Page images

volved them. That this discourse was obfcure even at the time, is confeffed by the writer who has preferved it, when he tells us at the conclufion, that many of our Lord's difciples, when they had heard this, faid, "This is a hard faying, who can bear it ?"

Chrift's taking of a young child, and placing it in the midft of his contentious difciples (Mat. xviii. 2.), though as decifive a proof, as any could be, of the benig nity of his temper, and very expreffive of the character of the religion which he wished to inculcate, was not by any means an obvious thought. Nor am I acquainted with any thing in any ancient writing which resembles it.

The account of the inftitution of the Eucharift bears ftrong internal marks of genuinenefs. If it had been feigned, it would have been more full. It would have come nearer to the actual mode of celebrating the rite, as that mode obtained very early

early in Chriftian churches and it would have been more formal than it is. In the forged piece called the apoftolic conftitutions, the apostles are made to enjoin many parts of the ritual which was in ufe in the fecond and third centuries, with as much particularity as a modern rubric could have done. Whereas, in the history of the Lord's fupper, as we read it in St. Matthew's gofpel, there is not fo much as the command to repeat it. This, furely, looks like unde fignedness. I think also that the difficulty arifing from the conciseness of Chrift's expreffion, "This is my body," would have been avoided in a made-up ftory. I allow that the explication of these words, given by Proteftants, is fatisfactory; but it is deduced from a diligent comparison of the words in queftion with forms of expreffion ufed in fcripture, and efpecially by Chrift, upon other occafions. No writer would arbitrarily and unneceffarily have thus caft in his reader's way a difficulty, which, to fay the leaft, it required research and erudition to clear up.





Now it ought to be obferved, that the argument which is built upon these examples, extends both to the authenticity of the books and to the truth of the narrative: for it is improbable, that the forger of a hiftory in the name of another should have inferted fuch paffages into it: and it is improbable also, that the perfons whose names the books bear fhould have fabricated fuch paffages; or even have allowed them a place in their work, if they had not believed them to exprefs the truth.

The following obfervation, therefore, of Dr. Lardner, the moft candid of all advocates, and the moft cautious of all enquirers, feems to be well founded :-" Chriftians are induced to believe the writers of the gospel, by obferving the evidences of piety and probity that appear in their writings, in which there is no deceit or artifice, or cunning, or defign." "No remarks," as Dr. Beattie hath properly faid, "are thrown in to anticipate objections; nothing of that caution, which never fails to diftinguish the teftimony

teftimony of those who are conscious of impofture; no endeavour to reconcile the reader's mind to what may be extraordinary in the narrative."

I beg leave to cite alfo another author* who has well expreffed the reflection which the examples now brought forward were intended to fuggeft. "It doth not appear that ever it came into the mind of these writers, to confider how this or the other action would appear to mankind, or what objections might be raised upon them. But, without at all attending to this, they lay the facts before you, at no pains to think whether they would appear credible or not. If the reader will not believe their testimony, there is no help for it: they tell the truth, and attend to nothing elfe. Surely this looks like fincerity, and that they published nothing to the world but what they believed themselves.'

[merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

As no improper supplement to this chapter, I crave a place here for observing the extreme naturalness of fome of the things related in the New Teftament.

Mark ix. 24. Jefus faid unto him, "If thou canst believe, all things are poffible to him that believeth. And ftraightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief." The ftruggle in the father's heart, between folicitude for the preservation of his child, and a kind of involuntary diftruft of Christ's power to heal him, is here expreffed with an air of reality, which could hardly be counterfeited.

Again, (Mat. xxi. 9.) the eagerness of the people to introduce Chrift into Jerufalem, and their demand, a fhort time afterwards, of his crucifixion, when he did not turn out what they expected him to be, fo far from affording matter of objection, reprefents popular favour, in exact agreement



« PreviousContinue »