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hundreds of particulars, that had escaped the discernment of all ordinary readers, and that has only been evolved into manifestation by a process of thorough sifting, on the part of those who have been at the pains laboriously to track, and to crossexamine, and to confront the various parts and passages of the record with each other—as nothing possibly can account for, but that the whole narrative or composition has a ground work of truth for its subject-matter. In the present chapter we shall verify this remark by one or two instances, taken from that marvellous work the Horæ Paulinæ of Dr. Paley. But again exceptions have been made to scripture on the ground of its discrepancies, not with itself alone, but with the informations of other and contemporary writers. These have led to a distinct walk of inquiry from the former; and the defenders of revelation have in general reconciled the alleged contradictions. But they have not stopped there. They have discovered, we mean Lardner and his followers, such a profusion of coincidences, and these too of so incidental a character, between the Bible and other writings-such an impregnation of historical truth, or what may be termed the truth of the times, as never could have been amalgamated by the skill of any fabricator, with a work either of fictitious design or that was the production of a later age. In like manner, the alleged immoralities of scripture have led to the triumphant exhibition of the moral, which some would place on a level with the miraculous argument for the truth of Christianity. But i no walk of evidence, we think, has the observat
and satisfy the judgment; there is a light struck out between the Bible on the one hand, and the conscience on the other, which radiates, not a fanatic gleam, but a clear and rational evidence on the soul—and which, however disowned or perhaps derided in the schools of literature, is a powerful instrument of discovery notwithstanding, and would be enough of itself to guide the path whether of the peasant or of the philosopher to heaven.
6. At present we begin with an evidence which is strictly and wholly internal, founded on the agreements between scripture and scripture—such agreements as no impostor would have devised, and which therefore can only be accounted for by the general truth and authenticity of the whole.
The initial step, in the track of this investigation, is, to deliver the Bible from the charge of its seeming contradictions—for even at first sight, and on the most slight and superficial view, appearances of this sort do stand palpably forth on the face of the record—such therefore as a superficial infidelity would be the most ready to seize upon. Now every semblance of this nature, if satisfactorily done away or disposed of on a nearer and stricter examination, forms a distinct argument in favour of the revelation-proving, as it does, such an absence of care and contrivance as could only proceed from the consciousness of truth on the part of the narrator-else he would not have exposed himself to a discredit, which every author, who tries to palm a fabrication upon the world, would labour most studiously to avoid. When the alleged discrepancy obtains between different writers in
scripture, as the evangelists of the New Testamentthe legitimate inference on the adjustment of such discrepancy is, that there could be no collision between them; and that their testimonies therefore are independent of each other. This whole subject has been investigated with much detail, and been most ably and elaborately argued by the defenders of Christianity.* It will be found, that, with very few exceptions, these apparent contradictions all admit of an actual solution; and the remaining ones, of a solution which may be termed hypothetical—that is a solution which would perfectly account for the seeming discrepancy, on certain given suppositions not unlikely in themselves, though not expressly warranted by any informations that we actually possess. Even here the principle which we have elsewhere laboured to demonstrate will be found of avail—we mean the use of an hypothesis in controversial argument, not as being competent to the office of establishing a proof, but altogether competent to the office of repelling an objection. If the supposition in question remove the discrepancy, and if, for aught we know, the supposition may be true or is not incredible-then, although not of strength enough to warrant its own absolute certainty, it may at least be of strength enough to keep an objection at abeyance, so that it shall not be suffered, when thus capable of being disposed of, to overset a religion having such weight and variety of positive evidence in its favour. It reconciles us all the more to this conclusion on the subject of these remaining difficulties, that the labours of criticism are constantly diminishing the number of them--the affirmation of Michaelis respecting the alleged misquotations of the Old Testament in the New, which form one species of apparent inconsistency, holding true of them all.“ Having found,” he says, “ by actual experience and a more minute investigation of the subject, that many passages, which other critics as well as myself had taken for false quotations, were yet properly cited by the Apostles, I trust that future critics will be able to solve the doubts in the few examples that remain."* It is thus that the hypothetical solutions are at length converted into actual ones; and, on the strength of both, such a vindication has been effected, as not merely to neutralize the objection, but to substantiate a strong affirmative proof in favour of the artless honesty of writers, who evidently practised no elaboration for the purpose of sustaining a verisimilitude in the absence of verity, or giving an aspect of consistency to imposture.
* We have a pretty full list of these contradictions in Horne's “ Introduction to the Holy Scriptures.” Ed. 7th, Vol. ii. Part II. Book II. ch. vii. sect. vi.with an account of the manner in which they are reconciled.
7. But the argument thus obtained from the adjustment of these seeming contradictions and differences, is distinct from the argument on which we are now to insist, and which is obtained from the discovery that has been made, in this same line of investigation, of a mighty host of coincidences before unnoticed and unknown. For many cen
Michaelis' Introduction by Marsh. E!. 4th, Vol. i. p. 210.
turies the christian world had not been aware of their existence; because placed as it were in latent depths beneath the reach of cursory or superficial observation, whence they have at length been extracted and exposed to view by the diligence of critics and collators. We have already referred to the happiest specimen of this in the Horæ Paulinæ of Dr. Paley, who not only, as if by the use of a probing instrument in most skilful hands, has found his way to these hidden treasures; but gathered and arranged them into a cabinet of truly precious things, for the entertainment and solid instruction of his readers. There are only two hypotheses, which can account for the perfect correspondence that he exhibits, between remote informations, and often fragments of information, which he has brought together from the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of Paul--and so as to make out of them, in each instance, one entire and consistent fact or passage in the history of the Apostle. Either it must have been a true history, or else a most artful and laborious fabrication. It must have had a real groundwork in a series of actual occurrences; or it must have been the sus.. tained and skilful invention of one, who so pieced and adjusted one part to another, as to present us with that immense and ever-increasing number of circumstantial agreements, which are now set forth in open manifestation to the general eye. Their exceeding minuteness and variety, altogether refute the imagination that they could have happened at random; and this shuts us up to one or other of the two hypotheses—an authentic story; or a most