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derful circumstances and high descent; and thereby laid the foundation of the succeeding orthodox deification of the man Jesus, which, in degree of blasphemous absurdity, exceeds even the gross fables.of pagan superstition : inasmuch as it makes him equal in Godhead, power, and even in eternity of existence, with his celestial Şire, the supreme Deity himself. What I mean is,. the whole of the two first chapters, which follows the short introductory preface to Theophilus, containing the narrative of the birth of John the Baptist, and the history of the birth, infancy, and twelve first years of the life of our Lord Jesus.
To an impartial reader many difficulties will occur in this part of the history attributed to Luke, besides the repeated appearance of an Angel under the same appellation, by which Daniel denominates one that appeared to him in his prophetic visions, as if the word Gabriel did not signify a celestial, being in human form, that is, ap Angel; but as if -Angels like Men were distinguished from each other by proper names: and he will find no small' stumbling block at the very threshold. For Elizabeth is said to be not only of the itribe of Levi, but, of the daughters of Auron; -and yet she is spoken of as nearly related to
Mary, who if there could be any truth in the story of the miraculous birth of Jesus, must necessarily have been, in an uninterrupted line, of the tribe of Judah and family of David, to make him, in åný sense, a descendant from that Prince. It is true that among the Jews, heiresses alone were forbidden to marry out of their own tribe, but since the whole tribe of Levi, and more especially the family of Aaron, were separated from all the other tribes and families, and peculiarly sanctified and appropriated to the rites and offices of their religion; it is in the highest degree improbable that they should intermarry with any other tribe. Neither is it at all probable, that the providence of the Almighty should destine the Jewish prophecies, respecting the Messiah and his precursor, to be accomplished in two persons, related by consanguinity to each other; and whose parents were so intimately connected, as might afford the incredulous strong grounds whereon to apprehend some family-collusion in the case, and to suspect the pretensions, of both the cousins, to distinguished regard, of artful imposture.
Had the familiar intimacy, described by the author of these two chapters, and which is so natural and usual amongst relations, really subsisted between the mothers of John and Jesus, strengthened and increased as it must have been by the very extraordinary circumstances of the two angelic annunciations, and the two miraculous conceptions, the two children must have passed great part of their early years together; must have been informed by their parents, and those about them, of the angelic and human testimonies, the predictions and uncommon events respecting each of them; and have grown up in habits of mutual regard and personal intercourse and intimacy, at least, to the time of John's retiring into the wilderness. Yet, if we might rely upon the testimony of the Baptist himself, as recorded by the Gospel attributed to the apostle John, he was an intire stranger to Jesus when he came to be baptised by him; and he should not have known him to be the predicted Messiah, but for an immediate revelation from heaven. But though this palpable inconsistency, between these two histories, affords one striking proof of the easy credulity of those who receive them both for authentic scripture, and even as the inspired, infallible word of God, no stress is laid upon it, in the
case before us, for reasons which will appear hereafter. What is much more to our present purpose is, that this whole history of the consanguinity and intimate familiarity between Mary and Elizabeth, is equally irreconcileable to the subsequent narration of Luke himself. For in the seventh chapter he informs us, that upon the fame of Jesus being celebrated throughout the Land, on account of the wonderful miracles effected by him, the disciples of John, who was at that time confined in prison by Herod, related to him all that past concerning the new prophet Jesus: and we find that John, like a person unacquainted with Jesus, and uncertain whether he was the Messiah, the promised prophet, to whose appearance his own mission and preaching were only preparatory, sent two of his disciples to ask him the question in direct terms, whether he really was the predicted Messiah, or they were to expect another person to fulfil that important character. In his answer, our Lord, instead of reminding him of the angelic testimonies of his being the true Messiah, which he must know preceded both their miraculous births, and of the subsequent testimonies of his own father Zacharias, and the prophet and prophetess, Simeon and Anna, refers him only to some well known predictions of Isaiah respecting the Messiah, which John's messengers saw were then singularly accomplished in his wonderful works. Now it seems absolutely impossible that John, after being from his earliest infancy personally acquainted with Jesus, and not only in possession of all the inforınation respecting him, which he must have learnt from the two families, but so miraculously impressed with affection and reverence for him, as to exult for joy, though but an embryo in the womb, at the mere sound of his mother's voicé, could, at any time, have entertained the least doubt of Jesus being the Messiah. And since circumstances and facts of such public notoriety, must have been known to the disciples of both, if their masters were faithful instructors -as indeed it is evident they were, if the two chapters in question were written by Lukeit appears to be next to impossible, if not quite so, that any serious, consistent writer should be the author of the first chapter, and afterwards relate the story of John's embassy, without the smallest reference to the contradictory narrative of that chapter, and without