« السابقةمتابعة »
derived that “perfect understanding of all things from the very first,” by which they were so well prepared for the office of evangelists : see Luke i, 1–4.
II. In the Gospels we possess, in the second place, the harmonious testimony of four cotemporary, yet independent, bistorians to the same facts. Numerous indeed are the circumstances connected with the birth, life, discourses, death, and resurrection, of Jesus, of which we find corresponding details in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The greater part of these circumstances are also narrated by Mark; and John, who wrote some time after the other evangelists, while he furnishes the addition of some facts and of many large discourses, explicitly confirms the general history, as well as many of the minor particulars, related by his predecessors. Between the Gospel of John and the three preceding Gospels, there may, moreover, be observed a variety of incidental accordances, which afford a conclusive evidence of the veracity of the respective historians. To mention a single example, among the many instances so ably stated by Paley ; the first three evangelists, in describing our Lord's prayer and agony in the garden, advert to his earnest supplication, that “this cup might pass” from him; and Matthew adds his words, “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done;" ch. xxvi, 42. John is silent on this point of the history; but in describing the scene which immediately followed, he relates in perfect, though apparently undesigned, analogy with the account given by the other evangelists of the preceding circumstances, that, when Peter would have defended Jesus on the approach of his enemies, our Lord (whose mind must have continued to dwell on the same pious sentiment) expressed himself as follows: “Put up thy sword into the sheath : the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it ?" ch. xviii, 11 : see Paley's Ev. vol, ii, ch. 4.
But, accordant and harmonious as are the testimonies borne by the four evangelists to the facts of the Gospel history, they proceed from separate and independent witnesses, as is satisfactorily evinced by the apparent differences which exist among their several narrations of certain minor circumstances. These differences are just such as would naturally arise in the true relations made by four credible persons, of the same series of facts ; and, while they may be generally accounted for, on the principle that the different parts of the same thing were impressed with different degrees of force on the respective witnesses—that some things were uppermost in the mind of one witness, and others in that of another they afford an in
controvertible evidence that the narrators did not borrow their statements from one another, but that every one told his tale according to his own apprehension of the circumstances which he related. Thus, then, is the authenticity of the four Gospel histories manifested by a striking, natural, and characteristic, variety, in the midst of a very comprehensive harmony.
I have already found occasion to notice, as affording an evidence of the genuineness of the Epistles of Paul, and of the book of Acts, the coincidences subsisting between the history and the letters. These coincidences are largely unfolded by Paley, in his admirable work, entitled the lloræ Pauli
They are numerous and diversified, and, however latent to the superficial reader, when once observed, are singularly pertinent and striking. It may now be remarked that this obviously undesigned, yet curious and perfect, adaptation between these respective parts of the New Testament, affords a conclusive evidence, not only of the genuineness of those writings, but of the fidelity of that sacred historian, who has detailed with so much vigour and simplicity the proceedings of the infant church of Christ, and more particularly the life and travels of the apostle Paul.*
* Between the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of Paul there subsists a number of coincidences, of a marked and obvious character. Those, however, which form the principal subject of the Horu Paulinæ are, in general, so latent and oblique, that they could not have been designed, and are to be regarded as the natural consequence, and therefore, the sure indications, of the genuineness and independence of these writings, and of the truth of the statements which they contain. The following examples will elucidate my meaning :
In the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, the apostle thus expresses himself: "We are come as far as you also in preaching the Gospel of Christ:.....having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you, according to our rule, abundantly to preach the Gospel in the regions beyond you :" x, 14–16. In this passage it is plainly, yet very indirectly, indicated, that Corinth was the extremity of the apostle's European travels hitherto. Now, this oblique hint, arising so naturally in the course of Paul's epistolary communication with the Corinthians, is in perfect accordance with the history contained in the Acts of the Apostles, of the only journey which he had made into Europe, previously to the writing of this Epistle : for, in describing that journey, the author of the Acts informs us that, after passing through Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, and Athens, the apostle finally arrived at Corinth, where he stopped ; and from whence, after a residence of a year and a half, he sailed back into Syria : see Acts, xvi, xvii, xviii.
In the ninth chapter of the Acts we read, that Paul was suddenly converted, when on his way to Damascus. The whole description must be familiar to the reader, and need not here be quoted. Now, in
III. Although, from the harmony of the historians of the New Testament, considered in connexion with their distinctness and independence, we derive one principal evidence of their veracity, yet, if we take up the four Gospels and the
his Epistle to the Galatians, we find him thus adverting to this remarkable event: “When it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood, neither went I up to Jerusalem, to them that were apostles before me ; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus :" i, 15–17. “In this quotation from the Epistle,” says Paley, “ I desire it to be remarked, how incidentally it appears, that the affair passed at Damascus. In what may be called the direct part of the account, no mention is made of the place of his conversion at all: a casual expression at the end, and an expression brought in for a different purpose, alone fixes it to have been at Damascus : * I returned again to Damascus.' Nothing can be more like simplicity and undesignedness than this :" Hor. Paul. p. 147.
In Acts xv, 36-41, we read of a dispute which arose between Paul and Barnabas, in consequence of the determination of the latter (contrary to the desire and judgment of his companion) "to take with them John, whose surname was Mark.” Nothing is said by Paul, in his Epistles, on this subject; but, in Col. iv, 10, we are indirectly informed of a circumstance, which is evidently explanatory of the conduct of Barnabas-namely, that Mark was one of his near relatives. “ Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, saluteth you, and Marcus sister's son to Barnabas.”
In Acts xvi, 1, we are told that Paul“came to Derbe and Lystra, and behold a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman which was a Jewess and believed; but his father was a Greek.” In 2 Tim. i, 5, the apostle writes to Timothy, thus: “Greatly desiring to see thee...... when I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.” “Here,” remarks our author, “ we have a fair unforced example of coincidence. In the history, Timothy was the son of a jewess that believed :' in the Epistle, St. Paul applauds the faith which dwelt in his mother Eunice: Hor. Paul. p. 309.
Again, the fact, that the mother of Timothy was “a Jewess" is virtually, though in a manner evidently undesigned, indicated by the apostle, when he says to Timothy,“ from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures :" 2 Tim. iii, 15. By the “ Holy Scriptures," the apostle undoubtedly intended the Old Testament; and in what manner could Timothy have known, " from a child," the Jewish Scriptures, had he not been born on one side, or on both, of Jewish parentage?
Perhaps,” observes Paley, "he was not less likely to be carefully instructed in them, for that his mother alone professed that religion." Hor. Paul. p. 311.
On some similar examples of concurrence, Paley, in another passage of his work, reasons as follows: 6 To us who have been long conversant in the Christian history, as contained in the Acts of the Apostles, these points (mentioned in the epistles) are obvious and familiar; nor do we
book of Acts, and consider them singly, we shall find that they severally contain a powerful internal evidence of truth. The various narrations presented to us in those books are distinguished by a circumstantiality and naturalness wbich the most practised writer of fiction would be at a loss to imitate, and which the comparatively illiterate authors of the New Testament must have been utterly incapable of assuming, in the propagation of falsehood. Let the candid and unbiassed inquirer carefully peruse the history of the cure of the palsied man, in Matt. ix; of the Baptist's communication with Jesus, in Matt. xi ; of Peter's walking on the sea, in Matt. xiv ; of the conversation between Jesus and the rich young man, in Mark x; of Simeon and Anna, and of the early life of Jesus, in Luke ii; of the sinful woman in the house of Simon, in Luke vii ; of Martha and Mary in Luke x; of Zacchæus, in Luke xix; of the man born blind, in John ix ; of the death and raising of Lazarus, in John xi ; of the first meeting of the early church, in Acts i; of the cure of the lame man in the temple by Peter and John, and of their subsequent arraignment before the magistrates, in Acts iii and iv; of the scene between Peter and Cornelius, in Acts x; of the proceedings of Paul at Athens, in Acts xvii ; of his interview with the elders of the Ephesian church, in Acts xx ; of the voyage of that apostle to Rome, in Acts xxvii and xxviii :-and he will find in these several narratives, as well as in a multitude of others not here noticed, the simple and strong, yet almost inimitable, characteristics of unadorned reality.
GENERAL TRUTH OF TIIE HISTORY.
readily apprehend any greater difficulty in making them appear in a letter purporting to have been written by St. Paul, than there is in introducing them into a modern sermon. But, to judge correctly of the argument before us, we must discharge this knowledge from our thoughts. We must propose to ourselves the situation of an author, who sat down to the writing of the epistle without having seen the history; and, then, the concurrences we have deduced will be deemed of importance. They will at least be taken for separate confirmations of the several facts, and not only of these particular facts, BUT, OF THE
“ For, what is the rule with respect to corroborative testimony which prevails in courts of Justice, and which prevails only because experience has proved that it is a useful guide to truth? A principal witness in a cause delivers his account: his narrative, in certain parts of it, is confirmed by witnesses who are called afterwards. The credit derived from their testimony belongs not only to the particular circumstances in which the auxiliary witnesses agree with the principal witness, but in some measure to the whole of his evidence; because it is improbable that accident or fiction should draw a line which touched upon truth in so many points :" Hor. Paul. pp. 151, 152.
The internal evidences of truth to be observed in the several historical books of the New Testament, as they are singly con
sidered, are however by no means confined to the circum*stantiality and naturalness of the narrative. The fidelity of
the historians is, if possible yet more plainly established by the
evident honesty and candour with which they tell their tale, the and promulgate their religion. Not a single instance can be
discovered, in the works of these writers, of forced attempts to complete or bolster up a particular system-of apologies for apparent difficulties-of railing against their enemies, or of commendation of themselves. On the other hand, they bring
forward with the utmost simplicity, and with that total absence a of reserve which nothing but integrity can produce, the hui miliating circumstances of their Divine Master's parentage,
birth, life, and death-and the various moral deficiencies—the fearfulness, impatience, unbelief, and foolish pridewhich were, on particular occasions, so remarkable in their own conduct.
IV. Closely connected with the points of evidence mentioned in the two last sections, are the consentaneous traits of character, which mark the history, given in the New Testament, of several individuals. What, for instance, can be in more perfect accordance than the behaviour of Martha and Mary, as described by Luke, with their conduct on other occasions, as represented by John ? see Luke x, 33—42 ; John xi, xü.
The very singular character of the zealous and fervent, yet fearful, Peter, displays itself in various parts of the Gospel history with all the consistency of truth. In him, who walked forth on the surface of the stormy sea to meet his Lord, and then, from want of courage and faith, sank in the waves, how plainly do we recognize the individual who so rashly made use of the sword in defence of Jesus, and immediately afterwards
forsook him and fled; who was the foremost in a profession of d
belief in the Son of God, and in the hour of personal danger denied him thrice; who was the first to promulgate the Gospel to the Gentiles, and was afterwards afraid to eat with them, in the presence of the Jews !
In the once zealous and determined advocate of the Jewish law, and eager prosecutor of the unoffending Nazarenes, we cannot fail to trace the characteristic temperament of that great apostle who, under the transforming power of divine grace, became the most ardent, resolute, and indefatigable, of the servants of Christ.
But, of all the characters thus naturally depicted in the New