Page images

having in process of time been prefixed to it, as being supposed to contain the earliest intelligence of our Lord, by some person who happened to have both, at length was first copied upon the same parchment, and afterwards, without any interval, according to the ancient manner of writing, so as to present the appearance

of an uninterrupted narration.—In the next place, in order to favour the idea of there having been exactly fourteen generations from Abraham to David, exactly the same number from David to the Babylonish captivity, and the same number from that event to Christ, _a coincidence which, if it were real, yet, not answering any particular purpose, was unworthy of notice, and would appear puerile in any other place, the genealogy is placed upon the bed of Procrustes, and lopped of some of its members. In the third place, it is irreconcileably at variance with the genealogy given of Joseph and of our Saviour in the third chapter of St. Luke. Fourthly, supposing the first sixteen verses (including the genealogy, but excluding the remark about the fourteen generations,) to be authentic, and the omission of some generations to have happened from the carelessness of the transcribers of some very early manuscripts, the object of the writer is, by tracing our Lord's pedigree through Joseph, his immediate father, to David his remote ancestor, to prove that he was the son of David: but the rest of the chapter is in direct opposition to this, it being the design of the writer of it, whoever he may have been, to shew that

our Lord was not the son of Joseph; which important link in the chain failing, the genealogy falls entirely to the ground, and it becomes impossible to answer satisfactorily a question which has been very properly asked, “Of what consequence was it to give the genealogy of Joseph for that of Jesus, when, according to this, Jesus was no more descended from Joseph than he was from Herod ?” It is further to be remarked, that this most extraordinary account of our Lord having been born of a virgin, without the intervention of a human father, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which was a fact of the utmost consequence, and might have been expected to have been referred to again and again, both in the course of this gospel, and in all other accounts of our Saviour, as an article of prime importance, and to which his father Joseph being a carpenter, his being of Nazareth, and many other things which are repeated frequently in the Gospels and Epistles, are in comparison nothing,—is never mentioned directly or indirectly, nor is any one of the other remarkable occurrences comprised in these chapters, in any subsequent parts of the gospels of Matthew or Luke, in either of the other gospels, or in any one of the epistles. Could this possibly have happened, if any

of these writers had ever heard of, and believed, the most extraordinary events contained in these spurious chapters ?-for so, considering these, and other strong objections to their credit, I cannot hesitate to call them. Could these prominent, and

most material facts - which, if correct, would rank amongst the most striking features of the history,-have been neglected by any historian whatever, or have been wholly passed over, even in an abridgment? How are we to account for the total silence of Mark and John in their respective gospels, and that of Paul in his numerous epistles, in which he gives such ample details respecting our Lord, and the various relations in which he stood both to God and man? Had these writers wholly lost their memories; or did they possess minds so singularly constructed, as to recollect numerous circumstances comparatively insignificant and unimportant, and at the same time to forget some of the most extraordinary, and unexampled events relative to the illustrious personage whose history they were writing, that had ever occurred since the creation of the human race?

There are some other unaccountable circumstances connected with these events, supposing them to be true, that cannot be passed in silence. It appears by the chapters both of Matthew and Luke, which are now in question, that these things were not done in a corner; that the knowledge of them was not confined even to the members of our Lord's own family; but, according to Matthew, some of them were known to the magi, to Herod, and all the chief priests, and scribes, whom he convened in council; and, by the slaughter of the innocents, to all the Jewish nation, and others ; according to Luke, to the shepherds, and


those to whom they related what they had seen; to Simon, to Anna the prophetess, and all who looked for redemption in Israel, to whom she appears to have communicated what she knew, which, if correct, must have fixed the eyes of the whole country upon him at once as the promised Messiah, and they could never have lost sight of him afterwards as such :--yet not one person appears to have believed him to be the Messiah, when he afterwards came forward in that character, on account of any of these wonderful transactions ; not even his own brothers, who, like many of their countrymen, did not believe in him, after he had begun to perform miracles, as such (John vii. 5); but all who did believe, are represented as having done so, on account of the miracles which he wrought in his own person, to which alone he himself appealed ; and never once to a single occurrence related in these

spus rious chapters; nor were any of them, mirabile dictu, ever appealed to as proofs of his mission by any of his apostles. All this is utterly inexplicable, except upon the principle of these chapters being the interpolations of a later period. How different likewise are the public exhibitions contained in these narratives, from the singularly cautious and reserved manner in which our Lord spoke of himself as being the Messiah, till just as he was upon the point of being offered up! notwithstanding which, upon his performing some of his miracles, the people could hardly be prevented from taking him by force, and making him a

temporal king, though' never with the smallest allu: sion to any of the miraculous occurrences detailed in the chapters in question.

I shall add one more observation upon the manner in which the author of the two chapters falsely, as I must contend, ascribed to St. Matthew, deals with ancient prophecy: and I mention this particularly, be? cause you seem to lay considerable stress upon the names given, and supposed to be given, to our blessed Lord, as proofs of his being God, though without particularizing them, which the limits you prescribed to yourself undoubtedly would not admit of. The prophecy in question is that of Isaiah vii. 14, already mentioned : “Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall (that is the virgin shall) call his name Immanuel,” which this writer thus applies ; “The angel of the Lord appeared unto him (that is Joseph) in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy 'wife ; for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost : and she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus ; for he shall save his people from their sins.” The corresponding chapter of Luke, ver. 31, represents the angel to have appeared to Mary, and to have said to her ; Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.”. The writer of the first chapter ascribed to St. Matthew then proceeds; “ Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of

« PreviousContinue »