Page images
PDF
EPUB

suppose that none but disciples were present. They could have represented in one 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 up 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.

Jesus, could not but afford a handle to cavil and objection. But truth, like honesty, neglects appearances. The same observation, perhaps, holds concerning the apostasy of Judas *

*.

ور

John, vi. 66.

6 From that time, many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.”

Was it the part of a writer, who dealt in suppression and disguise, to put down this anecdote?

upon

* I had once placed amongst these examples of fair concession, the remarkable words of Saint Matthew, in his account of Christ's appearance upon the Galilean mountain : “ And when they saw him, they worshipped him ; but some do ed*.” I have since, however, been convinced by what is observed concerning this passage in Dr. Townshend's discourse

+ the resurrection, that the transaction, as related by Saint Matthew, was really this: “Christ appeared first at a distance; the greater part of the company, ment they saw him, worshipped, but some, as yet, i. e. upon this first distant view of his person, doubted; whereupon Christ came up I to them, and spake to them," &c.: that the doubt, therefore, was a doubt only at first, for a moment, and upon his being seen at a distance, and was afterwards dispelled by his nearer approach, and by his entering into conversation with them.

the mo

1

• * Chap. xxviii. 17.

of Page 177. 1 Saint Matthew's words are, Και προσελθων ο Ιησους, ελάλησεν αυτοις. This intimates, that, when he first appeared, it was at a distance, at least from many of the spectators. Ib. p. 197.

Or this, which Matthew has preserved · (xiii. 58.)? “ He did not many mighty

works there, because of their unbelief.”

[ocr errors]

Again, in the same evangelist(v. 17, 18): “ Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil: for, verily, I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot, or one tittle, shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” At the time the Gospels were written, the apparent tendency of Christ's mission was to diminish the authority of the Mosaic code, and it was so considered by the Jews themselves. It is very improbable, therefore, that, without the constraint of truth, Matthew should have ascribed a saying to Christ, which, primo intuitu, militated with the judgement of the age in which his Gospel was written. Marcion thought this text so objectionable, that he altered the words, so as to invert the sense

*

66

Once more (Acts, xxv. 19.): “ They brought none accusation against him, of such things, as I supposed, but had certain questions against him of their own superstition, and of one Jesus which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive.” Nothing could be more in the character of a Roman governor than these words. But that is not precisely the point I am concerned with. A mere panegyrist, or a dishonest narrator, would not have represented his cause, or have made a great magistrate represent it, in this manner, i. e. in-terms not a little disparaging, and bespeaking, on his part, much unconcern and indifference about the matter. The same observation may be repeated of the speech, which is ascribed to Gallio (Acts, xviii. 15.); “ If it be a question of words and names, and of your law, look ye to it; for I will be no judge of such matters.”

* Lardner, Cred. vol. xv. p. 422.

Lastly, where do we discern a stronger mark of candour, or less disposition to extol and magnify, than in the conclusion of the same history? in which the evangelist, after relating that Paul, on his first arrival at Rome, preached to the Jews from morning until evening, adds; “ And some be

« PreviousContinue »