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the reality of any particular fact that happened twenty or thirty years ago, what is the sort of evidence which they usually give? Why, in all the great leading circumstances, which tend to establish the fact in question, they in general perfectly agree. In a few other points perhaps they differ. But then these are points which do not at all affect the main question, which were too trifling to make much impression at the time on the memory of the observers, and which therefore they would all relate with some little variation in their account. This is precisely the case with the writers of the four Gospels; and this substantial coincidence and accidental variation has much more the air and garb of truth than where there is a perfect agreement in every the minutest article; which has too much the appearance of a smallest doubt with any unprejudiced mind. They have been acknowledged as such by every Christian church in every age, from the time of our Saviour to this moment. There are allusions to them, or quotations from them, in the earliest writers, as far back as the age of the apostles, and continued down in a regular succession to the present hour; a proof of authenticity, which scarce any other ancient book in the world can produce. They were received as genuine histories, not only by the first Christians, but by the first enemies of Christianity, and their authority was never questioned, either by
concerted story. That the books which we now have under the names of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, were written by the persons whose names they bear, cannot admit the - smallest
the ancient heathens or Jews”. The first of these Gospels is that of St. Matthew. It was written probably at the latest not more than fifteen years, some think only eight years, after our Lord's - ascension.
* Whoever wishes for further satisfaction on this most important subject, will not fail of finding it in Dr. Lardner's learned work, The Credibility of the Gospel History, where this question has been very ably treated, and the authenticity of the Gospels established on the most solid grounds.
ascension. The author of it was an apostle and constant companion of Jesus, and of course an eye-witness of every thing he relates. He was called by our blessed Lord from a most lucrative occupation, that of a collector of the public revenue, to be one of his disciples and friends; a call which he immediately obeyed, relinquishing every thing that was dear and valuable to him in the present life. This is a sacrifice which few people have made for the sake of religion, and had St. Matthew's object been the applause of men, he might have displayed the merits of this sacrifice in a light very favourable to himself. But the apostle, conscious of much nobler views, describes this transaction in the simplest and most artless words. “As Jesus,” says he, “ passed forth from thence, he saw a man named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom, and he saith unto him, Follow me: and
he arose and followed him.” The first thing that occurs in the Gospel of St. Matthew, is the genealogy of Christ, o in
in order to prove that he was descended from the house and family of David, as
the prophets foretold he should be. In this genealogy there are confessedly some difficulties, at which we cannot be much surprised, when we consider of what prodigious antiquity this genealogy is, going back some thousands of years; and when we know too that several Jewish persons had the same name, and that the same person had different names (especially under the Babylonish captivity} which is still the case in India and other parts of Asia. This must necessarily create some perplexity, especially at such a distance as we are from the first sources of information. But to the Jews themsehyes at the time, there were probably no difficulties at all; and it does not appear that they (who were certainly the best judges of the question) made any objection to this genealogy of Christ, or denied him to be descended from the family of David. We may therefore reasonably conclude, that his descent was originally D 2 admitted admitted to be fairly made out by the evangelists, whatever obscuritics may have arisen since. Indeed it is highly probable, that this genealogy was taken from some public records or registers of the ancient Jewish families, which it is very evident from Josephus that the Jews had, especially with regard to the lineage of David, and which were universally known and acknowledged to be authentic documents. I shall therefore only observe further on this head, that St. Matthew gives the pedigree of Joseph, and St. Luke that of Mary. But they both come to the same thing, because among the Jews the pedigree of the husband was considered as the legal pedigree of the wife; and as Mary and Joseph were nearly related, and were of the same tribe and family, their genealogies of course must run nearly in the same line. After the genealogy of Christ, follows an account of his birth, which, as we may easily suppose of so extraordinary aperson, had something in it very extraordinary. Accordingly