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24 SIMPLE, NATURAL,
coincidences are largely unfolded by Paley in his admirable work, entitled the Horae Paulinae. 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.
III. Although from the harmony of the historians of the New Testament, considered in connection with their distinctness and independence, we derive one principal evidence of their veracity, yet if we take up the four Gospels and the 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 which 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 AND CANDID. 25
Mary, in Luke x; of Zacchaeus, 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. The internal evidences of truth to be observed in the several historical books of the New Testament, as they are singly considered, are however by no means confined to the circumstantiality 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, 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 of reserve, which nothing but integrity can produce, the humiliating circumstances of their Divine Master's parentage, birth, life, and death—and the various moral deficiencies—the tearfulness,impatience, unbelief, and foolish pride—which were on particular occasions so remarkable in their own conduct.
26 TRAITS OF CHARACTER.
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 bv Luke, with their conduct on other occasions, as represented by John? see Luke x, 38—42; John xi,xii.
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 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 persecutor 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 Testament, by far the most singular and, at the same time, the most particularized, is that of Jesus himself. His lowliness and meekness, the tenderness of his compassion, the firmness with which he resisted
CORRECT ALLUSIONS TO HISTORY, &C. 27
temptation, his forbearance, his mercy towards his enemies, his subjection to the will of the Father, his devotional spirit, his unwillingness to be made public, his boldness in reproving hypocrisy, his patience and fortitude, bis custom of converting every occurring circumstance into a channel for doctrine and instruction, his paternal love for his disciples, his perfect gentleness yet irresistible authority, with many other traits of grace and virtue, constitute, as a whole, a character which has no parallel—original and perfect.
Now in a circumstantial statement of the conduct and behaviour of a fictitious personage, it would be very difficult for a single author, to sustain the description of such a character in all its peculiarity and in all its perfection. But, when we see a character thus peculiar and thus perfect, unfolded with the most beautiful precision, and presented to us in all its parts without any real deviation or inconsistency, by four distinct and independent icriters, we are compelled to confess that for such a result nothing whatever can account, but actual and unvarnished truth.
V. The numerous correct allusions made in the New Testament to the manners and customs prevailing among the Jews, Greeks, and Romans, at the time when the books contained in it were written, have already been adduced in evidence of the genuineness of those books. Such allusions may also be fairly pleaded in proof of the authenticity of the narrative —of the veracity and accuracy of the narrators. Very important in the same point of view are the confirmations of various parts of the Gospel history, derived from the pages of Jewish, Greek, and Roman, historians. That Christ was not an imaginary person, that he reallv lived, and that he was the founder of
28 CORRECT ALLUSIONS TO HISTORY, &C.
the Christian religion, are facts, as has been already hinted, which rest on the testimony, not only of the evangelists and apostles, but of heathen authors; more particularly of Lucian, Suetonius, and Tacitus. By the last of these writers are expressly, though incidentally recorded, the country of Jesus, the era in which he lived, the government to which he was subject, the extensive diffusion of the principles which he promulgated, and his ignominious and violent death: Armed, lib. xv, cap. 44.6 There are other circumstances of minor importance, in which an exact coincidence has been observed between the New Testament and the records of profane history. To mention a single instance—the address of the apostle Paul to the Athenians was occasioned, as we read in the book of Acts, by his having observed in their city an altar inscribed to the unknoum God. Now, the existence of altars at Athens, dedicated to unknown Gods, is expressly mentioned by Pausanias and Philostratus. A curious story is moreover related by Diogenes Laertius respecting the lustration of the city by Epimenides, on the occasion of a great pestilence which occurred some hundred years before the Christian era. Victims were then slain in various parts of the Areopagus; and, over the same places, anonymous altars were erected to the
6 " Ergo abolendo rumori Nero subdidit reos, et qusesitissimis pcenis affecit, quos per flagitia invisos vulgus Christianos appellabat. Auctor nominis ejus Christus, Tiberio imperitante, per procuratorem Pontium Pilatum supplicio affectum erat. Repressaque in prsesens exitiabilis superstitio rursus erumpebat, non modo per Judteam originem ejus malt, sed per urbem etiam, quo cuncta undique atrocia aut pudenda confluunt."
"For the purpose, therefore, of putting an end to the report (of his having caused the conflagration of Rome,) Nero falsely accused, and most cruelly punished, a class of persons, hated for their crimes, who were commonly called Christians. Christ, the author of that name, was put to death as a malefactor by the Procurator Pontius Pilate, during the reign of Tiberius. But this injurious superstition, although repressed for a short time, again broke out, not only in Judea, where the evil originated, but also in Rome, whither there is a conflux from every part of the world, of all atrocious or shameful things."