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bat to bring spiritual peace to his people ; but when he saith, I came to send a sword, it implies that his coming, his kingdom and gospel, should occasion persecution and war, by reason of the corruption of men ; this the gospel may do, and yet not put men upon disturbing their neighbours, or making war with them; and this is not contrary to Christ's general character of coming to be the author of spiritual peace to his people.
Object. 8. Another contradiction is pretended to be between 1 Kings viii. 9. and Heb. ix. 4. in the former it is said, There was nothing in the ark but the two tables, which Moses put there; in the latter, that there was the golden pot, that had manna, Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant.
Answ. This seeming contradiction may easily be reconciled : for we suppose it true that there was nothing in the ark but the two tables, as it is said in the former of these scriptures ; therefore to explain the latter agreeably to it, two senses may be given of it.
1. It is not necessary to suppose, that the apostle means, in the ark was the golden pot, & c. but in the holiest of all, which he mentions in the foregoing verse; therefore the meaning is, as in the holiest of all, there was the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant, so in it was the golden pot and Aaron's rod : but because there may be an objection against this sense, from its being said in the words immediately following, that over it were the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercy-seat, where it refers to the ark, and not to the tabernacle, or holiest of all; if therefore the cherubims were over the ark, then the other things must be supposed to be in it, which objection, indeed, is not without its force, unless we suppose that the words * may
be rendered in the higher parts of it, to wit, of the holiest of all, were the cherubims of glory above the mercy seat, and accordingly the meaning is this; that within this second vail was not only the ark, the golden pot of manna, Aaron's rod, &c. but also the cherubims of glory, which were above them all: but since the grammatical construction, seems rather to favour the objection, there is another sense given of the words, which sufficiently reconciles the seeming contradiction, viz.
2. When it is said, that therein, or in it, to wit, the ark, was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, the meaning is, they were near it, or beside it, or some way or other fastened, or adjoining to it, in some inclosure, in the outside of the ark, whereas nothing was in it but the two tables ; so that there is no real contradiction between these two scriptures.
Many more instances of the like nature might have been given, but, instead thereof, we shall rather chuse to lay down some general rules for the reconciling seeming contradictions in scripture, which may be applied by us in other cases, where we meet with the like difficulties. As,
1. When two'scriptures seem to contradict each other, we sometimes find that this arises from the inadvertency of some who have transcribed the copies of scripture, putting one word for another; though it may be observed,
(1.) That this is not often found; for as great care has been taken in transcribing the manuscripts of scripture, as in any manuscripts whatever, if not greater.
(2.) If there have been mistakes in transcribing, it is only in a few instances, where there is a likeness between two words, so that one might easily be mistaken for the other; and this ought not to prejudice any against the scripture, for it only argues, that though the inspired penmen were infallible, the scribes that took copies of scripture for common use were not so.
(3.) When there is any such mistake, it may generally be rectified by some other copy, that has the word as it really should be : it is so in our printed Bibles, in some editions of them we find mistakes, as to some words, that may
be rectified by others, which are more correct; and if so, why may not this be supposed to be in some written copies thereof, that were used before printing, which is but a late invention, was known in the world, from which all our printed copies are taken?
2. When the same action in scripture seems to be ascribed to different persons, or the same thing said to be done in different places, there is no contradiction, for the same person, or place, is sometimes called by various names : thus Moses's father-inlaw, who met him in the wilderness, and advised him in the settling the government of the people, is called, in one place, Jethro, Exod. xviii. 1. and in another Hobab, Numb. X. 29. So the mountain, from which God gave the law to Israel, is sometimes called mount Sinai, Exod. xix. 20. and at other times Horeb, Deut. i. 6.
3. Chronological difficulties, or seeming contradictions, arising from a differing number of years, in which the same thing is said to be done, may be reconciled, by computing them from the different epocha's, or beginnings of computation : as it is said, Exod. xii. 40. The sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years; but, when God foretels this sojourning, it is said, Gen. xv. 13. Thy seed shall be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and sshall erue them, and they shall afflict them four hundred years: now the four hundred and thirty years takes its beginning of computapion from Abraham's being called to leave his country, and sojourn in the land of promise, as in a strange land; this was four hundred and thirty years before Israel went out of Egypt ; but the four hundred years mentioned in Genesis, during which time his seed should sojourn, takes its beginning of computation from his having the promised seed, or from the birth of Isaac, which was twenty-five years after his leaving his country; from that time to the children of Israel's going out of Egypt was four hundred and five years; and the five years above four hundred are left out, as being an inconsiderable number, which is very agreeable to our common way of computing time, when a large even number is mentioned, to leave out a sınall one of four or five years, more or less, as in the instance here mentioned, especially when time is expressed by centuries, as it is here; for it is said, in ver. 16. in the fourth generation, that is, after the fourth century of years, they shall come hither again.
4. When, by comparing the years of the reign of several of the kings of Judah and Israel, mentioned in the books of Kings and Chronicles, we find that some are said, in one of them, to have reigned three or four years longer than the account of the years of
their reign, mentioned by the other, the seeming contradiction may be reconciled, by considering him as beginning to reign before his father's death, as Solomon did before David died; or from his being nominated as his father's successor, and owned as such by the people, which was sometimes done to prevent disputes that might arise about the matter afterwards ; and sometimes, when a king was engaged in foreign wars, in which he was obliged to be absent from his people, and the event hereof was uncertain, he appointed his son to reign in his absence, from which time he had the title of a king, though his father was living: or when a king was superannuated, or unfit to reign, as Uzziah was when smote with leprosy'; or when he was weary of the fatigue and burden of government, he would settle his son, as his viceroy, in his life-time, on which account the son is sometimes said to reign with his father : thus many account for that difficulty, in 2 Chron. xxxvi. 9. where it is said, Jehoiachin was eight years old when he began to reign; but in 2 Kings xxiv. 8. he is said to have been eighteen years old when he began to reign: the meaning is, that when he was eight years old, he was nominated as his father's successor; but when he was eighteen years old, he began to reign alone, his father being then dead.
5. Scriptures that seem to contradict one another may not treat of the same, but different subjects, as to the general design thereof: thus, that seeming contradiction between the apostles Paul and James is to be accounted for; the former says, Gal. ii. 16. Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ; but the other says, Jam. ii. 24. That by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. The apostle Paul speaks of a sinner's justification, or freedom from the condemning sentence of the law in the sight of God, which gives him a right to eternal life, in which respect he looks for it out of himself, and, by faith, depends alone on Christ's righteousness; in this sense, works do not justify: whereas the apostle James, when he asserts, that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only, intends that our profession and sincerity therein is justified ; that is evidenced, not by our having just notions of things, or an historical faith, such as the devils themselves have, but by those works of holiness, which are the fruits of it; this is the only justification he treats of, and therefore doth not in the least contradict the apostle Paul, who treats of another kind of justification, in which works are excluded.
6. When two scriptures seem to contradict one another, they may sometimes be reconciled, by considering the same thing absolutely in one place, and comparatively in the other : thus,
in many scriptures, we are coinmanded to extend that love to | every one in their several relations, which is due; and yet our
Saviour says, Luke xiv. 26. If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren and sisters, he cannot be my disciple : this is to be understood comparatively, that is, our love to the creature ought to bear no proportion to that which is due to God.
7. Scriptures that seem to contradict one another, often speak of different persons, or persons of different characters : thus it is said, Luke vi. 36. Be ye merciful, as your Father also is merciful; or, Judge not, that ye be not judged, Matt. vii. 2. This respects persons in a private capacity, and therefore doth not contradict those other scriptures that are applied to magistrates in the execution of public justice; to such it is said, Deut. xix. 21. Thine eye shall not pity, but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
8. Two contrary assertions may be both true in differing respects; thus our Saviour says in one place, The poor ye have always with you, but me ye have not always, Matt. xxvi. 11. and in another, Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world, chap. xxviii. 20. these are both true, one respecting Christ's bodily presence, as man, in which respect he is not now with us ; the other his spiritual and powerful influences, whereby he is always present with his people as God.
9. We must take notice of different times or dispensations, in which respect those laws or ordinances, which were to be received and observed as a rule of faith and duty at one time, may not be so at another; thus circumcision is recommended
as a duty, and a privilege to the Jews before Christ's time, in which respect the apostle reckons it among the advantages which they formerly had above all other nations, Rom. iii. 1, 2. but when the gospel dispensation was erected, and the Jewish economy abolished, it was so far from being an advantage, that the observance of it was deemed no less than a subversion of the gospel, as the apostle says, Gal. v. 2. If ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing; and the same apostle gives a very diminutive character of those institutes of the ceremonial law, which he calls, in his time, weak and beggarly elements, such as had a tendency to bring them again into bondage, and blames them for observing the Jewish festivals, such as days, months, times, and years; to wit, the new moons, feasts of weeks, or of years, such as the seventh year, or the jubilees, and tells them, on this occasion, I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed on you labour in vain, chap. iv. 9, 10, 11. so that what was a duty and a privilege in one age of the church, and enjoined with the greatest strictness, and severest punishments on those that neglected it, is forbid, as a sin in another age thereof, without the least shadow of contradiction between those scriptures, which either enjoin or forbid it: thus, when our Saviour first sent his twelve disciples to preach the gospel, he commanded them, Not to go in the way of the Gentiles, Matt. x. 5. to wit, so long as he was here upon earth, or till they had finished their ministry among the Jews, to whom the word was first to be preached ; but afterwards, when the gospel was to be spread throughout the world, he gave them a commission to preach the gospel to all nations, chap. xxviii. 19. which accordingly they did, as apprehending there was no contradiction between the former prohibition and the present command. (a)
(a) “The most ancient tradition among all nations, is exactly agreeable to the relation of Moses. For his description of the original of the world is almost the very same as in the ancient Phænician histories, which are translated by Philo Biblius from Sanchoniathon's Collection ; and a good part of it is to be found among the Indians and Egyptians ; whence it is that in Linus, Hesiod, and many other Greek writers, mention is made of a Chaos, (signified by some under the name of an Egg) and of the framing of animals, and also of man's formation after the divine image, and the dominion given him over all living creatures; which are to be seen in many writers, particularly in Ovid, who transcribed them from the Greek. That all things were made by the Word of God, is asserted by Epicharmus, and the Platonists; and before them, by the most ancient writer (I do not mean of those Hymns which go under his name, but) of those Verses which were of old called Orpheus's; not because Orpheus composed them, but because they contained his doctrines. And Empedocles acknowledged, that the sun was not the original light, but the receptacle of light, (the storehouse and vehicle of fire, as the ancient Christians express it.) Aratus, and Catullus, thought the divine residence was above the starry orb; in which Homer says, there is a continual light. Thales taught from the ancient schools, that God was the oldest of beings, because not begotten; that the world was most beautiful, because the workmanship of God; that darkness was before light, which latter we find in Orpheus's Verses, and Hesiod, Vol. I.