Page images

roar ?” a man of a favourite character at this time among the Jews !

I think, indeed, that if Josephus bad omitted this circumstance, it would bave been a very good reply, to say, that the chief captain did not yet know what was the matter; and though there was a loud cry in the multitude, of " away with him;" yet the confusion was such, “ some saying one thing," and "- some another,” that the chief captain had yet no notion what the case was. However, we have no occasion to have recourse to this reply. Josepbus bas told us, that all the people favoured Felix in his enterprize against this man; whether it was because he came from Egypt, or what was the reason, is of no importance.

6. There is a remarkable agreement between the chief captain in the Acts and Josephus, in the description they give of this man, The chief captain says,

“ Art not thou that Egyptian ?”. And it is observable, that Josephus has not mentioned this man's name in either of the accounts, In the first he calls bim the Egyptian false prophet, and the Egyptian: in the other he says, there came one (or a certain person) out of Egypt: and again, Felix fell upon those who were with the Egyptian; but the Egyptian escaped,

We have then in the Acts the exact manner in which the Jews about this time spoke of this impostor. This is with me a proof, that St. Luke lived and wrote about this time : that is, at the time he is supposed to write. We have here undoubtedly the chief captain's question in the very words in which it was put. St. Luke'must have received this account from St. Paul, or some one else who was present, if he was not by himself.

I hope, therefore, that the account which Josephus has given of this impostor, will be no longer reckoned an objection against St. Luke, but a confirmation of bis bistory.


I HAVE now performed what I undertook, and have shown that the account given by the sacred writers, of persons and things, is confirmed by other ancient authors of the best note. There is nothing in the books of the New Testament unsuitable to the age in which they are supposed to bave been written. There appears in these writers a knowledge of the affairs of those times not to be found in authors of later ages. We are hereby assured, that the books of the New Testament are genuine, and that they were written by persons who lived at or near the time of those events, of which they have given the history.

Any one may be sensible, how hard it is for the most learned, acute, and cautious man, to write a book in the character of some person of an earlier age, and not betray his own time by some mistake about the affairs of the age in which he pretends to place himself, or by allusions to customs or principles since sprung up, or by some phrase or expression not then in use. It is no easy thing to escape all these dangers in the smallest performance, though it be a treatise of theory or speculation : these hazards are greatly increased when the work is of any length, and especially if it be historical, and be concerned with characters and customs. It is yet more difficult to carry on such a design in a work consisting of several pieces, written to all appearance by several persons. Many indeed are desirous to deceive, but all hate to be deceived : and therefore, though attempts have been made to impose upon the world in this way, they have never or very rarely succeeded, but have been detected and exposed by the skill and vigilance of those who have been concerned for the truth.

The volume of the New Testament consists of several pieces; these are ascribed to eight several persons; and there are the strongest appearances, that they were not all written by any one hand, but by as many persons as they are ascribed to. There are lesser differences in the relations of some facts, and such seeming contradictions, as would never bave happened, if these books bad been all the work of one person, or of several who wrote in concert. There are as many peculiarities of temper and style, as there are names of writers; divers of which show no depth of genius or compass of knowledge. Here are representations of titles, posts, bebaviour of persons of higher and lower rank in many parts of the world ; persons are introduced, and their characters are set in a full light; here is a history of things done in several cities and countries; and there are allusions to a vast variety of customs and tenets of

persons of several nations, sects, and religions. The whole is writ. ten without affectation, with the greatest simplicity and plainness, and is confirmed by other ancient writers of unquestioned authority.

If it be difficult for a person of learning and experience, to compose a small treatise concerning matters of specula

tion, with the characters of a more early age than that in wbich he writes; it is next to impossible, that such a work of considerable length, consisting of several pieces, with a great variety of historical facts, representations of characters, principles, and customs of several nations, and distant countries, of persons of all ranks and degrees, of many interests and parties, should be performed by eight several persons, the most of them unlearned, without any appearance of concert.

I might perhaps have called this argument a demonstration, if that term had not been often misapplied by men of warm imaginations, and been bestowed upon reasonings that bave but a small degree of probability. But though it should not be a strict demonstration that these writings are genuine ; or though it be not absolutely impossible in the nature of the thing, that the books of the New Testament should have been composed in a later age than that to which they are assigned, and of which they bave innumerable characters; yet, I think, it is in the highest degree improbable, and altogether incredible.

If the books of the New Testament were written by persons who lived before the destruction of Jerusalem; that is, if they were written at the time, in wbich they are said to bave been written, the things related in them are true.

If they had not been matter of fact, they would not have been credited by any persons near that time, and in those parts of the world in wbich they are said to have been done, but would have been treated as the most notorious lies and falsehoods. Suppose three or four books should now appear amongst us in the language most generally understood, giving an account of many remarkable and extraordinary events, which had happened in some kingdom of Europe, and in the most noted cities of the countries next adjoining to it; some of them said to have happened between sixty and seventy years ago, others between twenty and thirty, others wearer our own time: would not they be looked upon as the most manifest and ridiculous forgeries and impostures that ever were contrived? Would great numbers of persons, in those very places, change their religious principles and practices upon the credit of things reported to be publicly done, which no man bad ever heard of before? Or rather, is it possible, that such a design as this should be conceived by any sober and serious persons, or even the most wild and extravagant ?

If the history of the New Testament be credible, the christian religion is true. If the things here related to have been done by Jesus, and by his followers, by virtue of powers derived from him, do not prove a person to come from God, and that his doctrine is true and divine, nothing can. And as Jesus does here in the circumstances of his birth, life, sufferings, and after exaltation, and in the success of his doctrine, answer the description of the great person promised and foretold in the Old Testament, be is at the same tiine showed to be the Messiab.

From the agreement of the writers of the New Testament with other ancient writers, we are not only assured that these books are genuine, but also that they are come down to us pure and uncorrupted, without any considerable interpolations or alterations. If such had been made in them, there would bave appeared some smaller differences at least between them and other ancient writings.

There has been in all ages a wicked propensity in mankind, to advance their own notions and fancies by deceits and forgeries: they bave been practised by heathens, Jews, and christians, in support of imaginary historical facts, religious schemes and practices, and political interests. With these views some whole books have been forged, and passages inserted into others of undoubted authority. Many of the christian writers of the second and third centuries, and of the following ages, appear to have had false notions, concerving the state of Judea between the nativity of Jesus and the destruction of Jerusalem, and concerning many other things occasionally mentioned in the New Testament. The consent of the best ancient writers with those of the New Testament is a proof, that these books are still untouched, and that they have not been new-modelled and altered by christians of later times, in conformity to their own peculiar sentiments.

This may be reckoned an argument, that the generality of christians have bad a very high veneration for these books; or else, that the several sects among them have had an eye upon each other, that no alterations might be made in those writings, to which they have all appealed. It is also an argument, that the Divine Providence has all along watched over and guarded these best of books, (a very fit object of an especial care,) which contain the best of principles, were apparently written with the best views, and have in them inimitable characters of truth and simplicity.




IN all inquiries concerning the chronology of the New Testament, and particularly concerning the true time of our Saviour's nativity, and the commencement of his ministry, it is very needful to take into consideration the time of Herod the Great's death. Indeed it is very desirable, in the first place, to settle exactly the date of this event, but to do this is a very bard task : nor has any one yet been so happy, as to remove all difficulties, and give universal satisfaction upon this head,

That none may be quite at a loss in judging of the difficulty considered in the third chapter of this book, I shall here give a brief account of this matter.

The chief opinions at present concerning the time of Herod's death are these three. Some think he died a little before the passover of A. U. 750, Julian year 42; others, on November 25 that same year; others, a short time before the passover, A. U. 751,

1. The English reader may see all, in a manner, that can be said for the second opinion, in Mr. Whiston's " Short • View of the Harmony of the Four Evangelists,' Prop. 12. But, though several very learned men have embraced this opinion, it appears to me a mere hypothesis, without foundation: the only ground of it is a Jewish account of their feasts and fasts, in which that day is noted as a feast, because on it Herod died ; but that a book appears to be of no authority.

II. That Herod died but a short time before some one of the Jewish passovers, is evident from Josephus. If we reject entirely bis authority, it is in vain to talk about the time of Herod's death. Archelaus kept a passover in Judea after his father's death, before he went to Rome; which he would not have done if it had not been near. He had good reason to basten to Rome; he had many enemies : Herod Antipas had been appointed his father's successor in a former * See Whitby, Annotat. Matt. ii

. 23. Lamy, Apparat. Chronol. Par. i. cap. 9. sect. 5.

• De Bell. lib. ii. c. 1. Antiq. l. xvii. c. 9,

« PreviousContinue »