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called it down upon the land, if such be his tender feelings toward the productions of the earth, as this single fig-tree: till he can convince us that the deliverance of the Jews from their Egyptian bondage was a more important object than the redemption of the world, he will find it hard to make a reasoning man allow, that this single fig-tree, even though it had no right to bear fruit, hath a stronger appeal to justice against the miracle of Christ, than every herb of the field that was smitten, every guiltless and innocent tree of the field that was broken by the stretching forth of the rod of Moses.
Thus then stands the account between Christ and his accuser ; the Jewish nation lost a tree, and mankind gained—a Saviour!
If it were necessary to enter into a more literal defence of the miracle of the blasted fig-tree, I see no absolutė reason to conclude with the caviller, that Christ required the tree to produce fruit out of season and act against its nature; for if the time of figs be the gathering or harvest of figs, it was more reasonable to expect fruit from this tree before the time of plucking, than after it; and as this fruit was no small article in the produce and traffic of Judæa, we may well conclude the time of figs, mentioned by Saint Mark, was like the vintage in the wine countries; and I apprehend it would not be an unreasonable expectation to find a cluster of grapes on a vine, before the time of vintage was the more reasonable, when we remark that Saint Matthew, who records the miracle, takes no account of this circumstance, and that Saint Mark, who states it, states also that Christ in his hunger applied to the tree, if haply he might find any thing thereon,' which implies expectation.
This construction of the words will seem
But our Jew hath suggested a better method of performing the miracle, by commanding fruit from à withered tree instead of blasting a living one; which, says he, “if Jesus had done, it would have been such an instance of his power, as to have rendered the proof of the miracle indisputable.'
Here let me stand to his confession, and I take him at his word: I agree with him in owning that the miracle, as he states it, would have been indisputable, had Christ given life and fruit to a withered tree; and I demand of him to agree with me, that the miracle was indisputable, when the same Christ gave breath and life to dead Lazarus.
But, alas ! I can hardly expect that the raising a dead tree to life would have been thus successful, though even infidelity asserts it, when the miracle of restoring a dead man to life hath not silenced his cavils, but left him to quibble about hogs and figs, and even in the face of his own confession to arraign the Saviour of the world as “unjust and irrational through the channel of a Christian press: neither am I bound to admit, that his correction of the miracle would in any respect have amended it; for as an instance of Christ's miraculous power, I can see no greater energy in the act of enlivening a dead tree, than in destroying a living one by the single word of his command.
I must yet ask patience of the reader, whilst I attend upon this objector to another cavil started against this miracle of the fig-tree in the account of
which he says there is a contradiction of dates between Saint Matthew and Saint Mark, for that in the former it appears. Christ first cast the buyers and sellers out of temple, and on the morrow cursed the fig-tree; whereas, according to Saint Mark, it was transacted before the driving them out of the temple, and such a manifest contradiction must greatly affect the credibility of the history.'
Whether or not a day's disagreement in the dates would so 'greatly affect the credibility of the history,' we are not called upon to argue, because it will be found that no such contradiction exists.
Saint Mark agrees with Saint Matthew in saying that Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple,' and on the morrow cursed the fig-tree; he then adds, that he returned to Jerusalem, and drove the buyers and sellers out of the temple : Again, the next morning, he and his disciples passed by the fig-tree, and saw it dried up from the roots : This is told in detail.
Saint Matthew agrees with Saint Mark in saying Jesus went into the temple the day before he destroyed the fig-tree, but he does not break the narrative into detail, as Saint Mark does ; for as he relates the whole miracle of the fig-tree at once, comprising the events of two days in one account, so doth he give the whole of what passed in the temple at once also.
Both Evangelists agree in making Christ's entrance into the temple antecedent to his miracle ; but Saint Matthew with more brevity puts the whole of each incident into one account; Saint Mark more circumstantially details every particular: And this is the mighty contradiction, which David Levi hath discovered in the sacred historians, upon which he exultingly pronounces, that he is confident there are a number of others as glaring as this; but which he has not, at present, either time or inclination to point out.'
These menaces I shall expect he will make good, for when his time serves to point them out, I dare believe his inclination will not stand in the
way. In the meantime, let it be remembered, that David Levi stands pledged as the author of an unsupported charge against the veracity of the Evangelists, and let every faithful Christian, to whom those holy records are dear, but most of all the proper guardians of our Church, be prepared to meet their opponent and his charge.
But our caviller hath not yet done with the Evangelists, for he asserts that they are not only contradictory to each other, but are inconsistent with themselves; for what can be more so than Mat. thew i. 18. with Matthew xiii. 55 ?'
Now mark the contradiction! The birth of Jesus was on this wise ; when as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost,' chap. i. 18. The other text is found in chap. xiii. 55: • Is not this the carpenter's son, is not his mother Mary? and his brethren James and Joses and Simon and Judas ?'
Need any child be told, that in the first text Saint Matthew speaks, and in the second the cavilling Jews? who then can wonder if they disagree? As well we might expect agreement between truth and falsehood, between the Evangelist and David Levi, as between two passages of such opposite characters. Is this the man, who is to confute the Holy Scriptures? Weak champion of an unworthy cause!
What he means by an inconsistency between Luke i. 34, 85, and Luke xiv. 22, I cannot understand, and conclude there must be an error of the press, of which I think no author can have less reason to complain than David Levi.
These two unprosperous attacks being the whole of what he attempts upon the inconsistency of the sacred historians with themselves, I shall no longer detain my readers, than whilst I notice one more cavil, which this author points against the divine mission of Christ, as compared with that of Moses, yiz. • That God speaking with Moses face to face in the presence of six hundred thousand men, besides women and children, as mentioned in Exod. xix. 9, was such an essential proof of the divine mission of Moses, as is wanting on the part of Jesus;' and therefore he concludes, that taking the miracles of Moses and this colloquy with the Supreme Being together, the evidences for him are much stronger than for Christ.
A man, who does not instantly discern the futility of this argument, must forget all the several incidents in the history of Christ, where the voice of God audibly testifies to his divine mission ; for instance, Matth. iii. 16, 17. • And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water, and lo! the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him; and lo! a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.' The same is repeated by Mark, i. 10, 11.; again by Luke, iii. 21, 22.; again by John, i. 32, 33, 34.
If these supernatural signs and declarations do not evince the superiority of Christ's mission above that of Moses; if Christ, to whom angels ministered, when the devil in despair departed from him, Christ, who was transfigured before his disciples,
and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light, and behold! there appeared