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are taught in so many several places of Scripture, that the different Reading of one or two Texts can be no prejudice to the constant Tenour and undoubted Reading of so many other. The want of Accents, and Points, and distinction of words in ancient MSS. Abbreviations, the likeness of Words or Letters, and the repetition of the same Word, whereby it sometimes came to pass, that the intermediate Sentence was left out by Transcribers : These are common Accidents, which have occasioned various Lections in all Books. But it happened besides, that Harmonies of the Gospel's being drawn up, whether for publick or private use, wherein the Texts of the several Evangelists, relating to the same thing, were set in different Columns, the Transcribers sometimes i inserted the words of one Evangelist into the Text of another ; and the same confusion was made in other Books of Scripture, by removing the Words of parallel places from the Margin into the Text. And the Gospels and Epistles in the Liturgies, had such Alterations, or Additions, as were requisite to make the Sense compleat in such Parts of Scripture, as were selected for that purpose ; which Alterations were afterwards transcribed into the Books of Scripture; as if John xxi. 19. he saith unto him, follow me, should from our Liturgy, be altered into, Jesus said unto Peter, follow me.
But such as these, and many others, which help to swell the number of various Lections, make no variations in the Sense.
The various Lections of the Holy Scriptures, are so far from being an Argument against their Authority, that they rather help to prove it, since they are comparatively so few in a Book of so great Antiquity. For no care and regard, inferiour to that, which we must
Quod in eâdem re alius Evangelista plus dixit, in alio, quia minus putaverint, addiderunt. Hieron in 4. Evang. Præf. ad Dimas. k Gospel for St. John the Evangelift's Day.
suppose Men to have of a Book, which they are convinced is of Divine Authority, could have produced a less variety of Readings in a Book of much less Antiquity. They are all of no consequence to the prejudice of the End and Design of a Revelation; and therefore they come under the number of such Accidents, as God cannot be obliged in his providence to prevent. But the Bible could not, without the signal Providence of God, have been preserved for so many Ages, under so many Changes and Revolutions, which the Wisdom of God, for Reasons elsewhere observed, saw fit to permit, much less could it have escaped with so inconsiderable Variations, in the many Copies taken, and Versions made in different Ages and distant Countries, unless it had been secured by a particular Providence, from those Corruptions and Alterations, which are so frequent in Humane Writings.
What has been said upon this Subject, is confirmed by the large and laborious Collection of various Readings lately published upon the New Testament; for that learned Author, with the incredible pains and study of near Thirty Years, has revised whatever had been done by others before him in this way, and has made many Additions of his own, out of MSS. and printed Copies, in all Languages, that had not been consulted, or not fufficiently examined. He has, in collating mone Edition, added above " Seven hundred various Lections, which R. Stephens had omitted, not thinking them, it feems, considerable enough to be inserted. He has not omitted the Collections of Petrus Faxardus, Marquess of Veles, tho' he had once o rejected them as inlignificant, but was at last persuaded by some Friend, against his own Opinion, to put them into the Appendix. He has noted every
Addition, and Omission, and Variation, which has been observed of any Word, or Syllable, and even of any Letter, or Point, or Accent, in any ancient Copy, in all Languages, throughout the New Testa
He has examined the Citations of all ancient Authors, and has given us the History of the Text of Scripture, shewing, as he says, in what state and condition it has been in every Age, since the first propagation of the Gospel to this time. In short, nothing has been wanting to encrease the Number, or add to the weight of various Lections. But after all this care and diligence, he declares, that P much the greatest part of various Lections have been occasioned by Parallel Places of the Gospels, written in the Margin, which afterwards were, by 'Transcribers, inserted in the Text; and that, in his Collection, above One thousand six hundred various Lections are of this fort: That 9 the Canon of Scripture never suffered any corruption by Hereticks : And that this great number of various Lections can be no cause of doubt or suspicion to judicious Men, of the Authority of the Greek Text, but is, on the contrary, a means to prove and confirm the truth and certainty of it. And he has effectually shewn that controverted Verse , 1 John v.7. to be Authentick, by considering all that has been on both sides produced.
Many Men ever since the Reformation, both in our own, and other countries, who understood Religion best, and were most zealous in defence of it, have been most forward and industrious to publish the Bible in all Languages, and with the various Lections of each Language. And whatever fome may hope, and others fear, Experience have shewn, that they have been no prejudice, but an advantage to Religion, and afford
p P. 71. ' P. 143.
9 P. 75. & Nor. in 1 Joh. v. 7: P: 746, 747.
an ocular demonstration, how Christians of all Nations and Languages agree, both in the Canon, and in the Text of Scripture.
CH A P. VI.
Of the difficulties in Chronology in the Holy
nice and difficult to be exactly adjusted, because it depends upon so many several Circumstances, and comprehends so great a variety of Affairs in all Ages and Nations, and how pun&ually soever the Accounts of Time be set down at first, yet the least alterations in one Word, or Letter, may cause a great difference in Copies, and the difference of Epoches in the computations of different countries, especially at great distances of Time as well as Place, is such, that the exactest Chronology may easily be mistaken, and may be farther entangled and perplex’d by those, who endeavour to rectifie what they think amiss ; for that which was exact at first, is often made faulty by him who thought it so before. But I suppose, that no material Exception will lie against the Scripture upon the account of any difficulties in Chronology, if these two things be made out. 1. That differences in Chronology do not infer uncertainty in the Matters of Fact themselves. II. That differences in Chronology do not imply, that there was any Chronological Mistake made by the Pen-men of the Holy Scriptures; but that they have been occasioned by the mistakes of Transcribers or of Expositors.
I. Differences in Chronology do not infer uncertainty in the Matters of Fact themselves : Because the point of Time is but one Circumstance, and that easi
ny mistaken by a thousand Accidents, and there may be many other circumstances so particular, and so well attested, as to give sufficient evidence to the truth of things related, notwithstanding any uncertainty in the circumstance of Time. For which reason, · Plutarch did not reject the relation of a Discourse that pass'd between Solon and Cralus, tho' he could not answer the Objections brought from Chronology to prove it feign'd, because he found it delivered by good Authors, and saw nothing improbable in it, but every thing very likely and suitable to Solon's temper; and he thought it unreasonable to reject a Matter of Fa&t, which had no other objection against it, but some difficulties in Chronology; when, says he, innumerable Persons have endeavoured to rectifie the Chronological Canons, but could never be able to this day to reconcile the differing Opinions. And he observes in another place, how difficult it is to adjust the Accounts of Time, especially of the Olympiads, the Tables whereof are reported to have been taken by Hippias, upon no good Authority. The uncertainty of Chronology is a general complaint made by the best Historians, and therefore if this Objection have any weight, it must invalidate the Authority of all History.
A very learned and accurate Author has shewn the uncertainty in Chronology during the first Monarchy, both in respect of Kingdoms, viz. the Kingdom of Assyria it self, and the Kingdoms contemporary with it, and of Persons and Occurrences. But doth this prove that there never were any such Kingdoms, nor any such Persons and Occurrences ? « Dion Chryfoftomus has an Oration to prove, that Troy was never taken, And there have been no fewer than • sixteen different
• Plut, in Solon.
b. In Numa. • Mr. Milner's Defence of A. Bishop Usher, Orar, xi. Ć Ruald. in Plur. Animadv. ulte