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believe that such was his meaning. We cannot suppose that Christ intended his followers to prove false to the most important relations we sustain in this life. We conclude, therefore, that he did not use the word hate in a literal, but a figurative sense, in the sense of loving them less than himself and his cause. So we interpret the precept which commands us to cut off a right hand, or pluck out a right eye. We do not cut off our hands, and pluck out our eyes, not because we are not literally commanded to do so, but because reason teaches us that he did not mean literally to be so taken. So whatever Christ might have left written, there would have remained the same difficulty of interpretation. We should still be obliged to rest on probability, just as we do
We cannot be infallibly certain that we take a sentence of Scripture in the true sense, without possessing inspiration ourselves. . We cannot know that we are inspired, without the power of working miracles, or unless some miracle were wrought for our sakes, for we could not otherwise distinguish those thoughts which were miraculously suggested from those which occurred in the ordinary operations of our minds.
Then, even had the Saviour left the Gospel written with his own hand, we should still have been compelled to rely on human testimony, that the same identical words were preserved. The thing then is
evidently better as it is. We should have been compelled at last to rely on human testimony, as to what Christ did, and taught, and suffered. What more competent witness could we possibly have, than that of those who were with him on terms of the greatest familiarity during his whole ministry? In what better form could we have this witness than in the Gospel according to Matthew, written by one of those who were with him from the beginning, and who was present at his crucifixion, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead, and who spent his life in propagating his religion ? What more unobjectionable testimony than that of John, who had been one of the disciples of John the Baptist, who saw the inauguration, leaned on his bosom, and shared his most intimate friendship? As collateral proof, what more authentic than the memoirs of Luke and Mark, who were the constant companions of the Apostles, and heard them rehearse over and over the wonderful story of the teaching and miracles of Jesus ?
Considered in this light, as human testimony, and it is the only light in which they can be regarded, those who understand the principles of evidence most thoroughly tell us, that their evidence is the more weighty and satisfactory from their slight variations from each other. Those who frequent courts of justice tell us that it is utterly vain to expect en
tire consistency in the testimony of a number of witnesses, let them be never so honest and never so competent. Agreement in the main facts is all that is expected, and nothing would sooner produce suspicion of collusion than for two witnesses to make, word for word, the same statement. No human being ever told the same story twice in the same words, and in the same order. Nothing can be more evident than that the historians of the New Testament were subjected to the same common laws which govern the operations of the human mind. We have in the Acts, three different relations of Paul's vision and conversion, twice by himself in public speeches, and once from the pen of Luke, probably from his own lips in private conversation. Yet the three accounts all vary from each other in words and in circumstances. The four Evangelists all give us the inscription upon the cross of Jesus, yet no two agree in the precise form of words which was used. Matthew says, that the accusation was, “ This is Jesus, the king of the Jews.” · Mark says, that the superscription was, “The king of the Jews." Luke says, it was, “This is the king of the Jews.” John says,
that the title on his cross was, “ Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews.” Here then is a variation in the testimony. It is impossible that more than one of these inscriptions can be verbally accurate. But it creates no distrust, and not one in a
hundred of the Christian church has been aware of its existence. It is an immaterial variation, a discrepance which must always be allowed in human testimony, and nothing could be more unreasonable or absurd than to allow the least shade of doubt to pass over the mind as to the reality of the inscription, because of this verbal discrepance.
The first three evangelists have given us Christ's prayer, in his agony, at the garden of Gethsemane, , but each of them in different words. Yet no man in his sober senses would think of doubting the actual occurrence of that tremendous scene on that account. If any thing in all the history of the past can be said to bear the native impress of truth, it is this whole transaction. These verbal discrepances of the evangelists, so far from being any disparagement to the veracity of the historians, are among the strongest evidences of their substantial truth. They prove them to be separate and independent witnesses, that they did not copy from each other, nor agree together what they should write; and when this is taken in connexion with the fact, that the Gospels were composed at times and places distant from each other, for the use of different communities, and were brought together into one volume a long time afterwards, their trifling differences no longer seem strange, but their agreement most wonderful.
From the circumstances of the case, each of the
Gospels must have contained all that is essential to Christianity, and all that is necessary to salvation; for here were vast multitudes of people who had been made Christians, and kept so, by each of the Gospels, before they knew that there was any other in existence. Whatever there is then in the first and third Gospels relating to the genealogy of Jesus, showing him to be descended from the families of Abraham and David, without which descent the Jews of Palestine could never have received him as the Messiah, Mark and John who are thought to have written out of Palestine, and for Christians in other circumstances, have seen fit to pass over in silence, as unnecessary to the faith of their converts. So is any one puzzled by the obscure and peculiar form of expression used in the first fourteen verses of John's Gospel, and for want of contempory lights, obliged to confess that he does not thoroughly understand it, he may know, from the fact that it is not found in all the Gospels, thať his ignorance cannot be fatal to his salvation, as the Gospel of John was written long after the rest; and hundreds and thousands were converted, and lived and died Christians, without knowing one word of the speculation, or rather phraseology, which is found in the introduction to the fourth Gospel.
From this consideration of the Apostles as witnesses, and the verbal variation of their accounts, the most important results are deduced, results vital to the