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briefly, for it lies in a small Compass: by proving, that in the Nature of the Thing, Books inspired to give Men the Knowledge of Religion must be in the highest Degree profitable for that End; by specifying their own express Declarations, that they are so; by referring you to the Experience of innumerable Multitudes, that have found them fo. Then I proceeded to answer the several Objections raised against the Truth of this Affertion : fome of them general, that the Bible is not so short, so plain, fo methodical as one should have expected for the Benefit of Mankind; some again particular, and levelled against several Things recorded in its several Parts. To these I
To these I gave Solutions, as far as the Old Testament was concerned. Let us now go on to the New.
The History of our Saviour is written there by four Evangelists. And some tell us their Narrations differ in so many Things, that the reading of them is perplexing, and even their Authority doubtful. But what are these Things? The Words, related in one Evangelist, as spoken on such or such an Occasion, vary from those in another. But perhaps the Words, that are in each, were spoken successively: or each puts the Hebrew Words, which he heard, into his
own Greek, by a stricter or a freer Translation, but still without altering the Sense. Again, one sets down Facts, which another omits. But this is no Proof of Contradiction. For they professedly omit many Facts, which they knew to be real. One of them passes over Things, because another before him had related them. Hence probably St. Matthew and St. Mark omit several Particulars, which are in St. Luke, who wrote first. And St. John, who came last, supplies a great deal, which the others have not, and writes very little, which they have ; excepting the History of our Saviour's Death and Resurrection, which it was fit they should all have. Thus no single Gospel con-' taining every Thing, (though it did contain every Thing neceffary) each of them was shorter, and therefore much more commodioully obtained at first, when Books were written very slowly, and sold very dear; so that he who could not procure the four, might however furnish himself with one: and we may now have the joint Benefit of them all. But farther, when they seem to be relating the fame Fact, the Circumstances differ. And they may be different, yet consistent. Or if they be inconsistent, they are two Facts, and not one,
though in fome Respects alike. For our Saviour might, at various Times, both perform Miracles and deliver Discourses, nearly akin, and yet really distinct. Still after all, even allowing for these Things, it is not easy to make an orderly History of our Saviour's Life and Instructions out of the four Evangelists. For they did not think it, nor was it always, requisite, to mark down the Order, in which Things happened. They might, for one good Cause or other, relate such of them together, as were not done together : but then, as they do not say they were, this is no Falsehood. And learned Men, agreeing in the main, though not in all Particulars, have brought them to a Harmony each with the other, only by allowing a very few Things to have been transposed in one of them. But were the Attempt harder than it is, our Edification from our Saviour's Discourses de. pends very little on the Time, or Place, or other Circumstances, of their Delivery. Common Persons need not attend to such Points at all: and Persons of more Ability will find both a Trial of their Impartiality, and a Reward of their Labour, in studying them. Indeed were the ablest Men incapable of reconciling all Difficulties, it doth not follow, that they are irreconcileable. Or though they were, the Consequence would be only, that the divine Superintendency, under which the Authors wrote, extended not to such minute Circumstances, though it did and must to Doctrines and Precepts, and principal Facts . Not very much therefore would be lost by this: and one Advantage would be gained ; that these Diversities would still more evidently shew, (what indeed the whole Air and Manner of their Writings Thews) that the Evangelists are absolutely free from all Imputation of concerting their Story together, to deceive Mankind: the Assurance of which makes good Amends in Respect of Usefulness, for any Perplexities we may find in adjusting their Accounts.
Another Complaint is, that our Saviour's Parables, which make up a considerable Part of his Doctrine in the three first Evangelists, are obscure, and some of them purposely made so: and that a great deal of what he faith in the fourth is not clearer. But it should be confidered, that Parables were not only an admired Way of teaching then, but a valuable one in
Concerning this Matter see Gaussen, de verbo Dei, §. 64, &c. See also Archbishop Potter's Lectures, p. 141, &c. where the Opinions of Erasmus, Episcopius, Grotius, &c. are stated.
their own Nature; as they excite Attention, please the Imagination, and fasten upon the Memory. And nothing can be more intelligible, or more beautifully perfuafive, than most, if not all, of our Saviour's Parables, and other Discourses, are now, and were in a very short Time after his own Days. Some of both indeed appeared, and were designed to appear, otherwise, when he spoke them. But these were accommodated with the utmost Prudence, for letting in Light upon his Hearers by gentle Degrees, which, if poured on them all at once, would have been too strong for many Persons of good Meaning, but whose Prejudices required to be gradually worn off; and would have furnished Handles to bad People, for decrying him successfully, and destroying him, before his Ministry had taken due Root. Perhaps it may be thought, that to the latter fome of his Censures were too severe, and fome of his Answers not direct enough. But they came from one, who knew the Hearts of Men, and spoke to what he saw there. The Persons, to whom these Censures, or these Answers, were particularly directed, felt the Propriety of them, though possibly the rest, even of the By-standers, were unable to perceive it: no Wonder then, if we are less