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tar, but with the Spirit of holiness and love. But Mr. - Paine's PREJUDICE against local churches, (all which
have been corrupted,) leads him, most unjustly and unphilosophically, to hate the truly catholic invisible church, which is far above the politics of this world, and too pure to admit the abuses introduced by despotism and knavery imposing upon folly. .
Mr. Paine takes what has been called “ a short way," with the Christians, or supporters of Christianity. He goes through and explodes the whole of the Old and New Testament, in the pages of a trivial pamphlet. My limits will not, at present, suffer me to enter on the objections which he makes to the Old Testament. In. deed I am ready to confess myself unable to defend or explain all those parts which are excepted against by Mr. Paine, and appear to be really difficult and obscure. But they have often been defended and explained by others, with great learning and sagacity.
I am more particularly concerned, as indeed are all Christians, with the New Testament; and not so much with the LETTER, as with the Spirit. Mr. Paine's cavils against the LETTER have been often made, and well refuted. I beg the reader who is not firmly settled in the faith by BETTER EVIDENCE, than any human learning can afford to study with attention, adequate to the important subject, Dr. Townson and Dr. LARDNER on the Gospels, and Mr. West on the Resurrection*. He will conclude, from a perusal of their excellent books, that there is cause sufficient for every pious, humble man to give his full assent to all the essential parts of the Gospel history; to be rooted in faith, to rest in hope, and to abound in charity. Let him wish Mr. Paine a BETTER MIND, and then suffer his books
* Dr. Trapp on the Gospels, is a very useful book for the ush learned.
have shall adverpaine, leaveology:
to take their natural course, as many of the same kind have done, to the gulph of oblivion. .
I shall advert only to one or two principal objections made by Mr. Paine, leaving the rest to those who excel and delight in critical theology. From the specimen I give, I mean no more than that the young or unlearned reader should see that Mr. Paine is not yet entitled to the epithet bestowed on one of the schoolmen, that of IRREFRAGABILIS or the UNANSWERABLE.
I pass by the indecency and blasphemy of the introductory objections which he makes to the New Testament, with a contemptuous silence. All that is advanced on this occasion, has been well considered and answered, long before Mr. Paine was brought into ex. istence.
I refer the reader to Dr. Townson, for a satisfactory account of the difference in the genealogies of Christ, as given by St. Matthew and St. Luke; though I shall have occasion to mention them presently. · In the mean time, I proceed to the GENERAL objection. The general objection to the credibility of the Gospel history is made by Mr. Paine in the following words:
“ The presumption is,” says he, « that the books « called the Evangelists, and ascribed to Matthew, “ Mark, Luke, and John, were not written by Matthew, “ Mark, Luke, and John, and that they are IMPOSITIONS, “ The disordered state of the history, in these few books, " THE SILENCE OF ONE BOOK UPON MATTERS RELATED “ IN ANOTHER, and the DISAGREEMENT that is to be “ found among them, implies that they are the produc« tions of some unconnected individuals, many years « after the things they pretend to relate; each of whom « made his own LEGEND; and not the writings of men, “ living intimately together, as the men called the Apos“ tles are supposed to have done; in fine, that they are " MANUFACTURED, as the books of the Old Testament
“ have been, by other persons than those whose names " they bear.”
This parágraph evinces Mr. Paine's ignorance of the dates of the Gospel's publication, the particular occasions on which they were written, and the peculiar scope or purpose of each writer. It is an allowed truth, that all the Evangelists wrote a considerable time after the ascension of our Saviour, at different periods, for different purposes, from different places, to different des criptions of men; all which the reader may see well explained in Dr. Towrson's discourses on the Gospel.
But for the sake of readers busily engaged in the world, who may not have read, or be inclined to read, Dr. Townson's, or other books on the subject, I will submit a few considerations, which I think, will remove this gencral objection, which arises chiefly from “ THS « SILENCE OF ONE BOOK UPON MATTERS RELATED IN 66 THE OTHER."
The Times and Places of writing the four Gospels were
as follow: Gospels.' Place.
From our Lord's
64 St. Luke's, Greece,
64 St. John's, Ephesus,
68 Or, according to Dr. Owen, St. Matthew's, Jerusalem, for the use of the Jewish converts,
. 38 St. Luke's
Corinth, for the use of the ; - Gentile converts,
53 St. Mark's, Rome, for the use of Chris
tians at large, St. John's, , Ephesus, to confute
heresy of CERINTHUS,
The times of writing are differently given by the learned Dr. Mill, in his Prolegomena to the New Testament; thus, . .
From the Ascension St. Matthew wrote
- 61 St. Mark; - - - - - - 63 St. Luke, - - - - - - 64 St. John, - - - - - - 97
Each of the Evangelists had a particular view or intention in writing his Gospel history; at the same time that he calculated it for general information, in all ages of militant Christianity.
By the way, I must observe, that the distance of time from our Lord's ascension, to the writing of the Gospels, (erroneously stated by Dr. Watts, in the quotation from him in the preceding pages,) furnishes me with an argument in favour of my main doctrine. During sixty, seventy, or perhaps nearly a hundred years, Christianity fourished without the assistance of any written Gospel. This must have been by the Spirit's immediate influence. It does not appear, that when the afiostolical epistles were written, any of the Gospels which we now have, were extant or known. They are not mentioned in the epistles, nor is there any allusioa to them. Yet it is clear from the epistles, that there were large churches or societies of Christians—without a written Gospel—except that which was written on the heart of the humble believer by the Spirit's ministration.
To return to Mr. Paine's objection, concerning the • silence of one Gospel on matters related in another."
This will not appear at all wonderful, when it is considered, that St. Matthew wrote to the Jews only; St. Mark, (under the dictation of St. Peter,) to all Christians; St. Luke to the GENTILE converts; St. John, to certain heretics, who denied the pre-existence and divinity of Christ; and that they wrote at very dis
tant places, and at very different times, under circumstances probably no less various. But, to be a little more particular. St. Matthew wrote at Jerusalem, to the Jews only; those, I mean, of the Jews, who were converted to Christianity. As they lived near the scene of action, and many of them had probably observed our Saviour, and heard his discourses, he omitted many things, as well known to them, and mentioned others with a conciseness which he would not have approved, had he been writing to foreigners, or persons totally unacquainted with the subjects of his history. The other Evangelists very properly vary from him in explaining what he felt less distinct, in expatiating where he observed a brevity, in adding what he omitted; as was reasonable, since they wrote considerably after him, and to persons who, it must be supposed, were unacquainted with the customs, the language, and even the country of Judea.
If it be asked, what becomes of the inspiration of the Gospels, if the writers thus conducted them according to the rules of human prudence? I answer, in the words of Dr. Townson, “ The Holy Spirit sanctified their “ hearts with a lively and powerful sense of spiritual “ things; enlightened their minds with a just knowledge “ of the truth; and endued them, with wisdom, (or “ prudence,) to relate the life of Christ in a manner be6 coming the subject, and suitable to their SEVERAL « DESIGNS: and these gifts, which exalted the natural .65 powers of their minds, without DESTROYING them,
would produce verity and propriety, but not IDENTITY ” of relation.” They reported such words and deeds, as conduced to the purpose of converting or establishing the persons whom they immediately addressed; while the Spirit of God took care that the whole of their history, as contained in four narratives, should convey