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Seeming Contradictions recouciled.
The following remarks on the discrepancies between the several Gospels, from the inimitable pen of Dr. Paley, may not improperly introduce this part of the work :
“I know not a more rash or unphilosophical conduct of the understanding than to reject the substance of a story, by reason of some diversity in the circumstances with which it is related. The usual character of human testimony is substantial truth under circumstantial variety. This is what the daily experience of courts of justice teaches. When accounts of transactions ome from the mouths of different witnesses, it is seldom that it is not possible to pick out apparent or real inconsistencies between them. These inconsistencies are studiously displayed by an adverse pleader, but oftentimes with little impression upon the minds of the judges; on the contrary, a close and minute agreement induces the suspicion of confederacy and fraud. When written histories touch upon the same scenes of action, the comparison almost always affords ground for a like reflection. Numerous, and sometimes important, variations present themselves; not seldom, also, absolute and final contradictions; yet neither one nor the other are deemed sufficient to shake the credibility of the main fact. The embassy of the Jews to deprecate the execution of Claudian's order to place his statue in their temple, Philo places in harvest, Josephus in seed-time; both contemporary writers. No reader is led by this inconsistency to doubt whether such an embassy was sent, or whether such an order was given. Our own history supplies examples of the same kind. In the account of the Marquis of Argyle's death, in the reign of Charles the Second, we have a very remarkable contradiction. Lord Clarendon relates that he was condemned to be hanged, which was performed the same day: on the contrary, Burnet, Woodrow, Heath, Echard, concur in stating that he was beheaded; and that he was condemned upon the Saturday, and executed upon the Monday. Was any reader of English history ever sceptic enough to raise from hence a question, whether the Marquis of Argyle was executed or not? "Yet this ought to be left in uncertainty, according to the principles upon which the Christian history has sometimes been attacked. 'Dr. Middleton contended, that the different hours of the day assigned to the crucifixion of Christ, by John and by the other evangelists, did not admit of the reconcilement which learned men had proposed; and then concludes the discussion with this hard remark :—We must be forced, with several of the critics, to leave the difficulty just as we found it, chargeable with all the consequences of manifest inconsistency. But what are these consequences?
Bv no means the discrediting of the history as to the principal fact, by a repugnancy (even supposing that repugnancy not to be resolvable into different modes of computation) in the time of the day in which it is said to have taken place.
" A great deal of the discrepancy, observable in the Gospels, arises from omission; from a fact or a passage of Christ's life being noticed by one writer, which is unnoticed by another. Now omission is, at all times, a very uncertain ground of objection. We perceive it, not only in the comparison of different writers, but even in the same writer, when compared with himself. There are a great many particulars, and some of them of importance, mentioned by Josephus in his ‘Antiquities,' which, as we should have supposed, ought to have been put down by him in their place in the Jewish Wars.' Suetonius, Tacitus, Dio Cassius, have, all three, written of the reign of Tiberius. Each has mentioned many things omitted by the rest, yet no objection is from thence taken to the respective credit of their histories. We have in our own times, if there were not something indecorous in the comparison, the life of an eminent person, written by three of his friends, in which there is very great variety in the incidents selected by them ; some apparent, and perhaps some real contradictions; yet without any impeachment of the substantial truth of their
accounts, of the authenticity of the books, of the competent information or general fidelity of the writers.
“ But these discrepancies will be still more numerous when men do not write histories, but memoirs ; which is perhaps the true name and proper description of our Gospels: that is, when they do not undertake, or ever meant to deliver, in order of time, a regular and complete account of all the things of importance, which the person, who is the subject of their history, did or said ; but only, out of many similar ones, to give such passages, or such actions and discourses, as offered themselves more immediately to their attention, came in the way of their inquiries, occurred to their recollection, or were suggested by their particular design at the time of writing.
" This particular design may appear sometimes, but not always, nor often. Thus I think that the particular design which St. Matthew had in view, whilst be was writing the history of the resurrection, was to attest the faithful performance of Christ's proniise to his disciples to go before them
into Galilee; because he alone, except Mark, who seems to have taken it from him, has recorded this promise, and be alone has confined his narrative to that single appearance to the disciples which fulfilled it. It was the preconcerted, the great and most public manifestation of our Lord's person. 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 promise, was his first or only appearance, is made pretty evident by St. Mark's Gospel, which uses the same terms concerning the appearance in Galilee as St. Matthew uses, yet itself records two other appearances prior to this: 'Go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: then shall ye see 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 same words in Matthew: yet the historian himself did not perceive that he was leading his readers to any such conclusion; for, in the twelfth and two followiog verses of this chapter, he informs us of two appearances, which, by comparing the order of events, are shown 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 residue : neither believed they them. Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief, because they believed not them which bad seen him after he was risen.'
“ Probably the same observation, concerning the particular design which guided the historian, may be of use in comparing many other passages of the Gospels.
Mat. i. 16.
Luke, ti 23. Jacob begat Joseph the husband Joseph, the son of Hei. of Mary.
The first passage respects bis natural, the other bis legal father.
Joseph and Mary were both of one house and family blore the captivity of Babylon, after which they were divided in the posterity of Zorobabel into two several Paulin; where one was the kingly race, of which lineage was June ph, which Matthew follows. The other family Luke Blow, whanol Mary was, whom Joseph married, and by tvar means he is called the son of her father Eli,
11. Mat.iv. 12, 17.
Joun, iii. 3, 22, 23. Now when Jesus had heard that Christ preached to Nicodemus. Joho was cast into prison, he de. And after these things Jesus parted into Galilee, &c. From that cometh, &c. where John also was time Jesus began to preach. | baptizing in Ænon.
John asserts that Christ began his preaching before John the Baptist was cast into prison ; Matthew that he began not till after John was cast into prison.
John's account relates to our Lord's private preaching; Matthew's to his preaching publicly in the temple or synagogue.
Matthew, Mark, and the Apostle Peter, do all witness that Christ began not to preach, that is publicly, before John was imprisoned, and this preaching began first in Galilee after the baptism of John. Acts, x. 37. And the Evangelist Luke informs us what his first text was, from which he there preached (Luke, iv. 17), and says, that he preached now in the synagogue; as if he said he never ventured to preach in the synagogue before. It seems plain then that all these actions, in Cana, where he told his mother that his time, meaning for the public manifestation of himself, was not yet come, were private; for John was yet in prison. The conversation with Nicodemus was by night. As for the public preaching, Jesus never took the office upon him before John had finished his testimony of him.
Mat. iv. 18.
John, i. 40–42. Jesus, walking by the sea of Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon first findeth his brother Simon, called Peter, and Andrew his bro- and saith unto him, We have found ther, &c.; and said to them, Fol. the Messias ; and he brought him
to Jesus. How can these things agree about the calling of these brethren? One evangelist says they were called by the seaside, the other in Christ's own chamber, for they followed him home to see where he dwelt; and there Christ gave Peter his new name, Cephas.
John's account relates to their previous acquaintance with Christ; Matthew's to their being called to follow him in the ministry of the Gospel.
Peter and Andrew were John's disciples before they were Christ's, and were directed by John to Christ. Ver. 36, 37. Then they followed him to his home to have some acquaintance: and three days after, Christ and they were invited to a wedding. John, ii. 1. Christ had not as yet called any to follow him, for his time, as he told his mother (John, ii. 4),
was not yet comė, because John had not completed his testimony; but as soon as Jesus heard that John was in prison, he immediately went to these his friends and acquaintance, and called them first to follow him, whom he found busy on board their ships in the sea of Tiberias, or Galilee, or Gennesaret; for it is the same sea, though it has several namės.
Mat. v. 16.
MAT. vi, 1. Let men see your good works. Give not thine alms to be seen
of men. It is one thing to have men to see our good works, that God
may have the glory; another thing to do them, that they may gain glory to ourselves.
It is as if Christ had said, The works which are visible must either be good or bad. You may sin as much in doing good works as bad, if you do them with the same view as the Pharisees do them, to get applause, proclaiming them as it were with a trumpet at thy gate. Therefore be sure that God have all the glory, and then let them be seen of all the world.
I come not to destroy the law. ! We are free from the law.
Christ refers to the moral, Paul to the ceremonial law.
Mat. v. 29.
Eph. y. 29. If thy right eye offend thee, pluck
ever hated his own it out.
flesh. The first passage relates to the members of the body in a metaphorical sense ; the other in a natural, or literal, sense.
Christ must not be understood otherwise but thus :—That whereas the right eyes, or right hands, of men are not so dear to them as their darling sins are, that a man could as well part with the one as the other, “ truly thou must,” says Christ, “cut off the dearest things thou hast in the world, rather than lose heaven.”
James, iv, 7.
| Resist the devil. Christ speaks only of the evil dealings of our enemies, when they offer us injuries, that we are not to revenge them, which opposes not at all the other text, to resist the devil, and the evil of sin.
2 Tim. i. 3. They think they shall be heard Pray without ceasing. for their much speaking,