Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

BIBLICAL BOOKS.

[ocr errors]

quoted by Tertullian: there is good reason to the Christians say of these books, namely, that think that it was made even much earlier than they were written by native Jews of plebeian this. Now these Versions furnish a most im- origin and rank, without •any literary education, portant external or historical evidence for the who were, either as eye-witnesses, or by means of antiquity and genuineness of the New Testament, i eye-witnesses, informed of the events which they since it must necessarily have existed previously have described. to the making of them; and a book which was (3) The perfect description of the age and so early and so universally read throughout the country—of the municipal regulations and manEast in the Syriac, and throughout Europe and ners—of the history and geography—and of the Africa in the Latin, must be able to lay a well-circumstances under which the events narrated in founded and indisputable claim to a high anti- the New Testament occurred, is such as could quity; while the correspondence of these Versions have been given by none but contemporary with the existing copies of the original attests writers. the genuineness, if not the authenticity, of the (4) The incidental agreement subsisting belatter.

tween these writings and the ascertained events

and circumstances of the times, is, of all others, SECTION IV.

perhaps, the most convincing evidence that they INTERNAL EVIDENCE OF THE GENUINENESS OF THE which they are ascribed. Thus were the Jews

were penned at the time and in the places to

circumstanced, as the New Testament implies. 1. Professor Hug has introduced the dis- with reference to foreign nations and regulations cussion of the internal evidence for the genuine- which crept into their system, and gave to their ness of the historical books of the New Testa- national condition a bias which it first had under ment in the following manner : “ Should any

Herod the Great, but never afterwards.one, without knowing any thing further of them, (a) The invidious question of the census conanywhere unexpectedly find them, and being tains in it all the re-awakened prejudices of the thus furnished with them, open them with the Jews, and exhibits their disposition towards the necessary scrutiny, what opinion would such a Romans as it really was (Josephus, Wars, b. ii., c. man form of their origin, age, and composers,

12). The precept of reconciliation in Matt. v. 25, solely from their internal state ? " From the was enjoined in every item with a view to the answer which the learned and acute writer has Roman law de injuriis, according to which the given to this inquiry, the following particulars are complainant, with his own hand, dragged the abridged :

accused before the judge, without magisterial (1) A person into whose possession the books summons, in jus rapit, yet, according to which, on of the New Testament should thus come, would the road, an agreement, transactio, remains open say that they were written in Greek; yet in none

to him; but should not this be accomplished, the of the proper dialects of that language, but with mulct assuredly, awaits him, which if he does not a variation of expression and construction, which discharge, he continues in prison until its liquidais so frequently approximated to the Hebrew, tion. in the use of words and in grammatical con

(6) When our Lord is in conversation or comnexion, that he would account the authors to pany with publicans, the Roman system of farmhave been Jews who spoke the Greek language. ing and its oppressions are every where displayed. This exactly accords with the representation of When he drives with scourges the money-brokers the case, as it is made out by the Christian from the temple, we perceive the consequence of writers.

the Roman dominion, and the influence of foreign (2) These books also contain so little of science manners, which allowed the money-changers to and the historic art, that they manifestly are the place their usurious tables by the statues of the essays of uneducated men, who, with the excep- gods, even in the most holy places.* We also tion of a certain acquaintance with the Jewish observe, in the conduct of our Saviour

the writings, lay no pretensions to information and occasion referred to, the extent of the Roman toliterature. The narration itself is so constituted, leration. This permitted no encroachments in the that it represents them, notwithstanding its temples and religions of other nations; and thercbrevity, as having the demeanour of persons fore a private Jew, unmolested, maintained the engaged in traffic; it depicts their situation and honour of his temple, from which, in Rome, no motion from place to place, the parts which the laws could have screened him. spectators bore, their expressions, their actions, and their appearance. This also is precisely what

upon

* Horace, Epist. lib. i., ep. I.

[ocr errors]

(©) The parable in Matt. xviii. 23, represents a / cumstances, or those invented by themselves. The king, that is, a tetrarch, who, as far as himself and more circumstantial this picture was, and the his own affairs were concerned, was not under the more accurately it was present to their mind, Roman law. He consequently proceeds according much the more is it demonstrated that they saw to the ancient Jewish law. But the sequel, which these very

times. relates to a common man, contains an appeal to (6) But in addition to this, in the Acts of the the Roman laws against the oberctos, in conse- Apostles we meet with a considerable number of quence of which the debtor who does not pay is undesigned data, negligently scattered here and called upon by his creditor, who instantly arrests there, which now and then relate to the persons, him, and detains him in his house as a prisoner, or are connected with other incidents, mentioned as one delivered up to his will. The harshness of in the epistles, or promise even further instructhis law was indeed mitigated by a subsequent tions for their accidental elucidation. Where, one; yet afterwards, and at this time, it had then, we observe such an historical and obvious returned to its former severity, as it here appears directory belonging to them, and connect these in the parable.

memoirs with them, we cannot but remark be(This admixture of manners and constitu- tween them a harmony which is particularly retions forcibly proceeded through numberless cir- quisite to the epistles, which, according to their cumstances of life. Take, for example, the circu- own pretensions, claim a connexion with these lation of coin. At one time it is Greek coin; at events.* another, Roman; at another, ancient Jewish. But (c) If we afterwards pay attention to the local how carefully was even this managed, according weaknesses, imperfections, and errors which are to the history and the arrangement of things ! censured in Paul's epistles, for the correction of The ancient imposts, which were introduced before which they were designed ; namely, in Crete, the Roman dominion, were valued according to Corinth, Ephesus; if we pay attention to these, the Greek coinage : e. g., the taxes of the temple, in the Greek and Roman authors, where some the didrachma, Matt. xvii. 24, margin. The such traits are incidentally reprobated; we may offerings were paid in these, Mark xii. 42 ; Luke often make the agreeable discovery, that our xxi. 2. A payment which proceeded from the epistles have accurately treated of the errors of temple treasury was made according to the ancient the age, or the local imperfections noticed in each national payment, by weight, Matt. xxvi. 15. epistle, and have sometimes delineated them But in common business, trade, wages, sale, &c., strongly in satire and seriousness. the assarius and denarius, and Roman coin were (d) The system of morality, too, which is deveusual, Matt. x. 29; Luke xii. 6; Matt. xx. 2; loped in the writings of Paul, Peter, and John, is . Mark xiv. 5; John xii. 5, vi. 7. The more unique in its character. It is not the peculiar modern state taxes are likewise paid in the coin and mechanical virtue of the Jews; it is not the of the nation, which exercises at the time the virtue of the Greeks; it is not the political and greatest authority, Matt. xxii. 19; Mark xii. 15; warlike virtue of the Romans ; not the virtue of Luke xx. 24.

the porch or of the academy; not even a sophisWriters who, in each little circumstance, which ticated and declamatory wisdom of this life. It otherwise would pass by unnoticed, so accurately is the virtue of Jesus Christ, as he had proposed describe the period of time, must certainly have it in the gospels. No person, scarcely, can read had a personal knowledge of it.

the morality of the epistles without concluding (5) The epistolary writings, also, have internal that those who propounded it were, as they have marks, or, as they are called, the impression of a represented themselves, the hearers and disciples particular age, as well with respect to the mate of Jesus. rials as to the form.

(e) Upon the form of these writings, that is, (a) As far as relates to the materials, these the arrangement and mode of treating things, the writings are not general treatises, without a country method of adducing proofs to support assertions, and a distinct object; they were called forth by and the style and diction, many and interesting occasions and circumstances compulsory on the remarks might be offered, by way of confirming writers, and were therefore adapted to particular the argument. But this belongs to a higher branch situations and readers, and their individual necessities. Since these are confirmed in other documents; since the picture of the times which the * This argument has been felicitously managed by Paley, in authors preserve in them, as they write these his “Horæ Paulinæ, or the truth of the Scripture history of memoirs, has historical truth; we easily perceive of the Apostles." We may even ipvert the case, as he has

St. Paul evinced by a comparison of his Epistles with the Acts that the writers did not labour on arbitrary cir- stated it in his title.

of the inquiry than that to which our readers are indefatigable and successful labours in planting supposed to have attained, and it must therefore Christian churches, and furthering the designs of be left for their future consideration.

the gospel, in different parts of Judea, Syria, Asia 2. From what has been said, we arrive at the Minor, Greece, and Rome; the whole being interconclusion, that the books of the New Testament spersed with relations of various discourses and were written in the age to which they refer, and miracles, developing the nature and attesting the by the persons whose names they bear ; that is, divine origin of that religious system which was that they are genuine, and not spurious or suppo- thus introduced and established by Jesus Christ. sititious writings.

The second class of books are didactic and epistolary, consisting of letters which were addressed

by Paul, Peter, James, and John (all of them SECTION V.

apostles), to the various churches which were

planted' either by themselves or their fellowTHE AUTHENTICITY OF THE BIBLICAL BOOKS. labourers, and to certain individuals who were

personally acquainted with the writers, and were We have now ascertained two things; the first, engaged in the same cause. But the epistles are that the books of the New Testament were written not exclusively didactic or preceptive; they conby the persons to whom they are now attributed ; tain a large portion of historical matter, and, in the second, that they were published at or about connexion with the Acts of the Apostles, furnish the times to which they are now referred. These a succinct, though in many respects a particular constitute the genuineness of the sacred books, which and detailed, account of the early progress of the we may now, therefore, consider to have been esta- gospel, and of the first Christian communities. blished. But another, and an equally important, The third class comprises only the Book of Revequestion remains for determination; namely, are lation, which is of a mixed character, being partly these books authentic, or true? Do they give a didactic and hortatory, and partly historical and faithful delineation of the history and character of prophetic. It comprises, in its latter character, a Jesus Christ, and of that religious system which he history of the Christian church, and so much of promulgated and founded? This question, it will the world as is inseparably connected with it, from be

seen, is not involved in the one we have hitherto the time of Domitian, at the close of the first been considering ; it requires a separate and inde- century, to the end of the world. Such is, briefly, pendent species of proof, and to this we now in the character of the New Testament writings, and vite attention. In the prosecution of such an the subject matter which they contain. They inquiry, the following considerations naturally develope the origin, progress, and final establishpresent themselves to the mind :

ment of that system of religion which superseded I. Is it possible to conceive that the books com- the Levitical economy, annihilated the idolatry of posing the New Testament should ever have been paganism, and triumphed over the most fierce and received as authentic, by any number of persons, cruel persecutions. at any period of time, if they had not possessed

2. It should be borne in mind, that every part all the necessary evidences and proofs of their of these writings represents the occurrences conhaving been true?

nected with the introduction and establishment of 1. It is necessary, in the determination of this Christianity to have been of a decisively miraquestion, to advert to the character of those trans- culous character. The Saviour's conception_his actions which form the subject of the New Testa- public designation to the ministry—his works of ment books ; for upon this, chiefly, depends the charity and mercy—his resurrection from the impossibility of their imposition on the world as tomb—and his ascent to heaven, were all events authentic writings, if they had been but fabricated and occurrences of an unparalleled character, and and spurious stories. The books of the New Tes placed very far beyond the reach of merely human tament, then, consist of three distinet classes. The agency. They were, in fact, what they purported first class consists of narratives, embracing an ac- to be (that is, if they really took place), so many count of the miraculous birth—the public recog- demonstrations of the divine character of their nition—the active ministry—the violent death— subject and author, and, as a necessary conthe extraordinary resurrection—the subsequent sequence, of that system of religion which he transactions and the ascension to heaven, of Jesus founded in the world. Christ; with distinct notices of the calling and 3. Now, it has been already shown, that the commission of the apostles their conduct during books containing these narratives and epistles were the personal ministry of Christ, and also subse- published at or about the times in which tue quent to his departure from the world and their l events spoken of occurred, and also in the same part of the world. They were appealed to as forth, among other remarkable occurrences, that at genuine and authentic documents, in common by the period referred to a man of unusual appearall parties—orthodox and heretical, Christian and ance and of singular manners presented himself to pagan—so early as the second century; that is, the notice of the public, professing to be invested within a few years after the events which they with the prophetic character, and commissioned to narrate transpired. Several of them were ad- prepare the world for another divine messenger, dressed to the very persons said to have witnessed more eminent than himself, whom God was about the miraculous occurrences, and to have listened to send forth upon some special mission ;-that he to the divine discourses; who are also appealed to required all who were willing to become his disfor the truth of the representations put forth, ciples, not only to repent of their vicious conduct. although they are not unfrequently reproved for and henceforth to live in an exemplary manner, their want of consistency, or their nonconformity but also to be publicly initiated into their new proto the requisitions of the gospel ; and the avowed fession by the rite of baptism ;—that not only a object of the whole of them is to demonstrate that few persons complied with his injunctions, but the principal person to whom they refer, and whose that such multitudes from the metropolis and its religion was attested by so many and incontro- vicinity submitted to his ritual ordinance; that it Tertible miracles, was the Son of God, and the might be said, without impropriety, “all London, Saviour of all who believe, John xx. 31.

Westminster, and Southwark went out and were 4. After this recapitulation of the character and baptized of him ;"—that while he was thus emdesign of the New Testament writings, brief and ployed, the prophet whom he had announced made imperfect as it is, it may be safely left for the his appearance, and, after having been publicly reader to determine, whether their reception as baptized, was proclaimed, by an audible voice from genuine and authentic books can be rationally ac- heaven, and the descent upon him of a visible counted for upon the supposition that they were symbol of the Holy Spirit, to be divinely apforged and false. The events which they narrate pointed to teach the will of God, and to unfold and presuppose are assumed, upon the grounds the nature of his kingdom ;--that he now entered previously stated, to have been fresh in the re- upon his public ministry-taught doctrines the collection of the world, and to have been trans- most pure and beneficent, and of the first importacted so publicly that none could have been ance to mankind—laid down a system of morals ignorant of their occurrence. Under such cir- superior to any that the world had before seen, cumstances, we are fairly entitled to say, that the and, in order to demonstrate the divinity of his books of the New Testament could never have mission, wrought openly, and in the presence of obtained even the slightest degree of attention. multitudes—even of those who were bitterly inTheir falsehood would have been so obvious, and censed against him--the most stupendous miracles; their attempted imposition so impudent, that they such as, at one time feeding a multitude of five could not have failed to excite the contempt and thousand persons with five loaves and two fishes, derision of every person under whose notice they at another time satisfying the hunger of more than fell.

four thousand with seven loaves and a few small 5. But it is not necessary to the argument, that fishes; upon several occasions raising the deadthese books should have been published so near to curing the lame—unstopping the cars of the deaf the times in which the events occurred; it will be -loosing the tongues of the dumb-opening the equally conclusive, to whatever period of time their eyes of the blind-cleansing lepers-casting out publication

may be assigned. Let it be assumed, devils—in a word, healing all manner of the most by an objector, in spite of the evidence adduced inveterate diseases, with a word or a touch; and to the contrary, that the books of the New Testa- this in the most public though unostentatious ment did not make their appearance till fifty, a manner;—that the effect of his teaching and hundred, or even five hundred years after the miracles was to convert many of his countrymen, occurrences they narrate and refer to are stated to among all ranks of society, who, in their turn, and have happened ; the difficulty in the way of sup- under his direction, became zealous advocates of posing them, in their main and most important his system, and were competent witnesses of his particulars (those upon which all the rest depend) actions and works ;—that he at length delivered to be untrue, will be equally great.

himself up to his enemies, was condemned as an 6. Let us put a case.

Suppose that a book impostor, and publicly put to death ;-that when he were now, for the first time, to make its appearance, expired, darkness overspread the land for the space purporting to be a narrative of extraordinary events of three hours—the rocks rent—the graves opened which had occurred in this country fifty, a hun

--and many who had been previously buried came dred, or even five hundred years since ;--that it set forth from their places of sepulture, and were

[ocr errors]

seen alive in the city ;—that his body, after hang- | narrative was true, the events recorded must have ing for some hours upon the cross, was taken been notorious before the appearance of this work ; down, and laid in a new sepulchre, which was and that, although the lapse of several hundred carefully sealed, and surrounded by a guard of years, and the variation to which traditionary testisoldiers, placed there by the persons most deter- mony is liable, might induce some discrepancies minately opposed to his pretensions, and who, in between the written document and the floating trafact, had put him to death ;—that on the third dition, there would yet be a sufficient conformity to morning, however, he left the sepulchre, unknown yield proof of their identity? There is, in fut, to the guard, rejoined his disciples, associated with no conceivable way in which the supposed prothem for the space of forty days, and then, in duction could obtain credit with any number of their presence, ascended into heaven;—that shortly persons, as an authentic record of facts. And after this occurrence, his disciples, who were as- this was our postulatum.t sembled in a large room, agreeably to his instruc- 8. In this view, of the case, the question at tions, were suddenly endued with the power of issue between the Christian and the unbeliever speaking various languages with ease and fluency, is brought into a very limited compass. The fact to the great astonishment of a multitude of stran- of the bare existence of the New Testament gers who listened to their discourses ;—that from books, and of the religious system which they this time their characters underwent a most re- develope, is obviously certain and indisputable: markable change, their timidity and fear giving the sole question, therefore, is, how these books place to invincible courage and fortitude ;—that started into existence, and what are their pretenthey boldly, and in face of the most imminent sions to be received as divine ? The Christian danger, proclaimed the extraordinary occurrences assigns to them an origin, not only perfectly reaof their master's life, and laboured indefatigably sonable and consistent in themselves, but which to induce their countrymen and others, who had is also supported—as we have already seen, and witnessed his actions and listened to his discourses, as we shall presently see more fully—by the conto receive him as the Messiah, and rely upon him current testimony of antiquity, in a regular and as the Saviour ;—that their labours were so suc- unbroken series, from the time at which they cessful that in one day, and in the very place were introduced down to the present day. The where their divine Master had frequently taught unbeliever rejects these evidences, which in every and wrought miracles, three thousand persons were other case are held to be sufficient and conclusive, convinced of the truth of their testimony, and em- and calls upon us to assign to them some unbraced the new religion; and that within the space known and inconceivable origin, which cannot be of a few years many of the neighbouring states done without involving a monstrous tissue of became proselytes to the faith, and submitted them- absurdities, and unhinging all historical evidence. selves to its requirements ;-and that these men, Whose conduct is the more reasonable, or worthy after having undergone the most fiery trials, and of a rational creature ? Let the reader determine submitted to the most cruel and protracted suffer- for himself. I ings, yielded themselves up to violent deaths, to II. Is it possible to assign to the writers of the attest, not—be it observed—the sincerity of their New Testament any adequate motive for their opinions, but the truth of their statements, in regard undertaking, on the supposition that it does not to matters of fact.

contain an authentic statement of facts ? 7. Now, we ask, if a work containing a narra- 1. It

may

be conceived that this inquiry is supertive so unusual and so extraordinary as this, fluous, after it has been shown, that whatever the stating the events recorded to have happened in motives of the New Testament penmen might the places where it was published and read, and have been, it would have been impossible to have pointing to certain existing observances, * as hav- procured any credit for their writings had they ing been originally prescribed to commemorate not been supported by adequate proofs of their some of these very events, while the whole was a authenticity. And so, in truth, it is, except in as gross fabrication, having had no existence but in far as it furnishes an additional argument for de the mind of its author or authors, can it be con- monstrating the unreasonableness and irrationality ceived possible, that it should, by any device, be imposed upon the world, and obtain the credit of

+ For the authenticity of the books of the New Testament, a an authentic history? Would not the common much stronger case, even upon this ground, might be made out, sense of mankind lead them to argue, that if the could we enter into detail. The impossibility of their forgery,

however, has been sufficiently shown, though the argument is

capable of confirmation by many additional considerations. * As the religious observance of the first day of the week, Upon this topic, Faber's Difficulties of Infidelity may be and the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's supper.

read with advantage.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »