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Matthew, yet differs from it in many very material particulars; that the
grand circumstance of the conspiracy by which Christ lost his life,
is told differently and discordantly by all the four. They express the
highest astonishment that the sending of Jesus to Herod by Pilate should
be related by Luke, and that the other three Evangelists should not only
omit that occurrence, but relate the proceedings in this affair so as
entirely to exclude the possibility of its insertion. They think it also
impossible that an earthquake should rend rocks, and that many saints
should arise from the dead, and go into the holy city, as Matthew
relates; and yet that these great events should not only have escaped
contemporary historians, but even the other three Evangelists. And to
this they add, that it is particularly strange and amazing that John,
who was present at the crucifixion,* should not only forbear to
mention any one of the terrible appearances recorded in Matthew on that
occasion, but that even the darkness of three hours' duration, which
must have made the most lasting impression on every individual in Judea,
should also be by him totally unnoticed.

* Such as we behold even in the present enlightened day by
that great prophetess, Joanna Southcott, and her followers!
who are now deceiving the people of this kingdom with her
prophecies. Edit.

31. The malevolence and incredulity of our adversaries, the unbelievers,
are visible in nothing so much as the criticisms they make on the
resurrection. They complain, and with some degree of reason, that
this most miraculous and important event, instead of possessing that
extraordinary and uncommonly clear evidence, which its incredible nature
requires, bears, on the contrary, every mark of a forgery. Instead of
Christ's re-appearing to all the world, that the world might believe,
he is said to have appeared to his disciples, who were the only men on
earth whose evidence could be exceptionable in the case; men who already
engaged in the attempt of forming a sect or party,* could by no means
be disinterested in their report; the only men on earth who could be
suspected of forgery in the present instance. These are the men, say
our enemies, who were to preach Jesus Christ to the world, and to
find arguments to support the fact, which Christ might have
_uncontrovertibly_ established by appearing again in public. But the
generation was unworthy of that condescension, we reply, which they
wickedly paraphrase thus: "God, who desireth: not the death of a sinner,
left them in their sins, that they might die - God, who spared not his
beloved Son, but gave him to the bitterness of death, that _sinners
might be saved_, chose, nevertheless, to deprive all mankind of the
proper _evidence of the resurrection_, because the Jews of that age were
_sinners!_" Mercy is the character of the first act, but how shall we
characterize the latter? Is the God of the _Christians_ inconsistent
with himself? Did the great and merciful Being act thus? Did he inspire
four men to write accounts of the _resurrection_,* which disagree with
each other in almost every circumstance? Does his divine truth bear the
resemblance of forgery and invention, that we may shew our faith and
reliance on him, by making a sacrifice of our reason; and believing
by an act, not of the understanding but of the will? But why, O thou
Supreme Governor! why hast thou given us reason, if reason be the
accursed thing which we ought to cast from us? Or rather, is not reason
the first and only revelation from thee; and are not those enthusiasts
accursed, who, promulgating vile systems unworthy of thee, find their
base purposes are not to be accomplished, till they have first deprived
us of thy best gift?

* See the concluding chapters of the four Evangelists.

These, my Lords, are the reflections of infidels and unbelievers;
reflections which our truly Christian zeal and detestation would have
prevented us from repeating, if we had not been supported by a pleasing
anticipation of the glorious and satisfactory manner in which they will
be answered, explained, and overthrown by your Lordships, to the entire
satisfaction and conviction of us weak Christians. Not by persecution,
pains, penalties, fines and imprisonment, otherwise the unbelievers
will then sneeringly say, that your Lordships are incapable of answering
them, or, what is more unfortunate, that they are really unanswerable.


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Online LibraryAnonymousThe Doubts Of Infidels → online text (page 3 of 3)