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their case, to traverse feas and kingdoms without rest and without weariness, to coin mit themselves to extreme dangers, to undertake incessant toils, toʻundergo grievous sufferings, and all this, folely in consequence, and in support, of their belief of facts, which, if true, establish the truth of the religion, which, if false, they must have known to be so.
The Discrepancies between the several
Gospels. I KNO
KNOW not a more rash or unphilosophical conduct of the understanding, than to reject the substance of a story, by reason of fome diversity in the circumstances with which it is related. The usual character of human testimony is fubftantial truth under circumstantial variety. This is what the daily experience of courts of justice teaches. When accounts of a tranfaction come from the mouths of different witnesses, it is felVok. II.
dom that it is not posible to pick out appas rent or real inconsistencies between them. These inconsistencies are studiously displayed by an adverse pleader, but oftentimes with little impressioni 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 feldom also, absolute and final contradi&tions ; 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 ftatue in their temple, Philo places in harveft, 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 hiftory supplies examples of the fame kind. In the account of the Marquis of Argyle's death in the reign
of Charles the Second, we liave a very r¢¢ markable contradiction. Lörd Clafeñidon relates that he was condemned to be hanged, which was performed the famë day on the contrafy, Burtlet, Woodrow, Heatli; Échard, coñcut ini stating tliat he was beheaded ; and that he was condeinned upon the Saturday: and executed tipon the Mondag*. Was atiy reader of English hiftorý eter fceptie enough to raise from hence a question; whether the Mätquis of Argyle was ëxecuted, of hot? Yet this ought to be left ii uncertaintý; according to the přiriciples upon which the Christian history has sometimes been attack ed. Dř. Middleton contended, that the different hours of the day afsigned to the cru“ eifisibñ of Christ, by Johti and by the other evangelists, did not admit of the feconéiletnefit which tearned meñi had proposed ; and then concludes the difcuffion with this hard teñiatk : “ We must be forced, with feveral of the critics: to leave the difficulty júft as We found it, chargeable with all the conses
quences of manifest inconfistency* But what are these consequences? By no means the discrediting of the history as to the printipal 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.
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 sup posed, ought to have been put down by him
* Middleton's Reflections answered by Benson, Histo Chris, vol. iii. p. 50.