Page images
PDF
EPUB

difficult to obviate. In my introduction to the New Testament, I have mentioned some doubts, as deduced from 2 Peter i. 15, in favour of the canonical authority of Mark, but I am far from thinking them satisfactory, for Peter might confide to Mark the writing of a gospel, and supply him with materials, which Matthew might not have, and yet not transfer to him the spiritual advantages, which were promised to himself. It may be asked, whether we do not deviate from the doctrine of our church, if we give up the inspiration of Luke and Mark? But who are the we, to whom this question is addressed ? Certainly not the Lutherans, for our books have not decided what writings are canonical, and what are not. Luther himself was doubtful upon this point, namely, whether inspiration was confined to doctrine, or extended to historical facts. Our books, not our sermons, must determine this question. The only case therefore, that can occur, is between Matthew and John, both apostles, and both eye-witnesses, particularly John. The only one, that approaches to it, is in Matthew xxvii. 60, where, in point of fact, there is no contradiction, and even if there is, still a various reading exists to supply or correct this deficiency

we

But were this latter not even the case, and the contradiction remained unanswered, it would be still subject to this exception. Matthew and John, were, according to the promises of Christ, inspired ; let this promise extend from matters of faith and moral doctrine, to historical facts; the promise would then only apply to the original text. This, in the case of Matthew, was the Hebrew; for so I must believe in connection with all antiquity, and this text is now lost to us : have only a Greek translation : there is no translator who does not err; the contradiction, therefore, is not between Matthew and John, but between John and the Greek translator of Matthew, who, as I shall observe in another place, appears to have erred in his translation, for the whole contradiction rests upon two words, which Mark, who had Matthew before him, has not, or at least has in a different way. In fact, therefore, our doctrine of inspiration, as it was promised to the apostles, and adopted by us as the ground of faith, the guide of our conduct, and the principle of knowledge, has no connection with the remaining, if, indeed, there are any remaining, contradictions : the doctrine only of other writers, not canonical,

He says,

is affected by them. Great as my respect is for Lessing, there is one requisition of his, to which I cannot easily assent.

The man, who maintains the infallibility of the evangelists in every word, will here find a sufficiency of uncultivated ground. In attempting this he must answer ten celebrated contradictions ; but let him answer them all, for to answer them partially, and pass over others with the triumph of contempt, is, in fact, not answering them at all.”

Against this I have to remind my reader,

1. That to answer them all is certainly unnecessary to the attainment of the proposed object; for if the contradictions between the last twelve verses of Mark and the other evangelists were unanswered (and this is the chief field of controversy) and all the other contradictions were answered, there would be then no necessity to give up the doctrine of the infallibility of the evangelists. But I

go further; it need not be given up, if the Greek translator of Matthew, unsupported by Mark, should be contradicted by another evangelist.

2. The requisition is besides severe, because I certainly have the right of exercising my own judgment as much as in any other historical in

vestigation. One man has it not in his power to do every thing ; he may resolve some difficulties, but still he must leave others for some another and more successful person, and when I find some difficulties gradually removed, I live in hopes of seeing the others removed also. It is thus that we proceed in the regions of reason and probability, we believe one thing, in consequence of overwhelming evidence, notwithstanding another difficulty may still remain behind. Some readers, perhaps, may require more-they may require me to speak without doubt, (for doubt will unavoidably attach to every man,) and at once distinctly declare, whether I believe the evangelists to have been inspired and infallible in matters relating to fact, or not? To speak plainly, but, at the same time, to influence no other person, I here coincide with Lessing, although twenty years ago I thought differently. I see no proof of the inspiration of the evangelists in historical facts, but what they must have already known from ocular demonstration; or what, as in the case of Luke, they must have known from other, and preceding writers, and then have appealed to eye-witnesses, to ascertain whether the facts were true or not. (Luke i. 1—4.) The promise

of Jesus (John xiv. 26,) applies only to his words, the last and the highest ground of our belief; these the Holy Spirit was to bring again to the recollection of his apostles (and Mark and Luke were not apostles); but the promise did not comprise history and matters of detail. I hold the same opinion with respect to the historical books of the Old Testament, with the exception, however, of one book, which no reasonable man would attempt to compose, without the help of revelation,-namely, the history of the creation, for this, in fact, if he was desirous of writing truth, he could not have from witnesses, and as little from books, as the materials and foundation of his history. I put conjectures out of the question, for conjectures are not history; if, therefore, Moses, the great prophet, writés, by the command of God, a book, of which the history of the creation forms the beginning; a history, which contradicts the system of the ancients, rises over all the knowledge of the times, in which Moses flourished, and even in its very commencement singularly coincides with the freshest discoveries of the present and preceding centuries, then I think, that this history he could only know from God. I therefore look upon

« PreviousContinue »