Изображения страниц

to make up


visions. These topics, prominent as they are when | ments to his belief of a revelation, he could not, separately taken, compose only one subject of con- we think, easily mention any other in kind than nected and harmonizing proof. However deficient such as we find we possess. The actual various the ground and principle of reason in each of them attestations of Christianity, external and internal may be, the effect of them is to be united, and it its august apparatus of prophecies and miraclesbears upon one and the same point in combining the excellence of its constitution, in its laws, doc

that moral evidence by which it has trines, and sanctions—its power in subduing the pleased the Almighty to ascertain his last revela- laboured opposition of the world—with the glory

And as each of these arguments, of its Founder illuminating his religion by the supposing the matter of them to be truly alleged, signs of a divine presence in his own person ;possesses some force in concluding upon the ques- these furnish to us whatever our most deliberate tion at issue ; so it may be observed of them, judgment could have suggested, had it been perwhich indeed is only a modification of the same mitted to us to choose the grounds of our belief. remark—that they are all of a kind which it comes It now appeals to that judgment with an integrity within the

power of our common reason to appre- of claim which we shall seek in vain to resist, hend; and they are satisfactory, because they are without invalidating the most certain principles of so intelligible, and answer entirely to the natural all our knowledge.” sense and judgment of our minds, independently 2. The value and importance of the accumuof the accidents of previous study, or of any lated and concurring evidence of revelation, as peculiar modes of thinking. Agreeably to the here stated, are too frequently lost sight of by design of the religion itself, they carry with them Christians as well as by unbelievers. The sepaa universality of application. Prophecy, verified ration of the essential branches of the combined in the accomplishment of its predictions, attests subject, is too apt, as this writer intimates, to the authentic inspiration by which it was given: limit our conception of the whole nature of it, for miracles-public, unequivocal miracles-exhibited, the time, at least, to the train of thought which it bring home to the very senses of men the inter- presents before us. The separation made seems Fention of a divine power. Competently witnessed to have the effect of staking the fortune and issue and recorded, they transmit the conviction from of the whole cause upon the selected ground of age to age. Unexampled and perfect moral purity argument, narrowing the subject down to the of doctrine seems to be, in fact, what it pretends reduced compass within which we are busied in to be—an emanation from the source of all recti- viewing it, and transferring the imperfection of tude and holiness. The life and character of the our details of thought to the substance of more Founder of Christianity have no prototype in the enlarged truth. It may be that the amount of examples of human virtue. The fitness of his the proof deducible from any one branch of the religion, in every part of it, to the exigencies of evidences of divine revelation, does not in itself the being to whom it is tendered, gives to it a exceed such a probability as any man may choose compendious practical authority which almost su - to admit; yet, when the several inducements to persedes the labour of deduction, by an intimacy one and the same conclusion of belief, arising out of use and relation, identifying the very nature of of the several branches of evidence, are drawn man, in his greatest needs, his best hopes, and his into each other, the joint amount of them, derived most rational desires, with the resources of the as they are from such different sources, is a coldispensation tendered to his acceptance. Such lection of moral proof which we cannot properly are the force and tenour of the evidences of Chris- describe as being less than that of a cogent and tianity, if, as we have said, the matter of them be conclusive demonstration. duly alleged; that is, if we have well attested 3. It is obviously impossible, within the limits miracles and prophecies, and the other arguments of a single chapter of such a work as this, to dishave a ground in fact. The defenders of revelation cuss these topics in detail: to do them the merest have vindicated these several arguments; and the justice would require an ample volume. Referring obvious state of the case, after it has been ex- our readers, therefore, to those works in which amnined, compels us, on the lowest assumption, to the evidences of revelation are professedly and allow a considerable weight to each. But we formally treated of, we must be content simply to speak now of the arguments in their kind, as indicate the outlines of the accumulated argudistinguished from their degree. Their great sim- ment, without attempting to fill it up, or to supplicity and reasonableness are such, that if any ply the necessary proofs and illustrations. person of a candid mind were to lay down, beforehand, what would be the most prevailing induce- * Davison's Discourses on Prophecy, pp. 19–22



had; when, from distance, or length of time, we can have no consciousness of mental, and no perception of material phenomena ? Are the boun

daries of rational belief fixed by the limits within 1. The first thing that suggests itself to the which these perceptions take place ? To what a mind of an inquirer, relative to the evidences of little portion of facts would our knowledge then revelation, concerns the genuineness of the books have extended ! But, no: it is at this line, beyond in which it purports to be made. If these books which our own direct perceptions cannot reach, were not written by the persons who assume to that human testimony comes in, as a rational have been their authors, or if they were not ground of belief, to extend the range of human written at the times, and published at the places, knowledge. What we cannot know from our at which they purport to have been written and own perceptions, we may learn through the tespublished ;-in other words, if they be spurious timony of others, by whom it has been perceived ; or supposititious productions, instead of genuine and here, again, we have reached another ultiand, in every respect, veritable ones,—it is clear mate principle, beyond which, in the circumthat no reliance can be placed upon their con- stances supposed, it is impossible to go for evitents, as no confidence can be reposed in their dence; namely, when we refer any thing asserted authors. On such supposition, they must have to have been thought or done, to the unexceporiginated in unworthy motives, or their authors tionable testimony of the person or persons who must have had some object in speaking untruth : had the original, direct, and appropriate percepin either case, they forfeit the character of honest tion of the fact.+ and trustworthy men, and we are under no moral 3. Now, this reasoning is immediately applicaobligation to give credit to their declarations. It ble to the genuineness of the books composing is, therefore, of the utmost importance to ascertain the Holy Scriptures, which, like any other fact, how the question pertaining to the genuineness has its appropriate mode of perception, that must, of the biblical books stands, and to know upon at some time or other, have been directly exerwhat grounds we call upon persons to receive cised, and to which primary original evidence it them as the genuine and accredited productions must be referred before it can be rationally beof the prophets, evangelists, and apostles.* lieved. But it is evident, that it will not be

2. The questions, by what person, at what enough for the satisfaction of those who could not time, and in what circumstances any document have this primary evidence, to refer the facts to has been written, are questions of fact which, testimony, of the source of which no account can like all similar questions, must be determined be given. The testimony must not only have according to the nature and sufficiency of the originally emanated from its proper source, evidence through which the knowledge of all namely, the authors or writers themselves, but facts of the same kind is originally acquired. It the intervening links in the chain of testimony is not necessary to discuss here the question of by which this is brought down to us must, in historical testimony, or its admissibility in in- some way or other, be traced back, and hung to quiries of this nature. No person will seriously the consciousness of the minds whose thoughts dispute that it is the exclusive ground of our the writings contain ; and then the whole and belief in numerous and momentous cases. Our each separate part must be subjected to the ordiknowledge of the various phenomena placed nary tests of valid evidence. If this be fairly within the sphere of our perception is acquired done, and the result be satisfactory, no man can either by consciousness or sensation; and for the refuse his assent to the genuineness of such existence of these things, we have evidence writings, and at the same time maintain his beyond which it is impossible to ascend—the character as a rational being. evidence of an ultimate law of thought, when,

4. What, then, are these tests, and how are if the objects of it are mental, we can refer them they to be applied, in examining the evidence for to the testimony of consciousness; or, if material, the genuineness of the Scriptures? The criteria to the testimony of that sense by which they are by which human evidence must, in every importnaturally perceived. But how is such belief to be ant case, be tried, turn upon the invariable conproduced, when this direct evidence cannot be nexion which subsists between the intellectual

* The author has borrowed much of what follows from a small work published some time since, for purposes similar to those in which the present work originated.

+ These positions are amplified and illustrated in Cooks Inquiry into the Books of the New Testament.



and moral powers of man, joined with the cir- | confine ourselves to a consideration of the books cunstances in which he is placed, on the one of the New Testament. If the divine character hand; and, on the other, the conduct which he of these can be satisfactorily shown, that of the will follow when possessed of these powers, and Old Testament will inevitably follow. In the placed in these circumstances. We cannot abso- latter Scriptures, the former are uniformly spoken lutely, and previously to all inquiry, trust to his of as “the oracles of God”—“the sure word of depositions in any important matter of fact. prophecy”—“the God-inspired writings,” proceedWhy? Because his knowledge and integrity are ing from holy men who were moved by the Holy not free from defect. He may be wrong in his Spirit

, and, as such, entitled to implicit belief. testimony, from not distinctly knowing the fact; Although, therefore, an investigation into the or he may render his testimony false, by wilfully direct and immediate evidence for the genuinemisrepresenting it. Here there is nothing so ness, authenticity, and supreme authority of the fixed, as to render all his depositions in them- Old Testament, cannot fail to be attended with selves the proper object of implicit trust. But much gratification and advantage, and to strengthen between accurate knowledge, strict integrity, and very materially the conviction produced by a more strong inducements to learn and state the truth, limited inquiry, it is by no means essential or on the one hand; and, on the other, evidence indispensable, in order to justify our reception of correctly and fairly given, there is a 'fixed and all and every part of the sacred volume. invariable connexion. The one cannot be without 7. Let us now advert to the nature of that the other, for it would amount to a contradiction. external evidence of which we are possessed, We can inquire, then, into the knowledge, cha- attesting the genuineness of the books composing racter, and circumstances of the witness; for if this sacred volume. these he found unexceptionable, we may with certainty infer the truth of his deposition; and,

SECTION III. by parity of reasoning, we may see that, if these qualities entitle the deposition of one man to our belief

, we are not at liberty to withhold that belief from the deposition of another, possessed of the same qualifications. But besides this, we may

1. The New Testament contains twenty-seven examine the deposition itself; for there may be in books, purporting to have been written by certain it such decided marks of consistency and truth as persons, under specified circumstances, and at a will entitle us to infer, with equal certainty, the particular period of time. These books are as knowledge and integrity with which it has been follow :-(1) Five HISTORICAL Books; namely, made. In the one case, we reason from cause to four Gospels, and the Acts of the Apostles, aseffect; in the other, from effect to cause.

Were signed respectively to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and there no such fixed connexion as is here supposed, John; the Acts being written by the author of or none which could be trusted, then there would the third Gospel. (2) Fourteen EPISTLES by be no test whatever for trying human testimony ; Paul, addressed to the following Christian soand wherever we ourselves had no experience, we cieties and persons; one to that of Rome, two to should be left, according as the original propensity that at Corinth, one to those in Galatia, one to to trust in it prevailed or decayed, to receive that at Ephesus, one to that at Philippi, one to whatever is said with blind credulity, or to reject that at Colossæ, two to that at Thessalonica, one it with absolute unbelief.

to the Hebrews, two to Timothy, one to Titus, 5. Now this view of the question suggests the and one to Philemon. (3) Seven Epistles by propriety of dividing the evidence for the ge- OTHER APOSTLES; namely, one by James, two by nuineness of a book into two branches ; namely, Peter, three by John, and one by Jude. (4) The that derived from the testimony of unexception- APOCALYPSE, which forms a class of itself, of a able witnesses, and that derived from the internal prophetic character, and assuming to be written character of the book itself. This is amply suffi- by John. cient to prove the genuine character of any writing 2. Now the mode of applying those tests of whatever, and is applicable to the books of which mention has been made, to the genuineness Scripture.

of these books, is determined by the nature of the 6. The limits necessarily assigned to this in fact, and our vicinity to or distance from the quiry will only permit us, as we have said, to glance time of the persons who could be the primary at the outlines of the argument; the details must witnesses in the case. Those who lived in the be supplied by the researches and reflections of our days and had access to the presence of the readers. From the same necessity, we must also apostles, could, upon the publication of their re

puted works, apply directly to them, and obtain alone can we determine whether their assertions at its source all the information necessary to satisfy are to be trusted. The best ground on which we them that these persons had really composed the can believe the assertion of any witness is, our works, and announced them as their own. The own personal acquaintance with his information circumstances in which these persons had lived, and character ; next to that, the same acquainttheir opportunities of gaining the information ance with him on the part of one with whom we which they recorded, the tried integrity of their are acquainted ; and so on, in a line to any exmoral character—all of which particulars could tent, each immediately successive part vouching then be easily and thoroughly ascertained-would for the integrity of the preceding. But such a place it beyond the possibility of doubt, that they concatenation of testimony is not to be found in must in truth have composed the writings which support of any ancient fact, and we supply the were circulated in their names. To us, who can- defect by considering the circumstances in which not thus immediately approach the witnesses who witnesses give their evidence, and inferring from are represented to have given the original testi- their character, as previously suggested, the veramony, it is left gradually to ascend to them, by city of any particular assertion. applying the proper tests of evidence to the whole 5. But with reference to the New Testament intervening succession of subordinate witnesses ; writings, we are not left entirely to this general with regard to all of whom, if it appeared by the inference, satisfactory as are the grounds upon application of the tests that they must have had which it rests; for after having ascended on it the knowledge and integrity essential to their to a certain point in the evidence, we come to credit, a case would be made out in which it written testimony, still extant, by the very men, must have been as impossible that the New Tes- who not only lived in the days, but were themtament, if a forgery, could ever have been received selves companions of the apostles. Such were in the character of apostolical writings, as that Barnabas, the companion of Paul (Acts iv. 36); the apostles could have allowed the writings to Clement, a fellow-labourer with that apostle circulate in their name.

(Phil. iv. 3); Hermas, one of the faithful brethren 3. In many of these books, the declaration of whom he greets in his epistle to the Romans their authorship comes prima facie from the (chap. xvi. 14); Ignatius, the friend and assowriters themselves. So it is with the epistles to ciate of the apostles ; and Polycarp, the disciple the Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, of John. Now, the testimony of these writers, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, as they have given it, is next, in point of authoTitus, and Philemon ; with the epistles of Peter, rity and value, to that of the original writers James, Jude; with the Apocalypse, and even, per- themselves, and it goes full to .confirm their depohaps, with the second and third epistles of John; sitions. in all of which the proper name of the ostensible 6. It is impossible, within the space assigned writer, or an epithet by which he might easily be to this inquiry, that we should follow the entire discriminated, is so incorporated with the work, chain of this evidence, in a regular series. There that it must have come from the pen of the real is not a single work, out of all the scientific author. Whether the authors of the gospels of writings of the Greeks and Romans, the age and John, and Luke, and of the book of Acts, be origin of which might be established by so many considered as indicated, the one as the beloved witnesses and writers, who lived near to the disciple of Jesus, the other as the correspondent time, as the New Testament. For the purpose of of Theophilus, the declaration which we are consi- establishing this position, the writings of the dering, although not explicitly made in the works oldest Fathers of the church have been examined themselves, might have been made by the writers with indefatigable research, and the passages colin the circles where their writings were first read; lected which have reference to the New Testanor is there any other way of satisfactorily ac- ment, by Lardner, and others who followed in his counting for their early reception into a class of laudable career.* The result of this investigation writings whose genuineness was so publicly pro- has been to show that the books of the New claimed. At all events, the evidence for the Testament are quoted, or alluded to, as the genuineness of each book must, in so far, be genuine works of those persons whose names they estimated separately by itself, that no seeming bear, by a series of Christian writers, beginning defect in the evidence for one can take from the with those already referred to, who were contemevidence of another. 4. Now the only point here to be determined

* Paley has availed himself with great judgment of Lardner's is this, Were the persons who made these decla- selection, in his “View of the Evidences of Christianity, " rations well-informed and honest men ? for then chap. ix., to which the reader is referred.

porary with the apostles, and proceeding in close , at the close of the first; and also to the Sabeland regular succession from their time to the lians, the Novatians, the Donatists, the Manipresent. This medium of proof, as Paley remarks, cheans, the Priscillianists, the Photinians, and the is

, of all others, the most unquestionable, the Arians, who flourished in the third and fourth least liable to any practices of fraud, and is not centuries. Among the individuals of the classes diminished by the lapse of ages. Bishop Burnet, we are referring to, and deserving especial notice, he adds, in the History of his Own Times, inserts may be mentioned Tatian, Julius Cassian, Theovarious extracts from Lord Clarendon's History, dotus, Heracleon, and Isiodorus, who all lived in One such insertion is a proof, that Lord Claren- the second century, and seceded from the orthodox don's History was extant at the time when Bishop communities by whom they were opposed and Bumet wrote, that it had been read by Burnet, refuted. Nor should we omit to refer to Celsus, that it was received by him as the work of Lord the Epicurean philosopher, who attacked ChrisClarendon, and also regarded by him as an tianity with great skill and vehemence towards

authentic account of the transactions which it the close of the second century; to Porphyry, i relates ; and it will be a proof of these points one of the most severe and sensible adversaries

a thousand years hence, or as long as the books of the Christian religion antiquity can produce, exist.

who flourished about the middle of the third 7. Let so much of this argument as is appli- century; or to the emperor and apostate Julian, mable to the writings composing the New Testa- whose mode of opposing the Christian system was ment—which have been quoted and referred to as as artful as it was determined and persevering, above stated—be carefully attended to by the who flourished about a century later. # These reader, and it can leave nothing to be desired in parties and persons knew too well the evidence the establishment of their age and authorship. by which the genuineness of the New Testament Their authenticity or truth is another matter, writings was supported, to think of denying or and is to be sustained by independent proofs. calling it in question; and their positive or im

8. But it should not be left unnoticed, that the plied testimony is of immense importance. They species of proof at which we have been glancing, may, as Michaëlis remarks, have denied an apostle arises not only out of the direct and incidental to be an infallible teacher, and therefore have testimony of persons friendly to the cause of banished his writings from the sacred canon ; but Christianity, but from that also of its secret and they nowhere contend or insinuate that the apostle avowed enemies, or such as seceded from the is not the author of the book or books which orthodox church, and were on no terms of good bear his name. understanding with it. “The first ages of Chris- 9. Another and equally satisfactory source of tianity produced a multitude of sects, which were testimony to the genuineness of the Christian antious to unite their philosophical and theur- writings, are those very early translations which gical speculations with the doctrines of the gospel, were made of them into other languages, the and frequently lost themselves in strange admix- authors of which have ascribed the anonymous tures of opinion—in beautiful, but much oftener books of Scripture to the same writers as they in ridiculous, dreams. Yet even these sought to are now attributed to, and have, of course, recogestablish their assertions on the authority of the nized the claims of the penmen of the acknowbiblical books, and to prove them against those ledged books. The earliest of these is the Peschito indulging different sentiments, especially against or literal Syriac Version, which is ascertained, upon the dominant church. Their writings, indeed, undoubted evidence, to have been made, at the are, for the most part, lost, and were destroyed on latest, towards the close of the second century, purpose, for which we have but little reason to and is attributed, upon grounds of very high thank piety. But the zeal of refuting them has probability, to the close of the first or to the occasionally preserved some fragments of their earlier part of the second century. All the Christreatises, and their opponents have retained proofs tian sects in Syria and the East make use of this which they adduced in support of their positions.”+ Version, exclusively, and hold it in the highest Of these sects we may refer to the Cerinthians, estimation. Then there is the old Italic or ancient the Ebonites, the Nicolaïtans, the Valentinians, Latin Version, which was certainly made before the Marcionites, and the Basilidians, all of whom the end of the second century, as it was then existed in the second century, and some of them

* View of the Evidences. chap. ix., sect. 1.

+ Hug's Introd., Part I., chap. 1, sect 6.

# For a view of the nature and extent to which these sects and individuals have deposed to the genuineness of the books of the New Testament, the reader may refer to Hug's Introd., chap. i., pt. 1, sect. 7.


« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »