« PreviousContinue »
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
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.
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 bas been effected, as not merely to neutralize the objection, but to substantiate a strong affirmative proof in favour of the artless
esty 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.
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. El. 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 sustained 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
intricate and refined imposture, the chief plausibilities of which however were to lie in reserve for nearly two thousand years, till, by a process of development almost as laborious as the original invention of them, they should at length become patent to general observation, and then work their full and favourable effect on the minds of a distant posterity. Such a species of practising is wholly unexampled in the history of this world's delusions. We might as soon expect that the pretender to an estate would, with his own hands, tear the likeliest of its forged title-deeds into fragments and then bury them in scattered portions under ground, where in the course of generations they might be reassembled by some future antiquaries into a demonstration, that his were the valid rights of the property, that these were the undoubted evidences of himself being the legitimate proprietor.
No impostor would first devise a number, an exceeding number of specious likelihoods in his favour; and then deposit them in places so inaccessible, as that not one in ten thousand could be in the least aware of them. This is not the way of an impostor, who is ever sure to set himself off to the greatest and most immediate advantage, and who for this purpose would make all his proofs and pretensions stand forth as discernibly as possible before the eye of public observation. There remains no other conclusion then, respecting these inferred and altogether undesigned congruities, than that they are the vestiges and proofs of a real history, and of which the world was not conscious till thoroughly explored by the shrewd and fortunate adventurer
who had opened his way to them, as to a rich mine of evidence, and thence gathered the materials of an overpowering argument for the truth of our religion. But, instead of attempting the general description of this mode of inference, it is better that we should present the reader with at least one or two of its specimens_selected, not altogether because they are the most striking in the collection, but because they are among the shortest.
8. “Colossians iv.9. With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you.'
“Observe how it may be made out that Onesimus was a Colossian. Turn to the Epistle to Philemon, and you will find that Onesimus was the servant or slave of Philemon. The question will therefore be, to what city Philemon belonged. In the epistle addressed to him this is not declared. It appears only that he was of the same place, whatever that place was, with an eminent christian named Archippus. Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved and fellow-labourer; and to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in thy house.' Now turn back to the epistle to the Colossians, and you will find Archippus saluted by name amongst the christians of that church. “Say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord that thou fulfil it' (iv. 17). The necessary result is, that Onesimus also was of the same city, agreeably to what is said of him he is one of you. And this result is the effect either of truth which produces consistency without the writer's