« PreviousContinue »
The following pages consist, in part, of the substance of two Sermons which I had last year occasion to deliver from the University Pulpit in Cambridge, the one in English, the other in Latin, exhibiting Undesigned Coincidences between the several writings of the Evangelists, or between those writings and Josephus. The materials, which might be considered supplementary to Lardner and Paley, I had collected, from time to time, as independent arguments for the Veracity of the Gospels and Acts, without any determinate purpose in so doing, beyond my own immediate satisfaction. Thoughts which have been thus progressively accumulating, I cannot now always trace to their beginnings, however I may desire it. But an attentive perusal of the New Testament, and of the Jewish Historian, has furnished me with nearly all of them. At the same time, it is possible that a hint from a commentator may have suggested one ; that another I may have met with, originally applied to a different purpose, though here made subservient to the Evidences; that a third may, without my recollecting it, have been already urged under a similar form, and for the same object. Yet much which was strictly my own, I have carefully suppressed, where I found that I had been anticipated; and what I have retained, I believe to be, in the
main, new, and I trust that it will not be thought unimportant. Of any great profit or praise to accrue to myself from a work so brief and unpretending, I have little hope or expectation ; abundantly shall I be satisfied if it should chance to give pause (of which I do not altogether despair) to the scoffer or unbeliever, though it be only to one-if it should lead him to reconsider a subject, of all others, the most weighty that can occupy the thoughts of a reasonable being-if it should induce him to make himself better acquainted with such works as the “ Credibility of the Gospel History," the “ Horæ Paulinæ," or (what is indeed of another and more profound character) the “ Analogy" of Bishop Butler-before he comes to a final conclusion on a point which the grave may convince him he had never examined with the attention it deserved, or in any other spirit than such as would hare frustrated the effect of all testimony whatever.
CONTAINING UNDESIGNED COINCIDENCES
TWEEN THE SEVERAL WRITINGS OF
By a comparison of the several writings of the Evangelists with one another, I think coincidence without design máy be discovered in so many instances, as to go very far indeed towards fixing the truth of those writings on a foundation that cannot be shaken. On the nature of this argument I shall not much enlarge, but refer my readers for a general view of it to the short dissertation prefixed to the Horæ Paulinæ of Paley, a work where it is employed as a test of the veracity of St. Paul's Epistles with singular felicity and force, and for which suitable incidents were certainly much more abundant than those which my present subject provides ; still, however, if the instances which I can offer are so numerous and of such a kind as to preclude the possibility of their being the effect
of accident, it is enough. It does not require many circumstantial coincidences to determine the mind of a jury as to the credibility of a witness in our courts, even where the life of a fellow-creature is at stake. I say this, not as a matter of charge, but as a matter of fact, indicating the authority which attaches to this species of evidence, and the confidence universally entertained that it cannot deceive. Neither should it be forgotten, that an argument thus popular, thus applicable to the affairs of common life as a test of truth, derives no small value, when enlisted in the cause of Christianity, from the readiness with which it is apprehended and admitted by mankind at large.
2. Nor is this all. The argument derived from coincidence without design has further claims, because, if well made out, it establishes the Evangelists as independent witnesses to the facts they relate ; and this, whether they consulted each other's writings, as some maintain, or not; for the coincidences, if good for any thing, are such as could not result from combination, mutual understanding, or arrangement.
any which I may bring forward may seem to be such as might have so arisen, they are only to be reckoned ill chosen, and dismissed. Undesignedness must be