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Christ is represented as purging the temple on the day that he arrived at Jerusalem, and that in another he is not said to haye done it till the day fellowing (and unbelievers do not pretend to have found any mistakes of more consequence than these) how do they invalidate the truth of the general history? In reality, all such inconsistencies as these are so far from making it probable that the whole story is a fiction, that, according to the most eftablished methods of estimating the value of tefimony, they give the greater air of truth to every particular of importance, in which they all agree. We see, in fact, that true history has always been written in the same manner, and without particu!ar contrivance and combination, and consequently without a very strong suspicion of falsehood, histories of the same period, and the same transactions, could not be written otherwise.
Admitting, therefore, that the Evangelists were misinformed with respect to a variety of incidental circumstances, or even that they overlooked, or did not sufficiently attend to, fome of such particulars above-mentioned as might have fallen under their own observation, are these things of such a nature, as to dispose any person to call in question the reality of the principal miracles, or their hirtory of the death and resurrection of Christ? And without this, the proper evidence of christianity is not in the least affected ; because, if these important
facts be true, we have still abundant reason to believe, that Chrift will come again to raise the dead, and judge the world, which is the great object and end of our chriftian faith.
The evidence for the truth of all the facts which are related by the same hiftorian is by no means equal; because it will necessarily happen, that he will have a better opportunity of procuring authentic information concerning some of them than others. For this reason, the history of the infancy
and childhood of Christ cannot be said to be as unexceptionable as the history of his most important miracles; and unless these leading facts be disproved, the religion of Jesus Christ stands unMaken,
As I think this confideration of some consequence to the evidence of christianity, I shall exemplify my meaning, by referring my reader to the history of the wise men, who are said to have come from the East, in order to pay their respects to the newborn Jefus, directed by a miraculous light, in the form of a ftar, and also to the history of the death and refurrection of Christ. Both these histories are related by the same Evangelist, Matthew; but the evidence of their truth is certainly very different, though both of them may be strictly true. The former of them is related by Matthew only, who does not say that he could attest from his own knowledge, or so much as intimate that he
was an eye-witness to any part of the transaction; so that it is probable, that he had it from the report of others, and of how many others, perhaps, in succesion, we cannot teil.
On the other hand, the history of the death and resurrection of Christ is related by three other Evangelists, as well as by Matthew himself; and from the circumstances of the facts, it appears that they must have been known to all the disciples of Christ, and to almost the whole body of the Jewish nation; and, moreover, a great number of inconteftable miracles were wrought by all the apostles, and other primitive Chriftians, expressly in confirmation of the power and authority which was cono ferred upon Christ, and evidenced his resurrection. When, therefore, the evidence for the history of the wise men is so very small in comparison of the evidence for the history of the death and resurrection of Christ, the former may be given up (though it is by no means necessary to do it) without in the least invalidating the evidence of the other.
When this manifest difference in point of evidence, with respect to facts related by the same Evangelists, shall be sufficiently attended to, our faith in the great and leading facts in the history of Christ, from whence we are led to believe him to be a teacher sent from God, and to expect his coming to judge the world, and to give to every man according to his works, will stand much former, and will not be liable to be shaken by the exceptions which unbelievers are apt to make to some inconsiderable circumstances in the history of the Old or New Testament, the credibility of which is, in reality, of no moment whatever to the proper evidence of the Jewish and christian revelations.
Christian divines having maintained the absolute inspiration of every word of the canonical books of scripture, has been attended with very bad consequences, by laying the system of revelation open to so many insignificant, but plausible objections; and this kind of inspiration is as needless, as it is impossible to be maintained. Besides, the inspiration of the original writers would have anfwered no end, unless every tranfcriber, and every translator of the books of scripture had been inspired also; because a failure of inspiration in either of these cases, would still have been a source of error and mistake. Small errors, and mistakes of various kinds, are unavoidable in all writings; but since they are of no material consequence, there was no reason for guarding against them, even in the firil instance.
Let-us, there are, read the canonical books of scripture without expecting to find them perfectly unexceptionable in all the minutiæ of things. Let us consider them as the productions of honest and faithful men, well informed concerning all the great things of which they write, but not equally
informed with respect to every punctílio they mention. Let us consider the great truths which they deliver, as from God, to be divine, and worthy of our highest regard; but when they argue and reason, either from facts or revealed doctrines, advancing opinions which are plainly their own, and for which they do not pretend to have the authority of revelation, let us consider them as the reasonings and opinions of men in their situation, and with their means of information, which were in general very ample and sufficient, but still left them fallible, and treat them accordingly. St. Paul says expressly, that some of the things which he advanced were not from the Lord, but from himself only ; and in other cases the nature of the things will help us to distinguish between them.
Many of the objections which have been made to revelation, have arisen from their ignorance of the manners and customs of the Jews, and other Asiatic nations; and others from an ignorance of the climate and geography of the country; but as the antient manners and customs of the East have continued, with little or no change, to the present times, the travels which have of late been made into Judea, and the neighbouring countries, have been the means of bringing us better acquainted with them, and of removing the objections. Many happy illustrations of passages of scripture from travels into the East may be found in an excellent work, in