if they had asserted the public appearance of Christ in general unqualified terms, without noticing, as they have done, the presence of his disciples on each occasion, and noticing it in such a manner as to lead their readers to suppose that none but disciples were present. They could have represented in one
is made to say,
* Acts, x. 40, 41.
. way as well as the other. And if their point had been, to have the religion believed, whether true or false ; if they had fabricated the story ab initio; or if they had been disposed either to have delivered their testimony as witnesses, or to have worked
their materials and information as historians, in such a manner as to render their narrative as specious and unobjectionable as they could; in a word, if they had thought of any thing but of the truth of the case, as they understood and believed it; they would, in their account of Christ's several
appearances after his resurrection, at least have omitted this restriction. At this distance of time, the account as we have it, is perhaps more credible than it would have been the other way; because this manifestation of the historians' candour, is of more advantage to their testimony, than the difference in the circumstances of the account would have been to the nature of the evidence. But this is an effect which the evangelists would not foresee: and I think that it was by no
means the case at the time when the books were composed.
Mr. Gibbon has argued for the genuineness of the Koran, from the confessions which it contains, to the apparent disadvantage of the Mahometan cause *. The same defence vindicates the genuineness of our Gospels, and without prejudice to the cause at all.
There are some other instances in which the evangelists honestly relate what, they must have perceived, would make against them.
Of this kind is John the Baptist's message, preserved by Saint Matthew (xi. 2.), and Saint Luke (vii. 18.): “ Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said unto him, Art thou he that should corne, or look we for another?" To confess, still more to state, that John the Baptist had his doubts concerning the character of
* Vol. ix. c, 50, note 96.