Page images

meant to deliver, in order of time, a regular and complete account of all the things of importance, which the perfon, who is the fubject of their history, did or faid; but only, out of many fimilar ones, to give fuch paffages, or fuch actions and discourses, as offered themselves more immediately to their at tention, came in the way of their enquiries, occurred to their recollection, or were fuggested by their particular design at the time of writing.

This particular defign may appear fometimes, but not always, nor often. Thus I think that the particular defign which St, Matthew had in view whilft he was writing the history of the refurection, was to attest the faithful performance of Chrift's promise to his disciples to go before them into Galilee; because he alone, except Mark, who feems to have taken it from him, has recorded this promife, and he alone has confined his narrative to that fingle appearance to the difciples which fulfilled it. It was the preconcerted, the great and most public manifeftation


festation of our Lord's perfon. It was the thing which dwelt upon St. Matthew's mind, and he adapted his narrative to it. But, that there is nothing in St. Matthew's language, which negatives other appearances, or which imports that this his appearance to his disciples in Galilee, in pursuance of his promife, was his firft or only appearance, is made pretty evident by St. Mark's Gospel, which uses the fame terms concerning the appearance in Galilee as St. Matthew ufes, yet itself records two other appearances prior to this: "Go your way, tell his difciples and Peter, that he goeth before you into Galilee, then shall ye fee him as he said unto you." (xvi. 7.) We might be apt to infer from these words, that this was the first time they were to see him; at least, we might infer it, with as much reason as we draw the inference from the fame words in Matthew: yet the hiftorian himself did not perceive that he was leading his readers to any fuch conclufion; for, in the twelfth and two following verfes of this chapter, he informs us of two appearances, which, by comparing U 4


the order of events, are fhewn to have been prior to the appearance in Galilee. "He appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country; and they went and told it unto the refidue, neither believed they them: afterwards he appeared unto the eleven, as they fat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief, because they believed not them that had seen him after he was rifen.'

Probably the fame obfervation, concerning the particular defign which guided the hiftorian, may be of use in comparing many other paffages of the gospels,


[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


Erroneous Opinions imputed to the

[ocr errors]


Species of candour which is fhewn towards every other book, is sometimes refufed to the Scriptures; and that is, the placing of a distinction between judgement and testimony. We do not ufually question the credit of a writer, by reafon of any opinion he may have delivered upon fubjects unconnected with his evidence; and even upon fubjects connected with his account, or mixed with it in the fame difcourfe or writing, we naturally feparate facts from opinions, teftimony from obfervation, narrative from argument.

To apply this equitable confideration to the Chriftian records, much controversy and much objection has been raised concerning


the quotations of the Old Testament found in the New; fome of which quotations, it is faid, are applied in a sense, and to events, apparently different from that which they bear, and from those to which they belong, in the original. It is probable to my apprehenfion, that many of thofe quotations were intended by the writers of the New Teftament as nothing more than accommodations. They quoted paffages of their fcripture, which fuited, and fell in with, the occafion before them, without always undertaking to affert, that the occafion was in the view of the author of the words. Such accommodations of paffages from old authors, from books especially which are in every one's hands, are common with writers of all coun tries; but in none, perhaps, were more to be expected, than in the writings of the Jews, whose literature was almost entirely confined to their scriptures. Those prophecies which are alledged with more folemnity, and which are accompanied with a precife declaration, that they originally respected the event then related, are, I think, truly alledged. But


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »